Tag Archives: nanaimo

Nanaimo City Manager speech and Communication jobs

At Monday night’s Council meeting, the Nanaimo City Manager gave this speech:

“…it’s well known that certain councillors opposed my employment with the City even before Council made the decision to hire me. Councillor Brennan contacted the media [saying] that a group of them had a newsworthy story. She unilaterally decided to contact the media with confidential information in an open meeting via the Mayors report, to a social media Facebook administrator.

Council asked Brennan to apologise for leaking confidential information. Instead she chose to make legal demands to Mayor McKay, to suspend me from my position, and to launch an investigation into the interim hiring process.

Council asked for and received an opinion on the hiring process, [the lawyers] confirmed the hiring process was lawful.

Mayor McKay wrote to Brennan’s lawyer that the hiring process was lawful and that he had no grounds to suspend me at that time.

Subsequent to that Mayor McKay approached a different law firm and eventually made a complaint to Minister Fassbender about the interim hiring process and the Ministry contacted the City about these allegations. After the investigation and the review of the letter signed by 7 councillors, the Ministry advised that they would not intervene unless by a special motion by Council. The Ministry has held firm not to get involved unless mandated by council.

Mayor McKay also went to the ombudsperson with similar complaints but they haven’t initiated an investigation to my knowledge.

At the same time all of this was taking place I continued to carry out my duties as the interim City Manager and then council initiated the staffing competition for the permanent CAO.

Mayor McKay opposed the process and asked council to terminate it and investigate me and on various occasions accused me of being untrustworthy and particularly suggested that I lied about an investigation commenced by him and the former City Manager [Ted Swabey]. I was forced on each occasion to refute the allegations and did so completely.

When I was selected as the successful candidate in the search process, and after I was confirmed by a motion from council for the position, it was my expectation that the turmoil and attacks would cease. They did not.

Mayor McKay even went to Work Safe BC and even alleged that I didn’t create a safe work environment for staff. Work Safe BC conducted an investigation and decided to take no further action.

Councillor Brenan has added to the hostile work environment by openly challenging my decision-making in front of staff and most recently to the media. When asked to withdraw her demand to terminate me she has repeatedly refused.

I appreciate that council has made attempts both formally and informally to have both the Mayor and Councillor Brennan cease such conduct which is damaging to both the City and to me as well as impairing my ability to carry out my duties as CAO. Unfortunately, these steps by Council have not yielded any results. Nor has a cease and desist letter from my lawyer directed to the Mayor or legal advice from the City’s corporate lawyers about respectful workplace obligations of the employer.

It is my opinion that what they seek to create is an environment to make me resign as CAO and sue the City. I have no intentions of doing so.

Despite all of this, we have moved the City forward and I intend to continue as the CAO. We have made great progress on Council agenda. There is much work to be done on the core services review and I enjoy working with staff when I am actually given the opportunity to do so free from interference and harassment.

I am hoping that this public statement addresses the questions that will be raised from the release of in-camera motions and put some pressure on Councillor Brennan and Mayor McKay to treat me in a respectful and professional manner in the workplace and in the media as all employees deserve to be treated.

I personally extended an olive branch to the Mayor on Tuesday with the assistance of the Human Resources department with a plea that he set aside any concerns he has about me so that the Mayor and the CAO, two very important positions, can be seen to be working together by the public and by staff.

I know that I can do this I am asking the Mayor to make a statement that he will make this commitment too. It is time to set aside the past and move forward together and I look forward to the future of the City.”

Mayor McKay: “…that’s probably one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard.”

Expanding Communication Department

The Nanaimo City Manager has given a communications contract to the former Nanaimo Daily News editor, Mark MacDonald. The position was not put out to tender.

This is the same editor who stood behind publishing racist letters against First Nations.  Over 300 people protested in front of the newspaper office, including members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, but MacDonald would still not apologize.

This is also the same editor who stood beside Ezra Levant, a spokesman for the far right, at the Freedom Burger event.

It is curious that the City Manager who publically claims to not see eye to eye with the Mayor, would unilaterally make the decision to hire MacDonald who published many articles in McKay’s favour and supported his bid to become Mayor of Nanaimo.

