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Aug. 20, 2022

When confronted by a problem it's human nature to blame others and too often that blame is misplaced.

Homelessness is a major problem in our province. CTV reported a recent poll found nearly three-quarters of British Columbians believe that, but significantly fewer say it's a major problem in their neighbourhoods.

The online survey of 800 B.C. residents found substantial frustration with all levels of government when it comes to addressing homelessness in the province.

And not surprisingly, governments point the finger in a different direction, never recognizing that they are the problem in large part.

Our member of Parliament Lisa Marie Barron and NDP housing critic Jenny Kwan met with local advocates and apportioned blame for the problem. The culprits in their eyes are those who build rental housing and want a return on their investments. Government has an immense financial impact on affordability.

It’s hypocritical for governments to lay the blame at everyone except themselves.

When you build a new house, who’s at the front of the line with the hand out demanding a payoff? The federal government wants it’s cut with the Goods and Services Tax. That’s added to the selling price.

Even more egregious is the provincial Property Transfer Tax which is applied to every property sale, old and new. It’s one per cent on the first $200,000 of the selling price, and an additional two per cent on the remainder. In today’s market it’s not that crazy anymore to use $800,000 as a benchmark price of a house. That adds $14,000 to the cost of buying a home, paid at the time of the transaction.

Talk about the challenge of qualifying for a mortgage. With 20 per cent down payment up front, that means you have to have $200,000 in your jeans. Then add that Property Transfer tax, also up front, and it prices untold numbers of people out of the market.

It’s the old story ­– when you don’t have the answers, blame someone else. It’s time to look in the mirror.

 

Jul. 28, 2022

Eyebrows are being raised about the changes to the B.C. Ferries board of directors, particularly the addition of former MLA cabinet minister and NDP leader Joy McPhail. Immediately after her appointment she became the chairman of the board. It is argued that it politicizes the ferry system.

Peel back a couple of layers. The previous B.C. Liberal government moved the ferry corporation at arms length to guard against political interference and John Horgan’s government continued the trend, until now.

BC Ferries is a private corporation – all shares owned by the government. It’s an admirable goal to keep politics out of the mix.

However, that does away with any level of accountability. The board does not report to anyone except itself, although in extreme circumstances it would be to government. Governments have kept their distance but much for their own convenience, they haven’t had to face the music.

If the latest change ends up with oversight by those we elect to represent us, that’s an improvement. 

 

Jul. 26, 2022

The decision by Langford council to cancel all further council and committee meetings until after the election was an eye opener. Council held a one-minute-and-29-second discussion before voting 5-2 to cancel the remaining meetings. But upon reflection, based on past experience, that is not really that outlandish, but certainly not smart.

However, they decided to keep collecting their council pay cheques during that period.

First you have to accept that the elected members don’t really run the day-to-day operations of the municipality. City management operates on established legislated rules passed by council. There are really no breaking events in the operations of the city that require council at every breath.

Realistically, if the fit his the shan council can call an emergency meeting at any time, no matter what the established meeting schedule is at that point. And that would surely happen in this instance.

But continuing to collect their full salary is a bit of a middle finger to taxpayers. The good thing is taxpayers/voters won’t have long to wait to pass judgment . . . on October 15. That could spell “meeting adjourned” for some of all of those council members.

 

Jul. 15, 2022

We’re three months from the October municipal election and campaigning should ramp up pretty soon for city council and school board candidates.

The official pre-campaign period for the elections begins Monday, and runs until September 16. There are two periods – pre-campaign and campaign. Election advertising rules come into effect with the start of the pre-campaign period. Another level of rules are also in effect during the campaign period, from September 17 until election day on October 15.

Elections BC administers campaign financing and advertising rules in local elections, but does not administer voting, candidate nominations, or other aspects of the process.

It’s been quiet on the election front until now, nothing but crickets. Whatever councillors and trustees do between now and the election is a form of unofficial politicking. It’s the newcomers who have to get their message out to the voters.

I contacted all council members recently to get a reading of their intention to run again or drop out. Though nobody has made it official, it would not be a surprise to see at least seven of the councillors seeking re-election. Coun. Jim Turley has indicated he will not run.

The steady hand at the top, in the mayor’s chair, has given us four years respite from the turmoil the previous gang was notorious for.

What will be most interesting is who and how many newcomers will try to win a seat. Our past history has been 20 to 30 candidates and more for city council in recent decades. The big question is what they can bring to the table offering a better choice than the incumbents. 

Some names are floating around coffee row, but most of them lack name recognition. That’s what elections are all about, being known by the voting public. Crowded ballots with many names raise election interest, and therefore hopefully greater voter turnout. Elections without contentious issues usually have lower voter turnouts, and that is not a good thing.

Things have been pretty quiet from the council chamber. What we hear most from the public is the property tax increases fueled by unbalanced housing price increases. Some have been paying way above average, and they want to know why.

Another big concern is homelessness. There are too many people with no place to live other than a tent or a simple tarp in a park or other treed properties. Council is getting the flak even though it is the responsibility of the provincial government. Regardless of what the province has done, it’s never enough. But it is an issue for the election.

Climate has been top of mind for some councillors, waving around mantras like “crisis.” That has led to costly redesign of infrastructure to cater to non-fossil-fuel byways and highways. More spending on street redesign and bicycle trails requires more money – translation, higher taxes. The Metral drive rebuild is a perfect example of concept over functionality. 

Our population is aging, and I know from personal experience that old bones are not meant to be tortured on bicycles. Streets and roads have one purposes, to move traffic. Traffic “calming” is a contradiction.

I’m developing an election page on this website on Nanaimonet.com – open to all candidates. Watch for details coming soon. I would like to hear from any prospective candidates so they can get the word out. If voters don’t know you they likely won’t vote for you. Contact me by email at merv@nanaimonet.com.

See the details at Elections B.C.

 

Jul. 13, 2022

Change is sweeping the world and there’s nothing we can do about a lot of it. There’s an evolution taking place before our eyes and most of us do not recognize that it’s happening. For ages newspapers have been the leading format for getting the marketing message out for millions of businesses.

The arrival of radio changed the scenario somewhat, and television followed. Those three media controlled the delivery system, they owned the lifeblood of businesses. That’s changing, and consumers are helping to create it. Businesses now entice you to sign on to their online app (application), or signing on to an e-mail list, a phenomenon that is sweeping like a tidal wave.

In the end of another era, you’re seeing the last Save-On Foods and Buy-Low printed flyers. They are moving to digital exclusively.

Enticing you sign up to an app gives the owner of that app a direct link to you via e-mail and direct messaging. Many people recognize that their search habits on social media lead to responding adverting messages within seconds. Do a search for a washing machine and you’ll get an instant response with dozens of brands pushing their product directly at you.

A peek into the future includes having full commercials transmitted to your Iphone, laptop, Ipad and desktop computer, around the clock. Newspapers, radio and TV will wither on the vine. Even newspapers themselves are converting to online editions. 

Pay-per-view is already the way to get your entertainment, including sporting events. 

We as a society have given advertisers direct access to us, and that is a valuable asset many of us have surrendered.