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.

 

Why are my Taxes so High!? A City and Beaver Creek Comparison.

(I’ve updated the post with a correction on the VIRL library fees thanks to info from ACRD Director from Long Beach Tony Bennett)

People really love to complain about their taxes.  If they didn’t there wouldn’t be a meme about it (left).  And since the AVNews ran a story in December with the headline that the City was raising taxes by 7%, the questions and complaints have been pouring in.

Now, first things first, the City has not decided to raise taxes 7%.  In fact, it hasn’t decided anything.  The story was simply based off the first draft of the financial plan that City Staff have to create every year so that we know where we are starting from, what costs have risen over the year, what capital projects we committed to in the coming years, etc.  Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.30.02 AMThere are weeks of deliberations to go before a final plan is adopted.  I hope as many people as possible can either come to or watch online the public budget meetings that start next week.  You can see the full schedule and all info about the budget as it is created on the CPA website

The reason for this post though is because I wanted to share with you a specific email that I got from a resident.  His question I think encapsulates a lot of the discussion and tension in Port Alberni and in surrounding districts about the tax situation.  It also shows some of the misunderstanding and incomplete information people may have.  He’s given me permission to reproduce it here.

Here is what he said:

Hello Mr Alemany hope all is well and happy new year. Question, was chatting with friend who owns house off Kitsuksis, house worth 750k and he pays same amount of property tax as me whose house worth 220k. I get that he’s considered Beaver Creek but we pay water/garbage seperate from prop tax so why the Huge discrepancy? We all use Arena, Echo, their kids go to same schools, hospitals and drive on same roads. Only diff i can tell is some in city have sidewalks/street lights and in city we have fire dept. they have fire too but volunteer i understand. And like i said earlier garbage and water we have extra bills so that shouldnt factor into it. Am i missing something? The system here just dosnt seem fair especially since many of people on outskirts of town have way more money and nicer house then in town. Not all but on average. What do you think?

The text below is my response to him with some additions and I have added images and graphics so that it is better illustrated than just the email I sent him alone:

It’s a great question, and a very important one. It all comes down to knowing what services are actually subsidized or completely paid for by the provincial versus the city government.

It is easiest to say first what is covered by the province and we all pay the same: Hospitals and Schools [correction—>and Libraries] are the big ones,  on your tax form these rates are the same no matter if you are in the City or in Beaver Creek.

Here is my tax form for 2014 (I couldn’t find last years :)).  You can see the School, BC Assessment, Municipal Finance, and Regional Hospital rates.  These are all common whether you are in Port Alberni, Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek, etc.  By the way, my assessed value was $155,900 for this tax assessment.

TaxExampleProperty2014

Here is a Beaver Creek property tax notice also from 2014 for a total assessed value of $248,200.

PTx2014 copy 2

There are a few differences in Beaver Creek. First, there is a very small provincial “rural” tax rate (0.5600) that goes to the province for things like road work outside city limits.  There is also a small “Police Tax”…more on that in a second.  There is also a charge for the volunteer fire department and for the ACRD administration and a final one for water (which Beaver Creek buys in bulk from the City).  City residents have a similar, though smaller, ACRD charge on top of the “General Municipal” rate paid (9.00500) for all other services in the City and servicing the wider community.

By the way, the “Arena Parcel Tax” you see on my bill is common to all areas that originally agreed to pay for the new Multiplex.  It is not on the Beaver Creek bill possibly because that resident chose to pay the full amount at the time the Multiplex was built rather than have it added on to their tax bill until the Multiplex was paid off.  It does not go toward operation of the arena.

Let’s start with RCMP (image is from the Draft Financial plan in the January 11, 2016 agenda):

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RCMP is the most expense budget in the City, about $500 on the average City tax bill, even though it serves the whole Valley plus Bamfield. Beaver Creek residents pay a separate rate on their bill for police of $63 for the services of the RCMP. This is despite the fact that there are a few City employees that do the needed administrative work for the detachment in addition to the vast majority of the expense which is of course the RCMP officers themselves.

The RCMP cost is nearly twice as much  as the cost of all of the Administrative departments, with all their employees and managers and equipment of the City (Governance/Finance, Planning, EcDev, and Corporate Services) combined which only total around $3.5 Million or about $290 per average City tax bill for 5 divisions including the Heritage services.

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It’s worth noting that every single one of those departments in administration in the City are absolutely necessary in order to service the businesses, not-for-profits, organizations and service centres that all folks with “Port Alberni” on their home address probably use. All of gone through multiple rounds of downsizing and most continue to shrink as the City tries to cut costs.

Of those, only the Museum and Heritage services department could be considered a “luxury” compared to the administration necessities, however there is something to be said about preserving the arts, culture and history of the Alberni Valley which the Museum does so well and which the McLean Mill celebrates.  I am sure there would be readers who would say Heritage and Culture are necessities just as much as finance and bylaws.

You’ll also notice that in the ‘2016’ column at the bottom of each section under “% Increase over Prior Year” most have gone down, many significantly, while RCMP budgets continue to rise largely out of the control of the City and Provincial grants to the RCMP budget lines decline.

The next most expensive department in the City Department is Parks and Rec ($3.6 Million) which includes all the buildings like the Multiplex, the Pool, Echo Community Centre and the other major city buildings as well as the actual parks, fields and other amenities.  Beaver Creek residents pay no taxes towards these facilities.

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All of these require upkeep and operating costs. User fees only cover a very small portion of the costs, even when you include fees from people who live outside the City and use those facilities. All the city parks and upkeep and Harbour Quay and all people in them are included here too.

The next most expensive department is really a tie, between the Port Alberni Fire Department and City Engineering and Public Works.  Both are in the $3 Million range so I’ll include them both here:

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PAFD  is of course a paid rather than volunteer department, though again Beaver Creek does benefit from them as PAFD and BCFD and Sproat Lake FD all have an automatic aid agreement so they attend each others major fires automatically which benefits the region because PAFD can often get there very quickly and it benefits PAFD because it boosts the number of people at a fire so there is more rotation if a fire is really bad.  It is interesting that Beaver Creek residents still pay roughly half ($122 on my assessed value)  the cost City residents pay for fire service even though BCFD is volunteer and PAFD is fully paid.  The PAFD is also in charge of medical first responder from Cathedral Grove to Sutton Pass.  You’ll see only modest increases in the PAFD budget mainly due to contractual wage increases and equipment maintenance.

