Category Archives: General

Garbage, Taxes, Square One and Oceanview Golf Course

The big question for Nanaimo residents is how much will property taxes be going up this year. Will it be 1.5%? There is a Nanaimo Council meeting planned for Monday, April 24th. Property taxes are set to go up every year as follows:

Tax increaseYear
1.5%2017
2.1%2018
2.5%2019
2.4%2020
1.5%2021

2017 Property tax increase 1.5%

Why are taxes expected to go up 1.5% this year? Here are some of the reasons the City needs more money:

  • $1 million for General Asset Management Fund
  • $1.3 million for 2 new positions
  • $349,000 for RCMP
  • $393,000 for snow removal
  • $288,000 for road repairs

If the market value of your home has increased by more than 13.6% then your property tax increase will be higher than 1.5%.

In addition, there are RDN taxes as well as user fees. Taxes are due July 4, 2017.

User fee 2017 increases

User fees are also going up this year:

  • 5% increase for sewer
  • 7.5% increase for water
  • 2% increase for garbage

There was a presentation on the new automated garbage system at the last COW meeting. Unfortunately, the bulk of the garbage discussion was behind closed doors so the details of this massive upgrade are not known. Here are some highlights from the presentation:

  • garbage, recycling and organics to be collected by city staff
  • yard waste will be included soon
  • both sides of new trucks can be filled with different material
  • door to curb service available for residents with mobility issues
  • possible glass collection in the future
  • Cost is $169 for first year and $131 for years 2 thru 5

Council discussion:

Hong: …Who owns the carts …if it breaks who replaces it?

Staff: …The City…

Hong: …Is there one rate for yard waste and organics?

Staff: …estimated prices…

Thorpe: …public engagement?

Staff: …will be at public events…information with carts…stickers on carts…

Kipp: …no separate bins for parks, no recycling bins in parks?…

Staff: The RDN has an upcoming program…

Kipp: …Seven of us sit on RDN so we know what’s going on…City has trash everywhere …

Bestwick: …organics and yard waste pick up weekly?…

Staff: Yes

Hong: …are we going to save money? …options of bin sizes? …cost?

Staff: RFP for carts soon…

Bestwick: ..pick up days?…rotate as usual?

Staff: …looking at options…

Yoachim: …high price…but a service we need…City purchased 6 trucks before…not well thought out (not you)…people suffered [worker injuries]…[now] handcuffed to buy these new trucks…

McKay: …split packers…heavy loads…millions of dollars in bins and trucks…West Kelowna private rates $185…they are paying more than us…How much yard waste can you put in? …

Staff: 1″ or 1/2″ diameter branches can go in…grinder to mulch down…

McKay: …are commercial and multi family units going to use multi bins…what about front of house restaurant waste?…

Staff: RDN, that’s their area…free zero waste services for groups holding events…

Kipp: …Our dump is full…What about diversion?…We need to take it away from Vancouver Island…DBL has high diversion rate…Garbage should be sent back to stores like WalMart [where it came from]…

Kipp: …we have never voted on this in public…We never had a real debate we just had the presentation…I am disappointed that we voted about this garbage program behind closed doors…Therefore, I vote against receiving this presentation…I am registering this with the police (points to city clerk)…

Councillors Kipp and Fuller opposed to receiving presentation…

Organic Waste 20 Year Contract

RDN looks to negotiate long-term deal for organic waste for processsing. Nanaimo Organic Waste Ltd. plans to do an upgrade that will reduce odours but they need the RDN to enter into a 20 year deal to make it worthwhile.

Mayor’s report

At the last Council meeting, Mayor McKay showed slides of two new ships that Seaspan purchased for runs between the Mainland and Duke Point. These are truck ferries that can carry several containers at once. The ships will be put into service on May 5th. Will these ships be used to carry garbage for the incinerator proposed for Duke Point?

LED Street Lights

The City is planning on switching street lights to LED (Light Emitting Diode). You can check these lights on April 25th at the VICC from 8pm to 10pm.

A study was completed for the City by consultants for an unknown amount. The switch would have a potential of savings of $200,000 per year in energy and $25,000 in maintenance costs.

Council By-election

July 8th is “Election Day” in Nanaimo to fill the Council seat left vacant by Wendy Pratt. It will cost approximately $150,000 for the election process.

