"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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We're Number Three in BC!

We were all excited to learn earlier today that BC Business magazine had named Coquitlam as #3 in its new list of "Best Cities for Work in B.C." Here is the magazine's press release:


Coquitlam's Lafarge Lake.(Photo by me)
Burnaby B.C. 
BCBusiness editor-in-chief Matt O’Grady is excited to announce that Coquitlam has ranked #3 in BCBusinessinaugural list of the “Best Cities for Work in

The exclusive list was developed in concert with Environics Analytics, weighing seven
economic indicators to reflect the health of a city’s job market: income growth, average
household income, population growth, unemployment, labour participation and the
percentage of people with degrees and taking transit.

“Developing the first-ever list of this kind in B.C. has been an extraordinary project,“
says O’Grady. “We expect the results to attract a lot of attention and provoke a lot of
discussion across the province.” The driving force behind the Best Cities project,
BCBusiness associate editor Trevor Melanson, adds: “This ranking will undoubtedly be
considered controversial by some, but there’s appeasement in the fact that, no matter
how we sliced the data, the ranking came up mostly the same. High income and
population growth, low unemployment—all the indicators we measured tended to go

The top 10 cities in BCBusiness’s 2014 list of Best Cities for Work in B.C. are:
1. Fort St. John
2. North Vancouver
3. Coquitlam
4. Burnaby
5. Dawson Creek
6. New Westminster
7. Langley
8. Richmond
9. Surrey
10. Vancouver

A complete list of the top 36 cities as well as details on the methodology and supporting
stories on the impact of LNG, what cities are booming and declining, and why Metro
Vancouver will always dominate the list’s Top 10 can be found in the January 2015
issue of BCBusiness – available online at BCBusiness.ca/BestCities and in the iTunes
store now and on newsstands as of December 31st.

About BCBusiness
Published for more than 40 years, BCBusiness is British Columbia’s foremost business
authority and the most widely read business publication in the province. Focusing
exclusively on business in British Columbia, BCBusiness provides unparalleled behindthe-
scenes coverage, chronicling major deals and putting faces to the major players.
BCBusiness is published by Canada Wide Media Limited, the largest independent
publisher in Western Canada.

Contact Information:

Media Inquiries:
Holly Pateman
T: 604-637-3472
E: hpateman@canadawide.com

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let freedom reign in campaigns!

Here is the full text of my submission to the B.C. Government's Special Committee on Local Election Expense Limits. The deadline for public submission is today.

Opening Comments
Graphic from news1130.com
The committee may recall that in January, 2014, I submitted a brief on the question of campaign-expense limits.  With the new call for submissions on the subject, the deadline for which is December 5, 2014, I feel compelled to restate my opinion on the subject, which I will do today.
 As well, I will add to it in response to the increasing calls to ban corporate and union donations.  In short, I oppose expense limits and I oppose banning corporate and union donations.
First, though, let me state that, If there are to be new campaign-expense rules,  I believe that the Province should set expense limits and that  Elections BC should enforce the limits. This body is already involved in election monitoring;  enforcing campaign-expenditure rules would be a natural extension of its current work.
Furthermore, if expense limits are enacted, they should apply in school-board elections.  It’s only fair to have them applied to the election of trustees as well as mayors and councillors.
As well, population size should be taken into account in setting expense limits.  Moreover, if there are to be limits, they must take into account not only the population of the jurisdiction, but also the physical size.
A candidate running for office in a town of 10,000 that is concentrated into one square kilometre would likely have an easier time reaching voters during a campaign than a candidate in a community of 10,000 that is spread over a 100-square-kilometre area. The former might be able to easily hand-deliver flyers, for example, while the latter might have to employ a more expensive delivery method, such as Canada Post.
Finally, if there are to be expense limits, they should apply not only to candidates, but also elector organizations and third-party advertisers.  If there is to be a new regulatory system, then it seems fair to have it applied to all aforementioned groups.

A question of free speech
Irrespective of the above, I actually oppose the concept of campaign-expense limits.  I believe such restrictions would infringe on fundamental freedoms as found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2. I quote:
 “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
  1. freedom of conscience and religion;
  2. freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
  3. freedom of peaceful assembly; and
  4. freedom of association.”
Specifically, I believe that any restriction on campaign spending would be a direct attack on Section 2.2, “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication.”
 Allow me to explain: Since the major part of one’s campaign involves communicating with the electorate, and since such communication involves the transmission of thoughts, beliefs, opinions and expressions through the press and other forms of communication such as flyers and posters, a restriction on campaign spending would have the effect of restricting the “fundamental right” of an individual to engage in that communication.
I understand that “reasonable restrictions” to Charter rights have been enacted, but I do not believe that something (an election campaign) that involves two such fundamental aspects of our democracy – free elections and free speech – should face the sort of restrictions being considered in the current exercise.
If a citizen decides to spend her life savings on an advertising campaign to support a civic cause or oppose a candidate, then let it be. If a candidate feels that being elected is so vital that he must take out a second mortgage to pay for a massive advertising campaign, then so be it. What’s important in both cases is that these people have the full and unfettered right to participate in democracy.