As far as Engineering, Roads and City Works all roads in City Limits except Johnston/RiverRd/Highway 4 are taken care of and paid for by City taxpayers. Paving, upkeep, sidewalks, cleaning, signals, etc. Roads are horribly expensive. Repaving just one section of lower 3rd Avenue from Napier to Burde (375 metres) is budgeted at $250,000 which is around $20 for every City resident.  By contrast, the “rural provincial tax rate” levied by the provinces costs Beaver Creek residents only around $80 (again using my assessed value) to take care of all of the roads and other general engineering work needed in the rural areas.  That’d be only enough to do a few blocks of work a year in the City.

One Area that is often overlooked is the “External Services” which by its very name should indicate that these are areas that benefit more than only the City of Port Alberni.

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The big expense here is Bus service.  Currently buses do not run outside City limits, so this is wholly paid for by the City with help from standard funding from the Province.  If Beaver Creek or Cherry Creek or other residents did want to have bus service they would need to advocate that their ACRD directors join with BC Transit and the City in funding the service.  In Nanaimo, for example, the BC Transit service is actually run through their Regional District so that it services Nanaimo, Parksville and smaller areas in between like Nanoose and Cedar.  However it does not service Coombs because that area did not agree to pay for the service.

The other big ticket on the external services is the Library Service.. but this is a cost that is the same whether you are in the City or Region.  As of 2016, ACRD residents will see this as a separate tax rate on their bills split from the ACRD “E” (according to their area) line.  This is a cost that is exclusive to the City even though obviously the Library is something that all citizens can and should access.  The City pays for the Library through its association with the Vancouver Island Regional Library service so we can sometimes see costs rise when other communities build new libraries even when services here do not change.

The last departments are Water, Sewer, and Garbage:

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Water and Sewer are completely paid through user fees now so that is similar to Beaver Creek where you can pay for garbage pickup and you pay for water (which Beaver Creek now buys in bulk from the City) and your own septic services. That said, there are sometimes large projects that the city has to dip into its tax bank accounts in order to cover the cost of, say, a big road and sewer project or the new water treatment facility at China Creek that City taxpayers pay for that residents in outlying areas, even if they are paying for City water, are not paying for.

Long story short, there are a ton of things that Beaver Creek residents likely use or benefit from in the City of Port Alberni that they pay a fraction of the amount for in their taxes or fees, if they pay anything at all. So get your friend to buy you dinner. 😉

If the whole Valley was part of the City, tax rates would be much lower across the board because the average values of property would be higher and it would be spread out with more people, but the person in Beaver Creek would likely pay more tax than they do now, so good luck convincing them to join even if it is “fairer” for all especially for those on lowest incomes.

Hope that helps.

Chris

Marking a Year since the Election

A year ago today was my first full day after being elected as a Councillor for the City of Port Alberni.  Of course it was another few weeks before I was sworn in and almost two months before we actually had our first full council meeting.  But today seems like a good day to reflect on how everything has gone since last November.  First though, I have to say a part of me still can’t believe that so many people voted for me last year and allowed me to represent them on Council.  It is and will continue to be a huge honour and responsibility that I take very seriously and I thank you so much for the opportunity.

Accomplishments by Council

It is honestly much harder to pick out stuff that “got done” than I would have thought when we got started. (See “Reality Check!” below)  Since council is a continuing board of government many of the things that have got done, like Dry Creek (final time-lapse coming soon when paving is done!), or improvements at the Multiplex or the new Water treatment system, were initiated by previous Councils and we simply carried the torch forward.  We are just now getting ready to go into the Budget process and this will be the first one where we as a Council will really have the most control over where we are headed so I think you will see a lot more coming in the near future.  There are also many things, like web streaming or electronic participation in meetings, that are still being worked on by Staff.  That said, here are my top 4 changes and impacts made by Council in 2015.

  1. imageFirst Impressions are incredibly important.  And two small changes this Council made I think have helped in this regard both for visitors and residents alike.  The picture shows part of the Mayor’s office with the new carpet, cleaned up wall and new board table made from rough edge lumber from McLean’s Mill.  The other improvement I don’t have a picture of but it is the return of the big flower planters along Johnston Road.  These are small and inexpensive but I think great improvements that will have a lasting impact on how visitors, residents and businesses see us.
  2. Learning and Working as a Team. Just as important as first impressions is ongoing work ethic and I can honestly say that I believe this Council has worked extremely hard to be inclusive of all views on Council, in Staff and in the public. This is harder to do than you might think! :)  However, I think that while especially the rookies including myself still have a lot to learn about ourselves and how we can operate best in this environment, I think we have worked well together including when we disagree and that bodes well for the next 3 years.  One of the biggest learning moments in this sphere I think was when we got thrown into the fire that was also known as the Public Hearing for the Rainbow Gardens expansion.  I won’t soon forget that meeting! But I think we all learned a whole bunch just in that one night alone and it will continue to inform us as we move through this term.
  3. Watershed Issues. Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 11.02.35 AM The previous council had called for  regular meetings with Island Timberlands, Western Forest Products, Timberwest and other stakeholders to deal with impacts of logging on the City’s water supply.  This council had to make it happen and it has and I think it has helped with the Forest company’s awareness of our concerns. Council also initiated a process to create a new and wider watershed advisory panel to include the whole Valley watershed and all stakeholders in the Valley.  This is something that is ongoing and I hope we can see it start to bear fruit soon, especially with ongoing concerns about low snowpack and summer water restrictions.
  4. Marijuana. IMG_1494Funnily enough, I think one of our biggest accomplishments has been the one we just did. That was a very difficult topic and it took a lot of work by all of Council to come to the solution that we did.

Personal Accomplishments

I obviously had some part in the things above that Council has accomplished, but we are above all a team.  That said, there are also some personal things I have taken from this experience in the first year.

  1. So Much Learning – One of the reasons I decided to run for this office was because I knew how much there would be to learn.  Learning is growth and boy, have I grown a lot.