The final results of the March 11, 2017 referendum revealed that 35.3% of eligible residents voted.

End of Square One

Square One was to be a techno hub but ended up being a ‘hot desk’ facility. It was set up under the last Council by NEDCorp. Unfortunately, this type of startup takes a lot of money and needs many groups to ‘buy in’ to make it work. There was a presentation at the last COW meeting.  Here are the highlights:

Closing Square One costs:

  • $115,000 lost in 2016
  • $147,000 to close lease
  • $5,800 furniture lease

Council discussion:

Brennan: …canvassed the industry?…Best idea?…no desire to make it an incubator facility?

Staff: …not feasible…

Hong: …internet service, $6,000 savings?…

Bestwick: …fiber optic service $5,840 a month for 500mb – 1 office had 5x times greater contract? … this contract was done on a 7 year term?

Fuller: …How are we saving money? …we are paying more…looks like we are paying $82,000 more per year…I wouldn’t call it a savings…

CFO: …we can’t get out of the contract…

Coastal Douglas Fir

A presentation was made from a group called Coastal Douglas Fir and Associated Ecosystems Conservation Partnership (CDFCP).

The speaker talked about the Coastal Douglas Fir zone which is endangered as only 9% is protected and less than 1% of the old growth remains.  Also, 80% of Coastal Douglas Fir lands are in private hands which doesn’t include forest company holdings.

The speaker asked if the land at Oceanview Golf Resort and Spa in Cedar were to come before the community that Council members consider planning practices. Councillor Bestwick requested a report from staff on the topic.

Map of Coastal Douglas Fir

Below is a 2009 video about the proposed Oceanview Golf Resort and Spa.

Nanaimo Council and The Arrest – a new documentary?

On November 21, 2016 Councillor Kipp spoke angrily to Councillor Pratt while holding up a copy of the allegedly leaked email in which Mayor McKay listed each councillor’s shortcomings. At one point in his tirade he leaned in her direction and pointed his pen at her.

“…I hope they read this and see what it does. Oh there’s your faces again, you’re beautiful, you’re such a pretty aesthetically pleasing person when you make those [faces].
You turned your back when Billy was talking. The man’s harmed and you don’t give a shit, woman. You are the biggest bully I’ve ever met, under a little sheep’s clothing…”

Why did Kipp feel it was necessary to stand up for Councillor Yoachim whom he referred to as “Billy”? Did he not think that Councillor Yoachim was capable of standing up for himself?

Mayor McKay made a brief attempt to interject but otherwise said nothing. Not one of the other Councillors who were sitting around the table intervened. By saying nothing, the others at the table gave the indication that were in agreement with Councillor Kipp.

A petition has been launched by a group called Women Watching Nanaimo at https://www.change.org/p/nanaimo-city-council-nanaimo-women-deserve-better.

“We, the citizens of Nanaimo, call upon Councillor Kipp to publicly apologize immediately to the women of Nanaimo or to resign immediately. His behaviour is part of a culture at Nanaimo City Hall that is both openly and quietly hostile to women, and we will no longer be represented by such aggressive and misogynistic behaviour.”

It is also noteworthy that the only other woman in the above video, the City Clerk, appeared to also be the victim of bullying at Council meetings, and she is no longer there.

The Arrest

Recently, rumours have abounded as to why Councillor Pratt resigned. According to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, she was the council member arrested for assaulting a staff member at City Hall.

At the time of the assault was there a 911 call made? Or was someone at the Nanaimo RCMP detachment contacted directly and did they order Councillor Pratt’s arrest?

Considering the Nanaimo RCMP have the municipal contract to perform policing services for the City, can they arrest a city politician without being in conflict of duty?

The Independent Investigations Office which opened in 2012 only investigates police incidents involving death or serious harm, but perhaps their mandate will have to be widened to look into matters such as this.

Will this matter be studied in the future? Or maybe Nanaimo will get its own documentary, The Arrest; similar to the one which focused on an incident at Hamilton City Hall, The Push.

Councillor Pratt, Greater Nanaimo Harbour Association, DNBIA, 2.3% tax increase

There was some lively discussion at last week’s Nanaimo Council meeting regarding the formation of a new harbour society, the Greater Nanaimo Harbour Association. Council also heard from a group concerned about the dissolution of DNBIA assets and discussed ducking the environment.

