Monday’s COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting was held at the City Hall. It appears that one councillor enjoys the new smaller meeting room. So was it love or harassment at Council?
It was extremely difficult to understand what anyone was saying; the audio was so garbled it was like listening to an old wax recording (see video below). For a city that can easily find a way to borrow $80 million plus on an Event Centre why on earth can they not get proper audio visual equipment at City Hall? Port Alberni is a good example of what should be done – speakers can be seen and heard clearly.
On Monday night there were two delegations— one spoke on the Events Centre and the other on the fire plan.
Big red flags on Nanaimo Events Centre
Here is some of what the speaker had to say:
Big red flags on the technical report regarding the Nanaimo Events Centre.
Soil mitigation concerns
Depth of bedrock on the site is about 17 meters or about 55 feet
Coal mine under the project
Sink hole possible in this area
Further testing of the site would be needed to be done to determine risks of collapse of mine shafts
Concentrations of coal gas (methane) would leak into the building above and be carcinogenic to people working in the building
Would have to drill to depth of 20 meters
Groundwater can seep in on this site
This Events Centre can’t be built for the price you got. The cost of concrete, soil removal, etc. would be about $68 million, so about $105 to $120 million would be the total price of the project.
Over half the councillors had their eyes glued to their ipads rather than paying attention to the delegation.
Hammond Bay Fire Station
Another speaker addressed the lack of a fire station at Hammond Bay:
Residents outside a fire response zone have to pay the same amount of taxes as those who are within one. Those living in the Stephen Point area are still waiting for a fire station. The City said it didn’t have the money. Now the City claims a Hammond Bay Fire Station is not a priority yet the CFO has found $5.4 million a year that can be accessed that will not increase property taxes to pay for the Events Centre. Why then, can we not build the fire hall? It would cost $2.4 million and could be built in the area of Morningside. This could bring the area up to the required fire service levels. When council is looking to do something after March 11th, they can look at building a new fire hall.
The 3 year fire service plan was approved for $100,000 and no new resources were requested.
All in favour. Councillor Brenan was absent from the meeting.
What kind of foundation would the Event Centre be built on?
When are we going to ask for financial aid for first responders?
Could we be borrowing $190 million for the Events Centre?
The speakers at question period could be heard but not seen.
March 6th Council meeting topics
The next council meeting is on Monday, March 6th at the VICC. Two topics of interest are a new store at North Town Centre and an residential infill project.
Retail store at North Town Centre
There are plans to put a 1 storey retail store at the northeast corner parking lot of the Nanaimo North Town Centre near the Oliver Road and Uplands Drive intersection.
There are no traffic lights on Uplands Drive so that people can to turn left into the mall. There are pedestrian flashing lights but will this be enough in the future?
Many people complain that there are near misses near the Tim Hortons drive thru.
The North Town Centre is largely empty so why would the City permit a new retail store in the parking lot? Why doesn’t the City mix commercial with residential on this site? This would make more sense.
The X should be the site of a condo, not another store. A transit hub could be restored and people could walk to the shops.
Residential infill – angry neighbours
The owners of 5800 Sunset Road are requesting to subdivide their lot into 3 lots. They are also asking for reduced setback from the street.
Many people are seeing their mature neighbourhoods ghettoized by high density infill. Why are we not demanding high density infill on commercial zones instead of neighbourhoods?
Trees equal wealth.
Residents consistently rank treed boulevards and treed lots as one of the most valuable characteristics of mature neighbourhoods. In Nanaimo, there will be no more beautiful treed mature neighbourhoods only clearcuts.
Love or harassment
Was it love or harassment? During the COW meeting at City Hall, Councillor Fuller who was looking trim in snug denim pants and cotton t-shirt, moved his chair almost next to the CAO at the head of the table. At one point he stretched his bare arm under the CAO’s nose for her to smell his cologne(?) Maybe Councillor Fuller was impaired or in love as he seemed to be smiling and laughing at several intervals. Councillor Bestwick occasionally looked over with a frown and Councillor Kipp averted looking in that direction.
It is interesting to note that all the councillors took the same seating arrangement as in the Council chambers except Councillor Fuller who moved from his usual spot between Thorpe and Kipp.
At the beginning of this meeting, Councillor Yoachim complained about the attentions of a female resident who had accosted him at an Events Centre Open House. Mayor McKay nodded sympathetically. The COO commented that he would not stand for any harassment at the City; clearly the message was lost on Councillor Fuller.
Next week, Council will vote on the changes to the RDN regional growth bylaw. What is it? Will there be a full OCP review? Stay tuned.
Below is a behind-the-scenes look at the audio equipment at City Hall.
This week’s Monday night Council meeting was like watching the 60s wrestler Édouard Carpentier do a back flip off the ropes (see video below).
The hot topic of the night was the NEC (Nanaimo Events Centre). There was a presentation by City staff and then the vote to spend an additional $500,000 on the NEC.
Also of interest was the land swamp between the City of Nanaimo and SD68 and Nanaimo census, and the Old City Quarter festival troubles. Two new poets laureate were introduced which started the meeting off on a pleasant note.
Councillors Pratt and Brennan were absent from the meeting.
City staff gave a report based on the Stats Canada 2016 census. Nanaimo has seen an 8% growth in population which translates into an increase of over 6,000 people. In comparison, Kingston, Subdury and Thunder Bay had zero growth.
Who is moving to Nanaimo? People from China and those squeezed out of the Lower Mainland? Yet the local Real Estate flyer is getting skinnier every week. Something is happening.
Residential growth led the way in many areas of the City especially in the Hammond Bay area.
332 new single homes were built in 2016 and 56% of the new homes had secondary suites.
There were 22 development variance permits approved out of 25 in total. In 2016 $123,450 was collected as cash in lieu of parks. Less park space was created.
Questions from Council:
Hong: how many street lamps are LED?…people complaining about bright street lamps…
Thorpe:…the land set aside for new parks is down significantly and the money collected is up ….
