Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Democracy Sacrificed

With the election of three Green MLA's last month many hoped that the province of B.C. might experience something of a resurgence in democracy. Greens are known to work with other parties and now hold the balance of power.
Ever the strategists the Liberals have decided to not cooperate and hope for more seats in an election that will be called in the near future while blaming the Greens for not supporting them.
Here are signs of this strategy:
  1.  None of the Liberal MLA's are willing to stand for election as the Speaker of the Legislature, expecting the NDP or Green to provide one, thus creating a very unstable tie vote. This is unusual in the Westminster tradition
  2. Christy Clark is currently campaigning in the vote-rich lower mainland, wooing them with promises of improving their transit (finally!) and more
  3. Their budget will include many of the policies promised by the Greens and NDP such as more funds for social assistance and an end to corporate donations (which would, if put into effect, end their dynasty) -knowing that this budget will fail. This way they can accuse the NDP and Greens of not voting for policies they hold dear
  4. Corporations quickly began to donate large sums of money to the Liberal Party immediately after the election -more than $1 million in the first two weeks
  5. Their candidates appear to be readying to run in the near future. At least one has not closed his campaign bank account even though they cannot use it
  6. They have accused the NDP and Greens of being "power hungry" and "not cooperating"
  7. They are positioning themselves as being the only stable option (while doing all that they can to destabilize the Legislature). They have named their cabinet members and announced this to local media (even though they know that they will be defeated, terminating the cabinet), giving all appearances of being ready to govern
  8. They are hoping to convince the Lieutenant Governor that the NDP/Green alliance is too unstable and thus to call another election rather than to allow the alliance an opportunity to form the government. If they were to provide a Speaker this would not be necessary.
Contrast all of this to the recent occurrence in Great Britain. There the ruling Conservatives wooed a small Party that had won a few seats so that together they would have enough votes to prevent another election. They accomplished this in less than a month and got back to business. In B.C. the Liberal leader, Christy Clark, did not show up to the initial meeting with the Green Party's Andrew Weaver and the Party was not willing to give up some of its favourite positions in order to meet the Green's expectations of support, then blamed Andrew for forging an agreement with the NDP before meeting with Christy Clark. Where was she at that most important initial meeting? Why did they not go to Andrew on bended knee so that the province could enjoy a more stable government?

Projection is an attempt to place on to others what is true of oneself. While accusing the NDP and Greens of being "power hungry" the Liberals delayed the recalling the legislature as long as they could, and rumour has it that they will not present a budget when it first reconvenes. These delays allow the Liberal caucus to keep the Site C dam to continue to the point that it becomes uneconomical to stop it, displacing homeowners in the meantime, and continue their policies as long as possible. Claiming that providing a Speaker from their ranks as this would amount to "propping up" the NDP/Green government they expected the Greens to support them so as to provide stability in the province. Would this not amount to "propping up" the Liberals?

The result of all of the above is that the Legislature will fall as soon as a non-confidence vote succeeds -all this will require is just one Green or NDP MLA to be missing from the Legislature one day. The Liberal coffers are filling with corporate donations. They will be more than ready with their slick campaign that blames the NDP and Greens for messing up the province and offering a stable pro-economy, pro-jobs promise from the Liberals.

Such is the state of democracy in British Columbia. Will the voters reward or punish the Liberals?

Friday, June 2, 2017

To Make Nanaimo Affordable and Better



In light of Nanaimo’s aging population (somewhat higher than Canada’s and even B.C.’s) and that the future looks dim without a greater immigration and retention of younger adults (called “the Millenniums”) who are keen to have a planet worth living on, what does Nanaimo need to do to survive and thrive?
A Master’s thesis written by Lan Le Diem Tran, a Millennial who hails from Vietnam, answers this question. Her thesis focused on leisure mobility in Nanaimo for Millennials (born 1984 to 1996). After surveying them in 2016 she concludes that in order to thrive Nanaimo needs to attract and retain talented workers by greatly improving our sustainable transportation system. Young adults want to live in mid-sized cities such as Nanaimo, especially with the natural beauty and amenities offered here if such cities catch up on sustainable transportation, including far more transit and active options afforded by dedicated cycling and walking infrastructure.
They want an affordable, sustainable, city. They know that transportation is one of the two most expensive costs for individuals and families (it is often as expensive as is housing). In 2010, transportation alone accounted for 13.35% of the total average estimated household expenditures in Nanaimo – higher than the two largest cities in British Columbia, which are Vancouver (12.95%) and Victoria (12.29%). Why? Because 88% of the people living in Nanaimo travel by car for their daily needs, whereas only 8.5% choose to walk, 1.0% cycle, and 2.5% use public transit.
Not good news. But in 2014 the city of Nanaimo conducted a nearly $1 million study about how to move forward. The vision of Nanaimo’s Transportation Master Plan looks compelling:
Nanaimo’s multi-modal transportation system will connect the City’s residents and businesses to each other, the rest of Vancouver Island and beyond. It will provide inclusive transportation choices that are safe, comfortable, and accessible for people of all ages and abilities. A system of interconnected facilities and services will provide affordable mobility while supporting a shift towards a more sustainable mix of transportation alternatives. The transportation network will seek to create and support a vibrant, liveable, healthy and sustainable community for residents, businesses and visitors alike.
Sadly the actual action plan is weak.  It aims to reduce the trip proportions made by private vehicles by only 8% within 27 years (2014-2041), leaving Nanaimo far behind in the global and regional competition for Millennial talents, keeping it as one of the most expensive cities in the province, contributing to its very high poverty rate.
Being a car-dependent city brings many draw-backs, and not only for Millennials.
What does our current transportation system truly cost? A lot!
The dependence on the automobile leads to:
  •  High incidents of injuries and death. In Canada people aged between 15 and 34 account for the most fatalities and injuries.
  •  Current urban designs lead to car dependencies and lead to a lack of sufficient physical exercise through walking and cycling which significantly contributes to health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
  •  Other health issues arise from noise pollution from traffic and air pollution (that kills several thousand Canadians every year).
  •  Transportation challenges restrict access to numerous services and facilities, namely jobs, education, leisure facilities, and health-care services, all of which are critical social determinants of health.
  •  A lack of adequate transportation is also correlated with higher crime rates and thus a reduced sense of security and life satisfaction.
  •  A lack of transportation options also reduce the economic performance of a city or region in part because money spent on cars leaves the region, and such prevents many of those in the lower socio-economic spectrum from getting work or gaining better paying employment.

In addition a city’s economy and vitality is constrained by inadequate transportation systems.
  1.  Urban areas that encourage reliance on private motorised vehicles foster expenditures on cars and their related costs, such as gas, insurance, and parking. Money spent on cars and fuels is money that largely leaves the regional economy, draining it.
  2. Without people-friendly transportation systems consumers are less likely to be enticed to purchase local goods, resulting in weak economic resilience of the community.
  3. A lack of transportation options greatly increases foreclosures at times of economic recessions
  4.  Businesses in the community may have difficulty hiring employees and suffer from lost customers
  5. Provincially, poor transportation options results in higher benefit payments and reduced tax contributions

What does it cost society for various ways of getting around? For every $1 spent on walking or cycling society pays less than 10 cents. Locally for every $1 spent on buses society pays $2. But for car travel for every $1 spent, society pays nearly $10! [1]
Relying heavily on the single-occupancy motor vehicle is not only costly for the user/owner and especially for society it also exacts a cost to our well-being, physically and socially. Car travel is often isolating. Healthy humans are well-connected to others. The quality, not only the quantity of travel, needs to be considered.
By changing this we can benefit in many ways. Greatly increasing affordable, accessible and sustainable transportation costs a lot less, improves our local economy, boosts our health outcomes, and brings many others benefits.
The Victoria Transportation Institute (www.vtpi.org) concludes that the most liveable cities are the ones that provide the most public transportation. Lan Le Diem Tran would wholeheartedly agree.

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.
Transportation
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?
Other
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.


    Conclusions:




  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