Is the City Manager and the Mayor colluding against Councillor Brennan?

In her speech, the City Manager accused Councillor Brennan of ‘questioning her decision-making’ to the media. Why not? A councillor should question any decisions made by the Nanaimo City Manager.

All job openings at the City of Nanaimo should be advertised, even if they are short-term contracts. By hiring someone who is a friend of a friend, this is not a transparent process.

It speaks volumes to learn that the City is expanding its Communications department during a time of restraint, when there is a core services review underway.  How is this new full-time position being funded and what will be the job description? Is this one of those public affairs positions to ‘monitor media’?

Nanaimo Council and pay increases across Canada

In the last few months municipal councils across Canada, including Nanaimo Council, have voted themselves pay increases.  Here are some pay increases councillors have approved for themselves in the last month:

  • Hamilton, ON 1.5%
  • Halifax, NS 13%
  • Vancouver, BC 12.6%
  • New Westminster, BC 8.9%
  • Fernie, BC 50%

Moncton city council had planned to approve a 25% increase for the deputy mayor and 16% increase for councillors, but it was voted down just one week before city voters head to the polls.

Halifax councillors’ pay rose by 13% and the mayor’s salary rose by 17%, meanwhile the average taxpayer in Halifax had a wage increase of 0.6%.

Nanaimo Councillors approve 3.35% increase to their base pay

At the Nanaimo Council meeting on Monday May 2, 2016 councillors voted to give themselves a raise. Each councillor will get a 3.35% increase to their base pay.  Those voting in favour were Councillors Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Pratt, Thorpe and Kipp. Opposed were Councillors Brennan and Fuller.  Mayor McKay was absent.

How did this come about?  Mayor McKay and the City Manager apparently do not get along so the Acting Mayor has to be present when the Mayor and City Manager meet. Each Councillor performs the role of Acting Mayor for six weeks per year on a rotational basis. The result is more work for the councillors, so they want more money.

Council set the Acting Mayor pay rate at 10% of the Mayor’s base compensation. This will require a budget allocation of $9,510 per year.

It has been mentioned at council meetings that the Mayor has a terrible attendance record and misses many meetings and frequently leaves early. At the beginning of their term Mayor McKay wanted to delegate his role. Councillor Fuller objected and said that McKay should have known what was involved in being a mayor when he ran for the job.

At the last council meeting it was suggested by a delegate that the Mayor’s salary be reduced by the amount of the councillors’ raise. No one considered this.

Nanaimo Council Travel expenses

On Monday night Councillor Bestwick introduced a motion on conference spending which was passed. Councillor Hong raised a motion at the beginning of the meeting to postpone the discussion about conference spending so that Mayor McKay could take part in the discussion at a later date.  Bestwick disagreed and said McKay could have talked to him prior to the meeting but he didn’t. Hong withdrew his motion and Council passed Bestwick’s motion. Here is the motion:

The Council Spending and Amenities Policy will have each Councillor allocated up to $1,000 for travel, hospitality and conference activities directly related to City business and the office of a Council member.

Councillors will be entitled up to:

  • $3,000 to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual conference
  • $2,500 to attend the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference
  • $1,000 to attend the Vancouver Island Conference
  • $1,000 Coastal Communities annual conference

Council members must deliver a report on their conference and travel activities for City business.

How many councillors go to these meetings? Do they all have to go? If everyone goes to the FCM in Winnipeg in June (a four day conference) then it will cost at least $30,000. What kind of report will we get for that?

Taxes going up

The 0% property tax increase does not include fee increases. This year alone there will be a 12.5% increase in user fees.

Operating spending for most municipalities has been racing ahead of population and inflation growth year after year.

The population of BC grew by 15% between 2000 and 2012, yet inflation-adjusted municipal operating spending increased by 55% over the same time period.

Most municipal councillors refuse to acknowledge the overspending problem in contracts and consulting. Nanaimo is spending $250,000 on a consultant to find ways the City can save money while at the same time councillors are giving themselves a raise. These same councillors are oblivious to Canadian political affairs, like what is TPP?

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.