Nanaimo City Manager speech and Communication jobs

At Monday night’s Council meeting, the Nanaimo City Manager gave this speech:

“…it’s well known that certain councillors opposed my employment with the City even before Council made the decision to hire me. Councillor Brennan contacted the media [saying] that a group of them had a newsworthy story. She unilaterally decided to contact the media with confidential information in an open meeting via the Mayors report, to a social media Facebook administrator.

Council asked Brennan to apologise for leaking confidential information. Instead she chose to make legal demands to Mayor McKay, to suspend me from my position, and to launch an investigation into the interim hiring process.

Council asked for and received an opinion on the hiring process, [the lawyers] confirmed the hiring process was lawful.

Mayor McKay wrote to Brennan’s lawyer that the hiring process was lawful and that he had no grounds to suspend me at that time.

Subsequent to that Mayor McKay approached a different law firm and eventually made a complaint to Minister Fassbender about the interim hiring process and the Ministry contacted the City about these allegations. After the investigation and the review of the letter signed by 7 councillors, the Ministry advised that they would not intervene unless by a special motion by Council. The Ministry has held firm not to get involved unless mandated by council.

Mayor McKay also went to the ombudsperson with similar complaints but they haven’t initiated an investigation to my knowledge.

At the same time all of this was taking place I continued to carry out my duties as the interim City Manager and then council initiated the staffing competition for the permanent CAO.

Mayor McKay opposed the process and asked council to terminate it and investigate me and on various occasions accused me of being untrustworthy and particularly suggested that I lied about an investigation commenced by him and the former City Manager [Ted Swabey]. I was forced on each occasion to refute the allegations and did so completely.

When I was selected as the successful candidate in the search process, and after I was confirmed by a motion from council for the position, it was my expectation that the turmoil and attacks would cease. They did not.

Mayor McKay even went to Work Safe BC and even alleged that I didn’t create a safe work environment for staff. Work Safe BC conducted an investigation and decided to take no further action.

Councillor Brenan has added to the hostile work environment by openly challenging my decision-making in front of staff and most recently to the media. When asked to withdraw her demand to terminate me she has repeatedly refused.

I appreciate that council has made attempts both formally and informally to have both the Mayor and Councillor Brennan cease such conduct which is damaging to both the City and to me as well as impairing my ability to carry out my duties as CAO. Unfortunately, these steps by Council have not yielded any results. Nor has a cease and desist letter from my lawyer directed to the Mayor or legal advice from the City’s corporate lawyers about respectful workplace obligations of the employer.

It is my opinion that what they seek to create is an environment to make me resign as CAO and sue the City. I have no intentions of doing so.

Despite all of this, we have moved the City forward and I intend to continue as the CAO. We have made great progress on Council agenda. There is much work to be done on the core services review and I enjoy working with staff when I am actually given the opportunity to do so free from interference and harassment.

I am hoping that this public statement addresses the questions that will be raised from the release of in-camera motions and put some pressure on Councillor Brennan and Mayor McKay to treat me in a respectful and professional manner in the workplace and in the media as all employees deserve to be treated.

I personally extended an olive branch to the Mayor on Tuesday with the assistance of the Human Resources department with a plea that he set aside any concerns he has about me so that the Mayor and the CAO, two very important positions, can be seen to be working together by the public and by staff.

I know that I can do this I am asking the Mayor to make a statement that he will make this commitment too. It is time to set aside the past and move forward together and I look forward to the future of the City.”

Mayor McKay: “…that’s probably one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard.”

Expanding Communication Department

The Nanaimo City Manager has given a communications contract to the former Nanaimo Daily News editor, Mark MacDonald. The position was not put out to tender.

This is the same editor who stood behind publishing racist letters against First Nations.  Over 300 people protested in front of the newspaper office, including members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, but MacDonald would still not apologize.

This is also the same editor who stood beside Ezra Levant, a spokesman for the far right, at the Freedom Burger event.

It is curious that the City Manager who publically claims to not see eye to eye with the Mayor, would unilaterally make the decision to hire MacDonald who published many articles in McKay’s favour and supported his bid to become Mayor of Nanaimo.

Is the City Manager and the Mayor colluding against Councillor Brennan?