    IMG_1163
    One of many sessions at UBCM

    From the first few days when I started to learn about the Committees I would be on, to the multiple meetings in the first couple months on Strategic Planning, to the Local Government training in Parksville, the Public Hearing on Rainbow Gardens, the Financial Planning process, the conferences in the Spring, the ongoing meetings with Advisory Planning, the Community Stakeholders Initiative and the Food Security and Climate Change Committee and the UBCM this fall and of course just learning how the City really works, how it interfaces with higher levels of government (often through AVICC and UBCM) and how the people within it make it go.  It has all been a little overwhelming at times, but also a lot of fun to get to know what it all means and how it all works together.  I don’t intend to stop learning because if I do… then it’ll probably be time for someone to take my place.

  2. Reality Check – Along with the learning comes an understanding of what is realistic to expect from City Staff and from ourselves as Council in terms of what can and cannot be done.  It all seems so easy and simple when you first get in… it ain’t! lol.Through no fault of the City Staff or anyone but the grand processes of the world… it just takes a really long time to make things happen!  When I look back at my campaign pledges around “Accountability“, “Climate” and “Community“.  I see things in there that I know now are not realistic at least in how I understood them at the time. An example? “Limit residential tax increases to 2%.” I used to think that 2% was a good target that might allow some growth while keeping the shock to a minimum.  Now, after seeing the finances and honestly living with them for a year, I know that if we want real growth in the community and real change, it will take more revenue than that 2% would give us.  That will be something we will have to address in the coming weeks and years with the budget process.
  3. Openness, Accountability and Honesty… and fun. – One of my biggest personal goals had always been to try to achieve a more open and accountable Council and that started first with my own performance. 11412380_10155735520180204_7021791299187782115_nWhile it has been difficult to keep this blog as up-to-date as I would like, I have tried very hard to always be available for people to ask questions, to engage in debate in the community and with Council openly and honestly and to try hard to ensure I am always open to new ideas and suggestions.  Facebook has been more central in this than I thought it would be, but so too has been simple emails and the cellphone for concerned citizens on all sorts of issues.  I am feeling pretty good about how I’ve done so far for listening and responding to concerns and I have heard many kind words from people so I hope I am doing OK in that regard and I will continue to use every means possible to improve myself and my performance.  I have also tried to have some fun in the process… and just generally, it all is kind of fun… especially when I make a fool of myself by trying to paddle board. :)
  4. Connections – Without a doubt one of the most valuable things I have taken away from this first year has been the connections I have made and conversations I have had with the public, and with councillors, directors, mayors and staff from other communities and organizations. Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 8.34.15 AM I am generally not the most in-your-face kind of person… but I have worked hard, and in many cases simply been thrown in (which is OK with me! lol) to situations where I had to strike up conversations with seemingly random people about issues that affect the City.  This has been a big source of personal growth for me… I am getting slowly better at it… I am one of those people who could write a novel most the time (as I seem to be doing right now!) with all of the things bouncing around in my head but sometimes don’t always get it out my mouth.  Definitely working on it!

Personal Highlight so far:

UBCM was exceptional, as I already said in this blog, but in particular, a chance 1 on 1 meeting with the Parliamentary Secretary (pseudo-Minister) of Environment led to a really great discussion on a walk through Vancouver.  That was a place where I realized just how important and informative one-on-one conversation can be. (and since it was private, I really can’t say what it was about! Which is stupid in a way… but another bit of “reality” to add to my learning.)

The Promises!

I thought I would go down the list briefly to give an update on where I think we are… many  of these aren’t really going to start to get addressed until at least this first budget and some will be in the background for a long time but here we go.

Accountability:

  • “Cutting services and people is just as unsustainable as raising taxes forever. Priority has to be balance, fairness, and focus.”  One of the hardest decisions we’ve made as council was to cut Commercial Garbage service.  This ended up being focused on me as I was a deciding vote after the initial vote was tied and the issue was brought forward again.  I still think it was the right decision in the long run but it was a great example where we had to struggle with whether to cut, or increase.
  • “Council pay raises should be determined by third party committees and a public forum.”  Council cancelled the pay raise that was due in 2015.  We have yet to move forward on how to address this in the future.
  • “investigate the creation of a Valley wide District Municipality to expand the tax base, reduce duplication, and provide a voice to all residents of the Valley on affairs in the City”.  While I have brought this issues up in Council and Council has discussed it both in Strategic Planning and in other forums, it’s something that is much more difficult to get off the ground and it will take time. I think though that you’ll see some movement on these kinds of issues, even if it isn’t in a “District Municipality” specifically in the coming months and certainly next 3 years.
  • “Limit residential tax increases to 2%.” – As I already said, this was a reality check for me. I thought 2% was a good number to achieve that “balance” of fairness and growth.  It turns out, 2% is likely only going to lead to cuts on the ledger, so fair warning, don’t be surprised if you see me advocate for investment that will add up to more than 2%.
  • “Live Streaming Council Meetings” – This is getting closer and closer to happening.  The equipment is all in place, and I am hopeful that we will see our first full scale test within the next couple meetings.
  • “Public should be able to ask questions for Council meetings online.” – This is more difficult to manage than I may have thought before, but I still think it is something that is achievable especially once we move to live streaming.
  • “All meetings with councillors participating should be available and prominently displayed on the website so the public knows what their Council are doing.” – This already happens!
  • “Public should not have to ask for Information. The goal should be automatic (web) publishing of all City created or received material including all minutes and agenda of all meetings unless confidential under the Municipal Act.” – This already happens to a large extent but there is more I think we can do, especially when questions are asked of Council at regular meetings.
  • “Better adherence and reference to the values and goals of the OCP.“: This is something that is harder than I thought but I think Council can work harder on achieving this.  It might in fact be time for a full review of the OCP.
  • “Continue the use of the Strategic Plan to direct the actions of Council.”: – Council recently updated the Strategic Plan in September so I think we are definitely always aware of the visions in the plan and that we have to keep the plan’s goals achievable.

