"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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Nativity Facade: Genius and Spirituality

The highlight of the week that Mary and I spent in Barcelona a few summers ago was undoubtedly our tour of Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia temple. You can read all about the history of this magnificent and extraordinary temple on Wikipedia.
Two facades are currently complete--the passion facade, which is simple, stark and compelling, and the nativity facade, an extravagant explosion of artistic genius which reflects the depth of Gaudi's spiritual convictions.
On this day, Christmas Eve, I thought it fitting to post two photos of the nativity facade. The one at the top shows the complete facade. The one above is a closeup of the nativity scene. Truly stunning.
Merry Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Remembering my father-in-law

(Photo of Doug and Betty taken at their 65th anniversary celebration)

McKINNON, Joseph Douglas (Doug)
September 13, 1926 – December 22, 2011

Doug died peacefully at Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody, the result of a decline beginning a decade ago with a debilitating stroke. Ever-cheerful with his friends and justifiably proud of the loving and large family that he headed, Doug went to meet his Lord with his steadfast wife of 67 years, Betty, and other loved ones at his bedside.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Doug worked diligently throughout his fruitful life, and often told the story of how he steered towboats on the Fraser River and across a stormy Strait of Georgia while in his early teens. Tall and slim, he cut a dashing figure whether playing a fiddle or riding his motorcycle, and soon caught the eye of a certain petite young school teacher.

Marriage to Mary Elizabeth (Betty) James soon followed, and Doug threw himself into work to support his fast-growing family, often holding down two or three jobs—stocking grocery store shelves by day, for example, and slinging beer by night. Doug settled into a career in sales, travelling throughout B.C. to market goods ranging from beauty supplies to biscuits. Wherever he went, the charming and good-natured salesman greeted his customers with a warm smile and invariably left behind new friends.

Whether living on Kitchener in east Vancouver, Midlawn in Burnaby, the old house in Port Mann or the renovated family cabin at Lake Errock, Doug made sure that home was a welcoming place for friends, family and neighbours alike. After retirement, Doug and Betty spent many happy summers travelling through the U.S. in their RV. Back home, they handcrafted doll houses and doll-house furniture, becoming familiar and well-loved regulars at Christmas craft fairs throughout the Lower Mainland in the 1990s.

Doug was predeceased by his daughter Susan Pummell (1993). He is survived by Betty and their seven other children, daughters Katherine Bylin (widow of Dick), Mary O’Neill (and husband Terry) and Elizabeth Keobke (Brian), and sons Bill, Tim (and wife Ruth), Chris (Val) and Dave (Doreen). He also leaves behind 26 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren—a remarkable number that Doug, with a twinkle in his eye, would have said added up to “eleventy-seven.”

A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 140 Moody Street, Port Moody at 11 a.m., Wednesday, December 28. A reception will follow. The family extends its thanks to Fr. Joseph Nguyen for his pastoral support. As well, much gratitude is extended to the teams of nurses and aides from Fraser Health, to local emergency-services personnel, and to the medical staff at Eagle Ridge Hospital for their care over these past several years.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Council's Christmas Photo

I thought I'd share this formal photo of Coquitlam Council, taken just before our inauguration earlier this month.

Utility rates explained

Yesterday's Tri-City News carried a story about increases in Coquitlam's utility rates, which were compared unfavourably to Port Moody and Port Coquitlam's.

Given that every community is subject to the same increases from Metro Vancouver, the fact our increases were higher than those of our neighbours may surprise many voters.

But there's a good reason for it: Council agreed to set the utility rates based on the five-year average Metro Vancouver increase. This smooths out the impact of the larger water and solid waste increases, levied by Metro, that are going to hit Coquitlam residents in future years.

In fact, it is quite likely that in 2013 our increases will be lower than our neighbours for the simple fact that we took a little more of the impact this year.

Meantime, Vancouver's utility rate hikes this year are even greater than Coquitlam's, according to this story.

Photo from the TriCityNews website.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Committees, boards & panels

Over the course of deliberations and decisions on Monday and today, Council settled on who gets to sit on what committees in the new year. Here are my responsibilities:

Advisory Committees
Vice-Chair, Arts & Culture Advisory Committee
Chair, Coquitlam River Aggregate Committee

Statutory Committees
Vice-Chair, Parcel Tax Review Panel

External Appointments
Chair, City/School Board Liaison Committee

Metro Vancouver
Council Representative, Regional Culture Committee (This is merely a recommendation; final appointments to such committees are at the pleasure of Metro Vancouver).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wheels fall off bike-bylaw logic

Should Coquitlam Council pass a bylaw allowing it to force developers and builders to provide secure bike-storage spaces in all new multi-family residential and commercial buildings? That’s the question that council was faced with last night when considering a proposed amendment a zoning bylaw (Bylaw No. 4269, 2011).

Most council members viewed the bylaw quite favourably. But not me. And here is how I, in my first detailed speech in council chambers as a Councillor, explained my opposition:

Security. Coquitlam staff’s survey found several other local municipalities with similar laws. Vancouver has had such a law since 1999. But what staff didn’t report is that Vancouver’s more recent review of that law found that, while the commercial bike-storage facilities were being well used, those in residential buildings were going empty. Security is a big concern. People want to keep their $1,000-bikes close, and don’t trust the less-secure public facilities.

Incongruous double whammy. The stated reason for this bylaw is to complement council’s commitment to encourage bike riding. But, consider this: the bylaw does not touch car-park requirements. So, not only will builders have to provide a full complement of car-parking stalls, but they would now also have to build a full complement of bike-storage spaces.

Logically, one would expect to see some give and take here. If we really do foresee a future of fewer cars and more bicycles, then why not reduce the requirement for car stalls while we’re introducing requirements for bike-storage? But what the bylaw ends up saying is, on one hand, that it’s full-speed-ahead with car usage, and on the other, that it’s all-systems-go for bicycles. Something doesn’t add up.

And speaking of adding up: Affordability. This is a big one. Surely, this bylaw requirement would have the inevitable consequence of adding to the cost of construction, to be passed onto the consumer. Buying that one-bedroom apartment in Coquitlam would become just that much more expensive.

Overly prescriptive. This bylaw is said to put into action council’s goal of supporting neighbourhoods and enhancing the transportation system. But, if that’s what council wants to do, why not go all the way and compel builders of new buildings to provide a free bike with every condo purchase?