Practical objection to spending limits
Here, my objection to campaign-spending limits comprises related issues: unfair obstacles that such limits put in the way of new candidates; unfair obstacles that such limits put in the way of lone or unaffiliated candidates.
First, the new candidate.  It’s a given that name recognition plays a large role in all politics, but it is an especially significant factor at the municipal level. For the new candidate, the biggest challenge is not only getting his or her platform in front of voters; it’s also—and, arguably, more importantly—getting his or her name known.  Either way, one sure-fire way of presenting oneself to voters is to spend money on advertising, signage and other promotional devices. It’s less important for incumbents to “put their name out there” because they are already relatively well-known.
But campaign-spending limits would fetter a new candidate’s ability to spend freely to have his or her name become as well-known as an incumbent’s. Therefore, I submit that campaign-spending limits would have the unintended consequence of diminishing the opportunity for electoral success for newcomers, while favouring incumbents.
Second,  the lone or non-affiliated candidate. Consider the situation facing the lone, non-affiliated candidate who is running against a candidate or candidates from a well-organized campaign slate, party or endorsement mechanism.  In all likelihood, that lone candidate does not have an “election machine” supporting his or her candidacy—no supporter lists to work from, and no election-day teams to “get out the vote,” for example.
What such a lone candidate would have the ability to do, however, is to match or even exceed the campaign spending of his or her rivals. But if that spending were limited by force of law, that lone candidate would face an unfair restriction on one of the only ways by which he or she might be able to achieve a level playing field.
We need to look deeper into the mechanics of a well-organized party, slate or endorsement body to truly appreciate the advantage they would be given over independent candidates should campaign-spending limits be put in place. Such bodies can attract many volunteers and often have extensive lists of possible supporters for those volunteers to call by phone, contact by email, or send letters to. With voter turnout for municipal elections being relatively low, these well-organized campaigns give their candidates a very tangible edge over any independent candidate.
This situation is both legal and fair under the current system because non-affiliated candidates always have the option to counter the “election machine” they are facing by spending more money on advertisements, automatic phone calls, and the like.
That leveler disappears in a universe of campaign-spending limits, however. Such limits would not likely place any limit on the number of volunteers working for parties, slates or endorsement bodies, nor would they place any limit on the amount of hours those volunteers could work.  But they would limit the opportunities for non-affiliated candidates to level the field by spending extra funds to buy advertising and otherwise promote their candidacy.
In conclusion, I would argue that a campaign-expense limit would have the unintended consequence of handicapping both new and lone, independent or non-affiliated candidates, while inadvertently giving incumbents and slate- or party-backed candidates an advantage.  
Therefore, practically speaking, campaign-expense limitations would be unfair.

Donation sources
I understand that many individuals and organizations are calling for a ban on all corporate and union donations. I do not support this call for reasons that echo some of my positions, above. I believe that the banning of such donations would have the effect of hamstringing lone, independent or new candidates. This is because those organizations or incumbents that have extensive lists of committed supporters and volunteers would have a big head start when seeking donations, as they would be able to immediately tap into an already-existing database of likely individual donors.
On the other hand, the new candidate or the lone, independent one would have no such existing database and would be severely handicapped in his or her fundraising efforts.
I believe that there would be less concern over corporate and union donations if voters were given full and timely information about the source of all campaign donations. On this subject, at present, campaign-donation documents need not be filed until several months after the campaign has ended. I believe that the Provincial Government should examine the feasibility of establishing a real-time, campaign-donation-reporting mechanism to enable voters to have access to information on the source of a candidate’s funds before they cast their ballots, not after.
One other idea that might be considered is to place special limits or reporting requirements on candidates who receive donations from corporations or unions with which the candidates’ city has a direct and ongoing contractual/financial relationship. I am thinking here of companies such as private garbage-collection services, and unions such as those that represent city workers. 
I personally will not accept donations from such organizations because of the appearance of conflicted loyalties or interests. On the other hand, I have no difficulty accepting a donation from a corporate citizen that, like my neighbor, does business from time to time in the city, or even does business on a continual basis.  As long as there is not a direct and ongoing contractual/financial relationship, this is acceptable.

In Conclusion

Thank you for the opportunity to present this advice. These are important issues and deserve careful consideration.

Monday, November 24, 2014

They may be 'auxiliary,' but their work is essential

We're now getting some more clarity on the impact of last's month's edict from RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, informing us unilaterally (with no consultation)  that our 49 auxiliary officers would have to be under the "direct supervision" of a regular, armed member whenever the auxiliaries were performing their duties. And what we are being told is that the situation may not be quite as problematic as we had feared, and that all policy matters surrounding the use of auxiliaries are under review.