SD68 and City of Nanaimo Land swap
The City of Nanaimo is going to purchase the Rotary Bowl and Serauxmen Stadium for $4.1 million and build an artificial turf field for $2.4 million. Construction of the new turf field (area in blue) will start in June and finish in September 2017.
There are long term plans for the redevelopment of the Rotary Bowl and Serauxmen Stadium by the City of Nanaimo. What are the new plans?
The public can attend an open house on Thursday March 9th at the Nanaimo Ice Centre 4:30pm to 8:30pm.
Questions from Council:
Thorpe: …we need another artificial turf …have you sat down with groups affected… when will this happen?…good partners?…
McKay:…$2.4 million to build this new turf field… How long will this last? …less than 10 years?
City Promo for Nanaimo Events Centre (NEC)
A presentation on the benefits of the NEC was made by:
It appears that the CSO has the main job of promoting the NEC. It is unclear what role the COO plays— maybe to sign off on necessary paper work or possibly a handy ‘fall’ person for the CAO. The CFO is the number wizard.
Most of the information was a recap of previous reports. Here is quick overview of what they had to say about the NEC:
3 acre site at 1 Port Drive
5200-5700 sports seats
$69 million to construct building
$11 million for site preparation
20 year debt repayment of $5.4 million per year
annual operating costs $180,000
Money to support the NEC would come from:
hotel tax increase
strategic infrastructure reserve (gaming revenue and gas tax grant)
general revenue (taxes?)
community works funds
payments in lieu of taxes
Nanaimo Port Authority ($400,000)
The CFO and CAO seemed to hold back saying taxes wouldn’t go up. They qualified their answers by saying it depends if a WHL team signs on. The COO said no services will be affected by the increased debt.
However, the many complaints about pot holes and lack of snow plows could be a good barometer of things to come.
Two Public Delegations on the NEC report:
This project is being fast tracked. I sent 3 emails and 13 questions and didn’t receive a reply. Where is the executive summary for these reports? How can you say this [NEC project] will have no impact on taxes? What are the full risks? Where is the WHL? Why have all the reports not been released yet?
The Phase two reports are in draft and contain the same information as the December reports. The report is cut and pasted and full of errors. For example, the parking and traffic data is inconsistent. The numbers from the report don’t match those in the tables. The reports make broad statements. This is rushed. When will the business case report be ready? Still not ready? We haven’t seen the Ernst & Young report. You say here in the council chambers that taxes won’t go up but at the open houses you say the taxes COULD go up. What is it? This is a fail. The NEC will affect Nanaimo for years to come.
Council questions on report:
Fuller:…pretty pictures…two towers…one at port mall and a hotel at Gordon street…
Bestwick: …2026 debt retires?
McKay: …towers? [not built yet]…we are losing tax revenue on a 3 acre site…
Another $500,000 for Events Centre
There was a request from the City for another $500,000 for the NEC. The amount was changed and the motion passed.
In favour: Councillors Fuller, Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Kipp
Opposed: Councillor Thorpe & Mayor McKay
Absent: Councillors Pratt and Brennan
Why does the City needed more money before the March 11th referendum vote on the NEC?
There were 5 delegations; here is some of what they had to say:
Idle Garbage Trucks
I waited 30 minutes to get into the open house at Oliver Woods after parking a good distance away and finally gave up and went home. You have forgotten the purpose of a local government. I curse the City every time I go through the Northfield and Island Highway intersection. Why is it not fixed? Most committees don’t meet. The City bought two automated garbage trucks for $1 million and they are sitting idle in a parking lot. This NEC has divided the City.
There has been no third party review of this project. Many academic studies show events centres don’t bring the promised results. U of T and UBC academics both say it is a poor choice for economic stimulation. Many better projects could be done.
Another $500,000 what for? Where is the WHL? How much is this going to cost in total? What is it going to look like? How is Ernst & Young an independent party when they do the report and they can also bid on the project? The same for the architect— they do the report and can also bid on the project? How is that not biased?
How can you approve this $500,000? Where is it to be spent and why?
The consultants’ report suggest that 100 VIP parking spots and on-street parking is enough to accommodate 1,500 guests. That means that 85% of the parking will come from street parking in the local neighbourhood. You need 1 parking stall for every 5 seats. So the NEC would need 1,460 parking spaces. Will there be a parkade on the waterfront?
Hong: $500,000…is a hard pill to swallow when I don’t know the breakdown of costs…What do you need now before the 11th, what do you need after? …
CFO: …we need $130,000 for the referendum…$75,000 for the project manager…need $32,000 for lawyers…$16,000 for Ernst & Young reports…We could wait to pay the architect…
Hong: I thought we approved $130,000 for the referendum?
CFO: Yes, you did.
Hong: $67,000 left over?
CFO: Ernst & Young worked with us on the third party review on Phases 1 and 3 and 4 …We stuck with Ernst & Young all the way because they know the project…
Bestwick: Do we need a new motion?
CFO: I need a motion requesting up to March 11th a total of $291,000 … $130,000 for the referendum and $160,000 for the project manager and $210,000 for the architect…
McKay:…so…$427,000 on first phase plus $130,000 equals $657,000 plus another $292,000… so a total of $949,000?
Thorpe: …I cannot support the motion…I supported Phases 1 and 2 because it got us to the referendum…I thought the funding was included in Phase 2 but I guess I was mistaken…We have spent over $400,000 and I have heard from a lot of people that we have spent too much and now we are looking to spend another $500,000?! …I am not interested in spending more money now until we have a vote on March 11th…
Fuller: … I support the motion…
Hong:….did we do this for VICC back then?
CAO: …No geotechnical study was done for the VICC…so the cost was $50 million with $20 million in cost overruns…40% higher cost than they thought it would be…They had major geo tech issues with the VICC…there was no geo tech study done for the Howard Johnston site…
Kipp: …we have some written things from SFN (Snuneymuxw First Nation) and some good negotiations…water treatment plant cost overruns…private companies don’t build swimming pools and …conference centres because they don’t make money…it’s a little big for people…parking can go anywhere…I got 285 emails…don’t hate each other…
Bestwick: …People complain…can’t get island ferry done…can’t get hotel done…CAN get this done…
Downtown Events and Funds
There is a fund available to any groups which would like to hold events in downtown Nanaimo. There is approximately $120,000 available. Groups can apply for 30% of the total. Applications are available online at the City’s website until March 31st.