Climate

  • “create a permanent Climate Committee”: The Mayor created the Food Security and Climate Change committee immediately and it has been working throughout the year to get familiar with other groups and initiatives in the community as well as now bringing forward some suggestions for Council.  You’ll see those suggestions soon!
  • “Encourage residents to switch to efficient electric heating”: You’ll see that soon. :)
  • “pursue more renewable energy partnerships and projects including the District Energy plan.”:  The District Energy system will be coming back with an update soon.  I am still hopeful we can get this done.
  • “Create a tax break or grant for big home efficiency upgrades (PassivHaus).”:  Hopefully coming soon! :)
  • “Join Solar Community (Solar Hot Water and PV)”: This is not something we have pursued yet, but it’s definitely still on the list.
  • “Bike lanes and paths throughout the City.”: News Coming soon!
  • “Roger Creek foot/bike bridge at 10th Ave or North Island College to Johnston Road corridor.” – Unfortunately I don’t think this will be happening in the near future, but it is still on the radar.
  • “Designated truck route along Highway 4 and new Waterfront Industrial road to keep costs to City maintenance at minimum.” – The Truck Route Issue has been in the paper very recently.  My position on it has shifted a bit in that if we are true to our Strategic Plan I am not sure the waterfront is the right place to send those trucks, but I am still very committed to figuring out the best solution for this problem and I expect to hear back from Staff soon on some options.
  • “Reactivation of railway”: This is an issue that has been more on the back burner than I would have liked, mainly because of the inaction at senior government levels around releasing the funds to get upgrades going on the mainline on the east side of the Island.  Now that we have a new Federal Government focused heavily, hopefully, on infrastructure, I am hopeful that that funding will come through and those repairs will be made, then we will be able to start looking at making the same kinds of repairs to the line coming in to Port Alberni from Parksville.
  • “investigate summertime free city bus with an extension to Sproat Lake.”: This is still something I’d like us to pursue perhaps in the upcoming budget.
  • “Continue to encourage Farmers Market and Market Gardens.”:  Happening!
  • “Edible City. New trees should be fruit or nut trees.”: We’ve talked about this at the FSCC Committee and I also made a motion that gained the support of Council to have the city plant vegetables in amongst its flower garden beds.  Hope to see those ‘bearing fruit’ next summer!
  • “connections between local farmers and local stores and also attract young farmers to Valley.” – Happening!  In fact there was a public open house just two Sunday’s ago specifically for connecting farmers and local restaurants.
  • “Pursue full slate of Air Quality Monitoring”: I need to throw this at Councillor Minions, who’s on the Air Quality Council! :)
  • “Work with Forest Companies to reduce in-Valley slash burning and protect water.”: This is an ongoing thing through the watershed meetings and also potentially through resolutions to the AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities).
  • “Continue City/RD Wood Stove Exchange program.”: Happening!

Community

  • “Pursue a new Pool.”: Happening – A new fund was created to save money for the pool.
  • “Continue improving Canal Beach.”: Ongoing.
  • “Encourage more high density and low cost residential spaces in the City like apartments and townhouses.”: This is something that I’ve learned is hard to personally make happen but is something that Council can influence and I think it has.  The Uchuklesaht building is a great example.
  • “Continue strong Parks and Rec programs”: Continuing!
  • “Maintain full Professional Fire Dept. but consider blended Paid on Call and more cooperation with Regional Depts.”: Continuing!
  • “Keep City Staff lean, but supported.”: Continuing (also as part of the Management Review”.
  • “Support and promote Steam Train, McLean Mill and WCIHS and encourage the sale of products to defer City costs.”:  Continuing (and note use of wood in Mayor’s Office!).
  • “Limit Export… expand our Forest holdings and use them to create jobs, in forestry and in other industries (food/tourism/other).”:  This is one of those “easier said than done” things… but it is something that is on the radar and being actively worked on behind the scenes (and was before I got here).
  • “Develop and Beautify both South and North Port Business Areas.”:  With the planter boxes on Johnston and the pocket park on 3rd Avenue, we’re making progress I think.
  • “Pursue the Port Authority’s innovative PATH project.”:  This is a huge project that will be still in the works long after this first term… but I still support it in principle and believe it could be of great benefit locally and beyond.
  • “Encourage small marine ship building like Canadian Alberni Engineering and other small to medium industry.”:  This continues!
  • “expand the airport to encourage both local job creation and more recreational and commercial access to our skies”:  This was already underway and happening and we are already seeing the benefits!
  • “Better, direct communication with neighbouring First Nations.”:  A place where we area always working hard. I’ve made good friendships and working relationships already with many of our local First Nations leaders.
  • “More partnerships to enhance learning and understanding in the community.”: We need to do this more.
  • “Consider as a community what to do with the Martin Mars?” – An ongoing issue.  At this point I think we need to still fight to keep her fighting fires for as long as she can!
  • “Support Library and Early Learning initiatives.” – Continuing!
  • “Work with School District to increase student use of all Facilities.” – This is one priority that I might drop off the list, not because it wasn’t a good thing to aspire to, but because I realize now the School District is very much its own entity and we have little influence (though certainly some!) over it.  I know the SD70 is working hard to make the most of its facilities.
  • “Keep improving WCGH, expanding services and finding doctors” – Something that is always ongoing.
  • “Build more Seniors facilities” – This is starting to move forward again with the public meeting Wednesday (Nov 18th) night about the Rainbow Gardens expansion.  There is also continued work to see what to do with the old ADSS lands.
  • “Support more health programs at NIC.”: Something for the future.

Phew…. that’s it folks.  Lots to do in the next year.  See you at the next Council meeting!

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

The Final Update – 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.

The days are in reverse order.  Enjoy.

Friday flight first-thing back to VIU

I unfortunately could not stay for the final day on Friday when the Premier addressed the delegates and the final resolutions were debated.  There was way too much going on at VIU on Friday with some video recording that needed to be set up and classes to help out in so I could not take it off.

But as usual, Vancouver didn’t disappoint when it came to justifying the 5:30AM rise after the long night at the banquet.  This was the morning scene as I waited for the 7:30AM flight back to Nanaimo.  I also got to watch the Pope deliver part of his historic address at the UN while I waited in the float plane terminal.

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Thursday Roundup – Liability, Defamation, Resolutions, TradeShow and the Big Banquet.

Thursday started very early after a long night of networking… notice the empty chairs at the 7:30AM session.  This was one of 4 session… it was on “Liability and Risk Management for Elected Officials”.  The description from the program was pretty accurate.   It was put on by the Municipal Insurance Association of BC, which is an insurer for municipalities across the Province. Notably, Port Alberni is one of the few that does not use the MIA.