The big news this week was the upcoming property tax increase and Councillor Pratt’s resignation.

Greater Nanaimo Harbour Association

A speaker representing a new harbour group called the Greater Nanaimo Harbour Association is hoping to take over control from the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA). The speaker asked Council for its support.

Note: In 1981, the federal government scrapped the National Harbours Board and created the Canada Ports Corporation. Each former NHB (National Harbours Board) port became a Local Port Corporation (LPC).

Council discussion:

Yoachim: …do you have support from SFN [Snuneymuxw First Nation]?

Speaker:…we are talking to them…

Brennan: …do we have a report from staff on this?

Thorpe: …I agree with Brennan…until we hear from staff…there are other projects we have with NPA…

Speaker: …this is much larger than a rate issue…decay of the harbour…poor relationship…

Thorpe:…we have an important relationship with NPA…

Speaker: …a number of projects are not happening…money is not being invested in the port…community is losing…crisis…

Bestwick: (reads motion)…Council supports the Greater Nanaimo Waterfront Association’s [sic] efforts to work with SFN, City of Nanaimo, RDN and marine industry and the community at large to form a not for profit society tasked with becoming the official stewards of the waterfront…

Yoachim: …I support this motion…we run the risk of privatization of our port…

Hong: …this is going to be a long process…public input…open houses…if the federal government is getting out of running the ports then we should jump on it…

CFO: …the staff report will be disappointing…We would need resources to advise you…we don’t know what is possible and what is not…The City has not been asked to take a position on this; the City is ignorant….we don’t have the staff to advise you on this file…

Thorpe: …I can’t support the motion…rushed…I need more information…

Fuller: …I don’t see this as rushing…it will take a long time…partners will have to give input…City will have to give input…we have some great staff and they can figure it out…I support the motion…

Support vs Explore

Brennan: …I am not clear on the motion…’council supports efforts to form a non-profit society’…it doesn’t give an opportunity for advice from staff…I have an obligation to the people of Nanaimo…I don’t disagree…significant decision…I can’t support it…this is a big task…we don’t have the staff to look at this…

Bestwick: …the motion as it reads is to support the GWNA to work with the community…it’s a process that needs to start…at the end of the day they are asking us to see if this can work…not a coup…if we don’t get going…it will be lost …I will support the motion…

Brennan: …if the wording were…to ‘explore’ the efforts…once you use ‘support’ you commit…We have time to consult with staff…my role is to request information from staff…I would make a motion to amend it to read…council ‘explores’ efforts…I support something less directive…

Yoachim: …we are a harbour city…it works in Victoria…lots of experts here…

CFO: …it’s a complex issue…need funding for this…our role is to provide you with information…but we are not in a position to advise you…

McKay: …this is to overthrow the NPA…we haven’t met all the groups yet…What is the role of Transport Canada? How are they involved?…we need a discussion with other groups…most groups occupy provincial leases…Where is the provincial government on this? …There are only a handful of federal leases in Nanaimo…we need to find out where we are…

Councillor Brennan’s amendment to the motion was defeated. Voting in favour of the original motion were Councillors Kipp,  Fuller, Bestwick, Yoachim and Hong. Opposed were Councillors Thorpe, Brennan and Mayor McKay.

Announcement

Below is some breaking news:

To refresh our readers’ memory, the City of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo Port Authority planned to sell off the harbour for $9 million in 2013.

DNBIA Questions

At the April 3rd regular Council meeting a speaker raised several questions about the DNBIA.

  • was the DNBIA dissolved correctly?
  • DNBIA collected $3 million over the last 16 years – has it been accounted for?
  • what happened to the DNBIA assets?

The speaker had concerns that the same DNBIA group would set up a new group and didn’t want the new group getting any more money.

Council discussion:

Kipp: …[the amount of] money invested by the City into the DNBIA is disturbing…What happened to that money?…What has happened to their equipment?…

CFO: …we changed the way the money was going to be directed…funding is still going to be there to fund events downtown…

Bestwick: …no closure of assets…?

CFO: …no simple accounting received yet…

Bestwick: Who takes the next step?

