New Temporary Public Art Downtown Nanaimo

Be sure to take to take a walk around downtown Nanaimo and discover seven new temporary public art exhibits that are on display for 2015.

"Embarking"  by Marc Walter
“Embarking” by Marc Walter

This looks like the hull of a boat made of branches or like the tail of a whale diving into the grass.  Raises questions: What path are we taking?

"Cake" by Ron Hart & Michael Fugeta
“Cake” by Ron Hart & Michael Fugeta

A slice of earth with layers of sand and soil with grass on top.  Raises questions: Is earth a desert or a dessert?

"Coming Soon" by Jason Gress
“Coming Soon” by Jason Gress

A forklift moving a big box. Raises questions: What new changes will the human species face?

"Solstice" by Elizabeth Wellburn
“Solstice” by Elizabeth Wellburn

Lots of small pieces of coloured glass with texture. Raises questions: Does the missing piece in the arch imply a new season?

"Tall Crabs" by Michael Truelove
“Tall Crabs” by Michael Truelove

Steel rectangles walking down steps. Raises questions: How are people and crabs the same?

"Intrawolf" by Tonya Hart
“Intrawolf” by Tonya Hart

Florescent yellow dogs sitting on the library roof. Raises questions:  Do dogs like looking down at people?

public art signage very hard to read
public art signage very hard to read

The seventh public art piece is called “Dancing Eagle” by Joel Good.  It is located somewhere in Maffeo Sutton Park. Go and have a look and see if you can find it.

The only critique is that the signage is impossible to read because the type is too small and light.  Also, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the city’s website where the art is explained, such as how it was made and what the artist wanted to express.

stain glass detail from the "Solstice"
stain glass detail from the “Solstice”

Take time to get a close look at the detail of the stain glass work on the “Solstice”.  Plus, there is more public art from last year which the City purchased such as this “Dungeness Crab” carved by Dan Richey.

"Dungeness Crab" by Dan Richey
“Dungeness Crab” by Dan Richey

Colliery Dams: Political Theatre in Nanaimo

Colliery Dams was on the agenda for the Monday July 20th Nanaimo council meeting. There were 4 delegations who came to speak.

Councillor Yoachim raised his motion for the dams which was legally drafted and all encompassing. Here are the highlights of the motion:

  • select the Lower Dam remediation option: Auxiliary Spillway (Labyrinth/Box Culvert, Open Channel  alternative)
  • prepare a design report and construction plan for the Auxiliary Spillway on or before July 24, 2015
  • prepare a conceptual plan for the Middle Colliery Dam for potential use once the Lower Dam remediation is complete
  • develop Terms of Reference for a tendering process for the Auxiliary spillway to be awarded by September 1, 2015
  • re-establish the Technical Committee as a Select Committee
  • have an independent investigation and report on the Colliery Dam process from start to finish
  • send a letter to the Provincial government outlining concerns with the process
  • stop all legal proceedings before the Environmental Appeal Board

Four people spoke about their concerns about all of the unanswered questions around Colliery Dams. MLA Routley spoke about his concerns that the Colliery Dams debacle was dividing council and the community and further work could be done with the province.

Councillor Brennan started off by saying she didn’t know how to properly address Routley. Next she told him he had incorrect facts. Brennan claimed that the Colliery Dams remediation cost was not originally estimated at $30 million. Was she saying that the Nanaimo Daily News got their facts wrong as well? Then Brennan invited Routley to have a meeting with herself and a city staff member at which time the “facts could be clarified.” MLA Routley  acknowledged a difference in opinion.

No other councillors nor the Mayor had any questions or comments. Councillors Yoachim and Bestwick thanked MLA Routley for his time coming to the meeting.

Councillor Brennan made a motion to have a 15 minute break so all councillors could look at Yoachim’s motion, as it was the first time they were seeing this “very long motion full of legal speak.”

After the break, the meeting resumed. Councillor Yoachim exited the meeting several times as did other councillors and staff. Apparently, they were ironing out the details of the motion.

A dysfunctional council no more?

