Dec. 31, 2021

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Dec. 30, 2021

There’s a reason why the windshield is larger than the rear window – you cannot change hindsight, so keep your eyes to the future. 

If it’s any comfort, things can’t get worse in 2022 than what we experienced in 2021, can they?

British Columbia got kicked in the teeth as never before, it is one year we won’t soon forget. And it’s not over. We endured a heat wave, forest fires, floods, winter storms and the coronavirus all in one year. Some of those have passed into history but linger in the remediation which will take a long time. Remember, the entire town of Lytton was totally destroyed by the fires. The heat dome took many lives in the province.

Covid? Who knows, we can only hope with the present massive outbreaks that it will soon be beaten. Our lives have been greatly impacted with deaths and lockdowns of events and businesses.

Looking ahead, what’s in our future? All these calamities have diverted our attention from the lesser challenges were face regularly. 2021 cannot disappear soon enough.

On the local level, this is a civic election year where we get to choose our city council and school boards for the following four years. 

All things considered, both elected bodies get a good report card. For city council which was elected three years ago, it’s hard to find much fault, in real contrast to the foibles of the previous council. Sure, taxes are going up, but so is everything else, except earnings for many. 

Mayor Leonard Krog has done an excellent job of guiding the eight councillors and the city’s administration as a whole. A couple of councillors dabbled with pet ambitions a couple of times but generally stayed on track for common good.

All in all, we who make Nanaimo our world don’t have too much to complain about.

There’s coffee row talk of some possibly not seeking re-election but that’s a small number at this point.

The provincial government also gets a good grade over all, especially in view of the life-altering challenges during the year. A serious health issue forced Premier John Horgan to the sidelines temporarily, but acting premier Mike Farnworth has kept things on an even keel.

The official opposition, in the closing days of a leadership change, has also performed well under interim leader Shirley Bond. When things are not going well it is always a temptation to preach the sky is falling. To their credit, the BC Liberals have not done that. Criticizing without offering alternative solutions is of no benefit.

Looking ahead, what will be worth paying attention to is who finally comes out as the leader of the BC Liberals. The race has been uneventful so far, but things could get interesting before the new leader is anointed on February 5.

Out of the starting gate, former cabinet minister Kevin Falcon was seen as the front runner, the man to beat. Mike Lee has been active on the campaigning I’ve seen on social media and direct mail contact to date. 

Not to boost any one candidate, but the surprise has been Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, who is completely down to earth, not fitting into the regular mould. Ross was the first full-time elected councillor of the Haisla Nation and spent eight years learning the ins and outs of working on Council until 2011 when he was elected Chief Councillor. In 2017, he ran for the BC Liberals in the provincial election and won in the traditional NDP riding of Skeena and was re-elected in 2020.

Keep your eye on him. He has made one New Year’s resolution that should ring a bell with a lot of party members. “It’s time for the establishment to take a bak seat for a while ans we hand the steering wheel over to the grassroots BC Liberals.” 

Outside of direct politics, taking an eagle’s view, 2022 starts off with the hangover of the past year. Business is looking to rebound from temporary and full shut downs, mandates and supply chain disruptions resulting from a congregation of the past year’s difficulties. Government reboot assistance will go a long way but that spending on recovery will add to the tax bill. Not doing anything would have been a worse outcome.

In spite of the challenges, the economic barometer is acceptable. We’re not facing serious unemployment, as a matter of fact, the opposite is true. We have a labour shortage.

While it’s goodbye 2021, it will be onward and upward for the new year, there’s optimism. What doesn’t break you only makes you stronger.

Happy New Year!

See the Global TV newsmakers of the year.

 

Dec. 12, 2021

We are in the midst of two concurrent pandemics – which is worse, COVID-19 deaths or illicit drug deaths? Is the public health response proportional? We've had 369 more drug deaths than COVID-related death.

 In the first 10 months of 2021, we have had 1,782 drug-use deaths and 1,413 COVID-related deaths in British Columbia. The response is not proportional.

