Jan. 15, 2020

The television news series about lead in drinking water throughout the country was enough to raise eyebrows, especially since I was on city council when the Nanaimo water treatment plant was built.

First, we can all rest assured that Nanaimo’s drinking water and its infrastructure is safe and does not contain lead. Bill Sims General Manager, Engineering and Public Works, explained how the national conclusions were reached through media and journalism schools. The students knocked on doors of older homes and sampled tap water for lead. 

The main source of lead in drinking water is old plumbing, lead solder and water sitting in plumbing for extended periods. Homes built more than 40 years ago are at greater risk because they are more likely to have lead plumbing. Lead was used as a material for water pipes until 1975 and in solder used to join pipes until 1986. Until 2014, faucets and hardware could contain up to eight per cent lead. Note that galvanized steel pipes can also leach lead into drinking water.

As an example, schools run cold water taps for several minutes to bring fresh water in, after school holidays, which is usually effective in flushing elevated lead levels. That does raise a question though – is there any reason for not upgrading the plumbing in schools?

Buildings on private property which may have old plumbing may have lead in the plumbing. However, the good news is that the City adds soda ash, which elevates the level of pH at the water treatment plant as corrosion control. This should go a long way to ameliorating the problem of lead leaching into the water on private properties.

Nanaimo’s water treatment plant adds soda ash to raise the pH of the water and controlling corrosion in old plumbing. Higher pH water is not acidic but lower pH water can leach lead from old plumbing. Modern plumbing fixtures and solder are generally lead-free, says Sims.


Dec. 17, 2019

Mayor Leonard Krog got a lot of attention for taking a pro-active approach to treat mentally-ill people who are homeless on our streets. The mayor wants the province to place severely mentally ill homeless people in mental health facilities. Many are unable to fend for themselves, often addicted to alcohol and illegal substances.

Krog rightfully pointed out it’s not just homelessness, it’s mental health, it’s addictions, it’s the petty crime that flows from it and it’s the severe cases that are being shuffled in and out of psych wards. 

The mayor said the modular homes that replaced a tent city are helping but those suffering from mental health conditions need specialized care. They hear voices and are paranoid. They won’t go to shelters because of past experiences or the state of their mental health. They can’t take care of themselves, feed themselves, are taking street drugs, and are threatening to people. 

The emergency shelter housing for them is part of the problem, existing in a community brimming with drugs.

This is not a new problem, it is a long-standing issue. A bit of history perhaps can put it into perspective. A Social Credit government developed a plan to close mental health facilities and “integrate the people into the community.” They started it, and then the NDP did not put a halt to it, they instituted that policy and the situation has gone from bad to worse since then. When BC Liberals replaced the NDP as government, they continued on merrily with the program. Oh, they have been integrated into the community since then, and how!

What mental patients, as we used to call them then, had was a roof over their heads, a clean, warm dry bed, three square meals a day, and professional medical treatment. No matter how you slice it, that is much, much better than living on the streets.

The reaction of some people on social media bad-mouthing the very idea of involuntarily placing people in treatment underlines the real problem. Some took issue with the “wording” of the media reports and the fact that this was, as they stated, not the “politically correct” way to say it. Use of the word “institutionalize” ruffled their feathers.

It’s not a punishment or imprisonment in the usual sense. When people have serious mental illness they lose the ability to make their own decisions, as the mayor said. For their own good, society has to act for their best interests when they are unable to do it for themselves. 

One thing is certain, looking the other way and pretending it isn't happening is not the answer.

Nov. 15, 2019

Hey, you people, it’s not your money, you are entrusted to responsibly look after our money.

Before he was elected to city council, Don Bonner wanted city taxpayers to sponsor one or more refugee families to come to Nanaimo. When informed he could not do that, it’s not the city’s role, his response was “well we should do it anyway”.

The latest scheme calls for the city to provide and pay for free transit bus transportation for school kids, assuming up to and including university. The school district is already has a fleet of school buses funded for that purpose. Nanaimo Transit is managed by the Regional District under the control of the provincial government. He argues that free transportation at city expense would teach young people to take buses in the future when they grow up. That’s another education function, not a city role.

People who are elected to public office often lose focus of the office they were elected to – city council. They are not MPs, MLAs, school trustees and should not act as social engineers.