One delegation from the Old City Quarter came to council to ask for money to hold three festivals which were previously sponsored by the DNBIA. The Multi-Cultural Festival coming up soon has no money to operate as the DNBIA is now basically finished.
Hong: …how much money was collected [by the DNBIA from Old City Quarter]?
Hong: has the money been allocated?
Speaker: Some items are missing…back in 1993 there was no way for people to find us…we put signage down at the wharf…[Recently] we received calls from the Nanaimo Port Authority of unpaid bills…planters in the area are empty and ugly…we need control back to get changes and action now…this DNBIA model is not working….
Fuller: …planters? …
Speaker:…something has to be done…festivals are being cancelled…we have the resources but we don’t have control of the money…
Thorpe: …your request is to change the bylaw which looks after funding?…Do you plan to apply for event funding?…
Kipp: …we spend less than $60,000 on community plans…
Speaker: …when we looked after things we only spent 12% of the budget on administration…We did a lot…co-op advertising…info boards…parking…
Kipp: (frowns) We are the only city in Canada to give money directly to a business association…
Hong: Is this a motion?
There was no motion. There was no vote called. Strange?
Lots of questions from the gallery. The meeting almost went to midnight. Here are some of the questions:
Is the City aware that the WHL has a history of broken agreements?
How many of you Council members are going to the last Clippers game?
What happened with the VICC? The City had a $30 million referendum question yet they borrowed $50 million for the VICC. Will this happen for the NEC?
What about the SFN?
Do you need permission from the SFN? What if they say no? Will you say no?
Is it moral to put a huge Events Centre on top of an old village site?
Was it made up that the Disney on Ice could come to Nanaimo? They don’t play to an audience of less than 9,000.
Why are things like “Disney on Ice” just made up? Did you get their permission?
How are we going to collect taxes on the hotel on Gordon Street when they get 10 years tax free?
Conflict of Interest
It is unclear what advice councillors have been given, but if, for example Councillor Hong has business interests downtown, should he participating in these downtown funding topics? Also, if Councillor Yoachim is a SFN member should he be voting on the Events Centre if the City is in talks with the SFN? As well, if Councillor Bestwick is a professional hockey scout could he be in conflict of interest when voting on the NEC?
Some legs might be caught in the limelight.
An old school wrestling match featuring the acrobatic Édouard Carpentier and Jim Eskew which took place in the late 60s.
A Nanaimo council meeting is coming up this Monday night February 20, 2017. Hot topics of the night will be the Nanaimo Events Centre (NEC) and the Downtown Nanaimo Revitalization Fund. Other topics of interest include the Fire Plan and the land shuffle between the City and the School Board.
Nanaimo Events Centre Phase 3 and 4
Council will vote to approve $500,000 for Phase 3 & 4 of the NEC. This is to pay for the open houses and referendum process. The total spent on the NEC so far is approximately $1.25 million.
The City is in the process of selecting a Facility Operator. Meanwhile, four other companies have been hired for the following:
Legal – Weirfoulds LLP
Financial – Ernst and Young
Architect – BBB Architects
Manager – Colliers Projects
Many City staff are involved in planning the NEC such as the CAO, CFO, COO, CSO, and three Directors; this cost to taxpayers has not been included.
March 11 – $80 million dollar Voting Day
Yes or no? Do you want the City of Nanaimo to borrow $80 million to build an events centre at 1 Port Drive?
Advanced voting days are March 1st and 8th at VICC from 8am to 8pm. March 11th is the main voting day. Here are some of the arguments for and against building the NEC.
economic spinoff to restaurants, hotels
No private funding
100% taxpayer funded
Poor use of waterfront
Lack of parking
$80 million not full price
No more Casino money for other groups
City debt will balloon to over $140 million
No money for other projects
What could be done with $80 million? Here are some examples:
a cheque for $1,650 to every household in Nanaimo (48,475)
a train running from Victoria to Nanaimo
state of the art recycling centre
more cycling/walking routes
There is so much more that could be done to help the poor in our community. One in five children in Nanaimo live in poverty.
The AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities) 2017 Annual General meeting will be held in Campbell River April 7-9th . Some of the topics that Nanaimo Council will raise at the meeting are:
adult basic high school courses
marina lease rates
Approximately $15 million is collected every year on recycled containers. Some of this money could be put to use in local communities to further recycling efforts for items such as plastic bags.
Downtown Revitalization Fund
People have until March 31, 2017 to put forward applications for funding events to be held in Downtown Nanaimo. Before the City would give approximately $250,000 to the DNBIA every year but now any group can apply for funding for their event.
Every fiscal quarter the Fire Chief used to give a report to Council on the fire stats but no more. Also, there have been no reports to Council from the RCMP. Why don’t they come to council with these reports? The fire and police budget account for a large portion of Nanaimo’s taxes and people should know what’s new, especially since we are having an opioid crisis.
There are four fully staffed fire stations in the City. The last fire station built was in 2010 at Chase River. There was a fire station planned for Hammond Bay Road but that station was cut from the budget.
There is a goal of a 6 minute response time but this is not possible for areas such as Hammond Bay, Westwood, Jingle Pot and Duke Point. No new staff additions are planned.
Ice Hockey Propaganda
This Nanaimo ice hockey rink fiasco brings back memories of the U.S.S.R. The Red Army Hockey Team was a propaganda machine run by the Soviet military. Of course it was 100% government funded.
Why would far right politicos want a $80 million dollar building to play ice hockey in that is 100% taxpayer funded? Have they gone mad or is this a Russian plot?
In January, Nanaimo Council and Parksville Council heard two presentations regarding garbage waste and a request for a ban on single-use plastic bags.
What is the RDN’s garbage plan? Is the incinerator a go?
Sort, Recycle, Burn, Bury garbage?
Here are some of the highlights of the RDN’s new garbage plan presented to Nanaimo Council on January 23, 2016:
The ‘trash’ talk was left to end of the meeting at 10:30pm. Possibly trying to bury a hot topic? The RDN is now at Stage 2 of their four stage plan. They are getting to the end of looking at garbage options. The ‘Stage 2’ results goes to the RDN board in the summer for a vote and then approval by the province.
What are the Stage 2 options that the RDN has looked at over the last 2 years? Some of these are:
non-deposit glass at curbside
yard and garden waste at curbside
education of waste diversion
hazardous waste and demolition waste
In 2004 the goal of zero waste was identified. Residents are producing 68% less garbage than the 1980s but there are more people now than back then. Residents produced 347kg (756 pounds) of garbage per person in 2016, compared to 1100kg (2,425 pounds) in 1980.
A budget of $300,000 is estimated to be needed for a new education program to address residential and commercial users to get people to sort their garbage, and produce less.
Commercial garbage is a BIG problem
The diagram below shows that commercial waste is not being sorted or recycled. Paper is still ending up in the landfill and so is compostable organics! Why? Stores and malls are not doing a very good job, compared to residents.
Closing Public Landfill
During the RDN waste manager’s presentation it was repeated several times that the private sector is better than the public sector at sorting waste.
Metro Vancouver regional directors released a short list of potential incinerator sites in December 2016. They plan to build as many as three waste-to-energy plants in or outside the region by 2018. Is Nanaimo on the list?
Commercial haulers are taking Metro’s garbage to Washington state. The Cache Creek landfill which received the bulk of Vancouver’s garbage, is scheduled to close at the end of 2017. It has been in operation since 1989.
RDN: …business is better at diversion than the government…DBL pulls out way more stuff than we do…we can give them more motivation to pull more materials out…if we could set up a fee differential…so for example, if [commercial] waste haulers could pay a lower rate than others the waste would flow more through those businesses…they are better at diversion…they end up setting up more waste streams…it is a way to change the structure….so we can drive the waste through business…
Bestwick:…education?. .Business does it and does it well…only 6% target for education…
RDN: …education first…regulate sector…the idea is anyone hauling waste for profit is to be a licenced operator…by licencing haulers we can give them a lower fee for disposal…now they have to pay the same price as everyone else…If we can change that then people will give them their waste…1/3 of the waste taken to the transfer station comes from individuals in cars and pickup trucks…If we can get people to take their waste to [private dump] they can sort through it better than we can or do…
Bestwick: I’m sold.
Hong: …it is really interesting how this is being presented…yes, companies do a good job of diversion…We should go to a ‘condo style’ system…we are talking about going to an automated system with 160-litre bins…so we are talking about people producing more garbage…How are we going to divert more without a process?…all garbage has to be sorted BEFORE it gets to the landfill…
RDN: I agree.
Yoachim: …can we create energy with the landfill?
RDN: Yes, we do…we get gas [from the landfill] …turn it into electricity …doing it for six years…
Wellington School Renovation
McKay: …City of Nanaimo doesn’t have a requirement to do recycling for commercial buildings…Cameron Island is a great model…we need teeth and regulations…if you go to company A with a request for X number of recycling bins you are going to pay 4 times as much as Company B who just brings in just one bin…
Industry is telling us they need regulations and enforcement…we need the province’s backing…construction and demo waste… You watch DBL do their waste and everything is separated…
Wellington School renovation went to one contractor who farmed out the construction and demo waste to a 1 bin operator who sent all the waste unsorted to a [landfill] in the Fraser Valley… entire houses that are taken down in Nanaimo are burned up in Cedar…This is what people are competing with…
Automatized [curbside] system is costing $110 per year per household…in Kelowna they have a private operator who charges $160 per household for pick-up…
RDN:…when the antique coke machine came into the landfill and the beverage company wanted to buy it…we couldn’t sell it…we don’t have the ability to adjust policies [on the fly]…We [the RDN] can’t compete with the private sector…
Parksville: BAN single-use plastic bags
Two speakers from Communities Protecting Our Coast (CPOC) came to speak to Parksville Council in January. They made a request that the City of Parkville ban single-use plastic bags. They covered many reasons why action is urgently needed. CPOC mentioned that they have added their concerns to the RDN’s Stage 2 garbage plan.
Why CPOC wants to ban single-use plastic bags:
Single-use bags or other plastic bags are not recyclable at curbside
They are used for an average of 12 minutes but they are here forever
To make 9 single-use plastic bags is equal to runing a car for 1 kilometre
Costs for landfill and disposable adds up to more than $90 per person per year
Adding up all the costs of extraction, disposal, and environmental impacts are too large to dismiss. The UN secretariat has recommended a global ban on all single-use plastic bags.
A tax or a ban on plastic bags?
In 2002, Ireland became the first country to enforce a plastic bag tax. This 25 cent fee was started because the country was using 1.2 billion shopping bags a year and it was causing a waste problem. The tax resulted in a 94% decrease in plastic bag use. In the first year the plastic bag tax raised $9.6 million for environmental initiatives.
Montreal has voted to ban single-use plastic bags as of 2018. The 82 municipalities that make up the metropolitan area of Montreal agreed unanimously to prohibit “the use of single-use shopping bags which are not biodegradable, or fully recyclable” effective Earth Day on April 22, 2018, according to a resolution.
Delhi has also just passed a ban on single-use plastic bags. It was introduced after complaints about the illegal mass burning of plastic at three incinerators, which were blamed for causing toxic air pollution.
Seven Canadian municipalities have banned single-use plastic bags:
Leaf Rapids, Manitoba
Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality, Alberta
Where is BC on this list? Tofino has recently banned plastic straws. Victoria is making steps to ban plastic bags.
Will Parksville and Qualicum Beach take action? What is the RDN planning to do?
Nanaimo Recycling Exhange
In order to recycle plastic bags people have to drive to the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange (NRE) on Kenworth Road or the Regional Recycling depot on Old Victoria Road. Imagine if we could spend $80 million on a state-of-the-art recycling depot rather than an Events Centre? It could have a world class research and development facility in partnership with VIU and provide many local jobs.
Local governments have been neglecting our recycling centres. Is that to make way for a billion dollar incinerator to pollute our land and water?
Whale starved by plastic bags
On January 28, 2017, an emaciated and sick Cuvier’s Beaked Whale beached itself on the shores of the island of Sotra, about ten miles west of Bergen, Norway. Despite the best efforts of the locals, it would not budge. When experts arrived, they realized the whale was in distress, so it was euthanized.
At first, scientists didn’t even know what type of whale they were looking at. These beaked whales are so rare and scientists know so little about this type of whale that there are no estimates of past or present population size.
What was the cause of the whale’s pain? When zoologists examined the dead whale, they found its stomach was choked full with plastic bags still with their Danish and English labels visible and large amounts of microplastics. Zoologist Terje Lislevand of the University of Bergen said that the whale most likely had been unable to digest any real food since September. The whale had starved to death. Its intestine had no food.
Normally, this species of whale would only be found in deep water of over 3,300 feet (1,000 m) and avoid shallow coastal areas. What does that say about the plastic garbage? It’s not just floating on the surface – it’s down deep.
This whale’s skeleton is going to be preserved and displayed at the University of Bergen, alongside those plastic bags that caused its death.
Unfortunately, whales aren’t the only casualty of plastic bags. Seabirds are attracted to algae-covered plastic because it smells like food.
Dr. Dudas, a VIU biology professor and Canada Research Chair in shellfish aquaculture ecosystems, directed a study of clams and oysters on Vancouver Island. Some 3,000 shellfish were tagged in July 2016 and they have found plastic in these organisms.
Plastic in our food
Even when the plastic does break down, fish and plankton feed on these broken down plastic bags. Eventually those tiny fish get gobbled up by larger fish which end up on a dinner plate.
Solutions to our plastic addiction
What did people do before plastic bags? In the old days, customers purchased their produce (sometimes with a bit of dirt still on it) and it was wrapped in brown paper. You didn’t have plastic packaging.
Canada’s first zero-waste grocery store is on Salt Spring Island, called Green. Customers bring their own jars, boxes and bags.
One store owner in Iran estimated he gave out 249,600 plastic bags to his customers – about 80 kilograms (over 176 pounds) every month. He decided to give out ten cent cloth bags for free to his customers and he soon found that people were coming back with the same cloth bags to be refilled.
“People often say to themselves that it will make no difference if only one person refrains from using plastic bags. Does that ever cross your mind?”
“I’ve always tried to follow a verse from Rumi that says, “No matter if you are the only one who wants peace and light in a world where everyone else is lost in the darkness of war, you are responsible to light your own candle.”
Nanaimo Council had the longest meeting in local history! The meeting started on Monday and ended on Wednesday. That is because the meeting was ‘recessed’ on January 23rd. On Monday they didn’t have the referendum question ready and the location of the Events Centre at 1 Port Drive was just announced.
Talk about a rushed project. The panic button has been hit, folks. Here are highlights from Monday night:
DNBIA funding cut
On Monday night there was a presentation from the DNBIA to give a report on what they were up to.
At the end of the meeting there was a very distraught man who came to speak at question period. He mentioned that the DNBIA gets $250,000 from the City and all the money goes to administration. Meanwhile, his business is going broke because the area of downtown he is in is turning into a ghetto and it needs desperate help. He was just short of calling the whole organization a fraud. The Mayor cut the speaker off but the speaker didn’t need a microphone to be heard. There is nothing little merchants could do because Port Place Mall and Coast Bastion Hotel have the bulk of the weighted votes in the DNBIA.
Late last year a number or merchants came to Council to voice their objection to the DNBIA and how the money was being spent.
At the end of the week Nanaimo Now reported that the City will cut the funding to the DNBIA. But, the $250,000 paid by the 400 members of the association will continue to be collected for the next 23 months.
Chinese Societies ask for help
There was a presentation from a group representing Chinese societies in Nanaimo who requested $5,000 to re-open a Chinese school and fees be waived for the following:
2017 property tax of 850 Hecate Street
rental fee of Beban Park
Port Theatre administration fees
They hope to sell 600 tickets to the Chinese New Year event next week. The money raised would help out the following groups.
Nanaimo Chinese Culture Society est. 1982 – 100 members
Nanaimo Chinese Freemasons est. 1929 – 40 members
Nanaimo Chinese Women Society est. 2015 – 300 members
Nanaimo Asian Professional Association est. 2015 – 100 members
Council thanked them for their work in the community and advised that they could apply for the appropriate grants.
Adult Basic Education cuts
Two post secondary students requested a letter from Council to be sent to the BC government to fund adult basic education.
At one time it was free to upgrade your high school education. Now it costs $320 per course. This is having a negative effect on VIU. There has been a 55% drop in students at the Powell River VIU campus since the funding cuts.
All councillors voiced their objection to the program cuts and said it hurts those in need.
Tourism Nanaimo is gone
Tourism Vancouver Island has signed a one year service agreement to provide destination marketing for the City of Nanaimo.
City of Nanaimo is in the process of signing up someone to operate the Visitor Centre which re-opens in April.
The Wednesday night council meeting got off to a rocky start.
One delegation wanted to speak twice – once for the Protection Island Resident Association and once to air his own opinions. Council had to put this to a vote. Councillor Hong didn’t want to let the man speak twice saying he spoke last week. Councillor Brennan said that it is inconvenient for people living on Protection Island to get to the meeting, and let the delegation speak.
The results of the vote were:
Against hearing the delegation: Councillors Kipp, Thorpe, Fuller, Hong,
In favour of hearing the delegation: Councillors Brennan, Pratt
Abstaining: Councillors Yoachim, Bestwick and Mayor Mckay
After the vote Councillor Bestwick said he wanted to speak but Mayor McKay cut him off and Councillor Fuller yelled out he wanted to speak too.
