Natural Gas “ban” in Vancouver and what Port Alberni is doing

Subtitle: “In defense of difficult, yet necessary, conversations and policy.”

(Updated, see P.S. And P.P.S. At the bottom)

I am about to say something controversial. (Big surprise right? :)).

The City of Vancouver’s policy on 100% use of renewable energy by residents and business in the City and an 80% reduction in GHG emissions before 2050 is proper, wise, policy.  (I have a problem with their claim of using “renewable natural gas” but we’ll get to that another time)

It is far from popular. I listened to the screaming on CKNW yesterday that they would “ban” natural gas (which isn’t right… it is a phase out, not a ban) and have witnessed plenty of angry 😱😤😤😱😡😡 emoticons across Facebook and Twitter. (There appears to be confusion, possibly intentionally sown? between the targets for new construction and renovation markets, clarification here)  This is an understandable and reasonable reaction.

But here’s the thing: If we all accept the climate science, and most Canadians do (“Canadians Back Bold Climate Action“), and we are serious about addressing the problem then this must happen. There is no way around it.


What is that number? That is our CO2 “budget”. That is the amount, in billions of tonnes (GigaTonnes) of CO2 humanity can emit after 2015 in order to have a good chance of limiting warming to less than 2°C.  It is from the IPCC and reiterated in a report released yesterday.

The city of Vancouver is planning for there to be zero use of Natural Gas by 2050. People are very upset.  People, especially folks like the Canadian Tax Payers, Federation say it costs too much money.  And yet what those voices ignore is the cost of doing nothing.  Not reducing our total fossil fuel usage to zero before hitting that 843 budget will have consequences that will cost taxpayers billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars.  Already, we have had disasters like those in Fort MacMurray, connected to climate change, that will cost the insurance industry billions, cost government hundreds of millions just for dealing with the disasters at the time (Infrastructure repair comes later), and cost residents thousands in expenses trying to put their lives back together.  The same goes for other flooding and fire disasters in Canada over the past few years. And this, with only 1ºC of warming in the world so far…

So this policy is what climate action means. In order to stop pushing our planet to an unliveable state, we must stop using fossil fuels and a gradual decline to zero before 2050 makes sense. Replacing heating appliances using Natural Gas with electricity and requiring buildings to be far more energy efficient is the low hanging fruit.

So you might ask if there are similar plans in Port Alberni. Do we have similar reduction targets? No. Should we? Honestly, yes, but we’re not there yet. Instead, we are working on policies that will help people transition even if the implied end goal is not yet spelled out.

The City of Port Alberni is working on a program to be implemented soon that will give homeowners rebates if they switch their oil (and possibly natural gas) home heating appliances (furnaces) to electric.  There are similar programs in Nanaimo and other cities.  There will also be rebates that will encourage making your home more energy efficient because the best way to save money isn’t to pick the cheapest fuel, it is to reduce the need for any fuel at all.

We will try to help that happen and in the process we will be starting to make the required reductions that Vancouver has been so brave as to state in full.  We will all need to be more brave in the coming years, this change will be very rewarding, but undeniably difficult.

By the way, the conclusions of the report I linked to at the top before the little table…. was that the math shows us we cannot start any new fossil fuel infrastructure. None.  The operations in the world today that are currently extracting coal, oil, and gas, have more than enough carbon in them to put us over the 2ºC limit (just under 1000 gigatonnes).  So that makes questions about whether or not to support things like LNG, Kinder Morgan, Dakota Access, and other new infrastructure pretty moot…. the report recommends no new fossil fuel infrastructure be approved or built.

This reinforces many research papers published recently showing that 99% of unconventional (i.e.. oilsands and fracked gas) and 72% of conventional oil reserves remaining in Canada must stay in the ground. (Nature – data table 3)


There seems to be talk in the media about an incredible 70% decrease in 4 years.  This is false.

The 70% by 2020 refers to new construction only, not existing buildings (renos). Vancouver are focusing on their building bylaws (because they can do that under the Vancouver Charter). They want all new construction to be 100% renewable by 2030. 90% by 2025. This is Reasonable.

Here is the report that is being referenced, it says:

“Analysis undertaken in the development of the Renewable City Strategy estimated that of all the buildings (measured by floor space not number of structures) that are anticipated by 2050:
30% would be built prior to 2010
30% would be built between 2010 and 2020
40% would be built after 2020.

If all buildings are to use only renewable energy by 2050, the sooner new buildings achieve near zero emissions, the fewer buildings there will be that require costly and challenging deep energy retrofits to achieve the target.”

The best way to make that switch isn’t shift from nat gas to electricity, it is to reduce energy usage to as close to zero as possible, and that is exactly what they have proposed to require new developments to do by adopting Passive House or alternative zero emission building standards”

from their third recommendation:

“THAT Council direct staff to build all new City-owned and Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) projects to be Certified to the Passive House standard or alternate zero emission building standard, and use only low carbon fuel sources, in lieu of certifying to LEED Gold unless it is deemed unviable by Real Estate and Facilities Management, or VAHA respectively, in collaboration with Sustainability and report back with recommendations for a Zero Emissions Policy for New Buildings for all City-owned and VAHA building projects by 2018.”

Council Document

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 11.50.38 AM
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?

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.00.11 PM
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
Ya I track that too at

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 12.42.59 PM
Click to see a full mockup schedule of a mid island commuter train service that I presented to the RDN in 2014.

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


Port Alberni – Federal All Candidates Meeting Raw Notes

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

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

Here are the notes:

Opening Statements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q12 – what strategy for children in poverty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transport, Climate Committee, Strange LNG Answers and AVICC Conference

Here we go!

VIEA Intermodal Transportation Forum

On Tuesday March 31st I went down to Victoria with Councillor McLeman for the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance forum on Transportation.  This was a very exciting event.

You might be wondering what the VIEA is… well, I’m not entirely sure honestly.  But my understanding is that they are an organization that has brought together all of the Island’s municipal governments and business and transportation interests to create a united front from which to lobby the provincial government to invest more on our Island.  They have taken up the specific cause of furthering Intermodal Transportation on the Island.  Everything from airports to seaports to freight rail and commuter rail and walking and cycling, fast ferries and helicopters.

Here’s a good video that they made for the Forum last week.

The Forum on Tuesday was a place to meet lots of other people interested in transportation on the Island.  I am hopeful that a comprehensive transportation plan comes out of the effort.  What seems most clear is that in order for all of the things to happen that need to happen, there needs to be cooperation between communities and an effort to figure out what projects can benefit the most people and thus be the strongest to bring forward to senior government.  Keep your eye on this organization, I think it could be important.  Their next big conference is in the Fall.

First Food Security and Climate Change Committee meeting

On Thursday April 2nd, the Food Security and Climate Change Committee (FSCCC) met for the first time at City Hall.

It was just an introductory meeting and the main items were to select a chair, vice-chair and minute taker, go through the terms of reference and mechanics and expectations of the committee and generally just get to know everyone.

The committee members are Samantha (Sam) Brownlee (Chair), Chris Alemany (Vice-Chair), Guy Langlois (Secretary), Sandra Gentleman, John Mayba, Rosalind Chapman, Gary Swann, and Bob Haynes.

The agendas are posted on the FSCCC webpage on the City website before every meeting and the minutes should be posted there as well once they are approved by City Council at the following regular council meeting.  The webpage will also likely be used for other information sharing of reports and things generated by the City and Committee to do with Food Security and Climate Change.

The Committee will both be able to receive input and ideas for initiatives from the public or through its own membership and it will also serve as a place City Council can refer items for further study.  In all cases, the Committee will be expected to report to Council periodically with recommendations on ways to move Food Security and Climate Change issues forward in the City.

The official meeting schedule will be posted soon.  They will be held on the first Thursday of every month at 4:30PM at City Hall.  They are open to the public.

For next time, the Committee agreed to have each member bring 3 suggestions on projects or initiatives to work on.

Steelhead LNG questions – Don’t go looking for Jobs Tomorrow.

As anyone who has followed this blog will know I am more than a little skeptical of the Steelhead LNG project for a number of reasons.  There was a poll recently online at the AVTimes that indicated people wanted the LNG project to happen.  I presume this is because people see it as a big economic driver and indeed it is being sold that way.  But is that realistic?

Sarita Bay – The proposed location of the project.

Right after I got back from the VIEA  forum I drove back from Victoria and straight to the Barclay Hotel where Steelhead LNG was holding their first community open house.   There was plenty of information available on the project, it’s location, the potential for jobs and development, etc.  Much of the same information is on its website.


This week I found the National Energy Board (NEB) website that holds the public documents Steelhead is required to file in order to further their LNG terminal application.  Most recently (March 13th) Steelhead filed a response to some key questions from the NEB.  So what did the NEB ask?

First question from NEB:

Please provide the precise geographical information on the proposed points of exportation of the gas from Canada.

Answer from Steelhead:

The point of export of LNG from Canada will be at the outlet of the loading arm of proposed natural gas liquefaction terminals which are anticipated to be located in the Southern region of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

This answer strikes me as a little… vague… especially to a question asking specifically for “precise geographical information”.   Perhaps this is precise enough for the NEB.  But it certainly seems strangle, especially when the company has long promoted the Sarita Bay location so publicly and specifically.

