Another perspective

Jun. 4, 2019

Another perspective

 
Sep. 3, 2018

 

0807 - Demonstrating and protesting make for interesting political theatre but accomplish nothing to solve the problems of society.

Sunday’s little theatre pitted a foreign-born protest group against another group, mostly-local actors, flying the flag of communist Russia. Nothing was accomplished, nothing resulted and no solution was found to the problem of housing in Nanaimo. It was all about name-calling and placard waving. Great for media camera.

The tent encampment is not the issue, whether your are for against it or against it. It's a much bigger issue than that.

Where the real protests need to be is at city council meetings, calling a majority group of councillors to account for creating a large part of the housing problem. Council had millions of dollars in their lap to build about 40 housing units in the south end of the city. Council said “no thanks.”

Nanaimo MLA Len Krog had doubtlessly put in considerable effort to get that money from the province, but a small group of residents wanted to choose whom they would accept in their neighbourhood. The ones who were in line for that housing were not good enough to live in their midst.

When placard messages insist “housing is a right” where were they when council made that decision or when that neighbourhood rejected the poor and needy? “Housing, not hate” is another popular slogan.

This is not new – it happened less than a decade ago when the city got housing money from the province. City council at that time decided that such housing would be located throughout the community, with the first projects in downtown, mid-town and the north end. The South end was to get its share later on.

There was a push back from residents, especially in the north end, but council stuck to their guns and made it happen. More than 100 units were built and the sky did not fall.

As far as can be determined, the province is not standing by, waving a fistful of cash for Nanaimo to try it again. But, if that should happen we need a city council ready to step up to the plate and take action. 

Of note is that some of the vocal opponents of the most recent opportunity are now candidates for city council. That should worry all of us.

This type of sideline bickering between groups of citizens plays right into the hands of our elected officials – they sit back and do nothing, except maybe introduce another race-based tax or two, blaming investors for the real estate situation.

The crisis is much bigger than a few campsites and the blame can be laid at the feet of three provincial political parties. A major shift in philosophy took place a couple of decades ago when the Social Credit government introduced a plan to shut down mental health facilities and integrate patients “into the community.” The following NDP government carried through on that strategy, and the Liberals did nothing concrete to reverse that.

There was brief talk about reopening Riverview mental treatment facility, or part of it, but that raised the NIMBY syndrome again. A plan to raise money for the renewed hospital by selling part of the property for private housing got the NDP all riled up, accusing the Liberal of greasing a path “for their friends”. 

In the meantime, the mental health and housing situation continued to deteriorate.

The mental health crisis has reached epidemic proportions because of the rise in drug use, and it’s not going to get any better. What it will take is millions, if not billions of dollars, to really fix this problem. It will have to be a serious commitment by all parties. Involuntary committal to treatment will have to be part of the program. 

Simply providing housing for those in need won’t solve the problem. Governments need to do what it takes or accept that things will continue to get worse, with more and more tent encampments and rag tag agitators without any solutions. 

Present band aid solutions won’t stop the bleeding. It’s been a long time developing, and there are no instant fixes. 

 
Sep. 3, 2018

0903 - A little whimsy for a long-weekend Monday morning in a brand new month.

Imagine this scenario, if the Electoral Reform referendum passes this fall.

By extension, could that lead in the future to similar rules applying to municipal government where only six or so councillors would be democratically elected and another two would be appointed through backroom deal-making and skullduggery?

Who would make those appointments? The Mayor? Council as a whole? Andrew Weaver?

It is not far-fetched. That’s what Weaverites are planning to do at the provincial level, democratically elect only some MLAs and let party bosses appoint the rest of the people who will govern us.

Surprisingly, we haven’t heard much about the referendum which is quietly sneaking up on us. Perhaps that’s how the proponents would like it to go down – quietly in the dark of the night while we’re all asleep.

As I said, somewhat whimsical, but also scary. No thanks.

To comment on this or any other opinion columns, email editor@nanaimonet.com

 
Aug. 16, 2018

0816 - There is still more than two months until the big day for city council candidates, and the race is starting to get crowded with 20 declared to date. We're told there are others in the starting gate, so it remains to be seen what the ballot will look like – it could be a long one.

The race for mayor is pretty well a two-way race but we keep hearing of others trying to head the next city council. The incumbent, Bill McKay, has been toying with a number of scenarios, but has not said yay or nay. Former Mayor John Ruttan has still notruled out giving it another try.