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The session will focus on the specific liability risks faced by local government elected officials. It will cover off what those liability risks are, discuss the types of claims that are made against local governments and how to communicate effectively with both a claimant and the general public when such a claim arises. We will also focus on the importance of proper communication in the claims handling context in an effort to avoid further liability exposure. We recognize there is a balancing act faced by elected officials when they have to both assist in the defence of a claim while also remain responsive to their local constituents. We intend to address those concerns and assist in the development of policies that will help elected officials navigate through this complicated aspect of their public service.

I took a ton of notes at this one.  It ended up being very interesting and the presenters were very good.

Their main points centered around the different types of claims: misrepresentation, defamation and misfeasance.  The most common is negligient misrepresentation which basically means the municipality or one of the elected officials or staff are sued for inaccurately speaking on a topic and thus causing someone else, a person or business, to make an inaccurate assumption that then leads to a bad business deal or some other injury.

The advice of course was to make sure all your communication was caveated (FYI: There are no guarantees anything on this webpage is accurate. No Seriously!) and that public officials should even record their private meetings including with tape recorders so that anything that is said is exactly known and there is no chance of misinterpretation.

They talked about how to defend oneself against defamation or other accusations by ensuring your own actions are completely ‘invariable’.  And above all else, never assume that any communication will be private forever.

I think the best advice was, “if you don’t know an answer, say you don’t know the answer”.  This is something I need to work on.  It comes down to Humility, Honesty and Integrity.

Thursday Morning Resolutions

After the short morning session it was back to the big hall.  We heard John Horgan speak as leader of the Official Opposition.  (I actually had a chance to listen to him in a much more informal gathering at the Young Elected Officials Network social on Monday night).

After that, it was back to dive into the resolutions.  Here was a big one.  On gradually raising the Carbon Tax.

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There was actually an attempt to improve this motion by extending the carbon tax from only a tax on consumers of energy to all industrial and commercial operations as well that are now exempt.  The amendment was unfortunately (and I think inappropriately) ruled as out of order because it changed the intent of the motion.  But it certainly led to a strong debate both pro and con and that means it was a close vote.  We had to go to electronic vote again.  This time it did not pass.

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Another really important resolution was on rape culture urging the creation of a task force to investigate and make recommendations to government to try to address the issue.

After some very heated, and even tearful debate including from some young and older victims of rape, the resolution passed.

After the resolutions I got a pretty cool tour of Ben West’s offices in Yaletown for his company Eventbase.  They work on the official apps for small events like… the Calgary Stampede, the Olympics, the World Cup.  You know… nothing major.IMG_6611

Imagine if one of our historic buildings was restored like this former horse stable in Yaletown.  Yes, it could happen.  And all it has to start with is a 2 person team… there are now 90 people working in this office.

I had to go check out the huge trade show.  It was mostly LNG LNG LNG.

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The last session I had the pleasure of attending was arguably the best, and not just because it was a very interesting and interactive topic.

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We started with a very fun exercise where we all had to line up single file through the room and out the door first according to how far away we lived from Vancouver, then by how long we had been in office.

As I huddled up to the front of the line with a whole bunch of others (50% of the delegates at the conference were new this year, big changes!), a woman asked if I recognized her.  I said no.  Then she introduced herself.  She was Mary Biele, a Councillor from Qualicum Beach.  Mary Biele happens to be a retired teacher in Port Alberni and was my all time favourite teacher.  I had her in Grade 2.  I was so taken aback that I felt like I was 7 years old again and had to give her a huge hug with tears in my eyes.  It was quite wonderful :) My favourite moment of the conference sessions for sure.

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I got some great ideas and material from the session and there were a lot of examples given from other people in the room of what has worked and what has not worked in their communities.  I would like to apply some of what was in that presentation to the Truck Route issue that I have recently come up.

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The final event of the week for me was the big UBCM banquet.  Of course, I had to wear my bowtie.  I am very glad I chose my polka-dotted one, not only because I like it best, but it seemed white polka dots with a black base was a trend.  Even the outgoing and longtime President of UBCM was wearing white dots!  Two mirror selfies in a row…. this is not a good trend.

Plenty more networking and general revelry happened at the banquet.  It is very nice to be able to sit at a table with my fellow Councillors, the Mayor, Josie Osborne Mayor of Tofino and City Manager Ken Watson and his wife and simply be people sharing a dinner.  This is another great advantage to these kinds of conferences.

Wednesday Roundup – Open Meeting Session, Minister Meetings, First Debates on Resolutions.

So Wednesday’s big deal was our meeting with the Ministry of Forests.  Normally this would include meeting the Minister himself but unfortunately he was away but we were still in the room with his Deputy Minister and senior staff.   So I wore my good duds.  I don’t know if I’ve ever taken a mirror selfie before. lol.

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That was one super early 7AM start for the short session on “Politics, Accountability and the Future of Open Meetings”.

Here are a couple slides.  The presenter, a lawyer, started off by telling us how B.C. was still very much only catching up in terms of requirements on holding of open meetings and consequences of not sticking to the rules like discussing public items that are not on an in-camera agenda during an in-camera meeting.  He mentioned that the U.K. was basically in the dark ages still but that every state in the U.S. had taken far more steps, especially Texas.  And Ontario’s Auditor General was pushing for similar steps there.

HIMG_1139ere is a slide about mandatory training on open meetings and conduct.  It is worth noting Council did receive some very good training in this regard so I think we do meet this even though we are not required by the Community Charter or Local Government Act.

 

IMG_1140Here are some examples of ways that councillors or elected officials might participate in inappropriate meetings out of the public eye (ie. having quorum or sometimes even just very close to). “Lean in” doesn’t really apply to our small board since there are only 7 of us.  I mentioned penalties… in the States the fines for inappropriate meetings range from $100 to $1000 and can include jail time.

In Ontario, the municipality can select an outside lawyer or the Ombudsman to investigate complaints.  Some examples of municipalities in Ontario that had been highlighted by their Ombudsman for various infractions uncovered by the “Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team” are below.  Now that’s a name that could strike fear in some people’s hearts!