We have been locked down, mandated, masked, vaccinated and isolated in response to the virus pandemic. There has been minor pushback to the government response, but it’s been pretty smooth sailing. We’ve had vaccines, passports, lockouts but very few claims of “human rights” violations.

On the other front, we’ve had 1,782 illicit drug-use deaths in the first ten months of this year. Virtually every one agrees that “something” has to be done, but what is that something?

It has been suggested in this column for a number of years that mandated treatment is the only answer. It provides mental health treatment, a roof over their heads, a dry bed and full nutrition with three square meals a day. That most often gets the response that it is a violation of their human rights, you cannot enforce treatment. 

Shortly after becoming Mayor, Leonard Krog suggested the same approach, but the pushbback was quick and negative. Rights were being tampled.

Reread the first section of this column again – when do rights issues take precedence over the common good? Human rights arguments are made for one and not the other.

There is a great lack of understanding – ignorance – about the drug pandemic which is the second largest cause of death in B.C., second only to cancers.

The general perception of drug users is “those dirty bums living on the street” with mental health issues. Well, I’ve got news for you, only 14.9 per cent of the deaths occurred outside and 83 per cent happened indoors. The shocker to many is that 55 per cent of drug deaths occurred in private residences.

Oh what goes on in the bedrooms of the nation. Males accounted for 1,400 of those deaths and females were at 381 and one unknown. Another eye opener is that only 15 per cent (273) were under age 30 while the 30-60 age group accounted for 71 per cent (1,264).

The illicit drug issue has a lot of attention, but not anywhere near that of Coronavirus. There’s imbalance in the response to the two issues and it needs attention. It’s a question of who has the most human rights.

 

Nov. 23, 2021

The flooding disasters in the province have given us a glance into the possible future. It’s an  education about what happens in the real world when the supply chain is interrupted. We get rationing due to delivery shortages everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline shutdown, even for a short period, disrupted fuel supplies. It’s not only about pipelines that deliver the fuel to Vancouver, it is transported by tanker trucks to stations across the province. And there closed highways have thrown a wrench into that service.

Our food supply is in some disarray largely due to transportation systems being limited due to the road closures. There have been reports of hoarding, but that’s not part of the big picture.

This should be a harsh wake up about our dependence of fossil fuels. That’s the common denominator, whether by pipeline or the highways. You can’t simply go to the nearest electrical outlet to plug-in and get fuel and groceries.

Eliminating fossil fuels in the next few years is a dream, if not a nightmare. Just take note of what happens in even this short time frame. Replacing that essential life blood with electricity and other hair-brained dreams threatens our very existence.

This is a much greater threat than all the climate fear mongering we are constantly forced to endure. A B.C. doctor recently claimed to have discovered an illness he labelled climate disease. At the same time, mental health experts are warning that incessant climate fear could become a major mental health issue.

Oh, and the forecast calls for three more heavy rain storms by today and into the weekend.

 

Nov. 22, 2021

If you’re agonizing over news reports of a possible 5.9-per-cent municipal tax increase, that’s not a true picture of what your tax bill will end up at. That’s the residential portion of the tax bill, there are nine categories in total, each with it’s own rate. 

Those sectors are made up of Utilities, supportive housing, major industry, light industry, business, managed forest land, recreation/non-profits and farm land.  They all go into the city’s tax calculation with different rates for each.

The city’s portion is only one of the entities that make up you final tax bill.

The biggest one next to the city is the school board levy which has it’s own requisition, but collected by the city. Also standing in line with their hand out are the Regional District of Nanaimo, Regional District Parks, Regional District Sewer, Regional Hospital District, Regional Library, Municipal Finance Authority, B.C. Assessment Authority.

Each those entities to a large extend set their own tax requisitions which the city then collects. That’s your final tax bill, which the city has to finalize early in the new year. The direction taken by the school district and the Regional District before that final filing date can give you an indication where the final bill is headed.

And then there’s the assessment story, but that’s for another day.