on Skepticism

I think of myself as a Skeptic. I capitalize that word, because it probably doesn’t mean what you think when I describe myself that way. Some may think it synonymous with cynic or freethinker, which creates this tautology where capital-S Skeptics feel the need to define the term. I think Tim Farley summed it up as well as anyone has: ““Skepticism is the intersection of science education and consumer protection.”

Skepticism is a less a philosophy than a thought process, but it is also a culture and some go so far as to call it a “movement”. Skepticism has its media, it has celebrities, it has conferences, and it had its messiah. It even has, as all burgeoning great movements must, a Great Schism. As traditional Skepticism was organized mostly by white guys, the schism was inevitably about misogyny and representation in the movement, and for the record, I’m on Rebecca’s side on this one.

Since I seem to be going on about definitions, there is no such thing as a “Climate Change Skeptic” or a “Holocaust Skeptic”. One can apply Skeptical principles to determine whether (for example) a carbon tax is an effective policy tool to address consumer-driven emissions of greenhouse gasses, sure. But calling into question whether anthropogenic climate change driven by the burning of fossil fuels is happening, and whether it has the potential for catastrophic impacts on global ecosystems that support human society is not “skepticism”, it is denial. Until proven otherwise, and it hasn’t been, it is the scientific consensus. Though seeking to challenge the scientific consensus at every opportunity is the heart of skepticism, understanding the roots of that consensus until a valid challenge is found to it  is the blood running through that heart.

I have been around Skepticism for a long time now, listening to the Skeptics Guide in pre-Rebecca days, I am old enough to remember before Brian Dunning was a convict. I was probably (probably – because memory is fallible) was guided by my Thesis supervisor back when I was an undergrad. But I don’t think back then we could have imagined the role that conspiracy theories and anti-science thought could be playing in larger society – especially American society – now. Well, Carl knew, but he was always a few decades ahead of us.

I’m not sure if it is me, or if it is Joe Rogan, but I feel we are seeing an overall media and politics shift away from the principles of scientific skepticism, and towards faith-based and conspiracy-based cynicism about the world. It would be easy (and lazy) to blame social media, but then Twitter brought this into my life:

Credit: Abbie Richards

This chart is a classification system of conspiracy put together by social media Phenom and alternative golf commentator Abbie Richards (@abbieasr), and I think it is a valuable tool for talking about conspiracy, fanciful though, skepticism, and answering the hardest question of all: “What’s the harm?

I do have some quibbles. UFOs are probably in the right spot, as there are a variety of poorly explained visual phenomenon in the atmosphere, but when one links this to extraterrestrial life, it moves up a category to leaving reality. There may actually be more thinking in here than I read (as Abbie herself adds context in her on-point and hilarious way in her Tik Tok videos), so I’m happy to hear and learn more.

Aside from laughing and enjoying taking a dig here, I think a powerful way to use a tool like this is to keep it in mind when having those slightly-uncomfortable conversations Skeptics are always having. To avoid going off on a Storm-like Mincinian tirade whenever someone uses the term “sheeple” in a conversation, you can instead think about where the thing you just heard fits in the spectrum. Is it worth asking for more details about this idea that is new or strange to you? Go a step up or down the spectrum, see where the common ground is.

So Abbie’s great diagram entered my world when I’ve been thinking a lot about Skepticism. It may be because we just lost James Randi, who really was the spiritual leader of a movement, if there is a movement, and we accept that “spirit” is a collective drive towards something as opposed to a supernatural force.

Or maybe the fact-free US election may be part of it. It’s not just that the discussion down south isn’t around substantive things, it’s that the very idea that facts exists, that there is an objective reality that is somehow verifiable, seems to have fallen by the wayside for a large number of people. In its on way, our own BC election was almost completely bereft of policy conversation, instead discussion of who do you “like”, who do you “trust”, and who is “connecting” with whatever “voter demographic.” So we end up with very popular, but completely nonsensical, ideas like fixing traffic by removing road tolls and selling hydrocarbon fuels as the key to Climate Action.

So, as someone who was almost certainly not Carl Sagan once said, ““Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out”

Council – Oct 26 2020

Our Pre-Halloween Council meeting was not the least bit spooky, but there was some important stuff on the Agenda. We had a workshop earlier in the day to work through some topics that will be on future agendas, but this meeting started with a bit of Old Business:

MOTION: Street Naming
Councillor Das brought the following motion forward in a previous meeting, but because of some scheduling issues, we only got to it now:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT city staff bring a report to council that includes a review and update to the current naming policy, with clear direction on the name selection criteria and name selection process.

There have been at least two previous motions of a similar nature in my time on Council, one asking about updating our very, very dated street naming guidance document, another asking for a review of naming policy for all City facilities. We have not seen those reports yet, so this will hopefully prompt some quicker action.

The first thing to consider is the policy guidance we use when naming a new street, square, public space, or building, as we semi-often have to do, and it seems a little ad hoc each time. The second aspect is what to do if there is a community call the change the name of an existing City asset. It would seem a simple thing to change the name of (for example) McBride Boulevard to Woodsworth Boulevard, but what does it mean for the dozens of businesses and households that now have to change their addresses? What is the formal process for that (land title office, etc.), and what are the costs? Is there an expectation that the City compensate property owners who have been impacted? I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, and we really should before we even entertain street name modernizations.

With a few Council amendments to clarify aspects of the issue Council wanted the report to cover, it was moved unanimously.

The following items were then Moved on Consent:

Approval of Terms of Reference: Reconciliation, Social Inclusion and Engagement Task Force
Late last year, Council changed our advisory committees and Task Forces up, and have a new Reconciliation, Social Inclusion and Engagement Task Force (RSIETF). This report provides the Terms of Reference for that Task Force as proposed by the Task Force members.

Release of Resolution from Closed Meeting Related to Approval for Grant Application to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream: New Westminster Aquatic and Community Hub – Active Transportation Greenways and Outdoor Play Areas
There is some stuff we talk about in closed because it involves commercially sensitive negotiations and agreements with senior governments. But if the result of these discussions result in us needing to spend money, they have to show up in the budget, so the resolution needs to be removed from Closed. In this case, we are releasing that we intend to apply for a grant for some work related to the NWACH (the weirdly-acronymic working name for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre replacement), and we are authorizing staff to enter into a finding agreement with senior government should we be successful.

