Sponging up the rain, taxing impervious surfaces — what other communities are doing

Sponging up the rain, taxing impervious surfaces — what other communities are doing

By George Le Masurier

This is the sixth in a series of articles about how urban stormwater runoff has negatively impacted Comox Valley waterways, what local governments are doing to address the issues and what other communities have done.


Urban development in the Comox Valley has fundamentally altered the natural water balance. As impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots and buildings replaced vegetated land, the opportunity for rain water to soak into the ground or return to the atmosphere by evapotranspiration diminished.

To prevent flooding, Valley municipalities have relied on expensive engineered infrastructure, such as curb, getters and stormwater pipes, to divert rainwater into area creeks and streams, and sometimes directly into the K’omoks Estuary.

Along the way, that rain water has picked up oil, grease and engine coolants, copper from vehicle brakes, zinc from vehicle tires, animal feces and a variety of other contaminants that in some cases have killed all aquatic life in our waters and threatened public health.

Polluted stormwater regularly causes the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to ban shellfish harvesting in Baynes Sound (as it did in November), and for the Capital Regional District to declare waters at certain Victoria-area beaches a possible health risk (as it did on Dec. 29).

Municipalities around the world have moved toward systems that rely less on “grey” infrastructure and more on “green “infrastructure that attempts to mimic nature.

It also costs less. Curb, gutters and pipes create long-term, unfunded liabilities for taxpayers to repair and replace. The Comox Valley alone has hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded infrastructure liabilities.

So, every community is looking for innovative stormwater solutions. Here are some of them.


The City of Victoria introduced a stormwater utility in 2016 to accomplish two goals: one, to fund its ongoing expense of replacing and repairing stormwater pipes; and, two, to encourage property owners to manage their own rainwater where it falls.

Before 2016, Victoria included stormwater fees in property taxes and based the charge on a property’s assessed value. Now, property owners pay fees based on the amount of rainwater estimated to run off their property.

In other words, the more impervious surfaces that cover a property and the fewer source control measures implemented — rain gardens, pervious pavers, etc. — the more a homeowner will pay.

“The stormwater utility is a funding model similar to how we fund water and sanitary services,” Brianne Czypyha, the city’s stormwater management specialist, told Decafnation. “The city uses the stormwater utility because it’s a more equitable user-pay system that bases the fees on the impact a property has on the system.”

Czypyha said grey infrastructure will always be an integral part of managing runoff in the city, but integrating green infrastructure will help build capacity of the system and improve the quality of stormwater runoff discharged into the environment. Using source controls is voluntary, for now, but not using them will cost property owners more.

“While the direction we have chosen is to use incentives to encourage the use of green infrastructure, particularly for retrofitting existing buildings,” Czypyha said. “I definitely see value in requiring new developments to meet more stringent rainwater management requirements.”

Richmond, BC, also has a stormwater utility, and it’s a common practice throughout Washington, Oregon and California.

“We’re aware of the problem, so why would we wait for someone else to tell us to fix it?”


Capital Regional District

The municipalities of Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay have signed on to a multi-jurisdictional, multi-stakeholder 100-year watershed management plan for Bowker Creek. The plan identifies places to daylight and naturalize the creek.

“The plan is to move Bowker Creek back to a more natural stream, as opportunities arise,” Glenn Harris told Decafnation. Harris is the CRD’s senior manager for environmental protection and the Bowker Creek Initiative spokesperson.

Bird life and bio-diversity around the creek is already coming back, Harris said, especially around Oak Bay High School where a $750,000 grant restored and naturalized the creek, increased native plantings and created a creek-focused curriculum at the school.

“It provides an opportunity to restore islands of nature within the urban environment,” he said.


Elsewhere in Canada

Kitchener, Ontario has taken a direct action approach to stormwater management. For more than a year, the city has required all new development to capture the first 12.5 millimetres of rain — about a half-inch — every time it rains.

The rule applies to subdivisions, commercial buildings and even city-owned roads. It means that except for major storm events, all rain water must be managed onsite, and no water would reach stormwater pipes or ponds.

Kitchener took the action ahead of anticipated new provincial stormwater regulations based on its own climate change study that predicted a 20 percent increase in rainfall.

“We’re aware of the problem, so why would we wait for someone else to tell us to fix it?,” the city’s stormwater manager Nick Gollan told a Kitchener newspaper. “We should be putting strategies in place to adapt to the changes that are taking place.”

The City of Langley has created a Department of Green Infrastructure Services. It has standardized rain gardens instead of traditional curbs and gutters on all non-arterial roads.

Since 2009, the City of Toronto has required green roofs on all commercial, institutional and residential developments with a minimum floor area of 2,000 square metres (appx. 21,500 square feet), this includes any additions to buildings that increase the floor area to the minium.


Outside of Canada

Portland, Oregon has been the acknowledged leader of stormwater management regulations for more than two decades. It started in 1993 with a downspout disconnection program.

But since 1999, Portland’s Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan has required source control on any new redeveloped properties that add more than 500 square feet of impervious surface. That means property owners must manage and treat all the runoff from impervious surfaces with green infrastructure — rain gardens, green roofs, soaker trenches, drywell, pervious pavers, etc. — and in some cases may be required to install underground treatment devices to remove pollutants.

Now, other cities are catching up.

The City of Philadelphia is in the seventh year of a 25-year project to “detain it (rainwater), not convey it.” The city has committed $2.4 billion to recreate in the urban streetscape the kinds of pervious places where, instead of running into surrounding waterways, rainfall and the contaminants it carries can once again soak into and be cleaned by the earth.

Berlin, Germany adopted a Sponge City Strategy in 2017 to mitigate both heat and flooding problems expected to intensify with climate change. The goal is to increase the amount of surfaces within the city that allow water to soak into the ground and release it gradually, rather than a sudden rush into waterways, and more urban vegetation that cools the air through evaporation.

The manager of Berlin’s project says, “The key is to avoid sealing up too much of the ground surface with concrete or tarmac. Wherever possible, we want water-permeable surfaces.”

Berlin’s strategy borrows the term “sponge city” from a 2013 Chinese initiative that proclaimed urban areas should act like sponges, based on the work of landscape architect Kongjian Yu.

Yu’s motto for rainwater management is: retain, adapt, slow down and reuse. Others have since modified that slogan as: sink it, slow it, reuse it and move it.


Educational opportunities

The best educators have long-ago incorporated curriculum about the environment and, more recently, about climate change.

More than 30 years ago, Barry Thornton, the former principal of Brooklyn Elementary School in Comox, was a pioneer in teaching young students about conservation and the environment in general. Thornton was a advocate for the restoration of Brooklyn Creek and initiated several fish habitat improvement projects near the school.

B.C. Adventure photo

He was also a co-founder of the schools Salmonids in the Classroom program that acquainted children with the life cycle of salmon and other aquatic life.

Today, students from elementary schools to high schools all over the globe are learning about the hydrological cycle, water balance and the need for better solutions to stormwater management. A quick search of the Internet brings up stormwater education programs from Kentucky to Rhode Island to Mississauga, Ontario.

The City of Mississauga has a stormwater outreach team that does presentations in K-12 classrooms that covers topics such as municipal stormwater management, water conservation, low-impact development and water quality and environmental health.

Students at Arcata High School in Humboldt County, Calif., recently started a project to create rain gardens around campus parking lots after an Environmental Science class found a high level of pollutants in the nearby Jolly Giant Creek.

In Kingston, Ontario, the city’s Fish and Frogs Forever program talks with local students about how polluted stormwater impacts local aquatic ecosystems and what they can do to reverse the negative effects.


What is the future?

Environmentalists and conservationists want improved stormwater regulations to happen quickly. But Brianne Cyzypyha, stormwater specialist at the City of Victoria, says that change in stormwater management is a multi-year, complex process, requiring involvement from many internal departments, and also feedback from experts and the public.

“In terms of the way forward, I see most municipalities as similar to a large ship changing course. It can be a bit of a slow process making changes to the old ways of doing business,” she said.








What to know more about the Sponge City concept?

This article describes modern stormwater management tools: sink it, slow it, reuse it and move it.

This article describes landscape architect Kongjian Yu who coined the term “sponge cities.”

This link takes you to Philadelphia’s guide for retrofitting properties to the city’s new stormwater regulations.




Bioswales — A stormwater conveyance system similar, but larger than a rain garden (see below).