And while we’re in the realm of the ridiculous, I know that the city also has a goal to foster sustainability. This being so – and using the same logic that would force builders to provide secure bike-storage spaces — not compel every condo builder to put a community garden on their building's rooftop? Or, better yet, to set aside 50 square feet in every new apartment for a greenhouse to grow carrots and radishes? My point here is that just because Council favours some sort of positive outcome doesn’t mean it should or must compel it.

The solution. Instead, let market forces shape the outcome. Let apartment and condo builders have the freedom to offer these sorts of secure storage facilities, and see if buyers actually want them. If they’re popular, then other builders will follow. If they’re not, then so be it. Buyers and builders alike have made their choices. The people will have spoken. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be in a democracy.

Photo from satoridesigns.net

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Red Hand of O'Neill

As a newly elected Councillor in the City of Coquitlam, I was looking forward to my inauguration ceremony, to which I had invited several relatives and friends. The event promised to be a memorable one and, in the end, it was certainly all that, but not completely for the reasons I had anticipated.

My newly elected and re-elected council colleagues and I assembled at City Hall in the late afternoon for formal individual and group portraits. That done, we sat down for a meal, during which we chatted and exchanged campaign anecdotes.

The talk turned to family. Thinking of my father and three of my brothers who would be at the inauguration, I trotted out one of my favourites: the story of how the Red Hand came to be the family crest for O’Neills around the world.

It’s a bloody tale from ancient Irish times, featuring rival kings and some quick but ruthless thinking by an O’Neill ancestor that saw him chopping off his own hand and throwing it across a body of water to win a race and claim a crown. And thus, the Red Hand of O’Neill became a part of Irish folklore, if not history.

After dinner, we pinned on our white-rose corsages or boutonnieres – or, in my case, asked a staffer for help in doing it—and assembled for a formal procession into council chambers. The bagpiper-led march went off without a hitch, as did all other aspects of the ceremony, including our oath-taking, the mayor’s speech, and the short addresses from individual council members, during which I made note of my 83-year-old father’s importance as my own personal safety net.

After all this was done, and as we were rising from our seats to process out of council chambers, I picked up the pen given to me after I signed my oath and, with my right hand, put it into the inside pocket of my suit jacket, brushing my boutonniere in the process. With the bagpiper once again in the lead, we then made our way out of the chamber and into the lobby for a reception.

And then it happened. I noticed that my right hand was feeling a little wet. Thinking someone had spilled some water or I had stood too close to a just-watered plant, I thought nothing of it and, without looking down, simply brushed my hand against my jacket to dry it off. This happened a second time, and I had the same response.

But when the hand felt wet a third time, I lifted it up to see what was going on and, to my shock, discovered that it was covered with blood flowing from an inch-long gash across the top of my right pinkie finger. The blood was all over my hand, the cuff of my shirt and the side of my (thankfully dark-blue) suit jacket.

Ever at the ready, my father took only seconds to produce a bandage from his pocket and patch me up. But then came a mystery: how had I cut myself? I retraced the steps of our final procession to see if I could spot a place where I might have brushed my hand against a sharp object of some sort, but found nothing.

Finally, a friend suggested I examine my boutonniere. Sure enough, I discovered that the sharp end of the pin, affixing it to my jacket, was pointing to the exact place that my right hand had been when I put the keepsake pen in my pocket.

The mystery solved, I could only smile at the coincidence—or was it a jest of the gods?—that saw an event, that had begun with my telling a tale about a bloody hand becoming integral to an ancestor’s becoming a king of Ireland, ending with a real-life story of how my own bloody hand had become a memorable part of my becoming a City Councillor many centuries later and half a world away.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Inauguration Night in Coquitlam

Well, it's official. I'm now a Councillor in the City of Coquitlam. I'll write about the evening some more tomorrow. But, for starters, I wanted to share these photos on our website/blog (and not on Facebook), because a Web.1 site is easier for my parents and parents-in-law to visit.
The photos show me at the oath-taking ceremony with Judge Wood, and then some candid shots at the reception, including photos of Mary, my brothers and dad, my in-laws, and friends. A great night!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The devil will be in the details

Important news, with big implications for the City of Coquitlam's budget:

Nov. 30, 2011

Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General

B.C. reaches agreement-in-principle with RCMP

VICTORIA - Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Shirley Bond has announced today that the Province of British Columbia has reached agreement-in-principle with Public Safety Canada regarding a new contract for RCMP services in British Columbia.

The proposed agreement reflects a new partnership based on transparency and mutual benefits. It contains greater financial accountability and measures to monitor and contain costs over time.

Through a new proposed Contract Management Committee (CMC), the Province and Canada will jointly oversee how the RCMP delivers police services and how costs are managed. Municipalities will be represented on the CMC.

The Province will also be establishing a new local government advisory committee so that municipalities have a continued voice as the agreement is implemented.

In the days ahead, the contract details will be shared with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and shared publicly when appropriate. The tentative agreement contains important new management provisions and includes a two-year opt-out clause and a five-year review.

Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
250 356-6961

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect

Photo from flickrhivemind.net

Friday, November 25, 2011

Some necessary distinctions

The Coquitlam Now's story, on the election of two new members to Coquitlam Council (Craig Hodge and me), conveniently runs on the same page (A7, Nov. 23 issue) as my "Thank You Coquitlam!" ad.
This ad reads, in part, "I promise to work hard on your behalf." But exactly what will be my priority? The answer is found, also in part, in the above-mentioned newspaper story. But the story, by the fine reporter John Kurucz, doesn't quite get it right.
Mr. Kurucz correctly quotes me as saying that I (and, moreover, a great many of the voters I talked with over the last two or three months) believe that "property tax increases"(this emphasis, added by me, is key) have been "way too high."
However, Mr. Kurucz paraphrases this position by saying that my platform "consisted of promises to rein in municipal spending and reduce property taxes."
This is only partially correct. I did say I would work to rein in municipal spending by limiting the increases in operating expenditures. But, I never said I would work to actually reduce property taxes. What I said is that I would work dilegently to reduce the rate of growth of those property taxes, and that I would be extremely happy if there was no growth.
But to actually reduce property taxes? While this would be wonderful, I don't think it's a realistic goal, and I never held that out as an option.
Furthermore, at the beginning of the campaign, I signed the CFIB's Taxpayer Pledge, in which I promised to rein in spending increases to no more than what you'd expect with inflation and population growth.
Given this, and given that there's a direct link between spending increases and property-tax increases, it can be concluded that I am not necessarily opposed to property-tax increases driven by the need for the city to raise revenues to keep up with inflation.
On the other hand, increased spending driven by increased population should not necessarily lead to higher property taxes; this is because the broader tax base created by that increased population will, by itself, generate more revenue without an increase in property tax rates.
Photo shows me signing the CFIB pledge.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

