Monday, September 12, 2016

How to improve on Nanaimo's Core Services Review

Core Review questions and comments
September 12, 2016

While I applaud this Core Services Review I believe that its greatest weakness is that it sometimes fails to address the causes of issues (and hence expenses) and then only addresses how to treat the symptoms. This is a cultural norm in our part of the world, and costs us tremendously –in every way. I wish to especially focus on the area of waste management and transportation (which are related).

Waste policies (pg 77)
            The options offered are far too limiting and do not meet our goals of continuing to improve our performance in this area. Indeed, the solutions may encourage us to go in the opposite direction! The following are just two options that most other municipalities are not embracing, ones that would again place Nanaimo at the leader in both waste reduction and boosted related employment:
Greatly reduce the weight of the garbage cans being lifted (and injuring our employees)
·         Charge according to the size of the garbage container –this step alone greatly increases the rate of recycling and composting
·         Make the containers clear so as to show the contents of the trash (revealing wet compostables, bricks/rocks, etc.)
·         Removes the need for automated vehicles
·         Reduces the cost of delivery
Provide or subsidise household compost systems that safely compost bones and meat
·         This alone greatly reduces the cost of picking up compostables
·         This step provides superior soil for backyard gardens while reducing GHG emissions (if used properly) beyond what the existing facilities offer
·         Greatly reduces tipping fees
·         Reduces injury to city employees
·         Removes the need for automated vehicles
·         Reduces the cost of delivery
The staff are largely trained by those associated with waste management companies that benefit from cities utilising less than best practises. E.G. Automated trucks suffer from even more mechanical failures than does our existing fleet. Best to hire a consultant who is an experienced waste reduction (not management) company for the best practises outcomes. Buddy Boyd of Gibson’s Waste Recovery Centre is the only such individual in our province.
Vehicle Fleet Costs and Policies (Pg’s ~80-84)
            Many other cities are finding considerable fleet cost reductions by partnering with the local non-profit carshare coop. Why? Because:
1.      The vehicles are used both day and evenings, spreading out the capital costs to more users.
2.      The co-op offers an itemised accounting of what vehicles are used for, and exactly for how long.
3.      There is more accountability and less unauthorised use for personal purposes
4.      It increases the use of public transportation and cycling/walking
5.      Maintenance issues are handled better (other carshare coop vehicles can be used when some are removed for maintenance purposes or after an accident).
6.      Coordination is very simple, resulting in far fewer duplications and need for rental vehicles
7.      Offers the lowest cost service per vehicle to the City
8.      New vehicles can be purchased to fit the unique needs of the City, including hybrid and all electric
Transportation –general
1.      The plan seems to offer nothing in terms of how to help the city reduce future costs from adding new subdivisions on its outskirt. While DCC charges help in the short-term the City is left holding the bag in terms of maintaining roads, sewers, water, transit services and emergency services & their attendant facilities.
Solution: charge DCC’s according to the distance from the core of the city. This costs the City nothing to implement and improves sustainability by increasing the population density. This also reduces the need for the single occupancy motor vehicle, lowering GHG emissions, accidents, improving health outcomes, attracting young adults, etc.
2.      The City is very limited in terms of how to save the taxpayer money except in this one area: transportation. By greatly increasing the budget for dedicated bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure (the most cost-effective way to spend the predicted surplus) the number of accidents is reduced, the health of the population is improved, the number of young adults willing to live in Nanaimo increases, and the cost to live in this city for those willing to utilise sustainable transportation. If the City really wishes to reduce the burden of expenses for its people why not make this the #1 area to invest saved funds??
3.      By taking this step the City will reduce the overall social cost of living here (which is borne in part by the City) and attract more young adults to the City (currently a major deterrent).
4.      By ending the subsidy to the E&N railway, because we do not live in a bubble we will encourage more vehicle traffic in the future, costing us individually far more while placing an additional burden on the city. This takes us in the opposite direction to a sustainable and affordable future. Is this what the City really wishes?
5.      By embracing sustainable transportation the City reduces the cost of building and maintaining its road infrastructure. Isn’t this a laudable goal?
Reducing access to health-improving activity centres (such as the Beban Pool) will reduce the health of more individuals, increase costs for the medical system and for those who are employed or are assisting their families with children. This flies in the face of the need to reduce the social costs of living in Nanaimo.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to Create Good Jobs and a Better Economy

Until later in March of this year (2016) the province is looking for feedback on their plans to reduce Greenhouse Gases (GHG). Of course they can't accomplish this and proceed with their uneconomical and polluting Liquefied Natural Gas plans. But they have other ideas that look promising. Check them out at

You can also leave your comments by following the link provided. Even if you offer only a couple of ideas to them this will accomplish two things: They will know we care about jobs and the environment. They may also learn something new, or realise there is more support for one idea than they had imagined!

For the record here's what I submitted. If you like any of them feel free to plagiarise. Steal away!