New letter from Supt. Bates.
 Here's a link to my previous posting about the issue; the link also includes other links to news stories about the edict, which Coquitlam Council made into a very public issue when it voted unanimously on Nov. 3 in support of my motion to ask Ottawa to overturn the edict.

At the time, we were concerned that the entire Auxiliary Constables program might be in jeopardy because the City simply couldn't afford to have a regular member shadow an auxiliary member who, for example, might be making a public-safety-related presentation to an elementary school. Similarly, the City couldn't afford to have regular members replace all the work currently done by auxiliaries.

In a letter dated Nov. 21 (see scanned copy of letter accompanying this story. I literally had to cut and paste the letter to have it fit on one page.), Supt. Tyler Bates, director of RCMP National Aboriginal Policing and Crime Prevention Services, explains that the edict was issued in response to the shootings on Parliament Hill. He explained: "...in the current environment, there is increased risk to those wearing the RCMP uniform, including Auxiliary Constables." And since auxiliaries are unarmed, it wouldn't be prudent to allow them to be unaccompanied by armed Regular Members.

That said, Supt. Bates added, "Auxiliaries can still perform crime prevention functions without direct supervision, provided they are not in uniform." He also added that the national policy governing the supervision of auxiliaries "is under review in order to ensure a balance between community policing initiatives and public and police safety."

He continued: "Feedback will be sought from RCMP Divisions on any proposed policy changes. In the meantime, the directive that Auxiliary Constables working in uniform be under the direct supervision of an RCMP Regular Member remains in effect, to ensure the safety and security of our Auxiliary Constables."

Bottom line: It's good to learn that unaccompanied auxiliaries will still be able to address students and youth groups, for example. But I'm also hoping that their educational presentations won't be rendered less-effective because they're being delivered by a non-uniformed auxiliary instead of one in the Mounties' garb.

I'm also saddened to learn that the the auxiliaries' effective crime-prevention patrols--which certainly are made more impactful by the fact the auxilaries are in uniform--cannot continue in their pre-edict form. And that's a real shame.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thanks! Thanks! And Thanks!

The results are in, and 11,712 citizens voted for us! Wow. We're re-elected. We're in a strong second place of eight elected councillors. And we're back for four years.
All we can say is Thank You! Thanks to the voters of Coquitlam, thanks to my volunteers and supporters, and thanks to Coquitlam!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Just 12 more hours of Internet campaigning left!

This sort of 'sign-and-wave' event will be allowed tomorrow.
In case you're wondering, this page will go silent tomorrow--election day--as should all candidates' Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs and websites. It's all part of a new set of rules enacted by the provincial government. Here's exactly what is not allowed, and what is allowed:
On General Voting Day, candidates and elector organizations cannot:
· sponsor newspaper, television or radio advertising
· sponsor new election advertising
· change their existing advertising on the Internet, including tweets and Facebook messages
· use social media including transmitting messages about getting out to vote
· use automated dialers (e.g., robo-calls)
Candidate and elector organizations are allowed to solicit votes on General Voting Day in the following ways:
· live person-to-person telephone calls
· door-to-door canvassing
· handing out brochures
· placing election signs or posters
· “mainstreeting” and “sign-and-wave”
However, these activities must not take place within 100 metres of a voting place.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New trail would extend Coquitlam Crunch northward

Crunch could be extended to Eagle Mountain Park. (Photo by me)
You might recall reading a story in the Tri-City News a week ago about Fortis BC's plans for some major work in northern Coquitlam. The story focused on Fortis's plans for some open houses, and then mentioned (in passing, or so it seemed) that Fortis was working with City of Coquitlam officials on a plan that would see the company build a hiking trail connection to link the top of the Coquitlam Crunch to the area around FortisBC’s new compressor station.
The story quotes James Lota of Fortis as saying, "Your staff have provided plans for the trail and the proposed configuration of what you want us to build. We have put a lot of thought into it and we are moving forward on the basis that we would like to help you out with that.”
Mr. Lota's comments came in response to my questioning of him on this subject, a subject that was first raised some months ago by our City Manager.
Here's the big take-away: This "moving forward" is, to my mind, all but tantamount to an agreement-in-principle that Fortis will, indeed, be building this new trail. And this, I think, is really great news.
Ever since the Crunch was improved with the addition of new landscape-tie stairs along its steepest section, usage on the Crunch has skyrocketed. Now, with the prospect that the trail could be extended even further north -- to Eagle Mountain Park at the top of Westwood Plateau -- it's bound to become even more popular. This is tremendous news for hikers, walkers and lovers of fresh air and exercise.
Better yet: it would come at no cost to the taxpayer. Fortis would likely foot the entire bill for this million-dollar-plus project!
Just thought I'd mention it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A day on the campaign trail

Photographer Michelle Doherty followed me throughout the day on Nov. 10 to record what one of my typical campaign days was like. The brilliant, crisp weather was atypical, however....and thank goodness for that. Here are a few of the photos she took. For the full album, please visit my political Facebook page by clicking here.

The handshake at the door. Always a good way to finish.
A lovely way to start the morning with Mary.

Chatting with Mabel Chan about the untimely death of her son Leo.

Ready to plant a sign.
Sharing a light moment Exec. Asst. Carol Jones
With GM of Strategic Initiatives Perry Staniscia

Brother-in-law Bill, Mary, me and friend Ron greeted a.m. commuters.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The elephant in the room

I'm home now from the Chamber of Commerce's all-candidates' meeting, where my opening speech enjoyed the loudest and most prolonged applause I've received for any of the speeches or answers I've given in any of the all-candidates' meetings.
No surprise that the speech also generated some strong --even emotional -- responses/rebuttals from two members of the Protect slate later in the evening during the wrap-up session. Here are the notes from my opening speech:
Hi, I'm Terry O'Neill, and I’m seeking re-election to council.
This is our fourth all-candidates’ meeting, and there have been plenty of big issues discussed: services, densification and taxes. But there’s one we haven't talked about. There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s this:
The NDP is trying to take over City Hall.
*It’s no coincidence that every member of the Protect slate, aka Coquitlam Citizens Alliance, is also an NDPer.
*It’s no coincidence that our local NDP MLA and MP have endorsed the slate.
*It’s no coincidence that CUPE, which represents the city’s unionized workforce and is closed aligned with the NDP, has endorsed the slate, too.
We all know what damage the NDP did to the provincial economy when it was in power. Let’s not let it happen in Coquitlam too.
As an independent, I’ll work hard to keep Coquitlam safe and financially sound. That’s my promise, and you can count on it!

'Real consultation is crucial'

A good-sized audience at Summit community centre for the meeting.
As I reported earlier, my Burquitlam speech on Tuesday centred on truck routes. My speech at tonight's Chamber all-candidates meeting at the Evergreen Cultural Centre will be about yet another, very specific subject. Stay tuned. 
Meanwhile, here are my notes from my opening address at last night's Westwood Plateau Community Association all-candidates meeting--a meeting that went off very well. My speech was fairly general, hitting on my usual themes:

Hi, I'm Terry O'Neill, and I’m seeking re-election to Council.
My background in journalism and volunteering taught me the importance of standing up for what you believe in, and for working hard to support others.
That’s why I helped found the Eagle Ridge Residents Association. And that's why I'm proud of the role I played on Council in shrinking tax increases over the past three years. I certainly intend to continue keeping a close watch on the bottom line if re-elected.
I also hope you give me the chance to build on the successes I helped initiate in the area of democratic reform. Real consultation is crucial!
As Coquitlam keeps growing, we need councillors with good judgement and solid experience to ensure that services and amenities keep pace. You can count on me to work hard and be prepared, so you receive the high-quality government you deserve.

And one more thing: As an independent candidate, I am not beholden to any slate, team or party. Instead, my priority is you, the taxpayer, the voter, the citizen. That's my promise, and you can count on it!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

O'Neill and O'Neill: What's in a name?

Terry O'Neill
Shari O'Neill
Now that the election brochures have been distributed and the lawn signs have been planted, questions are arising once more about the two O'Neills -- yours truly, running for Coquitlam council, and Shari O'Neill, who is running for School District 43 board.
The short answer to the ubiquitous question is: we are not married; we are not even related.
The long answer is: we are not married; we are not even related. Hope that makes everything perfectly clear.
Meantime, I'm wishing Shari all the best in the election!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Actions speak louder than words

A large and motivated audience in Burquitlam. (Photo by me)
We have just returned home from the Burquitlam all-candidates meeting, at Banting Middle School, where most of the questions centred on the many changes the area is undergoing because of densification and the Skytrain.
It was a well-attended affair: almost 200 were in the audience. All the mayoral and council candidates showed up except for Mr. Mandarino and Mr. Kopahi. A big thank-you to the organizers and volunteers who made the event such a big success. Here are the notes for my opening, one-minute speech:

I know that Burquitlam residents are worried about the rapid rate of change here – the densification and the arrival of the Evergreen Line.
Everyone at this table will tell you that they are concerned, too. But I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words.
And that’s why I was one of only three council members who voted last summer AGAINST a plan to turn Como Lake Avenue-- from Mariner to Clarke -- into a full truck route for at least two months.
Our GM of engineering opposed it, and the public had not even been consulted on a move that would have steered more heavy-truck traffic into the very heart of Burquitlam.
Thankfully, after a public outcry, council finally listened to reason and voted unanimously stop the experiment in its tracks.
I can assure you that there will be MORE of this kind of independent-minded and principled decision-making if you return me to council for a second term. That's my promise, and you can count on it!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Edict from RCMP brass strips auxiliary officers of independence/power, hurts Coquitlam

Council unanimously supported my motion.
UPDATES: Here are some links to media stories about this issue, including explanations from the RCMP and admissions that, as I charged, they failed to consult with us before issuing the edict. Here's CKNW's story. Here's 24hrs'. Here's CKWX's. Here the story in the Tri-City News. And here's the Tri-Cities Now's story. And, finally, the Vancouver Sun's.

