The top-five most-read stories in Oak Bay this year feature a rollercoaster of emotions, from heartbreak to joy and back again, with a small dose of statistics.
Surprise heartbreak topped the list.
Well-known Monterey centre staffer Joanne Donohue, programmer of volunteers, died unexpectedly Aug. 10. She had worked at the Oak Bay recreation centre since 2008 and was described as the backbone of the volunteer program and special events.
“She cared so much for the Monterey volunteers, and she will be greatly missed by staff and volunteers alike,” centre coordinator Lesley Cobus said.
The second most-read took a page from those intrigued by statistics, and the state of employment in the region. Oak Bay took interest as both Canada and B.C. experienced a record-high number of vacant positions and an all-time job vacancy rate in June, according to a report prepared by Ryan Berlin and Ryan Wyse, both of rennie, a real estate service and research company.
Research suggested the number of job vacancies in Greater Victoria exceeded the number of unemployed in the region.
Berlin, senior economist and director of intelligence with rennie, pointed out that the economic region of Vancouver Island and the Central Coast recorded 23,900 job vacancies for the second quarter of 2022. Matching data showed 9,100 unemployed individuals in the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area in June 2022. While the number of job vacancies in Greater Victoria itself is unavailable, Berlin suggested that the more regional figures offer a clue to the situation in Greater Victoria.
Drawing on 2021 census data, the report pegged the shelter-cost-to-income ratio in Greater Victoria at 26 per cent — five per cent above the national average of 21. Only Vancouver (29.6 per cent) and Toronto (30.3 per cent) have higher ratios than Greater Victoria.
Revisiting the haunting memory of two little girls torn from the community captivated our audience as their father attempted to appeal his double murder conviction. Greater Victoria reeled in the face of tragedy when Aubrey and Chloe Berry were found stabbed to death in their beds at their father’s Oak Bay home on Christmas Day in 2017.
Chloe was six and Aubrey was four.
In 2019, Andrew Berry was found guilty on both counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Berry maintained his innocence throughout the nearly six-month trial, heard before a jury in Vancouver, and sought a retrial. His appeal – also held in Vancouver and streamed to a Victoria courtroom – was heard in June by the three-judge panel of justices John Hunter, Patrice Abrioux and Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten. The judgment upholding his conviction was posted Nov. 23.
In the days following the girls’ murders, the greater community supported each other in any way possible, with churches opening doors to mourners, residents organizing food for devastated first responders and a candlelight vigil that drew more than 1,000 people to Willows Beach.
A man who has dedicated time in the last three years to raise funds for kids worldwide was featured in the fourth most-read story of year – but for a different reason. While John Hillman made many headlines for his fundraiser for Save the Children, it was his official status as a Canadian that hit the top five.
Readers will remember Hillman from the Oak Bay News dating back to 2020 when, at the age of 100, he was inspired by fellow centenarian and British veteran, the late Capt. Tom Moore, who raised funds walking laps at his UK residence. A resident at Carlton House of Oak Bay, he hosts walking fundraisers each summer and has raised $300,000 for Save the Children over the last three years.
The 103-year-old British veteran officially gained Canadian citizenship during virtual ceremony the morning of July 21. As he was registering ahead of the ceremony, Hillman asked if he was the oldest in the bunch that day. The registrar chuckled and assured him he was the oldest new Canadian citizen they’d ever seen.
It’s pretty much a given that a poop problem will driver readership. For the Oak Bay crowd, the Canada goose is the cause of those woes.
Despite being a native and namesake Canadian species, its daily two pounds of feces poses problems for local migratory bird sanctuaries.
Bruce Harrison, the provincial conservation head for Ducks Unlimited Canada, described the Canada goose as a “species that’s been moved around a little.” They have always lived in the province, but when their original native population here began to plummet, governments stepped in to replenish local numbers with geese from elsewhere in the country.
Now in B.C., the sheer number of birds has created an issue. While they’re technically a native species, Harrison admitted they may have become more abundant over the last 40 or 50 years than people want.
Not wanting to end on a stinky note, and because Oak Bay loves a good bonus (if you you’ve seen the free hot dog lineup on Canada Day at municipal hall pre-pandemic then you know), the sixth most-read story of 2022 is a cautionary tale of a toxic weed.
Originally introduced to North America from Europe for ornamental purposes, Italian arum (arum italicum) is leafy green ground cover with clusters of red-orange berries. It may look pretty, but it can have disastrous impacts, warned the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific in Saanich.
The weed is considered both invasive and toxic.
It’s a well-known invasive plant in much of the U.S. west coast, but only more recently has been documented spreading elsewhere in North America. Often, that movement occurs from birds ingesting the Italian arum’s seeds, flying elsewhere, and depositing them through their droppings. It also spreads through yard debris and contaminated compost. If found, residents are asked to do their best to remove it.
Italian arum needs to be dug up in its entirety, including bulbs and tubers, placed in a bag and disposed of as waste (not composted). Herbicides are also an option, although they don’t always reach the tubers.
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