1922 Patronage Appointments – with the party or not
Back in 1922, patronage appointments were very common.
After winning an election, the newly elected party gave government jobs to its supporters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party. This was also known as the ‘spoils system.’
Meanwhile, public servants feared that their jobs would be on the chopping block.
On Monday, May 13, 2013 the Nanaimo City Council decided in a 5 to 4 vote to have the Colliery Dams removed in July. The cost of removing the Colliery Dams is between $5 to $7 million.
The City of Nanaimo will finance this project through short term borrowing over the next 5 years. The taxpayers of Nanaimo are facing growing debt. Currently, the debt stands at approximately $400 million and will rise annually.
The City states that the BC Dam Safety Branch has informed them that taking no action is not an option because if there is an earthquake the Colliery Dams might collapse.
In 2011, the Dam Safety Branch published “Inspection and Maintenance of Dams” (Dam Safety Guidelines). Throughout this entire document there is no reference to seismic regulations for dams.
As of 2012, there are 5 levels of consequence classification for dams, the last three are High, Very High and Extreme. In British Columbia, there are currently 250 High, 53 Very High and 37 Extreme rated dams.
The only requirement for an extreme rated dam is for a regular dam safety review. There is no law or regulation that states an extreme dam must be removed according to the public documents provided by the provincial dam safety branch. Is Nanaimo the only community being forced to remove its dams?
In the presentation to council on May 6, 2013 by KCB Engineering, it was admitted that the seismic standards used for the Colliery Dams tabletop exercise were exceptionally high; far beyond any other public building or infrastructure in the province. Also mentioned was that the fill used to build the original dams is “the cleanest we’ve ever seen.”
Who will benefit from the removal of these dams? How much is high-grade clean fill worth? For example, a residential development for 30 homes in Ontario spent $400,000 to acquire clean fill.
There are dams further up the Chase River - are these going to be removed and a massive new dam created?
The Colliery Dams were once used to wash coal a hundred years ago. It is one of the last heritage monuments to Nanaimo’s history. The removal of the Dickinson Barn in Harewood, Foundry building, and heritage block on Commercial Street replaced by the conference centre are sad reminders that history is being lost.
Will the Colliery Dams Park become a victim of another land swap?
Every day in Canada over 1,000 Canadians turn 65. Is retirement only for a lucky few?
Here is a story of two Vancouver Island neighbours. One neighbour worked for a university while another worked for a forestry company.
The neighbour who worked in forestry got laid off when their employer went bankrupt. They had to downsize and sell their home and as money ran out over the next few years they had to move off Vancouver Island to look for work. Their retirement plans went out the window.
The other neighbour who retired from the university enjoys regular holidays, lives in the same home and has made various renovations and participates in a number of leisure hobbies.
Who will be able to retire?
There is a growing sense of unfairness among workers who don’t work for the public sector, two thirds of whom don’t have any kind of company pension plan. Those who do have a private company plan have seen them converted to defined-contribution plans, where their pension depends on what the invested funds provide at retirement.
Senior level public sector contracts and gold plated public pension plans are unsustainable. In Nanaimo, 80% of the City’s workforce will be eligible to retire with an unreduced pension by 2016.
In 1979 there were 6.35 workers contributing into the BC Municipal Pension Plan for every retiree. By 2009 that ratio had dropped to 2.72.
The average homeowner in Hamilton, Ontario is facing an extra tax bill of $2,700 just to pay for their municipal pension deficit.
There will be a new wave of protesters. The grey wave, “Save our Seniors” will take on a new meaning in Canada as more and more seniors will be living in abject poverty while others will be oblivious that there is a problem.
A typical public sector compensation package allows for a yearly 3% raise coupled with benefits. So for example, someone receiving a $50,000 pension with 3% increases over 20 years would then end up with $90,305 compensation annually.
Our country is broke. The current federal government has spent more money than any other government in history. Canada’s debt stands at over a trillion dollars and is growing every day. The federal government says that it will balance the deficit by 2015 in time for an election. This means reducing health care spending, amongst other services.
Every man, woman and child in Canada owes $72,000 to pay for public pensions. Combine this amount with personal debt ($25,000 per person) and you can see that Canada is heading off the edge of a cliff with no real hope of maintaining our collective standard of living.
The effects of this debt will soon reach municipalities who are already incurring their own massive amounts of debt. When will all the wheels fall off?
