Friday, January 23, 2015

Amalgamation - nothing happening yet

It has been more than 50 days since the new councils have been sworn and close to 70 since election night and nothing has happened with amalgamation.   We had the public in eight municipalities vote on the issue and in seven cases voted in favour.    It seems there is a fairly clear desire to have something happen but nothing has started.

I do not know why the various local governments have not yet started to do anything on it.   I think the public will accept some delay in anything happening, but I do not think it can be delayed for too long.   At some point the public is going to feel disrespected if nothing is happening.  

The mood of the public is clearly open to the idea of amalgamation.  Going against this mood could lead to a backlash at the polling both in 2018.   Councils need to be seen to be doing something on amalgamation.

I could understand if there were bigger issues looming over the councils in the region, but in the last six weeks I have not seen any major municipal issues come forward.    The Saanich soap opera is not about governance or municipal issues.

If action is not taken soon by the councils I suspect there will be angry public ready to vote for new people.   A significant reason people voted against Frank Leonard was how he handled the amalgamation issue.  He at first dismissed it even though there is very high support for the issue in Saanich and then he offered a question to be put on the ballot that avoided asking anything clear about amalgamation.   I know many people who voted against Frank Leonard purely because of the amalgamation issue.

How long can they leave it?   I think another month or two at most before people start complaining.

What I would like to see is some announcements, one from the three Peninsula mayors and another from the mayors of Esquimalt, Saanich and Victoria.    Something public that says "Yes we are going to work on amalgamation".


Thursday, January 22, 2015

CRD population figures from BC Stats

BC Stats releases annual population estimates for the province, here are the numbers for the Capital region

Area          2011   2014    increase %inc
Capital     367,632 372,463  +4,831   +1.31%
Saanich     111,981 110,767  -1,214   -1.08%
Victoria     82,259  83,200    +941   +1.14%
Langford     30,430  34,677  +4,247  +13.96%
Uninc Areas  25,173  25,480    +307   +1.22% (includes Gulf Islands)
Oak Bay      18,037  17,448    -589   -3.27%
Colwood      16,515  16,636    +121   +0.73%
Esquimalt    16,616  16,207    -409   -2.46%
Central Saan 16,022  15,794    -228   -1.42%
Sooke        11,684  12,257    +573   +4.90%
Sidney       11,197  11,153     -44   -0.39%
North Saan   11,109  10,941    -168   -1.51%
View Royal    9,558  10,714  +1,156  +12.09%
Metchosin     4,870   4,968     +98   +2.01%
Highlands     2,181   2,221     +40   +1.83%

What stands out is just how much faster View Royal and Langford are growing than the rest of the CRD.    These two municipalities had a growth of 5,403, which is more than the whole growth within the CRD.    In 2001 Langford's population was only marginally higher than Oak Bay's, now it is twice the population of Oak Bay.

The Peninsula had a net lost of 438 people over three years.   The peninsula has had static population since at least 2001.  In not much longer Langford is likely to pass the whole peninsula in population

In the core we have seen the largest drops in population in absolute terms and as a percentage.   Only Victoria grew in population.  In fact Victoria is the only core municipality add any significant population for more than decade.










Monday, January 12, 2015

From Saanich Police: MEDIA RELEASE: RESPONSE TO MAYOR ATWELL’S PRESS CONFERENCE

(I have posted this here because I do not see it on the Saanich Police website)

From Saanich Police:

MEDIA RELEASE: RESPONSE TO MAYOR ATWELL’S PRESS CONFERENCE

“I have been advised through the Media that Mayor Atwell held a press conference today. During that press conference he expressed several concerns regarding the conduct of the Saanich Police and their role in a criminal investigation regarding the interception of private communications of the Mayor. In response to inquiries from the media and requests for comment, I offer the following:

To date, Mayor Atwell has not informed me as to his concerns regarding harassment or information being leaked to the media regarding an incident that occurred on December 11, 2014. He did advise me of conderns that he had regarding software installed on his work computer at the Saanich Municipal Hall. that matter has been reviewed and Council will be advised of the outcome this evening.

If the Mayor has concerns about the conduct of any police officer, and, in particular any Saanich police officer, he should bring that complaint forward to me for a proper and thorough investigation or report those concerns directly to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.
As we have not received any formal complaint from Mayor Atwell regarding the conduct of the Saanich Police or its officers, it is difficult to provide additional information, and as such, I will not be making any further statement at this time.”