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Here are some common issues and recommended practices…. apologies to the person sitting in front me of me for the lack of permission to publish the back of their head.  I sympathize with their balding spot. :)

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Here’s the bottom line on transparency and open government, as described by a Canadian court.  (“Intra veres” means “within the power of”)

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And below was a real kicker.  While I do not believe we have done anything that contravenes any legislation, I think things like our Strategic Planning session held a few weeks ago should have been an open meeting.  They could perhaps be convened as meetings of a “Committee of the Whole”.  Even if you are just receiving information, the courts have said information is the first step to decision making.  The presenter said that the Ombudsman recommendations in Ontario said there should be civil penalties (like I listed above) for being at a meeting that should have been open.

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One’s and Twos are ok for chats outside a meeting… but anything approaching, or certainly being, a quorum has to be avoided.  “Caucusing” of parties or unofficial groups is OK as long as it doesn’t meet quorum but as we saw in Vancouver during the UBCM, if you have a large council and caucus and are only one or two people away from Quorum, not watch out not unlike ‘perception’ of conflict of interest, the “perception” of quorum may start to be just as dangerous.  If one or two other people get informed of the meeting, is that now a quorum and illegal?  Maybe?

Meeting the Ministry of Forest and The Big Room

Wednesday was the official start of the Meeting of the Union of BC Municipalities itself in the main halls of Canada Place.  We were in a speed meeting (yes, like speed dating) with the Ministry of Forests for 15 minutes to talk about trying to get more direct lines of communication between municipalities and forest companies enshrined in the Private Managed Forest Land Act.  These minister meetings are a really important part of the UBCM event.  All of the Ministers of the Province including the Premier are made available to all of the municipalities for 15 minute blocks.  So for the provincial politicians and their staff, it is very much like speed dating.  It was an interesting experience.  Our councillors (McLeman, Paulson, Minions and myself), the Mayor and Penny Cote of the ACRD attended our meeting.

The Minister himself unfortunately was not at the conference due to other commitments but the meeting with his staff, including the Deputy Minister was good.  I will be surprised if anything immediate comes of it, but they were at least willing to listen and receive our information and agreed to set up another time when we could meet the Minister himself.

After that meeting I did catch the last bit of the speech from the Lieutenant Governor after she had officially opened the convention.

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We then were treated to a Keynote Address from former Canadian Astronaut Roberta Bondhar. She was an excellent speaker of course and talked about how we can all use our own energy to take our communities to new places.
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There were big ships….

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The Plenary Sessions – Resolutions and Debates

IMG_6609Just like the Association of Island and Coastal Communities (which is sort of the little brother to the UBCM) we spent a huge amount of time considering all sorts of resolutions that came forward from communities and regional districts all over the province.  Every delegate was provided a 100+ page book (or a PDF) with all the resolutions (166 in all!).  Ranging from grant requests like the first one pictured above and on the side (A1, A5) to the final one done on Friday (C39) urging Port of Metro Vancouver not to encroach more on the ALR.IMG_1151

Because it would be impossible to consider all of the resolutions separately without the conference stretching on for days, the “B” resolutions, which is the largest block, are “blocked” (thus the “B”) and voted in a few different sets.  Delegates can “move” to have individual resolutions removed from the block vote and considered on their own.  I was involved in about a dozen that were handled in this way. Some of the important resolutions that were debated extensively even went to an electronic vote.  If a vote can’t be decided by a show of hands it can go to an electronic vote.

Unfortunately it was all too fluid for me to write notes the entire time during the plenary session.  I only attempted to approach the mic on one motion, which was A5 picture above on recommending that the Province and Federal Government advocate and implement an Environmental Bill of Rights.  Here is the full motion, at the end you’ll see who brought it forward and what the recommendation was from the UBCM resolution committee.:

A5 ENVIRONMENTAL BILL OF RIGHTS Richmond

WHEREAS municipalities and regional districts are the government nearest to people and the natural environment, and therefore share a deep concern for the welfare of the natural environment and understand that a healthy environment is inextricably linked to the health of individuals, families, future generations and communities;

AND WHEREAS fostering the environmental well being of the community is a municipal purpose under section 7(d) of the Community Charter and regional district purpose under section 2(d) of the Local Government Act:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that UBCM request that the Province of British Columbia enact a provincial environmental bill of rights that:

  • recognizes the right of every resident to live in a healthy environment, including the right to clean air, clean water, clean food and vibrant ecosystems;
  • provides for public participation in decision-making respecting the environment and access to environmental information;
  • provides access to justice when environmental rights are infringed; and
  • has whistle-blower protection.ENDORSED BY THE LOWER MAINLAND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATIONUBCM RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION: Endorse

It was debated quite extensively, as one would expect.  After a few really backwards thinking statements from some delegates I felt compelled to say my piece.  Unfortunately, there had already been many who spoke so the house was tested, which means the Chair of the meeting asked the entire assembly whether the question should be decided, and then the vote was taken.  So I sat down.  But for the record, here is what I would have said.

It was actually very similar to what I told the President of the Truck Loggers Association at their reception to which I was invited on Tuesday evening:

We are the representatives of ours and we must ensure to protect them now and in the future.  We have resources in this province especially one that is near and dear to my community’s  heart and that is Forestry.  We can and must ensure this resource is available to our future generations and I see this Bill of Rights as protecting that resource as well as all of our land, air and water that we all and our economy rely on.  If we continue to expect our environment to play second fiddle we will eventually have nothing upon which to base our economy and lives of our citizens.

The Alberni Clayoquot Regional District Sponsored 3 resolutions specifically:

  1. B2: ESTABLISHMENT OF A PROVINCIAL FUND TO SUPPORT SEARCH AND RESCUE
  2. B36: RE-EXAMINE LOG EXPORT POLICY
  3. C3: PROVINCIAL FUNDING FOR POLICE-BASED VICTIM SERVICES

B36 was specifically mentioned at the Truck Loggers Association for delegates to reject.  As the sponsors, and given the Mayor’s comments a few weeks back, Port Alberni’s delegates obviously intended to vote in favour of that motion.

B2 and B36 were both adopted by the UBCM as part of the first block.  C3 was debated individually and passed (on Thursday).  Some other interesting resolutions from Wednesday:

A4 RESOURCING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FOR OIL AND HAZARDOUS AND NOXIOUS SUBSTANCES EMERGENCY PLANNING RESPONSE.  This was brought by City of Vancouver and was Endorsed.