457 East Columbia Street (Arcade): Rezoning and Liquor Primary Application – Bylaws for Readings
The arcade in Sapperton wants a liquor license. It has been a somewhat difficult application because it doesn’t fit neatly into any regulatory box for either the City or the Province, and licenses like this need to fit neatly in a box or the province just won’t play and the City quickly gets itself buried in paperwork as we try to guide a business through the process. We now need to amend three separate bylaws to make it work. This was further delayed just before the COVID disruption by a change in direction by the Liquor Branch over the type of license that should apply. The arcade has been operating for a couple of years on a temporary license while they get these detail worked out, no doubt causing quite a bit of stress to the operators, as a liquor license will improve their business plan.

The project has done its community engagement (again, a provincial requirement for a new Liquor Primary license) and the three Bylaw Amendments have been drafted. Council gave the Bylaws preliminary readings, and will consider adoption on November 30th. If you have opinions, let us know.

610 Sixth Street (Royal City Centre): Grease Trap Removal and Replacement – request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Save-On Foods needs to replace a critical part of their sewer infrastructure, and it has to happen at night. They need a construction noise variance to do so.

221 Townsend Place: Heritage Revitalization Agreement – Preliminary Report
There is a house on a unique lot tucked away in Queens Park that has “significant aesthetic and scientific value” (which is a use of the word “scientific” that is laughable, but I digress) where the owner would like to subdivide the lot and insert another infill house, in exchange for HRA preservation of the existing house. Essentially, they are building a full size house similar to adjacent houses on the yard portion of the property instead of a laneway house, and are subdividing.

This is a preliminary report, and will go to further public and committee review, so let us know if you have an opinion.

805 Boyd Street (Queensborough Landing): Proposed Text Amendment to the Large Format Commercial Districts (C-10) Zone to Permit a Self-Improvement School Use – Bylaw for First and Second Readings
The Queensborough Landing big-box retail extravaganza has a few empty spots, and a Kumon Learning Centre wants to open up in one of the vacant boxes. This doesn’t strictly fit the existing zoning, so they are asking for an amendment to the zoning language to allow it. It is perhaps emblematic of the entire zoning process that they had to do a “parking analysis” to determine that they had almost a thousand extra parking spaces. Parking, it’s like a drug.

We are going to waive the public hearing here and gave the project two readings. If you have opinions, send them to us.

2019 Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Update
Every year, we report on our corporate greenhouse gas emissions as part of our CARIP requirements. Our 2019 emissions were significantly less than 2018, and other than the 2017 hiccup year, we are doing a pretty good job of reducing corporate emissions – 16% below our 2010 baseline though our population and level of service has increased since then. This was on track with our previous goal, but the curve is going to have to bend much faster to get us to our 2030 target of 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. Our new CEERS will get us there.

Residential Yard Trimmings Collection and Disposal Information
It’s raking leaves season. It is important to remind residents that they should put grass, leaves, and trimmings they cannot compost on their own property or use for garden bedding into their green bin, and if they have too much for their green bin, they can put them into kraft paper bags placed next to their Green Bin. There is no limit on the number of kraft bags the City will collect for free. If you have a really large number that don’t fit easily in your regular pick-up area, contact Engineering Operations at the City, and they will arrange a special pickup for you. At no cost. Free. You can also drive your green waste to the recycling depot in Coquitlam, but why do that when we will pick them up for free?

Edit: note the above applies to single family detached only. Multi-family units that use the City’s service for green waste disposal are not, apparently, supposed to use it for yard trimmings.

User Fees and Rates Review for 2021, Amendment Bylaws for Three Readings
Here are our rates and user fees for everything from cemetery and sewer services to business licenses. Did you know we have a $76.48 charge for a business license to operate a cigarette vending machine? When is the last time you saw one of those!?

New Normal Staff Committee: 2021 Operating Budget – COVID-19 Impacts
We have a staff committee reviewing City operations and trying to plan through the next phases of the pandemic response, including a potential “return to normal”. That seems, unfortunately, still a way off, and we need to plan the 2021 budget assuming the same revenue issues that we had this year, potentially through to 2022. Even so, many operations of the City are returning, some at significantly increased cost due to pandemic safety measures, and with reduced cost recovery potential. In other words, the financial hit of COVID is still coming, and will continue for a while.

Management Oversight Committee: Westminster Pier Park – Fire Recovery Update
This is a report of the clean-up and recovery from the Pier Park fire, now that we are a month in. The clean up is complicated for a variety of environmental and jurisdictional reasons, and will be expensive. We have insurance coverage for most if not all of it, but there are a variety of details that need to be worked through both as we complete the clean up and start the planning for the post-clean up.

Right now, a significant issue is that the gate by the big W was an important emergency vehicle access to Pier Park during the dig at the Bosa site. It is hard to open the park and invite the public down there when we are not sure we can get a firetruck or ambulance onto the site if needed. We are working through some scenarios to fix that situation, so more to come.

Connaught Heights Residents’ Association Petition, 2035 London Street and 2038 Ninth Avenue, aka ‘Connaught Village Green,’
We received some correspondence from representatives of the Connaught Heights RA where they express concern that they have not been consulted about potential Affordable Housing projects in their neighbourhood. I feel the urge to reply in a similar Open Letter format to refute some of the claims being made. I want to be careful not to speak for all of Council or the City here, but in short: suggestions that we have been anything other than transparent about this process are false, and disrespectful to the staff who have worked hard and spent hours engaging with representatives of this RA. More to come.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Our regular update on the task forces the City has running in City Hall addressing Pandemic response. If you want the details of how the City is addressing the evolving needs of the community as we teeter on a second wave, the details are here.

Police Motion – Workplan and Budget for Endorsement
Back in June, we had a joint meeting between the New Westminster Police Board and City Council, and a pretty long and detailed resolution was moved by both parties that encompassed a range of potential reforms for policing in New West. Some are actions that can be taken locally (primarily by the Police Board and Police department – as Council has a very limited role here), and some are more reliant on the Provincial government making reforms to the Police Act and shifting policy and funding in areas of health, addictions, and anti-poverty.

This report provides a bit of a project plan to get these various actions implemented over the next year or so. Some aspects (exploring a pilot project in New Westminster to shift how crisis health management is addressed) will be quicker, some (i.e. those that rely on the Provincial review of the Police Act) will be a bit further down the road. More to come!

2020 City Grants: Highlights and Impact
This is a reporting out on the 2020 Community Grant program. One of the big shifts Council has done this term is to move some of the politics from our granting process by moving more of the application evaluation and award selection process over to staff with less Council input. As a governance model, this makes for more transparency and equity.