Robert Downie
Chief Constable

January 12th 2015 Press Release from Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell

(I am posting this here because I do not see any online location for it other than on a closed Facebook group,  it is verbatim what was posted online at  4:04 pm January 12th.  Audio of the statement at this link, it starts about one minute in)

JAN 12, 2015 - MEDIA RELEASE
ON NOVEMBER 15TH THE CITIZENS OF SAANICH HANDED ME THE RESPONSIBILITY TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE– I AM HUMBLED AND HONOURNED BY THE TRUST THEY PLACED IN ME WITH THEIR VOTE.

IT WAS AN HISTORIC DAY – A TIDAL WAVE OF CHANGE IN THE LEADERSHIP OF SAANICH – THE PEOPLE CHOSE AN “OUTSIDER” FROM THE POLITICAL REALM.

I AM NOT PERFECT - I WILL MAKE MISTAKES – BUT WHEN I DO I WILL OWN THEM -- LEARN FROM MY ERRORS – AND DO MY BEST TO ENSURE THEY DO NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.

MY LACK OF EXPERIENCE AND THE ADVICE I WAS RECEIVING ALLOWED THE NARRATIVE AROUND MEDIA STORIES TO BE CONTROLLED BY OUTSIDE SOURCES – LEADING TO SPECULATION -- FACTUAL ERRORS -- AND OMISSIONS.

TODAY – I WANT TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES.

FIRST – IN MY WILDEST DREAMS I NEVER EXPECTED TO SEE MY PERSONAL LIFE BECOME FODDER FOR TABLOID JOURNALISM.

WHEN REPORTERS BEGAN INTERROGATING ME ABOUT INTIMATE DETAILS OF MY PERSONAL LIFE – I WAS SHAKEN AND OFFENDED.  SHOCKED – AND NOT KNOWING WHAT TO SAY DURING THOSE INTERVIEWS -- I MADE A MISTAKE. I WAS NOT TOTALLY TRUTHFUL WHEN I DENIED ALLEGATIONS THAT I HAD BEEN INVOLVED IN AN EXTRA-MARITAL AFFAIR. I WANTED TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CLOSE TO ME -- AND I STILL DO.

I ASK THAT THE MEDIA OFFER THOSE INVOLVED THE SAME RESPECT – PRIVACY -- AND FAIRNESS SHOWN TO OTHERS WHO HAVE COME BEFORE US.

THIS IS A PRIVATE PERSONAL MATTER. IT IN NO WAY AFFECTS MY ABILITY TO FULFILL MY DUTIES AS MAYOR.

SO PLEASE UNDERSTAND -- I WILL NOT ANSWER ANY FURTHER QUESTIONS ABOUT MY PERSONAL LIFE.

BUT I DO WANT TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ABOUT THE INCIDENT ON DECEMBER 11TH WHERE SAANICH POLICE ATTENDED A RESIDENCE.

I CALLED 9-11 AS A COMPLAINANT LOOKING FOR HELP -- AND AT NO TIME DID I COMMIT ANY CRIMINAL ACT.

BUT I DO HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT THE WAY THE INVESTIGATION WAS HANDLED AND HOW DETAILS OF THE INCIDENT BECAME PUBLIC.

THIS MORNING I FILED A COMPLAINT WITH B-C’S POLICE COMPLAINT COMMISSIONER TO HAVE AN OUTSIDE DEPARTMENT REVIEW THE MATTER.

I ALSO WANT TO DISPELL ANY RUMOUR AND SPECULATION THAT I HAVE OFFERED CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS EMPLOYMENT IN SAANICH. THIS IS COMPLETELY UNTRUE. THERE IS A PROCESS IN PLACE FOR HIRING STAFF – I CERTAINLY KNOW THAT -- AND IT MUST BE FREE FROM POLITICAL INFLUENCE.

AS I MENTIONED EARLIER – SAANICH VOTERS ELECTED AN OUTSIDER –– I HAVE NOT BEEN IMMERSED FOR 18 PLUS YEARS IN THE POLITCAL REALM AND HAVE NOT HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DEVELOP EFFECTIVE POLITICAL SKILLS.

BUT THAT CHANGES TODAY.

THE INCIDENT ON DECEMBER 11TH WAS NOT THE ONLY INTERACTION I’VE HAD WITH POLICE.

DURING THE CAMPAIGN – AS MAYOR ELECT – AND AS MAYOR -- POLICE PULLED ME OVER – NOT ONCE – NOT TWICE – NOT THREE TIMES – BUT ON FOUR SEPARATE OCCASSIONS.

