Notes from the first Island Corridor Foundation meeting

Today was the first get together of the Community Liaison Committee for the ICF which is a committee created by the ICF to more easily provide information to its member communities without having to worry about the conflict of interest issues of the Board reporting back.

Below I have organized the report in some pictures and then answers to questions.

We first had a brief presentation at the ICF office at the Wellcox (short for Wellington/Comox) rail yard in Nanaimo.

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image Click for larger images.

You can see the agenda and the attendance.  I believe all but one person attended including John McNabb director of the ACRD Beaver Creek area who is not listed. The hi-rail trucks were full.

Existing freight customers and shipments.

We first got a tour of the rail yard and the various transloading (where goods are moved from rail to truck or vice versa) customers in the Wellcox yard.  There are five.

SVI receives a barge regularly to the Seaspan controlled barge slip at the yard (the black square in the middle of the picture below). The slip is the only public transport connection to the Island.  It also receives truck trailers but that traffic will soon be moved to Duke Point which means the slip will be for the near exclusive use of Southern Rail of Vancouver Island which they see as a major plus. Their rail slip on Annacis Island connects to CN, CP, BNSF, and UP and so all points in North America.

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PRoduct #1

is delivered at the white tent above.  Western Aerial receives fertilizer there for forestry.

PROduct #2

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is delivered a little further in the yard.  The white rail cars are carrying fly ash for the island cement industry.

PRoduct #3

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is where telephone poles (on the left) are brought down from Courtenay (at great expense by special truck) and shipped to the mainland by rail (on the right) for treatment.

PRoduct #4

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Is the shipment for Top Shelf feeds in Duncan (straight ahead) that is the only large shipments of grain to the Island.

PRoducts #5 and #6image

are in the distance.  The first is latex for the Catalyst paper mill in Port Alberni, a large customer.  The second is a supply of water stored there for use by the BC Wildfire service for use in rural communities along the railway.

Product #7

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is propane shipped by rail to their Nanaimo depot near the Nanaimo Golf Club.

Track Maintenance and Repair 101

After the yard tour we all got into hi-rail trucks for a short journey up the Welcox spur to the main line.  We passed a few potential future customers at the veneer plant in Nanaimo and a gravel pit further south.

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We then stopped at a section of the mainline south of Nanaimo where 100 ties had been marked out.

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A few things to notice in the image above.  First, the tie bar in the far rail where you see the bolts is an example of an old style tie bar that will be replaced along the line.  Every old bar has been counted.  About 9000 will be replaced.

On the rail, you see red and green markings. These are not-good (red) or must-be replaced (red/green) ties.  Notice the red/green tie in he picture is quite split and rotted.  This is an example of how they will mark the entire line as the replacement program progresses.  The tie replacement will eat up the largest amount of the $20.4M at around $11M.

Enough ties will be replaced with the $11M to be compliant with Class 3, 40mph passenger rail and 30mph freight service and allow that to continue for 10 years with regular maintenance.

You might notice the tie right in front of the red/green marked rotted tie is in very good shape.  It is also not treated with creosote.  This is a new yellow cedar tie.  Yellow cedar ties are great and are often used near water courses so as to minimize impact from creosote on rivers and streams but unfortunately the supply of yellow cedar ties is limited because yellow cedar is in such high demand.

Every effort will be made to source ties from Vancouver Island mills (like Alberni Pacific Division) or to otherwise benefit Island businesses during the retrofit.

in case you are wondering what a $100 million investment would look like… That would easily replace every single tie and then some.  (If $11M will do every 4th tie then $50M would easily replace everything.).

That amount of work is not needed for either a return of fast enough speeds for passenger service, nor for freight service.

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Above is an example of what the Victoria to Courtenay line will look like after the $20.4M program is complete.  The big thing after replacing the ties is installing ballast… the rail term for rock under, beside and over the tracks.  This improves the drainage and the stability of the track (which also improves the ride comfort) and the process used will also realign and position the rails so they are where they need to be.

56,000 tonnes of ballast will be used costing around $2 Million.  This rock will come from Island quarries.

Questions, lots of questions.

That was the end of the hands on stuff.. we then went back to the Nanaimo train station for a lunch meeting where we had more presentations and Q/A.

I will include questions I was given before this meeting and the answers I got or gleaned throughout the day.

Transport Canada regulations and upgrades and changes to rail crossings.

SVI did a presentation on the implications of the new rail crossing regulations on the Island Railway.

The upshot is that the process for the federal railways (CP/CN) is going to happen first and has not yet occurred.

They do not know yet how these federal regulations will filter down for the provincial railways like SVI/SRY.  However, they estimate that about 85% of the more than 200 crossings between Victoria and Courtenay already meet the new standards.  50% of the remaining non-compliant crossings are municipal responsibility and are pretty evenly distributed along the railway. This applies to between Victoria and Courtenay.

Once they know what the provincial requirements will be and whether there will be any grandfathering then they will do a full assessment of the crossings but in the meantime any crossing work that they do they always make sure it meets the new standards.  They have also done crossings on the Island where they brought the crossing to the minimum and then put plans to bring it to a higher stanadrd once infrastructure monies are released.

The ICF now has a general policy of no net-new crossings.  They have strict requirements for requestors to meet if they want a new crossing.  They managed to resolve concerns in Langford by upgrading one crossing and closing another.  Since costs for a crossing can start around $750,000, the ICF is keen to keep those costs down and new crossings to a minimum.

The ICF has over 1000 contracts and agreements over the entire line that they manage.

1. What’s the current status of the First Nations Snaw-naw-as legal action (Nanoose).

The ICF and Snaw-naw-as are currently in delicate talks for a negotiated settlement.  Because the talks are ongoing Mr. Bruce did not want to give a timeline or any other indication but he did say communications have been had and talks are good but sensitive so no more details can be provided right now.  Judith Sayers also related that there are other options to pursue if talks failed like pressing the single issue of the definition of the railway being inactive which they believe very strongly is illegitimate.  But the first option is of course a negotiated settlement beneficial for all parties and sooner rather than later.

2. Has there been any movement on the part of the Federal Government regarding its commitment to provide $7.5 million?

Nope. Not without movement of Snaw-naw-as lawsuit.

3. What is the current status of municipal and regional district commitment toward the retention of the railroad as a viable economic entity?

I think as one could see from the representation at the meeting, which was from most of the municipalities and all the RDs there is still good interest and commitment and want to make it work and seek viable business as well as social plans for its use. Reps presented included those from recent sources of some skepticism including Parksville and Langford.

4. What is the current amount of freight using the railroad? What part of the railroad is currently being used? What is the economic value of this freight?

You can see the current products and customers at the start of this post.  Most are transloads within the Wellcox yard. One direct rail customer remains in Nanaimo at Superior Propane.  And that is the remaining part of the railway that is running a few times a week through Nanaimo.

I honestly forgot to ask about the value for those existing customers. Will do so.

There was also a lot of talk about partnerships and possibilities for traffic on the Port Alberni subdivision including Catalyst but also more broad shipping of containers and goods from the West coast through to the rest of North America through Nanaimo and the barge slip.  SVI said they continue in discussions with both ports.

Southern Rail employees also made it clear that they and the Washington Group including the owner Mr. Washington have taken a very long term view to their holdings.  They see a lot of growth potential for the railway due to a whole host of factors.  That is why they have stayed even though the ICF has struggled to secure infrastructure funding.  They are not making money on the operation currently.  When the VIA service was still running they employed 26 people.  They now employ around half that.

Once that funding is secured there will also be a new agreement between the ICF and SVI where the SVI will pay the ICF fees as operator of the track that will go towards its capital maintenance and administration.  This agreement is under negotiation now and should be ready soon.

5. Is there more that the ICF needs municipalities such as ours to do with respect to working toward long-term viability of this railroad?

From the discussions during the meeting it appears the most supportive thing we can do is keep advocating for the railway at senior government level and also at the public level wi factual information and be sure to include the railroad in all long term social and transportation planning.  We had a good chat about the use of Development Cost Charges as a way to push improvements to the line when new developments are proposed adjacent to it.

SVI also made it clear that their own thinking and that of many railways has changed a lot when it comes to the use of a railway corridor by trails.  In previous eras the whole right of way was considered off limits for safety and development reasons.  Now, they realize that having a trail right beside the tracks actually improves safety because it gives people a much better option than walking in the tracks and it also increases the profile and ultimate support for the railway.  So they now enthusiastically support the building of the rail trail system.  It also provides funding for things like new and better rail crossing hardware, so all transportation users win.

6. When will Port Alberni be involved and receive some benefit and what is its state?

As I already mentioned, SVI and the ICF continues in discussions with the Port Alberni and Nanaimo Port Authorities looking at opportunities that could arise and bring freight to that corridor.  They do believe strongly that a customer like Catalyst would have much cheaper transportation costs in the current transport framework if they went fully to rail.  They are already a customer for SVI as the latex for the paper making process is delivered by rail to the Wellcox yard in Nanaimo and then transloaded to truck for Port Alberni.  Shipments come in every week.

There has not been a very thorough assessment of the ties and bridges yet done on the Alberni sub but the general feeling based on the experience of the people at SVI (the roadmaster has 38 years) who also worked at CPR and RailAmerica before they left is that the Alberni sub will likely be in better shape as a whole than the Victoria-Courtenay line even though it has sat dormant for so long because the majority of the limited maintenance that CPR and RailAmerica did do was on the 38mile Alberni subdivision.  However, the bridge decks need more regular maintenance so since that has not been done, the bridges will require an assessment and work to make sure they are good to go again.  Structurally the bridges should not have any problems since they have not been under any load in the past 10 years.

I got the impression that once the infrastructure monies were in place and SVI was secure for that 10 year commitment, that they would turn their attention more fully to the Alberni subdivision for both freight customers and tourism in connection with the Alberni Pacific Railway.

7. “IF the Fed’s position is that the funding is not forthcoming until the railway is running. We have an impossible situation on our hands…. is this scenario 100% accurate?”

No. The feds current position is the money will be released once the Snaw-naw-as lawsuit has come to a conclusion that they feel comfortable with.

8. In light of the fact that no Federal money is forthcoming, as difficult as the situation is, what does the ICF plan to do about this?

Since the feds are not providing their funding and the whole $20M package rest on that, the ICF and SVI is currently pursuing two interim plans that they believe could be done even without the infrastructure monies.