The City awarded about $950,000 (combined cash and in-kind services) in grants to 73 organizations doing great work in the arts, sports, community economic development and social support. All of this in a year where many programs were disrupted by COVID, with some programs (like festivals) simply not allowed to go forward while others were strained to provide mission-critical services to vulnerable populations. On a per capita basis, New Westminster is one of the most generous cities in direct grants to organizations in the community, but we are also fortunate to have so many effective not-for-profits in the community working hard to improve the livability or our community. Our grant program is successful because of them.

2021 Budget Process – Proposed Framework
This report outlines our public engagement process for the 2021 budget. Over the last few years, we have been increasingly ramping up public participation in our budgeting process, and we have one of the most open, transparent, and participatory budgets of any City in the lower mainland. We have already started the 2021 consultations, with more than 1,000 people taking part in our budget survey and hundreds watching out budget webinar.

The survey responses were interesting, and I rush to note this was not a scientific survey of randomly selected citizens, but a self-selected survey of what we would think of a “more engaged” cohort of citizens. Still, >1,000 is a good sample size outside of a dog park survey, and the results are at times interesting.

Appreciated the work staff are doing here, and the webinar to provide some context for the survey. I did think there are some things we could explain better – we generally do a poor job differentiating between utility fees for utility operations and other services funded by taxes. If people think maintaining water and sewer infrastructure is a high priority for tax spending, they are not understanding that virtually none of their property tax goes to that. In that sense, even the term “infrastructure” is conflating and confusing – a term so broad as to be sometimes meaningless.

I also don’t think the financial constraints related to COVID have been as clearly reported as I would like. It has been a challenge, as I recognize the sand has been shifting through the summer and fall. But we have been conservative in our spending because of that uncertainty, though much of our discussion of this has been more qualitative than quantitative – we have identified places where revenues are down and where costs have changed, but we have not had a robust discussion around those number yet. That is our work in the months ahead.

It is interesting that climate action ranked fairly low in the priorities list, and I’m not sure what that means in how we roll out a program to make some pretty fundamental shifts in how we manage greenhouse gas emissions in the City. I feel like a bit of a broken record saying it, but the Climate Action we are striving towards right now will for the most part save us money in the long run, so putting it in a budget priority is tough. I think it also tells what we have all known to be true: people want to take action on climate, they just don’t want to pay for it.

The other big part of this report that separates 2021 from previous years is that we are moving many of our budget timelines up in the calendar. By getting some work done earlier, we can have the best part of a draft budget out by the end of December instead of the February-ish thing that has become our standard.

We had two items that were late On Table Additions to the Agenda:

Release of New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre (NWACC) – Project Status Update
This is another release from closed and another ungainly acronym for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre Replacement Project (we really need to get those figured out). The short story here is that the pause in the process for the pool replacement project has now been unpaused and we are getting our ducks in a row to go to procurement.

There is more to talk about here, and as I mentioned above, we are not out of the woods as far as COVID impacts on our operations, but at some point we need to decide to pull the trigger on the pool or go very far back on the drawing board and lose not only momentum, but much of the value we have invested in planning and design. We are also going to face some decisions about very necessary and very expensive repairs to the existing Canada Games Pool in a few years as major building and mechanical components reach end-of-life. If we don’t have a new pool ready by then, we run the risk of not having a pool for a significant period of time. So it is time for us to test the construction market in these uncertain times and get a procurement process going. Hopefully, we will be able to give a final go-ahead in January, losing only a couple of months to the COVID delay.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Framework –Statement of Work
This is the report coming out of the discussion we had in the afternoon Workshop outlining the work plan for the DEIAR we are planning to implement in the City. Good stuff here, and a wide-reaching public engagement process in the community is going to be rolled out over the net month. Please join in and let us know what you think!

Finally, we had one Bylaw for Adoption:

Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 8220, 2020
The Bylaw that allows permissive property tax exemptions for a variety of non-profits and community service agencies was adopted by Council.

And that was the work for the night. See you in November, Happy Halloween. Stay safe, stay spooky.


Are we all enjoying the election?

Looking back, I haven’t actually posted much here about the election. I always get push-back from a few of the readers of this blog that they hate when I get all political and partisan, and just want me to report out on what the City is doing. Commonly, it includes some line like “you are elected to represent the *entire* City not just the lefties”! To which I feel I need to reference the parable of the scorpion and the frog. I’m a politician, I have been blogging about politics since long before I got elected. I have been partisan at times, and critical at times of parties and politicians I actually support. It would be disingenuous for me to put aside my understanding and opinions of public policy when the writ drops. caveat lector.

There is still a week to go, but so far the surprise of the election for me is the lack of surprise in this election. The NDP started with a substantial lead in the polls, and though there was some early correction-to-the-mean, there doesn’t seem to be much of a shift.

As we all learned in 2013, campaigns matter, and the BC Liberal campaign is somewhere between not-where-it-needs-to-be and full-on-dumpster-fire. The Green leader has deftly and swiftly shifted her party’s policy leanings to the left to take up some room vacated by the NDP, but it does not seem to be making an impact on the polling public. The Conservative collapse and retreat to their BC Liberal fall-back was predictable, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of last-minute tightening up of the front runners, if for no other reason than to keep viewers and voters awake. But the Libs need more than that. The knives coming out and discussion of Wilkinson’s leadership happening with a week still to go before the election is telling of a “broad tent” coalition without a guiding principle other than hating the other guys getting nowhere (something the NDP would be well served to keep in mind for next election).

One thing I have found interesting his election is (dispassionately?) observing the difference between incumbent campaigns and opposition campaigns. The Liberals especially have needed to re-frame their message significantly from three years ago, and austerity is not front and centre for anyone. But I still haven’t seen any interesting ideas challenging status quo this election. I suspect the NDP don’t need it, the Liberals are not capable, and the Greens are just not loud enough.

One media tool that hasn’t perhaps received as much attention this year as last election in my circles is the CBC Vote Compass. This data aggregator works a bit like a political Myer-Briggs test: you answer some questions to tell them what you think, and it spits back at you some summary of what you think after pressing it through some vague filtering mechanism. Mostly, it distills your complex political landscape into a pithy and compelling graphic that washes out all subtlety. Of course, I dutifully answered my questions and here is my politics sifted down to a single Cartesian point:

There are parts of this that feel accurate to me, no doubt because it was based on my own input. I think of myself as a little more left/progressive than the BCNDP (2020 version at least). The BCLibs supposedly-broad tent is well outside of my campsite; no surprise there. I also think of myself more socially progressive than the BCGreens (2020), but cannot rectify their allegedly being more economically “left” than I am.