IN TWO OF THE INSTANCES THE OFFICER ADMINISTERED A ROAD SIDE BREATHALIZER TEST WHICH I BELIEVE WAS DONE WITHOUT REASONABLE SUSPICION – EACH TEST CONFIRMED A READING OF ZERO – POINT – ZERO – ZERO.

TODAY – I AM ASKING THE HEAD OF THE INTEGRATED ROAD SAFETY UNIT TO REVIEW THOSE STOPS.

ALSO – ON DECEMBER 11TH -- I BECAME AWARE THAT A MEMBER OF THE DISTRICT OF SAANICH'S I-T TEAM HAD BEEN INSTRUCTED TO PLACE SPYWARE ON MY COMPUTER AND A NUMBER OF OTHER COMPUTERS WITHIN THE MUNICIPAL HALL.

I WAS TOLD THE SPYING PROGRAM -- CALLED SPECTOR 360 -- WAS TO CAPTURE INFORMATION TYPED AND ACCESSED ON MY COMPUTER -- AND REPORT ANY USAGE BACK TO A SERVER CONTROLLED BY ANOTHER USER OR USERS.

I AM TOLD THAT SERVER IS CALLED “LANGLEY” AND IS BASED AT THE SAANICH MUNCIPAL HALL.

I WAS NEVER INFORMED OF THIS ACTION -- AND IT WAS DONE WITHOUT MY CONSENT.

WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE SOMEONE WAS PLANNING TO SPY ON EVERYTHING I DID ON MY COMPUTER.

I SOUGHT LEGAL ADVICE AND WAS INFORMED THAT THE ACTIONS MAY AMOUNT TO THE CRIMINAL INTERCEPTION OF PRIVATE COMMUNICATIONS UNDER THE CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA.

MY LEGAL COUNSEL WROTE TO SAANICH POLICE CHIEF BOB DOWNIE ASKING HIM TO REQUEST AN EXTERNAL POLICE ENTITY TO INVESTIGATE THE ALLEGATIONS AS WE BELIEVE OVERSIGHT OF THE INVESTIGATION PLACES SAANICH POLICE IN A CLEAR CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

WE ALSO PROVIDED POLICE WITH THREE SWORN AFFIDAVITS FROM INDIVIDUALS WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE INSTALATION OF THE SOFTWARE.

AS WE HAVE NOT YET RECEIVED A RESPONSE TO THE ALLEGATIONS - I CONSIDER THIS ISSUE TO BE THE SUBJECT OF AN ACTIVE POLICE INVESTIGATION AND WILL NOT BE COMMENTING FURTHER.

BUT THE INFORMATION PROVIDED TO ME CAUSES ME GREAT CONCERN ABOUT MY PRIVATE COMMUNICATIONS AND THE PRIVATE COMMUNICATIONS OF CITIZENS CONTACTING ME. COMMUNICATIONS THAT DO NOT NEED TO BE MONITORED BY ANYONE OTHER THAN MYSELF.

IT IS ALSO WHY I HAVE NOT FELT SECURE AND COMFORTABLE WORKING FROM THE MAYOR’S OFFICE.

FOR THIS REASON – AND TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF ANYONE TRYING TO REACH ME -- I HAVE BEEN ADVISED TO ESTABLISH AN EMAIL ACCOUNT OUT OF THE DISTRICT’S DOMAIN – THAT EMAIL ADDRESS IS MAYOR AT RICHARD ATWELL DOT C-A.

TO THE CITIZENS OF SAANICH – I WANT TO AGAIN THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT.
AS WE MOVE FORWARD – I CONTINUE TO WELCOME ANY ADVICE AND GUIDANCE MY COLLEAGUES OFFER AND THAT THEY WILL USE THEIR POLITICAL EXPERIENCE TO OFFER ME COUNSEL AND HELP ME REACH THE GOALS THE CITIZENS OF SAANICH ELECTED ME TO ACHIEVE. I WILL MEET WITH EACH COUNCILLOR -- LOOKING TO FIND COMMON PURPOSE IN WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE BETTERMENT OF SAANICH.

AS YOUR MAYOR – I PROMISE THAT I WILL WORK WITH COUNCIL TO AFFECT POSITIVE CHANGE IN OUR CITY – AND OVER THE NEXT FOUR YEARS TO PROVE TO YOU THAT YOUR TRUST HAS BEEN WELL PLACED.