Late last month, an RCMP director in Ottawa quietly issued an edict that will have a dramatic and detrimental effect on the delivery of community-safety and –education programs in Coquitlam.
I am not happy about this. And neither are my colleagues on Coquitlam Council, who voted unanimously in favour of my motion tonight (seconded by Brent Asmundson) to express our disappointment with the change.
The heretofore unpublicized edict originated from the office of the Director of the National Crime Prevention/Aboriginal Policing Services, which ordered on Oct. 24 that all Auxiliary RCMP Constables must now be under the “direct” supervision of a Regular Member when performing their duties. Until now, it has been merely “general” supervision.
Until the change, the City had been able to use auxiliaries to, for example, patrol Canada Day festivities on their own, while generally supervised by one Regular Member at a central location. Under the new edict, however, the auxiliaries won’t be able to do this, and will have to be accompanied almost lockstep by a Regular Member.
This would not make sense, of course. The bottom line is that the new edict will either cost the City (and taxpayers, of course) considerably more money – for all-Regular Member patrols—or lead to a reduction in service. We are not amused.
Rubbing salt into the wound is the fact there was absolutely no consultation from Ottawa about this—an astonishingly tone-deaf approach considering the commitment the RCMP made during the last round of contract talks to better communicate with contracting municipalities.
The change in the role of auxiliaries may be no big deal in Ontario, which has a provincial force (the OPP) and city forces dealing with most of their population. But it’s a big deal in B.C., and an especially big deal in Coquitlam, where we have almost 50 auxiliaries performing a wide range of duties, from crime-prevention to community-education. (See the notice of motion, below, for more detail.)
We have every right to be proud of the tremendous work our auxiliaries have done for Coquitlam, and we are certain that they are having a profoundly beneficial effect on the community.
To have Ottawa imperil all that with a stroke of the pen is simply not acceptable.

Notice of Motion regarding Auxiliary Constables
Whereas the Director of the National Crime Prevention/Aboriginal Policing Services (Ottawa) has, of as of the 24th of October 2014, changed the policy with respect to the deployment and engagement of Auxiliary Constables within Detachments across Canada, and
Whereas the policy change identifies a move from 'General Supervision' to 'Direct Supervision' with regard to the deployment of Auxiliary Constables, with 'General Supervision' meaning the Auxiliary Constable(s) may perform specific duties without being under the direct supervision of a Regular Member, and 'Direct Supervision' meaning the Auxiliary constable must be accompanied and supervised by a Regular Member, and
Whereas the Coquitlam Detachment’s Auxiliary Constable Program is responsible for: Crime Reduction Patrols; School Presentations at elementary schools; visits to programs with City Parks and Rec Departments; presentations to Community Youth groups (Girl Guides and Boy Scouts); and providing police presence at Community Events, and
Whereas the announced changes of Oct. 24 appear to have a detrimental effect on the ability of Coquitlam Detachment’s Auxiliary Constables to perform the above-stated duties,
Therefore be it resolved that Coquitlam Council send a letter to the Director of the National Crime Prevention/Aboriginal Policing Services (Ottawa), outlining the impact the policy change has on the safety and well-being of the city of Coquitlam and asking that the policy change be reconsidered.
Moved by Councillor Terry O’Neill           Seconded by Councillor Brent Asmundson
Nov. 3, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Signs of success!

The lawn signs going up this weekend are a real family affair: the photo was taken by my niece, Michelle; yesterday's lawn-sign-placement crew comprised my brother-in-law Bill and my wife Mary; today's crew features my son David and wife Mary once more. One other crew, doing the public-placement spots, was headed by staunch ally and friend, Ed R. Thanks to everyone for their help! And thanks to my many supporters who have agreed to give me a piece of their lawn for the next three weeks.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Opening salvo in Maillardville

Here is my opening address to the Maillardville all-candidates meeting last night:

Thank-you. I’m Terry O’Neill, and I'm seeking re-election to City Council.

The view from my spot. (Photo by Terry O'Neill)
You know, my background in journalism and community volunteering taught me the importance of standing up for what you believe in, and for working hard to help others.

And that's why I'm proud of the role I played in slowing down tax increases during my time in office. When I was first elected, those increases had averaged more than 5% annually over the previous three years.

But in the three years SINCE I was elected, they have been HALF that. And I certainly intend to continue working to lower the rate EVEN MORE if re-elected.

