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.

843

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.

P.S.
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)

P.P.S.

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

RFPs to nowhere. Managing expectations.

Ask anyone what they think the most important job of a City is and they will probably say something that includes the words ‘roads’, ‘bridges’, and ‘sewers’.

It is without question that the biggest bill the city faces in terms of tangible, in-your-face, infrastructure is maintaining and replacing those three general things.  So it follows that when the public sees a project that is not performing as well as they expect, that they are especially annoyed. I think the Gertrude Street bridge project falls safely into that category now.

IMG_1942sm

Here is a time-lapse of its progress from the beginning of February to last Wednesday.

The great controversy has been on the delay and cost overruns.  Certainly one can understand the frustration when initial reports were that the full road closure that started Feb. 3 would “run for three weeks.

Work actually started in the last week of January so we are now entering week 11. Is this a huge time delay that could have been avoided or could this have been predicted?  The best place to look is the bids in response to the Request for Proposals which were in the October 26, 2015 regular agenda package.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.14.43 PM

City Council selected the middle quote from K&G with the addendum at the bottom “Precast Option” which put the original price to $249,500 and shortened their original 9 week start/end period by 2 weeks to 7.  Note this was for completion of the whole project, not just the closure of the bridge to traffic.

Other bids from Surespan, Bowerman, Hazelwood and Seismic 2000 had time periods of 9, 11, 8 and 9 weeks respectively.

So by that measure we are actually not far off.  We’re certainly towards the maximum of the alloted times in those bids, but we are not anywhere near the 4x longer than it would seem from the “3 week” window of closure which people may have implicitly taken as the full length of the project.  With the now expected closure lasting until the end of April that will bring us to 14 weeks.  Certainly longer than conceived in any of the RFPs, but allowing for unforeseen issues that do happen from project to project, it is not as stunning to consider.

There is no doubt in my mind that the bill will be higher than the already raised $347,000.  I hope I am wrong.  However, the positive is that this will be a learning experience for both our City staff and City Council.  We have a number of other bridges that are going to need to be renovated or replaced soon.  I hope that the lessons learned here will make it more likely for those projects to go much more smoothly and come in on time, and on budget as I believe is the norm for projects in the City.

P.S.

I have been asked a few times what the purpose of the bridge project was as many have heard that it was only to provide bike lanes.  In fact, the surface of the bridge deck was in need of overhaul as well as the pedestrian walkway and railings.

Here is the full background from the October 6 agenda:

City Council’s approval is requested to award the tender for the construction of the Gertrude
Street Bridge Widening that has been planned for construction in 2015.

Background:

The Gertrude Bridge is a narrow point in our road system that creates a safety issues as it is a well-travelled pedestrian and cyclist path that is also close to AW Neil School. The project was proposed in 2014 to widen the road surface for cyclists and install a separate sidewalk bridge
over Kitsuskis Creek.

The separate sidewalk bridge over Kitsuskis Creek was installed in 2014 upstream of the
existing bridge and the vehicle bridge work was carried over to 2015.

The existing bridge has a treated timber sub structure that is in good condition, however, there are some operational issues:

The asphalt surface bridge deck and timber wheel guards need to be replaced.

The road and sidewalks widths are too narrow for pedestrians and cyclists.

In summary the project components include:

1. Removing the timber wheel guard rails and sidewalk
2. Extending the timber substructure and installing 2 steel girders for the length of the
bridge.
3. Resurfacing the bridge
4. Installing a railing and guard rail on each side of the bridge for cyclists.

The 2015 Capital Budget allocated $250,000 for this bridge widening project.

The Mark of a Well Respected Man

This evening (Saturday Jan 30) I had the honour of attending Ken Watson’s celebration of his years of service as City Manager and Engineer for the City of Port Alberni.

Even though I grew up in Port Alberni, I am of course a bit of an outsider when it comes to the City workplace having been around for barely a year and also being a (near)millenial in a place where baby boomers still dominate but are now retiring at a rapid pace.  However, after 15 years in my own workplace at VIU and watching my own parents retire, I understand the bonds that are made over long periods when the same people work and really live most of their lives together.

In less than a year I have now been to two celebrations for employees for the City, Scott Kenny and now Ken Watson.  In both cases the outpouring of respect and heartfelt thanks for their years of service has been something to behold.

The dignitaries and community leaders that came out for Mr. Watson, the serious and silly and good hearted speeches, the emotions and impassioned statements and Mr. Watson’s own words all confirm that he is a man who has earned the respect of a whole community over the years.

Personally, I credit Mr. Watson for helping put me in the Council seat that I am in today.  Were he not always so willing to answer every overly detailed email from me, often in a matter of minutes after sending it, when I started to engage in city issues when I moved back to town then I probably would not have continued on, becoming more and more engaged.   He even seemed to like graphs and charts and spreadsheets like me… always the mark of great guys.

Now, as a rookie councillor, he always provided me solid and timely information and answered every question no matter how mundane or naïve.

Most of all though what I have witnessed is Mr. Watson’s great respect for and from those who he worked with at City Hall.  He is a true leader and I know he will be proud of his accomplishments.

I write this so that a few more citizens of Port Alberni may know the excellent people that work for their City and who have nothing but the best for the City and its citizens in their hearts.

Thank You Ken.  You literally helped shape the Port Alberni I grew up in and all its citizens are in your debt for your service.

Sincerely,

Chris

 

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)

Budget Rants – Community Grants – Sewage Plants

Budget fun continues!

We had a great session last Wednesday night with the public where everyone was able to give their opinions on what they thought would be good projects for the City to do, or services to cut.  Some of the details presented were new to us as Councillors as well.  There were probably around 40 members of the public there and many good conversations were had.

I highly recommend going to the 2015-2019 Financial plan website! Download the presentation from Wednesday night. It details all of the options that were presented to the public.  Of course, if you have other initiatives you’d like to see happen or services you think can be streamlined, you can send those in too!

There is also an online survey!  Click here to fill it out!

I’m a numbers and graphs kinda guy… so one slide from the City Manager’s presentation stuck out for me.

This one is very interesting.  It shows very succinctly where the majority of the homes in Port Alberni are valued, and thus, what their average municipal rate is after all of the regional, school, and hospital things are removed.  This does not take into account home owner grants.

Graph showing how many houses pay what level of taxes across the City.
Graph showing how many houses pay what level of taxes, roughly, across the City.

A common complaint I hear is that folks who own homes that have been built new in the City pay a very large amount of taxes.  And indeed that is true!  However, those same people sometimes also say that this gives people no incentive to renovate or rebuild their homes.  While this is true to a point remember that the City has a fixed bill to pay.  So if the bars on the graph were shifted gradually to the left, then the amount collected from each of those higher priced homes could actually start to decrease because to get the same total amount of money you could charge less tax.

Right now,  the most numerous 4 brackets, the $100-150,000, $150-200, and $200-250, and $250-300 account for roughly $8.9 Million in tax revenue…. adding up all the rest is less than $3 Million.

So the current situation is (these are rough estimates, not exact numbers):

  • $100-150,000 — 1617 homes x $1190 average tax = $1,924,230
  • $150-200,000 — 2087 x $1611 = $3,362,157
  • $200-250,000 — 1159 x $2041 = $2,365,519
  • $250-300,000 — 496 x $2512 = $1,245,952
  • Total = 5359 homes produce $8,897,858 in taxes at 9.2555 tax rate.Lets say the average price of a home went from the current $189,000 to $220,000 and effectively pushed the distribution to the left on the chart… now numbers of homes in the top categories might be:
  • $100-150,000 — 1340 homes x $1190 average tax = $1,594,600
  • $150-200,000 — 1640 x $1611 = $2,642,040
  • $200-250,000 — 1640 x $2041 =  $3,347,240
  • $250-300,000 — 739 x $2512 = $1,856,368
  • Total = 5359 homes produce $9,440,248 at 9.2555 tax rate.

That shift in property assessments would increase revenues to the City by at least 6%… or, taken a different way, the same homes that generate $8.9 million in taxes now, could gather the same taxes with a 6% decrease of tax rates.

That is why, in my mind, efforts to improve the desirability of Port Alberni as a place to live are the most fruitful and provide a ‘multiplying effect’ when it comes to policy that would slow or reverse the ever increasing tax rates over time.

There has been a ton of information to absorb and there are a bunch more meetings.  Here’s a list of them, some times may change but this should be it:

Monday, March 9th
3:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – council review and direction

Monday, March 23rd
2:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – receipt of survey input/public input + Council direction

Monday, March 30th
3:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – final direction regarding budget – direction to staff to prepare Bylaw

Monday, April 13th
7:00 p.m.
Regular Meeting
Introduction of Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw (3 readings)

Monday, April 20th
TBA
Adoption of Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw
Introduction of Tax Rates Bylaw (3 readings)

Monday, April 27th
7:00 p.m.
Regular Meeting
Adoption of Tax Rates Bylaw

Community Grants

A couple more things to mention in this post.  It was a wonderful feeling to be able to say yes to the $1700 request for a grant ($1600 in-kind help and $100 cash) from the folks putting on a Pride BBQ among other events on July 26th this year.  When I was in high school in the mid-90s at ADSS there was an instance where a student was ridiculed for wearing a dress to school.  It made the news.  Here’s hoping that the event in July will help address those kinds of misunderstandings.  We are all one community of amazing and unique people.  It’s good to be able to celebrate that diversity at every chance and for every reason we can.  You can join the Facebook Event group here.

If you’re wondering, here are the other recipients of the City’s Community Investment Program last year.  The Pride BBQ applied late so aren’t in the list below.

The totals are the cash grant amounts.  Many of the groups listed below also received in-kind grants worth anywhere from a few dollars to a over $1000.

  • Alberni Community & late Women’s Services request Society $500
  • Alberni District Fall Fair $500
  • Alberni Valley Curling $500
  • Alberni Valley Track $700 Club
  • Art Matters Society $400
  • Art Rave Society $3,500
  • AV Lions Club $451
  • Bread of Life $1,500
  • Community Arts $4,000
    Council of the Alberni
    Valley
  • Literacy Alberni $1,000 Society
  • Navy League of Canada $875
  • PA Volunteer Income $670 Tax Program
  • Port Alberni Family Guidance Association ($1500 of Bus and Rec Passes)
  • Port Alberni Multicultural Society $423
  • Port Alberni Salmon Festival $3,000
  • Port Alberni Toy Run $765
  • Port Alberni Youth Centre $450.00
  • Royal Canadian Legion $1,300
  • Special Olympics BC ‐ Port Alberni $1,000
  • Port Alberni Friendship Center $1,725
  • Rotary Club of Port Alberni $50
  • TheAbbeyfieldHouses Alberni Valley Society ‐ Abbeyfield Port Alberni $1,100

 Sewage Plants!

I would be terribly negligent if I didn’t include a mention for the very interesting and important Wastewater Advisory Committee (WAC) I attended with other councillors last week that is working on our Liquid Waste Management Plan.

This committee has been hard at work finalizing plans for the design of our new sewage treatment plant that will be using the former lagoons formerly used by Catalyst.  This will be a huge improvement in the treatment of our water compared to what we are putting into our Inlet and Estuary right now.

The meeting centred specifically around the design of the outfall pipe that will take the settled water from the ponds into the Inlet.

 

The Catalyst ponds are the larger dark ponds in the centre to the left of the river.  The current city sewage pond is the lighter coloured pond at the top.
The Catalyst ponds are the larger dark ponds in the centre to the left of the river. The current city sewage pond is the lighter coloured pond at the top.

The current city pond (light coloured pond at top centre) simply allows the treated water to sluice over the edges of the pond and directly into the estuary and river.  Ya.  Gross.

The New plant will use the much larger (dark) ponds to do a better job of aerated and settling out the sewer sludge and it will then be pumped past the bottom of the picture into a location nearer the middle of the harbour.

At first read, that might sound worse, but actually because the sewage will be much much better treated than it is now, and it will be dispersed under pressure in the water (sort of like a firehose), it will be much better diluted into the water in general and will be carried out of the harbour by the current.

The meeting last week centred around how that pipe would look.   The Ministry of Environment requires these pipes to be more than 10m under the surface.  However, there are two big problems with having the pipe on the bottom of the harbour.

#1:  There is a fibre mat (woody debris from decades of forestry operations) down there that is effectively locking in decades worth of toxic emissions from the pulp mill.  (back when the Harbour was literally black like coffee… it’s not anymore thankfully).  The research done on that fibre mat and those toxins say the absolute best thing is to just not touch it or disturb it in any way for fear of releasing the toxins into the water column.  A big sewage pipe blasting out water might risk doing that.

#2:  Salmon like to be down as deep as they can where it is nice and cool as they return to spawn.  A sewage pipe could warm that area, and also the treated sewage could cause microbes to flourish that might rob the water in that area of its oxygen, making it unsuitable for fish to live.  Also, the water moves much more slowly deep down, so the sewage would not wash out with the river water.

So the meeting was focused on deciding whether the pipe outlet should be deep, or shallow (around 3m).  The decision was made for it to be shallow as that would be best for our area. Again, the sewage that would come out of the pipe will be orders of magnitude cleaner than what is being fed into the river and harbour now.  So while it might seem a little yucky… it’s actually light years of improvement over the current situation.  And in time, we can work on making that outflow cleaner and cleaner without having to worry that we are harming the fish or stirring up toxic industrial sludge.

And that… my friends… is my report for today.

Have a great week!  See you at Council or the Budget meetings on Monday!