I am going to skip over for now the entire can of worms that is drawing a divide between social policy and economic policy. It is, in the technical term, bullshit. Social policy *is* economic policy, and vice versa. Much smarter people than me have plumbed those depths, no point rehashing here. There is also a conceit in thinking that these two axes are the only ones, or even the most important ones, in people’s political narrative. Wherefore the Urbanist?

Instead, I want to pull up this image I dredged up from my archives of a Vote Compass I completed during the 2017 provincial election. I think it shows that not only is the Vote Compass a black box, but the apparently-simply graphic it outputs is not without its own political bias:

Though I have learned quite a bit (I think) in the last three years about reconciliation, have been challenged by BLM and related Canadian protests, and emboldened perhaps by the Climate Strikes, I don’t think my political ideas and ideals have shifted significantly since 2017. My position slightly left/progressive of the “center” of the NDP is probably as true now as then. But notice the axes around which the three parties have been aligned have shifted dramatically.

In the (upper) 2020 Compass, the NDP have been placed at the economic centre, when in 2017 (lower) they were well left of it – almost half way to the edge of the grid. The Liberals have in 3 years been pushed further right of the “centre”. Did the parties move, or the axes? Are these axes meant to represent some societal or political consensus? If not, then what are they?

The social axis is even more interesting. The Liberals are shown not shifting relative to this axis (which is arguable when comparing Christy Clark to Andrew Wilkinson in their ability to keep Laurie Throness quiet), where both the NDP and the Greens have been shifted markedly away from the “progressive” end of the spectrum towards the centre. I was bothered by where the Andrew Weaver Greens were placed on the 2017 grid, especially relative to the NDP because their policy and messaging simply did not reflect that, but the 2020 Greens under Furstenau have clearly staked out a more progressive agenda which simply isn’t reflected in this graphic.

The shift in Party poles vs. axes between the 2017 and 2020 CBC Vote Compass.

Put it all together, and the Vote Compass is showing a shift of all parties and me, or of the centre. Is this real? Is this an artifact of public opinion, of party policy shifts, of media bias, or just a freak of an algorithm?

Yes, I am reading too much into this. But political communications is all about reading too much into things. Now go vote.

Magic Bus

Here’s my get out and vote blog post, which often turns into a do more than vote blog post.

I heard from a few different sources this year a metaphor of democracy being like a bus, not a limo service. A bus doesn’t pick you up at your door, take the fastest route, and drop you at your destination. It can’t, because everyone else in your community needs the bus as well. The way public transit works is you find the bus that does the best job of getting you from where you are to near where you want to be, and take that ride. So it is with politics. It would be very rare for any party to promise 100% of what you want this or any election. It can’t, because government is a complicated thing with countless competing priorities, and governance is managing the balance between those priorities. Promising you everything means they will fail to deliver anything. You need to find the party (or candidate) that is going as close to the direction you want to go, and get on that bus. Because democracy is a collective action, even while voting is a solitary one.

I like that metaphor simile. But I want to expand on it, as is my wont.

When you rely on Transit, you don’t just jump on the first bus that comes along, or the bus your dad used to ride. If you don’t know what direction you want to go, it is tempting to hop on the shiniest bus. Without knowing the routes, however, you may be getting on a bus that suddenly turns down a strange road and leaves you lost in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. Spend a few minutes looking at platforms (they are all available on line), look at a few candidates, see what hey have to say and what their resumes tell you about their priorities. Ask your friends who they support and why. Doing your research beforehand is a really important part of the voting process, and increases the chances you will be satisfied with your choice, win or lose.

That said, voting is only the first part. Public Transportation is public, because it belongs to us. So does our democracy. We have the ability, and I would argue the responsibility, to assure the routes available meet our needs. We need to engage in our democracy even when the election is not on to assure the direction the parties go reflect where we want to go.

That means holding elected officials to account and staying informed on their progress. It also means providing positive and critical feedback to the elected officials you support and their parties, be they in Government or Opposition. If you have time, get involved in that party you supported, plop down your $10 to join the party and help them make decisions about their policy direction. Help them select candidates. If you like Party X but don’t like their position on Y, you need to let them know. The best way to change their policy on Y – the best way to get the bus route moved closer to your destination – is to be an engaged member outside of the election cycle.

Finally, one of the unique things visitors note about Vancouver is our tendency to thank the bus driver as we disembark. I think it is important that we thank the people who make our democracy work. The candidates who put their ideas to the public test, and put themselves into the public light. I know it is not an easy thing to do, the praise is fleeting and the criticism is internalized. It is a sacrifice that needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. There are also teams of volunteers who make the campaigns run, from lawn sign installers to phone callers to pamphlet stuffers to financial agents. Our democracy wouldn’t run without them, but we rarely note their efforts. Thanks, everyone.

So get out and vote, but also do the rest of the work to be a good transit rider, and a good citizen. We are all on the bus together, so mask up, be informed, be engaged, and be thankful.


I don’t really remember when I first met Kevin, it was long enough ago. His brother and I were thrown together on a curling team at the Burnaby Winter Club back in the mid-90s, and have been curling together (off and on and the geography of our lives allowed) since. I suspect Kev joined us some time in the late 1990s, but I surely must have met him before that. I guess that doesn’t matter.

Kev and I were the same age, about the same skill level at curling, and I liked being his teammate. Both on the ice where our kinda-serious-but-not-good-enough-to-take-ourselves-too-seriously attitudes were aligned, and in the club after games. I may have been more serious back then, but he was probably more realistic. Through various men’s and mixed set-ups and in random bonspiels, Kevin and I played together a lot for a few years, almost always with his brother. When his time became more precious with family and stuff, he concentrated on mixed and we didn’t play together for a few years, but a couple of years ago, he joined us again playing men’s at the Royal City Club. Honestly, he was throwing better than ever.

Well, maybe not ever. There was that season at the Coquitlam Curling Club back in 2004 when we all seemed to come together in March. A team firing on all cylinders, we managed to win the Club Championship (a just-ok team in a just-ok club), and qualified through the regional club championship tournament to represent at the Pacific International Cup. At the time, this was about the biggest competition a club curler without dreams of Brier glory could qualify for. We played the national teams of Pacific Rim nations, and even won a few games. We weren’t just good, we were just good enough. Our hungover come-from-behind upset of Team Korea will probably be the highlight of my curling career. But that’s a story for over beers, shared often. We got the patch.

