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 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:

Nanaimo Financial Plan and Core Review

At the last Nanaimo Council meeting the financial plan for 2016-2020 was presented by the Finance Department. Here are some highlights from the presentation:

  • Outstanding debt at December 31, 2015 was $47.8 million.
  • City’s current annual debt payments are $4.9 million.
  • Operating budget is $200 million.
  • Revenue from property taxes is $98 million.

Nanaimo Property Tax and rate increases over next 5 years

7.5% water7.5% water7.5% water7.5% water7.5% water
5% sewer5% sewer5% sewer5% sewer5% sewer
Total taxes & user rates12.5%15.3%14.3%12.5%13.5%

Current debt is for the following items:

  • $21M (Water Treatment Plant)
  • $20M (Vancouver Island Conference Centre)
  • $3M (Nanaimo Aquatic Centre)
  • $2.6M (Fire Station #4)
  • $1M (Parkade)

Total current debt $48 million

Debt not yet on the books:

  • $6.6M (Police Operations Building expansion)
  • $6M (Wellcox Access)
  • $1.1M (Northfield Road Improvements)

Acting Mayor Wage Increase

Coming up on Monday night, April 18th, Council will take another look at their proposed Acting Mayor wage increase of  $1,189.  The increase would add another $20,000 to the Councillors’ salaries by the end of their term.

Nanaimo Mayor Expenses

Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information as reported by Island Radio show Mayor Bill McKay’s expenses in 2015 were just over $27,000. A trade mission to China accounted for $6,000 worth of Mayor McKay’s expenses.  In comparison, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s expenses were just under $24,000 in 2014.

Also, apparently  there is no set expense limit for Nanaimo Councillors.

Core Review

The final report on the Core Review is expected May 13th. The Core Review is being conducted by Western Management Consultants for a cost of approximately $250,000. This is to find ways to save money. Will this report document the amount of money the City spends on consultants? What can be done about it?

Regional District of Nanaimo tax increases

RDN proposed tax increases for 2016:

  • 4.9% Parksville
  • 3.3% Qualicum Beach
  • 2.2% Area E Nanoose
  • 3.0% Area F Coombs
  • 4.8% Area G French Creek
  • 0.6% Area H Bowser
  • 3%? Gabriola
  • 6%? Area A Cedar

Language bylaw for signs needed in Nanaimo

A language bylaw is needed to address business signs in Nanaimo.

A bus bench was sprayed with graffiti recently in Nanaimo. This is not an unusual occurrence and probably would’ve been overlooked by the media as a non-news item, had it not been that this bus bench advertises a Chinese realtor. The City was asked if surveillance cameras could be installed on Hammond Bay Road near this bus bench.

The photograph in the Nanaimo News Bulletin article shows the bench sign is entirely in Chinese.

Quebec has a language law that protects the French language. For example, only French can be used for advertising on buses and on some large billboards.

Ironically, the rest of Canada doesn’t have any language laws to protect the English language. There are many immigrants from a wide range of countries who speak many languages but what unites us all is English.

This bus bench on Hammond Bay Road is only meant to be read by Chinese speakers. For the rest of the population, who knows what it says?

It’s important for Nanaimo to have a discussion about the language of business signs, especially those in public locations.

You only have to look at cities like Richmond to see how far the problem has escalated. Chinese-only signs dominate that city’s business district. How is that inclusive? Recently, there have been reports that strata meetings are being held in Chinese and any non-Mandarin speakers have to come with a translator.

Unfortunately, Chinese realtors are lumped in with speculators. A lot of people have moved here because they were pushed out of the lower Mainland by Chinese real estate speculators who have left empty and abandoned houses in their wake. Who needs a Home Depot or Lowe’s when you have speculators from China buying hundreds of houses at a time?

Right now, in Canada, white flight from urban centres is a growing problem. Will everyone who doesn’t speak Chinese have to move to smaller towns like Cranbrook or Grand Forks?

Nanaimo Council: spying, lying and cheating

The Nanaimo council meeting on Monday night included two and half hours of high drama. Instead of debating the list of policies to be repealed, the Councillors and Mayor went at each other. Everything was on the table including spying, lying, and cheating.

There were two delegations who spoke about the new Council policy package. One speaker raised many interesting points about the new portfolio system which was adopted by Council. The citizen was concerned that this would lead to additional costs and would lead to numerous loop holes in the system.

The second speaker asked Council to cancel the $1,100 pay raise Council voted to give themselves two weeks ago which would mean an additional $20,000 in costs for the taxpayers for the remainder of the term. Also, the delegation stated they should not be allowed to give themselves a raise but only do this at the end of their term so it would not appear that they are lining their own pockets.

