Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content


The bull and the bear Add to ...

That was enough for Chief Robert Sam, who washed his hands of the cave dispute during a press conference in December, 2006: "The dissension comes from the group who have been trying to occupy the mountain-the young people," he said. "We've been trying to tell them that maybe this cave has served its purpose and maybe it's time to move on."

In December, the interchange won formal approval after consultants released their long-awaited archeological and environmental reports. (The road is to be rerouted around a limestone cave, a stand of protected Garry oaks and a pond full of endangered red-legged frogs.) One obstacle remained, however: the Bear Moutain Tree Sit, which had been holding its treetop vigil since April, 2007. In the predawn hours of Feb. 13, up to 50 RCMP officers, some armed with assault rifles, surrounded the protesters' camp and arrested three activists. Soon after, backhoes moved in to clear a path for the new interchange.

As Barrie navigates his white cadillac Escalade up Malahat Drive, a steep and twisting road that leads north from Victoria to bucolic Mill Bay, his mobile rings continuously. One call is from Rick Lanz, the coach of the Victoria Grizzlies, the B.C. Hockey League team that Barrie owns. The NHL's Colorado Avalanche has offered him a job as its scout for Western Canada. "It would be f---ing foolish not to take the offer," Barrie tells him. "Opportunities like this are rare."

After a couple wrong turns and more than a few expletives, we arrive in Mill Bay. This is Barrie's first visit to the property-he bought the lot after swooping over it in a helicopter. Waiting for him are caretaker Jeff Quinton and his realtor, Alex Robertson, a onetime sports reporter who knows Barrie from his days with Victoria's former Western Hockey League team, the Cougars. Robertson, who served a term as director of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, put Barrie onto the property when he heard plans were afoot to run sewer service down the slope to the half-dozen residences and bed-and-breakfasts on the boot-shaped property, as well as the 70-slip marina.

Barrie's plans for Mill Bay aren't as grandiose as the development of Bear Mountain. He'll relocate a 1903 mansion to create a community centre, and build 74 townhouses cantilevered from the hillside. He figures it can be developed for $300 a square foot, including the cost of land. Barrie tromps around the hillside, sharing ideas with three associates from Vancouver's Merrick Architecture.

Back in Bear Mountain, Barrie parks the Escalade at Jack's Place. The pub is filled with old hockey sweaters and other sports relics, including a Lance Armstrong racing jersey. He's there to meet Roger Perry, an engineering consultant, to discuss the best possible route for a new residential road at Bear Mountain-one that's the least likely to provoke controversy. Over iced tea and halibut burgers, they pore over a topographical map and eventually settle on adding a spur to an existing road. One problem: They have to convince a local property owner to sell them the land. "That guy hates us," Barrie says, "but let's make him an offer he can't refuse."

Perry seems relieved. A couple years ago, Barrie probably would have taken a chainsaw to the guy's trees himself. Now, though, he just wants to get the job done. As Perry gathers up his maps and drawings, he tells Barrie: "You have grown so much over the last five years."

After lunch, Barrie jumps back in the SUV and heads for his new house-he needs to talk to the contractor who is building his pool. The place is 15,000 square feet of custom-built luxury. An army of workers are installing custom-milled baseboards, mouldings and doors. Though his kids aren't around much these days-16-year-old Tyson was a first-round draft pick for the WHL's Kelowna Rockets, and 19-year-old Victoria moved out after graduating from high school-the place has five cavernous bedrooms, including an almost 1,500-square-foot master suite. It also features an enormous media room, a wine cellar, a full gym and, clinging to the steep mountainside, the pool.

A stone staircase runs under the pool, leading to a grotto reminiscent of Hugh Hefner's at the Playboy mansion. "Oh God," Barrie chuckles, "you aren't going to write about that, are you?" For the first and only time, Barrie appears uncomfortable, almost apologetic.

It quickly passes, as he chatters on about his very own golf course at Bear Mountain, which opened in August, 2004. When it comes to selecting members (who pay a membership fee of $35,000, plus monthly dues of $375), he's cautious. "If you are not a happy person, and I do not care how much money you have, go spend it somewhere else," says Barrie. "It's not a right to be a member of Bear Mountain, it is a privilege. The nice thing is, there is no committee-I am it."

Report Typo/Error
Single page

Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular