Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nanaimo Best Buy Closing

 One Of Fifteen Stores To Close

Feeling pressure from online electronics outlets such as Amazon, Best Buy Canada has announced it will close 15 stores in Canada and the store in Nanaimo is one of them. Pressure from Target coming into the market is also another factor in the closing.

The Future Shop store in Nanaimo is unaffected by the company cut backs, however the Best Buy stores in Victoria and Langford (Westshore Town Centre) will also be closing.

Across the chain 900 workers will now be hitting the bricks looking for another job.


Colliery Dam Options Explained

Engineer Explains Options For Colliery Dam

Lorne Gale addressed a full house at the John Barsby multi-purpose room to explain the options which are available instead of removing the Colliery Dams. There are several options available which could see the issue of safety addressed while at the same time retaining the dams and the two lakes they create in the park.

The standards being insisted upon by the Dam Safety Branch, in typical engineer's fashion seem to be almost excessive to the point of unbelievable (that is my official uneducated layman's opinion) as they are calling for a standard that would withstand an event with the possibility of happening once in 10,000 years! If such an event did occur, perhaps Colliery Dams would be the only thing left to let future travelers know that anything had ever existed in this place, as surely the rest of Nanaimo would be nothing but a pile of rubble.

Anyway, this incredibly high standard can still be met and the purpose of the current studies commissioned by the city is to compare the costs of complete removal of the dams as well as the cost to rehabilitate the dams. The cost of rehabilitation based on the engineers report done in 2010 was said to be in the order of $1,000,000.00. With the addition of added spillways to deal with a major rain event, the cost to rehab the dams was still thought to be in the $3,000,000 range. This is compared with the current estimated cost of $7,000,000 to remove the dams.

Question For City of Nanaimo Staff & Council

Given that the hazard these dams are feared to present is so extreme that they have to be either removed or have millions of dollars spent upgrading them, why has this hazard not be reduced by simply lowering the levels of the water in the dams right now, instead of waiting at all?

City hall logic makes my mind wobble!


Colliery Dam Cost Estimates For Rehab & Rebuild

 Action Plan for Colliery Dam Concepts

City staff continues to carry out Council’s direction from the December 17 regular Council meeting to engage professional engineers to undertake conceptual level cost estimates for rehabilitating or rebuilding the Colliery Dams concurrent with engineering design and environmental study work to remove the dams and re-naturalize the Chase River.

The current status of the two-stage action plan announced December 24, 2012 is as follows:

1.       Klohn Crippen Berger (KCB) was retained to undertake conceptual level cost estimates for the Colliery Dams.  KCB has extensive experience with the assessment, design and construction of dams, are familiar with the recent studies and assessments of the Colliery Dams, and have excellent knowledge of British Columbia’s Dam Safety Regulations and Standards. KCB was also retained to carry out the design work necessary to fulfill the proposal to remove the Colliery Dams.

2.       The City has issued a Request for Proposal for the purpose of hiring an engineering consultant to complete a peer review of KCB’s cost estimating work. The peer review will involve an assessment of the concepts being considered for rehabilitation and rebuilding. Based on that initial assessment, KCB will then develop the conceptual level cost estimates. Those cost estimates will also be subject to the peer review process. 

During the months of December 2012 and January 2013, City officials, along with members of the Province’s Dam Safety Branch, met with a delegation of community members seeking an alternative solution to removing the Colliery Dams.  Through the two-stage action plan outlined above, the community delegation will be invited to provide input to the peer review engineer, who will then work with KCB on the alternatives to be developed.   The City also remains available to meet with the community delegation should new information be identified.

The City anticipates both stages of the action plan will be completed by mid-April, with the opportunity to share information with the community delegation occurring in late February or early March.


Nanaimo Taxes 2013

Click Image To Enlarge

It's that time of year again when city staff presents city council with their list of how to dispose of tax dollars for the next five years, and council pretends to be concerned (some of them) and traditionally will ask Nanaimo taxpayers whether they would like to see their houses burn down or be broken into, as reducing levels of service seems the only way they know to reduce taxes.

The above graphic shows some interesting information about Nanaimo taxes you won't necessarily hear anyone on council discussing. Some, such as Councillor Greves don't think they have enough to spend now, so don't look to him to try and find any way to hold the line on taxes, ditto with several others on council.

Affordable? Sustainable? By Whose Standard?

The average Nanaimo household has to handle their finances by first figuring out how much they have to spend and then figuring out by priority how that money will be spent. Not so, for the tax and spend crew at city hall. They figure out what they want to spend on, and then simply provide the taxpayer the bill to insure they have the desired amount to spend.

Is this method of operation affordable for the average Nanaimo taxpayer? Is is sustainable? How exactly does city hall determine what is either affordable or sustainable?

Some Interesting Facts To Consider

 2001 - 2012 taxes up 75%

2001 - 2017 taxes up 115%

Wages & Benefits have gone up 74% from 2001 - 2011

2001 - 2012 inflation is up 25.4%

2001 - 2013 population has gone up 14.5%

Wages & Benefits have risen at 3 times the rate of inflation.

City taxes & fees have risen at 3 times the rate of inflation



Things On The Net That Make Ya' Smile

So That's Where R2 Got To?


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Councilor George Anderson

Passes Third Reading of Budget Bylaw
Comfortable It Can Be Changed Later

At the council meeting of Jan. 28, 2013 the youngest member of Nanaimo City Council expressed his concern that some other members of council were taking issue with being asked to give third reading to the 2013 budget bylaw.

Apparently, the fact that council had not considered or debated any aspects of the document which over the next five years will have spent over $850,000,000.00 was of no reason of concern for Councilor Anderson.

He pointed out that for the past thirty years councils have always given third reading to what used to be called a conditional budget saying they have until final adoption in May to make changes. That of course is not true of the budget given third reading at this council meeting which will actually be adopted at the Feb. 18th council meeting, which demonstrates Anderson's lack of understanding of what he was voting for.

His views apparently were shared by the majority of council as third reading was given to this most important bylaw.


Duct Tape To The Rescue

Is There Any Limit To This Wonder-product's Applications?


Save Colliery Dams Update Meeting

Open Public Meeting
John Barsby Multi-purpose Rm
January 31 - 6:30 PM

The Society To Save Colliery Dams are hosting an open meeting to update interested parties as to the progress being made in the attempts to have the city seriously consider options to the dams destruction.

The meeting is designed to have residents brought up to date on what has happened since the last public meeting which filled the gym at Barsby. Ad hoc leader Jeff Solomon will say a few things and Mr. Lorne Gale (the engineer) will present what he considers are viable options the city should consider which would result in saving the lakes in the park and also save the Nanaimo taxpayers money.


Nanaimo Winters Are Hard

Some parts of Canada call this Spring, we however, call it the dead of winter!

Meanwhile In Other Parts of Canada ........



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Great Nanaimo CityScape

Click Image To Enlarge

Local photo artist Sheryl Falls recently captured some of what is best about Nanaimo. The great outdoors with it's breath taking beauty are just steps away from our lovely urban seaside.

More of Sheryl's enchanting work can be seen on her photostream HERE.


Councilor Ted Greves

Not Interested In Looking For 5% Budget Reduction
"We don't have enough money now"

At the council meeting of January 28, 2013 during debate of the motion to ask staff to prepare a list of possible budget savings to a maximum of 5%, councilor Greves said he thought it was a pointless exercise as "we don't have enough money now".

To say I nearly fell off my chair would be an understatement to think a keeper of the public purse seems to think the only answer to the city's fiscal house is to raise more taxes. That of course being the only solution to not having enough money to spend.

He also had no problem giving third reading to the budget bill which council has not debated to this point.


Mayor Ruttan Had Wrong Information?

Daily News April 30, 2012

Thought Annex In Peril
With Even 'Slightest Shake'?

Mayor Ruttan is quoted in this article by Daily scribe Tamara Cunningham;

Mayor John Ruttan said there is risk and concern associated with the old annex, which is expected to crumble "with even the slightest quake."

This seems to represent a misunderstanding of the statement contained in the engineers report which refers to the seismic condition: "The assessment identified the City Hall Annex Building as at high risk for structural damage during a significant seismic event."

The same report says in summary:

"Upon review of the seismic condition of the building, we conclude that in a seismic event, there is a high risk of significant damage or partial collapse of this building occurring."

I have always been curious about the imprecise language used in this report one level of hazard is called a 'significant' seismic event, while another place gives no definition, simply refering to a 'seismic' event.

I have long wondered what building anywhere would not have a high risk of significant damage in a 'seismic' event, when you don't specify the magnitude of that event?

In either case there is nothing in this engineers report that indicate 'the slightest quake' would cause the old annex to crumble.

We now have the peculiar contradiction where Mr. Holmes is saying that characterizing the old annex as unsafe is not entirely accurate.

What is notable is the fact that under the current building code, this building did not require a seismic upgrade and Work Safe BC did not deem the building unsafe.

So, what is the unvarnished truth about this matter. Is the building truly so hazardous it had to be given away for $1 or was it perhaps worth the assessed value of $4,000,000.00?


Is Annex Unsafe? Mr. Holmes Seems Confused

The above screen grab for the local Daily quotes assistant city manager Mr. Doug Holmes as saying the old annex could not accurately be characterized as unsafe.

This statement would seem to contradict a press release issued over his name issued May 2, 2011.

This press release states:

"The exisitng City Hall Annex needs to be replaced because, in the event of an earhtquake, it is not safe for the public and for employees"

"The City needs to keep the building safe for the dozens of public who come into the current City Hall Annex each day. Further, as an employer, the City has an obligation to keep safe work premises. The current City Hall Annex is not safe"


Nanaimo Inner Harbour Deal

The following articles were published on this website last year, the video announcing the harbour takeover was at the end of May. If you listen to the language there is nothing that would indicate this was anything but a done-deal at that point. The public consultation with stakeholders does not mean stakeholders were going to be accommodated, but rather listened to and their concerns considered.

There seemed to be little to no opposition to this change until the summer when Brunie Brunie appeared at the Bathtub Race Parade collecting signatures from people opposed to the takeover. There was also the 'non-event' in Sept. when Brunie tried to get a blockade of the harbour organized which basically fizzled for complete lack of support.

Except for a few rumbles from Protection Island residents and some commercial interests the 'issue' never really seemed to gather any steam or capture the interest of Nanaimo residents.

Sadly, that seems to be pretty much the status quo for issues in Nanaimo.

 Does Community Oppose The Change?

An ad hoc group led by Michelle Corfield is attempting to get enough public support to block the intended changes which will come to the inner harbour should the deal with a private company come to pass.

Primarily this group has a commercial interest in being able to use the harbour for their businesses which obviously could be impacted seriously by the change. As a group they have been relatively quiet since this was first announced last year not apparently being involved with the 'harbour blockade' last summer, nor adding their voice to the PINA's presentations to city council.