Despite the federal government’s emphasis on the army and navy, the Canadian Coast Guard still lies under the jurisdiction of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. As a result, budget cuts are affecting operations on the west coast of Canada.
Vancouver’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre is already half way shut down, two years before the feds will close it in 2015. Coast Guard assistant commissioner Denis Sing said distress signals from boats in Vancouver harbour will be monitored in Victoria. In the meantime, safety position staff have been cut, leaving one staff member to watch for boats in trouble at night.
Sing says due to the cuts announced a year ago by Ottawa; three MCTS centres will be closed. This will leave just two centres monitoring the entire BC coast, and Vancouver – Canada’s busiest harbour.
British Columbia has about 17,000 miles of coast-line (if you straighten it out), with over 300 coves and inlets and 376,000 squares miles. Along the BC coast lighthouses are being de-staffed and there are fewer patrols than ever before.
So far the main challenges facing the BC coast are:
Environmental crimes – illegal pumping of bilges, etc.
Vessels in distress and ghost ships
Piracy attacks on the BC coast have yet to become a major problem but pirates are becoming more professional by adapting their tactics and by corrupting local authorities and regional administrations.
The UN Monitoring Group on Somali Piracy confirms previous assessments saying that pirates continue to adapt and expand their operational and organizational capabilities. In 2010 the International Maritime Bureau recorded 219 piracy attacks and 49 successful hijackings. The average amount of ransom paid by ship owners has increased to $4.26 million per ship, generating $102 million revenues in 2010.
There is also evidence that the Somali pirates are expanding their network. How long will it be until they start a sub-group here on the BC Coast? Until recently, there were few piracy attacks in South America, now that has changed. The Piracy Map shows current pirate attacks. Will Nanaimo embrace a pirate culture? Was former Mayor Frank Ney who was known for his pirate costume ahead of his time?
EU Naval Force units are working closely with staff from the recently launched EUCAP NESTOR mission, which aims to secure a long-term resolution to the piracy problem by enhancing the coastal maritime capacity of the Horn of Africa countries.
At the same time, coastal maritime monitoring in British Columbia is being reduced to nothing. Why is this the case?
What is the Charbonneau Commission? Why should all Canadians be concerned? How does it relate to Nanaimo?
The Charbonneau Commission is an inquiry on corruption and collusion in the management of public construction contracts in Quebec.
The inquiry opened last fall with testimony revealing an elaborate scheme that enriched participants and exploited taxpayers.
The Charbonneau Commission revealed how one sidewalk contractor saw a massive spike in his business between 2006 and 2009, from $5 million in public contracts a year to more than $20 million a year.
In Montreal, cement companies dwindled from more than four dozen to just a handful over a span of 15 years. As competition dropped prices for projects escalated; examples showed of $100,000 increases to sidewalk projects compared to similar projects six months earlier. Bid rigging on public projects resulted in driving out legitimate competition.
Government infrastructure spending is the biggest economic driver for Vancouver Island, Vancouver and Montreal. The BC government spent $14 billion on infrastructure projects for the 3rd quarter of 2010.
Out of 128 highway projects carried out on Vancouver Island, 104 had cost overruns, while out of 36 tunnel and bridge projects carried out in the same region, 29 had cost overruns.
Controlling costs and corruption for public construction projects is difficult for the following reasons:
Many projects are unique and costs are often difficult to compare.
Lack of expertise on the purchasing side also makes it easier to inflate costs (and hide bribes).
Bribes and inflated claims can also be more easily hidden and blamed on other factors, such as poor design or mismanagement.
Low bids followed by change orders drive up costs which are justified as necessary.
Close relationships between engineering firms and construction companies create serious issues regarding conflict of interest.
Commercial confidentiality tends to take precedence over public interest and it is almost impossible to have a transparent accounting.
On a local level Nanaimo residents are being crushed by taxes to pay for projects. Currently, taxpayers are faced with the Colliery Dams removal or replacement. This is a multi-million dollar project that has red flags: a rushed timeline, in-camera meetings, redacted information and a wide project cost estimate.
What should be done:
use performance specs
use explicit formulas to calculate costs
have regulatory regimes
utilize a neutral 3rd party to participate in the procurement process
In many cases these inflated projects have forced communities into debt resulting in bankruptcy. To pay for the debt, public assets which taxpayers have previously paid for are sold off.
Every taxpayer should care. Squeezed too far with less disposable income to spend, what will people be forced to cut back on?
For the latest developments follow the Charbonneau Commission on twitter using the hashtag #CEIC.