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How journalism has been led astray

Feb 15, 2019

Journalism that sets the agenda
From subtle policy points to fighting words our opinions are a click away."

This promotional message for subscriptions sales, posted by the Chicago Tribune, clearly spells out what has happened to journalism. News media must not "set the agenda" but rather just report on the issues.

Advocacy is not journalism.

February 10, 2019

Opportunity knocks as never before. The "Green New Deal" proposed by some of our American neighbors is a gold mine for Canada. Let your imagination wander at this good news for opponents of pipelines on Canadian soil. We won't need to worry about them any more. All Albertans can rejoice, happy days are here again.

Never asleep at the switch when it comes to new opportunities, Canadians are always looking for opportunities. Secret talks are doubtlessly under way between U.S. Defence officials and Canada, to access all Alberta fossil fuel production and have it used up right in Alberta, with no need for pipelines to the West Coast, or oil tanker traffic in our waters.

Newly-elected representatives in the U.S. Congress are pushing what they call a Green New Deal for the complete elimination of all fossil fuels within 10 years – no oil-motorized equipment, including aircraft, would be able to fuel up in the U.S. Their defence officials should be examining a move of all Air Force operations to Central Alberta for direct access to fuel to power the military machinery.

That could also include ground forces which rely heavily on fossil fuels. Since oceans are international waters, the U.S. Navy would still be able to ply those waters, but would have to find gas stations to fuel up. Ouch, that would mean a pipeline from Alberta after all, to fuel those ships, and they would be transiting through our waters, including tankers to fuel the ships. 

Look at all the extra carbon-tax revenue that would generate for our country. We might even be able to pay off our governments' collective debt.

In the immediate future, the solar and wind energy switch over will create endless opportunities for Canadian business to build solar panels and windmills. Remember, it takes fossil fuels to build that infrastructure and maintain it. Same with electric cars – GM may be able to keep it’s Canadian plant open, producing millions and millions of electric vehicles.

Air Canada and Westjet are also looking at the opportunities when flights originating in the U.S. are grounded due to a fuel ban. Unboubtedly, Canadian politicians are looking at expanding bike lanes to the U.S. to bring Americans to Canadian airports. The opportunities are endless. Or think of convoys of electric golf carts by the millions transporting Americans to our airports.

The New Green Deal also includes a guaranteed wage for those who cannot work and those who don’t want to work. This is only a partial list, think of all the possibilities. We could even revive the pogo stick industry.

The biggest challenge is who would pay for the inevitable wall that would have to be constructed on the Canada-U.S. border. We'll just get the Americans to pay for it.

And we can say please and thank you more often than we already do.

Merv Unger is a retired Canadian journalist with too much time on his hands.



February 1, 2019

The dust has settled after the Nanaimo byelection, but the picture going forward is far from clear.

New MLA Sheila Malcolmson has received a lot accolades since her convincing victory on Wednesday night, but now the intrigue begins. How will this impact the workings of government in Victoria? Many suggest it will be more status quo with the NDP and Green agreement continuing on without a ripple. but don’t count on it.

Commentators and pundits are digesting whether a member of Parliament would step down to take a provincial role without some bigger expectations. Malcolmson was asked numerous times during the campaign whether she had been promised a cabinet post, and she walked the fine line of not saying so, but making it known what her interests are. She repeated her commitment to affordable housing, but tipped her hand when she talked about control of oil tanker traffic in B.C. waters.

The environment has always been one of her passions, even when she served on the Islands Trust Council.

Cabinet shuffles are common after a year and a half in government, so we should not be surprised to see that happen shortly. Nanaimo has been waiting for a seat at the cabinet table for some time, so expect to see Malcolmson at that table.

•   •   •

One sure thing about elections is that there are always winners and losers. The Nanaimo byelection had some big losers.

First was the public opinion polling company. Election polls have proven unreliable at best since virtually everyone has cell phones. But this one was in a field by itself, predicting at 12-plus per cent certainty in favour of BC Liberal Tony Harris. The result was, in fact, an almost nine per cent swing in the opposite direction, a 21-per-cent error. Was this the one-time anomaly in the “correct 19 times out of 20”?

There were numerous reports of residents of the two other Nanaimo ridings being polled, as far away as Ladysmith. If that’s the case, they might as well have polled in Vegreville.

This isn’t a one-off error. Remember how Hillary Clinton was measuring for new drapes in the White House because she was such a sure bet to win the U.S. presidency? How did that one turn out? Remember how Adrian Dix had the 2013 election in the bag? 

John Diefenbaker used to delight in telling his audiences “you know what dogs do to polls”. 

The second big loser was the Green Party which could now be relegated as the fringe group it once was. Getting a mere seven per cent support – down from 20 per cent in the last general election – they were left high and dry by two thirds of their past supporters.

When voters face the decision on what immediate and attainable action they want in running our government, the reliance is on the two main parties – the NDP and the BC Liberal/Conservatives. Voters are not necessarily gamblers, and in this case, voting Green was a gamble with poor odds.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is certainly not bargaining from a position of strength after these results. He can't rock the boat, it’s better to go with the flow to protect his party’s three seats from a general election. That’s self-preservation.

The winners – BC Liberals and the NDP both gained in their share of the popular vote. Where did that come from? The Liberals improved their share by more than eight per cent while the NDP improved by about two per cent.

The Liberals narrowed the gap between themselves and the NDP to eight per cent from 14 per cent in 2017. The unanswered question is where did that 13 per cent of former Green votes park themselves and will they ever return? 

Eligible voters 45,359
Votes cast 21,410 
47.2 per cent turn out

Some leftovers to digest during the weekend

Jan 26, 2019

I am about as disillusioned as you can get with politics, both on our side of the border and south of the 49th parallel. The vitriole has nothing to do with governing, it’s all based on partisanship – destroying each other for power. That is also evident during the present byelection campaign in Nanaimo.