CFO: …we’re not at the audit stage yet…

Fuller: …concerns the way this was handled…The City contributed a lot of money to the DNBIA…this should be looked into deeply…

Brennan: …be careful how Council talks about groups…

Fuller: Is anyone offended by what I said?

At this point Mayor Mckay closed the discussion.

Ducking the Environment

At the same April 3rd meeting there were a number of approvals of watercourse setbacks that went beyond standard zoning recommendations.

A request was made to council for a watercourse setback in order to allow for renovations at 3100 Hammond Bay Road.

A portion of the house and the entire garage were located inside a 15 metre watercourse setback boundary and unfortunately for the new owners this was non-conforming. A stop work order was issued in September 2016 because work was done within the watercourse setback zone.

In order for the stop work order to be removed and the renovations to be completed they needed approval from Council.

Council discussion:

Hong: …what’s the problem?…

Brennan:… this property was subject to a 1 year long investigation by our Environment Committee (now disbanded) and environmental organizations in town…We should first  work on ways to avoid a setback variance…protect riparian areas…we value our waterfront…very important issue…that is why having an Environmental Committee to advise us was so very important …The Environmental Committee said that this area [at Hammond Bay Road] was very important and I am honouring that…so I can’t support it…

Councillor Brennan’s amendment to the motion to not include a lower deck was defeated. Councillors Kipp, Yoachim, Hong, Bestwick, Thorpe, and Fuller approved the original motion and Brennan opposed. Mayor McKay didn’t vote.

What has replaced the Environmental Committee? Port Alberni has a Food Security and Climate Disruption Committee to deal with issues around rising sea levels, plants for bees, use of pesticides, etc.

2.3% Property Tax Increase

A 2.3% property tax increase for 2017 will be presented to Council at the next Finance Committee meeting on April 12th. The property tax increase does not include the proposed increase to user fees for garbage, sewer and water.

There was a Finance Committee meeting on April 5th and a 20 year plan for collecting money was presented. The goal is to continue with a 1% property tax increase every year for infrastructure. The money would go into a General Asset Management Fund until 2022.

There were presentations from three staff members. They went into details around Development Cost Charges (DCCs) and user fees.

Development Cost Charges

The City is working on a new rate structure for Development Cost Charges. Development Cost Charges are collected to offset the infrastructure needs of new developments. These would include sewer, water, roads, drainage, and parkland.

The City recommends a reduced DCC rate for new small lot developments. Currently, all single family lots regardless of size are charged the same DCC rates.

DCCs are waived in the downtown core. It’s unclear if this will change. A new bylaw should be ready in June. The goal is to raise $117 million in DCC’s over the next 20 years.

New Capital Projects

The City plans to spend approximately $1.1 billion over the next 20 years on general infrastructure, sewer and water projects. So far they have allocated $794 million which means the City needs to raise another $258 million. Where will the City find that money?

Next year the City plans to spend approximately $10 million on sewer upgrades. There are 10 water projects planned for a cost of $135 million.

User fees

User fees will go up to $146 per household for garbage. This is to pay for 7 new automated garbage trucks and bins at $7.4 million. All of Nanaimo will have this service by July 2018.

Over the next three months the City will pay a U.S. based consultant $75,000 to study user fees. Water, sewer, and garbage won’t be included in the study. Possibly, the consultant may study water and sewer rates next year.

Why are these important financial presentations not at open Council meetings? Taxes and user fees impact everyone.

Councillor Pratt resigns

Mayor McKay issued a statement on Friday that Councillor Pratt resigned.

Councillor Pratt appeared to be energetic, enthusiastic and prepared at Council meetings until recently when she looked to be frustrated and dejected.

In the fall of 2016 Pratt asked some very hard questions regarding the City jail guard layoffs.

In November 2016, Councillor Kipp verbally disparaged Councillor Pratt at a public Council meeting. Later, Pratt was quoted in the Nanaimo News Now as saying “outbursts of anger and verbal attacks in public settings are becoming acceptable behaviour for some on Nanaimo council”.

Was Councillor Pratt intentionally bullied out of her job so that her seat on Council could be filled by someone who is socially conservative?

Now there is just one woman left on Nanaimo Council, Councillor Brennan who was also bullied at Council meetings and told to ‘shut up’. She is one of the only Council members who has regularly spoken out about environmental and social justice issues.