I also hope you give me the chance to build on the many successes I helped initiate or supported in the area of democratic reform to make city hall for accessible. THE E-TOWN-HALL-MEETING is a real step forward, as is the interactive BUDGET consultation process.

In addition, council supported my call for reform of Metro Vancouver’s unwieldy structure. And when the Province asked for input into campaign-finance reform, I submitted a major brief.

You’ve told me that Maillardville’s safety is a real concern, too. That’s a big reason I led an initiative to ask Ottawa to toughen the penalties against chronic, repeat offenders. Revolving-door-justice will NOT solve our problems.

And I’ve been a strong advocate for a measured and taxpayer-friendly approach to any new affordable-housing policy, not pie-in-the-sky promises. Coquitlam’s hardworking property-taxpayers should NOT be expected to shoulder the burden of subsidizing housing.

And one final point: As an independent candidate, I am not beholden to any slate, team or party. Instead, my priority is you, the taxpayer, the voter, the citizen. THAT'S MY PROMISE, AND YOU CAN COUNT ON IT!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yes, No, Maybe and Say What?!?

Graphic from commons.wikimedia.org/
I’ve just filled out a candidate questionnaire sent to me by the Tri-City News. The survey, whose results will be published as part of a voter guide a week before the elections, asks a variety of questions, and seeks yes/no, either/or answers. Some of the issues raised, however, are about complex affairs and deserve more detailed examination or explanation. Here are the questions I’m referring to, followed by my analysis, and then my official survey answer:

Question 7. Do you use public transportation?
I use public transportation from time to time (Westcoast Express, Skytrain and buses), but not on a regular basis. Strictly speaking then, my answer is "Yes," even though I suspect the question was about regular use.

Question 8: Are you more willing to see services reduced and taxes held or cut or see services improved and taxes increase?
My sentiments are with the former but my actions on council have been with the latter because I’ve voted in favour of budgets that have seen ever-smaller tax increases while increasing services. As long as we continue to whittle down the size of each year’s tax increase—as we’ve done successfully each of the three years I’ve been on council—I will continue to vote in favour of such budgets. My answer, then, is "services improved and taxes increase" (with a large "on condition that...")

Question 11. What provincial political party's ideology most closely reflects your belief system?
Yikes, what a question! My “belief system” is something that encompasses my religious, philosophical and ideological beliefs, many of which aren’t actually part of any political party’s platforms and shouldn’t be. What I can say is that I have voted for the BC Liberal Party in the last few elections as the most pragmatic choice. So, I selected “Liberal.”

Question 14. Should the city spend more taxpayer money to improve cycling infrastructure?
I have supported budgets that call for moderate expenditures every year to support cycling, but I am not sure about what the question is actually asking. If the options are to cut off such funding entirely or to spend some more money next year, of about the same amount as this year, I would say "yes". If the option is to spend more money next year than the city is spending this year, then I would say "no".  I ended up selecting "Yes."

Question 15. Does the city have a responsibility to ensure the availability of affordable housing to low- and moderate-income households?
Another whopper of a question. Under provincial law, all cities have a duty to adopt an affordable-housing policy or strategy. The City has one in place, and we’re working on a new one. So, if this question is merely asking if I know that provincial law mandates the City to have a policy, then my answer is "yes." Furthermore, I also agree that it’s a good idea for the City to have in place policies that further the availability of affordable housing. We have many ways of doing this—from freeing up land for development to making it easier to have a secondary suite in your basement.
   But, given that the question uses the word “ensure,” which means “to make certain” that something takes place, this question is probably asking if I believe the City has a responsibility, above and beyond provincial law, to make certain that all low- and moderate-income households can afford to buy or rent a home in Coquitlam. If that's the case, and given that Statistics Canada defines a low-income household as having an annual income of below $15,000, then any city adopting a policy guaranteeing that those folks can find a place to live in the city would be courting financial ruin for a variety of reasons which are too numerous to spell out here.
   I do not believe the provincial law demands that we do this. And I do not believe a responsible municipal government should be compelled to do this. Provincial and federal governments have the resources and the flexible taxation systems to tackle this issue, but municipal governments certainly do not. Ultimately, then, I am forced to answer No to this question.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Street-vending deferral hurts small business

Food truck in Coquitlam. (Photo by Terry O'Neill)
You might recall reading last week that Council had narrowly voted in favour of some new street-food-vending regulations. Well, since then, Councillor Neal Nicholson changed his mind, with the result that the new regulations—including all calls for expressions of interest—have been put on hold.
And that’s a shame, because the councillors (Nicholson and those who were initially opposed) appear to be worried only about street vendors’ impact on restaurants along Glen and High streets. (And that fine; they're entitled to their opinions, of course.)
However, the result of their reconsideration and deferral is that even the non-controversial cart applications (for locations such as those near Douglas College) are now in limbo until staff can produce a full report on the issue, involving a round of consultation with the Chamber of Commerce. And that’s likely to take two months, says Deputy City Manager John Dumont.
This means that it is highly unlikely that street-vending operators, who wanted to open early in the New Year, will be able to do so. Such a shame! I know of at least one local man who was really looking forward to launching a new career with such an operation. And now that dream will have to be put on hold.