Third question from NEB: (you can see all of them by going to the pdf)


Please provide:

(a)  An explanation of the apparent deficit in 2045 between Navigant’s forecast of the surplus of Canadian production available for export of 2.7 Bcf/d and the request by the five Applicants to export up to 4.88 Bcf/d.

(b)  A Canadian production forecast to 2050.

(c)  An explanation of any deficit in 2050 between Navigant’s forecast of the surplus of Canadian production available for export and the request by the five Applicants to export up to 4.88 Bcf/d.


Their response is very very lengthy.  But I’d like to point out the serious issues this question raises.  First, and foremost, if one is to believe the public presentations, and the way the public is being engaged so heavily, one would think that this project was just around the corner.  Maybe 10 years away at latest?  It could be a huge job generator, it’s a huge plant, this all seems very good and many would be excited (other issues aside).

So why is the NEB talking about 2045 and 2050? That’s 30 and 35 years away!

Basically, the NEB has pointed out that 35 years down the road, when this project is supposed to be fully built, Steelhead is expecting to export over twice as much gas as all of the gas available for export in Canada.  And that is provided the NEBs own 30 year forecasts of production increases is correct…. which they most often are not.

Steelhead’s consultant, Navigant’s response boils down to an expectation that production from Canadian Shale gas will increase 20% faster than the base estimates.  

In Navigants words:

  1. The NEB’s comparison did not account for the fact that a modeled analysis of a “plus 20%” demand growth rate scenario would result in higher production levels driven by the increase in assumed demand.

So basically, Navigate and Steelhead are counting on massive expansion of Natural Gas production, and failure of other LNG Projects in BC and higher production than the NEB would expect, in order to ‘fill’ the full scale Steelhead project.Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.04.52 PM


Are the forecasts above a reasonable assumption to make given global carbon cutting goals to 2050?  Is Canadian Natural Gas production really going to rise uninterrupted at nearly 3% a year for the next 35 years? And would the first phases of the project be able to pay for the cost of putting in the infrastructure if it will be 35 years before the full vision of the project is realized?

Will we even still be using Natural Gas in a big way in 2050?

I remain very sceptical of this project, and these questions and their given answers really only make me more so.  I hope people do not pin all their hopes and dreams of jobs in this LNG project.  Even the Raven Coal project had direct access to the product (coal) it was going to ship.  At this point… Steelhead might not have access to all of the product it expects for 35 years.  That is a mighty long time to wait, and the world could very well move far along by then.

Headed off to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Conference Friday (the 10th).

On Friday most of Council and the Mayor will be attending the annual AVICC conference being held in Courtenay.

This conference is a place for all of the island and sunshine coast municipalities and regional districts to gather, attend workshops on various topics of interest, and pass resolutions in a collective way to try to influence government on issues of importance to the entire Island.

This is sort of a little brother to the Union of BC Municipalities conference that happens every Fall, and a still littler brother of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that encompasses every community in the Country.

Basically, it’s a place to learn, and network.  I am very much looking forward to it.  They are starting on Friday with a rally in support of better BC Ferry service.

The official agenda starts at 1:45PM and it’s packed through 5:30PM.

Important: Special Meeting on District Energy Project Monday

After Meeting Update – Catalyst will be approach to provide steam – Next Decision at Regular Meeting on Feb 23rd – Don’t forget the poll on the side.

We had an excellent meeting on Monday afternoon.  Mr. Deakin (Economic Development Manager) and Mr. Salter (District Energy consultant) provided a very good update on where the project stands exactly and Council peppered them with questions.  Council decided to wait until the regular meeting on Monday to actually address the recommended course of action presented by Mr. Deakin so that the issue was out in the public for that much longer and it could be discussed and decided under the full scrutiny of the regular public council meeting on the 23rd.

If you would like more background information on the project, check out the Feasibility Study from 2012 (which was not previously available to the public).  It provides a very comprehensive rundown of the system though some of the facts are a little out of date now 3 years on including the price of natural gas which has dropped (as was identified in the report as a risk) and thus the profit to the City if it ran it self has potentially dropped as well.

However, there is no scenario where this project costs the taxpayer money.  The project is designed and the business plan is set to include the debt servicing costs within the operating budget of the facility.  So currently, if the project is done as a Private Public Partnership, the City will receive an unspecified (likely small) royalty as part owner, and if the project is done as a wholly City owned venture, it would see revenue of around $100,000 which if that revenue stream was in place this year would be the same as eliminating 0.8% from any residential tax rise.  So instead of a 2.8% increase, we would have a 2.0% increase.   This is in addition to savings the City would gain from paying much less for heating its facilities if they were hooked up to the District Energy system.  After the “mortgage” is payed off in 25 years or less, the system would deliver revenues of around $500,000 (in 2012 dollars).  The infrastructure (pipes etc) would last around 50-60 years.