Based on the typical, apathetic response from Nanaimo residents (who don't have a boat in the harbour), combined with the support of the local media (this blog excluded), the business community and politicians at all levels, it would seem that with the exception of a few hundred people, Nanaimo residents really don't give a rip what happens.

It has been reported in the local daily that the NPA has been charging users about 30% of 'market rate' for moorage which is one reason they claim unable to fund the needed upgrades to the boat basin moorage. The article did not explain why the brain trust at the NPA felt is needed to charge such low, low rates in the first place. If this is an example of the business acumen of the guys and gals running the port, it is little wonder they had to give the harbour away to a private company to upgrade.

Turning the downtown waterfront into a parking lot for sterile, expensive white yachts and displacing the working boats in the harbour, will forever change the flavour of our waterfront. It seems the powers that be (if there are any beside NPA) seem to think it is a good idea.

The fact that the NPA has been unable to manage the affairs of the monopoly that is the business of the harbour waterfront in such a fashion as to be able to fund needed upgrades is not the least bit comforting.

Aside from Mr. Dumas who are these phantom board members who are conspicuously absent from this discussion.

Note: Email Subscribers may have to visit Nanaimo Info Blog to view video.

Private Firm Signs 30 Year Management Agreement
Plans $9 Million Renovation To Inner Harbour

Few Joined Threatened 'Blockade'

Local politico Brunie Brunie has been trying to gain support for her opposition to the deal the Nanaimo Port Authority has entered into which will see our harbour in the hands of private enterprise for the next thirty years.

Unfortunately her brash and crude approach is likely to cause those sympathetic to her cause to distance themselves from her, based on her approach. The costume she wore during the bathtub days parade was one example of drowning out the real message with over-the-top theatrics.

The 'blockade' was no exception, the message on the single masted sailboat uses language unfit to repeat, even in this day of changing attitudes. It also limits the number of caring citizens who are equally as opposed to the private deal with our harbour, but simply would not want to be associated with this type of protest.

The whole issue of giving away the inner harbour to a private corporation on the grounds that the Port Authority can't scrape together the nine million dollars they claim is needed to improve the docks deserves closer scrutiny. After all, that is a very valuable public asset that Mr. Dumas and company seem willing to bargain away for a pittance for the use of such a valuable asset as our inner harbour.

If you agree there needs to be a second look at this whole deal, contact your MP Dr. James Lunney to seek his involvement in this whole deal.

Brunie Brunie At Tub Parade

Local politico/activist Brunie Brunie was attired in an attention getting outfit attempting to gather signatures on a petition opposing the marina deal between the Nanaimo Port Authority and a private company.

She did not appear to be gathering too much support while I was watching, but it could be the costume had as much to do with that as the subject matter.

Click Image To Enlarge
Will Working Boats Disappear From The Waterfront?

This picture was taken the morning of August 1, 2012 in the inner harbour in downtown Nanaimo, and I think captures part of what makes our waterfront, our waterfront.

In times past the harbour was the heart and soul of this community and gave rise to our identity as the 'Hub' city as our harbour and central location made us the hub of Vancouver Island. Seeing tug boats, salvage boats, fish boats, ferries and barges are all part of Nanaimo's ID and while I realize that times are always changing, I have to wonder if loosing the sight of the working fleet tied up downtown will detract from the character of our harbour and waterfront which we all appreciate.

The Port Authority has seen fit to lease the harbour to a private company who would like to renovate the docks and turn it into a more up to date marina, which they believe will attract boaters unable to find suitable moorage elesewhere. It is unlikely, that a working fleet would have any place at such an upscale facility, which begs the question, will it really be an improvement in Nanaimo?

Will We Have Paved Paradise And Put Up Parking Lots?

Nanaimo has seen a lot of changes in this past decade and in reflection you have to wonder how many have been for the better? There seems to be this idea that if we just keep getting bigger we will naturally just get better, but I think that idea could be challenged. After all, people chose Nanaimo over Vancouver and over Victoria for a variety of reasons, so why are we in such a hurry to try and look like either one of them?

The downtown inner harbour is one example, the flavour the commercial fleet brings to the docks downtown is part of the fabric that makes Nanaimo, Nanaimo; why do we want it to look like someplace else where high end luxury yachts replace a working fleet? Will the change add or detract from downtown Nanaimo ..... will anyone have noticed?


Daily's 'Top 20' List - Fact Or ??

"Just the facts ma'am, just the facts"

The local daily, owned by media giant Glacier Media recently published their annual .Most Powerful People list, which raises a few questions, not the least of which is what was the criteria for selection of local individuals to be chosen.

Newspapers as a rule pride themselves on their unbiased, objective reporting of just the facts, and usually relegate their opinions to the editorial page where readers sometimes don't make the distinction between reporting of the 'facts' and expressing an editorial opinion. Two recent examples of such 'reporting' would have been their first 'opinions' about the Colliery Dams and more recently the $3 million purchase of the Wellcox rail property. In both of these cases they came out foursquare in favour of the city's decision with little examination of the facts.

A dictionary definition of powerful is : having great power, prestige, or influence. The word power has several definitions such as: ability to act or produce an effect, legal or official authority, capacity, or right, possession of control, authority, or influence over others.