* * *

We seem to put a lot of stock in all-candidate forums, seldom examining the impact of such events on the eventual outcomes of elections. We expect to have about 30,000 voters going to the polls on election day. So what impact does an event with 400 people really have on the final outcome? That’s a small per cent of the vote total.

* * *

The campaigns for the three major parties are totally engineered from party headquarters on the Lower Mainland. The prepared party talking points are obvious. Some of the answers by the candidates sound more like prepackaged taped playbacks of talking points than about the questions being asked.

 * * *

Many of us cower in disbelief as our prime minister runs around the globe handing out our money to his favourite causes. I asked a member of Parliament how the prime minister gets all this money to throw around.

Abbotsford MP Ed Fast told me the money authorized in the budget and enabling legislation, gives the PM and his finance minister the ability to allocate resources relatively freely. 

“The normal limitations would be the debates and votes in the House, which in a majority government means that the PM really has virtually unlimited ability to spend taxpayers’ money as he wishes.” 

Since this is an election year, we can expect that program spending will exceed even the massive amounts he has spent in the last three years. At best, we can hope that money is spent in Canada. 

 * * *

Sometimes you have to shake your head to make sure you heard something correctly. A discussion about health insurance in the United States last week focused on private insurance companies.

Some health insurance companies offer to cover all costs of medical assisted suicide, the argument being that it’s cheaper than having to pay coverage for patients with extended health problems. Somewhat like a buyout plan, die now and we’ll pay your way – so we don’t have to pay to keep you alive. 

Jan 25, 2019

During his campaign for mayor of Nanaimo Leonard Krog vowed unequivocally that he would not engage in partisan politics as mayor; not be active in provincial politics other than as it applied to civic issues and being mayor.

Some prominent supporters who believed him when he made that promise feel betrayed. He has heard from a number of them. 

The partisan photo in the newspaper advertisement was from an event before the byelection campaign had begun so we can only wonder whether Krog was aware it was coming out as it did.

It is not a question of whom he appeared to endorse, but that he would endorse any candidate. He should also not have endorsed Tony Harris either, who by the way endorsed him for mayor, or the other four candidates. Promising to be non-partisan covers all of them.

I asked the Mayor for his response, which he provided.

" I sincerely hope that the citizens of Nanaimo will judge me on my performance as Mayor and not my politics. I accept the criticism of some who supported me and can only commit to do better. 

“Clearly for some, as Mayor, I am never off duty, so to speak, and will be expected to be above reproach so as this byelection draws to a close I hope we can all move forward together. Lessons learned.”

 Leonard Krog

Fancy taxation schemes highlight election issues

January 22, 2019

Two taxation schemes are among the top issues in the provincial byelection – the housing speculation tax and employers health tax.

They would be easy to dismiss if the government had not taken the long way around to get to a simple solution.

The speculation tax will not do anything to increase housing, if anything, people will invest less in housing. When there is less investment there will in fact be fewer rental units available. 

If the government was serious about clamping down on speculation in the housing market it already has a simple tool at its disposal which would not involve the same amount of paperwork and get so many people hot under the collar. That is the capital gains tax, which already exists. You buy an investment house, vacant or not, the value goes up, and you sell it, you get taxed in the increased value. Voila, you speculate you pay.

But that’s not how government likes to work. With the capital gains approach you pay only once, when you cash in on the profit from your real estate investment. This is where the curveball comes in – under the speculation tax plan you are taxable each year rather than a one-time tax you’re assessed for your financial gain.

Nothing better than an ongoing tax where government is concerned. We do remember that income tax was only temporary to pay for the costs of a war our country was involved in a hundred years ago.

*   *   *

Elimination of medical services plan premiums is really a shell game – now you see it, now you don’t. You're still paying for it and will continue to do so. Health care is a government expense that has to be paid for, it's not free. It's just a question of how to go about paying for it.

First, we still pay the premiums this year, no saving there, only hope for the future.

The replacement for premiums is the employers health tax (EHT), which is already in effect. It’s nothing more than double billing, at least for this year. 

When businesses have to pay another tax they don’t get a lot of sympathy from the public. However, the EHT is also levied against non-commercial entities – the city, the school district, regional district, hospital and others which we pay for. Those costs come right back to the public in increased property taxes. You can either take it out of your right pocket or your left pocket, there's still only one taxpayer – that is you. How much of your tax bill is as a result of this tax when you consider how many of those public services you pay taxes toward?

Because of the EHT, the total cost of health care in the province is also going to increase. Then they’ll claim they are spending “millions more on health care”– a cost they created with no end benefit.

The province is building up a nice nest egg by charging the EHT this year at the same time as we’re still paying premiums. Nothing like getting hit twice and then telling us how much we’re saving.

Jan. 21, 2019

Remember that referendum on electoral reform? Yeah, that one, the one the NDP and Green party were supporting so staunchly? They insisted the process was unfair, that many voters’ views were not represented, every vote should count, it should be proportional.

The referendum is history now, and amazingly so is the philosophy. The shoe is on the other foot, pointing in the opposite direction. NDP supporters are now campaigning against voting for the Green Party because that would lead to “vote splitting.” In other words, don’t vote what you really believe in, “let’s not spread the vote around proportionally, we’re now sold on first-past-the-post”.

So, will the Greens vote their their first choice or prop up their second choice – the NDP?

It does matter in this byelection because Green  Patry support is significant. In the 2013 provincial election they got 2,532 votes for about 10 per cent of the total. By the 2017 election they doubled their vote to 5,454 for about 20 per cent of the total. That's huge.

Though the BC Liberals are quietly parroting this message, they have far less “splitting” to worry about from the BC Conservatives.

We’ll see on Jan. 30 how committed to proportional representation anyone really was. 