Civic politics is often difficult, dangerous and dirty. When the boat gets rocked people don’t like it.

In addition to the City’s lawsuit against the Mayor, the City launched an RCMP investigation into a Council member’s actions and in December a criminal defense lawyer, Mark Jetté, was hired to be a special prosecutor. According to the Times Colonist, Jetté said that no charges have been laid so far and it is not possible to estimate the time this matter will take.

Does this smell like another Health Firings scandal? Will the City end up having to pay out damages? Will the costs of these lawsuits and legal actions be noted separately in the City’s financial statements?

Incidentally, Jetté defended Su Bin, a Chinese businessman and Canadian resident charged by the U.S. government for hacking into computers belonging to Boeing and other companies.

April 10th COW meeting topics

Coming up on Monday night there will be a COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting at City Hall. Some topics on the agenda include:

    • cancelling the $80 million loan application for the Events Centre
    • spending $450,000 for a 5 year IT software contract for Parks & Rec
    • proposal for new hotel at old Jean Burns building site
    • introduction to the Douglas-fir and Associated Ecosystems Partnership

Nanaimo Harbour Crisis, Wild West Pot Shops, Missing Money

Last week at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on March 27th there were some interesting presentations made to Council:

  • Nanaimo Harbour Crisis and why the NPA should be gone
  • Human Trafficking and what Nanaimo could do about it
  • Wild West pot shops ruining it for other responsible cannabis shops
  • User fees – should they go up at a set rate every year or stay the same
  • Core review – where is the City at in the process
  • Nanaimo Pride Parade – name change

The agenda for the upcoming Monday April 3rd the Nanaimo council meeting includes a number of requests for zoning to be relaxed around waterways.  Also, more larger lots are being divided into smaller lots.

  • new multi-unit building is proposed for 2020 Estevan Road
  • a residential lot on Norwell Drive is to be divided into 10 units
  • six-storey hotel planned for 15 Front Street to get a 10 year tax free holiday

Nanaimo Harbour Crisis

Here are highlights from the presentation given by a local marina operator:

We are in crisis in Nanaimo. We formed the Nanaimo Marina Association because of the rate hikes which started in 2012 after the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) went to a different model of billing which caused the rates to go up by as much as 450%. The NPA gets 80% of their money from these rates. The NPA promised to solve this rate crisis in November 2016 but they haven’t listened to the people.

Our members are proposing a solution to have a society model like they have for Victoria harbour which was established 15 years ago. All of the revenue would go back into harbour improvements. NPA generates $9 million gross revenue a year. We need  fair rates with no surprises.

As you can see from the photo, Nanaimo Port Authority has still not rebuilt D dock nearly 4 years after removing it.

Council discussion:

Yoachim: …how is it working in Victoria?

Speaker: …great

Bestwick: …some groups are paying much less than others?

Speaker: …some are paying $40,000; some are paying $120,000 …people are losing money…

Bestwick…if we support you what happens?

Speaker: …we work with Transport Canada to start the process…

Wild West Pot Shops

There were two presentations made to council at the COW meeting.  The Nanaimo Cannabis Coalition made a request to hold 6 town hall meetings to gauge community opinion on such topics as health care, cannabis law, and shops. The hope is prohibition will end soon. Victoria has held many open houses to learn about what people want.

There are 20 cannabis dispensaries in Nanaimo. The presenter asked for a good neighbourhood agreement to avoid a dispensary being near a daycare or school, for example and no pot leaf signage.  They also requested that on-site consumption be restricted to the two existing locations, and a cap on new dispensaries opening.  Victoria has bylaws now which have proven effective.

User Fee Study

There are 200 user fees that the City collects. The City has hired a consultant to study user fees and the full report will be ready at the end of June.

Council had a few questions for the consultant:

Thorpe: …will you make recommendations on how do we compare with other cities?

Yoachim: … are DCC (development cost charges) part of this report? DCC’s are low…

Consultant: No, DCCs will not be covered…and  water and sewer fees are not included…

Bestwick: … anything to do with transit?