B8: LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS – INTERNET VOTING.  Brought by Osoyoos. Ironically, it was a very close show of hands and had to be decided by electronic voting.  It was defeated by 51-48.

Here is something fun I saw!  Click for larger images… it’s a single seater.  Looked pretty cozy!  It does 120kph and is fully road legal.  It’s a car called a “Sparrow” from BC company ElectraMeccanica at www.smallev.com.

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The final session on Wednesday were done by panels of provincial ministers.  Just because I felt like a good laugh, I went to the Responsible Resource Development session.


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Sitting at the table you can see Minister of Environment Mary Polak.  She was joined by Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennet, Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick, Minister of LNG Rich Coleman and Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.

After the Ministers were given 2 minutes to talk about their ministries (which really wasn’t all that interesting, mostly talking points) the floor was opened for questions.  I asked one to Minister Polak… which was quite an intimidating experience even though I had chatted with her Parliamentary Secretary Jordan Sturdy a couple days before.  It is a lot different when you are standing at a mic with a whole bunch of your peers around you and you’re being stared at by 5 Ministers of the Crown.  My question, about plans they might have on how their respective ministries might achieve climate change goals set at the upcoming COP21 session was really intended to be to all of the Ministers but we were only allowed to address one Minister so I chose Minister Polak.  She gave a fairly stock reply about their efforts and the government’s belief that it could achieve its goals while still developing LNG.

The Evening on Wednesday was dedicated to grabbing some dinner from the restaurant and then going to the big CUPE reception held at one of the hotels nearby.  The wine flowed and the networking began.  It really is a huge part of these conferences.  It is extremely interesting to hear how other communities have such similar issues to ours and how those communities deal with them.

8AM Wednesday – Finishing up Tuesday post and Learning Open Meeting Law.

One thing  runs into the other at this conference so my apologies for not finishing up yesterdays post.  I sense my time will only become more short now that the plenary sessions are starting today.  But here goes!

Our main morning forum yesterday for “Midsize Communities” actually focused very much on and expanded on the Firesmart topic and extended into Drought and Emergency planning.  All things that were very top of mind for our area.

Some take aways:

From the Wildfire branch rep:

In coastal zone biggest help would be to:
Thin the (mature) forest, 10m spacing with crowns not touching
Older trees (doug fir) are resistant to fire so best to leave intact.
Can also fill space with fast growing big maple and alder.
But above all: Clear the understory and clear bottom reaches of trees so can’t candle.

This might be a new line of thinking to present to our local private managed forest companies to get them more reason and incentive to have the most sensitive and small footprint logging practices possible.

There are a number of grants, including through the UBCM, that are out there to help with planning and implementation of measures to help secure our urban, wildland interface.  We obviously have a huge border that is up for treatment.  The good news is doing these things that will help prevent wildfires from overwhelming our community will also make those areas very pleasant places to walk, hike, and recreate.

There was also a question from the audience about keeping the public out of the forest in times of extreme danger and all of panel members who consisted of municipal fire fighters, wildfire management and others.

The rest of the meeting was dedicated to Drought monitoring and emergency planning.  Basically, the drought team at the province hardly exosted at the beginning of the year but because of the severity (3% notmal snowpack on  island in June) the capacity was very quickly ramped up and now they are likely to stay focused on it through next year.  They want to improve messaging as there was a lot of confusion between Drought “levels” and water restriction “stages” in municipalities.  Apparently a few places were within 2 weeks of running out of water at the end of August so they were very thankful when the rain came.

The funny thing about all these sessions was that so much of it really boiled down to a discussion about the current and future realities of climate change.  Communities and government are being forced to adapt quickly.  The more we can get out ahead of these issues so we are acting proactively rather than reactively, the better.

Next update will be about the Open Meetings and the Law session this morning.  It was too short! Packed room and only a 45min session.  It could have and maybe should have been the whole morning.

2PM Tuesday – Fire, Drought, Emergency Ops and Climate Change.

It is always extremely difficult to choose which clinics to go to.  This morning we had this choice (after the breakfast muffins and crossants)

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You can’t do all of them.  So since we had such an unprecedented year, I chose the FireSmart communities clinic.  It did not disappoint.

The first image is of the Environment Canada projections made in the spring about how bad the season would be.  The prediction was obvious.

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The bottom two are statistics.  The 2015 stats are up to a couple weeks ago.  The final tally still isnt quite in.  But the bottom picture makes it clear, since the turn of the century we have begun seeing extremely active seasons more often than not.  The blue line is the 10 year moving average and it is clearly rising steeply as far as hectares of land burned.

The presenter from BC Wildfire Management Branch said this is what climate change could look like and while they cannot say definitively this is climate change caused, it does certainly match the expectation. Including the “Highly unusual coastal rainforest fires”, that we had on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.

In terms of response from local government it was notably said that even in larger municipalities… only 2 structures lost likely means overwhelming the resources at hand leading to a disaster.

Gotta go to a meeting with council…. Will finish the update later but wanted to get something down now….

 

10:30PM – First full day comes to an end – Marijuana session extremely helpful – YEON group networking

It has been an excellent afternoon.  The session on “Marijuana: Legalization, Legislation and Access” was extremely good and very well attended.  The panelists including 2 lawyers detailing the overall federal situations and local concerns, a councillor from Vacnouver talking about their experiences with retail outlets, a former campaiggner and lawyer that helped bring forward the legalization campaign in Washington State, and Dr. Perry Kendall, Chief Medical Officer of BC.

Dr. Kendall predictably provided the best visual graphs and evidence strongly favouring legalization and regulation  including this:

image Although he did not suggest it, I thought it was very intersting he included the much harder drugs in his graph.  Was he advocating those be legalized as well?

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The outcome of the session was clear though.  There are many many ways that municipalities can properly zone and regulate the legal uses and selling of marijuana right now and there are ways to do what Vancouver has done and go a step further based on the reality of our communities.  There are tangible health and social benefits to regulating and educating the public on marijuana and the door is opening bit by bit.  What will be a real wildcard is the outcome of the federal election next month as every major party has a slightly or sometimes major difference in direction.