After all of that hullaballoo the delegation spoke at the end of the meeting for five minutes!
Councillor Kipp said (while lifting his left nostril) he had better places to be – such as at a restaurant with his wife who was having a birthday, so he would be leaving early. Councillor Kipp was also absent from Monday’s meeting.
March 11 – referendum
Council approved the referendum question on Wednesday as follows:
“Are you in favour of the City of Nanaimo Council adopting Loan Authorization Bylaw 2017 No. 7237 which will authorize Council to borrow a sum not exceeding $80,000,000, repayable over a period of no more than 20 years, for the development and construction of an event centre that will include an ice arena and other related entertainment, cultural and recreation facilities?”
That is not a question — it is a paragraph!
Why not a simple question such as:
Do you want the City of Nanaimo to borrow $80 million to build an Events Centre at 1 Port Drive?
Yes? or No?
Borrowing $80 million
There was a presentation from the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) on where the $80 million would come from. A report from Ernst and Young was referred to regarding the risks of the project. Some of the risks raised in the report:
lack of attendance
lack of luxury seat sales
high costs of management
lack of events held
The report based the revenue to be generated on 80 to 130 events being held per year.
Where will the $80 million come from?
A loan will be taken out for 20 years at an interest rate of 3%. It is estimated the loan payments would be about $5.4 million per year plus operation fees. Plus $200,000 a year is needed to maintain the building.
Funding would also come from the following areas:
ticket surcharge fees
hotel taxes (hotels would have to agree)
As far as the design of the building the CAO commented that it may not be a First Nations longhouse design theme as shown in the drawings.
The CFO made a bold statement that there would be no increase to taxes or cuts to services because of the new debt!
This mega project generated zero debate! Before voting on the borrowing motion some Councillors came to life.
In favour of borrowing were:
Councillors Bestwick, Hong, Yoachim, Thorpe, Fuller
Against borrowing were:
Councillors Pratt and Brennan
Brennan: …using property taxes to fund everything is onerous…gas tax …It was Jack Layton who convinced the government to share the gas money with local governments…To tell us spending that gas tax money is not spending taxes is a shell game…it is to assist our public infrastructure…it is local tax money…casino money…we said yes to gambling and that has some negative effects in our community…We need that money to fund programs…Now we are spending that money on an Events Centre…don’t have the solid facts…I support the referendum…but can’t support the financing of this project…
Pratt:…I agree with Councillor Brennan…The gas tax shouldn’t be used in this way…I can’t support this …
Thorpe: …I support the borrowing bylaw…this Events Centre will need subsidies …it’s just moving the money around…we don’t have private investor…it will be taxpayer funded…it will have an effect on future projects …there probably will be future tax increases for other projects …
Hong: …we don’t have a choice… we need a bigger tax base and this Events Centre will do this…our schools are shutting down.. this Events Centre is an infrastructure project…this Events Centre is critical for the downtown…
Bestwick: …this is an investment…the 1940’s arena was built by residents…in the last 80 years we have spent $10 million on big projects…Nanaimo Aquatic Centre is most popular…
CAO: (suggested reworking the motion on debt borrowing)
Brennan: …this is too much on the fly…
Snuneymuxw First Nations
No concerns of the SFN were raised. Where were the Councillors’ questions?
SFN Acting Chief Douglas White III told NewsNanaimo.ca that an archeological report in 2015 “locates some of our longhouses right through the middle of (the Events Centre site).” Under SFN’s 1854 treaty with the Crown, the Snuneymuxw village is recognized and protected.
Public is VERY Worried
Apparently there were three sheets for people to sign up to speak about the Events Centre. People were quickly cut off if they wandered off the boundaries of the topic. Councilor Hong jumped in after every speaker to challenge any negative comments as the ‘defacto’ attack man.
Over the course of the evening 13 people spoke about their various concerns. Here are some the comments:
1) Is this the best location for the Events Centre?
2) What happened to the proposed transit exchange? Where is the transit exchange going to go? What happened to the idea of a Granville Island type of project? How can we not have a tax increase?
3) Nob Hill neighborhood – Traffic congestion concerns. Will taxpayers pay for a parkade?
Kipp: …people walk to the downtown for many events…fireworks…
Delegation: … walk?… to a hockey game in the winter? …dark?
Hong: … port authority…robins parking…walking is great… less parking now…
4) Are other Events Centres generating revenue? Why no option B? No private investors?
Mayor: … no private operator has come forward…
Bestwick: …not all Event Centres are profit generators…
Staff: …different contracts for every Events Centres…some have subsidies…
5) Can this Events Centre run by revenue it generates? Or will it need our funding?
the FULL price of this project?
the size of this Events Centre?
mine shafts in the area?
foundation of the building?
Hong: …building is going to four stories high…
Mayor: …Moose Jaw is great …
6) How much land does the City have down there? (28.5 acres) Has the City considered a joint venture with another organization? Sports school or Sports medicine?
Mayor: …you are off topic…
RCMP funding and Fire Hall
7) It was stated earlier that there would be NO new taxes and NO cuts to services…this council created a fund for the Events Centre with a 3.3% tax hike and cut $700,000 from the RCMP fund…that is new taxes and a cut in services…local programs will be cut…casino money will be taken away from programs…redirecting money…You can’t take money out and not cut services…$44 million raised through the casino money…that money is being taken away…
Staff: …tax increases will be over time…built into 5 year plan…money moved from general revenue…gas tax money…
Mayor: …casino money should go into a legacy fund…like the Richmond Oval…
Speaker: $700,000 out of RCMP fund going somewhere else?
Staff: ….Yes, we are decreasing our services…
CAO: …over last 10 years the RCMP has had a surplus budget…no cuts…
Speaker: What about the plans for the Hammond Bay Fire Hall?…
CAO: …Hammond Bay Fire Hall is not on the plans…
8) You are using the wrong model. Input output model not good. A better model is cost- benefit model. The Clippers are going to leave. One team leaves one comes. What’s the difference? It doesn’t increase the pool of money. This will only generate 57 jobs! You are spending $80 million to get an extra $2.4 million? Not smart growth.