There's no place like home

Barring any last-minute applications for a recount (and candidates have until November 28 to ask for a judicial recount), the results of last Saturday's election are now official. The actual moment of record was at 4 p.m. today when Lauren Hewson (pictured), the City's Chief Electoral Officer, stood in the centre of council chambers and declared the results official. The event was witnessed by four people: Richard Stewart, Linda Reimer, defeated school board candidate Humera Ahsanullah, and me.
Hewson also released the poll-by-poll results of the election. You can examine them in detail yourself by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page. My scanning of them has turned up the following tidbits:
*I received votes on 42% of the 17,961 ballots that were cast.
*My strongest poll was Eagle Ridge Elementary (very close to where I live), where I received votes on 58% of the ballots. My 287 votes put me behind only two other candidates, Selina Robinson (308) and Ms. Reimer (288).
*The poll in which I finished highest was, not surprisingly, at another school that is very close to where I live, Bramblewood Elementary. My 389 votes (51%) placed me second, behind only Ms. Reimer (417).
*I also did quite well at the Walton Elementary poll--also located fairly close to my home, and in the midst of an area where I did a lot of door-knocking. My 344 left me with the third highest total, and gave me the support of 49% of the voters there.
*My sorriest showing was at the Banting Middle School polling station, where my 186 votes meant that only 32% of voters chose me, and the total left me in 11th place. My placing in this strongly NDP/Left/Labour riding isn't all that surprising, but the figures are still rather sobering.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A note of appreciation

First off, a big "Welcome" to all of you who have been redirected to this blog from our old, campaign-oriented website. We'll be using this site, along with our Facebook page, as our primary means of communication in the near future.
Next, please allow me to thank each and every one of the more than 7,000 Coquitlam residents who cast their votes for me and, by so doing, put their trust in me. I truly appreciate your confidence in me, and promise to work diligently to live up to your expectations.
A big "thank-you" also goes out to the dozens and dozens of people who contributed to my campaign: the "burma-shavers," the lawn-sign planters, the phoners, the e-day teams, the generous donors, the advisors, and the scores of good folk who showed their support in so many wonderful ways. Thank you!
A special thank-you to my wife, Mary, for her encouragement, work, and constant companionship. I could not have done it without her. Thanks, as well, to our two sons, who, while both several thousand kilometres away, still provided me with much support. Thanks, guys! I can hardly wait til Christmas, when we can all celebrate together.
Thanks, also, to the many brothers, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, parents and parents-in-law, who were so supportive. You mean the world to me.
Congratulations to my fellow Councillor-elect, Craig Hodge. I look forward to working with him, and all the incumbents who won.
A special tip-of-the-hat to Doug Macdonnell, a long-serving councillor of great repute who did not win re-election. He should be proud of your record on council. And I wish him great good fortune in the years to come. As well, my best wishes also go out to Barry Lynch, who also will no longer be serving on council. Good luck!
I also want to congratulate and thank all the other candidates who worked so diligently but were not rewarded with a seat on council. As one who travelled the campaign trail with them, I know how hard they worked and how passionately they felt about the job, and can truly appreciate how disappointed they now must be. I hope they keep in touch.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

'Hear, hear!" for the campaign

Great news for my campaign this morning, as the Vancouver Sun's Peter Birnie quotes, in his column today, my entire final response to the Alliance for Arts and Culture's recent questions to candidates.
Better yet, he seems so pleased with my answer that he concludes by writing, "Hear, hear!"
The article is on page D4 of today's paper.
Here's the link to all Coquitlam candidates' answers.
And here's the full text of that final paragraph that Mr. Birnie so admires:

G.K. Chesterton wrote, "There is no such thing on earth as an
uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person." With this in mind, I see the "cultural" sector of our community as one that has the ability to turn an uninterested person into an interested one. This is vital, because an interested person is a better citizen and, ultimately, a better person. To stimulate someone with an engaging work, to open their eyes, to touch their heart--these are essential to human growth. It matters not whether we cry at a play, laugh during a circus, are outraged by an piece of performance art, or experience joy at a music concert; the important thing is that we have been moved--moved emotionally and, perhaps, intellectually. That's education. That's growth. That's being alive. A City Councillor can help direct a few dollars here and there to assist this, of course. But a Councillor's more important role is found in his or her ability to act as a community leader. Councillors can help open doors, facilitate planning, offer moral support, and set an example by attending performances.

Photo of the Evergreen Cultural Centre, from cultureandcommunities.ca

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The CUPE issue moves front and centre

Hot on the heels of Jon Ferry's column in today's Province, which is about, in part, the financial and organizational support that CUPE gave to Neal Nicholson in last year's by-election, comes this blockbuster, pictured.
The graphic is of an ad that appeared on page 31 of today's Tri-City News (ironically, right below one of CUPE-endorsed Selina Robinson's ads).
For the record, I had nothing to do with the conception, purchase or placement of the ad. I had heard rumours that Coquitlam businessman William Dick, who is identified as the purchaser of the ad, was contemplating such an action, as he has attended several all-candidates meetings and has been vocal about his opposition to the undue influence of CUPE.
I was pleased to see that Mr. Dick, who two months ago donated to my campaign, had explained the controversy so well and, further, that he had gone so far as to endorse a group of independent candidates, including me, for council.
As readers of this blog and my Facebook page know, I have been writing about this subject for several weeks now in the hopes that the public would take notice. With today's publication of Mr. Ferry's column (which I blogged about earlier) and Mr. Dick's ad, it seems my efforts are finally bearing some fruit.