More government paper work goes with speculation tax

January 17, 2019

Guilty until you prove your innocence – that’s the way the provincial government is pursuing its newest intrusion into our lives. 

If you own a home in the designated taxable region (Nanaimo and Lantzville included) you must complete an annual declaration for the speculation and vacancy tax. That means any home, not just a rental or vacation home. Where you and your wife jointly own a home, you much each make separate declarations. You must complete the declaration to claim an exemption. The deadline to complete your declaration is March 31.

Remember the outcry after cable TV introduced negative-option billing in the past? Either you opt out or you're in. Essentially this is the same thing.

If you don’t complete your declaration, you’ll be charged the tax at the maximum tax rate. You can still complete your declaration to claim an exemption after you've received a tax notice.

The government’s website says if you own residential property in a designated taxable regionon December 31, the Province will send you a speculation and vacancy tax declaration letter in the mail by mid-February. Your declaration letter will list all the residential properties you own in the designated taxable regions and will tell you how to declare and claim any relevant exemptions. The letter will be sent to you at your mailing address on file with BC Assessment.

Your letter will include two unique identification numbers: a declaration code and a letter ID. These numbers match you to your property. You'll need these numbers to complete your declaration. You'll also need your social insurance number to verify your identity.

As soon as you receive your declaration letter, you can complete it. You will be guided through the exemption options for each property.

If you prefer, you can declare over the phone with the help of an agent by calling after you receive your declaration letter, and likely after dialing countless numbers. Language translation services are available over the phone. A test revealed that there are long waiting lists on the phone – at least 30 minutes when I called, before I gave up.

Complete your declaration right away to claim any relevant exemptions and avoid receiving a tax notice.

After all the recent demands from the province and feds, why does this remind me of old war movies – “Show me your papers?”

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All eyes are on Nanaimo for the next four weeks

January 3, 2019

Never before, and probably never again, will Nanaimo voters have an opportunity to decide the fate of an entire government. Their vote can either strengthen the governing NDP/Green alliance, or defeat it and send the whole province to the polls in a general election.

That’s what’s really at stake in the Jan. 30 Nanaimo byelection. Nanaimo is the centre of attention for the next four weeks.

There are other factors which can come into play of course, not the least of which is the resolution of the fiasco over the Speaker of the Legislature.

Nanaimo citizens appear to recognize the importance of the vote if we are to believe the chatter on social media – people who live in the city, but not in the provincial Nanaimo riding, are disappointed they do not get to vote. Large portions of greater Nanaimo are either in Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding, held by the NDP, or Parksville Qaulicum, held by the B.C. Liberals.

History shows the NDP with Leonard Krog gained 46.54 per cent of the total vote in the 2017 general election, the same percentage as the 2013 election. Liberal Paris Gaudet picked up 32.54 per cent, a drop of two per cent from 2013.

But here’s the curveball – The B.C., Green Party candidate got 19.91 per cent in 2017, almost doubling the party's total from 2013 when they had 10.82 per cent. The Conservatives had 5.22 per cent in 2013 but did not field a candidate in 2017.

What’s different about this election is that the B.C. Liberals have selected a high profile candidate in Tony Harris while the NDP have lured former federal MP Sheila Malcolmson to the provincial scene.

The recognized importance of this byelection is the amount of effort the parties are putting into the campaign. Neither the NDP nor the Liberals are taking anything for granted. 

Both parties are campaigning very hard. In an ordinary sense one could assume that the party that puts on the best campaign should win, but there’s the unknown factor in the Greens. They have nominated a well-known name in Nanaimo in Michele Ney, daughter of former Mayor Frank Ney. The amount of support they attract can help or hurt either of the two parties. By picking up support, the Greens could cut into the NDP’s support, thus help the Liberals. 

Nobody will know that until election night, but we’ll get a good indication of the Greens’ intentions by the level of campaign they mount. In other words, will they sort of “stand aside” to bolster the NDP’s chances? A party’s performance in an election can extend far into the future. Each election is a building block for the future, and the Greens have been moving upward in the province in recent years. They have to decide whether to go for broke to protect their future, or to play safe to defend the status they now have in the Legislature. Tough choice.

While the NDP and Greens are tilling essentially the same soil, hoping for a major harvest, the Liberals are in an open field of voters, anyone and everyone looking for a place to park their vote.

With voter turnout in the past at around 60 per cent, that leaves nearly 20,000 potenial voters who did not vote in the last election, and whose support is there to be earned. Who will do the best job of attracting those votes?

Proportional representation finally laid to rest

Friday, Dec. 21, 2018

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to finally lay to rest an election system that appeared to refuse to die. Thursday, December 20, 2018 was a great day in the history of our province. More than sixty one per cent of those who cast ballots in the referendum were not prepared to take the great leap of faith into a system mired in questions and even mystery.

Voters have said no three times, and hopefully the third time was definitive enough, especially with the wide margin of the defeat. The defeat of proportional representation was a repudiation of fringe extremism in British Columbia, represented by both ultra-left and ultra-right philosophies.

The experience with our current coalition government may well have influenced the referendum outcome. Voter had a preview of how a small interest group can take control, even without proportional representation, where the environmentalism extremist Green Party wields control of the provincial government. Without their three seats the NDP could not form government. The Greens got their three seats by election – under proportional system they would have got something like 15-16 per cent of the seats in the Legislature. 

The greatest danger posed by a proportional system is the aspect of party backroom appointment of members of the Legislature by the party backroom decisions rather than by individual election by the voting public.

That aspect of the system has been proven in some European countries where this type of electoral process is in practice. Numerous blends of political extremism have given disproportional power to special interest groups. By that system, groups like the Nazi party, for instance, are gaining influence in governance simply by capitalizing on whatever percentage of minority voter support they can muster and gaining seats in government. Those groups cannot win individual election, but getting a percentage of seats based on their total vote gives them power. With numerous fringe parties it is often they who control the parties with much greater voter support. 

