Category Archives: General

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

“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.


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.

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.

Wrestling with Nanaimo Events Centre numbers; SD68 Land swap; Old City Quarter festival money woes

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.

Nanaimo Stats

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.

City of Nanaimo to purchase Rotary Bowl and Serauxmen Stadium for $4.1 million

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:

CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer)
COO (Chief Operations Officer)

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:

Speaker 1)
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?

Speaker 2)
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…

Hong:…future taxes?…

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

Speaker 1)
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.

Speaker 2)
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.

Speaker 3)
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?

Speaker 4)
How can you approve this $500,000? Where is it to be spent and why?

Street Parking

Speaker 5)
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?

Council questions:

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?

Geotechnical Studies

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.

Council Questions:

Hong: …how much money was collected [by the DNBIA from Old City Quarter]?

Speaker: $40,000

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?

Question Period

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.