Evaporation — As water is heated by the sun, surface molecules become sufficiently energized to break free of the attractive force binding them together, and then evaporate and rise as invisible vapour in the atmosphere.

Green infrastructure — Any natural or built system that provides ecological benefits and help to maintain pre-development hydrology. It encompasses natural features like streams, wetlands, forests and parks, as well as engineered systems that manage urban runoff.

Groundwater — Subterranean water is held in crack and pore spaces. Depending on the geology, the groundwater can flow to support streams. It can also be tapped by wells. Some groundwater is very old and may have been there for thousands of years.

Hydrologic cycle — The endless circulation of water. From the beginning of time when water first appeared, it has been constant in quantity and continuously in motions. The same water molecules have been transferred time and time again from the oceans and the land into the atmosphere by evaporation, dropped on the land as precipitation and transferred back to the sea by rivers and ground water.

Low-impact development (LID) — The systems and practices that use or mimic natural processes that result in the infiltration, evapotranspiration or use of stormwater in order to protect water quality and associated aquatic habitat.

Rain garden — A miniature wetland in a residential setting, lower than the adjacent grade to collect rainwater from roofs, driveways or streets, thus allowing infiltration into the ground.

Runoff — Excessive rain or snowmelt can produce overland flow to creeks and ditches. Runoff is visible flow of water in rivers, creeks and lakes as the water stored in the basin drains out.

Transpiration — Water vapour is also emitted from plant leaves by a process called transpiration. Ever day an actively growing plant transpires five to 10 times as much water as it can hold at once.





Cumberland gets $5.7 million for sewage plant upgrade

Village of Cumberland sewage lagoons will soon get an upgrade  | Photo by George Le Masurier By George Le Masurier he Village of Cumberland is well on its way to completing an overdue upgrade to its wastewater...

Stormwater systems shift slowly toward green infrastructure

Stormwater management plans in the Comox Valley have historically treated rainwater as waste, something to be collected and disposed of quickly, usually into previously clean streams or directly into the ocean. Clearly a new approach is needed.

City CAO David Allen focuses on sustainable asset management

Courtenay Chief Administration Officer David Allen was part of a small group in 2008 that developed this system for managing public assets that provides for service and financial sustainability. It is now used by almost every municipality in British Columbia.

Union Bay boils water, new turbidity standards

By George Le Masurier nion Bay residents are boiling water today that before August they were drinking from the tap. That's when Island Health's standard for turbidity in water from Langely Lake changed from 3 NTUs to 1...

CVRD raises rebate offers to switch from wood stoves

By George Le Masurier he Comox Valley Regional District has increased the incentive for people wood burning stoves to switch to cleaner-burning systems. The rebates apply to any wood stove manufactured prior to...

These environment stories from 2018 could give us hope

These environment stories from 2018 could give us hope

Perseverance Creek  |  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

Climate science reports released in 2018 all pointed to impending catastrophes unless humankind can pull off some miraculous reversal of climatological trends and its own bad behavior.

In just the last year, huge wildfires raged out of control, Antarctica lost three trillion more tonnes of ice, extreme heat waves warned of an eventual Hothouse Earth by 2040 and droughts and intense storms have become commonplace. Climate change could even cause a global beer shortage.

But not all the environment news in 2018 was depressing. There was good news to savor, some of it originating right here at home.

Comox Valley

The Comox Valley Lands Trust is purchasing a 55-acre parcel at the top of Morrison Creek, and announced plans to eventually acquire and conserve the waterway’s entire 550-acre headwaters. This is important for a variety of reasons: Morrison Creek has lively and thriving aquatic life, including several salmon species, it feeds the Puntledge River and the K’omoks Estuary and it’s the only stream in the valley whose headwaters remain intact (undeveloped) and pristine.

The Cumberland Forest Society is currently negotiating to preserve another 93 hectares (230 acres) of the Cumberland Forest, mostly wetlands and key riparian areas along Perseverance Creek. Since it formed in 2000, the society has conserved 110 hectares (271 acres).

Aerial view of some of the Morrison Creek headwaters — photo courtesy of the Comox Valley Lands Trust

On Dec. 19, the Comox Valley Lands Trust announced that Father Charles Brandt had signed a covenant to conserve his 27-acre Hermitage on the Oyster River. The covenant means the property “will be protected in perpetuity for the benefit of all things wild.” Brandt has told Decafnation he intends to donate his property to the Comox Valley Regional District as an undeveloped public park.