Cash, campaigns, and CUPE

Here's the full text of Jon Ferry's column in today's Province:

Candidates should disclose all cash contributions
Taxpayers deserve to know who exactly is funding those for whom they plan to vote for
By Jon Ferry, The Province November 16, 2011

Miraculous though it may seem, I've actually found something on which I agree with Occupy Vancouver. And that's the local protest movement's call for "immediate and full disclosure of all developer and corporate contributions to all civic election campaigns."
But why stop there? Why not require the immediate and full disclosure of all contributions over a certain dollar amount — including those from environmental groups and unions representing municipal workers?
In the 2008 election, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and its locals donated nearly $700,000 to parties and candidates across Metro Vancouver, according to the Vancouver Sun's donations database.
The biggest recipient of CUPE's cash was Vision Vancouver, which got $260,000. The green-leaning Vision also received as much as $340,000 from a network of eco-friendly investment and public-relations companies, according to North Vancouver writer/researcher Viviane Krause.
Taxpayers should be at least as aware of these contributions as they are of those from big, bad developers and other corporations.
And, yes, they should learn about them before the election — not as much as four months after it, as is the current rule. Larger donations should be posted on candidates' websites for public viewing as soon as possible, after they're received.
CUPE, for example, represents workers with whom municipal councillors are supposed to have an arm's-length relationship, especially when it comes to labour contract negotiations. The council members are, in fact, their employer.
Richard Walton, running for his third term as North Vancouver District mayor, told me Tuesday he's been endorsed again by CUPE. But he hasn't accepted money from the union, because doing so would make him uncomfortable.
"My objectivity is pretty important to me," he noted.
I think objectivity should be important to all candidates. Indeed, my view is that the special relationship the influential union may enjoy with certain councillors through campaign donations does municipal ratepayers no favours — at least judging by their soaring property tax bills.
Coquitlam candidate Terry O'Neill points out that Neal Nicholson, winning candidate in the 2010 byelection, received most of his funding from labour groups, including half ($15,000) from the CUPE local representing Coquitlam city workers.
O'Neill added that CUPE B.C. is actually listed as Nicholson's "campaign organizer."
"Can you imagine the howls from the left and the mainstream media if, for example, the Business Council of British Columbia had fielded its own candidate, provided a majority of the candidate's campaign funds and organized the candidate's campaign?"
Nicholson, running again in Saturday's election, told me CUPE did not, in fact, organize his campaign — but did conduct mail-outs promoting his candidacy. He didn't think accepting union donations put him in any conflict or he wouldn't have taken them.
Nicholson, though, did say there should be election-spending limits. He also said he had no problem with posting details of the larger donations (say those over $1,000) as they came in: "I'm an accountant, I'm reasonably tech-savvy, so I wouldn't have a big challenge with that."
I don't think other municipal candidates should have a problem with it either. Taxpayers deserve to know in timely fashion who exactly is funding those for whom they plan to vote for.
© Copyright (c) The Province

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Don't tax the churches

I've been receiving numerous phone calls and emails over the past several days, asking for my position on the property-tax-exempt status of church properties in Coquitlam.
My answer is this: I am in favour of retaining the status on church properties. The City has a policy, allowed by the Local Government Act, to exempt from taxes properties that are used for charitable purposes. The policy means that the City foregoes collection of about $1 million in taxes every year. Details of the policy are currently under review (as noted in the document to which I provided a link, above)--I believe this is what has sparked all the questions.
But the City benefits in numerous far-more-important ways by supporting the vital institutions that receive this break.
A column I wrote seven or eight years ago, for the Tri-City News, details some of the benefits. My position has not changed since then.

Photo shows Our Lady of Fatima Church in Coquitlam. Photo from CitySoup.ca

Slow & expensive to build in Coquitlam

The Vancouver Sun has published an interesting and timely story today about the high costs and lengthy delays that developers often face when doing business in the Lower Mainland.
The City of Coquitlam's record is neither the worst nor the best, but it certainly has a lot of room for improvement.
The story is based on an annual survey conducted by the Vancouver chapter of the National Association of Industrial Office Properties. The group's survey asked each City Hall to identify costs and processing times for a new, two-storey, 100,000-square-foot industrial warehouse distribution building on 5.5 acres, requiring both subdivision and rezoning.
Burnaby was the most affordable, at $170,000, and Richmond was the most expensive, at $1.03 million. Coquitlam came in at $434,000.
As for the processing time, Chilliwack and Abbotsford posted the quickest turnarounds, at 90 days, and Vancouver and New West were slowest at 270 days. At 210 days, Coquitlam wasn't much better.
This is clearly an issue the new council has to deal with. We already know that our high business taxes are hurting business development here. Our slow approvals and high costs must surely make the situation even worse.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Number One Issue

With the Vancouver Sun and the Province both publishing front-page, above-the-fold stories this morning about the CFIB's latest findings on municipal overspending, our campaign's primary theme could not be more timely and necessary. And our decision to take the CFIB's Taxpayer Pledge looks better by the moment.

I delivered this message again at last night's all-candidates meeting in Maillardville, and it'll be the number-one topic as I continue knocking on doors throughout the week.

Here are some of my thoughts on "The Most Important Issue" of the campaign:

Let’s get right down to business and talk about the most important issue facing Coquitlam: The unsustainably high rate of city spending, and the high property taxes that it causes.

Talk to the average homeowner or business person, and you quickly learn that this is Issue Number One. And it grows even more important by the day, as the global economy continues to struggle.

You might have heard that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released his fall economic update last week. He made it very clear: Our country’s economy is still weak. He warned that the European sovereign-debt-and-banking crisis poses a significant risk to the global economy and will lead to slower growth here. His government will have to adjust.

What about here in Coquitlam? Over the past several years, the city has boosted property tax rates to fund operational spending that is higher than we can afford. Public-sector wages soared, even as private-sector ones stagnated.

Given this record, can we trust council to do the right thing, and reduce the rate of operational spending and tax increases, in response to the ongoing economic slowdown?

Can we at least trust council, including those backed by CUPE—the union that represents city workers—to make fair and balanced decisions at the bargaining table to control our rapidly growing expenses?

I am committed to responsible budgeting. That’s why I signed the CFIB’s Taxpayer Pledge, to support a municipal Auditor General, to cap spending increases, and to improve the business climate in Coquitlam.

There’s a big job ahead, and I’m ready to take it on. We’ll engage the public to help set priorities and make important decisions about protecting valuable services. And we’ll put a halt to overspending.
Photo from VancouverSun.com.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Local vs. world markets

Yesterday, I received an email from Tabitha McLoughlin, Executive Director, Coquitlam Farmers Market, asking me a few questions about my position on issues close to her heart. Ms. McLoughlin wrote, “Coquitlam Farmers Market Society operates a summer farmers market in Coquitlam (May-October), a winter farmers market in Port Moody (November-April) and has established partnerships with some of the region's largest employers to bring our award-winning pocket markets to their employees.”

Here are her questions, followed by my answers, in italics:

As our supporters are interested in your views on local food, we would appreciate your insights on the following questions:

1. How does local food fit into your plans for a sustainable community? In what ways would you work to strengthen a more localized food system?

This is not part of my platform. Moreover, I do not adhere to the worldview that puts the idea of a ’sustainable community' on a pedestal. I believe in international trade, I support multinational corporations, I applaud international cooperation between governments, and I believe the future progress of the world will involve specific areas of the world capitalizing on and, indeed, exploiting, their inherent advantages, be they in human capital or natural resources, and then reaching out to and connecting with the rest of the world in order to share, sell or market their products and or ideas. Insofar as the "sustainability" movement has led to increased prices for food, higher taxes, and higher construction costs, it has had the effect of hurting those most at risk in our society--the poor and disadvantaged..

2. The Coquitlam Farmers Market Society contributes well over $1 million in economic benefit to the community, yet like other farmers markets around the region, we lack permanent space/infrastructure for year-round operations, have insufficient or no on-site storage, and often confront municipal signage bylaws that impede our ability to advertise within the communities we operate. Recognizing that farmers markets are a valued public amenity, offer low investment yet high return for the municipalities that host them, and contribute to many of the same civic priorities articulated by council (citizen health and wellness, active lifestyles, ecosystem preservation, waste reduction) how might you help the farmers market to flourish further within your community?

I believe that, in providing public space in the parking lot adjacent to the Dogwood Pavilion, the city government is doing its fair share.

3. Do you support the broad vision articulated for Colony Farm as a centre and space for local food excellence, where small scale, labour intensive and pesticide free (non-industrial) farming, farmer training, community gardening, local food marketing (e.g. market gardens or farmers market, direct sales to local restaurants and institutions) and education around the entire food system from seed to waste, may take place?

This vision is an interesting and, perhaps, even appealing one, but it also has the effect of opposing or undermining many of the attributes of Colony Farm that are valued by nature lovers, bird-watchers, environmentalists, and those, such as myself, who simply enjoy seeing a bit of quasi-wild nature in the midst of their suburban communities. There's definite aesthetic and, some would say, spiritual value in preserving Colony Farm as a haven for nature, rather than turning it over to those who would develop it for food production--a development that would be as much symbolic as practical, I think. As well, the high cost ($30 million, as I recall) associated with the establishment of the show farm adds to its drawbacks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Surviving our worsening economy

Let’s get right down to business and talk about the most important issue facing Coquitlam: What to do about the unsustainably high rate of city spending, and the high rate of property-tax growth that it causes.

Talk to the average homeowner or business owner, and you quickly learn that this is Issue Number One. And it grows even more important by the day, as the global economy continues to falter.

You might have heard that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released his fall economic update on Nov. 8. He made it very clear: Our country’s economy is still weak. He warned that the European sovereign-debt-and-banking crisis poses a significant risk to the global economy and will lead to slower growth here. His government will have to adjust. (Euro-Crisis cartoon from www.mw.nl.)

What about here in Coquitlam? Over the past several years, the city has boosted property-tax rates to fund spending that is higher than what we can afford. One result is that public-sector wages soared, even as private-sector ones stagnated.

Given this record, can we trust council to do the right thing, and reduce the rate of spending and tax increases, in response to the ongoing economic slowdown?

Can we at least trust the incumbents, if re-elected, to make fair and balanced decisions at the bargaining table to control our rapidly growing expenses?

I am committed to responsible budgeting. That’s why I signed the CFIB’s Taxpayer Pledge, to support a municipal Auditor General, to cap spending increases, and to lower the job-killing gap between business and homeowner tax rates.

None of this will be easy. We’ll engage the public to help set priorities and make important decisions about protecting valuable services.

There’s a big job ahead. But I’m ready to take it on. My name’s Terry O’Neill and I’d be honoured to receive your vote on November 19th.

This is the text of the opening speech I delivered at the Nov. 8 all-candidates meeting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Two weeks to go

This is the second time I've run for a seat on Coquitlam city council, the first coming a year-and-a-half ago, when I contested a by-election. The campaigns are similar in many respects--funds have to be raised; signage designed; invaluable volunteers organized (thanks to everyone who's helping!); paperwork completed; ads designed and placed; pamphlets written, printed and circulated. Et cetera.
The big difference is in the number of organizations that want to know your platform or want to know your position on a specific issue. So far, I've responded to detailed questions from the Now, the News and the Vancouver Sun. I've also filled out questionnaires from the arts community, and am in the process of answering a very detailed one from Greater Vancouver homebuilders.
There are a few others I've completed, as well. But I've let the politically charged "Living Wage" query slip by. And, oh yes, I travelled downtown a few weeks ago to tape a two-minute presentation for Shaw TV. It and hundreds of others were airing yesterday.
And then there are the all-candidates meetings. I recall participating in four during the by-election campaign. This time, there are a seven, count 'em, seven for council candidates. Yesterday's, sponsored by the Civic Association of Iranian-Canadians (pictured, courtesy of the association), was the third. We have the final four over the next seven days.
All in all, it's quite the schedule, and makes me evermore appreciative of the higher-level politicians who campaign for months or, in the case of the U.S. presidential race, years on their way to elected office.
And one final thought: It's hard not to come to the conclusion that there's really no excuse for citizens to say they aren't voting because they don't know anything about the candidates. There's more information out there than ever before, in print and especially online.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Try this tactic on the occupiers

I can understand why Vancouver politicians don't want to send in the police to clear out the Occupy Vancouver campers. Too much potential for mayhem, too close to an election.
And, I like, in principle, the soft pressure being exerted by the fire chief. But I think it's probably not enough, because someone will have to enforce the safety measures, and that will bring us back to the possibility of a direct confrontation between the occupiers and the police--something that could turn very nasty.
My solution? Put a high temporary fence around the entire camp, with only a couple of exits. Station police officers at the exits. And don't allow anyone or anything in. The occupiers will be free to go, but no one and nothing comes in. This should have the effect of forcing the misguided dissidents off the public square in a matter of days.
Photo from the Province.

A good good morning to motorists

We had a great morning of roadside campaigning at Johnson and Barnet today. Lots of friendly waves were returned to us, and more than a few encouraging honks of the horn were heard!
A special thanks to Cheryle (the photographer), Bill and Guy for coming out in the cold and dark.
Watch for more events like this in the days to come.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Whose interests are being served?