In her speech, the City Manager accused Councillor Brennan of ‘questioning her decision-making’ to the media. Why not? A councillor should question any decisions made by the Nanaimo City Manager.

All job openings at the City of Nanaimo should be advertised, even if they are short-term contracts. By hiring someone who is a friend of a friend, this is not a transparent process.

It speaks volumes to learn that the City is expanding its Communications department during a time of restraint, when there is a core services review underway.  How is this new full-time position being funded and what will be the job description? Is this one of those public affairs positions to ‘monitor media’?

Data Mining Online and On the Street

Data mining is big business. Corporations need this extra knowledge to stay in the game. Who do they get to do their data mining? Why not the government and while they’re at it why not have the taxpayer pay for the collection of data.

There are two basic kinds of data mining. One is online monitoring and the other is physical surveillance.

In 2013, Bob Mackin reported that the BC government had 225 positions in public affairs with 18 fully dedicated to media monitoring.

Is the government also paying for ‘bumper bots’ to follow ‘targets’ around? Are all the ‘bumper bots’ Americans who have arrived here under the guise of a temporary worker or a student program? They must have access to fleets of vehicles that are brought in and rotated on a regular basis, in order to carry out a project on a province-wide scale.

If such a government program exists, how many years has the ‘bumper bot’ program been in operation and how much has it cost taxpayers?

Long Form Census

Just recently, Stats Canada asked Canadians to complete a long form census. Here is a sampling of the questions:

  • have you suffered from depression, substance abuse or anorexia?
  • do you have difficulty using your hands or walking up stairs?
  • do you have long term health problems?
  • who do you work for? (give name and street address)
  • what’s your job title and job description?
  • what time do you leave for work?
  • how many rooms are there where you live?
  • how many bedrooms?
  • how much money do you spend on gas and electricity?

The government claims that answers to some of these questions will provide necessary information to develop strategies for housing. Homeless people can be found in every town in BC. There’s a crisis out there. Why are they not doing a national census of the homeless? Or is it because no corporation is interested?

Dead Data

Take the issue of substance abuse. The hospitals have all the stats on overdoses and yet the government doesn’t even have a national policy on what information they get from emergency departments.

In a recent report, the Auditor General of Canada said:

“…the data collected by many government organizations is either not usable, not used or not acted upon.”

If the long form census data was ever hacked, some of the answers could get a person fired from their job or effect an insurance claim.

BC school district system needs overhaul

Public education in BC is in serious trouble. The Ministry of Education has decided to keep its limited budget which means that most school districts can’t balance their books. The government claims that there should be enough money to pay for schools but the trustees and the school districts disagree.

In order to make up for the budget shortfall, school districts either close schools or reduce the number of teaching days in the year. Yet at the same time, the number of principals, vice principals, and senior administrators keeps increasing despite declining enrollment and a decline in the number of teachers.

Superintendent salaries out of sight

The Nanaimo school district (SD68) 2016-17 budget includes major cuts. Woodlands Secondary School and Woodbank Primary School will close in June 2016.  SD68 has already closed 14 schools since 2002.  There will be layoffs to teachers, bus drivers, janitors and other maintenance positions as well as elimination of bus routes.

At the same time, there are plans to give a 20% pay hike to the SD68 Superintendent who will receive $229,360 in 2016-17 up from $191,802 this year.

This pay increase was determined by a consultant hired by SD68. In 2008, it was decided that the Board of Education is solely responsible for deciding what to pay the position of Superintendent.

Did you know that 2,733 staff in BC’s public sector earn more than the Premier of BC? The Richmond School District’s Director of Instruction makes $359,237. This is followed by a list of school superintendents making around $200,000 each. The salary increase for the SD68 Superintendent would put that position just behind the Superintendent for Maple Ridge at $257,123.

Why should our children suffer with an inadequate public education system while others are being overcompensated?

School district system

According to wikipedia, the school district system started in 1871, back when schools consisted of one room and an outhouse. There have only been two changes to the number of school districts – once in 1946 and again in 1996.  Some of these school districts had just one or two schools. It is time to revamp the school district system. A lot has changed since the early days except now there are third world portables for classrooms versus plush air-conditioned offices for administrators.