Hong:..no one is here in the winter…57 jobs is good…
Fuller: …What brings people to town?…the fast ferry has failed four times…I want this community to grow…
Contaminated Soil; Funny numbers
More delegations came to speak raising some good questions:
1) What about soil contamination on the site? Coal mine under this site? Where will the money come from? How will we pay for this? What happened to the south downtown plans?
Hong: …$80 million uses 26% of our debt…
Staff:…we are increasing our debt from 12% to 26% …room to borrow more money if there is emergency…
Mayor: …VICC will be paid off in 2028…
2) A request for a copy of the reports on the Events Centre was made and the response was that it’s still confidential. How can people make informed decisions when they don’t have the most important financial information? Voting stations? We would like to request scrutineers at polling stations. An extra polling station is needed in the south end because of the number of people without cars. Need a polling station at the hospital and at the larger elder care facilities. Consider mobile polling station on days of advanced polls.
Staff: …people can mail in ballots….someone volunteers to do this
Mayor: …how about polling stations at shopping centres?… (swivels head)
4) You have to get the money from taxes. Phase 1 and 2 reports are not accurate and are deceptive. The Ernst and Young report is based on misleading numbers. Victoria has only 30 events per year; how can we project to have 80 to 100 events per year?
1) Change the question to say $160 million rather than $80million. That’s how much it will cost. Do the voters know how much taxes will go up?
Fuller: …I had a massive heart attack a while ago and shouldn’t be here tonight…
Why is 1 Port Place not on the BC Assessment role?
How can you borrow a lot of money and it doesn’t cost you anything?
BC Transit fare increases
Youth and seniors could be facing an increase of 75 cents per transit fare in September. BC Transit is giving three options. Each proposes to increase fares for youth and seniors. There will be no more paper transfers by September 1, 2017. What do you think? Send them an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to RDN Fare Proposal, P.O. Box 9861, Victoria V8W 9T5.
Monday’s Council meeting started off with the Nanaimo Mayor reading the riot act before the agenda item regarding the referendum vote on the Nanaimo Events Centre. Later in the evening, grants were handed out to arts and culture groups. Another hot topic on tap was the purchasing policy and the possibility of surplus equipment growing legs! (See video below).
March 11 Events Centre Vote
The proposed NEC will go to referendum on March 11, 2017. The referendum will cost $130,000. All councillors voted in favour of holding a referendum.
Six people spoke about their concerns regarding the proposed NEC. All spoke in favour of a referendum except one. Some very interesting questions were raised. Here are the highlights from the delegations who came to speak:
Not one of you campaigned on this Events Centre. The report was prepared by developers of events centres. This is a one-sided sales pitch and an excuse to build a centre for rich WHL owners.
The $86 million price tag is just a drop in the bucket. The price doesn’t include land remediation, infrastructure, WHL team subsidizes, plus we have to borrow all the money and pay interest on it. There are so many other areas which need attention in the City of Nanaimo.
There has been a lot done to see what the waterfront area can be. We need the full picture presented to the taxpayers. I feel like I am speaking tonight to the de-facto ‘yes’ committee. I would like to see a referendum.
Don’t hold a referendum! Restart the process. Improve community consultation. The process is divisive. The referendum process creates winners and losers. It is either a yes or no.
This is a 1950’s style consultation process. We have moved beyond that style. Community planning can include productive discussion sessions involving citizens. Use this process as a community building process.
Hong: …we tried that with colliery dams…
Yoachim: …you can’t please everyone…I support a referendum…
The process has been biased and rushed. We have to have a referendum now. Too many WHL events centres are costing taxpayers money year after year. We had a proposal for a private events centre and now we have this. Too much debt will be put on our taxpayers.
I feel that some of the speakers here tonight have been treated quite rudely by a few of you [Council]. You used this opportunity to rip people apart. I will not respond to rudeness.
We need a referendum. The consultation notice is totally flawed. By the time I got the notice in the mail about the public open houses they had already happened. Most people I had talked to had not received a written notice at all.
The process was too rushed and in favour of the centre which is no surprise because the consultants hired to present this proposal are also in the business of building event centres.
This is just a sales pitch which we had to pay for. Is this the only solution for the waterfront lands? Most cities lose money on these events centres. Some of you have made up your minds. Keep your minds open, please.
One councillor I talked to said they wanted to have a legacy for future generations. When I asked if he would like to see anything else he said no. He had only one project in mind and that is the events centre.
Building this events centre would mean that many other projects could not be completed because we would be stuck paying for the NEC for years and years.
Other City improvement projects would not get done. We could do so much more. Other projects would attract much more to the City. This process is flawed.
Bestwick: …were you referring to me?…
Speaker 4: Yes…
Bestwick: …I would love to see an Imax, a Science World, a mineral pool, to replace the outdated Beban pool, I would like the workout gym at the Beban pool located at the ground floor because no one even knows it is there, at Departure Bay – knock down the activity centre there and put in a YMCA…
…if the referendum doesn’t go through, I will be back here with a proposal for an Imax, a new pool at Beban,..remember closing Beban pool? I want everyone to know I would like many new things and opportunities for this City and if this doesn’t get approved then I will be back March 12 with those 5 things I mentioned…
Speaker 4: …glad to hear that…we are focused on only one project now…how can we get behind other projects when this project is so huge and expensive?…
Hong: ..Council went through a plan and this project was on the list …we didn’t just pull this project out of a hat…We all got together and we had 52 items on the board and we eliminated the projects we were not interested in and this project was one of the top 5 projects on the list…we just didn’t say let’s build an events centre out of nowhere….the public knew when we selected the items …
This is what councils do; we decide what needs to be done…
I would like to see a gondola, a tunnel to Newcastle, a bridge to Vancouver because I hate BC Ferries…maybe a bridge to Gabriola but not to Protection Island no offence…there is a lot of things we want to do…
…we pick one thing at a time…if this fails then it falls off the list and then something else like Bestwick says will pop up on the list and we will focus our money on it…
Speaker 4: … I think you were just giving your opinion and not listening to me…you have a microphone every week; this was my opportunity to be heard…
Where are people going to park?