The platforms of many of the candidates are loaded with commitments which they have no chance of fulfilling – they are promising things that are out of the jurisdiction of city council, but they appear dedicated to making Nanaimo a better city. Good for them, and if they get elected they will have a sharp learning curve to deal with. Luckily, there are introductory sessions for newly-elected officials to help them get started.

Only two incumbent councillors have committed to date, and one would hope that they both get elected. I remember from the past when we were told that three new councillors would prove to be a challenge. From this list it looks like there may be at least seven new faces sitting at the table.

We're making Nanaimonet.com your election central, so please stay tuned as the candidates reveal their plans. Keep checking on them, they have the opportunity to change and/or add to what they have posted so far.

It will be an interesting 64 days, and counting down. Please post your comments at the bottom of this section. 

 
Aug. 7, 2018

Demonstrating and protesting make for interesting political theatre but accomplish nothing to solve the problems of society.

Sunday’s little theatre pitted a foreign-born protest group against another group, mostly-local actors, flying the flag of communist Russia. Nothing was accomplished, nothing resulted and no solution was found to the problem of housing in Nanaimo. It was all about name-calling and placard waving. Great for media camera.

The tent encampment is not the issue, whether your are for against it or against it. It's a much bigger issue than that.

Where the real protests need to be is at city council meetings, calling a majority group of councillors to account for creating a large part of the housing problem. Council had millions of dollars in their lap to build about 40 housing units in the south end of the city. Council said “no thanks.”

Nanaimo MLA Len Krog had doubtlessly put in considerable effort to get that money from the province, but a small group of residents wanted to choose whom they would accept in their neighbourhood. The ones who were in line for that housing were not good enough to live in their midst.

When placard messages insist “housing is a right” where were they when council made that decision or when that neighbourhood rejected the poor and needy? “Housing, not hate” is another popular slogan.

This is not new – it happened less than a decade ago when the city got housing money from the province. City council at that time decided that such housing would be located throughout the community, with the first projects in downtown, mid-town and the north end. The South end was to get its share later on.

There was a push back from residents, especially in the north end, but council stuck to their guns and made it happen. More than 100 units were built and the sky did not fall.

As far as can be determined, the province is not standing by, waving a fistful of cash for Nanaimo to try it again. But, if that should happen we need a city council ready to step up to the plate and take action. 

Of note is that some of the vocal opponents of the most recent opportunity are now candidates for city council. That should worry all of us.

This type of sideline bickering between groups of citizens plays right into the hands of our elected officials – they sit back and do nothing, except maybe introduce another race-based tax or two, blaming investors for the real estate situation.

The crisis is much bigger than a few campsites and the blame can be laid at the feet of three provincial political parties. A major shift in philosophy took place a couple of decades ago when the Social Credit government introduced a plan to shut down mental health facilities and integrate patients “into the community.” The following NDP government carried through on that strategy, and the Liberals did nothing concrete to reverse that.

There was brief talk about reopening Riverview mental treatment facility, or part of it, but that raised the NIMBY syndrome again. A plan to raise money for the renewed hospital by selling part of the property for private housing got the NDP all riled up, accusing the Liberal of greasing a path “for their friends”. 

In the meantime, the mental health and housing situation continued to deteriorate.

The mental health crisis has reached epidemic proportions because of the rise in drug use, and it’s not going to get any better. What it will take is millions, if not billions of dollars, to really fix this problem. It will have to be a serious commitment by all parties. Involuntary committal to treatment will have to be part of the program. 

Simply providing housing for those in need won’t solve the problem. Governments need to do what it takes or accept that things will continue to get worse, with more and more tent encampments and rag tag agitators without any solutions. 

Present band aid solutions won’t stop the bleeding. It’s been a long time developing, and there are no instant fixes. 

 
Jul. 4, 2018

By Merv Unger
Editor Nanaimonet.com

If it moves, tax it. That’s the real bottom line with the phony tariff war between Canada and the United States. It’s simply a diversion meant to lull us into acceptance of the latest scam by politicians.

A tariff is a tax, plain and simple, and that’s the bottom line. We’re being bamboozled again by politicians. They’ve been taking us to the cleaners on the illegitimate “carbon” tax scheme, but that’s not enough for them.

Now we’ll pay ten per cent and more additional tax on every-day purchases, mainly food products, which we can’t do without.

Sure, the issue carries all the feel-good labels that tariffs are there to protect our products from unfair competition. How does anyone benefit when one country slaps a tariff on another country’s exports only to have the same applied from the other side in retaliation? Governments on both sides of the border have an extra revenue source, and some citizens willingly line up to support the tax grab in the name of nationalism. 

The United States rakes in extra tax revenue from Canadian metal products and Canada grabs the extra taxes on food stuffs and other imports. Notice the revenue doesn't go to the agrieved industries – only to government.

By making the “other country” the villain they strike a note of patriotism, making many of us proud to pay another tax. They’ve got it down to a science. It stirs a certain amount of "Buy Canadian" outrage from the public but it doesn't solve any problems except make everything

Oct. 15, 2018

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

Over the past 36 years in Nanaimo as a journalist I’ve constantly had people seeking my views of the candidates. I don’t endorse, this my impression of the candidates who have submitted their information to Nanaimonet readers, and from observing at various public events.

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 Nanaimonet.com 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. 

Or they spiel a string of buzzwords and platitudes that have no relation to the job. There are countless examples like suggestions on having the city build a new hospital or establishing a bus route between Nanaimo, the airport and Ladysmith. 

The most-used is to build city housing for the homeless. Those candidates’hearts are in the right place, but again, that is not solely the city’s role. The federal and provincial governments have that task, and they would be only too happy download it to municipalities, shifting the burden to your property taxes.

At the mayors’debate there were a number of questions (suggestions) for audits of the city’s books. Too many candidates seem unaware that annual audits are done, as required by provincial legislation. To take it one step further, a previous provincial government established a new municipal audit division, taking accountability one step further. Those audited statements are tabled regularly by the city in an annual report.

There are a number of promising newcomers on the ballot, candidates who have demonstrated that they are well versed for the job, and that they will not require a lot of on-the-job training. A number of them have held numerous events where voters could meet them and get an opinion of what they stand for.

Here’s how I see it, based on my observations, with the benefit of statistics on how often their platform pages have been viewed on Nanaimonet.com. It’s not a scientific poll, only an overview of voter interest. See all PLATFORMS HERE. 

Erin Hemmens has done her homework and is a good communicator, a vital requirement for the job. Communication also means listening, and she appears to be on track there. That is especially true in view of the public perception that there’s too much done behind closed doors. She’ll likely be very near the top in the final results.

Brian Loos seems to have come out of nowhere. Though not well known on the civic scene, his performance at the candidate functions shows he knows what he is talking about, and is attracting a lot of attention. 

Zeni Maartmanwho has served on the school board and has experience in the business world, is also getting a lot of traction.  

Jim Turley brings a vast amount of Nanaimo’s background history with him, having been involved in business and downtown issues. Now that he’s retired from the business world he could add a lot of what will essentially be a rookie-laden council.

Those are four candidates who could bring new blood to the table. That raises the issue of having at least some experienced on the corporate board of the city, especially with an inexperienced mayor, with an interim city manager and a depleted managerial staff. When you mark your ballot ask yourself if these are the people you want in charge of spending $180 million of your tax money. Experience will be the key to getting the new council off on the right track.

Gary Korpan has that, having previously been both a councillor and the mayor. He has an extensive background in municipal governance and regulations and that could certainly help whoever becomes our new mayor. The new candidates will need a tutor, and Korpan brings that to the table.

Jeet Manhas is another former councillor, with six years on city council. He has also been a director and chairman of the Port of Nanaimo and is a successful business man.

That’s six, leaving room for two more, and this is where it gets tough – the field is loaded with talent. There are many more worthy of a serious look.

Michael Ribicic, a student at Vancouver Island University, has drawn a lot of reader interest, but may have his priorities mixed up by including a provincial party leader to kick off his campaign. City council is supposedly non-partisan.

Norm Smith and Guy Beaulieu also score high in reader interest along with other newcomers.

Tyler Brown is an urban planner, and to some that would seem like a drawback. Hopefully he would not become council’s resident stumbling block in an-already constipated development services process. He vows that would not be the case.

Ben Geselbracht is another impressive newcomer. His resume shows he’s been around the block with various community-related projects, not the least of it, the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange. 

Then there are the incumbent councillors who are familiar with the job – Ian ThorpeSheryl Armstrong, Gordon Fuller and Jerry Hong. The voters will pass judgment on them, if they haven’t already. If reader interest is any indication the odds for them are not good.

Wendy Pratt served in at least part of the last term of this council, enduring a lot of abuse, leading to her resignation. She feels that with a new group on council she will be vindicated.