Here’s some background. Of special note is the fact that all of the votes to set up the program in 2012 and 2013 were non-controversial and received the full support of council and that no objections came from restaurants before we passed the bylaw or during the first year of operation. So, here’s the history:
The idea of a street vending program arose in late 2011/early 2012 when Council expressed an interest in having a more formalized program to allow mobile vending on City streets and in City parks and requested that staff report back. 
In May 2012, Council directed staff to publish newspaper ads giving notice of its intentions to adopt the proposed bylaw and an opportunity to provide feedback.  Notification letters were sent to the Chamber of Commerce on June 4, 2012 and to the local Business Improvement Associations. 
As the program implementation required a Zoning Bylaw amendment, there was also a public hearing held in June 2012. 
Staff received no objections from the public or businesses. At that time, the bylaw received fourth and final readings by a unanimous vote of Council.
Staff from various City departments including Engineering, Planning, Parks and Economic Development then underwent a detailed process of identifying and resolving the technical and other issues necessary to select potential sites on City lands.
In Feb. 2013, Council voted in favour of proceeding with a tender of up to 10 mobile vending licences at the identified sites: The High, Glen Drive, Pinetree Way, the parking lot at Adair and Brunette, and the parking lot on Ridgeway behind the Safeway. 
The first Request for Information and Expression of Interest was issued in early 2013 for the Council-approved locations.
In response to the first Request for Expressions of Interest, the City received six proposals and four licences were issued. Staff in Legal/Bylaws did not receive complaints from existing businesses about the program.
It’s also worth noting that, while some of the current naysayers expressed concerns about street vendors unduly competing with adjacent or nearby businesses, this issue is already one of the evaluation and selection criteria listed in the city’s Request for Expressions of Interest.  If there were to be more applicants than licences available for a specific location, staff on the evaluation committee would be able to consider the proponent’s compatibility with existing businesses as one factor in awarding the licences.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Towards an affordable housing-affordability strategy

A proposed Bosa project that would replace old rental units.
Last night, Council gave unanimous approval to a draft Housing Affordability Strategy, an action that sends the HAS into the public realm for comment and consultation. I seconded the motion because it is important to hear what the community -- taxpayers, homeowners, renters, activist groups, industry, etc. -- has to say about the issue. 

My vote doesn't mean that I support all possible initiatives spelled out in the HAS. On the contrary. I'll explain why.

The Provincial government says each municipality must have an affordable housing strategy, but doesn’t specify what is in that strategy. Local governments are given a variety of tools to address housing affordability challenges through the Local Government Act and Community Charter.  The City of Coquitlam does not have the mandate or capacity to build and operate affordable housing. 

However, the City does have a role in promoting the creation of affordable housing in the community
Approaches can and do vary. There are essentially two models: One exemplifies activism, expense and something I call “up-grabbing”,  the opposite of downloading, in that it willingly takes upon itself responsibilities that are more properly the federal or provincial governments’.

Activism is exemplified by Victoria, for example, which boasts a Civic Housing Fund, a Regional Housing Trust Fund, a Social Housing Permissive Property Tax Exemption, a Secondary Suites Incentive Program, has issued two development permits for the creation of private sector low income rental suites and signed 11 housing agreements that either limit restriction on rentals (in the case of strata projects) or create rental units and rent restrictions for a prescribed period of time. And it has even bought old motels and converted them to housing. But none of this is cheap. An average of $1.34 million a year for three years ending 2010. That’s about $4.1 million.  

Another model is exemplified by the City of Langley. It issued a paper in 2009 discussing a wide range of possible actions, but in the end chose a responsible, and taxpayer-friendly model  to: 1.      Support Density; 2.  Encourage the creation of secondary suites; 3.  Maintain tough regulations on the conversion of rental stock to condominiums.

Keep in mind: property tax is the least-fair, least-equitable way to tax people. It is not based on one’s ability to pay, but on the assessed value of the home you are living in. Yet, an interventionist, up-grabbing approach to housing affordability has the ultimate effect of putting more of a burden on the shoulders of property-tax payers, instead of on the shoulders of the consumption or income taxpayers—the sort of tax collected by the provincial and federal governments.

There are a great deal of good, common-sense, non-burdensome options lists in our proposed new HAS. See page four of the document for the broad outline and 16 to 26 for details.  For example, the proposed Rental Housing Strategy is, as I interpret it, basically a continuation of existing policies which – while placing quite a burden on developers, also seeks to find a balance with a general public concern to protect displaced renters.  What it doesn’t do is compel a re-developer to replace, one-for-one, every purpose-built rental unit that is lost to redevelopment, which is something that at least one Coquitlam councillor/mayoral candidate is calling for. (And, anyway, every economist and expert that I have talked with, says that buildings in which condos are sold end up having upwards of 40% of their units put on the rental market.)

