"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Friday, April 30, 2010

Successful reception energizes campaign

Almost 100 supporters and potential supporters, friends and family members gathered with my team and me last night at a campaign reception at the Westwood Plateau Golf & Country Club. The photos show some of the gathering.

It was a great success! Bringing so many concerned and involved citizens -- including four members of city council -- together to talk politics and campaign strategy or simply to network and get to know one another made for a memorable evening. My thanks go out to my team and to everyone who attended.

One of the many highlights for me was the short speech I was able to deliver. Upon conclusion, I realized that it was the first actual political campaign speech I'd ever delivered. Yes, I've given dozens of political addresses in the past, but they were all as a journalist looking at or analyzing politics. This one was different because I'm now actually running for office.

The audience gave me a great reception, including several bursts of applause during the speech and enthusiastic applause upon conclusion.

I've included many of the themes that I touched on in the address in an e-mail I've been sending out this morning to supporters and potential supporters. Here's the text:

Hello Coquitlam Voters,

We’re in the home stretch now! Just two weeks are left until the Coquitlam Council by-election on May 15. And we’re closer yet to the Advance Polls:

 May 5, at Poirier Community Centre, 630 Poirier Street.
 May 8 at Pinetree Community Centre, 1260 Pinetree Way.
 May 12 at Poirier Community Centre, 630 Poirier Street.

All polls are open 8 a.m. til 8 p.m.

I hope that, by now, you’ve had time to consider which candidate to support. And, of course, that you’ve chosen me. If so, thanks very much. Every vote is crucial in what is shaping up to be a tight race.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve met hundreds of residents during my daily walks through Coquitlam neighbourhoods. Rain or shine, I’ve listened, taken notes, and promised to act responsibly to find solutions.

If you’re still undecided, please check out my website at www.terryoneill.ca, and you’ll see that I stand firmly for fiscal responsibility, action on transit issues, better strategies for dealing with street-level crime, and a commonsense approach to the homeless problem.

You might also want to read my blog, http://electterryoneill.blogspot.com, where you can find my insights on campaign-related news and other issues.

I’ll also be attending three all-candidates meetings next week. They take place:

 May 4, 7 p.m. at David Lam Campus of Douglas College, Lecture hall A1470 (sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce);
 May 5, 7 p.m. at Place Maillardville, 1200 Cartier Ave. (sponsored by the Maillardville Residents’ Association);
 May 6, 7 p.m. at Banting Middle School, (sponsored by the Burquitlam Community Association).

Please let me know by return email if you have any questions or need help in getting out to the polls. Thanks for taking the time to get involved!

Terry O’Neill
Involved. Trusted. Accountable.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Living the Great Canadian Dream

The Georgia Straight's online edition has just published my op-ed on what I think the most important campaign issues are. As you'll see by clicking on the link, I decided to concentrate my response on one specific and vital area.

The paper extended an invitation to all eight candidates in the May 15 election but, so far, I haven't seen anything from the others.

The message and the masses

With the first advance poll for the Coquitlam Council by-election less than a week away now, one might assume that the majority of residents would know about the vote and also have some sort of an understanding about who the candidates are. From what I've learned from several weeks of intensive door-knocking, however, the truth is that about half of Coquitlam residents are not even aware of the by-election. My recurring newspaper ads, such as the one pictured here (which will run tomorrow), have helped raise awareness, but it's clear that more is needed.

Are there ways to better inform voters of important municipal events such as this by-election, thereby engaging more interest and boosting turnout? It's an important question, especially considering the fact that the last time the city held a council by-election only 5.1 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

One of the problems is the city's own tight restrictions on pre-election advertising. For example, candidates are not allowed to erect lawn signs until 10 days before the election day. Moreover, the size of the signs are strictly regulated; none may be greater than two-feet square.

One idea I proposed recently to city officials would be to allow candidates to place standard-sized pamphlets at information centres in libraries, community centres and city sports facilities. Currently, however, no such display is allowed.

Council's decision, to add two survey questions the by-election, was designed to encourage voter turnout. That's a good, short-term fix. But we also need good, long-term ideas to ensure that voters are so engaged with the city that they don't have to be cajoled to cast ballots. It's something I'll work on when I'm on council.

UPDATE: Coincidentally, Canada Post is today delivering official "Notice of Election by Voting" cards in the mail today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Helping unravel the homeless riddle

It was perhaps 15 years ago now that my then-small sons and I were traipsing through a forest that is now the site of Scott Creek Middle Schoool, finding hidden trails, secret hiding spaces and otherwise enjoying some midday fun.