This project is the MOST expensive in Nanaimo’s history. We need information. Where is the traffic and parking study? It is not on the city website. I thought it would be available by now. There will be no additional parking – what about a parkade?
What about when people attend events at the Port Theatre and the Vancouver Island Conference Centre – where is everyone going to park?
How will this work? The underperformance of the conference centre is blamed on the lack of a hotel. In the future the failure of the Events Centre could be blamed on the lack of parking.
The business plan and operating plan is marked confidential and has disappeared from the City’s website. We paid for this study.
How much will NEC cost to operate?
Operational costs? This Events Centre could cost $2 million a year to operate. This Events Centre is not supposed to turn a profit for three years.
We need a business plan…the economic impact studies have not bothered to look at the risks of this Events Centre; there are no details of this in the report…This report needs to be made public…We need answers to some basic questions.
Staff: …information will be ready this week minus the traffic and parking study…by February 6th all the financial information should be available…
Hong: Would you like to hear my comments about parking? The last delegation didn’t want to hear my answers. Everyone thinks parking is a huge problem…but we have lots of land…we can lease land from Island Ferries…we are going to get that going… railway lands can be leased…the potential for a developer to make a parkade is available…
Speaker 6: …you have made plans for the Events Centre and you haven’t made plans for the parking?
Hong: No…there is parking there…
Speaker 6: …Who is going to build the parkade?
Hong: …private developer…
Speaker 6: …we will have to pay to build a parkade….just like what happened downtown …we should be factoring in these costs of the parkade now…
Hong: …we make money from a parkade…
CAO: … transportation study will be made available soon….
Speaker 6: …there are lots of unanswered questions…
Pratt: …when will all the information be on the website? After February 6th?
CAO: …some things can be shared…some can’t…
We have already spent considerable money on the events centre proposal and have seen some design drawings. This project is rushed. This events centre is a want rather than a need. Do we want all our taxpayers dollars to go into this project? That is the big question.
Mayor: …lots of questions…construction costs…we are still trying to digest this…by March 11th there should be no questions[!]…
Hong: …What does $130,000 get us?…
Fuller: …I never made a concrete decision whether I want it or not…some people think it is rushed some don’t…When we talk about democracy failing I have seen it with Colliery Dams…
Purchase policy: where does surplus equipment go?
The City is updating its purchasing policy – a recommendation from the Core Services Review. The new purchasing policy and purchasing power bylaw passed all three readings. There were no environmental and social purchasing policy guidelines included.
Voting in favour were: Councillors Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Thorpe, Fuller.
Voting against were: Councillors Kipp, Brennan and Mayor McKay.
One concerned resident spoke of a lack of input from vendors regarding the purchasing policy. Other areas of concern were:
bids not public after being received
bids from foreign countries
point system not fair
no whistleblower policy
material in-kind donations
The speaker questioned how surplus items are being disposed. There is no surplus equipment page on the City’s website. When an item gets deemed ‘useless’ what happens? [There is a good chance it gets shuffled off and then given away].
A process needs to be in place where taxpayers can bid on old equipment. Will the City set up a Surplus Equipment page?
Kipp: …problems with purchasing policy…contracts not looked at …the Corex contract was not evaluated on the same scale as all the other bids…A $8,000 a day sole source bid for Colliery Dam…disposal of bikes…the Roper investigation and Integrity contracts …Sole source contracts are a problem…I have concerns about the way things are done….will staff sit down with me? I have asked them to but nothing yet.
I have real concerns with our water audit. Sole source concerns that exclude people and companies…On Colliery Dams there were 3 split invoices…I don’t like what I saw…I will not support this purchasing policy as it stands…
Everyone is afraid to speak out or they will be treated like him [delegation]…I have been threatened…Everyone is afraid to bring up any errors …dragged thru the mud…I can’t move forward…
Fuller: …I am more confused than normal….some new some old policies?
Staff: …a total redo of the original policy… 22 procedures…new and different process…
Fuller: …How do we get feedback from people?…
Bestwick: …core services review…two consultants said that they would come back to us in 2018 with policy procedures…in May?…hear back from them?…
Staff: …a one time savings of $4 million if we change purchasing policy…
Bestwick: …we can change things after…a lot of vendors are not going to come forward …Where is the approved product list?…
[council takes 10 minute break in middle of motion]
Kipp: …Who is driving the bus?…
Bestwick:…when the open houses are held then we will get more information…
Mayor: …a social purchasing policy…where is it?… language in the bylaw that says that you can’t sell to the City for five years if you are in a lawsuit with the City…I would like to change that…
Staff: …coming soon is a social purchasing policy…
Mayor: …free trade agreements?….
Bestwick: …is this urgent?…
Staff: …we are trying to promote a local purchase policy…
Mayor: …I don’t see a social purchase policy?…
Hong: …room for change to these bylaws…
Nanaimo Jazz Festival
Nanaimo International Jazz Association said they started up two years ago. They are working on some shows for the Canada 150 celebration.
New Poets Laureate
Tina Bielo and Kailey Defehr were chosen to be Poets Laureate. They will read their first poem at the February 6th council meeting. Mayor McKay mentioned one will serve a year and the other two years. The first poet laureate, Naomi Beth-Wakan, served three years and received $3,000.
The current service agreement with Atlific Hotels is set to expire March 19, 2017. A new service provider for the VICC will be announced soon.
People are complaining that they can’t read their garbage and recycling calendars. If you want one a new one that you can read call 250-758-5222 or email the City’s Public Works department at Public.WorksInfo at nanaimo.ca and request one to be mailed out.
The recording of this council meeting was heavily chopped up; people are talking and lips aren’t moving.