There is too much duplication in positions across the school districts. Why not amalgamate school districts – similar to the health authorities?  As an example, if each school district has an average of approximately 5 superintendents, this means we are paying about $80 million for superintendents. This doesn’t include all the redundant director positions.

Nanaimo Ladysmith School District 68 spends a greater percentage of their budget on administration than other comparable school districts of similar size. This was mentioned by Mike Roberts of the BC School Trustee Association in the video below.

Nanaimo Council and pay increases across Canada

In the last few months municipal councils across Canada, including Nanaimo Council, have voted themselves pay increases.  Here are some pay increases councillors have approved for themselves in the last month:

  • Hamilton, ON 1.5%
  • Halifax, NS 13%
  • Vancouver, BC 12.6%
  • New Westminster, BC 8.9%
  • Fernie, BC 50%

Moncton city council had planned to approve a 25% increase for the deputy mayor and 16% increase for councillors, but it was voted down just one week before city voters head to the polls.

Halifax councillors’ pay rose by 13% and the mayor’s salary rose by 17%, meanwhile the average taxpayer in Halifax had a wage increase of 0.6%.

Nanaimo Councillors approve 3.35% increase to their base pay

At the Nanaimo Council meeting on Monday May 2, 2016 councillors voted to give themselves a raise. Each councillor will get a 3.35% increase to their base pay.  Those voting in favour were Councillors Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Pratt, Thorpe and Kipp. Opposed were Councillors Brennan and Fuller.  Mayor McKay was absent.

How did this come about?  Mayor McKay and the City Manager apparently do not get along so the Acting Mayor has to be present when the Mayor and City Manager meet. Each Councillor performs the role of Acting Mayor for six weeks per year on a rotational basis. The result is more work for the councillors, so they want more money.

Council set the Acting Mayor pay rate at 10% of the Mayor’s base compensation. This will require a budget allocation of $9,510 per year.

It has been mentioned at council meetings that the Mayor has a terrible attendance record and misses many meetings and frequently leaves early. At the beginning of their term Mayor McKay wanted to delegate his role. Councillor Fuller objected and said that McKay should have known what was involved in being a mayor when he ran for the job.

At the last council meeting it was suggested by a delegate that the Mayor’s salary be reduced by the amount of the councillors’ raise. No one considered this.

Nanaimo Council Travel expenses

On Monday night Councillor Bestwick introduced a motion on conference spending which was passed. Councillor Hong raised a motion at the beginning of the meeting to postpone the discussion about conference spending so that Mayor McKay could take part in the discussion at a later date.  Bestwick disagreed and said McKay could have talked to him prior to the meeting but he didn’t. Hong withdrew his motion and Council passed Bestwick’s motion. Here is the motion:

The Council Spending and Amenities Policy will have each Councillor allocated up to $1,000 for travel, hospitality and conference activities directly related to City business and the office of a Council member.

Councillors will be entitled up to:

  • $3,000 to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual conference
  • $2,500 to attend the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference
  • $1,000 to attend the Vancouver Island Conference
  • $1,000 Coastal Communities annual conference

Council members must deliver a report on their conference and travel activities for City business.

How many councillors go to these meetings? Do they all have to go? If everyone goes to the FCM in Winnipeg in June (a four day conference) then it will cost at least $30,000. What kind of report will we get for that?

Taxes going up

The 0% property tax increase does not include fee increases. This year alone there will be a 12.5% increase in user fees.

Operating spending for most municipalities has been racing ahead of population and inflation growth year after year.

The population of BC grew by 15% between 2000 and 2012, yet inflation-adjusted municipal operating spending increased by 55% over the same time period.

Most municipal councillors refuse to acknowledge the overspending problem in contracts and consulting. Nanaimo is spending $250,000 on a consultant to find ways the City can save money while at the same time councillors are giving themselves a raise. These same councillors are oblivious to Canadian political affairs, like what is TPP?

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) explained

At the last Nanaimo Council meeting there was a brief presentation on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It was shocking to hear how many on council had never heard of the TPP, the largest free trade deal ever.