THANK YOU.
RICHARD ATWELL
MAYOR OF SAANICH

Friday, January 09, 2015

How do we get more affordable housing in this region?

The reason housing is so expensive in this region is that there is not enough supply.   This scarcity of supply works very well for the owners of property but not for the people that need a place to live.   If the supply of housing is increased enough the cost of housing will fall or at least not rise for some years.

We should be measuring how many households there are in the CRD and many many new ones are created each year.   Once we know the number we have and by how much we are increasing per year we have a baseline to work from.  

Once we know the current state of things we can set targets of the number of units needed to reduce the price of housing.  A good measure to track the success of this would be from the monthly selling prices of houses in the CRD.   If the price of houses is consistently falling we know housing is getting more affordable.  

One problem of house affordability is that it can not be effectively be fixed in a direct manner by local government - government can not build enough houses to make any serious impact.    The cost of each housing unit is too high for the government to be able to bear.   The low income housing units the government build end up being a defacto lottery win for people who get a place in one of them.  

Low income housing units as part of developments  is a nice idea, but once again there are only a few of them and it is a long waiting list to get into one.   The cost of these units in a development make projects less viable and can at times push projects from being developed to not developed.

What we need to improve housing affordability in the CRD is to remove as many obstacles as possible to more units of housing being built.    We need to allow a lot more flexibility in rentals, not just secondary suites everywhere but even more on a residential property.   Condos should not be allowed to restrict rentals.   Local government could require new condo developments to have covenants allowing rentals without restriction.

We also just need a lot more housing units to be constructed    The first step would be to speed up the process to rezone properties to a higher density.   Each municipality should work out a 20 year plan on where the space for more housing will come from.   Not just an Official Community Plan, but an actual plan that outlines what land is needed, and where, to accomplish the growth in housing.

I would have local government offer property tax holidays based on the sales price per bedroom on a sliding scale.  The idea would be to encourage more inexpensive units to be constructed via this incentive.   We could use several thousand three bedroom homes to be constructed that can be purchased for around $250,000 ASAP.

There also has to be active cooperation from municipalities like Oak Bay, North Saanich, Highlands and Metchosin to deal with the problem.   If these municipalities are not willing to help through increasing housing units in their jurisdiction they should be paying enough money to build the equivalent of a 3% increase in their housing stock per year.  

The biggest reason we are unlikely to see an end to a problem of housing affordability is because there are too many home owners out there that would see large parts of their wealth disappear if the cost of housing were to actually fall enough to make a real difference to anyone.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Just some thoughts on the results of the Mayor's race in Victoria

I have been meaning to write something like this for several weeks but took most of Christmas off

The end result of the race was a very close result and a mayor elected with the lowest percentage of the vote for the mayor since the 1990 election that elected David Turner with only 33.90% of the vote.  David Turner lasted for a single term as mayor.

Lisa Helps     9,200  37.63% (centre left green)
Dean Fortin    9,111  37.27% (NDP)
Ida Chong      3,275  13.40% (centre right business)
Stephen Andrew 2,380   9.74% (centre)
4 others         480   1.96%

The problem Lisa has is that she won in a race where 62.4% of the people did not want her to be mayor.   She has a very weak popular mandate and has to very quickly understand what the majority wants if she wants to be re-elected in 2018.

On the positive side she has a nicely divided council - 4 New Democrats and 4 centre right.   Both sides can achieve their interests if they have the mayor on board.   It puts the mayor in a very powerful place and should make it very easy for her to bring forward most of her issues, but.....

Lisa made several missteps in the first weeks:
The oath to the Queen, which surprisingly is an issue to more people than I ever expected
The attempt to award a direct contract to Domenic Lepore for $55,000
The way the right to a healthy environment declaration was handled - if it had come forward with the support of some of the councilors on the centre right it would be portrayed as a loony left idea.

Many people wanted to dismiss Lisa as a mayor long before she was elected and the events of the first few weeks gave them ample material to reinforce their existing views.   The next election is close to four years away and already some people are thinking about running for mayor.   She has the danger of being viewed as a lame duck by many people and that will reduce her effectiveness.

The powers of a mayor in BC are limited.  The biggest source of power most mayors have is looking and acting like a leader in their position and getting people to follow them.   This is not something that is a law or rule but a combination of  attitude, confidence and respect.   Lisa has lost ground on this.  

When a new mayor is elected most people will give benefit of the doubt as to their ability to be mayor but this has been lost by Lisa.  She now needs a serious plan on how to get the the respect of the public back and allow her to achieve some significant tangible changes to City Hall.