Consultant: No

CFO: …transit is the RDN’s domain…

Bestwick: …we pay into transit…can we widen the scope of this report?…

CFO: …not at this point

Hong: …are garbage fees included?…we are about to change our garbage structure…good to have some numbers…

Consultant: No

Mckay: …why don’t user fees go up automatically every year? Langford’s rates go up 3% every year…regardless…

CFO:…a political decision

So far it seems that many areas of ‘user fees’ have been left out of this report. By the summer time people will be in holiday mode and all will be forgotten.  Also, Parks and Recreation is a special case so will we get that in the report? User fees are very important so keep an eye on this one.

Selling sex vs Human Trafficking

A student from a Christian high school spoke about Bill C-36, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.  The student requested that business licenses be denied for adult entertainment centres in Nanaimo.

The student presented stats that show 75% of people working in the sex-trade start as children and of those, most had been in government care.

The following resources on the topic were suggested for Council to read: Invisible Chains by Benjamin Perrin, Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristoff, Trafficked by Sophie Hayes, and the CNN special report Children for Sale.

The student’s presentation was enthusiastically received by Mayor McKay and the audience clapped loudly in appreciation at the end. The student asked for a meeting to discuss this topic with Nanaimo’s ‘Chief of Police’ and Councillor Yoachim said he would also like to attend such a meeting.

The Nanaimo RCMP Superintendent was on hand to hear the presentation and left directly afterward.


Before Bill C-36 was passed into law in 2014 by the Harper government there were Senate Committee hearings which heard concerns from sex trade workers that selling sex should not be lumped in with human trafficking.

This legislation has made it illegal to advertise or purchase sex in Canada.

By making it illegal to purchase sexual services, Bill C-36 has forced those looking to purchase sexual services to seek out more isolated, and often more dangerous, locations and to avoid reporting violence, abuse or exploitation to the police. If anything, Bill C-36 has increased opportunities for human trafficking to go unnoticed.

Also, Bill C-36 has made it a crime for anyone to supply any service to a sex worker. Sex workers are prevented from hiring lawyers.

 Core Review

A speaker asked ‘What has happened to the following Core Review items’?

  • six automated garbage trucks (2 trucks not being used)
  • capital infrastructure
  • debt policy
  • consolidation of police services
  • purchase orders of common items
  • VICC management and hotel
  • parking fees

CFO:  …we will have an update soon…

Bestwick: That is an old list (sigh)…the hotel was to come with the conference centre in 2008.

Nanaimo Pride Society

Nanaimo Pride Society is celebrating 20 years and they gave a presentation to council thanking  them for their support during last year’s events and for repainting a vandalised  rainbow sidewalk. This year Pride week will be held June 9 – June 17, 2017 with a parade, music, a dance and other events.

The official name is the Nanaimo Pride Society; the word Gay has been removed to be more inclusive.

2020 Estevan Road

A new multi-unit building is proposed for 2020 Estevan Road. The new building would be 5 levels with 74 residential units which includes rental and owner units and a church space.

An open house was held earlier in March to show neighbours what the project would look like and according to the architects’ report 107 people attended with 31 supporting the idea. Some concerns people had were:

  • lack of green space and play area for children
  • too large, too high, shadow from building
  • not enough parking, too many cars
  • loss of ocean view
  • need housing for seniors/assisted living
  • loss of daycare

Will this new development change the area?

2020 Estevan Road – Brechin United Church corner lot

Norwell Drive changes

There is a plan for a single residential lot to be made into a 10-unit row housing development on Norwell Drive. The applicant is proposing a contribution of $10,000 for improvements to Loudon Park. Unfortunately, this development means that more trees will be gone and the on going deforestation of Nanaimo.

3598 Norwell Drive – row housing

New Front Street hotel

A new six-storey hotel is planned for 15 Front Street with a total of 90 rooms with ground floor commercial space.

The City is recommending that the new hotel get a 10 year tax break.

This is part of the Revitalization Tax Exemption agreement to encourage development in the City. A tax break would give the owner a savings of $202,600 per year.

If the City approves this then the owners have to build the hotel by 2020.

15 Front Street in Nanaimo – how it looks now

The look of Front Street will be very different than the current one level building.

Missing Finance Committee

The Finance and Audit Committee has had a few meetings over the year. Not enough people have been showing up so many meetings have been cancelled.

Other communities are having budget meetings open to the public but Nanaimo has had nothing so far. Where is our budget?