What is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

On February 4, 2016, after only a few weeks on the job, The Minister of International Trade signed for Canada on a 6,000 page document called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This free trade agreement encompassess Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam. It is the largest free trade deal between pacific rim countries ever to be made.

But trade is just the tip of the iceberg. What this deal is really about is to ‘harmonise’ to the greatest extent possible rules, regulations and standards on food and consumer product safety, environmental protection, biotechnology and toxic chemicals management, financial services and banking, domestic regulation of services, pharmaceutical patent terms, and many more areas of public policy.

Corporations to write laws

All these regulations would concede extensive rights to private companies. Imagine having representatives of large multi-nationals taking a seat at parliamentary committees and dictating what they, your elected representatives, are supposed to do. In fact these corporate interest groups would sit together at a table with your members of Parliament and write laws together. And you wouldn’t even know about it. The meetings would be behind closed doors.

Kangaroo Courts vs. Canada

“ISDS works like a global legal straightjacket that makes it very, very difficult and expensive for governments to regulate corporations … It is dangerous for democracy,”  Pia Eberhardt, of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a Brussels-based campaign group.

Further to that, if someone in Parliament actually had the gumption to stand up to these corporations, they could then sue our government. How? They would appear before private arbitration tribunals (Investor-State Dispute Settlement, ISDS for short) and state their case. These panels have more power than the Supreme Court of Canada. We’ve already been exposed to these types of panels from NAFTA. (the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico).

ISDS allow multinationals to ride roughshod over national legislation and even constitutions. Corporations have used these ISDS tribunals to sue the government for alleged lost profits and “expected future profits”.

Canada sued for loss of unreal corporate profits

Under NAFTA, Canada has been sued for loss of corporate profits, costing hundreds of millions of your taxpayer dollars. Wouldn’t you rather that your tax dollars go towards schools and hospitals than paying a mining company $300 million for a mine that was never developed? That’s what the people of Nova Scotia are facing right now.

The result of a NAFTA win for Eli Lilly, says Public Citizen, “could expose Canada to a slew of investor-state attacks from other drug companies that have had patents invalidated because their medicines have not met the promises they made to initially obtain patents.”

American pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly (makers of methadone, prozac, and cialis) makes tens of billions in revenue every year. Last year, they went to a NAFTA tribunal to sue the Canadian government for $100 million for two drugs whose patents had expired after it was realized that these new drugs were more harmful than helpful and not an improvement on existing medication. Now Eli Lilly has raised their demand – they want $500 million. If Eli Lilly wins, other pharma companies could use this case to sue the Canadian government for drugs that were never made. The hearing is scheduled for May 30 – June 9, 2016.

Under the TPP, there will be increased patent protections for Big Pharma which could jeopardize Canada’s pharmacare program, and raise the cost of medicines to the point that they may become inaccessible.

How has NAFTA helped Canada? There is almost $500 billion in untaxed profits from “Canadian” companies that are sitting in offshore tax havens.

Chinese State Owned Enterprises control Canada

The Foreign Investment Promotion and Investment Agreement (FIPA), signed in Russia, is a bilateral investment treaty that essentially hijacks municipal, provincial, territorial, and federal laws that threaten the profitability of Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOE).

If, for example, a Canadian environmental regulation negatively impacts a Chinese SOE’s extractive industry, then the Chinese company can sue for lost profits. Can you imagine the country being sued for hundreds of millions for a mine or a natural gas project that never got off the ground?

In 2013, the Hupacasath First Nation tried to stop FIPA from being ratified. What do you think happened? It was barely covered in the news. Only a handful of supporters showed up at the courthouse. The Federal Court of Appeal  dismissed the Hupacasath’s legal challenge. Yet this new investor treaty could override every First Nations’ constitutionally-protected rights and title in the country.

TPP equals NAFTA on steroids

The TPP goes a step further than NAFTA. Guess what? You can’t pass any new environmental protections.Too bad Harper gutted all the water protections. You can’t raise minimum wages either.

“It used to be the basic principle was polluter pay,” economist Joseph Stiglitz said. “If you damaged the environment, then you have to pay. Now if you pass a regulation that restricts ability to pollute or does something about climate change, you could be sued and could pay billions of dollars.”

After ratification by all signatories, the TPP will come into effect on February 4, 2018.