The Nanaimo Mayor hired The Integrity Group run by Vancouver lawyer Heather MacKenzie for $50,000 to help council get along.  According to the News Bulletin, the Mayor commented that the division and behaviour is much worse than most councils, morale is at an “all time low” at City Hall and the “business of the city is not getting done.”

Ever since the election last year, the Nanaimo Council was in a stalemate position about the Colliery Dams. Five councillors would not agree with the other three and the mayor on what to do.

The threat was that if council didn’t fix the dams Nanaimo would be fined a $1 million a day by the province.

Previously, the five councillors had complained that the Mayor and three councillors were not interested in going to talk to the provincial government. The five councillors spoke of the whole process as being a complete sham.

Why didn’t  the entire council meet with the provincial government and ask for financial help? Only the five councillors met with the Deputy Minister who oversees the Dam Safety Section. Mayor McKay would not give his endorsement or participate in the meeting.

Council votes in harmony

At approximately 10:30pm Yoachim’s motion was raised again and it passed unanimously. All eight councillors and the mayor voted in favour of building the auxiliary spillway for approximately $5 million.

It was interesting to observe how happy Nanaimo Council was at the end of the meeting. It was as if everyone had won the lottery.  Councillor Bestwick, who was attending via phone link, commented “I don’t want to hold up the party” when he voted yes along with everyone else.

At question period a regular council watcher, who at previous meetings repeated a request to investigate the drain plugged with concrete, was laughing and joking with the Mayor.

What changed?

BC Government Exaction

If the province is insisting that the dams be fixed then why will they not help out the taxpayers of Nanaimo?

Councillor Brennan commented we own it so we fix it. If that is the case why were there no efforts to maintain Colliery Dams in the first place? Why such a waste of taxpayers money? Is someone looking for a lucrative contract?


This sounds like the last council when they said “sorry there is nothing we can do” we have to sell Nanaimo’s harbour.

It will be very interesting to see if the “Colliery Dams political theatre” is repeated with the upcoming incinerator planned for Duke Point.

Flash Back Friday: Pacific Scandal 1873

1873 Pacific Scandal
1873 Pacific Scandal

Prime Minister John A. Macdonald: “I admit I took the money and bribed the electors with it, is there anything wrong about that?”

Comment from The Mail: “We in Canada seem to have lost all idea of justice, honor and integrity”

In 1872 members of the Conservative government accepted money from a Montreal businessman who wanted the contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.

When the Liberals made details of the bribes public, Prime Minister Macdonald attempted to delay the investigation of the ‘Pacific Scandal’ by proroguing parliament.

Alexander Mackenzie, the Liberal leader (standing on the left) used the ‘Pacific Scandal’ to help defeat Macdonald in the next election.

Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada from 1867–1873.  Macdonald lost the 1873 election to Mackenzie. Then he was re-elected in 1878 and remained an elected official until 1891.

Macdonald had a political career which spanned 24 years. Macdonald served 19 years as  Prime Minister of Canada; only William Lyon Mackenzie King served longer – 22 years.

Is there a similar scandal that could bring down the current prime minister?

Colliery Dams: many unanswered questions

Colliery Dams was on the agenda at the Monday July 6, 2015 special council meeting. There were seven speakers.

The following is the presentation made by Geraldine Collins to Nanaimo council on Monday night.  She raised many questions that still have not been answered despite millions spent on studies.

We don’t know the following (about the Colliery Dams):

  • Spillway capacity – let us see the numbers
  • Water Distribution – where does the water go?
  • Auxiliary Spillway – without the studies we do not know what we need
  • Can the concrete wall survive the design flood?
  • Is the concrete strong enough?
  • What are the dimensions and geometry of the concrete wall?
  • Will the concrete fracture or erode?

If the concrete wall will not survive:

Do we need more rock to support it?
How much water will flow over the dam in the flood according to the model?
What is the lateral dissipation of the water once the spillway has reached capacity?

We can then then determine what upgrades we need.

Do we support the dam wall?
Do we protect from overtopping?
Do we redirect the water?

What happens to Nanaimo in a hypothetical 34,000 year flood?

Happens over time-days
Evacuation occurs downstream before dams crests
Flood damage throughout Nanaimo has occurred
Possible dam failure damage is incremental to widespread existing flood damage

City maintains that risk remains severe from a 34,000 year flood event
Risk Assessment is ignored
We do not know what will happen; pure speculation

We have spent $3 million and we still do not know:

  • The dimensions of the lower dam
  • Is the concrete strong enough to resist erosion?
  • Will it fail if overtopped?
  • The technical information regarding spillway capacity
  • Spillway measurements over high rainfall season
  • Dam dimensions and make up of concrete and rock buttressing

There is absolutely no urgency:

  • Insufficient data on record to support proposed option
  • Water level has never exceeded half of measuring board
  • Important to maintain realistic surveillance and emergency planning
  • Compile data for best solution

The Dam Safety Section has a history of accepting flawed studies:
“Time to do it right. Defy this order and stand up for what is right.”

There was another presentation by Louise Gilfoy which quoted the Nanaimo Mayor stating:
“While there’s 40 people perhaps that are actively involved in the Colliery Dam issue,
88,000 people live in Nanaimo” (June 29th quote from Nanaimo New Bulletin).

How many people are interested in the Colliery Dams issue? All taxpayers are interested in the Colliery Dams issue. Especially when it was first proposed and was going to cost  $30 million.

Presently, Nanaimo Council is split. Four say we must do as we are told and fix the dams immediately. Five say we must listen to the concerns of the taxpayers and get answers.

Highlights from the council meeting:

Councillor Kipp: “this whole process is so flawed…I am tired of all these threats…we still haven’t done any studies on what will happen downstream…the affidavits to DSS are false (and we know it).

Councillor Bestwick: “…people can sue me, I’ve got nothing in my name anymore…”

Councillor Pratt: “we can’t just do nothing…I agree with Councillor Thorpe…”

Councillor Yoachim: “doing nothing was never stated…” (everyone wants a solution).

Councillor Thorpe: “I know many people think I don’t care but I do…time has run out…I have listened to [the experts]…”

Councillor Brennan: “…they’ve given us a deadline…”

Councillor Fuller: “I will chain myself to a tree…stop laughing at me [to Brennan]…we don’t have any overtopping studies…”

Councillor Yoachim: “can we relax the hazard levels?…” (Golder Engineer replies yes)…

Swabey: “Golder likely doesn’t know what we are talking about…”

Counciller Hong: “how much snow and rain is required to fill the dams…”

Mayor McKay: heavy sigh… [time for new strategies]

Colliery Dams group has a new website.

Many people concerned about Colliery Dams
More than 40 people are concerned about Colliery Dams (photo from presentation to council by Louise Gilfoy)



Flashback Friday: 1972 minimum wage $1.50 goes up

1972 Minimum wage $1.50 to go up to $2.00
1972 Minimum wage was $1.50…. to go up to $2.00

Here is an old Norris cartoon from The Vancouver Sun back in 1972. It was a big year because the minimum wage was to go up from $1.50 to $2 in BC.

Prior to 1972 there were different minimum wage rates for men and women. In 1972 the minimum wage in BC was $1.50 for men and $1.20 for women.

It wasn’t until around 1974 that both men and women received the same minimum wage of $1.80 to $2.00 depending on which province you lived.

Feral cats in Nanaimo: Problems and concerns

In August 2014  the Nanaimo SPCA requested the City  consider new cat regulations to address the growing problems of feral cats and free-ranging domestic cats.

At the February 2, 2015 council meeting Staff was told to prepare a report regarding the feasibility of licencing cats and amending the  bylaw to include a mandatory spay/neuter program for cats. In February, the Nanaimo SPCA and the CatNap Society both made presentations to council about the feral cat situation in Nanaimo.

This week , Monday, June 22nd at Council, cat regulations were back on the agenda. The meeting ended at 1:30 am and councillors were showing fatigue.

330 feral cats rescued in 2014 by CatNap Society in Nanaimo
330 feral cats rescued in 2014 by CatNap Society in Nanaimo

Councillor Yoachim recited a short cat poem and recalled his favourite cat, Phyllis.  Councillor Fuller recalled he had 8 cats in his youth and “didn’t know what happened to them”. Councillor Kipp pointed out that Council was giving more credence to a presentation by a member of the public despite the fact that there were experts who had given compelling information.  The member of the public who Kipp was referring to spoke for 10 minutes and answered questions for a further 20 minutes and claimed  that if a spayed and neutered program were to be implemented “a black market for kittens” would occur. Thankfully no biblical scriptures were referenced.

How bad is the feral cat situation in Nanaimo?

According to the CatNap Society, there were 330 rescues of feral cats last year and 95% of those animals had not been spayed or neutered.

The Nanaimo SPCA  said there is no bylaw regarding the maximum number of cats per household. Some cat hoarders in Nanaimo have more than twenty cats and people in the neighbourhood complain about armies of cats crawling the streets, then running feral and breeding more cat colonies.

Abandoned and neglected cats: direct link to family violence

A community with free-roaming feral animals also has other social problems. Does the Nanaimo SPCA go to schools and teach students how to care for pets? Teaching kids how to be a responsible pet owner will also teach them empathy and respect; qualities that will help improve Nanaimo as a whole.

Eleven  communities in BC have bylaws to deal with cats.  Port Alberni has the following cat bylaws:

Regulations for the Keeping of Cats
12. No person shall own, keep, possess or harbour any cat over the age of six months in the City unless:
(a) the cat has been spayed or neutered by a veterinarian, or
(b) a valid and subsisting breeder’s licence for the current licence year has first been obtained for the unspayed or unneutered cat under this Bylaw.
13. The requirement in section 12 does not apply to a cat that is kept in the City for less than one month in a calendar year and which is not allowed or permitted to be at large in the City.
14. The owner of an unspayed or unneutered cat may apply to the City for a breeder’s licence on the prescribed form provided by the City and pay the fee set out in Schedule “A” to this Bylaw, and upon receipt of the application and payment of the prescribed fee, the City shall issue a breeder’s licence to that owner for that cat.
15. Every breeder’s licence issued under this Bylaw shall expire on the 31st day of December in the calendar year in which the licence was issued.
16. Every owner of a cat shall affix, and keep affixed, sufficient identification on the cat by a collar, harness, tattoo, microchip or other suitable device such that a person finding the cat at large in the City can identify and contact the owner.

Incentives to License Pets

The City of Toronto has a Pet Licensing Rewards program which provides exclusive offers and discounts on pet-related products and services to pet owners who license their dogs and cats.

The City of Edmonton outlines the benefits of pet licensing:

Pet Licensing Fees Are Used To
•Provide food, shelter, medical care and enrichment for approximately 6,000 lost pets each year.
•Identify lost pets and return them to owners.
•Support the adoption of unclaimed pets through partner agencies.
•Provide emergency first-aid veterinary care to injured pets.
•Educate the public about responsible pet ownership.
•Help neighbours resolve their pet-related problems.

There are simple bylaws that would limit the number of cats per household. This would allow the Nanaimo SPCA to deal with cat hoarders that prove to be a serious problem in our community.

City staff said the cost of implementing a cat regulation and licencing program would be onerous but lacked specific details and did not look at other communities where a similar program was successful. It appears the notion of spaying or neutering of cats conflicts with their beliefs. Council asked that more reporting be completed.

Birds under threat

A Smithsonian Institute report released in January said that upward of 5 billion birds and 21 billion wild animals overall are killed in the United States each year by feral cats.

Birds such as this American Robin below are under real threat from feral cat populations. Every week people are finding dead birds killed by AWOL domestic cats.

Tell Nanaimo council to seriously listen to feral cat concerns as our native bird species are in peril.  How many birds are killed every week in Nanaimo? Email Mayor and Council and tell them this is an urgent matter to address.

American robin killed by feral cat in Nanaimo