#1: is the Excursion train for cruise ships at the Nanaimo Port Authority.  This was demonstrated in April this year and the train is ready to go.  They have a business plan and believe the economic impact to the region would be around $20 Million a year.

The train would depart the SVI yard (which is next door to the cruise ship terminal) and head to Chemainus for part of the day. Come back to the Nanaimo train station for food and enjoying the Nanaimo uptown area and then back to the terminal. They see this starting as soon as next cruise season.

Once the infrastruxture monies are in place then the excursions could also include bringing people to events all over the Island not necessarily tied to cruise ship visits but the public in general.

#2: There is a very interesting plan being worked on where the SVI and ICF would work with BC Transit to provide a pilot commuter service between Langford and Victoria during the McKenzie interchange construction period.  They are currently looking at suitable rail stock.  They feel the tracks could currently support 20 minute service between Langford and Vic West.  They say that BC Transit has indicated a willingness to shift or even change their bus routes or timings so that they met up with the train more smoothly.

I really hope to see this pilot come to fruition. It would be a major boost.

Both of these initiatives could happen without the $20M in funding.

9. Would they reconsider their “all or nothing” approach to getting the line repaired and renegotiate funding deals still on the table to at least get part of the line repaired and operational? Even the feds might consider funding if the plan for repairs doesn’t go as far as Nanoose.

I believe the answer to #8 covers this with the addition that SVI feels very strongly that the $20M will absolutely ensure the entire rail line from Victoria to Courtenay will be able to meet Class 3, 40mph passenger and 30mph freight standards.  The ICF board feels very strongly that the whole rail line cannot be considered abandoned due to a few years of inactivity as there is still activity on the line including maintenance as well as there being a specific definition to deactivating a railway that the Island Railway does not meet. Their intent remains focused on the whole railway even while they pursue small opportunities on some portions while they work on resolving the legal case.

10. An estimate of the timeline for the Nanoose lawsuit would be nice to have too.

They were unwilling to give a timeline because the negotiations are ongoing and sensitive.

11.  I’d tell them to immediately re start freight service to Top Shelf and the pole shippers, even if they have to run at a walking pace the public needs to see an active railway.

They can only serve customers that they can get the train to within the 12 hour working day.  Otherwise, due to transportation regulations, they have to change crews.  That is the main reason why both passenger and freight service has shut or been reduced to just Nanaimo.  At current operating speeds the train can’t get to the customers in a reasonable time, so this option isn’t viable.

12. I think it needs to be made clear that they need to have some sort of forward movement related to rail even if they need to create it themselves.

It does appear tey feel the same way and is why they are pursuing the two oportunities mentioned above and they say they are continuing to work on business plans that can stand on their own.

13. Another question. Is SVI / Washington Group willing to step in and front this 15 million to stop the line from being lost forever?

I honestly didn’t ask. However they are putting in their own resources to make the Chemainus and Victoria commuter pilot a possibility.

14. Could you ask the ICF to host a public forum in Port Alberni to discuss the future of the E&N Railway.

The ICF reps made it pretty clear they realize their public outreach hasn’t been up to par. They hope these liaison meetings will help and I think they would be open to hosting an information session in Alberni. I want to be work on this with them.

Breaking down the costs of commuting – now with two jobs!

Update: I’ve added the savings if someone was driving a car/truck that got more average mileage. (9L/100km or 26 US mpg)

As many of you likely already know, I commute to work at VIU five days a week. Yup, this means driving back and forth everyday in some fashion.

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Click to see the bus schedule

Since about 2008 (I can’t even remember anymore haha) I have been taking advantage of the Regional District of Nanaimo BC Transit bus from Qualicum or Parksville to Woodgrove and then on to VIU. It adds between 30 and 60 minutes to the trip a day. On a ‘normal’ day I leave Port Alberni around 6AM, drive to Parksville Civic Centre, hop on the bus at 6:45, transfer at Woodgrove and end up at VIU around 7:30AM. On the way back it is a longer journey because of a long layover at Woodgrove and a ‘milk run’ to Parksville so I generally leave VIU at 3:35PM and arrive home at 5:30PM.  If you’re wondering if I’m the only person on the bus, nope not at all.  There are other VIU commuters (employees and students), High School students going to Nanaimo, other workers, many seniors going for day trips either to Nanaimo or often to Vancouver and beyond and other regular bus users, like kids going to the Mall or people who likely don’t have a lot of money, especially First Nations.  The use of the commuter bus between Parksville and Woodgrove has grown noticeably, especially as gas prices have risen.

IMG_1914The cost of an RDN bus pass is $700 a year through the VIU “Pro Pass” program, which is pretty cool.  My pass is #0040.  I’m an early adopter… and as you can see from how grungy it is I use it a lot. The previous Federal Government also instituted a Tax Credit for all bus passes.  So I get 15% of that cost back ($105) so I am currently paying about $590 for the bus pass.

So why take the bus?

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Remember, I’m a geek. So I track my distance travelled with an App on my iPad called “Waze”.

I get this question all the time.  The answer is simple.  Money, and stress. As you can see on the side, the full trip from home to VIU is about 82km.  The drive to Parksville is 45km. I used to drive to Qualicum which is shorter but they changed the bus routes two years ago and made the trip much longer.  So I save about 35km of driving.  That doesn’t seem like much, but in terms of stress on both myself and my car, I find the drive along Highway 19 to be far more stressful, and potentially dangerous, than the extremely familiar Highway 4.

Ya I track that too at www.bcgasprices.com
Ya I track that too at www.bcgasprices.com

Even in a fuel efficient car like my previous 2004 Toyota Echo Hatchback and my even more efficient 2012 Toyota Prius C, this year I saved myself about 9730km of driving by taking the bus.  Not only does that mean 442L of fuel not burned and $505 saved on average, it also means 1.02 tonnes of CO2 not put into the atmosphere. (The buses would run anyway if I am on them or not of course).  Compared to buying a parking pass for either $400 or $600 at VIU and add in the wear and tear on the vehicle and the economic argument is easy as is the safety.  The time argument is the hard one but so far it works.

So now that you have two jobs….

As you might know, I decided to take on a new set of responsibilities (and have been honoured to be allowed to do so!).  So my burning question over the past 12 months in the back of my geeky and miserly brain has been… with the additional driving that I have had to do to attend to City Council business, does it still make sense to take the bus whenever I can?

Well here are the numbers for the past 12 months.

I parked at VIU 41 times = $175 daily parking fees
I drove to VIU and parked for free elsewhere 30 times
(this is my late classes on Wednesdays when I can’t take the bus…)

The only thing I don’t have exact numbers for is days I took the bus, but working backwards I figure I had about 139 “bus days”.  At $700 that works out to around $5 a day.  Which is exactly the same as the cash fare ($2.50 each way).

Average mileage of my Toyota Prius over 2015: 4.548L/100km = 0.04548 L/km (51.7 U.S. mpg).

Home to VIU distance: 82km
Home to Parksville distance: 47km
Difference: 35km

So this year the money I spent on driving all the way to VIU was:
35km * 71 days * 2 = 4970km extra driving past Parksville = 226L fuel *1.144$/L = $258.  Add $175 in parking fees and that’s $433.  CO2 emitted: 0.52 tonnes CO2.

For the bus trips the money I saved was: 35km*139 bus days*2 = 9730km avoided on bus = 442L fuel *1.144$/L = $505 saved = 1.02 tonnes CO2 not emitted.

So taking all of it together and comparing the two:
VIU Bus Pro Pass = $695.24 – $105 tax credit = $590 (15% tax credit)
Extra Driving = $258
Parking tickets = $175
Total with Bus = $1003
CO2 from Driving Parskville to VIU when needed = 0.52 tonnes

If I did not take the bus:
VIU “Econo” limited Parking pass = $400
Driving = $258+$505 = $763
Total without bus = $1163
If I get a VIU “Employee” pass, the cost rises to $600 and total is $1363.
CO2 from Driving from Parksville to VIU full time. = 1.52 tonnes

So I save $160 and 1 tonnes of CO2 not including wear and tear on the vehicle.

Update: You might be wondering how much of a difference the type of car makes.  The answer is a lot.  My Prius C gets 4.5L/100km or 51 US mpg.  If I instead took our 2007 Toyota Matrix which gets around 9L/100km or 26 US mpg the totals would be:

For the Bus: Fuel: 447L/$511 Total: $1386 and 1.03T of CO2

Without the Bus: 875L/$1001 (plus above) Total: $1912 and 2.02T of CO2.

So in an “average” mileage car I would save $526 and 2T of CO2.

Now these numbers are not going to be perfect but they should be pretty darn close to accurate. So even with the additional driving that I have had to do with the new City Council duties, it still makes sense for me to take the bus as much as possible both from a cost perspective and an environmental perspective.  And that does not include additional maintenance costs or consideration on safety.

Public Transit saves everyone money

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Click to see a full mockup schedule of a mid island commuter train service that I presented to the RDN in 2014.

Commuting isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Especially with home price differences so great between Port Alberni and other mid-island communities I believe we will see more commuters, not less.  This is why I continue to advocate for transit options to open up between Parksville and Port Alberni either with a bus like the one between Parskville and Woodgrove or using the Railway (see the link).  The cost savings are substantial both to people and to the taxpayer in terms of maintenance on roadways and safety, which means more money in everyones pocket to spend on other things. The benefit to the environment and overall safety is obvious.

 

Port Alberni – Federal All Candidates Meeting Raw Notes

Below you will see my notes taken at tonights all candidates meeting at the Italian Social Centre in Port Alberni.  I make no guarantees that this is accurate though some if not much of it is word for word.  I would characterize, as objectively as possible, the meeting this way.  There was Barb Biley of the Marxist Lennonist Party on far left… Next was John Duncan of Conservative Party…. Then Gord Johns NDP…. Then Carrie Powell Davidson of Liberal Party…. Then Glenn Sollitt of Green Party.

To take the tempersture of the room based on applause.  The NDP won the room.  Followed by the Green, Marxist Lennonist, Liberal and Conservwtive.  The room was silenced and grumbled a number of times in response to a number of answers from Conservative John Duncan.  They applaud mid answer to all of the other candidates.  Strongest applause after most powerful speaking was for NDP.

Here are the notes:

Opening Statements:

Barb Biley Marxist Lennonist party
– 70 candidates
– We need a new constitution and hierarchy of rights
– Should be ways to directly decide issues
– Actually elect candidates from their peers (rather than parties)
– Please sign pledge to save public health care

John Duncan Conservative
– 20yrs in forest industry
– Lived in ucluelet 7years and port Alberni for 1 year
– Am happy to say strength is collaboration with business local gov and community work
– Cpc has brought good gov. Steered through election. Lowered avg age of public infrastructure created 1.3M jobs since recession
– Understand progress comes from infrastructure.
– Advocate for alt connection to horne lake and airport
– Seniors tax credit. Home reno tax credit (permanent). Continue child care benefit and income splitting
– Cpc will cntinue to lower taxes. Invest in infrastructure. Family friendly and senior family. And create 1.3M more jobs.
– Higher rate of home ownerships than US

Johns NDP
– respectful partnership with first nations greetings and respect to them
– Moved to tofino 21 years ago.
– After 10 years of failed policy. Its time for change. We can stop Stephen harper
– Election reform
– Will repeal c51 (applause)
– Will restore Canada Post (applause)
– At pivotal moment. Can rebuild canadas dreams. Strong finish. Strong applause

Carrie powell davidson Liberal
– Feel kinship to PA. Grew up in Powell River,
– Local government is the gov. Of people
– I am used to listening to constituents.
– Council for 2 years
– Gave a long background speech
– Am running because I am extremely concerned about direction
– When i learned trudeau was leader I knew I had to run for Liberal and make him PM. That is why I am running.
– I will take your concerns to ottawa.

Glenn Sollitt – Green
– Alberni is engaged
– Was a deckhand on fathers and own boat.
– Up and down canal ton of times
– Mechanical Engineer
– Connected to the Island
– What drove me to politics was a disenchantment disengagement.
– QP antics is frustrating. We dont see productive work there.
– Single biggest issue. Lost democracy. Do MPs take issues to Ottawa?
– We are under thumb of leaders.
– Every vote is a free vote in green.
– MP is responsible for the needs of its constituents.
– Elizabeth is the leader but you are my boss. (Applause)
Q1 – 2000 tax cut for widows how low income seniros will manage with big cuts in eir income.
Duncan – Not sure of specifics.
No other answers.

Q2- large number of agencies have been cut or removed. Overall chill on public service/science.

Sollit – lost many scientists. Need to step back and stop that. Need to renew charitable status
Powell-Davidson – on the fair elections act. People cant vote. Go check out if you can
Johns – CSIS spying on government is fighting anybody against it. Shame. They are fighting charities and First nations (applause)
Duncan – charitable status is done by independant bureaucracy. it is not political (crowd grumbles) Terrorist propaganda can be seized. On Gov scientist. No protocol has changed. (Partisan applause rest silent)
Biley – we are all so many terorrists according to harper (applause)

Q3 – will ndp repeal c24 (denying citizenship to grandchildren of immigrants)

Johns -Absolutely we will repeal that bill.. Everyone who is a canadian citizn belongs here.
Biley – Citizenship rights can not be subject to government making a decision arbitrairy. They must be inviolable.
Duncan – C51 excludes lawful advocacy. political opposition taking law out of context. Toronto 18 will get out one day. He is dual citizen. We shouldsend them back
Sollitt – will also repeal c24

Q4 – what would you do to restore environmental legislation
Johns – will repeal gutted laws.unmuzzle scientists. Going to UN with set targets. Climate change sustainability act. Environmental bill of rights.
Powell-Davidson – will work closely WITH communities that environment is safe and scientists are there to learn from
Biley – the reasonable starting point is to repeal all the legislation that has changed so much. (She is getting good applause and smiles from Gord johns)
Duncan – “environmental legislation has not been gutted” has been updated to reflect resource extraction reality. Canada leads in this regard.
Sollitt – omnibus bills should be illegal. Trade laws are threatening environment as well.

Q5 – parliamentary reform – consequence if mp does not answer the question in House of Commons?

Sollitt – signed a declaration to basically behave like an adult in parliament, answer questions. Must do everything we can to ensure people behave like adults.
Duncan – i behaved as sollitt said. I do not like underlying suggestion that I do not behave like an adult in ottawa.
Powell-Davidson – if social media witch hunts continue we might not have any more candidates on current trend. We must be your voice of your communities. I will answer your questions directly.
Johns – he recalls certain people asking a question and another person does not answer question. (Referring to ndp asking questions in House and CPC answering eith non-sequiturs) I will not answer a question that i dont have answers to. And if your mp is not answering your questions. Answer them.

Q6 – TPP. should trade agreements not be brought before parliament?
Duncan – interested in TPP. Much of negotiations have been on internet. Trade minister has said yesterday we are not giving up protection on agricultural sector. There is always a lot of opposition while trade agreement happening. Positive after.
Johns – we need to discuss trade agreement in house of commons. How have trade agreements working for us in port alberni.? We are half an hour in and no mention of jobs that are needed in Port Alberni.
Powell-Davidson – i hear concerns around secrecy. Trade is something that is good for Canada. But we must be careful about what we are getting into. Hope duncan is right that agricultural sector is not hurt but what about other industries?
Sollitt – dont know enough about tpp. We do know about nafta and others. We have paid millions of dollars in compensation to US on nafta it is not working well for us. In some agreements No corporation can exist if it does not create profit. This is a large threat to our public institutions (health care, etc). Terrifying.

Q7 – tax credits – how do tax credits benefit low income canadians who struggle to get into a tax bracket.

Duncan – we have lowered taxes for everyone.
Sollitt – simplify tax code greatly. No income tax on less than 20,000. Eliminate offshore havens. We can make tax system much more fair if simplified.
Johns – the top 75 ceos get a $500 million tax break from you. The child tax credit is costing us 2 billion for top 15%. We need to help canadians. The home energy program made sense. Home reno program does not. Be innovative and creative.
Powell-Davidson – tax credits are something liberals are committed to. We will ask wealthy
1% to give a little more. Child care benefit will be bigger and tax free for families.

Q8- fiscal transparency – balanced budget? What about $3 billion out of EI fund? What about money not spent in Veteran?

Johns – it is disgraceful.they shorted first nations 1 billion. They talk about truth and reconciliation not living up to it. You would be ashamed about veterans as well.
Sollitt – we are advocating for Parliamentary budget office. It should set rules. They should cost all party platforms. So we all know accounting is same. You should not have to do a FOI request just for budgeting numbers.
Powell-Davidson – lib party has long history of balanced budget. Fiscal transparency is key and we have a strong economic team. We have a strong plan that is fully costed. We will run small deficits. We will balance our budget. Mr. Trudeau had started posting his expenses online long time ago and we are committed.
Duncan – 1 minute not long enough, what the ndp and libs are not telling you is they will increase payroll tax. (“Liar” from crowd) if maximum does not happn in veteran affairs then money is not spent. Not a bad thing and not a cut. (Grumble from crowd)

Q9 – safety in canada – what position should we respond in this situation against ISIS

Johns – security is very important to me. Challenges in middle east and terrorism . Our biggest strength is UN and diplomacy and give a balanced approached to the middle east and as a peace broker. We need to revert back to the UN. People are at risk right now.
Powell-Davidson – it is a complicated issue. We do not want as a party to be on front lines. We can do what we do best as peace keepers. We should do what we are best at. We will be keeping canada safer if we fulfill those roles.
Duncan – it is one thing to talk here and another to talk to kurd family. I have talked to those families. If you witness children being beheaded. We are delivering military aid. We have 69 people on ground and some airplanes. The kurdish thank us. We will accept refugees…. Mic Cut off.
Sollitt – opposed to bombing mission. We should halt selling arms to middle east (applause). I wonder what canada position should be. We have a humanitarian requirement here. We should look inwards before we go to foreign countries.
Biley – we should get out of Middle East and we should be an anti- war country.

Q10 are you in favour of health care cuts that have happened.

Powell-Davidson – health has been number one issue across riding. And lack of action by fed and province to disburse monies. Our full health care plan will be announced any day. We are committed to healt care and workig with provinces. And pharmacare.

Johns – health care is in ndp dna. We will renew accord with 6% escalator. We have a strong senior strategy. We will invest 300 million hire 7000 practioniers and put in pharmacare. It will pay for itself by buying bulk medicine.

Duncan – addressed this issue earlier tonight. We have increased funding every year. 67% increase in that time. The provinces have decided to reduce funding. Our transfers will be greater than where province are going. Provinces made zero committment. (Same 5 people applaud)
Biley – has a full list of demands (public health care gets applause). Full expansion of public health care (applause)
Sollitt – need a health accord. 2014 it expired. We will restore funding to 6% increases. We are only country that does not have pharmacare. We will provide that. You will get free pharmaceuticals. It is low hanging fruit we must move on it.

Q11 – bank of canada. WHen will you use it to fund public services remove it from banksters.

Biley – you are totally correct we must control private banks. Public people are best investment.
Powell-Davidson – i need to do more research – our major infrastructure promise includes an infrastructure bank. A public bank. I will look forward to sharing that with you.
Johns – I am not an expert on bank of canada. Banks have record profits. We have talked about bank fees that have impact on canadians and small business. We must research how to reform the central bank to better serve canadians.
Duncan – canada has most respected systen in worl.d you might have some concerns as consumers but it has served us well. What you are suggesting is communism. (What? Says crowd)
Sollitt- when bank of canada created – it was used for public infrastructure internal. We now fund IMF. (Very fast and very detailed response. I think room a little surprised).

Q12 – what strategy for children in poverty?

Sollitt – guaranteed living income. Determine what poverty income is. Immediately Raise all to poverty level. It replaces existing welfare and shame based systems. It is a cheap way to go. We would save $130 million.
Biley – forestry used to provide good jobs. We now export and do not do sustainable forestry. We must encourage secondary industry. That would help and create jobs.
Duncan – as of august. We doubled child care benefit parents will receive $2000 a year. It is interesting that UniCEf says child poverty rate decreased during recession. Poverty rate is at lowest ever. We are responsible for that and we are not done yet.
Johns – 1/3rd of children are living in poverty here in valley. There has been no voice in Ottawa. We have a plan. We must kickstart the economy. I will do everything I can to change it. I am a collaborator. We will find solutions to our problems together. (Applause)
Powell-Davidson – i have mentioned our plan to grow middle class. We will lift 315,000 kids out of poverty. We will work on national early learning program. We must start helping grassroots. Must break cycle.