And so, what are the possible burdens to the taxpayer of Coquitlam? Most come down to the Affordable Housing Fund.  Page 19., 3.1.4. 1.  Many on council want to expand the affordable housing fund, skimming off a portion of density bonus, with no cap. I oppose this; it should be capped.

The draft strategy asks the public to  “consider other options”  to add to the fund. What might those be:  Massive infusion into AHF through other sources such as proceeds of sales of city land, is the leading one.

Thankfully, no one is suggesting hiking property taxes!  I oppose this, and I urge voters to ask each and every candidate where they stand, and further, to ask them, why they think it’s fair to the already overburdened residential property taxpayer to deny them the benefits of such potentially redirected monies, when there are so many other options that the city can and should take. Such proceeds can and should be used for general well-being, such as land-sales reserves or maybe even directly for capital costs of new cultural or sport facilities.

We must also watch closely to ensure that working families, who are just barely able to put together enough money to afford a downpayment on a new condo in Burquitlam, for example, aren’t pushed out of the market entirely because the cost of their unit is hiked as a result of a neighbouring project escaping some civic charges because it is promising to provide cheap housing to low-income families. That’s simply not fair.

On the other hand, 1.2.4 on page 21 – “considering exempting rental floor space form maximum density allowances…” seems a less-burdensome, more-equitable alternative.

There are a great many other options and ideas in this report, and I urge the public to get involved in what I hope will be a full and fruitful discussion about this important such.

We need a grounded, responsible Housing Affordability Strategy, one that is rooted, not in a sky’s-the-limit attitude towards redistribution of public money, but in respect for all citizens – be it the young couple looking to put down roots, the working-class family endeavouring to make ends meet, or the newly-retired homeowner on a fixed income.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Looking for consistency

Photo illustrating the Tri-City News's story.
Something to consider:

1. I've heard several folks around Coquitlam in recent days voice concerns about the new Canada-China investment pact. Here's a link to a story about the deal.


2. I've not heard a peep about what I believe to be the Chinese government's continuing role in paying for language-education classes in Coquitlam. Here is a link to a new Tri-City News story about how successful the programs are. Here's a link to an older Vancouver Sun item about the Chinese government's involvement in those programs.

I'm not judging the merits either the investment pact or the language-education programs. I'm just wondering why there's so much concern about the former and not the latter.

UPDATE: Only a few hours after I wrote the above, I came across a letter to the editor in the Tri-City News which was highly critical of SD43's relationship with China. Here's a link to the letter.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Crime and the Evergreen Line: No new Transit Police

Evergreen Line construction. (Photo by Terry O'Neill)
Today's Vancouver Sun and Tri-City News each have stories about an interesting report, prepared for the Transit police, about the possible impact of new Evergreen Line SkyTrain stations on crime rates around the station. In short, the study predicts no increase in crime rates.
That's fine as far as it goes, and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the report. However, neither the stories nor the report itself tell the whole story.
First point: Even though the Evergreen Line will add six new stations to Metro's rapid-transit system, and even though an additional 70,000 riders will use the system once the line opens in the summer of 2016, the Transit Police force will not add a single new officer to its force in response to the opening of the new line.
Chief Officer Neil Dubord confirmed this fact with me in a telephone conversation I had with him earlier today. Instead, the force will realign its services to establish what Dubord calls "hubs of safety," at "high-visibility points" at which Transit Police, Transit security personnel, and SkyTrain attendants can cluster, and from which they can quickly respond to reports of problems.
For the Evergreen Line, the "hub of safety" will be at the Lougheed Station. "It's almost like a hub and spoke [system]," Dubord told me.
Fair enough, and I'm sure these hubs will be staffed with high-quality professionals. But I hope this doesn't mean that Coquitlam RCMP will be forced to respond to incidents that have heretofore been handled on existing lines by Transit Police. If Coquitlam Mounties are, indeed, called into action in such circumstances, it will undoubtedly increase the City of Coquitlam's costs and will thereby represent a downloading of costs onto municipal taxpayers.
Second point: Note that the report talks about crime rates, with an emphasis on rates. Given that populations are already increasing rapidly around planned Evergreen Line stations, and that the populations will continue to increase once those stations are open for business, we will undoubtedly see an increase in the real number of actual crimes committed in and around those stations if the rate stays the same--which it is predicted to do.
Moreover, experience with other rapid-transit systems suggest there will be a high number of quasi-criminal or near-criminal disturbances in and around Evergreen Line stations.
Bottom line: the number of real crimes will increase because of population growth around Evergreen Line stations, 70,000 new riders a day will use the Evergreen Line, but authorities are adding no new Transit Police officers to the system.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chamber Business Excellence Awards

Not-for-Profit of the Year