The thing is, the reason Kev was such a great teammate wasn’t the wins (they were too few and far between to sustain us), it was the celebration/ lamentation time of post-game beers. We always laughed, at ourselves, at each other. We debated the state of the world, and the obvious solutions. It is worth noting that Kev and I both had a lot of political opinions, free to share, louder as the night went on, but *never*agreed on politics. We had fun finding the flaws in each other’s ideas, sometimes sulked in our beers when it was us who got called out. Always we laughed.

For a while, we were members of what I sometimes called our Winter Triathlon Team: curling, hockey and poker. We played them all with varying skill, mostly as excuses to drink beer and scotch and bust balls. Kev was easily the best poker player of our group, just a solid, smart player of the cards without the aggressive bluster of his brother or my over-optimistic dumb luck. He was always just there with a surprising number of chips at the end.

This was offset by him being – and I apply no undeserved hyperbole here – the worst hockey player I have ever seen. He only seemed to be able to glide with one skate, pushing himself along with the other in a curler-type gait. He stopped when he got to the boards, the stick was really only there to provide a third point for balance. His zone play was similar to the tykes who play during the first period break at Canucks games, but he wasn’t as fast. Kev was bad at hockey, but he showed up every week and played, and we were lucky to have him on our team. We laughed.

Shortly before the entire Gong Show Hockey Club enterprise fell apart, he appeared not in the dressing room, but in the stands – and I still remember the game. His girlfriend wearing an engagement ring.

Kev, in those early years I knew him, didn’t have great luck in love. Girlfriends, but nothing that stuck. Then he met Jen, and it was over. They were married in a year, he traded his sports car (“more show than go”) for a minivan and the kids started arriving. I saw him less, but it was clear he was never so happy as when he was spending time with Jen and the kids. He grew up in a close family, they all worked the family business and his brother and his parents seemed like his best friends. Maybe its the Mennonite roots, but I think having his own family was the part of his life that mattered most to him. Being a dad was what he most wanted to spent time doing. You ask him about the kids, and you got that Kev smile. Contentment might be the right word.

When Kev got sick a couple of years ago, it looked really bad right away. Every cancer journey is different, and his was a fucking roller coaster. Bad diagnosis, great response to therapy, sudden setback, excellent response to a new drug, bad side effects, the whole shitty range. Through it all, he was forever pragmatic. It seemed he was the most positive guy in the room, and at times it looked like he may pull it off. In the end, best of science had no more help to give. He died at home this week in relative comfort with his family he loved so much by his side. There is some mercy in that.

Fifty-one years isn’t enough time.

Budget Survey

The City’s Budget is something everyone has an opinion on, even those who don’t think of it in that way. When people say “the City should fix the sidewalks”, “do more about homelessness”, “get back to the basics” or “extend the Hume Pool season”, they are making comments about the budget. However, few discussions around services put budget at the centre of the item, except at the time of the year when the Council is asked to set a tax rate for the year ahead.

We have always asked people to comment on the budget, and every year there is a public report and Opportunity to be Heard on the final budget decisions (always framed around “next year’s tax increase”), but this is commonly after all of the heavy lifting of putting the budget together has happened, and the details of how we got there are not transparent enough for meaningful input.

The result of this, as I have previously joked, is that the community spends 11 months asking the City (and Council) to do more things, then spends a month telling us to not raise taxes to fund those things. Local governments really aren’t able to operate at deficits, so this form of feedback is not particularly useful for guiding policy. Part of that is because much of how the City’s budget works is arcane, and we need to change this.

One effort the City has undertaken in the last couple of years has been to try to make our budgeting process less arcane. Followers of this Blog (hi Mom!) know this is an interest of mine – I spend probably more time than is useful talking about taxes and busting some of the myths about how New Westminster taxes compare to our cohort. Past of that effort was my own research to better understand how our budget works so I can make more informed decisions about it. Thing is, Municipal finance is a complicated thing.

This was identified a few years ago as an area where the City should improve its Public Engagement efforts, and over the last couple of budget cycles we have been changing how we ask for input to the budget. Doing it sooner, adding an education component to guide more useful feedback, and trying to get a more diverse group of residents and stakeholders involved in the conversation.

We are at the beginning phases of the 2021 budget process. It starts around now and works towards a final budget being prepared in early May. This is obviously a different year than most, as both our revenues and our expenses were very different than we projected prior to the pandemic. Rectifying that in our 2021 budget, and understanding how to project forward with an uncertain pandemic recovery is going to be a challenge. However, we are still ramping up our public engagement on this topic. If you are the kind of person who read this far into this blog, you probably are the kind of person who has feedback to the City on the budget process.

Here is what you can do:

Go to the city’s Budget Engagement website. There you will see links to background information you may want. You will also find links to:

Watch the webinar and/or read the power point deck, again to provide a bit more background, and to hear a Q&A session with residents asking questions you may have had.

Most importantly, fill out the survey! There is a relatively quick survey to get your initial feedback about how the City should prioritize spending in the year ahead, and to see how the public feels about that services/costs balance that the City is always trying to manage.

As I mentioned above, the City is really trying to get a wider variety of feedback on this stuff. I know there are a few people out there who fill out every public engagement opportunity the City has (sit down, Brad!), but I am hoping those of you who are reluctant to spend 5 minutes on an online survey will take the time, or that you vocal types will, after filling it out yourself, pass this on to some other people in your household or social circle to add diversity to the voices we hear from. The survey is open until October 18th, so this is a great family Thanksgiving activity!

All I’m asking for…

Transportation is one of the biggest files in provincial government. Though annual operational spending on the operations of transportation (transit, ferries, roads total just over $2 Billion) in BC is an order of magnitude lower than the Big Three of Health, Education, and Social Services, the combined annual capital expenditure of transport and transit (also about $2 Billion) is actually higher than any other service area in provincial government.

Transportation spending and policy also have huge impacts on two of the issues that all (rational) parties agree are top-of-the-heap right now: housing affordability and climate action. So why is there so little meaningful transportation policy, aside from stuck-in-the-1950s asphalt-based solutions? The two major parties do admittedly spend a little time arguing about who will build the shiniest new freeways or save drivers the most on their insurance costs, and the Greens transportation policy is a vapour-thin “support” for sustainable transportation. It’s dismal.