One of the dangers she has now is that there are people who do not want her to succeed and they will allow things to happen that harm Lisa as mayor.   This will not be anything public and so can not be addressed directly.   It leaves her deeper in the hole when trying to regain her status as mayor.

It will be interesting to see how Victoria council plays out over the next couple of years

Susan Brice is requesting Saanich Council support a resolution for the right to a healthy environment.

Interestingly this has been brought forward by Susan Brice.  It should be a good reminder to people that the environment is not a left or right issue.  

It is the exact same motion the City of Victoria council passed on December 18th.   In Victoria because it was brought forward by Jeremy Loveday, Lisa Helps and Ben Isitt it has been attacked from being a Pollyannaish move that will hinder development.  It has hard to attack Susan Brice for being anti-business.

Here is the text of the motion Saanich will be dealing with tonight:

WHEREAS the David Suzuki Foundation Blue Dot Tour has inspired many Canadians to request that the right to a healthy environment be enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedom through support of the following motion;
AND WHEREAS the District of Saanich understands that people are part of the environment, and that a healthy environment is inextricably linked to the well-being of our community;
AND WHEREAS the Saanich Official Community Plan provides a strong policy foundation to pursue actions and initiatives that contribute toward a healthy environment;
AND WHERESAS Saanich has the opportunity to endorse the Declaration of the Right to a Healthy
Environment, joining other Canadian cities in re -affirming our commitment to social, environmental and economic sustainability;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT The District of Saanich endorses the following declaration in principle and forwards it to the next Committee of the Whole to allow for public in-put.

"All people have the right to live in a healthy environment, including:

  • The right to breathe clean air;
  • The right to drink clean water;
  • The right to consume safe food;
  • The right to access nature;
  • The right to know about pollutants and contaminants released into the local environment;
  • The right to participate in decision-making that will affect the environment.

The District of Saanich has the responsibility, within its jurisdiction, to respect, protect, fulfill and promote these rights.

The district of Saanich will apply the precautionary principle: where threats of serious or irreversible damage to human health or the environment exist, Saanich will take cost effective measures to prevent the degradation of the environment and protect the health of its citizens. Lack of full scientific certainty shall not be viewed as sufficient reason for Saanich to postpone such measures.

Saanich shall apply full cost accounting; when evaluating reasonably foreseeable costs of proposed actions and alternatives, Saanich will consider costs to human health and the environment.

By December 31, 2015, Saanich will consider objectives, targets, time lines and actions within its jurisdiction to fulfill residents' rights to a healthy environment, including options to:

  • Ensure equitable distribution of environmental benefits and burdens within the municipality;
  • Ensure infrastructure and development projects protect the environment, including air quality;
  • Address Climate Change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing adaptation measures;
  • Responsibly increase density;
  • Prioritize walking, cycling and public transit as preferred modes of transportation;
  • Ensure adequate infrastructure for the provision of safe and accessible drinking water;
  • Promote the availability of safe foods;
  • Reduce solid waste and promote recycling and composting;
  • Establish and maintain accessible green spaces in all residential neighbourhoods;

The District of Saanich shall review these objectives, targets, timelines and actions every five years, and evaluate progress towards fulfilling this declaration.

The District of Saanich will consult residents as part of this process."

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Council forward this resolution to the Annual Meeting of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, requesting favourable consideration by delegates at the 2015 annual meetings of these Associations.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee changes

The committee is made of the 15 CRD directors that come from the seven municipalities that are part of the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan.    With the recent election there are four changes to the committee, possibly five if the new CRD chair is not already on the committee.

Members of the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee before and after the recent election
Those in red were most firmly opposed to the old plan

  • Alto, Marianne
  • Blackwell, Denise
  • Brice, Susan
  • Brownoff, Judy
  • Bryson, Alastair he was on the committee as Chair of the CRD
  • Derman, Vic
  • Desjardins, Barbara
  • Fortin, Dean now Lisa Helps
  • Hamilton, Carol
  • Hill, Graham now David Screech
  • Isitt, Ben
  • Jensen, Nils dejure, John Herbert defacto
  • Leonard, Frank (defacto Vicki Sanders) now Richard Atwell
  • Seaton, Lanny
  • Wergeland, Leif now Colin Plant
  • Young, Geoff

Assuming all the new members of the CALWMC are opposed to the concept of the old plan, you still have a majority on the committee that supported the old plan.  The old plan is dead it seems, but the people that supported it are still in power.