Proposed closures of public schools in the Nanaimo and Ladysmith School District 68 (SD68) have galvanized parents to form a group called Stand Up for Public Education Rights (SUPER).
On Saturday, May 25, 2013 SUPER has organized a 22 km walk from Ladysmith to Nanaimo. The walk will start from 341 First Avenue in Ladysmith at 10 am and finish at Southgate Mall in Nanaimo.
Everyone is encouraged to join in the walk this Saturday, as the school closures will affect the entire community. Home values in these areas will most likely decline as a result of not having a local public school nearby. The proposed school closures include:
Doug Player, hired as a consultant to draft the School District’s ten year plan, was a former superintendent of public schools in West Vancouver. West Vancouver has three public high schools.
Nanaimo Ladysmith School District plans to close several schools and dispose of school property in an effort to save money. Yet at the same time SD68 has spent taxpayers’ money to rebrand their image with a new logo and an advertising campaign. Here is a full page advertisement which was printed in a local magazine called Gateway to Commerce.
SD68 full page ad in Gateway – new district logo featured
What is happening to Ladysmith and Nanaimo public education? Read more about the SD68 ten year plan.
In the meantime, the School District is looking for donations of exercise equipment for their behavior classes. Please contact SD68 at 250-754-5521.
At the Monday, May 13, 2013 Nanaimo Council meeting, the public got a quick look at something under the Mayor’s suit jacket. Was Mayor Ruttan wearing a shoulder holster? Or could it be a back support strap?
Nanaimo Mayor checks his suit jacket
The ad below states, “The shoulder holster: It’s not something you have, it’s something you are.” Is this the latest fashion trend for Canadian mayors?
The SSS Manhao International Tourism Group (Incorp. 2012) from China is proposing to build a 17 floor hotel at 100 Gordon Street in downtown Nanaimo behind the Conference Centre and the Great Canadian Casino.
SSS Manhao is a subsidiary of Suzhou Youth Travel Services Co. Ltd., a travel agency from Jiangsu Province. In 2010 SSS Manhao built a hotel in Fiji. That same year they also visited Atlanta, Georgia with a similar proposal. This year, SSS Manhao is looking at locations in Nottingham, UK and Nanaimo.
Based on their 14 minute presentation to Nanaimo City Council on Monday, May 13, 2013, the proposed 145,000 sq. ft. building is to cost $50 million and will have commercial spaces on the ground floor. The other floors are as follows:
2nd floor = hotel amenities
3rd floor = pedestrian link to Conference Centre with more retail spaces
4th = pool, spa
5th to 16th = hotel suites (197 rooms)
17th = bar and restaurant
They require a perpetual lease of 200 parking spaces in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre because it’s not possible to have sufficient parking at the hotel (based on their studies) so they have to look elsewhere for parking. The parking spaces would be leased at $3.17 per day based on usage.
Why would tour groups require parking if they arrive by plane and are transported by bus to this new Nanaimo hotel?
SSS Manhao International Tourism Group proposes that they will:
“attract” 70,000 young Chinese tourists annually to the hotel
establish a new tour route with an overnight stay in Nanaimo
promote the conference centre
enter into a partnership with VIU to have students in hospitality work at the hotel
house international students
sell off individual suites to investors in order to recoup capital costs.
No mention was made if they will have direct flights from China to the Nanaimo Airport. Using temporary foreign labour from China was not included in the presentation.
The hotel is to be similar to their hotel in Fiji designed by GBL Architects. GBL Architects were responsible for the rezoning of the Vancouver Olympic Village and involved in the Pacifica Tower building in Nanaimo.
Questions from Council and answers from legal counsel representing SSS Manhao:
Ruttan: Will you build a 4-5 star hotel? A: ”Of course, and he wants to build an extension to the Conference Centre as he is the owner of the hotel and the tour leader.” Pattje: You will take advantage of a 10 year tax break. Pattje: Can the current company who operates the Conference Centre stay? A: ”Haven’t figured that out.. they can promote and we can promote.” Johnstone: The City was built on the backs of the Chinese..[interesting] how things have come full circle. Kennings: Staff are working with NEDCOR, the next step is to put forward an agreement. A: “We’ve prepared an offer to purchase which contains a few standard conditions, we want to move forward and make plans away from city officials.”
Although the property is appraised at $565,000 there are still soil studies that have to be done.
What earthquake studies have they done? No. 1 Mine shaft is nearby and the hotel site is sitting on fill on the former Commercial Inlet.
There are currently a total of 57 five-star hotels in North America, China and Singapore, according to Forbes.
What will 70,000 young Chinese tourists want to do while in Nanaimo? Will SSS Manhao want to take over the Great Canadian Casino and the Conference Centre and turn these both into a mega Macau Casino?
On Monday, May 13, 2013 the Nanaimo City Council decided in a 5 to 4 vote to have the Colliery Dams removed in July. The cost of removing the Colliery Dams is between $5 to $7 million.
The City of Nanaimo will finance this project through short term borrowing over the next 5 years. The taxpayers of Nanaimo are facing growing debt. Currently, the debt stands at approximately $400 million and will rise annually.
The City states that the BC Dam Safety Branch has informed them that taking no action is not an option because if there is an earthquake the Colliery Dams might collapse.
In 2011, the Dam Safety Branch published “Inspection and Maintenance of Dams” (Dam Safety Guidelines). Throughout this entire document there is no reference to seismic regulations for dams.
As of 2012, there are 5 levels of consequence classification for dams, the last three are High, Very High and Extreme. In British Columbia, there are currently 250 High, 53 Very High and 37 Extreme rated dams.
The only requirement for an extreme rated dam is for a regular dam safety review. There is no law or regulation that states an extreme dam must be removed according to the public documents provided by the provincial dam safety branch. Is Nanaimo the only community being forced to remove its dams?
In the presentation to council on May 6, 2013 by KCB Engineering, it was admitted that the seismic standards used for the Colliery Dams tabletop exercise were exceptionally high; far beyond any other public building or infrastructure in the province. Also mentioned was that the fill used to build the original dams is “the cleanest we’ve ever seen.”
Who will benefit from the removal of these dams? How much is high-grade clean fill worth? For example, a residential development for 30 homes in Ontario spent $400,000 to acquire clean fill.
There are dams further up the Chase River - are these going to be removed and a massive new dam created?
The Colliery Dams were once used to wash coal a hundred years ago. It is one of the last heritage monuments to Nanaimo’s history. The removal of the Dickinson Barn in Harewood, Foundry building, and heritage block on Commercial Street replaced by the conference centre are sad reminders that history is being lost.
Will the Colliery Dams Park become a victim of another land swap?
Despite the federal government’s emphasis on the army and navy, the Canadian Coast Guard still lies under the jurisdiction of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. As a result, budget cuts are affecting operations on the west coast of Canada.
Vancouver’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre is already half way shut down, two years before the feds will close it in 2015. Coast Guard assistant commissioner Denis Sing said distress signals from boats in Vancouver harbour will be monitored in Victoria. In the meantime, safety position staff have been cut, leaving one staff member to watch for boats in trouble at night.
Sing says due to the cuts announced a year ago by Ottawa; three MCTS centres will be closed. This will leave just two centres monitoring the entire BC coast, and Vancouver – Canada’s busiest harbour.
British Columbia has about 17,000 miles of coast-line (if you straighten it out), with over 300 coves and inlets and 376,000 squares miles. Along the BC coast lighthouses are being de-staffed and there are fewer patrols than ever before.
So far the main challenges facing the BC coast are:
Environmental crimes – illegal pumping of bilges, etc.
Vessels in distress and ghost ships
Piracy attacks on the BC coast have yet to become a major problem but pirates are becoming more professional by adapting their tactics and by corrupting local authorities and regional administrations.
The UN Monitoring Group on Somali Piracy confirms previous assessments saying that pirates continue to adapt and expand their operational and organizational capabilities. In 2010 the International Maritime Bureau recorded 219 piracy attacks and 49 successful hijackings. The average amount of ransom paid by ship owners has increased to $4.26 million per ship, generating $102 million revenues in 2010.
There is also evidence that the Somali pirates are expanding their network. How long will it be until they start a sub-group here on the BC Coast? Until recently, there were few piracy attacks in South America, now that has changed. The Piracy Map shows current pirate attacks. Will Nanaimo embrace a pirate culture? Was former Mayor Frank Ney who was known for his pirate costume ahead of his time?
EU Naval Force units are working closely with staff from the recently launched EUCAP NESTOR mission, which aims to secure a long-term resolution to the piracy problem by enhancing the coastal maritime capacity of the Horn of Africa countries.
At the same time, coastal maritime monitoring in British Columbia is being reduced to nothing. Why is this the case?
Vancouver Island is being choked out by invasive plants. The City of Nanaimo has set up a helpful calendar for the month of May and you can volunteer at a location that is convenient or you can set up your own work party and add it to the list.
So far there are nine work parties organized and hopefully some local high schools will have time to participate.
There are many problem areas but one that has been overlooked is how to rescue the Buttertubs Marsh which is overrun with Yellow Flag Iris.
For some reason Yellow Flag Iris is not listed on the City of Nanaimo’s website but it is listed on the Saanich Website and it looks like they have a program for removal. Why doesn’t Nanaimo have a program to eradicate it from Buttertubs Marsh?
Yellow Flag Iris spreads in thick groups and chokes out native wetland plants. It has no value for food or habitat and it compacts the soil and changes the drainage. It will destroy the marsh.
Yellow Flag Iris in Buttertubs Marsh in Nanaimo
All plant parts of the Yellow Flag Iris are poisonous, so wear gloves!
Yellow Flag Iris will come into bloom in June and it is urgent to try to get this plant eradicated now.