This is not to say the two major parties are equivalent on transportation. Far from it. The BC Liberals spent 16 years doing everything they could to punt transit spending down the road, including wasting everyone’s time with a referendum to decide if we would fund such a basic public good while racing to fund the biggest freeway boondoggle in BC history, and promising to fund another. The NDP, for as much as I hate their stubborn refusal to understand road pricing and its necessity in growing and constrained urban areas, have at last prioritized transit expansion.

The best evidence for this is that the TransLink area is receiving much more federal capital funding per capita than any other region in Canada right now, partly because we had the shovel-ready “green” projects, but mostly because our Provincial Government quickly committed to matching funding at a scale no other Province would. SkyTrain to Langley and UBC fans may (rightly, in my mind) argue this is still not enough or soon enough, but it is more than any other region in the country is building right now.

But that’s not what I’m here to whinge about.

As vital as transit is to our growing region, it is the Active Transportation realm where we are falling behind our global cohort. This last year has made it painfully clear to local governments in urban areas. As we shift how we live, shop, and work in the post-COVID recovery, and as there has been a quiet revolution in new technology for local transportation, cities simply cannot keep up. We spent the best part of a century reshaping our Cities around the needs of the private automobile, but we won’t have decades to undo that. We need to quickly re-think our infrastructure, and re-think our policy regime if we are going to meet the demands of the 21st century urban centre and our commitments to address GHG emissions. This is our challenge. The province could help.

I see no sign that any provincial government understands that, and none look prepared to address it. The NDP are the only one that has put together stand-alone policy on active transportation, so kudos there, but it simply does not go far enough. No party in this election is talking about helping local governments make the transportation shift that we need to make, or what the vision forward is.

So now that we are through the first part of the election and are deep into the lets-try-to-keep-them-awake-with-Oppo-research-mud-slinging second act, I thought I would sketch out my ideal Active Transportation Policy. Free for the taking for a Provincial Party that cares about the transportation needs of the 65% of British Columbians who live in large urban areas (though these policies may be even more useful for the people who live in smaller communities less able to fund their own Active Transportation initiatives). Share and enjoy!

The Provincial MOTI should have a separate fund for Active Transportation infrastructure in municipal areas. Using the projected cost of a single freeway expansion project (the Massey Tunnel replacement) as a scale, $4 Billion over 10 years is clearly something parties think is affordable. This would represent about 15% of MOTI capital funding over that decade.

If handed out through grants to appropriate projects to local governments across the province on a per-capita basis, that would mean up to $57 Million for New West – enough to complete a true AAA separated cycle network, triple our annual sidewalk and intersection improvement program, and still have enough left over to pay for the Pier-to-Landing route. It means Burnaby would have the money to bring the BC Parkway up to 21st century standards and connect their other greenways, it would mean Richmond could finally afford to fix the bucolic death trap that is River Road.

Give the Cities the resources to make it happen, and it would make British Columbia the North American leader in active transportation infrastructure. For the cost of one silly bridge.

Active Transportation Guidelines
Update and adapt the Active Transportation Design Guide with new sections to address new needs in transportation: new devices, new technologies, and reduced speeds of automobiles.

Make the guidelines standards that local governments must meet to receive funding above, and make requirements for all new MOTI infrastructure in the Province. No more bullshit hard shoulders as bike lanes, fund infrastructure that works.

Repeal and replace the 1950s Motor Vehicle Act following the recommendations of the Road Safety Law Reform Group of British Columbia, starting with the re-framing as a Road and Streets Safety Act to emphasize the new multi-modal use of our transportation realm.

Immediately reduce the maximum speed limits on any urban road without a centreline to 30km/h, and give local governments the authority to increase this limit where appropriate.

Introduce measures to regulate and protect the users of bicycles, motorized mobility aids, e-bikes, scooters and other new mobility technology, including a Safe Passing law and regulations towards the clear separation of cycles and motorized cycles from pedestrian spaces along with clearly mandated rules and responsibilities for use to reduce conflict in multi-use spaces.

Implement driver knowledge testing with licence renewal. The Motor Vehicle Act has changed in the 30 years since I was last asked to test my knowledge of it (self-test – what are elephant feet, and what do they mean?) and it will be changing much more in years to come. Written/in office testing for all drivers with every 5-year renewal is a first step, and road testing for those with poor driving records will do a lot to bring back a culture of driving as a responsibility not a right.

Fund cycling and pedestrian safety program in all schools, similar to the cycling training the City of New Westminster funds through HUB.

A comprehensive review of the fine and penalty structure for Motor Vehicle Act (or it’s replacement) violations, to emphasize more punitive measures for those who violate the Act in ways that endanger vulnerable road users.

Empower local governments to install intersection and speed enforcement camera technology and provide a cost recovery scheme for installation of this type of automated enforcement for municipalities who choose to use them.

That’s it. Engineering, education, and enforcement. Operational costs are mostly directly recoverable, and the capital investment is not only small compared to the MOTI capital budget, it is in scale with the mode share of active transportation in urban areas. The legislative changes are not free, but the resultant savings to ICBC and the health care system of reduced injury and death should be significant.

We can do these things. We should do these things. Our cities will be safer, more livable, and less polluting. This is an area where BC can lead, we just need someone willing to lead.

Council – Oct 5, 2020

It was a busy September, and one that went by fast, but now that Council has its groove back, we went so far as to have Public Delegations for the first time since society fell apart back in March. We also had a relatively tight agenda:

The first item was Unfinished business postponed form the post-fire meeting of September 14:

Overdose Prevention Site and Safe Supply Program: Update
The City has been addressing the Overdose / Poisoned Drug Supply Crisis in the limited ways we can as a local government. Much of this is not readily visible to most residents, such as supporting making Naloxone more readily available in the community and changing the way first responders respond to overdose reports. Fundamentally a public health concern, we recognize that the provincial government needs to lead here and have the resources of two Ministries to apply to this challenge. However, we have a New Westminster Overdose Community Action Team established in 2018, and have been taking many measures informed by them, which are reported out in this staff report. Clearly, it is not enough.

With this in mind, I was grateful to receive a report in Council from representatives of Fraser Health to talk about their role, and hoe we can work together to implement proven life-saving measures of overdose prevention sites and a secure safe supply. These are vitally needed in New Westminster (and indeed around the region), as the illicit drug supply is still poisoned and the risk for people who use these substances is still increasing. It appears that funding will be made available for a combined safe consumption site and health contact centre, and the search is currently on for a non-profit provider. No location has yet been determined, and there will likely need to be a Temporary Use Permit or Rezoning to facilitate this use, so more to come. There are also ongoing shifts in how the safe supply program is being rolled out, and this fundamental shift of how we address opioids and stimulants in our community could be the thing that turns the tide on the death rate related to the poisoned supply.

The following items were Moved on Consent:

Release of Resolutions from Closed Meeting Related to DreamsWon Project Proposal
Not much to say about this. A Developer has some (at times unclear) ideas about a major development in the Fraserview area, and has been communicating with people in the neighbourhood about it. However, the City has not yet received a formal application on that project, so we can’t really respond – and certainly cannot enter into any kind of partnership deal with the developer – until we get a submission to the planning department, preferably one that meets the requirements for a Pre-Application Review.

Small Sites Affordable Housing Initiative: Connaught Heights Next Steps
As part of our Small Sites program where affordable housing projects have been built on City lands in Downtown and Queensborough, staff evaluated two bare City-owned lots in Connaught Heights to see if a project could fit there. Turns out that the Crown Land Grant for one of the pieces of property was not registered on Title in the 1960s (therefore, a preliminary title search by the City did not disclose it), and was not discharged as planned back in the 1970s (for reasons unknown). So the property at 2038 Ninth Ave is encumbered. Short of buying the land grant out, it would be hard for a non-profit housing provider to use this land for an affordable housing project. So staff is going to go back to applicants to see if a smaller project can be penciled out on the adjacent unencumbered piece of land. If not, then we will put our energy and time into other sites in the City (though we are running out of City-owned lands to put housing on).

Metro Vancouver Sewer Inspections: Request for Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption
Some types of sewer work can only happen at night when flows are low. We need to give a Construction Noise exemption to allow that work to happen at night when flow are low.

User Fees and Rates Review
Aside from taxes, the City collects fees for various things, from cemetery services to parking meters. We review all of these fees every year and they are adjusted to keep up with inflation (e.g. increasing Highway Use fees by 2% in 2020), to better reflect the cost of providing the service (e.g. increased cost for replacement garbage carts this year), or just to better reflect policy goals behind the fees (increasing annual permit fees for preferential car storage on public space as per Council’s 2019 policy review). We need a Bylaw to officially set these fees for the 2021 budget year.

Recruitment 2020: Appointment of Grant Committee Members
The City has streamlined its Grants process, and now has three grant streams. When applications for these grants are received, we have a Committee of citizens review them with the help of staff and make recommendations to Council on how to allocate grant funds. We had a call for volunteers, and have no appointed members to those committees.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Update and Progress from the Five Task Forces
Our regular report on the Task Forces we set up to address COVID response in the City sees that many of them are winding down activity or are just tracking along as needed. One concern is that funds from senior governments that were supporting some of the programs for vulnerable populations are starting to dry up, and we will need to make decisions about continuing some of these programs.

Update to Interim COVID-19 Food Truck Policy
We will continue the reduced Food Truck program until spring. I’m a little disappointed that we are not more supportive of street activating initiatives at a time when people are shifting how they use public spaces. I fundamentally don’t believe that a healthy Food Truck economy in the City takes away from other food service businesses, but actually enhances them by creating a more vibrant food scene. My view of this is that we went through a multi-year community and business engagement process to set the Food Truck Program up, and I hate shifting gears on it just as it starts to build steam. That said the request here is to extend the step-back until the spring, and continue to allow the few Food Trucks that are already licensed to continue to operate with minor restrictions. I hope by the spring when we are next going to review this policy, we hear more from the community about what food trucks and street activation by local businesses mean to the community. In other words, if you like food trucks, better let Council know.

Relocation of Digital Signage as a Result of the Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project, and Related Public Outreach Program
I hate these signs. I said so back (before I was elected) when they were installed, and I’ve not wavered from that. They are eyesores, an intrusion into our public realm, and create strange political controversy whenever someone decides to advertise something that offends other people but nonetheless meets federal advertising guidelines which ends up putting City leaders or bureaucrats in to the role of moral arbiter of free speech. Mostly, it offends me that public resources are used to suck up cheap advertising revenue to pay for public services because we won’t raise taxes to pay for those community services. But indeed they pull in revenue, $1.4M in 2019 (which is equal to about 1.6% of property taxes we collect in the City). So here we are.

As the Pattullo construction is happening, we need to move one of the signs. Staff and the sign operation company found a location that met the needs of the contract, but this relocation still presents to me problems, as the new location to me appears to shine into the residential properties in a way the previous location did not. Council asked staff to do further review to determine if there are better options.

Finally, we had a couple of Bylaws for Adoption:

Heritage Designation (219 Manitoba Street) Bylaw No. 8065, 2020
Heritage Designation (221 Manitoba Street) Bylaw No. 8070, 2020

As discussed last Public Hearing, these Bylaws that afford permanent Heritage Protection to two homes re-located to a recently-subdivided lot in Queens Park were adopted by Council.

Next council meeting is after Thanksgiving and after another significant event. Until then, be safe, be calm, be kind, and vote!

CEERS 2020

We had a report at the September 28th Council meeting that I mentioned in my blog, but skipped past the details of, because I think it was too important a report to bury in a long boring Council Report. This is the Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy (CEERS).

The City has two roles in addressing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the Paris Agreement goals that the City, the province, and the nation have all stated they intend to meet. One is making it possible for our community (residents, businesses, industry) to meet the goals, which is addressed through a Community Energy and Emissions Plan (“CEEP”). The second is managing our own corporate emissions, those created by the City in operating its own buildings and fleet. The CEERS is our updated plan to deal with this second part.

This CEERS replaces an older plan that was adopted in 2008 and reduced our emission by 12% over the last decade. CEERS 2020 outlines the strategy to get us to our newly stated and ambitious goals – reduce emissions to 45% below our 2010 baseline by 2030 as the first step towards a 100% reduction by 2050. I think the most important part of any climate policy is that we set goals within a viewable horizon – ones we need to take action on *now* to achieve, because as bold as 100% by 2050 is, the 30 year timeframe gives too much cover to those willing to kick climate action down the road.

