Island News & Views
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General · 17th December 2012
Jim Abram
First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you best of the holiday season and a very happy and productive new year! Only a few more days until the solstice and then it is all uphill from there! In the meantime, enjoy the might and fury of the storms that rage around us and try and stay cozy in your homes or with friends and family. Some people actually pay to go "storm watching" and we get it as a regular perk for living here!

The latest word directly from Telus
I have been getting a lot of calls about the issue of cellular and data provision. As you all know, I have been working with Telus at their senior management level, with Network BC and with the Minister responsible for Connectivity. The work is paying off. I am going to include some of the email text (verbatim) from the Area Manager for Vancouver Island, based in Victoria. Until this point I was asked to not go public with the info since it was not confirmed at the highest levels of Telus. Now it is! Are we going to get improved coverage? I asked if I can now share some of the info with my community. Here is what he has to say:

"Since we have confirmation you could share that TELUS will be activating 4G LTE based cellular and data services in the first quarter of 2013. The deal is done so you can mention Cape Mudge Road if that’s where the Rogers tower is.

"I think I was pretty clear on how communities are prioritized for services and the risks of things changing over time. I can’t provide any additional clarity beyond the fact that I have made recommendations to planning, for the community on Quadra, I champion the cause when the opportunities arise, and when Quadra’s turn comes, I’m 99% certain it would be GPON (Gigabyte Passive Optical Network). (note: this is as good as it gets, folks!)

"High speed Internet can be done in the home using this (system) by using a number of devices.

"We have a 4G Internet Key that you can plug into a laptop, a mobile hotspot that creates an in home WiFi area for up to 10 wireless devices and a network port, or a smart hub that provides a phone jack and up to 32 WiFi devices.

http://www.telusmobility.com/en/BC/mobile_internet/devices.shtml
http://www.telusmobility.com/en/BC/huawei_b593_4g_lte/index.shtml

"Plans start at $32 per month and in a good coverage area can support up to 75 Mbps peak download speeds (expected average is 12-25 Mbps)."

So, there it is. This is what I have been working on behind the scenes and I know that many of you have been skeptical of the possibility of success. To be honest, so have I. This is a huge move in direction by Telus, from "No way" to "It is happening". As a side note comparison, I am on Xplornet satellite internet service and I am under 5Mbps.

I presented a business case to them with the help of our planners and GIS technicians that has shown them that we should be on their radar. This business case was a necessity and they have accepted it. Now we must remain patient. Cellular / Data will be operational by March and the higher level connections should be in place by the end of 2013. Merry Christmas!

Major Medical Crisis Avoidance

For the past year I have not been able to report anything on the following topic due to the strict confidentiality surrounding the issue. Now I can. A small group of us consisting of myself, Betty Doak, Mary McIntosh and Linda Elias have been working with our two dedicated doctors (Erika and Keith), to figure out a way to keep the clinic operational on Quadra. We were in serious danger of losing our doctors and our clinic. We had two choices in how we dealt with this crisis: go public and fight it in the media, or work in collaboration with the jurisdictions that control the situation. The decision was to try to work within the system with the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) and the Ministry of Health. I set up meetings with everyone, from the top down within VIHA, and we met many times to try and find a way to help the situation on Quadra be more sustainable. When this failed to deliver the desired results, I went to the Ministry and eventually to the Minister and then eventually to the Premier. In the meantime, the doctors continued to work with the ministry. Those meetings were circular in nature and went back and forth between VIHA and the ministry. It became apparent that if something positive did not transpire in the very near future our doctors were going to need to make a decision to leave the practice and close the clinic. That is when I decided to go to the Minister herself and eventually to the Premier herself. It was not until this point that we finally stopped getting punted back and forth between VIHA and the ministry and a very high level meeting took place between our group (including the doctors) and the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health (under direction from the Minister and Premier) and the key people at VIHA.