Now that we’ve been through this process three times, and defeated it each time, let’s hope it can now rest in peace.

Only fools rush in – slow and steady does it

Dec. 13, 2018

There’s good news coming out of our new Nanaimo City Council – they are not aimlessly plowing ahead with major expenditures just because they can.

Their early approach to the $43-million waterfront walkway project is a good example.

“I think all of us question the expense versus the public benefit of the waterfront walkway,” Mayor Leonard Krog was quoted as saying. “When we’re looking at community infrastructure that would benefit citizens, whether it’s around sports and recreation or attracting tourists, we want to look very carefully at that project again. That is a big-ticket item.”

Caution on any major expenditures in the first year of their mandate is the responsible thing to do. Councillors need to keep in mind that project and others will still be there a year from now, five years from now or even a decade.

It's better for council, a year from now, to wish they had done it rather than wish they had not done it.


What percentage of support for reform is a mandate?

Dec. 10, 2018

With just about 41 per cent of eligible voters sending in their ballots on the electoral reform referendum it's difficult to feel much confidence that the final decision is a mandate.

Even if half of those who voted cast their ballots in favour (or against) electoral reform, that would mean only about 20 per cent of eligible voters supported either side.

With numbers like that, can the government proceed with changing our electoral system with that low a voter response?

Making the decision based on only one fifth of the electorate (or even 25 per cent) supporting it would likely bring a constitutional challenge, dragging the issue out in the courts.

The only logical argument against that is if they didn't support the change, why didn't they vote? Everyone had an equal opportunity. If your side is the losing side, you can blame only those who did not vote, and that's about 60 per cent of those who had the right to cast their ballots. 

December 7, 2018

Guess who else plays role in city tax rate

Budgets are made up of little bits and pieces of revenue and expenditure, and taken as a whole they can really add up.

Nanaimo is looking to increase taxes for 2019, but it’s not all the fault of councils past or present. Other levels of government have their hands in the local cookie jar. An example is the employer health tax that the province imposed in its last budget. That’s the tax that will supposedly make Medical Services Plan premiums disappear for all of us.

Well, not really, they are just transferred to businesses and public entities like the city, the hospital, the regional district, the school district, the university, all dependent on us for their expenditures. Those are facilities that operate on taxpayers’ dollars in the first place, so the government is taxing the taxes we pay. 

For the city, the MSP premiums for its employees continue at $554,000 for 2019, but then add the employer health tax of $1.08 million on the city alone, never mind the other institutions.

In 2020, the premiums disappear, but the health tax will still continue at $1.09 million. It’s not exact, but you can pretty well assume that an extra million dollars on the city’s expense side could result in a one-per-cent tax hike.

Next year’s city budget, which has to be finally approved by May, already includes the $1.08 million additional tab. When it comes to apportioning resonsiblity, looking a little further afield might be in order.

Keep in mind, your tax bill also includes the school district and the Regional District with their own increases, on top of what the city requisitions. Councillors can be excused when they feel the squeeze from the outside, something they cannot control.

Increased WorkSafeBC premiums are also putting squeeze on the city – a nearly $300,000 increase in premiums, making up about one third of a per cent of the budget increase.

 Oh, and don’t overlook the provincial carbon tax which has also gone up. Then there's also the "'carbon offset" that the city and other tax-funded entities have to pay. You get the idea where this is going.

Merv Unger is a retired journalist and former Nanaimo City councillor.

One million page views on

December 7, 2018

We've done it – one million page views on since the site was launched Jan. 1, 2017. On Dec. 6 we hit 1,000,000 page views, beyond our wildest dreams when the site was launched to serve as Nanaimo's Daily News Source. 

The greatest viewer activity, not surprisingly, was during the October municipal election when Nanaimonet gave free access to all candidates to feature their complete biographical information and platforms.

We're here to serve our readers and our community. Thank you for your response.

And we always appreciate your responses –

Looking backward into the future

Nov. 22, 2018

Less than one year to go, and maybe even less for Nanaimo, if we happen to get a federal byelection following a provincial byelection.

The dye is beginning to form with the Conservatives choosing John Hirst as their candidate last weekend. The NDP is not quite ready to arrange a nominating process yet, the member of Parliament Sheila Malcolmson first has to resign her parliamentary seat, and that could come about any time after Leonard Krog announces his resignation from the Legislature. The betting is that Malcolmson will pull the plug as soon as the provinicial writ is issued for a provincial byelection where she can be a candidate. 

Are you still with me?

To look into the future sometimes it’s beneficial to look into the rear view mirror. What happened here in the last federal general election was out of the norm – the main parties suffered huge loses with the NDP still winning the seat. Redistribution changed the electoral district boundaries, so comparisons are a challenge.

What happened was that the big parties – NDP and Conservatives – lost of lot of support while the Liberals and Green Party gained. Even in winning, NDP support dropped 12.06 per cent from the previous election. The biggest loser was the Conservatives’  Mark McDonald, dropping 17.04 per cent from the party’s support in the previous election, using redistributed results due to riding boundary changes.

Where did those votes go? That’s the interesting part – Green candidate Paul Manly gained 12.58 per cent, the same as the NDP lost. The 17 per cent lost by the Conservatives mirror Liberal Tim Tessier’s 17 per cent gain over the previous election. That elevated the Liberal candidate from traditional also-ran to second place.

You can’t compare actual total numbers between elections because prior to redistribution there were about 55,000 ballots cast in 2011 compared to about 70,000 in 2015.

Now, whether we get a byelection or wait until next October, it’s a whole new scenario. MacDonald and Malcolmson will not be in the race. Federal party support has shifted where the bloom appears to be off the rose for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. If you follow the national polls, Conservatives are on the upswing and nationally the NDP have regressed to their traditional status of solid third-line. 

