"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

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