In this morning's Province, Laura Jones, sr v-p with the CFIB, writes compellingly about overspending by municipal governments in the province. "Operating spending [from 2000-2008] soared by 58 percent, or double what a reasonable benchmark suggests tht it should be.
"Much of this is due to inflated wages and benefits at the municipal level, where compensation is about 35 per cent higher than equivalent private-sector jobs."
On a related subject, Peter A. Epp of Coquitlam writes, in a letter [not yet on line, but a similar one, from last week, is] to the Tri-City News, that, "With no one minding the store, city staff has grown into a bloated, overpaid and self-absorbed bureaucracy...I hope the mandate of the promised provincial municipal auditor general includes a review of all city staff positions."
Both of these items touch on what is undoubtedly the big issue of this campaign: the direct relationship between the property-tax increases we've seen over the past several years, and the high rate of pay increases and overall pay given, primarily, to the city's 1,444 CUPE workers, and also to the exempt staff.
The big question: can we trust new candidates and incumbents who have a direct relationship with CUPE, through major donations and even, as I've written about earlier, through CUPE being an officially registered Campaign Organizer, to put the interests of the taxpayer first?
As I noted in Facebook last night, it was very interesting to hear Neal Nicholson reveal a figure of two percent, when talking about what raise CUPE might earn in the coming year, during the all-candidates discussion we had about the city's finances. Two percent, with maybe some changes to the benefits package, he suggested, as if pulling the figure out of the air. But given his close ties to CUPE, I'm wondering whether this wasn't actually an opening gambit by the union, as a prelude to next year's bargaining.
For the record, I'm in agreement with Mayor Richard Stewart and Councillor Linda Reimer in saying there should be a ZERO percent raise. The current four percent raise is an insult to taxpayers and private-sector workers.

SNAP Coquitlam's latest edition

This month's edition of SNAP Coquitlam features two of our campaign ads, our candidate listing, and two photos of Mary and me at various community celebrations: the Evening of Caring Gala in aid of Eagle Ridge Hospital, and SNAP's first anniversary party at the John B. Fun stuff!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The high cost of 'smart growth'

With land development, population growth, zoning regulations, and the issue of so-called urban sprawl all being discussed during the current campaign, I was pleased to see the Frontier Centre for Public Policy issue today a timely and trenchant analysis of the impact of restrictive land-use policies on home prices. Well worth the read.

The Cost of 'Smart Growth'
By Steve Lafleur

Over the course of the last 40 years, governments have attempted to combat urban sprawl with restrictive land use policies, collectively known as “Smart Growth.” The core of the approach is to orient land use policy toward compact neighbourhoods with a mixture of commercial and residential housing. But while these types of neighbourhoods are often desirable, a report recently authored by Wendell Cox for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy demonstrates that Smart Growth policies have undermined housing affordability. The housing markets with the most stringent land use regulations saw housing prices increase four times as fast as housing in less restrictive markets. This helped to fuel the mortgage crisis from which the global economy has yet to recover.

Smart Growth policies gained traction due to the urban flight that began in the 60s. The massive expansion of suburbia was accompanied by an expansion of automobile ownership, which has raised the ire of environmentalists. Meanwhile, as cities hollowed out, their infrastructure decayed, and crime rates spiked. The solution devised by many urbanists was to force people back to the city. Some cities such as Ottawa and Portland, Oregon, created urban growth boundaries in the attempt to curb sprawl and encourage dense development within the cities. Toronto recently followed suit. Unfortunately, attempts to crack down on sprawl have done little more than drive up home values.

Regardless of one's lifestyle preferences, it is hard to ignore the fact that the majority of people in North America would wish to purchase a single dwelling house at some point in their lives. Attempts to crack down on sprawl have simply pushed people out further, which is why the City of Toronto proper is the slowest growing city in the GTA. People and businesses have migrated to cities such as Barrie and Vaughan, which are far more open to low density development. The same has happened in the Smart Growth Mecca of Portland, where companies such as Nike, Intel, and Columbia have massive complexes outside of city limits. Smart growth has not been that smart: it has had precisely the opposite effect intended by its advocates.

The evidence that Smart Growth increases home prices is unmistakeable. The report by Cox compared US housings prices in the eleven markets with the most restrictive land use regulations to the twenty two least regulated markets. In the least regulated markets, the median housing prices at the peak of the bubble in 2008 were between two to three times the median income. In the highly regulated markets, the median housing prices were between five and eleven times the median income. Housing values increased by 112 per cent between 2000 and the peak of the bubble in the most restrictive markets. Roughly $2.2 trillion in housing price escalation in these markets can be attributed to restrictive land use policies. Despite the fact that these eleven markets only account for 28 per cent of the housing in the United States, they accounted for 73 per cent of the home value lost during the crash. This makes Smart Growth the single biggest factor in the mortgage market meltdown.

Instead of using heavy handed regulations to combat sprawl, urbanists should focus on the incentives that work against density. Many cities, such as Toronto and Regina, tax multi-residential rental buildings at a far higher rate than single dwelling housing (four times more in Toronto). This makes rental units dramatically more expensive. Home ownership incentives in place also make single dwelling housing comparatively less expensive. Such policies should be eliminated, and cities should work to ensure that developers are paying the full cost of development.

Urban sprawl cannot be stopped. Nor should it be. After all, it creates a large volume of affordable housing, giving significant benefits to those who are less well off. But it also shouldn't be subsidized. Instead of punishing sprawl, urbanists should focus on ending policies that punish density. Forcing people to live in mixed use neighbourhoods hasn't worked. Removing the barriers to the creation of these neighbourhoods is a far more sensible approach.

--Steve Lafleur is a policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. The full FCPP report on which this article was based, "The Costs of Smart Growth Revisited: A 40-Year Perspective," by Wendell Cox, can be accessed here.

The photo, which I took earlier this year, shows high-rises reflected in Coquitlam's Lafarge Lake.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Remember Movember

My son, Patrick (that's him on the left, along with me and my other son, David), is taking part in the Movember fundraising event. You can donate to him at this site, or you can even go old school and write a cheque payable to “Movember Canada”, reference Patrick O'Neill and Registration Number 914828 and send it to: Movember Canada, 119 Spadina Avenue, PO Box 65, Toronto, ON M5T 2T2.