Our adventure took an unexpected turn when a man suddenly emerged from the forest. Nervous at first, we soon engaged him in conversation and learned that he was sleeping among the bushes and trees and spent his days scrounging for food from bins. It was then that I realized for the first time that the "homeless problem" was not confined only to the downtown eastside.

I raise this now because of two stories in our local papers today. This one describes the end of Coquitlam's "wet-weather mat" program for the year, and the ongoing dispute about how best to temporarily house the homeless. This one here reveals the startling news that a local business owner, operating only about a kilometre away from the site where my boys and I came across our homeless man, had set up his own privately operated shelter to help the homeless who live in forested land adjacent to his business. Bylaw enforcement officers have now shut down the unlicensed operation.

I've got to hand it to that business operator, Gerry Sly, for his commitment. While activists and politicians continue their lengthy and important discussion over how best to respond to the problem, Mr. Sly took decisive, short-term action.

The homeless problem is complex for the very reason that there's a different set of circumstances for every person who is homeless. Many are addicts or suffer from a mental problem. Some can't cope with the strictures of living in a modern society. A small number are, quite simply, vagrants.

With these varying causes in mind, whatever solution we find to the problem must, therefore, be careful to help the truly needy while not facilitating free-loading pauperism. Moreover, a true-long-term solution should also include a recipient's commitment to treatment, counselling or education.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Celebrating 'Santacruzan'

One of the benefits of all the door-knocking and group-meeting with which I've been engaged for the past month has been the opportunity to meet so many new people and become associated with so many outstanding organizations. This morning, I spent time with members of the Filipino community here in Coquitlam who are hard at work organzing a big event for next month.

It's called "Santacruzan." Also known as "Flores de Mayo," it's a religious festival, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is traditionally celebrated in May with a parade of colourfully decorated floats and elaborately dressed participants representing biblical and historical figures, under a canopy of elaborate floral arches. The photo above shows a typical procession in the Phillipines.

Coquitlam's "Santacruzan" will start with an assembly at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, at the gym at Our Lady of Fatima School. The procession then goes along Alderson Ave., up Allison Str., along Edgar Ave, then finally down Walker Str., ending at Our Lady of Fatima Church, where a mass will be celebrated at 5 p.m. It'll all be followed by a Dinner and Dance at the Church Hall, starting at 6 p.m.

Santacruzan is shaping up to be both a great spectacle and a moving spiritual experience. The public is invited to watch and then to join in the fun at the Dinner and Dance. Tickets are $20 each, and can be obtained by contacting Myrna Mata at 604.524.4393 or 778.889.4664, or by emailing mlmata@telus.net.

Oh yes: watch for me at the dinner-dance selling raffle tickets!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Amassing more moss than most

It's reported today that Vancouver is home to more "green" roofs than any other city on the continent, save three.

I'm thinking, though, that we'd surely rank Number One if the organization keeping track of this "growing" phenomenon counted the thousands of local roofs whose shakes, shingles and tiles are covered with lush carpets of moss of the sort that grow so well in our mild, rainy climate.

The photo (above) shows the famous grass-covered roof at Coombs, on Vancouver Island. Look closely, and you'll see one of the animals.

Controversy, questions and candidates

City council has now decided on the exact wording of the two survey questions that will be presented to voters as part of the upcoming by-election. Advance polls are May 5, 8 and 12. Voting day is May 15.

As you'll recall, council agreed with a motion from Counc. Doug Macdonell to add the non-binding, referendum-style questions in the hopes the survey will draw more Coquitlam residents to the polls. Voter turnout to the last by-election was a lowly five percent.

Here are the questions:

1. Currently, dogs may run off-leash in the Mundy Park trail system between the hours of dawn and 10:00 a.m., seven days per week. Are you in favour of (please pick only one response):◦ Increasing the permitted time◦ Decreasing the permitted time◦ No change to the current permitted time​.

2. Smoking is currently not permitted in, amongst other places, all parks, trails, commercial buildings / work places, bus stops, schools and within three (3) metres of entrances and other openings. Are you in favour of the City of Coquitlam expanding the prohibition to include public patios and additional public spaces where minors (under 16 years of age) are permitted to be present. · YES NO

I'll be writing and talking more about these issues in the weeks to come, especially at the three all-candidates meetings that have now been scheduled.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making "Nevergreen" into Evergreen

They call it the "Never-green" Line. That's the name a great many Coquitlam residents have given to the oft-promised but never-constructed Evergreen rapid-transit connection to Coquitlam Centre from Lougheed Mall.