But don’t tie your cart to the national scene, Nanaimo is unique, we have a mind of our own when it comes to politics. That’s what will make the next federal vote extremely interesting.

Brennan was a positive influence on city council

Diane Brennan

1110 - The outgoing city council sort of passed quietly into the night, much to the relief of many citizens. Three did not even show up for the inaugural meeting of our new council.

The outgoing councillors were recognized for their contribution, it is not unfair to say that some did not contribute much positively.

There’s one councillor who did not seek re-election but deserves to be singled out for her positive influence over 13 years on council. Diane Brennan served from 2002 to 2008 when she made an unsuccessful bid to become mayor. She was back in the next term, serving from 2011 until 2018.

The reason to single her out is the work I saw first hand while we were both on city council. Diane and I co-chaired the beginning of what we both deem our most satisfying achievement – social housing. More than 100 units were built with the help of staff of both the city and the province. I had the first opportunity to thank former housing minister Rich Coleman for providing the funding when he was in Nanaimo this week.

Housing has always been front and centre on Diane’s horizon. She spearheaded the legalization of secondary suites which added much safe housing in the city. 

When she reflects now on her time on council she can also point to riparian area development regulations and the expansion of the Linley Valley. 

It wasn’t all roses though. A big disappointment was the inability of city council to approve and build even more social housing during the just-completed 2014-2018 term.

She also feels strongly about losing the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange. One great step back for Nanaimo has been the abandonment of the downtown. The failure to provide economic development leadership couldn't have been worse for our city.

After the massive opposition to the social housing from some neighbourhoods, I drive by one of those projects daily and seeing the success makes all that insignificant.

Thank you Diane, a job well done for our city.

Please email your interest to


Harris candidacy turns byelection into a real battle

1107 - What might have been seen as a clear ride for the NDP in an expected byelection has become a serious race with the entry of Tony Harris as the Liberal candidate.

Common perception has been that member of Parliament Sheila Malcolmson would be an automatic winner for the NDP, but that all changed, it’s a whole new ball game now.

A lot more than just this electoral area could change depending on the outcome of a byelection, putting the NDP government of John Horgan in jeopardy. One more Liberal seat and one less NDP seat could upset the government and force a full-blown provincial election. And that’s what the Liberals are banking on. The presense of so many Liberal MLAs and former cabinet ministers at the announcement is evidence that they are serious about winning the byelection.

Harris didn’t miss an opportunity to take a poke at Horgan and the NDP by pointing to MLA Leonard Krog being excluded from cabinet, which he said was a slight on Nanaimo. He added Krog is a very good man and a long-time friend.

There’s a great deal of respect for each other by the two. It was Harris who introduced Krog when he announced his successful run for the mayoralty. He said he and Krog have been great friends for a long time, and he expects him to be a great mayor.

When it comes to electability, the Liberals could not have done better. Over the years the party had been after the late Tom Harris to run. Now they have his son.

That does not guarantee anything other than we’ll have a good race on our hands, with real options for voters.

Where it could get really interesting is if the Green Party enters the race, which is totally within reason to expect. They have three seats, all on Vancouver Island, and they are all south of Nanaimo. 

No matter what the outcome, if the Greens enter the race they will be winners by building voter share for the long term. That’s what it’s all about for the Greens, to have a solid percentage of the popular vote in future elections under proportional representation, if it passes.

That would unquestionably siphon votes from the NDP, making things very interesting. We’re in for a great ride, Nanaimo.

Politics isn't real any more, it's just a game

In the U.S. campaign, someone delivered a load of manure and dumped it in front of a campaign office.

Politics is no longer a process to choose how and by whom were are governed – it has become a blood sport. There are no winners any more, only losers.

It’s not a stretch to view it as a game, with specific groups trying to outscore each other on points, with the changing score kept by public opinion polls.

Our recently-completed election is small potatoes compared to the U.S. mid-term elections ending on Tuesday. The parties are now in the two-minute drill, hoping to get close enough to score the winning points or make a goal line stand. It’s not about governance, it’s about smearing opponents, creating issues out of lies, as long as they serve the desired purpose.

Some politicos are urging people to fight in the streets, to harass and confront people in public and "hit them when they are down." Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said last week that supporters should not be civil until the Democrats win the election. There is vile hatred between political supporters.

It’s irrelevant whether one side proposes what is good for the country, the other side knocks it. Braggadocious President Donald Trump’s final thrust toward the goal line has him expounding about defending the country’s borders. 

The law is on his side so you’d think it was case closed, but now the Democrats, who solidly supported border issues when they were in power, have switched sides. Not because it’s good for the country but it’s good for the game, another example of the game having nothing to do with the rule of law.

Trump was winning that scrimmage, so the Democrats switched to health care, even though their record on the topic has been dismal. What they have on their side is the Republicans’record is an even greater failure. Trump used health care to win the presidential election, and then let the parties bicker while they made the crisis much worse.

Meanwhile, illegal invaders disguised as refugees, are still streaming toward the border and Americans don’t have health insurance that the average citizen can afford. But the game must go on.

After the final whistle, after the clock runs out Tuesday night, both teams will go to the film rooms and digest what just happened, and why they lost the game. They’ll make new game plans for a couple of months and then take to the field playing the same game again. By that time the championship will be on the line, and it will be a fight for the presidency. The masses won’t be better off, the winners will celebrate and the losers will go into regroup mode to pull out all stops for the next game.

The parties are the teams and the citizens are the adoring crowds, wildly cheering and waving banners, hoping to be on the elusive winning side not realizing they are the real losers. The media has a long history of more or less being the referee in the game, but they have abdicated their role, practising advocacy journalism rather than truth and objectivity.