The second delegation spoke of the drama going on with the Mayor and councillors. This is when the flood gates opened. Here are some of the main highlights:

Yoachim: …I agree with you…on the drama…everyone has had to step up for the Mayor…I have been threatened legally…I will be threatened by lawsuits…I am tired of in-camera meetings…

Kipp: …There is duplication in our [local] districts … five CAO’s [chief admin officers] cost  taxpayers…13 government bodies here… One in Surrey.  We all knew about it…this process…no invoice…promised councillor input…no process…it wasn’t confidential… 50 hours each total?…multiple lawyers…1 year of billing…$50,000 in billings. We all agreed to this?…I didn’t agree to this…I don’t agree to a second report…a lawyer, mayor and a cop met…a contract…the chaos …people are racking up bills and people don’t know about this. I didn’t agree to this…$50,000 bills paid…I’m sorry to keep the public in the dark…I have sent so many emails to the Mayor and never get any answers to my emails…I should never have asked for FOI it turned me off…

Fuller: …people have wanted stuff to come out…Yoachim has been far too lenient with the Mayor; he doesn’t attend meetings…he has made derogatory comments about councillors…FOI on breach of confidentiality given to Integrity Group…when we talk of the strange mess of things…Mayor will no longer attend in-camera without a lawyer… the bullying thing… Yoachim gives lists to discuss this and reduce in-camera meetings…he wanted us to do his work as Mayor…I might get into shit for this…more coming. Way more coming…

City Manager: …invoices remain outstanding on Integrity Group…

Pratt: …this increase in our compensation needs to be deliberated further, we need to make a motion on that…can I get some direction? (swivels head from left to right)

Fuller: …we keep bringing up the Watson report…is part of our policy…received as a report but never adopted by council?…We are putting a lot on a report…

McKay: …we have a member of our Council who runs a social media account that harms council members… (gives stink eye to Fuller)

City Manager: …council members are expressing opinions on social media…we monitor it and follow it…you can disagree at the council table once motion has been accepted then you have a duty to promote City…even if you have a unique position…

Mayor: …if I want to go to Victoria and talk to the Mayor…and have lunch…what’s the process?…

Staff: …in a City with a 200 million budget…$2 may be worth more…because of transparency…we have a process to follow…needs to be communicated to rest of council …acting mayor would approve…

Mayor: …seven members held a private meeting on Feb 25th…four members met at restaurant on Feb 29th …seven council members met on March 17th …Seven members met at Kipp’s house…here’s an email from Bestwick using a private email account not city’s …[email] went to everyone but me… (how did McKay find out about it?)

City Manager:…you [Mayor] have made an accusation…having a meeting to further council’s agenda [behind your back]…apology forthcoming?

Mayor: …councillors [must] stop having private meetings behind my back…

Brennan: …this meeting has moved into the area of… (no holds barred)

Hong: …the meeting at [restaurant] was a…fundraiser…

Bestwick: …do not air your laundry…Colliery Dam issue. You [Mayor] had no desire…I am not on social media…your failure to lead…

Mayor: …I wasn’t invited…

Bestwick: …you [Mayor] have been asked to work with us…you [Mayor] demand that people be fired…

Mayor: …the work of Integrity Group was done to prevent a formal investigation…

Yoachim: …CAO was crying from Mayor’s actions…left the room…we go to her office to check up…my nephew has cancer and is having treatments…it was a fundraising meeting…you [Mayor] better give an apology…

Kipp: …we have been threatened …you [Mayor] hire a lawyer to go after me…how many lawyers?…you [Mayor] wanted her fired…[city manager]

Spying is a lot of work and requires eating on the run.

Nanaimo Council repeals nuclear free policy

At Monday’s Nanaimo council meeting on April 4, 2016, the City introduced a list of policies that are on the chopping block.

Here are some of the policies to be repealed:

  • Nuclear Free Policy
  • Solicitor Client Privilege
  • Delegation Policy
  • Conflict of Interest Guideline
  • Construction Involving Public Lands
  • Application of Environmental Policies on Subdivision Applications
  • Development Cost Charges for New Growth
  • Development Cost Charges for Parking Areas
  • Laneways in small lot subdivisions
  • Development of large Parcels of Waterfront Land
  • Enforcement of Animal Control Bylaw
  • Healthy Cities Program
  • Sanitary Sewer Connections

The Nuclear Free zone signs were put up in 1987 at the entrances of the city, including Stewart Avenue, Chase Hill and Woodgrove Mall on the old Island Highway. The nuke free signs went missing over the years and were reinstalled last year.

The signs were installed in response to the nuclear-capable and nuclear-powered American submarines at the Whiskey Golf Military Test Range in Nanoose Bay.