In a process mired in missteps and lawsuits, the CVRD finally denied an application by the 3L Development company that would have created more urban sprawl, increased long-term infrastructure liabilities for taxpayers and despoiled a critical area. But an outstanding lawsuit means this story isn’t over.

The Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC and the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society completed an Ecological Accounting Process document, which shows the value of the waterway to the Town of Comox for stormwater conveyance. It’s the first EAP in BC on a creek flowing through multiple jurisdictions, and shows how all stakeholders must have a common goal in order to prevent the death of another fish-bearing stream.

Many of the candidates who sought public office this fall — and most who were elected — endorsed the passage of new development policies that permit and encourage infill development. This is important to minimize urban sprawl, and maximize utilization of existing infrastructure, thus preserving more rural areas and natural ecological systems.

Thanks to Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley, more people know the serious health hazards of poor air quality caused by particulates in smoke from wood burning devices. And local governments are responding with bands on wood burning devices in new homes and incentives to eliminate or upgrade existing ones.

Pacific Northwest

The sad sight of a mother orca carrying a dead calf around for weeks, as if to show humans what tragedies they are inflicting on the Earth’s other inhabitants, has sparked some positive change. Just not in BC, yet. Gov. Jay Inslee struck a task force that has recommended steps for orca recovery and the governor has earmarked over a billion dollars for the plan, which includes a ban on whale-watching tourism.

British Columbians got a sniff last summer of what climate change means for our future. One of the worst wildfire summers blanketed the south coast with smoke, haze and hazardous air quality. And with summers getting hotter and drier (it’s not just your imagination), wildfires will increase. It’s another step — albeit an unfortunate one — to wider spread public acknowledgement of climate change and the urgency of initiatives to maintain and improve our air quality.

The NDP government adopted a climate action plan this year calls for more electric vehicles and charging stations, requires all new buildings to be net-zero energy ready by 2032, diverts organic waste and other recyclables from landfills, while boosting the carbon tax and producing more hydroelectric power. It’s been criticized as being “just talk” and not going far enough, but the plan at least provides a blueprint for future climate action policies provincially and federally.


Green energy is on the rise around the world. We had the largest annual increase in global renewable generation capacity in 2017 (most recent data), accounting for 70 percent of all additions to global power capacity. New solar photovoltaic capacity outsripped additions in coal, natural gas and nuclear power combined. As of 2016, renewable energy accounted for 18.2 percent of global total final energy consumption (most recent data), and modern renewables representing 10.4 percent.

Brooklyn Creek flows into Comox Bay — George Le Masurier photo

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development thinks that global economic growth has peaked. They worry about the slowdown, but it’s good news for the planet. That’s the view of the new Degrowth movement, a theory that first world countries should plan for economic contraction in order to achieve a just and sustainable world.

Carbon emissions are declining, according to BP’s statistical review of world energy. Ukraine showed the greatest decline in 2017 of around 10 percent, due to dramatic reduction in coal usage. Unfortunately, Canada was one of the worst nations (22nd). Canada actually increased emissions by 3.4 percent, contributing the ninth largest share of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere behind China, the US and Japan.

Community-based renewable energy projects lead the way in reducing greenhouse gases both in Canada and around the world. Scotland’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) provides communities, businesses and other organizations advice and funding to create local and community energy projects. And, even the province of Alberta has a Community Generation Program for small-scale ventures into wind, biomass, hydro and solar.

And here’s a video that shows more reasons for hope. The question is, are we moving fast enough? And what more could we do?








International Panel on Climate Change
Click here

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Click here

Global Carbon Project
Click here

National Climate Assessment
Click here

Renewables 2018 Global Status Report
Click here

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
High uncertainty weighing on global growth
Click here

Click here

BP statistical review of World Energy 2018
Click here

Community-based renewable energy projects
Click here and here

The story of 2018 was climate change
Click here



BREAKING: 3L development vote today

The Comox Valley Regional District Committee of the Whole will vote at 4 p.m. today (July 10) on whether to classify the 3L Developments proposal for a 740-house project at Stotan Falls as a minor amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy. CVRD staff have recommended the proposal be classified as a major amendment.