The list published by the Daily in order of importance:
  1. Al Kenning, city manager
  2. Hugh Nicholson publisher Daily News etc.
  3. Levi Sampson, Harmac head
  4. Tom Harris, businessman
  5. Steve Laird, businessman
  6. Ann-Marie Ebdrup, businesswoman
  7. Rick Windley, owner Windley Contracting Ltd
  8. Gord Carlson, owner, G.W. Carlson Group
  9. John Ruttan, mayor
  10. Ralph Nilson, CEO and pres. VIU
  11. Dave Hutchinson, supt. School District
  12. Norm McNabb, developer
  13. Russ Burke, businessman
  14. Adrian Legin, CCCU president and CEO
  15. Shawn Atleo, First Nations chief
  16. Donna Hais, businesswoman
  17. Bob Moss, businessman
  18. Barrie Rogers, businessman
  19. Wayne Procter, businessman
  20. Wayne and Brenda Krawchuk, McDonald's owner
Looking at the above list 15 of the 20 would be classed as members of the local business community, 2 in the education business, 1 First Nations chief, 1 local politician and 1 chief bureaucrat.

Curiously absent from the list would be leaders of local unions and the considerable power they wield over the local scene. Heads of local lobby groups such as the arts and culture community are also absent from the list. No mention of either MP's or MLA's is likely a factual if not disturbing observation to think that car dealers outrank our elected leaders in the power department is hardly comforting.

Fact or Self-Serving?

The obvious question to arise from looking at this list, is the #2 position occupied by none other than the publisher of the publication which has created the list. I wonder if the editorial team at the News Bulletin would share this evaluation?

If the criteria for selecting the Daily's publisher is the number of eyeballs his group can put on a page, I think their total weekly 'numbers' fall short of the weekly numbers the Bulletin can put on the page.

Unless Glacier publishes the criteria by which this list was generated, it is nearly impossible to measure the validity of their list. Perhaps the lack of explanation as to the criteria for list selection and the qualifications of those making the selections speaks to the weight you can give this list.


Monday, January 28, 2013

City Council Notes Jan. 28, 2013

City Council Approves $851,046,365.00 Financial Plan
Without Any Discussion Or Input

Spends Countless Time Debating $90,000 Toilet

Brennan, Greves, Johnstone, Pattje and Anderson
Defeat Motion To Bring Report With 5% Reduction In Taxes

Councillor Kipp Wants To Review Cost Of Toilet
Councillor Pattje, Not Interested
Motion Defeated!

At first blush it looked like tonight's council meeting was going to be pretty uneventful, but I didn't realize the one holer in the Krall space was going to be brought back for reconsideration.

It would be encouraging if council demonstrated as much understanding and passion when it comes to spending $851,046,365.00 as they do when it comes to a $100,000 toilet.

In true 'tax and spend' fashion council was not interested in seeing if a local company could provide a better facility for less money as proposed by Councillors Kipp and McKay.


Colliery Dam Safety Information

Colliery Dam Public Safety Information available on City website

The City of Nanaimo is reminding residents who own property, rent accommodation or conduct business downstream of the Chase River Colliery Dams that important public safety information can be readily accessed off the City’s website.

A webpage dedicated to the Lower and Middle Chase River Colliery Dams contains a wide range of information regarding what residents may need to know following a significant earthquake or extreme rainfall event.  Key downloadable documents include:

  •  Harewood Evacuation Map 
  •  Emergency Preparedness Guide 
  •  Grab and go Kit instructions

Residents can also visit the webpage to obtain copies of reports, correspondence and meeting minutes.  To ask questions concerning any of the information presented, or to request information be added to the webpage, please send an email to

In a recent letter to the City of Nanaimo from the Provincial Government’s Dam Safety Branch City staff were notified that, of the 1,649 regulated dams in British Columbia, only the Middle and Lower Chase River Colliery Dams are currently assigned their highest risk level:  Level 1 Alert.  Accordingly, the City of Nanaimo continues to monitor the status of the Lower and Middle Chase River Colliery Dams regularly.  In addition, the City of Nanaimo maintains an up to date Emergency Management Plan specific to both dams.


Things On The Net That Make Ya' Smile

"Hang a right at the Fork in the road"


New Bistro At 75 Front Street

Corner Bistro - 75 Front Street
"Local Talent Lives Here"

Another new business will soon be opening in downtown Nanaimo at 75 Front Street, right beside the cenotaph.

The site has been the home of several businesses in recent years and it will be interesting to see what kind of operation the owners of this new bistro will bring to the downtown Nanaimo scene. The sign declares that: "Local Talent Lives Here". Intriguing!


Port Place Construction Moving Along

Phase 2 Port Place Mall Continues

The second phase of the renovation (well, rebuild) of the old Harbour Park Mall now known as the Port Place Mall is moving right along as walls are beginning to rise atop of foundations.

Now that the first phase of the mall is pretty much leased out, there will be new opportunities for businesses in the new mall, which as of today does not have a completion date. It is a good sign as clearly the owners and future tenants are putting their money where their mouths are and demonstrating their confidence in Nanaimo's future.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

District Loses 300 Students This Year

A report in the Bulletin indicates a decline of 300 students in the district this year, and a further decline of 68 students next year and another drop of 83 students in the 2014 - 2015 year.

One reason for the decline is the fact that many people moving to Nanaimo are older people who do not have school-age children.

The article did not say whether the declining numbers will result in any operational savings within the school district.

It would also seem to support the idea that Nanaimo is not attracting and keeping young families who are likely facing difficult employment prospects.