Making hay at the Harvest Festival

You're not going to see any photos of me here from last night at the Douglas College Foundation's '70s-themed gala. Suffice to say that I was happy to be able to squeeze into a rather garish, but completely authentic suit that I wore in 1973-'74!
The photos above are from the City of Coquitlam's Harvest Festival, which took place yesterday at the Inspiration Garden, a lovely little patch of green at the southeast corner of the park complex around Lafarge Lake.
The musicians were a group called 5 On A String, and they provided great bluegrass music. The young ladies pictured on one of the lovely sculptural benches both work for the city's Parks & Rec dept. I was surprised to learn that, among the projects they are involved with, are ones in which a city rep tours local schools to talk about the benefits of recycling, and another in which city reps go door-to-door to talk about green waste. The high cost of going green...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coquitlam's slow business growth

The Vancouver Sun's front-page story today, about that city's depressing record of business-licence growth, carries a table that displays several cities' figures from 1998 to 2010. Coquitlam's stats are not included, so I went to Metro Vancouver's website, and dug up the figures myself.

What I found was not very impressive.

The city posted a net business-licence gain of 789 over the period, a figure that ties it for 10th best of the 19 reporting municipalities. But smaller Port Moody reported a whopping 1,441-licence increase over the same period, and Port Coquitlam showed an increase of 984.

Worse yet was the percentage change. Port Moody's increase translates to a 118.5% gain, and Port Coquitlam's to a 43.1% boost.

Coquitlam's? Well, starting with 4,700 licences in 1998, and ending with 5,489 licences in 2010 gives us a mere 16.8% increase in business licences. That's five points less that the Metro average -- an average that is weighed down by the City of Vancouver's miserable 0.09% increase. Surrey, on the other hand, saw its business licences increase by 5,571, which works out to a 43.85% boost. Langley Township reports a whopping increase of 159.6%.

All in all, Coquitlam doesn't have much to be proud of. It's yet more evidence that Council needs to recommit itself to reducing the big gap between the property-tax rate that local businesses pay and that which homeowners pay. Remember: According to the CFIB, Coquitlam's gap was the worst of all the province's biggest municipalities in 2010 (worse than even Vancouver's notorious gap), and was the fourth highest of any municipality in the province. In 2010, the business tax rate was a ruinous 4.69 times as high as the residential rate.

By signing the CFIB's Taxpayer Pledge, I've committed myself to lowering the gap, improving the business environment, thus spurring the economy, and increasing tax revenue so that residential rates can be held in check as well.
Graphic from asianweek.com.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thankfully, we're not Greece!

Well, then. The election campaign is certainly starting to heat up. The evidence is found in the publication on Friday, in both the Now and the News, of a letter to the editor from Henry A. Pritchard, of Coquitlam. Here's a link to the Now's version of it.
Mr. Pritchard is, of course, entitled to his opinion. And, as a professional editorialist and debater, it was actually my business to advance interesting and sometimes provocative ideas and opinions. The column in question, published in the March 25 issue of the Tri-City News, certainly did that. I invite you to read it for yourself on the paper's website.
That said, I certainly recognize that the job of a city councillor will be far different than that of a professional opinion writer. I won't be telling people what I think; rather, I'll be listening anew, weighing the pros and cons, and making decisions based on what's best for Coquitlam.
Meantime, I have sent the following response to the Now. I offered it to the News, but the editor has a policy of not publishing any letters from candidates during a campaign.

The writer of this letter criticized me for, in part, expressing support last spring, in an opinion piece published elsewhere, for the right of a near-insolvent government to take extraordinary action to protect the treasury from insolvency. I am flattered that he would save my clippings for so long, but I must take issue with him. Specifically, I suggest that he need only look to the current situation in Greece to see why my position is justified. Thankfully, Coquitlam is not facing any such crisis. As such, what’s needed going forward is simply a responsible and accountable approach to civic finances—one that will protect our valued services while, at the same time, reduce the too-high growth rate of property taxes.

Graphic from: http://www.graphic-impressions.co.uk/ website.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Officially official now

Today was the final day for candidates to withdraw from the election, and since I didn't change my mind (and never even considered it, actually!), it can be said that I am now an officially official candidate for Coquitlam Council in the November 19, 2011 general election. Above is the first page of the official notice the City is now distributing.

It's a bit hard to see, but what's of particular note in the document is that School Trustee candidate Gail Alty, a long-time veteran of the board, now lists her residence as being in East Sooke (Vancouver Island!). This certainly can't help her campaign.

Similarly, Council candidate Fred Soofi has declared that he lives in Anmore--a fact that I pointed out in a Facebook note several days ago. I later crossed paths with Fred at a Maillardville fundraiser, and he was quick to assert to me and several other candidates that he is now looking to buy a residence in Coquitlam.

I responded that it was certainly too bad for his candidacy that he had failed to make the purchase and move to Coquitlam before filing his nomination papers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You call that consultation?

We've just distributed the following news release to news outlets throughout the Metro Vancouver area. An important subject:

October 11, 2011

O’Neill slams Metro for poor budget consultation

COQUITLAM – Coquitlam City Council candidate Terry O’Neill is charging that Metro Vancouver is thwarting public participation in the region’s 2012 budget-planning process.

O’Neill points out that a newspaper advertisement, placed by Metro Vancouver in at least one major daily Vancouver newspaper on October 8, encouraged the public to visit Metro’s website, www.metrovancouver.org, to view a presentation on the region’s budget plans, and then to comment or ask questions from Oct. 12-14.

However, as of midday October 11, Metro’s website contained no links to any such presentation. Employing the site’s search engine, to find “2012 Budget Public Consultation Forum,” led website users to a blank page. A spokesman for Metro later said the organization was working to post the material by day’s end.

“How can Metro Vancouver expect the public to ask intelligent questions or make meaningful comments on its budget plans when, on the eve of the narrow window in which the public actually has the opportunity to participate online in the planning, Metro hasn’t even disclosed its promised budget presentation?” O’Neill asks. “It looks like they’re just going through the motions.”

Furthermore, Metro Vancouver’s budget-approval schedule gives board members precious little time to consider what public input there might be. In fact, Metro Vancouver’s Finance Committee is scheduled to meet October 13—in the middle of the online public-consultation process.

Metro then plans to stage a budget workshop for the board on October 19, at which time it hopes the draft budget will be endorsed, along with recommendations for adoption of the budget and related bylaws by the Board on October 28th.