City bridge proposal would harm airpark, Kus-kus-sum

A proposed new bridge would kill the Courtenay Airpark, walkway, Hollyhock Marsh, undermine Kus-kus-sum and add another signal light on Comox Road. So why is the City of Courtenay promoting it? Even mayoralty candidates aren’t sure

Farmers: reject Merville water bottling operation

The Mid-Island Farmers Institute has asked the Comox Valley Regional District board to reject a water bottling facility on Sackville Road in Merville. And they want the regional district to ask the Ministry of Forestry, Land, Natural Resources, Operations and Rural Development to rescind the water licence granted to the Sackville Road property owners, Christopher MacKenzie and Regula Heynck.

Requiem for a Garry Oak prairie

The Comox Valley has lost a 6,000-year-old Garry Oak prairie … largely because Comox mayor, Town Council and staff either don’t care or are ignorant of Comox’s natural heritage, or are hell-bent on development vandalism.

Is Site C a Done Deal?

More than 150 people gathered at the K’omox First Nation Band Hall recently for a powerful inspiring evening of speakers who proved that the fight to save the Peace River Valley is far from over. Ken Boon, farmer and member of the Peace Valley Landowners Association and two other speakers explained why Site C is a boondoggle.

Water bottling project raises aquifer concerns

The B.C. government has approved a controversial groundwater licence for a water extraction and bottling operation on a two hectare property on Sackville Road in the Merville area. They did it despite a strong objection from the Comox Valley Regional District and without public consultation or regard for community concerns.

The Decafnation lists its favorite books read in 2018

The Decafnation lists its favorite books read in 2018

By George Le Masurier

Each year on Jan. 1, Decafnation presents its annual collective book report. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share micro-reviews of books they enjoyed in last year. You can read previous year’s recommendations here.

Kathy Gilland DuperronWomen Who Dig: Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World by Trina Moiyles of Alberta. — Ms Moyles travelled to six different countries and interviewed women who dig (garden, farm) in order to feed their families. We meet brave, hard-working women around the world. Canada, the US, Uganda, Cuba and more. Women outside North America get the most they can in order to feed their families and if they sell some products their children may be able to go to school. This is a book filled with hope, the opposite of what we are generally hearing and reading in the news.

Anne BakerThe Boat People by Sharon Bala — “When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and 500 fellow refugees from Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war reaches Vancouver’s shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the “boat people” are members of a separatist militant organization responsible for countless suicide attacks—and that these terrorists now pose a threat to Canada’s national security” — review excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Brad MorganThe Library Book by Susan Orlean — This is every bookworm’s dream read, said a reviewer and it’s true. If you love books, you’ll love this book. It’s actually a tribute to libraries via an arson investigation and filled with real-life characters and stories so unexpected, they feel like they’ve been misshelved from the fantasy section. It’s starts out about the 1986 fire that destroyed 400,000 books at the Los Angeles Central Library, and that becomes Orlean’s excuse to introduce the eccentric who’d been the city’s first librarian, a successor who walked from Ohio to L.A. to claim the post.

Robert MooreLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders — An initially baffling, wild, creative and surprising book. Second choice, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Hamid — Evocative and interesting voice.

Charles ShelanPachinko by Min Jin Lee, and the Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish.

Sarah SeitzA Little Life by Hanya Yanaguhara — I loved this tale of four young men navigating friendship and trauma. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Also enjoyed Educated by Tara Westover — a memoir about her life growing up with survivalists in rural Idaho.

Meredith Wright HutchinsCircling the Sun by Paula McLain — This book is One of my favorites. It’s an biographical fiction and I was into the book before I realized Beryl Markham was an actual person. I was equally surprised to learn that one of her friends, Karen Blixen, was the character played by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. The book is set in British East Africa in the early 1900’s. Beryl was, among other things, a race horse trainer and pilot at a time when those were not vocations for women.

Helena SpearsThe Winters: a reboot of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca — It has great characters, and plot twists. If you enjoyed the original, you will enjoy this one too. A quick, fun read.

Jim LewisWashington Black by Esi Edugyan — This third novel by a Vancouver Island writer offers a unique spin on the traditional slave narrative. Its protagonist, known as Wash, is an 18-year-old freeman looking back on a childhood spent in bondage and on the unlikely events that allowed him to escape a Barbados sugar plantation in a hot-air balloon and travel from Virginia to the Arctic to Europe while blossoming into an accomplished artist and scientist.

