EnVision2032 this weekend!

The NWEP AGM went very well. There were four departing board members, we refreshed with three new board members and a fourth person is returning to the board after a one-year hiatus. It is good to have a combination of old and new ideas, and I look forward to working with the new team (which should give you the hint about who the returning-after-a-hiatus person is).

Speaking at the AGM were Mark Allison, who is a Senior Planner for the City of New Westminster, and Ann Rowan, a Senior Policy Analyst for our regional government, MetroVancouver. They spoke of community engagement and how individuals and organizations can make a difference in their community.

There were two big ideas I took away from the discussions.

First (to paraphrase Mark), when it comes to community planning and municipal government the decisions are generally made by “those that show up”. At open houses, at council delegations, at community meetings and advisory councils. Those that take an active part in the discussion are the only ones whose voices will be heard in the discussions.

Second (to paraphrase Ann), there are easy things individuals can do to improve the situation in the world from a sustainability standpoint: drive less, live in a more efficient house, conserve energy, buy local food, and generally buy less. However, talking to politicians is also one of those things, and it is one that it is often easier for groups to do than individuals. Bringing ideas to, sharing knowledge with, and providing support for the elected types is an important way to empower them to make the right decisions.

I’m glad to say: these are two things the NWEP does well locally.

This is what I hope to talk about (if I ever get a speech written….) at the City of New Westminster’s Envision2032 event this Friday. Besides taking part in the Saturday workshop (see “showing up” above), I am taking part in the Friday night social – an inspirational event where people who work or advocate in Sustainability Planning will talk the talk, hoping to inspire the Saturday participants to walk the walk on Saturday.

Yep, another “City Consultation” process for yet, another “Plan”. But I hope to emphasise that the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan is the big one. This is the over-arching set of community standards and goals that will inform subsequent Official Community Plans, Master Transportation Plans, Local Area Plans, Affordable Housing Plans, etc. etc. Once approved in 2013, the ICSP will provide guidance for the next generation of community development. How will we grow? How will we manage the volatility in world energy markets? How will we care for the homeless and the economically disenfranchised? How will we prioritize our taxation and spending? This Plan will set the stage upon which our City’s resurgence will play out. Take it from the City’s Sustainability Planner– this is a rather big deal.

If you live in New West, own property in New West, run a business or work in New West, you might want to drop by on Saturday and spend a couple of hours helping to sketch out that plan. This is your opportunity to show up, and your opportunity to speak to politicians: in other words, your opportunity to make the change you want to see happen.

You need to register before Thursday, mostly because they need to know how much lunch to order. Yes, if you spend a couple of hours on rainy Saturday when there is no Hockey on TV helping out the City – your City– you will get a free lunch!

Also, show up Friday night for the inspiration event, and find out if I ever got a speech written. I’m thinking of talking about this guy’s contribution to Sustainability thinking:


Building Community – THE NWEP AGM

Monday night is the Annual General Meeting of the New Westminster Environmental Partners, an organization which, when I speak about it, I must declare my bias. I’m a member, was the President of the NWEP for two years, and I still take an active role in many NWEP initiatives. So, yeah, I’m going to the AGM, and hope some of you will as well.

Sometimes the NWEP is out at community events, manning the booth as in the photo above, and people ask what we do. The quick answer is “lots”.

It can be summarized in our Mission:

To work with residents, businesses, and government agencies within the city, as well as regional (locally connected) environmental groups, to achieve environmental, social and economic sustainability in New Westminster through the identification of issues, education, public advocacy, the promotion of best practices, and the implementation of effective projects.

But that doesn’t really say what the NWEP does.

It was a group of NWEP folks a few years ago who found a common interest in seeing a Farmers Market in New Westminster – and the RCFM was built. Another group of people got together at an NWEP meeting, lamenting the lack of Community gardens in New Westminster, and from those seeds the New Westminster Community Gardening Society grew. When one of our more astounding volunteer members saw a niche for Documentary Films in New West, he got a group together, and with NWEP help, started the New West Doc Fest.

All of these organizations are up and running outside of the envelope of the NWEP, and all credit goes to those organizations and their volunteers for the successes they have seen in the last couple of years. The role of the NWEP is not to run organizations like this, or even to take credit for them, but to bring people together so that these types of things can ferment in the City.

The NWEP has also spent a lot of time engaging the public and decision-makers on issues of sustainability. We lobbied the City effectively during the transition to automated trash collection and organics separation, then worked with the City and MetroVancouver to outreach at community events to prepare people for the transition. We were up front on the UBE issue, and continue to follow the ongoing saga of the Pattullo Bridge replacement.

We also have also brought the potential decision makers together with voters in a couple of very popular “All Candidates Meet & Greets” during the previous couple of elections (I love how the first word on that poster is a typo – volunteers!), and working with our friends at Tenth to the Fraser, we brought the subject of “Sustainability” (plagiarized or not) to the last municipal election. More recently some of our volunteers have organized a couple of massively-successful Shoreline Cleanups in Queensborough, with invaluable assitance from the City.

All this with a few volunteers and a bank account that rarely sees three figures.

So I am hoping I make the case that the NWEP is a force towards good in the City, and something you should support. So what does “support” look like?

#1: Go to the AGM Monday. There will be a couple of great speakers talking about, of all things, sustainability and community engagement. It will be a fun, social evening, the talks will be informative and relatively brief, and we will have lots of time to meet and greet, hang out, and talk City.

#2: Join the NWEP. It costs you $5, but it provides the group the ability to speak with a louder voice, and to draw on a larger group of volunteers when need arises. Many hands make light work.

#3: Bring your ideas about what the City needs to be more sustainable. You might find some folks who share your interest, and are willing to work with you to see it happen. Or you might hear someone else’s idea, and decide you want to help with that. “Helping” can me as simple as bringing an idea, or providing a few hours of volunteer time and energy, or knowing a contact person to bring groups together under a common cause, or even just acting as a sounding board for ideas to tease out their viability.

Doesn’t that just sound like “building community”?

Time to start Naming Names

I’m going to stop apologizing for not writing more often. I’m freaking busy, OK? Get off my back! (Hi Mom!)

There are no less than three names that need naming in New West over the next year or two.

The School board is currently asking the public to propose names for the two new schools that are going to be built in the next couple of years – the Elementary School on the old St. Mary’s Hospital site, and the Middle school to be built on the John Robson school site. Also, the City is starting to throw around the idea of a proper name for the “Multi-Use Civic Facility” building downtown, as no-one sees “MUCF” as a keeper. The unique part of this is that the City is discussing options around selling the naming rights to the centre to cover some of the operational costs.

Since it is time-sensitive, let’s talk Schools first. The Board of Education wants your ideas and opinions, at least until October 31st. Both school sites present interesting opportunities to look at the past and look forward.

The School we have been calling the St. Mary’s Site, for example, could be called St. Mary’s Elementary, to honour the history of the hospital, although that may create both good and bad associations for people, depending on how you view the closing of the facility (I recommend Jaimie McEvoy’s book for a comprehensive history of the Hospital) or the use of Christian Symbols for naming public institutions. However, the Hospital could also be remembered by honoring the people who played an important role in the Hospital’s History (such as Esther Pariseau or Florence Hagarty… just as examples; I leave it to better historians than I to sift through the history of that site).

The first question I would have about the naming of the Middle School on the John Robson site, is who was John Robson, and is there any reason not to carry on his legacy with the new school on the same site? The guy was New Westminster founder, newspaper editor, early Town Councillor in New West and eventually Premier of the Province. He was also an outspoken advocate for public education. It would be a shame to lose that naming legacy.

However, what about New Westminster people who might fittingly be honoured with having a school named for them, and may create a more personal association for today an tomorrow’s Middle-School students? I have heard the name Eva Markvoort suggested, but maybe there are other important people in New Westminster’s more recent history the Board of Education may consider?

I guess I am of the type who feels Schools should be named after people, preferably local historical figures. Even if I shamefully still can’t tell you who Stanley Humphries actually was!

Meanwhile, The City was wondering if we should sell the name to the MUCF, but have now apparently taken that off the table. This will probably generate a healthy debate – the idea of selling the name of a publicly-financed and publicly-built community centre to a Corporation just rubs a lot of people the wrong way. However, some would suggest the City, already facing criticism over some financial risks taken on the MUCF/Office Tower, shouldn’t turn down the steady income stream from naming rights. There are some people in this town who will accuse the City of doing it wrong, no matter what they do, leaving us with the less desirable judgement call if the revenue generated will outweigh the controversy generated. Alas, Remember the quasi-controversy around the non-naming of BC Place?

So in the short-term we probably need to put the corporate naming issue aside, and concentrate on a good name for the centre, regardless of whether a corporation can attach their name to the side of it.

As this is a City facility, and it is an Arts and Culture facility (as opposed to a sports facility), you would think we cold find a name that represents the Arts and Culture of the City. Like many in this City, I could see this being part of the Hyack tradition in the City. I proffered, tongue somewhat in cheek: The Hyackulum. Sounds historic, monumental, eternal, and includes the Hyack tradition! The XL Meats Hyackulum! You heard it hear first.

But all that Hyack talk got me thinking about Muni Evers. He was the longest serving mayor of the City (13 years) and was Mayor when the City founded the Hyack Society. His reasoning at the time was that he thought the City needed some “spark”, which is a curious 1970s version of exactly what we are hoping the MUCF does for us now. Evers was a WW2 veteran, a pharmacist, and Member of the Order of Canada. When he left office in 1982, I was a 12-year not looking forward to my 4 years at Stanley Humphries, so I have no memory of Mayor Evers’ politics, personality, or profile. However, he served the City longer than any other mayor, and he helped build the institution that has been at the centre of almost every annual event that we, in New Westminster, call our own. Maybe having his name on the side of the MUCF – say the Muni Evers Cultural Centre – might be a nice way to honour the contribution. ?

Photo of a snappy Muni Every in his Air Force uniform in 1940,
Courtesy of stolen from The Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia website.

I even like the fact his name creates an interesting play on words, suggesting a permanent legacy for the community. Best part of all, you just can’t stick a Corporate Label on the front of that name. 

Doc Fest Weekend!

Yep, still busy. So I’m not blogging much.

There is lots coming up in the next few weeks: an event for which I need to write a speech (hint: it is at the Inn at the Quay),  another event where I get to look good by surrounding myself with many smarter, more accomplished and successful people than myself (hint: it is also at the Inn at the Quay), an event where I need to have a costume (Hint: it is at Status Nightclub), and an event where I might get gang-pressed into more volunteering (Hint: it is at the River Market).

Oh, and curling season has begun, work is crazy busy, and we have two separate contractors do two different projects for us, both of which were supposed to be done before the rains started. Alas, it has been a long time since I was bored.

However, if you have any risk of being bored, or even if you don’t, you should be at the Second Annual New West DocFest this weekend at Douglas College!

The Doc Fest starts Friday Night at 7:00, with a showing of “Chasing Ice”: a beautiful doc about glaciers, ice sheets, and the efforts a group of people put into capturing them on film before they go away…

And on the topic of Glaciers going away, Nobel Laureate and Sustainability Economist Marc Jaccard will be at the event Friday, and doing some Q&A about the state of the climate. I suspect it ain’t gonna be good news, but you might learn something important.

There will also be other events happening around the Friday Night opening reception, a good time guaranteed to most!

Saturday will see no less than four feature-length documentaries (One about young women growing up under disparate cultural influences in India; one about the impact of Bituminous Sand development on Canada’s fresh water ecosystems; one on the culture within the Canadian gaming community; and one about a filmmaker making a controversial film, and the controversy that ensues when the subject tries to stop him from releasing it) and a couple of short films, Q&A sessions on the topics of the films, a live theatre event, live music… too many things going on to describe them all.

You can see one movie for $7, or you can get a weekend pass for $20 and come and go as you please. It is a smoking good deal to see award-winning movies here in New West. And the weather is going to be terrible, so best spend your time inside a dark room being entertained.

Now I gotta go write a speech….

TransLink – countdown to 2013

(some edits made, factual and grammatical)

As I mentioned last post, I got to spend another exciting evening last week with TransLink consultation staff.

For a change, I wasn’t giving them the gears about the Pattullo Bridge. They have bigger problems these days, and (surprisingly not for the first time) I am 100% on their side of this argument.

They were in town meeting with New Westminster transportation and community advocates to talk about the 2013 Base Plan – their economic outlook for fiscal 2013. I wish it was full of good news.

Short version: TransLink is out of money, and cannot hope to expand their service to the level that demand dictates. If the Mayors don’t agree next week to provide the extra $30 Million annually from Property Tax that came out of the last stand-off, then TransLink will need to start cutting services.

Yes, in 2013, our regional transit system will need to take busses off the road and reduce SkyTrain service in a City that is still growing at double-digit levels, with transit use growing at a fast rate than population. Boggles. The. F-ing. Mind.

The long version is very long, as is the list of politicians soaked in the stink of failure here. TransLink’s economic failure is not a story of a system gone off the rails, of a system that has squandered their good fortune or taxpayer’s money, or of a system that isn’t well used and desired by the community. It is a story of our political structures being wholly unable to provide solutions that everyone can see, while (in many cases) taking active measures that worsen the very problems they are meant to solve.

How big a failure is TransLink? Between 2000 and 2011, the number of MetroVancouver trips taken on transit has gone from 130 Million/year to 233 Million/year. That is an 80% increase in ridership over 11 years, in a region where population has increased just under 20%. Say what you want about TransLink- they have done their job. Just since 2008, MetroVancouver has seen a 6% rise in population, and TransLink ridership went up 17%. Compare this to the increase in car use (4%, notably only 2/3 of population growth), and a 26% increase in bicycle use. These numbers become important as the discussion of how TransLink manages their current economic morass.

Few are arguing TransLink’s problem is anything but a revenue problem. Here, for the sake of discussion, are where the revenues come from that fund TransLink:

But this pie doesn’t talk about the revenue problem, which is something to behold. The organization moves something like $1.4 Billion a year, but will be almost $500Million short between 2013 and 2015 unless something dramatic happens. The shortfall seems to be hitting TransLink from every direction.

$38 Million shortfall from the Golden Ears Bridge tolls: this is the gap between the number of cars the Province dreamed would cross the Golden Ears Bridge, and the number that actually do. Since the bridge was built by a PPP, the concessionaire is guaranteed to make the profit they are entitled to, and the regional transportation authority has to make up the gap. SNC-Lavalin (correction: The GEB is operated by something called “Golden Crossing Group”, a partnership of Engineering firms CH2M Hill and Bilfinger Berger – Thanks for the reminder Bart) gets the profit, the taxpayer gets the risk. Keep this in mind when the Port Mann 2 opens, and when people tell you the Port Mann tolls are “guaranteed” to cover the capital cost of the bridge.

$108 Million shortfall on transit fares. Never mind the alleged “fare evasion” problem (which is less that 5% of this amount), this is the lost opportunity costs due to TransLink being unable to expand their system as intended. These are the fares lost because the rapid bus on Highway 1 will either not happen or will be cut back, because we still have no B-line on King George, because Evergreen is years behind schedule, because the increase in bus service hours has been scaled way back. This number is a count of potential customers lost.

$152 Million is the shortfall on asset sales. TransLink is going to sell off real estate around stations, and the Oakridge Bus Terminal. Lack of ability to move capital projects forward has exacerbated this problem, because the real estate is not currently surplus.

144 Million is the shortage from the gas tax. Simply put: people are driving less, and are driving more fuel-efficient cars. Although a small proportion of this represents people buying gas outside of MetroVancouver to avoid the tax, the vast majority simply reflects what happens when you have an effective transportation system and $1.50/l gas: people make the more rational choice. Ironically, TransLink’s funding woes will work to cause this revenue source to improve in the near future, as Provincial policies seem directed at forcing people to buy more gas.

Then there is the $30 Million that is the current cause of so much consternation with the Mayors. TransLink has prepared their 2013 Base Plan on the assumption that the Mayors will provide that $30 Million next week. This is far from a certainty, but TransLink is legally required to plan assuming that this funding is in place.

Just for perspective, here is how that $30 Million fits into the original graph of TransLink revenue. That sliver is what all the fighting is about, what is causing this silly brinksmanship between the Mayors Council and our completely rudderless Provincial Government.

Alas, this is all (recent) history. How is Translink moving forward with this revenue problem? They have already cut 90 professional positions (remember what I said about not being able to get their capital programs moving forward?), they are reducing SkyTrain frequency, “rightsizing” their bus fleet (meaning fewer busses or trains that aren’t bursting-at-their-seams overcrowded), and they are “optimizing” the bus schedule (meaning fewer busses on the less-popular routes, more on the more-popular routes).

Upgrades to stations have been put on hold (except the FalconGate installations, of course), and there will be cuts to both the road upgrade program and the bicycle infrastructure program. TransLink has already cut almost $100Million a year in expenditures through these measures.

Unfortunately, all of these will fail to solve the problem. As they all make the real problem (revenue) worse.

TransLink acknowledges what the results of these measures will be. Busses will be less frequent, some “less busy” service (read: the suburban service) will be cancelled. Skytrains will be more crowded, and there will be less flexibility built into the entire system, meaning that any small disturbance (a bus break-down, traffic congestion, etc.) will impact more people, more often. In summary: a more crowded, less reliable system servicing fewer areas. Does that sound like a recipe for revenue growth?

Instead, these cuts seem to be directed at specifically cutting off future revenue opportunities.

Making service in the “less busy” areas less reliable will do nothing to increase ridership in the rapidly-growing suburbs, where all the revenue growth potential exists. People crowding onto the 99 B-line at Commercial Station are already Transit users: they buy monthly passes or U-passes: TransLink cannot possibly increase revenue by providing better service on Broadway. Ditto the hundreds queued up every morning waiting for a 145 at Production Station. Cutting funding to bicycle programs – the programs that get people out of cars and into transit stations – and to pedestrian and bicycle accessibility at SkyTrain stations, again throws disincentives in front of potential multi-modal travelers.

Any opportunity to increase revenue in the one place TransLink has some revenue-control (fares) is being cut off, as the service will become less reliable, less useable, less attractive compared to the shiny new $5 Billion freeways criss-crossing the suburbs.

There is very little (except for creating a policy to charge for Park-and-ride spaces – wait, we didn’t already havethat!?!) in this plan to address the revenue side of the system. The Mayors keep saying that increased property tax is a no-go, and seeing the level that they fund the system now relative to senior government contributions, I tend to be on their side. However, there is no-one in senior government willing to put more than their paltry 6% into improved transit service in the Lower Mainland, as they have already decided that the $5 Billion in roads and bridges they have spent in the last decade needs to be increased by another $1- $2 Billion in the next 10 years. Mary Polak continued to talk about road expansion today: Announcing another $60 Million for roads. I’m not sure she even knows there is such a thing as TransLink. The Gas tax is a declining factor. The only real hope for revenue growth is in putting asses in seats.

TransLink cannot afford to shrink right now, as the region is growing so rapidly. They cannot even afford to “hold fast” at their current size. TransLink needs to grow now. We need rapid bus to Langley, we need Rapid Bus (not just B-line) to WhiteRock, we need increased SkyTrain or light rail in Surrey, in Richmond, to the Northeast, and along Broadway (mostly to free up the Broadway busses to service other routes). The only way for this organization to increase revenue that is within their power is to make it easier for customers to use their service. To do that, they need to make it more useful, more predictable, more reliable. Not the opposite.

The only good news is that we know an election is coming. We know that in May, 2013, things will change for TransLink. Their governance will change, and their funding will likely change. All signs indicate it will be a change to the better. It simply cannot be any worse.

As much as I disagree with the model, I hope the Mayors can find a way to fill the $30 Million gap through Property Tax next week, so TransLink is able to tread water for one more year until the rescue boat arrives. Before they do that, though, I hope they get some confirmation from the party that will form government next year that the Province will provide adequate support in the coming years to build the transit system we need.