Mayor Richard Stewart told council on Monday that he has received assurances from both the provincial government and Premier Gordon Campbell (aren't they the same thing?) that the line will, indeed, be built. But two big questions remain: when will construction actually start? and who will make up the funding shortfall?

Interestingly, even as we continue to wait for answers to these questions, Vancouver residents are starting discussions on what sort of east-west rapid transit line should be built along the Broadway corridor.

With the only sign of the Evergreen line still being that hastily-constructed project office in the Coquitlam Central parking lot, news of this development in Vancouver causes me to wonder whether, just as the Evergreen was shunted to a siding to make way for the Canada Line, we are now seeing the beginning of a process that will once again lead to the derailing of the Coquitlam line. I certainly hope not.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Public input on burning issues

When in doubt, ask the public. That's not a half bad default position for city councils wrestling with vexing problems, but public consulation can be time-consuming and costly. So, faced with continuing controversy over off-leash areas and smoking in outdoor public spaces, Coquitlam Council decided tonight to ask the public for its opinion at the same time as it asks the public to select a new councillor (me, please!) on May 15.
Yes, that's correct. According to reports from tonight's council meeting, the public will be asked its opinion of the two issues in a non-binding survey. I'm given to understand that the questions will not be available for the advance polls, but will be on a ballot in time for the by-election itself.
The decision to ask for formal public input has a two-fold benefit: it will give council some more information upon which to base its decisions; and it will drive more people to the polls on May 15, an outcome that will surely result in a more representative outcome.
I'm looking forward to learning more in the days to come about the shape the questions will take.
Meantime, the Vancouver Parks Board has apparently already heard enough, and voted tonight to ban smoking on city beaches and in city parks.
Just one question: is this really a health issue, or is it simply the Nanny State flexing her muscles?
UPDATE: I've now learned that the survey questions will be asked during the advance polls on May 5, 8 and 12, as well as the regular by-election day of May 15. Good work, council!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

High taxes and pyjamas

As I continue to go door-to-door throughout Coquitlam, I'm learning that there's no single civic issue that everyone agrees is the most important. Among the top-of-mind topics raised by residents are: parking problems, high property taxes, delays in construction of the Evergreen line, illegal secondary suites, garbage collection hiccups, high utility fees, animal welfare, zoning bylaws and, of course the HST which everyone seems to know is not a municipal responsibility, but which is still a subject on which folks understandably want to vent.

I've also learned that it doesn't matter whether I'm door-knocking in the late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, or early evening -- I'll always encounter a fairly large number of people who are still in their pyjamas!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Translink "under-serves" Tri-Cities

Over-charged and under-served. That was the theme of our campaign two weeks ago when we protested the big 11% increase in the cost of transit passes. And the "under-served" theme is repeated again today, with a Tri-City News story that reports, "Bus service in the Tri-Cities is falling behind neighbouring New Westminster, Richmond and Burnaby, and TransLink needs to review its transit plan for the region." Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like a campaign

The first full week of May is going to be a busy one on the campaign trail, as the Burquitlam Community Association has now announced that it will stage an all-candidates meeting on Thursday, May 6 at Sir Frederick Banting Middle School from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Earlier, we learned that the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce is holding an all-candidates meeting on Tuesday the 4th, and the good folks in Maillardville are staging one on Wednesday the 5th. Today, we received an email informing us that the CoC event will take place at the David Lam Campus of Douglas College, room A1470, from 7-830 p.m. Details still to come on the Maillardville event.

I expected all-candidates meetings to take place, of course, but I was mildly surprised today when I received a phone call from "Cameron" of the "Coquitlam Firefighters Political Action Committee," who invited me to attend a private meeting with a panel of the committee. And, yes, the committee really does exist. It even has a webpage.

I'll not refrain from employing incendiary punning to say that I think the intention of the meeting is for them to grill me on my platform, but that I may also have a chance to fire some questions their way.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fulfilling work with the Foundation

The Coquitlam Foundation, on whose board of directors I sit, is staging its big Awards Night at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 14 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre. If you haven't already made plans to attend, I recommend you drop by to support the many great community organizations and outstanding individuals that we will be honouring with upwards of $50,000 in grants, bursaries and scholarships.