Don Bonner has attracted a lot of interest from readers. I’ve had a number of conversations with him over what appears a desire to spend tax money on anything and everything, including the city joining in “partnerships” with causes – urban farming, public events and festivals, and even sponsoring refugees with civic tax dollars. We have agreed to disagree.

There are no bad people on the ballot, some just seem to stand out above the rest when it comes to being job ready. Some have put in the effort to get to know the job while others have not. We expect them to do their homework, now it’s our turn as voters to get the facts before the vote.

If you’re still not sure, study the candidates’platforms here on Nanaimonet.com. Study them carefully, and then make up your own mind – you have less than a week. Most important, don’t pass up the opportunity to vote. That’s how you can help determine Nanaimo’s future.

Remember, you don’t have to vote for eight – take a look at whom you really want and mark only those names on the ballot. When you add any more just to fill the ballot you may very well bump out your favourites.

PS –I have not commented on the candidates for mayor because we have two excellent candidates for the job in Don Hubbard and Leonard Krog. Voters will make up their own minds on that ballot. You can’t go wrong here either way.

Sep. 29, 2018

This isn't the turf I usually frequent, but it has a link – it's all about governance and politics.

No matter which way you cut it, the United States no longer has governance by its elected representatives. It's a game to them, politics at its worst, without getting anything positive done. I've been trying to identify a single achievement for the benefit of their citizens. 

The Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings are a circus where both sides battle with "gotcha" weapons. The Demoncrats don't care one whit about the woman who claims to have been abused. They are playing her like a fiddle. She wasn't the one who wanted the issue brought up, it was Democratic Party operatives scheming to derail the confirmation process so they could get control over the long run.

After all the reality TV theatrics, nobody can conclusively say the woman wasn't telling the truth. There has been no proof that she did or did not experience what has been ascribed to her, and that's not the point. By engaging in these political games they are not doing what they were elected to do, to run the country on behalf of its citizens. It is all the diversionary antics of politicians in both parties playing political chess games. When that happens, nothing beneficial can come of it.

And guess who loses. Not them.

Sep. 10, 2018

UPDATED 7:15 p.m., Sept. 10

0910 - The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and OurNanaimo are planning to jointly stage a pair of civic election events.

OurNanaimo is a special interest group which has been meeting and informally screening candidates for many months, all-the-while insisting they are not a party or an endorser. The very fact that they vetted or tutored people whom they deemed as worthy raises questions about them being a non-partisan group.

All candidates will have an opportunity to meet with voters Oct. 9 in a trade show-style format which will be followed by a moderated leadership debate with mayoral candidates. That’s an excellent idea, if conducted by the Chamber with no connection to any special interest.

On Oct. 15, small groups of candidates, who have been screened by OurNanaimo and the Chamber, will be invited on stage to participate in what Chamber CEO Kim Smythe described as a fishbowl forum.

This is very troubling. As unofficial as OurNanaimo has been insisting they are, are they now going to “screen” which candidates are worthy of participating in a mock council meeting scenario. After all, a number of the candidates were former member/participants in the OurNanimo movement.

If they deem any one or more candidates as unworthy to face the voters, how will they justify that? It's not their pre-campaign planning and helping to groom candidates – that's a laudible achievement. Controling the public forum by excluding some candidates who are not to their liking is what smells to high heaven. That makes it a partisan event.

Does anyone remember the election where the leader of one such group declared "we will elect the best city council that money can buy." Luckily, the voters didn't buy it.

Let us know your thoughts, your comments are welcome at Editor@nanaimonet.com

READER COMMENTS

I have never heard of anything like this before. If a person is duly nominated and becomes a candidate then that candidate and all others should be invited to any candidates meetings. Sounds creepy and undemocratic to me. – Brian Peckford

Sep. 9, 2018

0909 - Thank you to everyone who responded to the call for making life a little better for a refugee family who have settled in Nanaimo. They came here in a circuitous route from Eritrea, via Ethiopa. They have no source of income, and government assistance takes forever to get started.

The family is composed of a single mother with a nine-year-old daughter and three sons, age 13 to 18. It's not easy making ends meet. We had a considerable number of email responses asking for more information and asking how they could help.

We had some financial donations which qualify for charitable donation receipts from an accredited non-profit organization.

We had a response for bicycles for the family, but they still need soccer shoes, size 9 and 11. Something else that would be of great interest would be a free-standing basketball hoop. I know there are numerous people in Nanaimo who would just love to have someone pick up one of from their property.

Email me at Merv@nanaimonet.com or call me at 250-616-0416 if you can help or if you need more information.

Thank you