Port Theatre Nanaimo January 31, 2013

Thursday, Jan. 31 - 7:00 PM


Shirley Goldberg To Receive Award

Vancouver Island Short Film Festival 2013
To Present Paragon Award to Film Expert Shirley Goldberg

Local film expert Shirley Goldberg will be recognized for over 35 years of outstanding contributions to the Vancouver Island film community when she is presented with the first ever Film Paragon Award at the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival on February 2.
“Shirley Goldberg’s long-term devotion to our film community is inspiring,” said VISFF Director, Johnny Blakeborough. “It’s fair to say the Festival wouldn’t exist without her support and encouragement. Eighteen years ago Shirley inspired me to make my first film, and I have seen her help so many people over the years. I’m proud to have the opportunity to recognize her outstanding contributions.”
The 8 annual Vancouver Island Short Film Festival showcases the best short films from Vancouver Island and abroad on February 1 and 2 at the Malaspina Theatre at the Nanaimo VIU Campus. The show starts at 7 PM and Shirley will be honoured after the films on the Saturday February 2 show.

Tickets are $15 and available at The House of Indigo Boutique, Nanaimo Arts Council at Nanaimo North Town Centre, Nanaimo Art Gallery on campus, online at, and at the door.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Power Rests With Al Kenning Not Ruttan At City Hall

Kenning #1 In City
Ruttan #9 In City

The local daily published it's 'Top 20 Most Powerful People List' and it seems they have finally figured out who really wields the power at city hall when it comes to running things and making policy.

Al Kenning, city manager has been moved from #7 last year to #1 this year and John Ruttan, city mayor has been demoted from #1 last year to #9 this year.

Readers of this blog will know this comes as no surprise, at it is obvious who makes policy and calls the shots when it comes to decision making at city hall. Readers of this blog, will also recognize the flaw in the structure as it allows Mr. Kenning to avoid accountability as all final decisions rest with city council. Of course, the way things are presented by city staff, is what determines the outcome of council decisions. Basically, council takes whatever staff says as being the gospel truth and simply rubber stamp whatever Mr. Kenning recommends.

Many of these major decisions are made behind closed doors far away from any form of public scrutiny, which further removes Kenning or Ruttan from being accountable for their decisions. The old annex as an example springs to mind as does the Colliery Dam decisions. Both are decisions which staff and council fear being brought out into the harsh glare of public scrutiny.

Even the very decision of when to go in-camera and keep the minutes in-camera is a decision based on the advice of Mr. Kenning. City Council just basically smile and nod, and rubber stamp whatever he says. This is why many decisions are still kept secret even though the need for privacy has long since passed.

The Daily points out that the unpopularity of the Colliery Dams decision are potential hazards for Mayor Ruttan, but fail to mention that Mr. Kenning was the architect of that whole decision including providing cost estimates to replace the dams, which were not provided by the city-hired engineer but Mr. Kenning himself. The decision to remove the dams rather than rehab appears to have been a policy decision made by Mr. Kenning long before it was presented to council.

Yes, it seems the daily has it right, but they fail to mention that the most powerful man in the city, can avoid responsibility and accountability as he can hide behind Mayor and Council as being the final decision makers.

If pay levels also reflect the levels of power at city hall then clearly Mr. Kenning is of much greater value than Mr. Ruttan. According to the 2011 SOFI reports Mr. Ruttan is paid $80,857.55 which pales by comparison to Mr. Kenning's $223,269.45.

Many Nanaimo taxpayers might argue that both men are being over paid, but that is a subject for another day.


BC Economic Snapshot January 26, 2013

VANCOUVER, BC, Jan. 26, 2013/ Troy Media/ – Consumer price inflation in British Columbia rose in December following a sharp November pull-back but held near three-year lows.

Twelve-month growth in the consumer price index (CPI) rebounded to 0.4 per cent in December, from the previous month’s microscopic reading of 0.1 per cent. December’s lift in annual inflation partly reflected a base-year effect as gasoline prices recorded a relatively sharper decline in same-month 2011.

The decelerating pace of annual inflation over the past year has reflected subdued conditions in both the local and broader economies. Adjusted for seasonal factors, consumer prices have drifted lower since April.

A slump in North American natural gas prices and an easing of home prices led to a 12-month drop in shelter related prices of 0.6 per cent, while gasoline prices were down 1.9 per cent from a year prior. Food prices, which were up 1.3 per cent from December 2011, continued to exert positive pressure on inflation, but the pace of growth decelerated through 2012.

Despite an easing of prices for most of 2012, average full-year inflation still reached 1.1 per cent. Consumer prices are forecast to grow at a similar pace this year, but gains will reflect rising prices as the year progresses. While the switch back to the PST is expected to causing a one-time drop of about 0.3 per cent in the CPI, the tax impact will be offset by global-economy led gain in food and energy prices.

Led by a gain in Metro Vancouver, B.C. retail sales volume edged higher in November to a seasonally-adjusted $5.093 billion, marking a 0.27 per cent increase from the previous month. However, sales estimates for both September and October were revised lower and the weaker baseline contributed to the modest gain.

Retail sales volume has generally held steady since June following an early-year downtrend but year-to-date sales growth continued to recede, falling to 2.7 per cent through November. November’s weak performance highlights the difficult terrain retailers are traversing.

Sluggish home sales, weak employment and population growth, and elevated household debt have combined to constrain spending in the economy. Electronic and appliance sales were down nearly 5 per cent from the first 11 months of 2011, while furniture/furnishing sales also remained low. Excluding motor vehicle and gasoline sales, general retail sales have trended lower since the first quarter.

The picture is even weaker when stripping out price effects. Estimated constant-dollar retail sales fell about 1.5 per cent from the beginning of 2012 as households clamped down on discretionary spending. The retail sector has moved only slightly more product than it did in early 2010 despite a larger population base and recent levels are similar to late-2007.

B.C.’s retail and accommodations and food services industries haven’t found much support from the ailing tourism sector in recent years, and that trend persisted through 2012.

Following a mild but brief uptrend in the number of international visitors to B.C., entries slumped in November to the lowest level since July. International visitors to B.C. fell 3 per cent from October to a seasonally-adjusted 346,050, down 3 per cent from October as overseas visits fell 5.5 per cent, and U.S. visits fell 1.9 per cent. A steep decline in visitors from recessionary Europe drove the overseas decline. Through November, total international visits were up by 1.2 per cent from same-period 2011 but were on track for the third lowest year since 2000.

While November’s tumble may be a blip, the underlying theme hasn’t changed. There has been little upward momentum in international tourism to B.C. since the recession, owing large part to the weak state of the U.S. labour market, high Canadian dollar, and global economic uncertainty.

The current trend of about 350,000 monthly visits is well below mid-decade levels of about 410,000 monthly visits, and largely reflects fewer U.S. visitors. Going forward, these headwinds will continue to hamper a rebound in the tourism sector, but ongoing recovery in the U.S. economy and labour market and a continuation of robust demand from a number of Asian markets, particularly China, should support a positive trend in visits in 2013. Travel from Asia to B.C. was up 3 per cent in 2012 over the first 11 months of the year, with travel from China jumping 19 per cent. In contrast, weak economic conditions will continue to constrain demand from European markets.
| Central 1 Credit Union


Is Henny Penny City Hall's Secret Adviser?

 A comment in an editorial in the local daily was the inspiration to explore the possibility that  Henny Penny is a chief adviser at city hall. Perhaps she may enjoy a high ranking position within the city hall senior management, and maybe has even been elected to our city council.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Henny Penny, she was the central character in the story perhaps best known as Chicken Little. Although the fable has been around for centuries in one form or another, most of us are familiar with the version where the hapless chicken is struck by a falling acorn, and mistakenly is sent into a panic, convinced the sky is now falling.

"The sky is falling!" features prominently in the story, and has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.

Is Believing That "The Big One" Could Happen Any Moment
The Local Version of 'The Sky Is Falling"?

If you have lived on the west coast for any length of time I am sure you have heard  "it is not a matter of 'if' the big one will hit, but only a matter of 'when'". Sound familiar? When pressed to predict when such an event may occur, the answer is 'we simply don't know, but the data indicates that prediction is true'. Says who?

Just because you say something again and again and again, does not make it true. At best it is a guess based on about 100 years of data. Given, the science community still can not predict the weather, how in the blazes do they say they can predict earthquakes?

Haida Qwaii is a perfect example in recent history. A 7.7 quake, with an epicenter only 80 km away from a community caused neither personal injury, nor property damage.

Our old annex withstood a 7.3 quake back in the 1940's and a 3.3 on Dec.26, 2012 without so much as dropping a brick.

What can you conclude? Predicting when a quake may occur, the magnitude of that quake, the probability of that quake and the probable ensuing damage is at the very best educated guess work based on a whole lot of assumptions!

How Much Public Safety Can the Public Afford?

You may recall that in one version of the Chicken Little story, the witless chicken on the way to warn the king, gathered an entourage along the way who believed his dire warnings. Finally, they all met a fox who invited them to come to his lair to tell the story, where he promptly ate them all. The moral of this version is to not believe everything you hear.

The way this moral could apply to Nanaimo and our current policy of unaffordable spending? If we keep spending untold millions guarding against an event that may never happen we could very well wind up being the most unaffordable place on the planet to live, with the result that no one chooses to live here as they simply can't afford to. So the 'fox' of over taxation eventually has us all for lunch.

Examples of 'The Sky Is Falling' Based Policies

$82,000,000.00 for a water treatment plant to treat water that has proven safe for 150 years!

$16,000,000.00 for a shiny new office with shiny new furniture for city hall staff.

$4,000,000.00 giveaway of a building the Canadian Building Code and Work Safe BC would not require upgrading!

$7,000,000.00 to remove dams that have proven safe for 100 years!


Being Government Employee In BC Pays Off

 By Jason Clemens
and Amela Karabegovic
The Fraser Insitute

VANCOUVER, B.C., Jan. 25, 2013/ Troy Media/ – More than three years after the end of the recession British Columbia’s provincial government continues to struggle with deficits. As of the last quarterly update it will likely exceed $1.5 billion.

Relying on revenues to rebound enough to catch up with spending just doesn’t work, as B.C.’s own history aptly demonstrates. Similarly, municipalities across the province continue to struggle to find sufficient resources for infrastructure needs while balancing their books.
If the provincial and various municipal governments in B.C. are serious about tackling deficits and prioritizing resources, they must review and reform spending. A central part of any such initiative must be reviewing public sector wages and benefits to ensure they are comparable with private sector equivalents.

There are both economic and fairness issues to consider in ensuring that compensation in the public and private sectors are roughly equivalent for comparable positions. Principal among these many considerations is the fairness of having those in the public sector receive a premium paid for by those in the private sector who receive less overall compensation for similar positions.

The traditional trade-off was that the public sector received lower wages than the private sector but that this was offset by more generous benefits. As our analysis of Statistics Canada data reveals, that bargain has been undone such that the public sector now enjoys a wage premium and more than likely, more generous benefits as well.

When we compare the average wage in the public sector in B.C., including federal, provincial, and local workers, it is 37.5 per cent higher than the private sector. However, this figure doesn’t account for differences like education, the nature of the position, the experience of the workers, etc. Once we control for these factors, the average wage premium enjoyed by the public sector is 13.6 per cent compared to their private sector equivalents.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Nanaimo Gas Prices Jump Again!