The draft 2012 budget* calls for a 1.2-percent spending increase. Metro predicts the overall impact on a theoretical average household in the region (assessed value of $605,000) would be an increase of $11 in taxes and charges, for a total of $524.

“Thankfully, the planned rise in expenditures is well below this year’s spending increase of over five percent,” O’Neill says. “But the public should still be a concerned about the long-term trend of Metro’s spending increases, particularly in light of Metro mayors’ recent decision to boost property and gasoline taxes to pay for the Evergreen Line.”

Over the four-year period from 2005 to 2009, Metro Vancouver’s annual expenditures grew by an average 7.5 percent a year. This compares to average annual population growth of only 1.7 percent, and average annual inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) of only 1.8 percent.



Friday, October 7, 2011

CUPE's official candidate of record

I've known for a long time that the winning candidate in the last byelection, Neal Nicholson, received a huge portion of his funds from unions, and that he was the unofficial and unacknowledged (by the local press, anyway) "labour" candidate.
But what I didn't learn until recently is that the Canadian Union of Public Employees (British Columbia) was actually the candidate's official "Campaign Organizer." Check it out for yourself at this City of Coquitlam link.
Can you imagine the howls from the Left and the "mainstream media" if, for example, the Business Council of British Columbia had fielded its own candidate, provided a majority of the candidate's campaign funds, and organized the candidate's campaign?
Just so there's no misunderstanding, I am not suggesting that Mr. Nicholson and CUPE did anything wrong, immoral or illegal. On the contrary, they were perfectly within their rights to act as they did. It's just that I think the relationship between the candidate, who is running for re-election, and the union, which represents many City of Coquitlam workers, should be more widely known.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Respect rights, protect safety

Property rights. Animal rights. Farmers' rights. Public safety. The bowhunting-bears story, of which I wrote earlier today, touches on all these issues.
For this reason, it's imperative that, before they make a final decision on outlawing bowhunting in the City of Coquitlam, councillors take all the above-mentioned factors into consideration. And, in doing so, council should act dispassionately, so rights are respected and safety truly protected.
On the latter issue, the central question is whether a ban on bowhunting will have the unintended consequence of leading to more discharge of firearms by farmers protecting their crops. And, if so, whether this will end up decreasing, not increasing, public safety.
I've been in touch with several organizations today, and one of them is stating in no uncertain terms that a bowhunting ban would actually decrease public safety.
Ted Kennedy, VP of the bowhunting section of the B.C. Archer Association, has this to say about the subject:
"As VP of bowhunting and a master bowhunting course conductor, the issue at hand is important to me and the bow hunting community. I would be glad to address council or answer any questions they may have.
"I certainly believe the risk to the public is much greater with rifles. The effective distance of a bow is considerably shorter, most shots taken under 50 yds. As to the other issues mentioned, I believe I can demonstrate the benefits of bow hunting. Many other communities around the province support bowhunting as a safe practice."
His is just one of many voices that need to be heard before a final decision is made.

Which hunting method 'bears' the greater public risk?

Acting on a notice of motion presented two weeks ago by Councillor Selina Robinson, Coquitlam council last night unanimously passed a resolution calling for the City to develop “an appropriate prohibition of bow hunting” in city limits.

Given the assertions made at council about some deplorable bow-hunting practices now taking place in Coquitlam, councillors’ support of the motion is quite understandable. However, one would have liked to have seen more evidence presented to support Robinson’s contention that the bow-hunting ban’s primary effect would be to increase public safety.

Robinson’s notice contended that there had been “at least two documented instances of bow hunting of bears in Coquitlam this past summer, resulting in at least one bear being seriously injured, which in turn resulted in the bear leaving private property and wandering into a city park and other public areas.”

She further stated that “bow hunting of animals not only causes animals to suffer, but creates a risk to human safety from an injured animal shot with a bow and arrow.”

At last night’s council meeting, more information was presented: the bears in question were apparently rambling around on blueberry farms in the Deboughville slough area; farmers were allegedly inviting people to come onto the farms to shoot the bears (and perhaps even charging for the right); and, under provincial legislation, farmers actually have the right to shoot wildlife to protect their crops.

As distasteful and emotionally upsetting (especially to councillors such as Mae Reid, a committed animal lover) as the shooting-for-sport assertions are, if we are to take Robinson on her word, the central focus of the issue here is public safety, not animal cruelty or animal rights.

This being the case, then one might reasonably ask whether, if bow-hunting were banned, and given that farmers would still have the right to use high-powered rifles to shoot bears, the ban would actually increase safety to the public.

To answer the question, one would have to consider a number of factors, including whether hunters using bows are more likely to injure rather than kill bears, compared to hunters using rifles. In other words, which hunting method creates the greater risk of an injured beast roaming into public areas?

As well, one would also need to know whether hunters are more likely to completely miss their target using a bow or a rifle. In other words, which hunting method creates the greater risk of a stray projectile (arrow or bullet) travelling into a public area, and perhaps hitting an innocent bystander? One thing we do know is that a bullet can certainly travel a far greater distance than an arrow can.

And so, if protection of the public is the prime concern here--and I believe it should be--then council should ascertain all the facts about the two methods of hunting before making any decisions. Council might also look into the bigger question of allowing any sort of hunting in and around populated or park areas.

Bottom line: we’ve seen far too many instances of “unintended consequences” taking place when politicians enact a feel-good policy or law in response to a powerful emotional argument. The last thing we need here is a law that has the unintended consequence of actually decreasing public safety.

Photo of Coquitlam-area bear from news1130.com

Friday, September 30, 2011

Snapping to attention

I wrote, below, about the afternoon event I attended yesterday. The evening was enjoyably taken up with a celebration at the John B Pub marking the First Year Anniversary of Snap Coquitlam.
In just 12 months, Snap's Lisa and Dylan have become an important part of Coquitlam's social fabric, giving us in-depth photo coverage of an amazing variety of events that transpire in our community. From bottle drives to annual festivals, someone from the Snap team always seems to be there.
The celebration was a memorable one, and aside from the "you could hear a pin drop" moment when Lisa announced she was running for council -- followed by a quick admission that she was just joking -- the evening was marked by much good cheer and great conversation.
Snap's motto is "capturing life and entertainment." The party did a good job of doing that too!
Pictures show Lisa, Dylan and me, and also some of the many celebrants.
Once again: Congratulations to Snap Coquitlam for a job well done!