The Week: Tolls on the Fifth Street Bridge, and quieter coffee shops, please

The Week: Tolls on the Fifth Street Bridge, and quieter coffee shops, please

George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Tolls on the Fifth Street Bridge, and quieter coffee shops, please


Four people died every day in BC last year from a drug overdose. One hundred, twenty of them died in November, 13 percent more than last year. We lost 1,380 people in 2018. Two decades into the opioid epidemic and these numbers are still shocking.

The BC Corner reported that the numbers of deaths on the North Island went down from 38 to 25, but it doesn’t feel like something to celebrate. Especially not when Courtenay RCMP announced last month that they had seized a potentially lethal combination of drugs, including fentanyl, from a man who was still in custody.

Not one of last year’s drug-related deaths occurred at a safe consumption site. But, please, people, let’s stop calling these live-saving facilities “drug overdose prevention sites.” Even trained professionals supervising these sites cannot prevent someone from overdosing. They do not know what’s in the concoction someone injects. But they can, and do, prevent that person from dying of an overdose.

Two clever Decafnation readers have independently suggested the “perfect” solution to the City of Courtenay’s Fifth Street Bridge problem. The bridge desperately needs a renovation that’s expected to cost up to $6.3 million. The city doesn’t have that much laying around, and, anyway, why should Courtenay residents have to foot the whole bill when it’s used by a lot of people who don’t live there?

Our reader’s obvious solution: toll bridge.

At $2 per crossing, it would take 8,630 crossings per day for one year to pay the bill. Okay, so there’s lots of practical problems with this idea, but …

It only took a couple of days into 2019 to issue the year’s first boil water advisory for the Courtenay and Comox water system. It’s not a coincidence the advisory came after this week’s big rain events. But, of course, no one dares mention logging above Comox Lake in this discussion, or how restoring the watershed to a natural state could reduce the need for a $100 million dollar water treatment plant. Did you also notice the color of waters in the Courtenay River and K’omoks Estuary had turned Sediment Brown?

Some Cumberland die-hards started a New Year’s Day swim in Comox Lake this year, and the “my water was colder than your water” arguments have already heated up with the Goose Spit swimmers. Cumberlanders want bragging rights.

What they don’t have is a unique name. The Cumberland “Black Bear Dip” has been tossed out, but it’s kind of lame, right? A reference to the village’s coal history? Who knows. What name do you suggest?

If you weren’t that worried about climate change before, this might tip your scales. New research published in Nature Plants, a nature research journal, predicts climate change will cause a worldwide beer shortage.

According to the study, expected droughts and extreme temperatures will diminish barley crop yields by three percent to 17 percent. And since most barley goes to feed livestock, beer producers will get even less than a proportionate share of the declining yields.

That means the price of beer would double and global consumption would decline by about 16 percent. Consumption would decline by as much at 32 percent in some of the poorer countries, while more affluent countries might see less of an impact, according to the researchers.

And without beer or BC wine, what are Albertans going to drink?

We read this important New York Times article — ‘How to be a better person in 2019’ — so you don’t have to. Here’s our Cliff Notes summary: More sex and CBD, less screen time and consumer spending. 

When did Comox Valley coffee shops get so loud? Didn’t they used to be a place of quiet refuge, where someone could go for a moment of reflection? Not any more, and we blame the interior designers.

Not all coffee shops are noisy, but those that are have a particular style in common: sleek, hard surfaces, slate, shiny wood, and a noticeable absence of soft, sound-absorbing materials like tapestries or upholstery. The grinding and whistling of the espresso machines mix with a rattling of cups and human conversation to bounce around the room in a cacophony that is not just audibly annoying, it can become a barrier to thoughtful conversation.

Can we get back to coffee shops where you don’t have to shout to be heard and where you leave without a post-rock concert ringing in your ears?

 Happy New Year to the Decafnation. Spring is coming and the days are getting longer!



A. Murray MacKay Bridge
Ambassador Bridge
Angus L. Macdonald Bridge

Blue Water Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge
Confederation Bridge

Deh Cho Bridge

Fort Frances–International Falls International Bridge

Golden Ears Bridge
Gordie Howe International Bridge

Lewiston–Queenston Bridge

Ogdensburg–Prescott International Bridge
Olivier-Charbonneau Bridge

Peace Bridge
Port Mann Bridge

Rainbow Bridge (Niagara Falls)

Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge
Seaway International Bridge
Serge-Marcil Bridge

Thousand Islands Bridge

Whirlpool Rapids Bridge

Yukon Suspension Bridge

— Wikipedia


Only safe source will curb overdose crisis

Only safe source will curb overdose crisis

Only safe source will curb overdose crisis

Courtenay parents, nurse petition Ottawa for system to prevent opioid deaths


Over 7,000 Canadians died of opioid overdose in 2016 and 2017. Courtenay parents John and Jennifer Hedican’s eldest son, Ryan, was one of them.

He was 26-years-old and a third-year electrician. He had completed eight months of recovery, returned to work, experienced a relapse, and was found unresponsive on his job site in Vancouver during a lunch break on April 24th, 2017.

Relapse is a normal and anticipated stage of the recovery process and the Hedicans believe that if he had access to a safe source of narcotics, Ryan would not have died by fentanyl-poisoning that day.

In Ryan’s honour, the Hedicans have partnered with me to author a petition to the House of Commons demanding that a system be created to ensure a safe source of substances so that people who use drugs experimentally, recreationally or chronically, are not at imminent risk of death due to a contaminated source.

FURTHER READING: How could this happen?

The Hedicans and I believe that access to a safe, regulated and monitored source is the only solution to prevent overdose and fentanyl-poisoning deaths.

We are astounded at the lack of aggressive action by our federal government in response to such devastating, preventable and continuing loss. We are asking Canadians to join their call to action by signing the petition and pressuring their MPs to demand that our prime minister and government make the policy changes needed to save lives now.

We recently held a signature drive in downtown Courtenay, Campbell River and Cumberland, collecting 781 new signatures.

We are also asking that personal possession be decriminalized to reduce the stigma resulting from the criminalization of substance use. They want our government to adopt a model similar to that used in Portugal, which treats problematic substance use as a health, rather than criminal justice issue. Fear of stigma and punishment currently prevents people from accessing health care services and treatment.

The third ask is that the opioid crisis be declared a national public health emergency.

The number of preventable overdose deaths to date has far surpassed the total number of deaths of all other public health emergencies in the last 20 years including SARS, H1N1, and Ebola, yet the crisis has not achieved national emergency status. Despite the expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program and the establishment of Overdose Prevention Sites, approximately four people die each day from opioid overdoses due to fentanyl-poisoned sources.

Males aged 19-49 are at the highest risk. Sixty-three percent of overdose deaths occurring in private residences. 120 Canadians are dying every month, each one a child, sibling, spouse, parent, colleague, client, friend.

Our online petition has over 2,100 signatures and many paper versions have been mailed in.

FURTHER READING: Sign the online petition here.

MP Gord Johns tabled the petition in the House of Commons for the first time before the summer sitting. You can see his speech here

The online petition closes July 25th and the government is required to respond within 45 days. This petition has recently been endorsed by the British Columbia Nurses’ Union.

Shanyn Simcoe is a Comox Valley nurse activist. She wrote this article for the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at