Bonner recently posted on social media that he rode a bus and was convinced free bus transportation was a solution to a city-declared climate emergency. There is no free ride, it’s always someone else picking up the tab. And there are other councillors with this type of thinking. 

We are left to wonder what programs or services councillors plan to cut from the budget to pay for this, or raise taxes above the five-year financial plan. 

COMMENT - Editor@nanaimonet.com


Oct. 25, 2019

Many will recall the slogan – “The West wants in.” That appears to have transformed into “The West wants out.”

That’s an arguable interpretation of the federal election where most Canadians rejected the Eastern establishment in no uncertain terms. The Liberals did not get a single seat in oil-rich Alberta and Saskatchewan which have been victimized by the power brokers over resources and (carbon) taxation.

Not quite so obvious is the subtle regionalization of our country. Indigenous people have been demanding nationhood for ages, and have been slowly getting just that. On election night the resurgent Bloc Quebecois leader kept referring to the Quebec Nation. Now there are not-so-subtle similar stirrings in the West.

The present scenario revives memories of former B.C. Premier W. A. C. Bennett who envisioned in the 1960s that Canada could become a collective of five regions – representing separate entities like B.C. The Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. He said they would be basically independent, but all under a new federalism roof. If memory serves, Bennett suggested a senate of equal representation from each of the regions, i.e. 10 or 20 senators from each, making a federal government of 50 or 100 representatives.

Though the idea never reached first base, with Ontario and Quebec not even entertaining equal power sharing with the rest of the country. Under that formula, the three other regions could have out-voted them.

That general concept with First Nations, The West, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, as participants might resurface, especially at this time when three of those regions are looking for a new deal.

There are a lot of intracasies to consider, but it may be something that is worth revisting. It would be much cleaner than the ongoing cries for the convoluted proportional representation – in fact it would be more proportional than what we have now.

Comment – editor@nanaimonet.com


Oct. 22, 2019

Congratulations to Paul Manly for winning two federal elections in just under six months – that’s almost unheard of in Canadian politics.

And it wasn’t easy, the opposition threw everything they had into trying to unseat the Green Party rookie member of Parliament. The Greens reinforced that the May byelection victory was not a fluke. As a matter of fact, the final figures Monday night were very similar to what each party got in May.

Like the national campaign, the New Democrats went with a negative campaign, misrepresenting the Green platform. That was disappointing.

People constantly preach against hate, but the NDP kept up their decade-old campaign against former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (A little secret, Harper was not running in this election).

And the insults and attacks were aimed at current Conservative leader Andrew Scheer with messages like “we don’t trust Conservatives” and anything to stop Conservatives.

And Scheer was not in the clear either.

And all parties hammered Prime Minister Trudeau, but he has the track record of actual obstruction of justice and tons of other misbehaviours. 

Another distraction for the NDP was leader Jagmeet Singh’s early drive to form a coalition government with the Liberals, even before voting day. That may have led some voters questioning if that’s what’s coming, why not vote Liberal in the first place?

Most of the campaigns were based on telling voters about the other parties, and not enough about themselves. And that was what substituted for real policy which voters could be enticed with. The handout promises did not come with the backing about how they could be implemented while reducing government revenue sources from our resources. Canadians are not buying into the “free stuff” – prescription drugs, hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units and more.

The new buzz word preached from almost every podium is “progressive” - socialism in a new wrapper.

Constantly preaching the end to pipelines, the energy sector and mining resources did not catch the fancy of voters In the west. And they could have done some research into the ongoing climate catastrophe fear mongering, which an increasing number of Canadians are not buying into. And, of course, the carbon dioxide tax that’s scheduled to keep rising and rising. Being against everything is not appealing. NDP representation in Parliament was cut virtually in half. The Liberals also lost a large number of seats, and Conservatives picked up a bunch of seats.

With that in mind, it was an eyebrow raiser when Trudeau’s victory message was about bringing unity to the country. He first made that pledge four years ago, and look what we have now – an energized Bloc Quebecois which has the third largest representation in Parliament – and rejection of the Liberals in western Canada. There are a lot of fences to mend between now and whenever this minority government has to go to the people again.

We even heard the word Wexit on Monday night, a play on the British Brexit. Quebecers and Western Canadians are not a happy lot these days.