There is a bit of urgency to moving on with the decision as the grant providers that agreed to give grants for the project way back in 2012 are getting a little impatient with us.  So now is the time to move things to a next step.

Council decided to immediately send Catalyst a letter to see if they would be interested in providing the steam for the system from the excess in their operations.  It is unclear whether they will or not, but Council thought it would be best so as to be able to support this important business in our City.  Note that this is *only* for the Steam supply of the system.  It is understood that Catalyst has no intention of building or operating the district energy system itself.

On Monday, Council will decide whether to put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to private companies to build and operate the system in partnership with the City or to forego that and simply build and operate it as a service or corporation wholly controlled by the City. However, even if Council decides then to send out RFPs, it will still have the opportunity to examine those RFPs and come to a decision on whether to go with a PPP or do it as a wholly owned and operated municipal service or corporation.

I’m currently leaning toward what I see as the simplest approach with the least operating complexity/cost and maximum City benefit: a municipal service.  However, I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open to all the options in what I believe is a very exciting proposal.

Initial Post…

There is a poll on the righthand side of the page to register what you would do…. below is the beginning of the explanation.  I highly recommend coming on Monday, 3PM, to hear the full up-to-date info that will be presented in full then.

You likely know that there has been a project in the works at the City for a number of years to create a biomass (wood chip) fired energy system in the City to provide heat to local large customers like VIHA, City facilities, and others.

Here is a map… one thing that has apparently changed is involvement of Catalyst.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.55.00 PM

It appears that a number of factors including low natural gas prices are now bringing that project to a crossroads.

Download the  agenda and explanation here for the February 16 meeting at 3PM in City Hall Council Chambers.  The agenda includes a brief explanation of where the City is at, how we got here, and what the options are.

Here is the explanation from the 2014 Sustainability Report:

7.3 District Energy System

In early 2010 the City retained Stephen Salter P.Eng of Farallon Consulting to undertake an evaluation of Integrated Resource Recovery Options for Port Alberni. This evaluation was completed in mid-2010 and indicated that there were two very viable options to convert biomass to energy and circulate it to institutional, civic and large private sector residential facilities. These options had the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 4000 to 13,000 tonnes/yr, create cost savings for customers and provide new non-tax revenue for the City. The executive summary of the Farallon report is included in Appendix 12.

Initially an option incorporating a partnership with the Catalyst Paper mill was pursued. Ultimately a City stand-alone option proved to be more workable. The project will incorporate three technical innovations: a three-line district heating distribution system, a direct contact condensing economizer, and an adsorption chiller that will make use of heat from the system to replace the Hospital’s existing chiller.

Funds are identified in the City’s current five year financial plan to undertake this project d Funding grant applications have also been approved by FCM’s Green Municipal Fund and the Gas Tax Innovation Fund in the amount of $1.9 million.

Once constructed this project, as currently envisaged, would:

  • conserve 60,000 GJ/year of natural gas,
  • conserve 122MWh/year of electricity,
  • divert 2,800 tonnes/year of wood waste from landfilling,
  • reduce greenhousegas emissions by 5,100tonnes/year
  • reduce the City’s corporate emissions by a further 38% and, retain greenhouse gas offsets of $65,000/year currently paid by public organizations in Port Alberni to the Pacific Carbon Trust.

However, the bottomline now is this, like (and related to) oil prices, the market has changed both for what we can expect to sell the energy for, and how much will be consumed.

Here are the options included in Monday’s agenda. (Sorry they are images, click for larger)

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.12.54 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.13.04 PM


The Economic Development Manager is recommending that if Council still wants to pursue the project, that it do so in a partnership with a private company, Option 2 above.

If we choose to receive the maximum benefit by building it fully by ourselves as a City Utility or corporation (Option 1 above) then we shoulder the cost, and that would mean borrowing over $7 Million which would trigger a referendum to make that happen.

Or, we can walk away.

I am not going to state right now what I believe the City should do but I will say that I have watched this project for many years and have been a supporter of it.  It is clear market conditions are not as good as they once were…. but where are they going to be?

I want to hear what Mr. Deakin has to say on Monday and will have questions.

Below are some links to information about the system. What do you think?  Come to the meeting this monday.  It will be important.

  • A description of the project on the City’s website here.
  • Here is an AV Times report about the system in town from 2013.
  • Here is a report about a similar system proposed in Courtenay but that City did not have some of the built-in advantages we have (location and facilities)

Below are FortisBC Natural Gas prices. These are residential rates though, not commercial but they should give an idea of trends.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.22.12 PM