Just an update

It’s been a while since I wrote anything in this space here, but I’ve been busy. Work is busy these days, but so is everything else!

Since writing my last post, I have attended a Master Transportation Plan Advisory Committee meeting, an Emergency Advisory Committee meeting, and played a couple of curling games (one loss, one win, thanks for asking).

I also spent some time visiting family and friends, eating turkeys, and practicing chainsaw technique, all on Saturna Island. I’ll report more on that at some later date, but can I can admit to having turned a couple of dozen little scrappy pine trees into future fence posts, and to have not cut any important parts of my body off with the saw. Not bad for a first time behind the business end of a Stihl.

In fact, I will write a whole bunch more about Saturna Island in the future; it is a magical place. For now, I will only mention that it has the greatest departure lounge in the entire BC Ferries System.

The entrance to the Saturna Lighthouse Pub is about 20 feet from the ferry ramp, and the deck features unquestionably-full pints,

a killer nacho plate and spectacular pizzas, and one of the greatest views on earth.

Aside from such recreations, I also attended a TransLink consultation meeting here in New West (a write-up from which I am about 90% through writing – watch this space).

On the same night as TransLink, I attended another great NEXT New West meet-up, this one at the Northbank project presentation centre. Peter Newall from Ballenas Project Management talked about the project, with insights into his previous projects in New West (The BC Electric Building / InterUrban and the refurbishing of the New Westminster Police Station and attached condos), and his apparent ability to foretell worldwide financial disasters. We were also given a short presentation and Q&A session with Councillor Jonathan Cote, where he talked about the MUCF/Office Tower issue. I have gone on about this issue in the past, but it was good to hear from someone with actual knowledge about the project talk about the decision train that took the City down the road to building a commercial office tower. There were a lot of business leaders in the room asking him about the options available to the City and the business case around the development, and I think Cote did a good job getting the message across that the decision made was the obvious one when all the factors were considered.

Finally, I am still going through photographs and working on writing up our recent 4-day vacation to San Francisco. I am ¾ of the way through blogging about it. We saw some things while we were there, but I cannot guarantee they are all safe for work. If you are interested in how Ms.NWimby and I spend our vacation time (Hi Mom!), you might want to go here, but you’ve been warned.

I also filled out a couple of local surveys: this one on the next phase of the Pier Park and this one on the City’s Financial Plan. Both close really soon, so you might want to go there and fill them out if you have any opinions. It’s a much more effective way of spending your time than commenting here.

On Offshore Drilling, Mines, and the Cynicism of John Rustad

I found this to be an interesting story, one that probably didn’t get the media exposure it should have.

The Morrison Mine is just northwest of Babine Lake, in the woods east of Smithers. There are already a couple of significant historical mines in the area, including the Granisle and Bell open-pit copper mines that are located on islands within Babine Lake. The Morrison project would have chased a porphyry deposit related to the one that was mined at Granisle. These deposit types are common for copper, and are always mined using open-pit techniques, as they are trace deposits where the concentration of ore is usually much less than 0.5% of the host rock. So large volumes of rock must be dug up, crushed and concentrated to make economic ore. In the case of many copper mines like the Highland Valley mine near Logan Lake in the southern interior, the copper part of the business is often run as a break-even business, and all the profits come from the trace gold, silver, platinum, and other more valuable minerals that are extracted as accessory to the main copper operation (indeed the Morrison deposit reports .2g of gold per tonne, and could have produced up to a million ounces of gold over its life).

Grand Isle and Bell mines, on Babine Lake.

However, the Morrison Mine will not be, at least not as per the current plan. The environmental impacts were deemed too significant by the BC Government, or the proposed mitigation of those impacts was seen as insufficient. The copper is still there, the deposit still economic, so I suspect Pacific Booker will revise and come up with a less-impactful way to extract the deposit, or will sell off the rights to someone who thinks they can make it work.

This is the second copper-porphyry copper deposit that has been denied a Provincial Environmental Review Certificate under the current Liberal Government, after Kemess North was denied in 2007. (Remember, the controversial Prosperity Mine project that was going to nuke Fish Lake received Provincial Approval, but was subsequently rejected by the Federal Government)

I honestly don’t know enough about the Morrison project to know if the rejection was a good thing or not. I give the benefit of the doubt to Terry Lake and presume that if the Government felt the impacts were such that they outweighed the benefits, then the rejection is a good thing. The copper isn’t going anywhere, and it will still be a valuable resource when someone figures out how to exploit it in a less impactful way.

What I do find interesting is how this story relates to my earlier post criticising the meme propagated by a local mining executive that “the NDP will Kill Mining in BC” if elected.

In discussion around that meme, the topic of Tatshenshini Park is always raised, as in the suggestion that it was the Harcourt-led NDP Government turning potential mine site into a park in 1993 put a deep chill on mining exploration that took the Liberal Government to cure. This ignores the impact of historic-low metal prices and the Bre-X scandal on speculative investment on mineral exploration. It also ignores the point that the United States Government was not going to approve the Mine and attached pipeline as suggested (creating a nasty Boundary Waters Treaty dispute), that the acid leachate management plan for the mine would have relied on non-existent technology, or that there were dozens of serious concerns about the mining plan from First Nations, the Canadian and US Salmon fishing industries, Environment Canada, the EPA, and the US National Parks Service.

Click here if you want to read a good run-down of the legal framework around Windy Craggy. The last paragraph is great, as they quote the President of the company that spent all the money planning and proposing the Windy Craggy mine, and the compensation that company received from the BC Government for their lost revenue:

“Geddes Resources president John Smrke stated that the settlement ‘sends out a very strong signal that, indeed, B.C. is open to mining.'”

Does that sound like someone who thinks the BC NDP Government was killing mining in BC?

But back to the present day. If the NDP was killing mining by shutting down 1 potential mine and compensating the exploration company, how are the BCLiberals supporting mining by shutting down two potential mines over the last 5 years?  Maybe that is why the BC Liberals have been pretty quiet about it, including the Babine Lake local MLA.

A story that DID get a little media this week was John Rustad, MLA, tweeting about the idea of opening up the west coast for oil exploration. Now I have poked at John Rustad a bit in the past, but I can’t help but feel his well-timed comments about offshore exploration outside of his riding will serve as a useful distraction.

Indeed, if you look at John Rustad’s webpage, you find no mention of Morrison Copper. Which is funny, as the mine is right smack-dab in the middle of John Rustad’s electoral riding, and John Rustad is a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, so you figure he would have an opinion on the scupper of a mine in his backyard.

At least as much as he has an opinion on offshore oil exploration, speaking as he is from his land-locked interior riding, 300km from the sea.

Reaping and Sowing

I guess I never explained why I didn’t post for quite a while there the last couple of weeks. Mostly I was out of town for 4 days. Then I was 4 days behind on everything when I got back. Life is full of complications.

Luckily, the weather held out this weekend so I could finally get some long-neglected gardening done after RiverFest. Or, it being the end of the season, de-gardening. The days are sunny and warm, but the nights are getting longer and cooler, and the garden looks pretty much done for the year (see pictures below).

Last Sunday was all about putting planter soil in storage, putting dying plants in the compost, and harvesting the last of the crops.

Talking to friends and neighbours, I was not the only one who had a less-than-stellar gardening year. The wet cold spring meant everything was a little late starting, and the dry hot August meant keeping things irrigated was a constant battle.

Luckily(?) this year, I decided to not follow the “plant everything, see what sticks” gardening technique I have used the last couple of years, instead opting for fewer plants that I have had success with in the past. This means no radishes (which in my garden get bored through by worms before I could harvest them), free-range tomatoes (which always get the blight) or eggplants (that just don’t survive). Having absolutely no idea what I am doing the garden, anything edible that comes out of it is a bonus to me
As Ms.NWimby and I eat way too much salad for our own good, a mix of lettuce types is always on, and although the start was late and the bolt was quick once it got hot, we definitely had a variety this year, and kept ourselves saladed for several months.
I also installed my first semi-trellis in the front yard this year, to facilitate the growth of cucumbers and zucchini. We had great luck for the second year with lemon cucumbers. These yellow, round cukes are sweet and pretty hardy (I am still harvesting a few in early October), and provide a unique look in a salad. They seem less prone to drought trouble as my regular green field cukes, and produce a ton of fruit.
Cukes, still producing (kind of) in October.