Conspiracy theorists could be forgiven if they suggested WWE wrestling boss Vince McMahon was directing the game strategy for both sides.

We have that to look forward to in a couple of months when our Canadian teams start their pre-season, kicking, punching and gouging to see who becomes Prime Minister in 2019. It has nothing to do with governing our country, it’s all about winning, at all costs, who can hold up the winning trophy at the end of the game for another four years. So get used to the tripping, slashing and high sticking and hope it doesn’t come down to an empty-net finish.

Former Gov. General collecting $100,00 in yearly expenses

October 31, 2018

From the outrageous department, the  Ottawa Citizen reports:

Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson is still billing Canadian taxpayers more than $100,000 a year in office expenses, and has now claimed more than $1.1 million in such expenses since she left Rideau Hall in 2005.

The expenses, paid through an unusual program that allows former governors general to bill for office expenses for the rest of their life, is used by other former governors general as well. But only Clarkson is regularly billing more than $100,000 annually, which means her expenses show up as a separate line item in the federal government’s public accounts.

The expenses are on top of the $1.6 million that Clarkson has collected to date as a government pension. It also does not include the $3 million in a start-up grant (plus up to $7 million over 10 years to match donations from the private sector) that was paid to establish Clarkson’s charitable organization, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Both the pension and the start-up grant are standard for outgoing governors general.

The expense program for governors general was created in 1979 and appears to be unique among federal government positions. There is little public transparency in how the money is spent; Rideau Hall says it requires receipts and invoices, but it would not disclose what exactly is being expensed or how much other governors general are spending. Canada’s access-to-information law does not cover Rideau Hall.

In general, the expenses can range from “administrative support, office space and furniture, to professional services, travel and accommodation,” according to a Rideau Hall spokesperson.


Election officials remained calm during vote count blip

1030 - Memory loss is one thing, but when the memory goes in electronic devices, like voting machines, the warning lights flash brightly. 

There was a delay in getting the voting results from McGirr polling station on election night. I checked with Sheila Gurrie, the chief elections officer and city clerk for Nanaimo about the delayed results form that polling station. 

The job done by Gurrie and the elections staff is really amazing. What could have ended in panic was handled with cool professionalism, and everything came out just right.

Just before polls closed the Presiding Election Official from McGirr called the Deputy Chief Election Officer downtown to report the voting tabulator stopped working. Normal trouble shooting protocol didn’t work. First they brought the 10 minutes of ballots and the machine downtown so it could be replaced to count the last 10 minutes of votes. 

Then they discovered it was not the machine - it was the memory card that held all the counts for the entire day from McGirr. Deputy Chief Returning Officer Sky Snelgrove confirmed with the company that supplied the memory cards that all of the ballots from the entire day at McGirr would have to be run through another machine, with another memory card, to count the votes again. 

It would have taken another four hours to run through one machine, so they used three machines and added up the totals to get the counts for the location. This took until approximately 11:15 p.m.

That was a mere three hours and 15 minutes after the polls closed. Late when you consider the usual quick results from computerized counting. But compare that with 20-25 years ago, when I anchored election night coverage live on Shaw TV when it often took until 2 a.m. or later for the final results to be counted and tabulated by hand.

What this shows is the professionalism of Gurrie and her election staff. They did not panic, the election was not compromised and we got the results. Nothing quicker could have been done. Nobody fell down on the job, except for a little piece of plastic – a memory card.

Current political climate fosters hate

1028 - The horrific massacre of 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on the weekend is another wakeup call to all of us.

In his column in Nanaimonet, Brian Peckford points out that Jewish people are the single religious group in Canada that suffers from the most hate crimes. The disturbing thing is that those figures are increasing.

Those statistics seem to go unnoticed in today’s society. If asked, the majority of people would likely suggest that Muslims and Christians would be the most targeted, but that is not the case.

It should not be all that surprising, given the growing number of anti-Semitic groups in Canada openly campaigning on behalf of Palestinian causes. Jewish speakers have been denied to speak at Canadian university campuses by radical anti-Semitic protesters.

The federal Green Party, at its policy convention last weekend, voted to support the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (DBS) targeted to Israel's economy and society which profit from the “occupation of the Palestinian Territories." That has led leader Elizabeth May to reconsider her continued role in the party.

It’s not in some far-off place, it has been displayed even here in Nanaimo where we don’t have a recognizable Jewish population. That included participation in attempts to break the Israeli blockade, which was created to stop the import of arms to Palestinians. 

Modern-day politics extends well beyond the local civic, provincial and federal levels. Advanced communications bring all conflicts right into our living rooms – it’s no longer restricted to the Middle East.

The political climate in the U.S. has to shoulder a lot of the blame. A loud-mouth president incites while the Democratic party opposition urges citizens to attack at every turn, be it in a restaurant, grocery store, and so on. People are encouraged to be uncivil and to kick others while they are down. All you have to do is scan social media to see the vile hatred between people over their views. 

The U.S. media have abdicated their responsibility – TV news has become “entertainment” loaded with personal opinions rather than the facts.

It doesn’t take too much for a wing nut to rally to whatever cause and initiate horrible crimes. With a population of 330 million it’s not difficult to find one unhinged zealot.

Jews have been targeted throughout the ages, such a small group trying to protect their little piece of the planet. It’s easy to bully the little guy.

Most disturbing is the fact that those who preach peace the most are often the perpetrators of violence against others.

Big question – who will run in the Nanaimo byelection?

1024 - One election is in the vault, but there’s no rest in politics – we’re heavily into a byelection which hasn’t been called yet. MLA Len Krog’s election as mayor of Nanaimo will create a vacancy in the Legislature when he resigns. 

I wonder if Leonard considered the political avalanche he may have triggered. The provincial byelection could possibly trigger a federal byelection here. Or if things don’t work out, a surprise provincial election.