Ramon MartinezRiding the Continent by Hamilton Mack Laing, with an introduction by Richard Mackie, edited by Trevor Marc Hughes — Hamilton Mack Laing was an illustrious early British Columbia writer and naturalist. But few know him as how he described himself in his mid-thirties: a motorcycle-naturalist. For several years beginning in 1914, Laing used the motorcycle to access the natural world, believing it gave him a distinct advantage over other forms of transportation. During this period in his life he would take on a transcontinental journey, riding across the United States from Brooklyn to Oakland in 1915. His previously unpublished manuscript of this journey has been hidden away for nearly a century.

Peter JacobsonThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood — A World War II–era family drama turns into a story within a story, within a story — as well as a mystery, a thriller, and a tract on the politics of love, passion, and betrayal. It’s brilliantly written, sharp as a blade, and completely engrossing.

Ken AdneyThe Johnstown Flood by David McCullough — I love everything else I’ve read by him. Also, McLuhan for Beginners (one of the For Beginners series).
Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw (just because people keep talking about him). Jacobs’ Dimensions of Moral Theory (more meta arguments than how to). Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (loved her essays). William Gass The World Within The Word (few writers write so well about writing)

Dan Vie — I generally read no fiction except for an occasional folktale. However, I re-read the Lord of the Rings after several decades, just because the narrative feels topical in this political climate. It is a gorgeous and engrossing read. Tolkien was masterful at crafting a sense of physical environment – the journey takes them through so many uniquely illustrated spaces, and it’s vivid.

Gloria J. BalazsBecoming by Michelle Obama — A great book. Predictable, but warmly entertaining. Loved it!

Robert MarshallAsymmetry by Lisa Halliday — Shortly after 9/11, a young woman working in New York City publishing enters into a romantic relationship with a famous older Jewish novelist. But the book’s second half changes everything, which I won’t reveal and spoil it for you.

Jessie Kerr — Sapiens (a brief history of humankind) by Yuval Harari –This book was difficult to put down. It caused me to reconsider my beliefs, attitudes and bias. I think it is a must read for thinkers. Also I’m Right and You’re an Idiot by James Hoggan. I heard him at the Denman Island book fest. A thoughtful discourse on the toxic state of public discourse. Another must read.

Richard ClarkeHow China’s Leaders Think by RL Kuhn — an informative insight into the machinations of the CCP leadership and China’s dramatic change over past 40 years.

Mary LangWomen Talking by Miram Toews — A small masterpiece. Launching off of a (tragically) true story, Toews explores the many powerful shades of resistance and witness in the wake of oppression and violation.







Blue Heron Books
1775 Comox Ave., Comox


Laughing Oyster Books
286 Fifth St., Courtenay


Nearly New Books
1761 Comox Ave., Comox


Second Page Used Books
546 Duncan Ave., Courtenay


Driftwood Mall, Courtenay


North Island College Bookstore
2300 Ryan Road, Courtenay


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The meaning of Guernica explained in a subway

The meaning of Guernica explained in a subway

By George Le Masurier

What do a gored bull, a horse and flames have in common? No, this is not a three-people-walk-into-a-bar kind of joke. The answer, of course, is they are all prominent images in Pablo Picasso’s most famous painting (Decafnation’s opinion).

But what does it mean? Have you ever wondered about the symbolism in the painting? Is it really an anti-war message?

A New Yorker magazine art critic took a copy down into the Big Apple’s subway tunnels and asked people what they thought. It’s an interesting video.



The bombing of Guernica (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡeɾˈnika]) (26 April 1937) was an aerial bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It was carried out, at the behest of Francisco Franco’s nationalist government, by its allies, the Nazi German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Fascist Italian Aviazione Legionaria, under the code name Operation Rügen. 

The bombing is the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso, commissioned by the Spanish Republic.

— Wikipedia



Pablo Picasso was the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the 20th century. Associated most of all with pioneering Cubism, alongside Georges Braque, he also invented collage and made major contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. He saw himself above all as a painter, yet his sculpture was greatly influential, and he also explored areas as diverse as printmaking and ceramics.