The lone zucchini plant that survived the late cold spring seemed to like the trellising: stretching 8 feet across the top, and 8 feet back the other way. There was plentiful green vine and lots of flowers, but only a few actual zucchinis: Hand-pollination definitely helped, because once a gourd got going, they grew fast and huge. We ate the last of the season’s crop last night. We also had a pumpkin plant survive and produce one nice-sized round gourd. The vine has almost died off from the cold, so final ripening will happen indoors. I haven’t carved Jack-o’-lantern in a few years, this should be fun.

The cold has also spelled an end to growth of our peppers, another crop that was so late starting that the hot dry August and September were just enough for a semi-crop. We only grew jalapenos this year (we had grown red chillis and habanero in the past – we still have a jar of habaneros from two year ago that are potentially lethal). We harvested them this weekend and pickled them along with some fresh garlic.

This was a great year for the garlic, and our root cellar is – um – fragrant with hanging vines. We will not be buying those ubiquitous plastic socks of garlic from China any time soon. I also harvested the florettes from the garlic and have thousands of little bulbs. They will go in the ground this fall, and will produce “seed bulbs” next summer, which will in turn be harvested and re-planted. Garlic from seed like this is a two-year project, but this is one crop that loves my garden so much and produces so much, that I am willing to take the time.

While harvesting Garlic, I also ran into the few “volunteer” potatoes in the garden. This whole garden project began a few years ago when I tore the grass off of half of my front lawn and planted potatoes. The one thing about potatoes: once you plant them, they never really go away. I only had a half dozen or so this year, but they are like free surprise food when you find them.

I also had three “volunteer” sunflowers from last year’s crop. The birds got at the seeds of two of them long before I could harvest them, and spread them about the garden, so no doubt there will be more volunteers next year. The one I saved I will probably take to Saturna Island and spread the seeds on a small, sunny field of weeds to see if they prosper, or even out-compete the Scotch Broom and nettle. It’s a shot in the dark.

The only tomatoes we grew this year were a few planters worth of cherry varieties on our sunny back deck, and they are pretty much done now.

 A spring crop of beets grew quickly and got eaten almost as fast, and I just had no luck with my cabbage and broccoli starters.

The weather was good for one crop this year especially: berries. We replaced our hedge with about 10 blueberry plants a couple of years ago, and they pumped out a cup or two of blueberries a day for the better part of three months. Last year they were beaten pretty badly by aphids, and this year the hailstorm we had in May caused a lot of leaf damage, but the berries arrived and kept producing on all but one plant. I planted strawberries as groundcover under a lot of the plants this year, and they are –unbelievably for October- still producing a few berries.

Next year’s strategy is to reduce and concentrate. Instead of growing in the ground, I am going to install a couple of raised beds and take a more dedicated approach to rotating crops. The planters will hopefully allow me to better control water and nutrient levels, make weeding and pest control a little easier, and facilitate using plastic row cover in the spring. Winter construction project ahoy.

Still, above the work and the food and the learning, the best thing about my front yard garden is how it facilitates conversation. Digging, weeding, planting, watering, harvesting, whatever I am doing in the front yard, people walking by stop and chat. Complete strangers walking by stop, ask about the blueberries, the lettuce, or the soil. They talk about their gardens (past or present), they comment on the weather or the neighbourhood. They stop and talk. They never do that when I am mowing grass or raking leaves or sweeping my deck. Something about the garden grows curiosity and grows conversation.

That is the best part- because as I am a terrible, terrible gardener, but I am pretty good at talking. I’m not sure I am as good a listening, but (just like with the garden) I am finding the rewards in learning.