Q13 – unemployment is at 15% for young canadians and is trendingnup. How can university graduates get by.

Duncan – we have most enviable recovery of any recession country. We have hillary clinton saying she is jealous. Our middle class is better than USA. All the stats are good. Youth employment is never where we want it to be.
Powell-Davidson – i am very exicted for plans for assisting youth. Our jobs and skills training is above all else. We will create summer jobs. We will provide training and job skills. We will invest in green tech and industry. We will help our encvioron,ent and economy.
Biley – harper gov has carried out destruction of industrial sector. Must defend industries and process raw materials here not SHIPPING AWAY. Post secondary should be free(applause)
Sollitt – student debt – 5 year plan. Immediate interest relief. Relieve debt to max 20,000 after 5yrs. By 2020 we will have free university/college.
Johns – create jobs. Invest in manufacturing. We all have friends going to oilsands. We are shipping jobs between communities. We need employment in our communities. We need to focus on tech. We could invest in PATH and airport and other sectors in alberni valley.

Q14 – there are no boides of water that are protected on vancouver island. I work for government.

Sollitt – we would repeal the laws in omnibus bills. And make omnibus illegal. We must protect ourselves from trade agreements that override our sovereignty.
Johns – repealing the laws. We are committed to it. Environemtnal bill of rights. We have right to clean water and air and sustainable industry.
Duncan – water protection act was about shipping not about waters. The narrative is incorrect. This was inadequate legislation now fixed.
Powell-Davidson – we will reinstate funding for enviro sciences. We have international commitment to protect our seas and international areas of water. We are way behind other countries including russia!

Q15 – retired from navy, to liberals will you start building ships after 35 years of no ship building
– Powell-Davidson we havent been in charge we are committed to invest in navy,
– Sollitt why with the largest coastline we have…. Why do we not have the industry? We need ship building. In port alberni perhaps.
– Duncan – we made 30 yeqr commitment to replace coast guard. We have built near shore coast guard. We are building offshore ships in north van. We are committed to ship building in canada.

Closing –
Sollitt – why vote green? We are not going to form government. we are not delusional. Our target is to have 10-15MPs. We will reach out and cooperate. If it is liberal or ndp. We want to implement our platform, we would like other parties to steal our ideas. Biggest idea is a council of canadian government. Including municipal, first nations, inuit, metis, provinces. To implement big national strategies.

Powell-Davidson – thank you. There are many issues we did not get to. How are you going to create jobs. I have put support behind PATH project. Infrastructure program is good from liberals. We will build big projects. We will push for secondary highway access. Also housing component. We are not cutting pension income splitting. Liberals know we can have a heightened safety and protect civil liberties with c51. Come to Chars landing on Thursdays to say Hi. Vote for the longest name on the ballot.

Johns – i have been listening here and looking all over the world for examples. It can be done. We can have sustainable jobs. In quebec we saw huge benefit from childcare. We will hear (from cpc) that we can’t help on many things. We can elect someone to stay the course. But i dont see many places where this course is working. You can vote for someone who will work with you and get better. We can’t let another generation slip by. They deserve better (applause)

Duncan – being in rural bc rural canada. I expected questions on other things. I am proud that i ended gun registry. (Some applause). Here is what tom mulcair says “ndp will bring something that will bring every gun in canada” trudeau says: “i would vote again to keep long un registry”. I will keep voting to keep guns from criminals. Starts reciting stats. (Crowd grumbles….) “The last three months our manufacturing sector grew”. Port alberni is a jewel. Transportation is the hurdle. Municipal government has vision i support that vision (runs out of time)

Biley – health care was number one issue at start of campaign. But it has not come up. Issues of cpncerns are not coming to canadians. John duncan is here on behalf of pmo. He is bringing stats that try to show questions raised are simply “delusional”. I could be deported to england based on c-24 contrary to what duncan said. Vote to stop harper. …… (She spoke well… Received well)

Final Update – The Incredible 5 days that was UBCM – Rolling week long post

What a Week…. final thoughts.

I have been to a few of these kinds of conferences in my time.  I went to two Apple World Wide Developers Conferences in 1999 and 2001,  I’ve been to a few for work including one for my Union (VIU Faculty Association) and of course AVICC earlier this year.  However, this conference was truly a cut above.  I am very glad that I have described it in full below not only because it will be good information for you to know what I did on your time, but also for me, personally and professionally as I can refer back to it over time.

I would describe UBCM as amazing, informational, inspiring, challenging, fun, and above all important, not only for me professionally and personally but also for the City as a Corporation and government.  I have not learned that much outside an actual educational institution since the World Wide Developers conferences at Apple.  I have never connected with so many different people with different outlooks all with a desire to be better and to serve.  It was simply fantastic and I can say without a single doubt in my mind absolutely worth the expense of all of the councillors and mayor of going.

On that note, here are my expenses (the City Clerk will know the cost of the hotel I didn’t have it handy with me today when I did this, I believe it was around $120 a night) that I’ll be submitting.  These may change if I missed something somewhere but I believe it to be correct.