Krog’s resignation may come soon. Premier John Horgan has already announced that he wants an MLA in the House before the budget debate, which usually takes place in February. So a January byelection seems almost certain. The stakes are mighty big in this one, the result could change who governs our province.

If the NDP candidate wins, it’s status quo. If the Liberals squeak out a win, that could spell a full-blown provincial election. A Liberal win would leave the NDP/Greens having the same number of seats as the Liberals, giving the Lieutenant Governor little choice but to call a general election.

If the Liberals and NDP think they can ignore the Green vote in the byelection they will be making a monstrous miscalculation. 

With the form of representation now in balance, the Greens will likely pour all available resources into this byelection, if for no other reason than to build up their popular vote percentage. They will need that support if they want to make a serious impact under their hoped-for future proportional representation.

And that gets the speculation going. Who is going to run for whom? When all else fails, we turn to the grapevine to get the whispers. 

The loudest whispering has Nanaimo-Ladysmith Member or Parliament Sheila Malcolmson opting for provincial politics, giving up her seat in Parliament. That’s the word around the Legislature press gallery. She has been a popular MP, therefore a great candidate to replace Krog. 

Of course, that could trigger a byelection for the federal seat, even before the federal general election next October. And a possible provincial general election.

So, how could the B.C. Liberals match that? A number of names have popped up, but how do you get someone prominent? Mayoral candidate Don Hubbard’s name has been mentioned on social media. Could he be the one?

I thought I had “the big one” but that rumour petered out very quickly when the suspect said “no”.

Stay tuned.



1021 - Leonard Krog carried a heavy burden throughout his campaign for mayor, one that he shared with only his closest friends. Len’s wife Sharon has been in hospital in Victoria with a very serious medical condition.

He told me and my wife Marge, but wanted it kept private during the campaign, and it was only in an emotional part of his victory speech that he told the public about it.

Sharon’s condition could have taken him out of the campaign, but it was her insistence and support that kept him in the race. He has been travelling to Victoria numerous times a week to be at her side as she battles the greatest challenge of her life.

She is not out of the woods yet, there are many challenges ahead, but Sharon’s determination keeps her fighting. 

All we can say is that everyone is behind both Sharon and Leonard and their family during this trying time. Be strong Sharon, beat this, an entire city and its people are behind you.

Peckford's view of the election

There's wisdom in the crowd, says Brian Peckford. Nanaimo had that wisdom on Saturday, says Brian Peckford. 


One week to go until we select our new leadership

The qualifications to become a candidate in municipal elections are extremely low while the qualifications to be a councillor are extremely high. 

We have 40 candidates for city council, but not even close to that number have what it takes to actually do the job of councillors. Look at it as though these candidates are applying for a job, and you are the employer conducting the interviews, because you really are.

Studying the candidates’presentations on you can read between the lines as to who stands out, and it’s quite clear cut with many of them. There are those who have studied what is required and can discuss the role with intelligence. The others, in too many cases, pontificate on issues that are way outside what council has jurisdiction over. 

See the assessment of who is getting the attention from readers HERE.


It's time for voters to do their homework on the election

It’s taken a lot of effort, and we finally have all the candidates we expect to profile on

Now comes the heavy lifting, all voters need to read what they have to say. This is a job application for them, and you are the prospective employers (voters) who will be paying the bills for the next four years based on the people you vote for. Would you hire them to look after $180-million of your money?

In editing the platforms and bios, it became clear that many had done their homework and know what they are talking about, and what lies ahead for them. But a number of the 40 candidates have no clue of what is involved in being a city councillor. 

The ones who have researched the job tend to get to the point and stay away from the bafflegab. Though it’s not a strict guideline, you can be guided by the number of platitudes and buzz words that are used – a fairly reliable indication that when you don’t know what the topic is all about, baffle ‘em with BS. 

One of my favourites: Collaboration – does that mean just sitting around and a failure to lead?

You’ll recognize them when you see them in their platforms.

So, get at it, read the information for the 38 council candidates and three for mayor as well as the 20 for school board. There’s also a list from the Regional District of Nanaimo and from Lantzville.

A lot of people have been demanding transparency and openness, well here it is, open and transparent. The only thing worse than an uninformed candidate is an uninformed voter.

Go to the appropriate sections in the menu bar at the top of this page.


1010 - Flu shots are now available on a walk-in basis at London Drugs stores in Nanaimo. They will be followed by full flu clinics Oct. 22 and 23. London Drugs is also taking appointments for on-location flu shots at businesses.

What are we getting out of the LNG bonanza?

So who else gets a carbon tax and sales tax break besides the Chinese, Koreans, Mayaysians and Shell? Brian Peckford has serious concerns abou the rush to LNG development in B.C. Read his COMMENTARY HERE.

Run/Walk Out Hunger fundraiser Oct. 14 at Westwood Lake

0929 - Nanaimo;s 7-10 Club is gearing up for its fifth annual fundraiser in its ongoing efforts to feed the hungry people of Nanaimo.  Run/Walk Out Hunger will be held at Westwood Lake Park Oct.14.

Registration begins at 9 a.m., the time clock starts at 10 a.m. for the runners and 10:10 a.m. for walkers. 

The trail around Westwood Lake is approximately 6.3 Km, a totally enjoyable experience with nothing but natural beauty all along the way.

To date, this Fundraiser has generated $45,000 in helping feed the hungry people of Nanaimo.

For more information on the Nanaimo 7-10 Club please visit us at

If we learned one thing about the new U.S. Mexico Canada trade agreement, it's that Trudeau is no Mulroney. Brian Peckford takes an early look at how Canada fared. Read his commentary 


Slow and steady on the council team rebuilding process

0927 - You could call this a rebuilding year for the City Nanaimo – out with the old and in with the new.