1. Shift the priority away from the uneconomical (and GHG emitting) LNG industry to instead support BC's potential in wave, wind, solar and geothermal power production. Encourage smaller-scale power production closer to the major population centres by paying $0.12 cents/kWh. Export our clean power to other jurisdictions so that they can reduce their GHG emissions.

2. Increase penalties to municipalities that allow for urban growth, and incentivize municipalities that in-build (increase their population densities).

3. Work with municipalities to move away from car-centric transportation infrastructure and toward sustainable means such as cycling, walking, public transit and a reduction in the need for travel (better design).

4. Offer incentives to municipalities that investigate and create ground-source district heating systems and clean energy production.

5. Push municipalities to use the funds provided to them by BC Hydro to invest in sustainable infrastructure such as cycling and walking paths and transit.

 6. Accelerate the carbon tax rate increases and give this extra revenue to municipalities, non-profits, hospitals, public schools/colleges/universities and other civic institutions for sustainable infrastructure projects and costs (such as cycling, walking, transit, building energy efficiencies, renewable energy, district heating systems, etc.).

7. Cancel the Site C dam (it will emit tonnes of methane carbon for a long time) and replace this project by utilising the already built Columbia River dam (which has already emitted its methane gas), saving us a lot of money.

8. Ban the export of U.S. thermal coal from BC ports (just because it won't be burnt in B.C. doesn't absolve us of responsibility for the resulting CO2 emissions!)

9. Support non-profit carshare co-ops by reducing their insurance rates (every carshare co-op car on the road removes several other vehicles, improves transit usage, reduces health care costs, etc.)

10. Ban garbage incinerators and implement a robust system of source waste-separation recycling/reusing.

11. Ban the export of our waste out of province to reduce the GHG transportation-related emissions and encourage the waste being re-manufactured closer to its source whenever possible. This reduces the GHG emissions from mining and logging because materials are re-used and re-purposed rather than landfilled or burned. This reduces GHG emissions in three ways and leaves a healthier province for future generations.

12. Increase funding to lower-income households building energy retrofits and advertise the program. Use the carbon tax revenues to pay for the program.

13. Work with the municipalities and BC Transit to create a robust inter-modal system of public transportation, including the use of foot-ferries, thus reducing the need for car travel.

14. Phase out the Departure Bay ferry terminal. Move the Gabriola Island car ferry to Duke Point and replace the existing ferry with a faster passenger and bicycle ferry from downtown Nanaimo. Support foot ferries from downtown Nanaimo's transportation hub to downtown Vancouver and from downtown Victoria to downtown Vancouver.

15. Re-engage the LiveSmart BC program and increase the rate allowed to be paid to the energy advisors. Ensure a multi-year funding commitment so as to stabilise the energy-efficiency sector.
Now is the time to make these and many other changes!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How do Green candidates win?

    Turns out that when Green candidates do well their right-wing counterparts don't!  How is this? Let's take a look at the data from past elections in B.C. that had strong Green candidates.

    In the 2008 federal election, the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding was won by a Conservative incumbent with 43% of the vote. The Liberal’s had 39% and the Green Party had 10% (Note: the NDP candidate dropped out of the race but still received votes).

    In 2011: Elizabeth May won with 46% of the vote, Conservatives 35%, NDP 12%, Liberals 6%.

    Provincially, in 2009, the Oak Bay- Gordon Head riding was won by a right wing Liberal incumbent with 46% of the vote, followed by the NDP with 44% and Greens at 8.9%. In 2013: Andrew Weaver and the Green vote won with 40% of the vote, followed by Liberal Cabinet Minister Ida Chong and the NDP each receiving nearly 30% each.

    The federal riding of Victoria in 2011 saw NDP incumbent Denise Savoie with 50%, Conservatives were second with 23% and the Greens at 11%.

    In the fall 2012 by-election when Savoie stepped down, the NDP loudly claimed that a vote for Green Party candidate law professor Donald Galloway would elect a Conservative – after all the Conservatives had come in second only a year before.

    In that by-election: NDP’s finished with 37% of the vote, Greens’ Galloway placed a close second at 34% and the Conservatives were a distant third at 14%.

    One last example: In 2011, the Green Party won only 9% of the vote against an incumbent Cabinet minister in Prince Edward Island. This year, Green Party leader Peter Bevan Baker defeated that same Cabinet minister in a bi-election with 54% of the vote.


  1. 2011 results are not useful predictors for this 2015 federal election.
  2. The percentage of support for the right-wing party dropped in every single one of these examples, at precisely the same time the voter turnout increased (by the younger voter and those who otherwise wouldn’t have voted).
  3. The truth is that when Greens do well the Conservatives don't! 
  4. In every one of the above examples, the strong Green race corresponded with a very high voter turn-out. This is no coincidence! It is the younger voter, plus the otherwise-won't-vote folk, who make the difference.
  5. In 2011, Saanich-Gulf Islands had a 75% voter turn-out. When Andrew Weaver won his seat, Oak-Bay-Gordon Head had the highest voter turn-out in BC at 69%. New Brunswick Green Candidate David Coon won in a riding with 70% voter turn-out and Peter Bevan Baker’s riding had an astonishing 90% voter turn-out.