BC election, Unions jump ship, Canadian Journalism crisis

BC will go to the polls on Tuesday, May 9th to vote for a new provincial government. Recently, Global News Ontario ran a headline “Christy Clark is the most disliked leader running in the BC election”. Will she go the way of Stephen Harper? Or will it matter? It didn’t in the 2013 election.

It appears that Christy Clark is riding two horses at the same time. One horse is the unions and the other is the corporations.

When one considers past BC elections, usually corporations support the BC Liberals and union leaders support the NDP.

Unions jump ship

To appeal to the unions, the BC Liberals have promised union jobs for the proposed $9 billion Site C dam and $3.5 billion Massey Bridge. In the beginning of March the Ironworkers Local 97 leader along with the vice president of Iron Workers International came to Victoria to endorse the BC Liberals.

Locally in Nanaimo, the IAFF local 905 Nanaimo Professional Firefighters have endorsed the BC Liberals as well.

What has changed? Maybe there isn’t much incentive to vote for the NDP when you’re in the top tax bracket. Who needs $10 a day daycare? These two unions represent a new elite amongst organized labour.

In Nanaimo there are 43 firefighters employed by the City of Nanaimo who earn between $92,000 and $141,000 according to 2014 statistics. A four-year agreement signed in July 2015 with City of Nanaimo gave firefighters pay increases of 2.5% for each year in the period of 2012 to December 2015.

At the same time, BC Paramedics are destitute in comparison, earning an average wage between $20 and $30 per hour. Part-time paramedics often earn as little as $2 per hour in pager pay. BC’s paramedics are busy gathering signatures by April 10th to gain the same bargaining rights, wages and resources as firefighters. Since 2010, they have been lumped in with admitting clerks, lab technicians and cleaning staff.

In keeping with their right-wing voters, BC Liberals have been privatizing these public services. An Abbotsford based company handles all the hospital transfers in the Lower Mainland.

Mega Debt

How is BC going to paying for mega projects such as the $9 billion Site C dam and the $3.5 billion Massey Bridge?  Offshore oil rich Newfoundland is having to implement austerity measures because of the Muskrat Falls Dam project which ballooned to $11 billion. Yet there are no worries in BC about paying for these massive projects.

It can only mean one thing— BC is getting outside help. There is no free lunch with China. Just look at what happened in Sri Lanka at the port city of Colombo. China Communications Construction Company, a huge government-controlled entity, funded approximately $30 billion of infrastructure projects at Colombo which were ultimately done by Chinese labour.

Canadian Journalism in Crisis

This past Friday, The Vancouver Sun and Province laid off 29 journalists. Last year Postmedia combined the Sun and Province newsrooms because of cuts.

Postmedia was already in debt after taking over the Canwest newspaper chain when in 2015, they got federal approval to purchase Quebecor’s Sun Media chain of 173 newspapers. They have become the largest English language newspaper chain in Canada.

Postmedia is a holding company controlled by a New Jersey hedge fund, which specializes in public pensions.

For the past year, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage chaired by MP Hedy Fry has been hearing from media outlets across the country under the topic “The Media and Local Communities” to study the impact of digital technology. Many of the tv, cable and newspaper outlets claim that they can’t make any money covering local news and want some kind of government assistance.

BC Election hot topics

There will be more MLA’s running in this election. Two new seats have been added bringing the total to 87 seats both in the Lower Mainland. The 40th Parliament consisted of:

  • BC Liberals 48
  • BC NDP 35
  • Green 1
  • Independent 1

Currently, there is a lawsuit against the BC Liberals for spending $15 million of government money on ads promoting their party. Also, making the news are the large donations from ‘cash for access’ dinners and events. The BC Liberal Party has stated in the news it will refund $93,000 of donations that were made with untraceable credit cards. Who made these donations? What favours were they hoping to get?

Some hot topics for the upcoming BC election include:

  • opioid crisis
  • homeless epidemic
  • public school closures
  • rental evictions
  • Site C dam
  • Massey Bridge
  • raw log exports
  • public schools closing
  • unaffordable ferry service

Love or harassment at council; Big red flags; Fire Station; Angry neighbours

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.

Vote:
All in favour. Councillor Brenan was absent from the meeting.

Question Period:

  • 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.

North Town Centre – X marks new retail store

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.