Once Again Nanaimo Leads Gas Prices

The above prices were taken from gas buddy at 1:00 pm Jan. 25. I was gobsmacked when I saw that after a very brief decline to 112.9 yesterday, the local cartel have once again led the charge, making Nanaimo's gas prices the highest from Comox to Victoria. Quite a reputation!

I wonder if we should consider putting signs on the highway coming into town:

"Welcome To Nanaimo - Kindly Leave Your Wallets At The Nearest Gas Station"


Things On The Net That Make Ya' Smile

Ya' Just Gotta' Smile ---- Don't Ya'?


McRae Says BCTF Claim False

BCTF Confused
Don't Understand Government Proposal

Minister of Education Don McRae has issued the following statement:

“The BCTF is claiming that the government’s proposed framework “ignores the ruling of the BC Supreme Court that teachers have the right to bargain working conditions, such as class size and class composition.” This is false and the proposed framework offers no basis for this conclusion. As the BCTF quite properly points out, the government’s own Bill 22 allows for these issues to be negotiated. The government and its education partners fully expect to negotiate class size and composition issues irrespective of the length of the agreement. Teachers have the right to negotiate class size and composition whether it is towards a two-year contract or a ten-year contract.

“This confusion reinforces how important it is for the parties to sit down together so the BCTF can fully explore and understand the government’s proposed framework. We need to work through important questions and issues. It would be unfortunate for B.C. students and families if we allowed misunderstandings to prevent us from exploring any potential path to labour peace.”


Mt Washington Snow Report Jan.25, 2013

Snow Information 
Overnight: 5 cm 
Snowbase: 308 cm 
24 Hrs: 15 cm 
48 Hrs: 23 cm 
Snow Conditions: Powder - Machine Groomed


Joe Stanhope Receives Medal

MLA Ron Cantelon awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal to Regional District of Nanaimo Chairperson Joe Stanhope on January 22, in a special presentation at the RDN Board meeting. The commemorative medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne as Queen of Canada.

According to the website of the Governor General of Canada, "The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, it serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians."

Stanhope was employed by MacMillan Bloedel for 23 years as a woods foreman and most notably as personnel manager. He was a Director of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District for four years and was an Alderman for the City of Port Alberni for five years. In 1986 he became the Government Agent in Port Alberni, where he worked until his retirement in 1996.

Upon retirement, Stanhope moved back to the family property in French Creek. In the same year, he was first elected to the RDN Board as an Area Director.

Stanhope has served as RDN Board Chairperson since 2002, and has been the Board representative for the Municipal Finance Authority of BC since 1996. He also serves as Chair of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, and is a member of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Executive.


Kids Travel Free On Family Day Long Weekend

Extra sailings added for long weekend

BC Ferries is providing free fare for all children 11 years of age and under travelling with their family during the new Family Day long weekend.

This special promotion is available on all routes and is applicable Friday, February 8, 2013 through Monday, February 11, 2013.

The offer is being provided to help reduce costs for families taking a ferry during the first-ever Family Day long weekend in British Columbia.


Nanaimo City Council Meeting Jan. 28, 2013

Nanaimo City Council Meeting
Monday, January 28, 2013
7:00 PM Shaw Auditorium
Vancouver Island Conference Centre

Democracy Is Too Important To Leave To The Politicians
Do Your Civic Duty By Getting Informed and Getting Involved

If you say: " I'm too busy just trying to keep it together to get involved, consider that perhaps, if you were more involved you might not be having so much trouble keeping it together "!

You can view this week's Council Meeting Agenda here - - -  Agenda .

Financial Plan 2013 - 2017
Taxes To Increase 23%
User Fees To Increase 18%

From now until the budget is adopted in May, you can tell city council what you think about how they are spending YOUR hard earned dollars. Simply show up and speak during the delegation to Financial Plan portion of the agenda. You do not have to file ahead to speak to the budget, simply show up.

 Some Council Decisions You Might Want To Think About

 Council decided to spend $170,000 on an electric Zamboni, when a propane fueled one costs $80,000 and does the same job.

Council decided to spend thousands of dollars to implement a policy of banning the sale of bottled water at civic facilities.

Council decided to add another $700,000 to the $844,000,000 financial plan to pay for a communications person (spin doctor), do you think that is a good use of YOUR tax dollar??

Two years ago they decided to spend $16,000,000.00 on a new staff office, an amount equal to YOUR tax increase for 5 years!

At the same time they are building new offices for staff, they are ignoring a $12,000,000 a year funding shortfall for water, sewer and roads, which was identified in a staff report in Nov. 2010!

Attending in person is the best way to see your business being taken care of, second best is watching on Shaw Cable from the comfort of your easy chair, it is also available live online using this link, and last but not least is reading what the local press says went on.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mr. Holmes Declares Annex Unsafe

Note: Email subscribers may have to visit Nanaimo Info Blog to view video

Inconsistent Logic?
Building Too Dangerous To Sell
But OK To Use For Now!
Does this logic really make any sense?

Could It Be The Hazard Was Overstated In Order To Justify Building Staff A 'Shiny New Office'?


Government Explains Smart Meters

By Rich Coleman
Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas
Jan. 23, 2013

VICTORIA – I am writing to assure your readers that BC Hydro will be working with its customers over the next several months to help them understand the benefits of new smart meters prior to final installation.

During this time, BC Hydro will not install a new meter without the homeowner’s consent and will work directly with customers to address their individual concerns.