Lest I lose some of the non-sports fans in the grandstand, let’s look at this like an NHL hockey team. Since you brought it up, like the Vancouver Canucks. They’re into a full-scale rebuild of their team, from the top down, not unlike city council.

We’re going to have a new general manager, that’s guaranteed. In alaphabetical order, either Don Hubbard or Len Krog. And we’ll have a number of new players, some due to retirements. And some won’t make the cut when the voters make the decision.

This is the point where the Canucks example comes in. They are not making wholesale changes, just a little at a time – you can’t just throw a full squad of rookies out there to fend for themselves. That’s why I’m encouraged that a number of veterans have come out of retirement in order to guide the rookies in their first season. That experience is invaluable, they can teach the newcomers a lot and keep them from making mistakes.

The same as there are advocates for the Canucks just to chuck the whole bunch of vets and start from the ground up, many Nanaimo citizens want to do exactly that with city council, and that would not be wise. Too many rookie mistakes can be extremely costly in the long run.

So before you trim your imaginary roster for council on voting day, remember the value of the veterans. 

Having served on city council, I believe the likes of Ian Thorpe, Gary Korpan and Jeet Manhas have too much experience to offer for voters to pass up. The new council will need that, especially with a new mayor at the helm. That’s what I’m going to keep in mind when I go to the polls.

Sheryl Armstrong appears to have shown enough promise in her rookie season to remain on the roster.

I will also prepare a list of people who appear to be best qualified to serve our city, that will come out about a week before the election, so keep your eyes open. There are a number who won’t make the cut, a large number, to be brutally frank.

I'm not trying to tell anyone whom to vote for, just to look at the whole picture. Use common sense.

Your views are welcome, please click to send your response.

COMMENTS: I respect your comments, but recycling former Council members is not an option for me.    I was not respectful of their in office records.  Further they offered last election and did not fare well.  I am prepared to place my confidence in some carefully selected rookies.     – Blake McGuffie

Housing alone is not the answer to tents

0923 - The inhabitants of downtown Nanaimo’s illegal tent encampment have been given three weeks to vacate 1 Port Drive – failing that, the city is empowered to clean them out.

Oh great, problem solved! Right?

Not so fast with the rental vans and trucks, exactly where will they go?

There’s a lot of questions about how many are truly homeless and how many are outside political agitators. It’s infested with drug consumption and trafficking, which of course leads to mental health issues.

Loading them, and those from other sites across the province, into trucks and vans and moving them out doesn’t solve anything. Giving temporary squatting assurance in provincial parks is still the same problem, only at a different location. Now you see them, now you don’t.

This seems to be the attitude of politicians, just move them out where we don’t see them and don’t have to deal with the real issue. This needs a solution rather than the merry go round of locations, politicians know they haven’t provided any solutions. As a matter of fact, they are running around merrily handing out money for pet projects with major political benefit to themselves. They seem happy with well-meaning local advocates who are not really knowledgeable about the root problem and push for action by local government.

So what should the province, and Ottawa do?

The first step is accepting that the number one problem is the national drug and mental health epidemic. Building facilities without stemming the addictions problem does not lessen the situation one iota. So that’s where to start.

Saying the cost is prohibitive is simply an excuse for inaction. They should have acted a lot earlier but they kept their heads in the sand, hoping the problem would go away. It hasn’t gone away, and it won’t go away.

There are many levels of needed action, starting at the ground level, it has to be an all-out battle against addictions and mental health. That would necessitate some legislative changes to allow forced treatment. Current “rights” legislation protects them from involuntary treatment and cure when they just worry about their next fix, not about treatment. Our society will likely never totally overcome the illicit drug scourge, but helping even some would take them off the streets.

Treatment involves being kept in a facility where withdrawal services also include a roof over their heads, three square meals a day, all medical needs and a warm dry bed. That’s not a guarantee they won’t become users in the future, statistics prove that.

Everyone is touting a housing solution, but that is hollow. If you skip that first step the actions will be futile, as it has already demonstrated. After treatment the next stage has to be ready to kick in. You can’t just “cure” addicts and then shove them out onto the street to fend for themselves. This is where the housing element comes in, with ongoing support services to lessen a return to the streets, and more drug use. Simply slapping up houses and not instituting the first stage is a waste of resources, money down the drain.

When levels of government argue they can’t afford the costs of such programs they are putting a lesser value on some human beings. At what point do they make the decision that some lives are not worth saving?

We can’t skip the first stage – treatment – and then hope that more housing will cure what’s wrong. We’re beyond bandaid solutions, we’re in the full hemorrhage stage, and bleeding out. Where’s the tourniquet?

We welcome your views, please click to send your response.

Too many civic election candidates are unaware

0921 - There’s an old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. You have to wonder why some people add their names to the ballot for city council or school board and then do nothing to connect with voters. offers candidates a free web page to list their platform/biography and photo, but to date only 28 candidates have bothered. The other 12 seem out of touch, including two incumbent councillors. We separated those to a second (no-response) list so that readers don’t waste their time looking for non-existent postings. Too many are clueless about what is involved, or even what the qualifications are for the job. Sloganeering and buzz words are not what makes a good councillor or trustee. The least knowledgeable use the most slogans and buzz words.

In the administrative process of this site we see how many views each candidate’s page has received, giving a good indication of whom readers (voters) are paying attention to. Those who have not responded have meagre numbers.

For the record, when we introduced this in last year’s byelection the final results were very indicative of the numbers on this website. This time around, there are already some surprise high numbers for some candidates, and lower interest for some who would be considered top candidates.

Many of those who filed nominations are out of touch as to what’s involved in serving on council or the school board. It seems to be “exciting” to have your name on the ballot. Even though it's everyone's democratic right, some simply have no business being on the ballot.

There have been comments about how great it is to have this many names on the ballot, but from what we see, it only leads to voter confusion, watering down support for legitimate, serious candidates.

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