A look back at the year that was
December 31, 2011
Victoria partied like it was 1999 when Prince, shown here at a 2010 show in Abu Dhabi, came to town on Dec. 17.
Photograph by: Reuters, Times Colonist
11 MAY DAY
The May 2 federal election that gave Stephen Harper the only thing he wanted more than a cup for the Maple Leafs - a majority government - also saw two longserving Victoria MPs give way to U.S.-born replacements.
Elizabeth May made history, becoming the first Green party member elected to Parliament, upsetting Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn, who had held SaanichGulf Islands since 1997. After 18 years representing Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, Liberal MP Keith Martin retired undefeated (just like Rocky Marciano) and was succeeded by New Democrat Randall Garrison.
The NDP surge to official Opposition status was led by Jack Layton, whose death in August triggered a from-theground-up swell of emotion that was as heartfelt as it was non-partisan.
12 NATURAL DISASTERS
Christchurch, New Zealand, is similar to Victoria in population, architecture and infrastructure. So when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit in February, killing 181 and damaging thousands of buildings, it gave us an idea of what we could expect from the Big One - one reason local emergency-response experts joined relief efforts there.
Just two weeks later, our attention and fundraising focus turned to a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan, killing close to 20,000 and damaging almost 200,000 buildings. In November, scientists said we could expect to see debris from that disaster begin reaching Vancouver Island shores at any time.
Much of Vancouver Island got the shakes when a magnitude 6.4 quake hit 80 kilometres south of Port Alice, but the temblor did no damage.
13 TEEN MURDERED
Any murder is horrible, but somehow it seems worse when the victim's life had barely begun.
Early on the morning of Jan. 22, Tyeshia Jones left a friend's house to meet a man at the Duncan Superstore. The 18-year-old never arrived. Her body was found Jan. 28 near a cemetery on Cowichan Tribes land.
The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit continues to investigate the slaying.
14 THE CIRCLE GAME
It's a bit like giving a roast beef sandwich to a thirsty man: Nice to have the McTavish interchange that opened in April, but was it really our biggest transportation need? No. Neither was it easy for some to navigate. When Victorians (our motto: "We fear change") discovered that the new interchange on the Pat Bay Highway had not one, not two, but three traffic circles, some grabbed the Prozac, while others merely got out of their cars and curled up in a ball beside the road.
But if Saanich Peninsula drivers were going around in circles, those in the West Shore weren't moving at all, the Colwood Crawl worsened by road construction in View Royal (civic motto: "Langford? Not our problem") that lasted longer than a Kardashian marriage.
Meanwhile, the rusty rail portion of Victoria's blue bridge went in the blink of an eye from carrying trains to being too shaky for a bicycle, so was raised for the last time in April.
A B.C. Transit proposal for a $950-million light rail line linking downtown and the West Shore gained some political support during the year but is far from becoming reality.
Who says the monarchy is dead? In April, close to 400 bleary-eyed royalists sipped 3 a.m. tea while watching the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton on the big screen, one of many wedding-watching parties around town.
The Beacon Hill Children's Farm celebrated by naming newborn goats Will and Kate. (Rumour is there's also a really hot goat named Pippa.) The Fox strip club featured dancers "Wilma" and "Kate."
15(B) ROYALS PART II
For seven years, Victoria hockey fans tried going steady with the minor pro Salmon Kings but knew down deep that their hearts still belonged to the junior league that jilted them in 1994, when the Cougars moved to Prince George.
In September, the Western Hockey League Royals, relocated from Chilliwack, opened life at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre with a 5-3 win over Vancouver in front of a sellout crowd of 7,006.
15(C) YET MORE ROYALS
On Dec. 17, when 53-year-old Prince played what many called the best show they had ever seen (with prices fit for a king), the exciting thing was his relative youth.
Maybe it's because they get seniors' rates on the ferry, but most of the big names who come here are icons of the 60s and 70s: Ozzy Osbourne, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Tom Jones, Cher, James Taylor, Rod Stewart and, this year, two ripping great shows by Elton John. Prince is a comparative puppy, having made it big in the 1980s.
For those who find this too progressive, never fear. Deep Purple is coming in February for a show at the arena, or perhaps the Lodge at Broadmead.
16 ANIMAL CRACKERS
It's Victoria's answer to the Chinese lunar calendar. Every year the city divides itself equally into groups who want to A) kill or B) hug a given animal. If 2010 was the Year of the Bunny, then 2011 was the Year of the Deer.
Urban deer, born and raised in the city, were accused of everything from wiping out crops to selling crack on Pandora. One of the animals, perhaps charging its own reflection, crashed through an Esquimalt basement window. ICBC said deer-related car crashes tripled in the capital region in the past decade. Even the dead ones do damage: a Saanich motorist who ran over a deerly departed road-killed buck drove home not knowing it was wedged in her car's undercarriage.
A $225,000 CRD deer-management study is due in early 2012 - or as Victorians call it, the Year of the Seagull.
17 ANIMAL ANGER
People get particularly upset when crime victims have four legs. In a case that drew pickets to the courthouse and spawned a 3,800-name petition, 24-year-old Brent Malcolm Connors was jailed six months - the toughest animal-cruelty sentence ever in B.C. - for beating to death a pit bull puppy.
In December, two Brentwood Bay men who hanged a horse to death were found guilty of allowing it to suffer through starvation.
The killing of 52 Whistler sled dogs after the Olympics led the provincial government to increase animal-cruelty penalties to a maximum of two years in jail and a $75,000 fine this spring.
18 NEAR-RECORD LOTTERY
When steel company employee David Rennie decided to check his Lotto Max ticket at the Campbell River Chevron Town Pantry in May, the clerk turned to him and said: "Holy crap, the machine just died." The 48year-old Rennie almost expired, too, when he discovered he had just won $35.7 million, one of the top three prizes ever.
And no, he never did go back to work at the warehouse.
19 WATERY LOTTERY
Chasing down a boat they found blasting through the midnight blackness off Saltspring in March, the Mounties see a suitcase go flying into the chuck. Since the boat was beelining for U.S. waters, it must be B.C. Bud, right? Wrong. The suitcase holds $2.6 million in U.S. bills. Lake Cowichan's Jeffrey Melchior, 44, is to appear in court in February, charged with money laundering and possession of the proceeds of crime.
In July, a Victoria court sentenced two men to 16 years apiece in the biggest cocaine bust in B.C. history. The two were busted in 2010 when a tonne of the drug, valued at between $26 million and $70 million, was found on a beach near Port Hardy, having been unloaded from a sailboat that made its way up the coast from Panama.
20 POLLY WANT CRACK
You can find them breaking into cars in late-night parking lots or turning tricks in the appropriately named Rock Bay: drug-addicted parrots.
It's true. Among the 800 birds at the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs were at least a dozen recovering from exposure to smoke or other mistreatment by users. No word on whether VIHA and the SPCA will join up on a free crack pipe program.
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