Both of our Coquitlam papers have run display advertisements promoting the event, and haven't charged us a penny for it. Thanks! The Tri-City News also ran a long story on our award winners and our plans for the evening last week. And now the Vancouver Sun's Keeping Track page has published a short list of the winners. It's all good!

Hope to see you there on Wednesday.

UPDATE: I've now posted photos of the event on my Facebook page.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vancouver council runs afoul of common sense

Politicians have been known to promise the electorate "a chicken in every pot." Vancouver councillors are breaking new ground, however, in allowing a coop in every back yard.

And, while the denizens of the downtown eastside scour garbage bins or line up at the Salvation Army for something to eat, council has also decided to deprive the soup kitchens of the means to add some substance to their offerings, choosing to build a $20,000 shelter for abandoned fowl, rather than sending the birds to the butcher.

A chicken in every pot? Not if it's an abandoned bird in Vancouver.

Friday, April 9, 2010

All-candidates meeting May 4

Save the date: The Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce has announced that it will be holding an all-candidates meeting on Tuesday, May 4, from 7-9 p.m. No word yet on a location.

I have to thank the good folks at the Chamber for staging this. It takes a lot of time, effort and expense to put on one of these events, especially when there will be upwards of half a dozen candidates on the stage (see post, below).

One way or the other, it's bound to be a great evening, where Coquitlam residents will have the chance to assess all the candidates in person. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nomination week takes an unusual twist

According to the City of Coquitlam's website, there are now seven candidates running in the May 15 by-election. Nominations close tomorrow, and that number could rise to eight or nine. [UPDATE: It ended up being nine, including Maxine Wilson.]

Or maybe fall back to six, according to this Tri-City News story, which reports that former mayor Maxine Wilson may have to withdraw from the race due to poor health.

[UPDATE on April 9: And now the Coquitlam Now is reporting that Wilson's indecision is because of an "undisclosed health issue."]

I hope that her health problem is nothing serious. But if she is so concerned about her well-being that she has made public her indecision over whether to run for the open seat on council, then one must conclude that it is a significant illness or affliction. Let's hope, then, that she has a speedy recovery.

Meantime, that little advert at the top of this post is what you'll see from time to time on the news pages of the aforementioned Tri-City News's website. It serves a two-fold purpose: immediate promotion of my candidacy; and quick access to my website, which can be accessed by moving your cursor over the ad and simply clicking (it doesn't work here, but does on the paper's website). Look for a similar one soon over at The Now.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Earth to Eby: Grim Reaper does stalk the Skids

The column I wish I had written this week: Pete McMartin's masterful look at David Eby and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association's ridiculous griping about No. 2 Firehall's supposedly discriminatory mural, pictured here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kateslem Program: The Inside Story

I spent this evening at a fundraiser at the John B Pub in the company teachers, parents, community workers, civic leaders and other supporters of the Kateslem After School Program.

I first became aware of this worthy project when the Coquitlam Foundation decided to award it a grant last year. Following up on that, I wrote a feature story about the program for what was supposed to be a revamped new Coquitlam Foundation website. Well, more than four months later, the old site is still in place, and the story still hasn't been published on line.

Until now.

Yes, I've decided to use this opportunity to draw some well-deserved public attention for the program by publishing the story here first. So, without further delay, here it is:


Como Lake Middle School’s Kateslem program is using its Coquitlam Foundation grant to cultivate healthier children

‘The more engaged we are with at-risk kids, the less crime we’ll have on the streets.’ --Principal Cindi Seddon

It has been said that children are like plants. Both need nourishment to flourish and thrive. But whereas plants need cultivation, children need education.

There are few more fertile grounds in which to nourish children through education than the rich fields of our community’s classrooms. But when school ends for the day, and there’s no safe place for an at-risk middle-school-aged student to go for the rest of the afternoon, what then?

It is a question that was being asked in 2008 at Como Lake Middle School in Coquitlam. And the answer that parents and educators found was the Kateslem After School Club, a unique, no-fee program for 11- to 14-year-olds offering everything from homework help and life-skills education to community-service opportunities and sporting activities.

A Kateslem program (the name comes from a First Nations word meaning “coming together”) had been operating successfully for a decade at Banting Middle School in Coquitlam, but new funds needed to be raised for a similar one to be launched at Como Lake. Cindi Seddon, Como Lake’s principal, explains that all funding for the program has to be raised from outside sources.

This is where the Coquitlam Foundation entered the picture. After receiving an application for funding in early 2009, the Foundation decided to grant the program $3,500.