Finally, he was a famously charismatic personality; his many relationships with women not only filtered into his art but also may have directed its course, and his behavior has come to embody that of the bohemian modern artist in the popular imagination.

More Culture | News
The Week: Was this the Year of Women in Comox Valley politics?

The Week: Was this the Year of Women in Comox Valley politics?

       Illustrating the power and importance of human touch  |  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

What was the most important occurrence this year in the Comox Valley? Was this the Year of Women in politics? You can certainly make a case that it was. More women ran for public office and were elected than the prior year in all branches of Comox Valley local government.

The School District 71 Board of Education leads the way with six women and one male board member. Cumberland has a 4:1 ratio and Comox is 4:3. Lagging the field are Courtenay at 2:5. and the Comox Valley Regional District rural areas at 1:3.

Was this the Year of the Progressive movement? You could make a case for that, too. Courtenay council certainly shifted toward progressive thinking by rejecting former Mayor Larry Jangula and the many former councillors and mayors who tried to make a comeback out of retirement.

Was this the Year of Youth in local politics? Comox Town Council certainly got younger with three new councillors (all women) in their 30s, and first-time councillor Patrick McKenna trimed a year or two off both Hugh McKinnon and Marg Grant, incumbents did not seek re-election.

Courtenay dropped a couple of years, too, by replacing Jangula and Erik Eriksson. Cumberland stayed about the same, but new CVRD rural area directors Arzeena Hamir and Daniel Arbour are younger than their predecessors.

Was this the Year of Grassroots Activism? That’s a difficult one because the Comox Valley has a long history of engaged citizens fighting for perceived just causes. So maybe the strong and successful opposition to a water bottling operation in the Merville area and a 1,000 home subdivision in the Puntledge Triangle are just continuations of a long tradition.

Was this the Year of Legal Marijuana? We don’t think so. Canadians have been unabashedly consuming cannabis in various forms for years. But becoming the first G7 nation to legalize recreational use of marijuana is significant, and primarily for a reason that directly involves the Comox Valley.

Legalization means that scientists can finally officially study the cannabis plant and its effects on human consumers. And Canada’s leading cannabis scientist is Jonathan Page, who grew up here, and he is building the world’s first laboratory dedicated to the breeding and genetics of cannabis in his home community.

What was the highlight of the year for you?

¶  Several hundred people jumped into the somewhat colder water off Goose Spit on Boxing Day for the annual Polar Bear Swim. But, was the water really that cold? Actually, water in the Strait of Georgia fluctuates only about 3 or 4 degrees Centigrade between summer and winter. So, it’s not really that much colder in December than it was in July.

Some Cumberland folks — incited by Meagan Coursons — have been talking about a New Years Day swim in Comox Lake. That would likely be colder than Goose Spit, especially if they jumped in at the mouth of the Cruikshank River.

That’s pretty much what Magali Cote did before Christmas. The commercial diver started at the west end of the lake and swam to the Cumberland boat ramp. So, she passed by the mouth of the Cruikshank flowing with icy glacier water. Cote was wearing thermal diving gear, but still ….

¶  Our favorite scientific study of 2018 was done at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Researchers found that when women subjected to mild pain held hands with their male partner, the intensity of the pain diminished by 34 percent. We’re not sure why they only used mixed-sex couples. Brain scans showed the couple’s brain waves became synchronized while holding hands, and to a greater degree when pain was applied.

The lead researcher said the study “illustrates the power and importance of human touch.”







Roma — Alfonso Cuaron
Hereditary — Ari Aster
First Reformed — Paul Schrader
Eighth Grade — Bo Burnham
Support the Girls — Andrew Bujalski
Amazing Grace — Sydney Pollack
The Rider — Chloé Zhao
Cold War — Pawel Pawlikowski
The Old Man & the Gun — David Lowery
Zama — Lucrecia Martel





Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
Camila Cabello — Camila
Pistol Annies — Interstate Gospel
Ariana Grande — Sweetener
Travis Scott — AstroWorld
Pusha T — Daytona
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper — A Star is Born
Kurt Vile — Bottle It In
Drake — Scorpion

— Rolling Stone




Better Call Saul
The Americans
Killing Eve
The Good Place
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Handmaid’s Tale
Sharp Objects
Patrick Melrose

— David Bianculli, NPR’s Fresh Air