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There is nothing cheap about getting to or even just attending the conference, that’s for sure.  However, I truly believe it was worth every penny.  And I am glad I chose the transportation I did.  I walked on the Nanaimo ferry (with my suitcase, laptop/backpack and suit-jacket holder) and took the bus into downtown.  I would have taken the ferry back if it had not been for my commitments I had to get back to VIU for early on Friday morning.

After Wednesday’s sessions started things got fast and furious but I hope what I’ve put down here will be just a little bit as helpful and interesting as I found it to be having had the privilege of representing you at the Union of BC Municipalities.

Enjoy.
Continue reading “Final Update – The Incredible 5 days that was UBCM – Rolling week long post”

Less Fires in the City, More Water in Dry Creeks (where and when it’s supposed to be), and in Dunk Tanks!

A few interesting things happening in City Business.

Big changes to Fires in the City

Over the past couple weeks the City has gone through a bit of a sea change on the fire prevention front and it all comes down to improving Air Quaity.

#1: Backyard Burning Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 8.53.39 AMbanned yearround starting April 16, 2016.

This will not affect campfires but does affect any burning of yard debris on properties in City limits larger than campfire size (1/2 metre).  Burning of land clearing debris and of anything but clean, dry wood has been banned in City Limits for a number of years already.  The ban specifically refers to fires of up to 1 metre that are hand-piled.  Alternatives to this final step will be to bring all your yard waste to the dump (it is generally free or very inexpensive) or hopefully in the intervening year the City will be able to start up a Kitchen and Yard Waste program or otherwise provide a yard waste pickup day for residents to put out their yard clippings in spring and fall.  Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 8.53.14 AMThe reason for the ban is Air Quality.  Backyard bunring in the fall especially contributes to very bad air quality and has led to multiple Advisories over the past few years including the two in November and December shown in the pictures on the left and right.  We ar
e stuck in our beautiful little Valley with inversions that trap the smoke from peoples fires and stoves.  While stoves can be upgraded to burn very efficiently (more on that below), backyard burn piles cannot.  Many other communities like ours have banned backyard burning for the same reason.  I would not be surprised to see it grow to a Valley wide ban through the ACRD in the near future.  Emissions from fires cause major health problems especially for the young and elderly.

#2 Non-EPA Woodstoves phased out by 2017

old_stove_versus_new_stoveDid you know that the City has been in the throes of a five-year sunset clause on all Non-EPA wood stoves?  That means, by January 1 2017, all non-EPA wood stoves must be removed from City residences.

Non-EPA Woodstoves are already required to be removed from properties at the time of a sale.  There have also been exchange programs through the Air Quality council for a number of years where people can get discounts on new stoves by bringing in their old ones.

 

#3 When is the Tsunami Warning System actually used?

Ever wonder what it actually takes to have our Tsunami Warning System actually used?  Well, it is in our new Fire Control Bylaw in the July 13 Agenda.

  1. (xiii)  activate the Tsunami Warning System in the following situations:(A)  a tsunami warning affecting the Port Alberni area has been issued by Emergency Management British Columbia;(B)  a tsunami warning affecting the Port Alberni area has been issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Warning Center;(C)  An earthquake affecting the Alberni Valley occurs, the magnitude of which makes standing difficult.

Work Begins on Dry Creek Project (while fish being moved too).

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.27.20 AMWork has begun on the Dry Creek Mitigation project.  There has already been digging work done in the channel between 4th and 3rd Avenue and behind Smitty’s.  More significant work involving the bridges, culverts and buildings in the area that had to be bought by the City will be happening very soon as well.

Here are some ‘before’ pictures from the Dry Creek Mitigation Study done in 2013. Click for full size.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.31.01 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.28.16 AM

And here are some current pictures from this morning.

As you can see, it’s a big project!  This is all to try to mitigate the flooding on 3rd avenue and also will provide some better fish habitat.  The original stream of course did not conveniently curve around the industrial properties but rather empty pretty much straight from 4th Avenue into where the fisherman’s harbour is now.  But this is an attempt to improve the situation both structurally and environmentally.  Soon, many of the buildings along the creekside between 3rd and 4th will be demolished to make way for the larger stream bed and the added culvert under third avenue.

Dunk Tank!

And last but not least this Sunday, August 2 between 4:30PM and 5PM you have the exciting opportunity to drop me in the dunk tank at the Blue Marlin (former Arlington)!

(Click the picture for the Blue Marlin’s Facebook Event PageScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.10.19 AM)

 

 

They are raising money for Ty Watson House.  The event runs from 4PM to 9:30PM.  So come on by dunk some councillors and other community folks and enjoy what they have to offer.  All for a great cause.

4:00-A rep from Ty Watson
4:30-Christopher Alemany (City Council)
5:00-Denis Denis Sauve (City Council)
5:30-Nancy Wilmont (Shaw TV)
6:00-Kevin A Wright (SteamPunk Cafe and Coffee House)
6:30-Sproat Fire Hall
7:00-Cathy Braiden (Remax)
7:30-Beaver Creak Fire Hall

Stuff happening:
Live Music “The Enablers”
Dunk Tank
Lots of Kids activities
Pony Rides
Horse & Carriage Rides
Free Hot Dogs for kids 6 & under. Over that age $5.00 and includes a cold beverage.
Pork Roast Dinner, Corn on the Cob, & Salads – $12.95
Proceeds to the Ty Watson House in memory of Ed Walcot.