  6. Would you like a proactive plan that is positive, pragmatic and committed to a robust democracy, a healthy economy and a meaningful climate action plan?

    Then, vote! And take some friends along with you.

    With thanks from Frances Litman, Green candidate for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke

    Thursday, October 15, 2015

    The Politics of Fear, and its Antidote

    Let’s be frank: Fear motivates us! No wonder politicians love using it!
    Currently fear is being used in two different ways by political parties and “neutral third parties.”
    The Conservatives are masters at scaring people. They are constantly sending fear-invoking propaganda to their supporters. During this (and past) elections their main focus is to invoke fear in the electorate. They got some bang for their buck (for a while) by whipping up hatred against Muslims (the niqab issue), and are now using fear to shore up support from Conservatives moving their vote to other parties.
    When Canada was becoming a nation very similar tactics were used in 1849 in an attempt to keep Canada racially “pure,” that is, free of francophones. The current technique is the same, only the lingo has changed. In the words of a Huffington Post article,“...the fear of francophones has been replaced by a fear of Muslims. Instead of rebellion, Stephen Harper talks about terrorism. Instead of Catholicism, it's Islamic extremists. Instead of the Anglo-Saxon race, it's the Anglosphere.” Here also is an excellent Tyee article about how the Conservatives utilise fear.
    But this is not the only type of fear. A far more subtle form pushes voters away from deserving candidates in order to strategically prevent a party from winning. It has been used successfully against the NDP for many years (and may be occurring again as the Liberals attempt to gain a majority of seats). Conservatives try to use it in order to stop the NDP from winning. In the end most strategic voting schemes cancel out each other, but at the expense of smaller parties, thus entrenching the status quo. Here on Vancouver Island it is being used by the NDP and “third parties” such as the Dogwood Initiative, Strategic Voting and Lead Now.
    Strategic voting’s lure is the promise that one can stop party X by voting for candidate or party Y. It is based on old data, such as the last election results (which reveal that the Greens were not in the race anywhere but the Saanich Gulf Islands) or by using recent polling data. As Elizabeth May’s win and the provincial Liberal’s win in 2013 reveal, polls can be very erroneous. My earlier blog goes into more details about how terrible these are.
    That voters would place so much faith in pollsters is foolishness. That voters would decide for whom to “strategically” vote based on either old results, or on the questionable methods used by pollsters, is ludicrous and extremely harmful for democracy –not only because it scares people into voting against their values, but also because it also ends up suppressing the vote.
    These strong-arm tactics are very harmful. Many voters have felt shamed for voting according to the candidate or party that best expresses their values.
    Of course fear is very good at steering the public away from real issues, such as the disappearance of decently-paid jobs, a dying planet, rising social problems, concerns about “free trade” deals, political scandals and many other pressing issues. As a candidate I often felt helpless to get traction on important issues because of the amount of fear being pushed on the electorate. These “hot button” issues grabbed the headlines and forced all candidates to address short-term issues that were ultimately often of lesser importance to most people’s lives.
    So: what can we do about such fear tactics? Ancient wisdom states that the opposite of fear is love. I’m not referring to the wimpy “feel-good” type of love here. I am speaking of the active verb called “love.” Of moving toward something positive, excellent, hopeful, beautiful, compassionate, brave, powerful. Of a freedom for; not a fear against.
    Brain research is revealing. Fear invokes the lower (reptilian) brain. It leads to greed, competition of a terrible kind, hatred, anger and the worst that humanity has to offer. 
    Functioning out of fear has many negative consequences. We make terrible decisions, often alienating loved-ones. Fear creates the very thing that is feared. We age more quickly, get ill more often, and become lonelier. Fear also robs us of the power to live our own lives, for fearfully living ends up giving our power to those we fear. This is why ISIS likes it when we fear them: by dropping bombs on their people they gain more recruits and power.
    Love, on the other hand, does the opposite. It fires up the higher brain -leading to courageous movements and acts, of overcoming seemingly impossible challenges.  Love turns fear into courage, with conviction. We feel empowered. We feel more connected and safe. We make much better decisions. We live longer. We also work more collaboratively with others to bring about positive changes to our world.
    An excellent local writer and photographer powerfully speaks from this type of love. Goody Niosi’s election-related blog posts make most worthy reading. She eloquently reveals the difference between love and fear, such as in this post.
    I conclude by quoting her more recent blog post, where she concludes with these fine words: “And I do wish people would actually live by the words of the late Jack Layton, who said it so well. (Although, sadly, his own party doesn’t seem to be following his words.): ‘My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.’”
    If we love this country, we would be wise to follow Goody’s council.