We got agreement to move forward with all of the items that would make the clinic viable, with some provisos. The doctors wanted to be put on the Alternate Payment Plan which is more of a contract for a certain level of service versus a fee for individual service. This had been denied up to this point due to "there isn't any money to do that (provincially)". This changed at the meeting. All of a sudden there was a willingness to help get those applications filed and processed. The deadline for approval is the end of January. The second part was application for a nurse practitioner that will work from the clinic taking up some of the workload presently using up the doctors time. This will make the operation more efficient and add some funding to the overhead of the clinic to help make it more viable, while giving islanders more services than they are able to receive now. That application process will be decided by the end of February. All of these decisions will be made prior to the May election and there will still be time to use other more public means should the process not go according to plan. Please note that the competition for the Alternate Payment Plan and the Nurse Practitioner is fierce. Quadra is being championed by the ministry and VIHA, but with no guarantees since it is decided by a committee of peers.

So, I am very pleased to announce (hopefully not prematurely) that a dedicated group of people have come together and worked collaboratively with the powers that be to solve one of the most fundamental needs of this island: health care provision. This was an intense process and a long one and it was made all the more difficult by keeping it under wraps. But I am hopeful that it will pay off by proceeding in this manner.

As we age, we hear more and more that there is nothing more valuable than our health. Our community health depends upon the provision of the dedicated doctors and staff at our clinic and the dedicated volunteers in our Ambulance and Fire services and all of the support workers who are out there helping us all stay well. Give them a hug the next time you run into one of them!

Lighted Truck Parade
What a great show put on by the volunteers and the Fire Department and everyone else involved in the fun night of lit-up trucks on parade! The parade concluded with a very large crowd of people at the Number One fire hall on Heriot Bay Rd., enjoying each other's company, viewing the lit-up trucks, Santa, the live music and eating the great popcorn, home made baking and hot chocolate. The atmosphere was wonderful. Lots of love and laughter; perfect for a winter night! Congratulations to all involved and all who attended.

Senior's Luncheon
The OAP put on another annual luncheon that filled the room at the Discovery Inn. It was an incredible spread of good food and good cheer. Wendy and I enjoyed being invited and it was an honour to attend as your regional director. Rather than being expected to give a speech, this year I was enticed into joining the singers at the front of the room. It was great fun for all.

Recycling Process Clarification
I received a couple of calls last week telling me that the recycling bins were all being dumped into the same truck and taken away as "garbage". I immediately said that this was not possible. We have the best recycling in the district and do the best job of sorting and cleaning our materials and have an excellent contractor looking after things on-site. I committed to calling the top man at the Comox Valley Solid Waste Management office, Mr. Tom Boatman, to get clarification. I got hold of Tom on the phone and much to my surprise, what people saw, was just what was happening! I could not believe my ears. I asked for a detailed explanation and I got it. I disagreed (and still do). Apparently the recycling has always been collected and taken to a depot and spread out on the floor and "contaminants" have been removed by the contractor's staff. Now they are doing the same process but with one type of bin and one type of truck. You will see an ad in this issue that Mr. Boatman placed, at my urging, to inform you of the situation. I felt it was incumbent on his office to explain.

I have been absolutely assured that other than the glass being crushed and used for cover material at the landfill, none of our recyclables are being land-filled. They are actually being recycled as they always have been.

I still find it hard to believe that anyone but the contractor can benefit from this redundant process. Let me know your thoughts!

Advisory group
Just to keep you updated, I have been successfully recruiting members to the advisory group over this past month. I still have more calls to make and hopefully we will have a meeting in the early part of January.

It was a real toss-up as to which of the topics should go first in the line-up, since there are a number of crucial ones. Hopefully you find these reports useful. I would certainly appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Until next time! If you need to contact me, feel free to call me between the hours of 8:30 am and 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, not on weekends, folks!) at 285-3355, or you can fax me at 285-3533 or you can email me anytime at jimabramxplornet.ca or by mail at Box 278 in the Cove, V0P 1N0... Lots of choices.

Please do not use my residential phone number for SRD calls. All business calls should be on 285-3355. Many thanks!

Respectfully submitted,

Jim Abram
Director, Discovery Islands - Mainland Inlets (Area C), SRD