“In recommending the awarding of the funding, our grants committee was most impressed by Kateslem’s potential to make a positive difference in the lives of children who may be at risk of falling into crime, drug addiction or even prostitution,” says Coquitlam Foundation Chair Colleen Talbot. She points out that the Kateslem program’s goals mesh well with the Coquitlam Foundation’s mission to encourage and support initiatives that build a vibrant, sustainable and healthy community.

Seddon says programs like Kateslem would not be possible without community support. “At Como Lake, we have been incredibly lucky to be the second site in the district to have the Kateslem After School Program for middle-school aged children,” she says, explaining that the program provides students with a structured, after-school program from Monday to Friday. “The more engaged we are with at-risk kids, the less crime we’ll have on the streets.”

Seddon continues, “This kind of targeted programming only comes at a cost, and we are most grateful to the Coquitlam Foundation for helping to financially sponsor Kateslem.”

While the Como Lake program is only just beginning, its Banting counterpart is enjoying ongoing success. Program Director Karyn Bell points to the story of Brianna, a shy and withdrawn Grade 6 student at Banting. “She didn’t make friends easily,” says Bell, “and her teachers were concerned about her development.” Brianna (not her real name) entered the Kateslem program and began to blossom. “It benefited her in every way—academic, social,” adds Seddon.

After Brianna graduated from middle school to high school, she came back to volunteer at Kateslem. “She and others her age act as role models for the kids,’ Bell explains. “They know the program really well because they’ve already been through it.” Brianna was so involved with Kateslem that the program rewarded her by adding her to its part-time staff while she was in Grade 12. “It was a way for us to give back to her for giving to us.” Today, Brianna—the one-time social outcast—is studying in a post-secondary institution with the aim of making a career of helping children, just as she was helped.

Brianna is just one of many success stories. Kateslem’s participants often improve their marks and are less disruptive in class. And, outside of school, there’s no telling how many children have been steered away from anti-social behaviour.

With such positive outcomes, the Coquitlam Foundation’s grant can be viewed as an investment in the future—not only the future of at-risk children, but also the future of the entire community. What’s clear, says Seddon, is that without the kind of community support shown by the Coquitlam Foundation, “the Kateslem program would not be possible.”


You can learn more about Kateslem by contacting Karyn Bell, Kateslem co-ordinator, at karynskateslem@yahoo.ca or 604.250.9332.

An official candidate

It's official. I'm now a candidate for Coquitlam City Council in the May 15 by-election. Here's the press release, above, that I'm now in the process of distributing. Just click on it to get a magnified, easier-to-read view.

Meantime, I had a successful evening door-knocking in my neighbourhood yesterday, making contact with dozens of nearby residents, many of whom became enthusiastic supporters on the spot (!) and agreed to place signs on their lawns later in the campaign.

The number-one issue on the minds of most people in this neighbourhood was secondary suites. No two shared the same concerns, however. Some thought enforcement was too lax. Some thought it was too stringent. Some were concerned with suites' impact on street parking. Some with suite owners not paying their fair share of utilities fees. Good discussions all 'round, and definitely a subject that is worth looking into.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter flower project blooms again

And now for some non-political news: Our annual Easter Flower Distribution at Eagle Ridge Manor took place earlier today, and it was another great success.

Once again, Art Knapp Plantland generously donated all the potted plants, which a team of volunteers (pictured) from St. Joseph's Parish distributed to about 75 patients at the long-term care facility, which is located on the Port Moody-Coquitlam border.

A special thank-you should go to hard-working and warm-hearted staff at the Manor, who seemed just as thrilled about the flowers as the patients. As well, a big shout-out to Mary P-D and her family for making the hand-crafted cards and then being there in force once again to help with the distribution.

All in all, a very good day for everyone involved!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ticked off at Translink

What a terrific reception our four-person team (the three pictured and the fourth taking the photo!) received this morning at the Coquitlam Central station of the Westcoast Express as we distributed flyers protesting today's 11% increase in the cost of transit passes. A great many people were grumbling about the huge hike and were glad to learn that there's at least one candidate running in the May 15 by-election who is just as bothered by the massive April Fool's fare increase as they are.

There are no easy answers to these sorts of issues, but you can bet that we'll work hard to ensure that costs are kept in line, transit services are run efficiently, and passengers who rely on public transit are no longer subjected to these sorts of imposed-from-on-high cash grabs.