After the sessions ended at 4:30PM.  There was a short orientation for new delegates like myself to make sure we were up to speed on things like how to vote and make resolutions during the main conference sessions.

We then had a get together with the Young Elected Officials Network where I met a number of folks from around the province.  There is a lot of exchanging of business cards at these things! I a, glad I brought a stack and added my twitter handle to them all (by hand on the ferry ride) :).

It was then off to find food as many hadn’t eaten since morning.  Picture below are some of the excellent people I have connected with from near and far away.  Pictured are councillors or directors  from Huu-ay-aht, Uchuklesaht, Cherry Creek, Victoria, Mill Bay, Shawnigan Lake, Summerland, Port Hardy, Metchosin, Cumberland and probably another that I have forgotten.  Excellent conversations and sharing of ideas.  image

1:30PM Monday – Building Green Communities and BC Gov Position

After finding a rather horrid “Road Runner” smoothie (veggie smoothies aren’t usually terrible, this one was lol) to skarf down for breakfast I headed over to the Fairmont ballroom for the Building Green Communities talk and forum.

Mayor Josie Osborne was one of the speakers and she spoke eloquently about how Tofino is both preparing for things like sea level rise and dealing with things like drought and water conservation.  She made an excellent point when she said she tries very hard to address issues around climate change without utterring thst exact phrase because the phrase itself is so politically charged.  The fact is much of what will help mitigate and adapt to climate change are things that just generally help the community to grow and be desirable anyway.  So there is less need to beat people over the head with the climate change mantra.  Perahps this is adivce I should take to heart. :)

The next presenter was Doug Smith from the City of Vancouver.

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He provided some great examples of how Vancouver has moved toward a total 100% renewable goal for 2050 including building code enhancements (which Vancouver can uniquely do), District Energy (which Port Alberni is also pursuing of course), mapping of sea level rise (which if nothing is done could flood huge and very valuable portions of the city including False Creek).  And he also shared what Vancouver was doing around mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect which they estimate killed 100 people (likely mainly seniors) in the big heat waves in 2009.  I had a nice chat with him after his presentation and will be emailing him for more info about his iniatives, especially the urban heat island studies they did.

The third speaker was Jordan Sturdy who is the new Parliamentary Secretary for “Energy Literacy and Environment”.  Up until a few weeks ago, Sturdy was the P.S. to the Minister of Transport.  Minister of Environment Mary Polak gave a brief introduction at the beginning of the session but it quickly became clear why she may have left.  After P. Sec Sturdy finished his presentation on what the BC Government was doing with its Climate Policy, the questions from the assembled councillors, mayors and staff delegates were quite tough.

There seemed a genuine disagreement between those in the audience and Mr. Sturdy on the “Leadership” the province of BC has provided in Climate mitigation and adaptation.  At one point, in response to a question about funding alternate modes of transportation on the Island rather than $80 million interchanges, Sturdy emphasized that the government sees highways as key to the climate plan as people shift to electric vehicles.  The point was made by the audience that this would be an extremely long term proposition and that there are much more immediate alternatives that could come to fruition with current technology.  Sturdy did not show much interest on behalf of the government of considering that.

After the session I asked Mr. Sturdy whether the province would be bringing new GHG reduction targets to COP21 in Paris when the Premier attends.  He said yes they have and will be updating their targets and their overall climate plan that is due next Spring will include information gleaned from the world conference.

I asked him if he thought BCs LNG policy was consistent with meeting GHG emissions targets in the province and he said we would be able to do it with reductions in other areas and that we faced a choice about where the “inevitable” fossil fuel energy that will be needed as we work toward near zero emissions in 2050 will come from.  East Africa? The Middle East? The US? Australia?

I thanked him for his time and his courage in being thrown to the wolves.  I don’t think his answers measured up frankly. In fact, they were completely at odds with the progressive and proactive presenters beforehand.  The second half of the session turned into a discussion about pipelines which didn’t strike me as what I was really there for (new ideas) so I left.

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Next up, a change of plans:

imageShould be a lofty presentation….

6:30AM Monday – It has begun.

And so it begins.  After a somewhat rocky ride on the ferry and walking off into a rainstorm and onto an typically packed Translink bus, I made it to our hotel for the week.  I Connected over dinner with colleagues and new friends from municipalities in Ladysmith, Chemainus, Cobble Hill, Esquimalt and Tofino and the debates and ideas came thick and fast.  It is energizing to be around others who share many of the same passions as I do and who are committed to working hard to make positive change in their communities.

There were tons of people on the street thanks to 3 huge cruiseships that apparently just docked on the same evening, but walking through Gastown was beautiful before turning in last night.  Reminds me of the bottom of Argyle.

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Apologies for the terrible picture.

First up on the calendar this morning is “Building And Protecting Green Communities” at 9AM.  Will have to register and find some breakfast too. I’ll try my best to keep this post updated.

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Original Sunday post.

Hi everyone!

I am excited.  I will be headed to the ferry (walkon) in the next few hours on the way to Vancouver for the big Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference.

Council is staying a couple blocks from the convention centre at Canada Place.

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The great thing about these conferences is everything you learn and all the people, councillors, mayors, ministers, assistant ministers that you meet.  There is so much to learn from other communities.

The clinics and workshops start Monday and Tuesday and then the main UBCM meetings and resolutions happen on Wednesday and Thursday.  Below is my schedule so far. I will be flying back to Nanaimo first thing Friday morning in order to get to do some important filming and a meeting in the morning and classes to support.  Busy busy! :)

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You might wonder why we are having an in camera meeting in Vancouver. You can see the purpose of the meeting from the Agenda posted on the city website. The content of the meeting itself is of course all in-camera until the final report is delivered within the next few weeks.

You might notice the “YEON” events.  That stands for Young Elected Officials Network.  Basically it is a place for conference goers under or near 40ish to network, share ideas and support each other in bringing forward progressive resolutions to this and other regional conferences (AVICC).  It has been a fantastic resource for me to learn how this all works and to bounce ideas off of.

Oh and in case there is any doubt that this event is serious, it even has its own app that you can download for free to help keep attendees organized and informed about what’s happening.  There will literally be a few thousand people there!

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I will try to keep this post updated through the week but I will apologize if I don’t live up to that promise. I am told it is an insane week with very little down time.