This Strategy lays out a clear path to get our building and fleet emissions to our 2030 goal. Replacing the Canada Games Pool with a zero-carbon building will be a huge step, but there are 13 other buildings in the City that would see energy and emissions reduction measures soon. This would reduce our building emissions by 55%, and would pay us back in energy savings within 10 years. We are also going to be taking a much more aggressive approach to electrification of our vehicle fleet to reduce those emissions by 30%, both by buying electric vehicles, and by updating our infrastructure to provide charging to these vehicles. With these two strategies and continued improvement on smaller-emission sources like street lighting and wastewater, we can get to our 45% goal by 2030.

That doesn’t mean we will be done in 2030. We will then have harder work to do to find a path to carbon-neutrality that we are aspiring towards in our Bold Step #1. Things like deep retrofits of some other buildings in the City, exploring alternate energy sources (renewable gas, hydrogen, solar, etc.) and creating an offset program through reforestation or other strategies. We can also anticipate that technology will catch up to our goals in the decade ahead, making the next steps a little easier. For example, it is simply not viable to have all-electric or hydrogen fuel cell fire truck fleet today, but we will be relying on those types of changes to emerge after 2030 when those deeper reductions are needed. So if we are going beyond just picking low-hanging fruit now, we are still harvesting the riper fruit.

There is a lot of great policy in here aside from just purchasing changes. We are going to start internally pricing carbon at $150/Tonne. This means we will account for our internal emissions, and use that value to inform our purchasing programs for new equipment. This value (about $650,000/yr based on 2020 emissions) will go into a Climate Reserve Fund to help pay for carbon reduction projects. This both provides internal incentive for departments to find lower-emission approaches (as the cost comes out of your departments budget) and provides us a clear fund and budget line item to apply to emergent projects.

Overall, the cost of implementing this plan is about $13.5M, though much of it is already included in our 5-year capital plan. To put that number into context, we annually spend about $700,000 on fossil fuels (gasoline, diesel, propane) for our current fleet, and energy to heat and service our two dozen buildings (pools, rec centres, City Hall, etc.) is about $1.2 Million per year. It doesn’t take complicated math to recognize that reductions in these costs will rapidly offset the capital costs invested today. With interest rates as low as they are, and senior governments telegraphing their intent to support this type of green infrastructure renewal with grants, the time is now. The City Council of 2030 will be saving a lot of money because of the commitment we make today.

We are going to get there. We can get there. To delay any further would be irresponsible.

UA Public Hearing

We had another public hearing last week, this one on a Wednesday. As we were still getting our remote public hearing process smoothed out, and we were not sure how many people were going to show up for a few of these items, staff decided the prudent more wat to split the hearing into two nights to assure more people had the opportunity to take part.

In the end, it went really smoothly, and both people “Zooming” in and those phoning in seemed to navigate the process well, so that’s a positive. Now for the ranty part:

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8211, 2020 re 466 Rousseau Street: Urban Academy
The application was to change the language of the zoning bylaw specific to this site to allow an increase in student space for the relatively new Urban Academy private school from 450 students to 550 students. This would include a small addition to the top floors of the building which are consistent with the existing zoning, and the use is already consistent with the OCP – so the application was really about student numbers, not building shape or use.

We received about 50 pieces of correspondence, and had about two dozen people speak to the Public Hearing. The overwhelming majority of both were parents of students at Urban Academy who supported the increase. The smaller number of people who opposed the project were Lower Sapperton residents who universally spoke about traffic issues related to the existing school.

I am not worried about the changes in the building, as they are consistent with the Official Community Plan land use designation for the site and density permitted under the existing Comprehensive Development District.

My read of the traffic study is that UA is mostly compliant with the conditions set out in the previous rezoning, though a small number of non-complaint members of the community are creating some issues on Rousseau Street. I cannot help but point out that this is the issue in every school in New Westminster, be it public or private. Like most residents, I see it every day in school zones, and we hear constant complaints from neighbors and concerned parents that *other parents* cannot be trusted to follow rules or respect public safety when dropping off or picking up their kids at schools. In my (bike) commute, the most dangerous place is always the school zone I have to pass through. That is clearly not unique to this school, or the New West. What is unique is that UA is committing to more action to address it than any other school in our community. I have no confidence it can be fixed in any school in our community until people in cars stop driving dangerously, but the trend is moving the other direction on that front, so what can we do?

What we cannot do is stop providing schools because drivers cannot be mindful of the vulnerable road users around them. I think this school (along with all the others) have work to do to improve compliance. I think that we need stronger enforcement of driving laws by the police and greater penalties for these seemingly harmless “little” violations of traffic laws that accumulate into a dangerous situation as part of a larger effort to shift driving the culture back to one of responsibility instead of privilege. I would 100% support making all street parking (including pickup and drop off) illegal on any street abutting a school property and the School district funding the kind of Transportation Demand Management for their staff that we are asking of Urban Academy and Fraser Health. But if people get angry about school drop off safety, wait till you see how they react if we take away an iota of free car storage.

Other people’s cars suck. That is the one constant in local government. Everyone wants traffic “fixed”, but very few are willing to accept the solutions. or to even accept that they are the traffic they want fixed. Based on the outrage many comfortably car-reliant UA neighbours expressed when the City dared to even slightly reduce the incentive to drive on a single block of an adjacent street, the bigger solutions seem very far out of reach for us. All that to say, we are not going to fix traffic by preventing this school from having more students, and 100 more students is not going to make the traffic any more dangerous.

Now, onto the slightly more veiled comments made during the public hearing about private schools. I don’t like them. I am irritated that public funds support them, and infuriated that Christy Clark changed the rules so we cannot collect property taxes from them. But there is clearly no provincial party brave enough to do anything about that, so they are here to stay. What I will not accept is people asking a local city council to put impediments into their path as some sort of valid way to address this issue.

I think it is inappropriate to use zoning as a way to block a perfectly legitimate business from operating because we don’t like the brand of cars the customers drive. My role as a City Councilor in reviewing a zoning application is to manage land use. We have already agreed that “school” is an appropriate land use for this site, and if we agree that 550 students is an appropriate size of school for the site, then raising concerns about the erosion of public education is a policy download to a city council that already has enough to do, and is something you should instead be demanding from your provincial government. There’s an election on, this is a great time to make that case. If you start a petition, let me know where to sign.

Ultimately, this is a zoning and land use question. We have already agreed it is appropriate for a school, I feel that an urban campus 400m from a SkyTrain and major transportation hub is the right place for a school this size, and so I supported the bylaw. Council voted in a split vote to support the application.