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
Total taxes & user rates
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)
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.
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?
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?
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.
At Monday’s Nanaimo council meeting on April 4, 2016, the City introduced a list of policies that are on the chopping block.
Here are some of the policies to be repealed:
Nuclear Free Policy
Solicitor Client Privilege
Conflict of Interest Guideline
Construction Involving Public Lands
Application of Environmental Policies on Subdivision Applications
Development Cost Charges for New Growth
Development Cost Charges for Parking Areas
Laneways in small lot subdivisions
Development of large Parcels of Waterfront Land
Enforcement of Animal Control Bylaw
Healthy Cities Program
Sanitary Sewer Connections
The Nuclear Free zone signs were put up in 1987 at the entrances of the city, including Stewart Avenue, Chase Hill and Woodgrove Mall on the old Island Highway. The nuke free signs went missing over the years and were reinstalled last year.
Last week, Island Health (VIHA) issued a statement to explain their campaign, ‘use your ED wisely’ to reduce the volume of people going to the Nanaimo Regional Hospital’s emergency department.
According to Island Health, an average of 200 people a day go to the Emergency Department at Nanaimo Hospital.
200 people a day or 73,000 per year is probably the entire number of patients the hospital admits; not just the bunch of people with their minor cuts and stomach aches that come and go from the emergency department, as VIHA claims.
Compare this to the ED at Vancouver Hospital, one of the busiest emergency rooms in the province. At their peak shift from 2-11pm, there are about 50 patients in the emergency department. In 2013 VGH had 84,000 patients passed through the emergency department and were funnelled to various parts of the hospital.
The real cause of the problem is that the emergency department is the entry point for virtually all patients who require any type of care. According to the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) website, “Canadian hospitals gather few emergency department (ED) data, and most cannot track their case mix, care processes, utilization or outcomes.”
The gatekeeper system needs to be updated. Instead of slowing down the line of people to find out what insurance a patient has, there should be more emphasis on getting people the treatment they need.
It’s time for Terry Lake, Minister of Health, to look into these numbers and find a better admitting system.
VIHA (Vancouver Island Health Authority, a.k.a. Island Health) published the ad below in the local Nanaimo newspaper. Can you read it? It’s illegible. The ad says ‘use your ED wisely’. VIHA wants people to stop using the Emergency Department at your local hospital for ‘frivolous’ health concerns.
The emergency department at the Nanaimo Hospital is a good starting point for this discussion. Their admission process is presided over by a ‘gatekeeper’ who decides whether a person will be seen or not. How does she come to this decision? Does she take their pulse? Does she assess their injuries? No. She looks a person up and down and decides like St. Peter whether they’re worth saving.
If someone has five star health insurance and claims to have received a minor cut on the job, then she will usher them through without a second to spare. Anyone else with a serious health concern and who falls into any of the following categories:
old and living on a fixed pension
are treated with complete disdain and put on the bottom of her priority list. It doesn’t matter if a patient is brought in by an ambulance. She’s going to make them wait. Remember, the gatekeeper is god.
If you come to the Emergency Department on a holiday or weekend there is no one there except the gatekeeper.
Once a person gets passed the gatekeeper, you hope they’ll come across a student who might not know a whole lot but at least they seem to care. The regular ones treat patients like hogs in a factory farm. The only difference is that a factory farm is usually cleaner. Some of these health care workers are twitchy and irritated. Is that the result of being overworked? Perhaps some regular drug testing should be a requirement. They shunt patients off from room to empty room. Sometimes they forget where they put someone.
Sometimes, one of these folks gets curious as to who is behind a curtain. Oh, the patient’s nearly dead, would you look at that. Time to call up the helicopter or the ambulance and cart them off to another hospital so they can’t be included in their list of daily death stats.
VIHA needs to shape up.
Stop wasting taxpayers money on useless ads.
Skim off the layers of management at the top.
Audit doctor overbilling. Ontario is tackling this issue.
Improve the gatekeeper/admitting process in the ED. The current situation creates a bottleneck.
Treat everyone who comes into the hospital with respect.
Enforce strict cleaning standards (ie bring back the regular hospital janitors before it was outsourced) Why do you think people have to come back? It’s so dirty that people keep getting infected.