No public input

175 people were turned away from speaking at a TPP public hearing held in Richmond on April 18, 2016. It was held in a room that could only accommodate 60 people.

The government arranged four “public consultations” on the Trans-Pacific Partnership for western Canada. Only 12 people were selected to speak at the public hearings in Saskatoon.

Across the country there is virtually no public voice at the House of Commons ‘public hearings’ into the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The entire TPP consultation and information process is made to be confusing and inaccessible to the public.

Canada under America’s thumb

This is very different from what is happening in the United States. Under U.S. law, before any trade agreement can take effect, the President must determine whether the agreement’s partners have taken measures to bring it into compliance with the deal. The TPP agreement stipulates that the U.S. determines how other countries implement the TPP.

What can you do?

You can email your comments on the TPP to the committee via email at ciit-tpp-ptp@parl.gc.ca The committee is accepting written submissions (of no more than 1,500 words in length) until April 30th.

The House of Commons will vote on the ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the fall of 2017.

Problems with RDN Parcel Tax scheme

At the last Nanaimo council meeting there was a presentation on parcel taxes just before the end of the meeting at 11pm.  Many questions were raised about the current RDN parcel tax scheme. Everybody in the Regional District of Nanaimo is affected including Parksville, Qualicum, Lantzville and the 8 Electoral areas (A to H) and the City of Nanaimo.

What are parcel taxes? What is the problem with parcel taxes? What is the RDN parcel tax scheme?  The delegate raised many important questions.

What are parcel taxes?

Every unit of land is considered a parcel, i.e. a house and yard. Parcel taxes are not user fees. As an example, the City of Merritt imposes a parcel tax for water and sewer as well as charging user fees.

What is the problem with parcel taxes?

Under a parcel tax, each plot of land in a jurisdiction is taxed the same, regardless of value or size of lot.  There is no consideration given to the occupant’s property value or their ability to pay.  It’s the same concept as a poll tax or head tax.  Parcel taxes hit lower income people harder.

Why are municipalities turning to parcel taxes?

In the past, municipalities actually tried to get rid of, or at least to reduce the use of parcel taxes because they were deemed to be unfair. Unfortunately, recently, many cash strapped municipalities are searching for ways to pay their bills but they don’t want to appear like they are raising taxes.

These parcel taxes are not factored into the total amount of taxes paid until after the property tax calculations are done.

At the end of the day they still represent a tax increase to home owners.

Regional Parks and Trails Plan parcel tax

The RDN Parks and Trail parcel tax was introduced in 2005. The parcel tax first appeared on our tax notices in 2006.

From 2006 to 2015, Nanaimo taxpayers have contributed over $4 million to this fund so far. Where is the money going?

Increase in parcel tax $14 to $20

At the March 22nd RDN meeting, the board voted to increase the RDN parks and trails parcel tax to $20.

Nanaimo Councillors didn’t approve the same RDN parcel tax increase at the April 18th Nanaimo council meeting. It was tabled. Will it appear on the agenda for the next council meeting?

Why a parcel tax and a levy?

In addition to the RDN Parks & Trails Parcel tax, there is another levy on your tax notice that simply says Regional District Parks levy. Apparently this money is paid as based on an invoice from the RDN. From 2006 to 2015 Nanaimo taxpayers have contributed almost $3 million to that levy.

Hamilton Marsh, The Notch, Moorecroft

The RDN established a park at Moorecroft in Nanoose Bay in 2011.  Will the RDN acquire Hamilton Marsh and The Notch in Nanoose Bay?

Where do the taxes raised for parks go? Are developers contributing to a park levy? Is the City of Nanaimo repealing Development Cost Charges for park contributions?

Parcel taxes happening across BC

Municipal Councils all across BC are introducing parcel taxes. Is this because there is less help from federal and provincial levels of government?  What about the taxpayers? Will home ownership become a thing of the past? Will mega landlords owning huge tracts of land and houses become the new reality in BC? What will happen when there are only a handful of residential property owners? Times are changing. As Councillor Bestwick would say, “I won’t be around when it happens.”

The public’s reaction to the unfairness of Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax scheme led to the 1990 Poll Tax riots: