Saturday, November 2, 2013

Should Nanaimo accept Vancouver's garbage?

Should Nanaimo be the site to burn garbage from the lower mainland?

As I see it:


As an energy advisor I know that the more local source of electricity we generate the more stable the electrical grid becomes.  The proposed plant would yield little actual power output; not much more than the potential of power being generated from our drinking water supply (gravity-fed from the mountains). But every bit of power counts.

It is FAR better to burn garbage than it is to landfill it in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Why? Rotting compostable materials in the absence of oxygen (typical in dumps) create enormous amounts of methane gas, thousands of times more powerful in changing climate than is the carbon dioxide created when incinerating the same material.

Local construction and maintenance jobs would be created.

Local garbage could be incinerated.

The waste heat could be used by another facility (which would then be responsible for the emissions, giving the impression the WTE facility was emissions-free)

The barge operation currently located downtown would more likely be moved, freeing the City to consider a wider variety of options for the Wilcox site.

These arguments are worthy of consideration.


With toxic industrial pollutants already present in our air shed this proposed plant would burden it even more, leading to more respiratory problems and illness from heavy metal contamination. Children and seniors are particularly at risk from the very fine particulate matter released into the air

The ash would have to be added to a landfill, which means that landfills would still be required. If the ash were added to concrete future generations would have to figure out what to do with toxic concrete, just as we currently have to deal with asbestos used in building insulation. Concrete would be far more difficult to manage.

This approach flies in the face of our efforts to reduce the amount of garbage generated in our region

This approach goes totally contrary to Vancouver's stated goal of becoming the “greenest city in the world[1]”: exporting its garbage rather than sending it to an Advanced Recycling Centre (as well as reducing the amount of garbage in the first place) would actually move them toward their goal; incineration would not.

Far more jobs would be created if the garbage were instead processed in an Advanced Recycling Centre. Such a Centre would also generate revenues for the City of Nanaimo

There would be a negative impact on the desirability to move to, or live in, Nanaimo. I have a friend who said that should this facility be built she and her family would leave Nanaimo. In fact, one reason for moving here was to avoid the air pollution in the lower mainland. Residential property values, especially in south Nanaimo and Cedar, would fall.

With such a facility located in Nanaimo our annual provincial carbon tax would increase due to the fact the incinerator would generate CO2.

By burning the waste today the raw materials that are found in the garbage would be unrecoverable. If processed in an Advanced Recycling Centre most of those raw materials would be recovered and reused. Even placing them into a landfill would later provide access to most of those raw materials. We live on a finite planet; if we do not recycle or reuse the earth's resources then how will future generations enjoy what we currently have? By burning those resources we rob our children and grandchildren what we so take for granted today.

Recycling is less costly than is incineration, especially once manufacturers are forced to use packaging that is easily recyclable, reusable or compostable. 

Lastly, recovering the raw materials found in the garbage stream we would create even more jobs putting those materials back into use -at least some of which would be local, we would greatly reduce the need for landfills, if done correctly would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions more than even an incinerator, would improve the air quality as compared to incineration, and obtain other benefits.

After weighing the pros and cons of this proposal I conclude that it is not in the best interest of our city to accept this proposed Waste to Energy incinerator.

Recommendation: point out to the proponent that it would be less financially costly to them, would create more jobs, and be more in keeping with the goals of becoming sustainable if they were to instead put out a call for an Advanced Recycling Facility. I think that this would also be far more acceptable to the residents and region of Nanaimo should such a facility be located at Duke Point, and would additionally provide two of the four advantages listed above.

(Slightly revised from the letter sent to City Council in November, 2013)

[1] See their Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, including mention of garbage, at

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Letter regarding the Colliery Dams

Comptroller of Water Rights
Post Office Box 9340
Station Prov Govt
Victoria BC
V8W 9M1

Re: File D720001-00 and D720002-00

June 15, 2013

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing with regard to the application made by the City of Nanaimo to remove and rebuild two dams located on the Chase River within the bounds of the City.

When attending Nanaimo’s city council meeting June 10th I was surprised to hear Mr. Kenning, the City Manager, indicate that the City had failed to consult with the Snuneymuxw First Nation before or even immediately after Council’s decision to change its plans to now include re-building these two dams. By abandoning its plans to re-naturalise the Chase River, and without making concrete plans about how or when the dams would be re-built, the well-being of the river below the dams is put into question. As the Snuneymuxw First Nation has treaty rights to this productive river any negative impact on the river, including expected lowered summer and early fall flows from the First dam, potential sedimentation released from the Second and Third dams, and former lake-bed collapses into the winter flow of the river while re-building plans are being made and appropriate permits are sought all jeopardise the health of the river and its fisheries.  The Snuneymuxw First Nation has a greater knowledge of this river for hundreds if not thousands of years, and should have been consulted before this latest plan was conceived, much less set into motion.

Thus I recommend that the permits be denied until all issues of concern to the Snuneymuxw First Nation, biologists, local residents and other concerned parties are addressed and an adequate and detailed plan is agreed upon by the City, province, federal fisheries officials and especially Snuneymuxw First Nation.

Ian Gartshore
353 Seventh St. (backing on to the Chase River)
Nanaimo, B.C.
V9R 1E3
c.c. Snuneymuxw First Nation, 668 Centre St., Nanaimo, B.C. V9R 4Z4

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Post-election assessment

My friends and supporters,

I want to begin by offering a heart-felt thank you.
I mean it.
A candidate can’t do much alone. You made all the difference. When you came to events, smiled at me in an all candidate’s meeting, donated, helped out, encouraged your friends, “liked” the Facebook page, volunteered in other ways, etc. etc. etc. –this is what made the difference! So, thank you.
While most of the province is in shock, and we would have wished for more Green votes, I see that we have actually turned a corner as a movement and a Party. This was a direct result of our hard work, dedication, imagination, fun(!) and more. Your involvement made a real difference. Together we managed to inspire a greater 30 – 65% more Green support in the two Nanaimo riding's! As someone put it, “We are part of the change that has to occur, even when we are not aware of our contribution to it.”
We can celebrate Andrew Weaver’s win. Finally there will be a different voice in Victoria! Like Elizabeth May in Ottawa, the province will now see what is possible, and this will create far more momentum in the next election.
If you are interested in my analysis of the election, and where I see hope for the future, please read on.  Otherwise, please simply accept my deep gratitude for taking our movement to the next place.

So. What else happened out there? More sifting needs to take place by all of us before we get closer to the whole truth, but here’s what I conclude at this early stage:
My premise: People mostly vote with their hearts; in this election people voted out of fear or inspiration. Sometimes both.
Fear: The oil and gas industry (amongst others) poured millions into the Liberal campaign and the election. Liberal candidates were extremely well endowed with funds. The corporate media did an excellent job carrying their theme “It’s the (old) economy,” What all forces managed to do was to invoke fear in many people’s hearts that a change to the NDP would spell disaster for jobs. It worked.
The NDP put a lot of (fearful) effort into trying to prevent Greens from gaining more ground (which the Liberals brilliantly used to their advantage, especially over the pipelines issue). The NDP tried to play it safe, were coy with their vision, and so failed to inspire a different future. Result: Many of those who would have voted NDP seem to sit on their hands (watched hockey?), or instead voted Liberal, or Green!
Fear won the day for the Liberals and their corporate supporters. Most voters fearfully stayed with the familiar.
Inspiration: But there was something else that happened. Where people experienced enough real hope that the future can be better they usually voted Green. In some places (such as in Victoria) this was significant.
It was when people’s hearts were moved by the realisation that “the economy” meaningfully improves when we create local (clean sector) jobs and while being stewards of the earth, they voted Green. People also voted Green realising that we can create real health care, treat each other with dignity, save wild fish & protect our drinking water, create a better (and less costly) transportation system, and vastly improve our communities and democracy. When all of these could actually be realised –this is when people acted, and change occurred.
How did those campaigns move people’s hearts and kindled people’s imaginations for a genuine Green change? Enough people got involved before and during the campaign, including reaching people, donating money & time, door-knocking and/or voting. The inspired message of hope reached people and, more importantly, engaged people.
By these measures all Green campaigns were successful. You were and are a part of this, even in ways you may not understand.
As Stuart Mackinnon, the Green candidate for Vancouver Fraserview so eloquently put it,
Our success is not always measured in numbers of votes but often in the number of hearts we have touched, heads we have turned, and (I add) hopes kindled. You can count yourselves as in the vanguard of the great change that is happening, not only here in BC or Canada, but around the world.
It is with this sense of hope, realising that the disenfranchised can be empowered to join the Green Wave, that I invite you to stay involved between elections. This is truly how elections are won.

It has been an honour and a pleasure to run for you. Thank you.

Ian Gartshore  May 15, 2013
“Be the difference you wish to see.”  ~Ghandi

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Save Our Health Care System

The health care system itself is on life-support

The increasing demands on our health care system, the obvious stresses to the system, to the provincial budget and to our own pocketbooks (skyrocketing pharmaceuticals ) indicates it's time for a significant change in direction.

Emergency ward physicians at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital are again sounding the alarm about being overwhelmed by the volume of patients accessing the ward. Solutions so far have been limited to increasing funding, privatising services, reducing nursing qualifications, and building more facilities.

With nearly half of the province's budget now allocated to health care, and in light of the aging population and growing health problems among younger people, our current approach is not sustainable.

We need an approach that focuses on health and wellness rather than illness.

Before trying to cure ill people, we need to get serious about keeping people healthy. The Canadian Cancer Society is realising the better approach is to preserve people's health, not treat their cancer. 

The Cancer Society is not alone in this belief. They and other organisations have joined the BC Healthy Living Alliance, a non-profit organisation focused on keeping us healthy. Why? It is far cheaper, for starters. And there are many other obvious benefits, such as improved lives and better work-place productivity.

In two houses I recently visited as a part of my energy-advising business, I discovered instances of preventable environmental toxins making people ill.
In both cases the owners were slowly dying from carbon monoxide poisoning, but their doctors couldn't figure out why their patients were sick. As soon as we found the source, their symptoms evaporated. Health Canada has discovered that indoor air quality in many Canadian homes is 6 - 10 times worse indoors than out. It's a growing concern because there are so many chemicals and other toxic substances such as mould that are making us sick. The province needs to proactively help occupants eliminate these problems, rather than wait until people become ill.

Buildings are not the only culprit. With studies revealing that up to two-thirds of all chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes, are a result of diet choices I think it's time we take the same approach to harmful foods that we have with cigarettes. The money raised on taxing "junk food" could be used to provide locally grown organic fresh fruit and vegetables in schools, for example.

Such an approach would offer many benefits such as improved health, reduced childhood obesity, improved local economies, and greater self-reliance.

Without making these and other changes, our whole health care system will move from being in crisis mode to a collapse. Making small changes to the existing approach is not sufficient if we wish to have a health care system in place in the coming decades.

We need a qualitative change to the way we envision health care and the Green Party is prepared to provide that leadership.