We have an obligation to assure British Columbians that smart meters are safe. B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer and Health Canada have confirmed that smart meters pose no known health risk or reason for concern. Some customers remain unwilling to accept that fact, and we will work with them to help allay their concerns.

The reality is we must upgrade our aging system, and smart meters are a necessary part of modernizing our grid. They are standard equipment just like utility poles and power lines that help ensure a safe, efficient delivery of electricity to British Columbians.

Over the last year and a half, BC Hydro has installed 1.74 million smart meters throughout the province and is now in the process of installing the remaining 85,000.

As a result, they will be revisiting customers who originally turned down the smart meters to better understand their concerns, provide them with credible answers to their questions and finish the final installations. Our people in the field tell us that the majority of the people who held out originally are now taking a smart meter, so we continue to make good progress.

We also continue to encourage BC Hydro’s customers to keep an open mind about smart meters, as maintaining a separate system using analog meters would be costly and detract from our goal: keeping electricity rates affordable.

Upgrading our electrical grid will deliver $1.6 billion in savings to British Columbia over the next 20 years and until all smart meters in B.C. are up and running, British Columbians cannot fully benefit from the many advantages of a modern grid, such as getting our lights back on faster and more safely.

I hope that this information helps your readers to better understand our plans and why smart meters are an important part of helping to keep our rates among the lowest in North America.


BC Government Employees Enjoy Higher Earnings

Click Image To Download Report
 Public Sector Workers Earn 
Nearly 14% More Than Private Sector

VANCOUVER, BC—Public-sector workers (federal, provincial, and local) in British Columbia earned wages 13.6 per cent higher, on average, than their private-sector counterparts in 2011, finds a new report from the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian think-tank.

As British Columbia’s provincial government continues to struggle with both deficits and finding ways to constrain spending, there is heightened interest in how wages and non-wage benefits (compensation) in the public sector compare with those in the private sector. 

While a lack of non-wage benefits data means that there is insufficient information to make a definitive statement about total compensation between the private and public sectors, the data that are available indicate that the public sector enjoys a clear wage premium.

There are also strong indications that the public sector has more generous non-wage benefits than the private sector. After controlling for such factors as gender, age, marital status, education, tenure, size of firm, type of job, and industry, public sector workers (including federal, provincial, and local) located in British Columbia in April 2011 enjoyed, on average, a 13.6 percent wage premium over their private sector counterparts. When unionization is factored in, the premium is reduced to 11.2 percent. 

As of 2011, 89.8 percent of public sector workers in British Columbia were covered by a registered pension compared to 19.4 percent of private sector workers. In addition, 95.6 percent of British Columbia’s public sector workers who were covered by a pension enjoyed a defined benefit pension plan compared to 49.3 percent of private sector workers. 

In 2011, job losses were greater in BC’s private sector than in the public sector: 4.3 percent of private sector workers lost their jobs compared to 0.6 percent of public sector workers.


Bestwick's Motion Should Improve Transparency

Release of In-Camera Meetings
Step To Improved Openness & Transparency

City Councilor Bill Bestwick brought a notice of motion, which if passed by council could finally see some clarity adopted around the in-camera policy at city hall.

While not the exact wording, the motion is something to the effect:

1. Council direct staff to appoint the Director of Legislative Services to review In Camera meetings including minutes and decisions, voting record for release on a timely basis

2.  Immediately release In Camera information including voting records of all decisions which no longer require protection.

The recent visit to city council by BC Ombudsperson Ms. Kim Carter dealt with the need for openness and transparency on the part of local governments in a healthy democracy. Noting that a lack of transparency breeds distrust in governments on all levels. 


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Consequence Of Poor Decision City Annex

CUPE Workers Forced To Work In Dangerous Building?

It seems that the Canadian Union of Public Employees are finally waking up to the fact that the city of Nanaimo has been allowing them to work in a building too dangerous to use in it's present state. It seems funny they didn't have any concerns in 2008 when a city commissioned seismic study was undertaken and used as the basis for condemning the old Annex.

Of course, some of us, yours truly included never did buy the line the city was peddling and saw the whole exercise as a way to get staff out of the old office and into a shiny new office with shiny new furniture. You may recall the secretive way this whole mission was accomplished about this time back in 2011. You may have forgotten that council decided to build the new building on Mar. 7, 2011 but didn't tell the public about it until May. Long after the wheels were put in motion, that might have been stopped if the public were told what was going on.

A decision council apparently is too ashamed of to release the council vote which made this decision in the first place. From documents I have obtained under freedom of information, I now know the first time council voted on the new annex, that motion was defeated.

So What Was The Basis For Declaring This Building So Hazardous?

A seismic assessment study commissioned by the city stated:

“Upon review of the seismic condition of the building, we conclude that in a seismic event, there is a high risk of significant damage or partial collapse of the building occurring.”

Is there any building on the face of the planet that doesn't have a high risk of damage in a seismic event, when you don't specify the seismic event?

Canadian Building Code Would Not Require Upgrade
Work Safe BC says the building is safe to work in, just as is.

Questions For City Managers & City Council

If the Canadian Building Code would not require an upgrade of this building if there is no change of use, and Work Safe BC deems the building safe to use, why have you cost the Nanaimo taxpayer nearly $20,000,000.00 building a building we don't need, and devaluing a building with an assessed value of $4,000,000.00.

The 'official' city story doesn't even pass the smirk test. This building presents such a high hazard which we have known about since 2008 that we won't allow anyone else to buy and use it, but we have occupied since 2008. If you really believe that, I've still got some swamp land for sale.