Ask Pat: War on Gas?

Happy Family Day Weekend. It gave be a chance to catch some breathe and look at my Ask Pat queue. The first one I found is pretty long, so I edited it back a bit and will break it into three parts:

FossilFool asks—

Hi Pat, I’ve been inspired and challenged lately by the book, A Good War, by Seth Klein, about how we can look to how Canada responded to WWII as an example of how we could mobilize the country to respond to the climate emergency like an actual emergency.

Not a question yet, but let me interject to say: Me too! I have not only read it, I have marked up, flagged, and taken extensive notes about it:

I did this because I had the challenging job of interviewing Klein as part of the 2021 Lower Mainland LGA conference. The book is incredibly well researched, and so full of both historical facts and compelling ideas that engaging the author in a conversation about it is a bit intimidating to a lowly Earth Scientist. But it definitely tells a different story that we usually read about WW2. Not of the soldiers that put on uniforms, but of the leaders in government and in industry that saw an existential threat and – in less than a year –  completely restructured the Canadian economy to address that threat. Perhaps as amazing (and I’d suggest a better comparable to the Climate Emergency as we come out of a global pandemic) how once the threat was abated, the country immediately and completely restructured its economy once again to stop making so many weapons, and to instead assure people had education, jobs, homes and pensions in the post-year period.

The historical record is amazing, and Klein does a good job drawing parallels (and addressing contrasts) to the current existential threat, and does not leave the question of why we are unable to respond as we did then unexplored. Perhaps surprisingly non-partisan and clear on the positive role capitalism can play in driving change (though he spares little empathy for neo-Liberalism), he nonetheless makes a clear case that it is only bold leadership that is missing. It’s a good read, and a good message.

It seems clear that we need to get off of fossil fuels FAST to really make any significant impact in slowing/limiting climate change. The City of Vancouver has some ambitious goals to get homes to switch entirely away from natural gas, and I’m wondering if other municipalities like New West will soon follow?

Some municipalities like New West are signaling that goal (see Bold Step 3: Carbon Free Homes and Buildings), but Vancouver is in a unique situation, which is why this is an area they are able to take real leadership. Because of their unique enabling legislation, the Vancouver Charter, that City has the ability to regulate its own building code. That means they have the authority to say “we will not permit gas appliances in new builds”. New West and other Municipalities do not have that power. We would need the province to grant us this ability.

Lacking this stick, we still have access to some carrots. This means local government programs to coordinate or add to senior government and industry incentives to switch to electricity. We can also use the greater flexibility in the Step Code to incent change to carbon-free energy. The Step Code is a provincial energy efficiency standard applied to new buildings. Local Governments have the authority to choose which “step” new buildings have to meet, each higher step meaning higher efficiency of the building, but also meaning higher building cost and possibly other compromises in the design of the building. A creative use of the Step Code would allow builders to build a less efficient building (therefore saving money) if they choose only non-carbon appliances for the building. The resultant building may use a bit more energy over its lifetime, but with New West’s electricity effectively zero-carbon, this might be a good bridge to accelerate the transition off fossil gas. This is the path New West is following, starting with “Part 3” buildings, and (knock on wood) coming to other building types soon:

I checked out the EnergySave New West page and can see that there are a bunch of rebates being offered for energy efficiency upgrades, but I was surprised to see that many of them are actually incentivizing changes that still rely on natural gas. If we need to get off of burning fossil fuels period to address climate change, why are we still talking about energy efficiency upgrades that don’t actually achieve that? I’d love to get your thoughts on this. Thanks for your time and for your great blog!

Yes, there are still incentives for people who want to get more efficient gas appliances such as modern furnaces and instant-water heaters to replace hot water tanks. Energy Save New West points people at incentives offered by the City and those offered by the Province, BC Hydro, and Fortis. Though the City does not specifically incentivize gas appliances, we do point people to incentives that exist to encourage them to install more efficient gas appliances.

The debate about whether “more efficient fossil gas appliance” is an appropriate idea right now in light of the climate emergency is definitely a live debate. I know where Seth Klein would fall on this, and I might lean that direction myself. But there are specific and financial barriers to some people going full electric right now, and the gap is not filled by available incentives. For someone with a gas instant water heater and gas stove, switching to electric may require significant upgrades to the electrical system in the house to accommodate the high amperage demands of those appliance types, and a new line and transformer connection for the house at a cost much higher than the appliances themselves. Providing incentive to reduce overall gas use still pays GHD reduction dividends, but I hear you about the incrementalism.

We need to get off fossil gas, and I’m afraid programs like 30by30 are at best stop-gaps until we get to that point, at worst speedbumps slowing that transition. Through my work as the Chair of the Community Energy Association, I have seen first hand how Fortis (who is one of our members) has tried to define and redefine what its role is in this seemingly inevitable transition. They are indeed pushing the envelope on the efficiency of gas for buildings, including a pretty remarkable Deep Energy Retrofit program with serious resources behind it. But I sense a more fundamental shift in their business model is going to be needed if they want to prosper through this time.

That said, I have also noted how BC Hydro has adopted a bit of a cheeky attitude when discussing the need to transition from gas to electricity:

As we have all learned by now, by the time any public debate gets to the TwitterSnark stage, the solutions will soon be in hand. Right?

Council – Feb 14, 2022

Nothing makes Valentine’s Day more special than a few hours spent meeting with the loveliest City Council in the Lower Mainland. We are back to “hybrid” style meetings, with a few of us in chambers and a few on-line, and the public are able to attend in person again, so come on by some Monday. It would be good to see you. We had an Agenda that really went to the dogs (that’s a joke! Scroll down to see why!), starting with consideration of a Development Variance Permit:

DVP00691 for 520 Eighth Street
As discussed last meeting, the owner of this 56-unit rental building in the Brow of the Hill wants to add 5 suites in underused above-ground parking spaces under the existing building. They need a variance not for the density or units, but for reducing the amount of parking below the zoning requirements. In exchange for this variance, they are agreeing to a housing agreement with the City that secures rental tenure for the property for 60 years or the life of the building – whichever is longer.

My reflex reaction to this type of application is that we are in a housing crisis and need more secured market rental much more than we need more parking spaces. Looking at the details of the application, it is clear these are surplus parking spaces to what the building needs. More than half of renters in New West don’t own a car, and that is a growing trend, especially with car-sharing and other options now available for people who might sometimes need a car but don’t want the cost and hassle. This helps balance the amount of parking with the amount actually needed, and secures 61 rental units at the affable end of the market.

We received no submissions in regards to this application, and Council moved to approve the required Variance.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 660 Quayside Drive (Bosa Development)
If you have been downtown, you will note the 660 Quayside project is moving along. The daycare and commercial building looks topped out, the west tower is out of the ground, and the underground by Pier Park is coming along. Much like when the West Tower was done a few months ago, the East tower needs a “monolithic foundation” pour – a lot of concrete needs to go in at once to avoid seams in the foundation, and it is likely this continuous pour will take longer than typical work hours, requiring a one-time noise bylaw exemption. The actual date is a bit weather-dependent, but notice will be sent to adjacent residents.

Local Government Election 2022: Appointment of Chief Election Officer and Deputy Chief Election Officer
I don’t know if you have heard, but there is a Local Government Election coming up in October. The way local elections work in BC, the Province sets the rules, but leaves it up to each City to run its own election as it sees fit within those rules. The first order of business is to appoint someone to be the Chief Elections Officer, and it has been practice to make the City Clerk that person, as the work is similar – managing a bunch of people who are unclear on the rules, and making sure the rules are strictly followed.

Peer Assisted Crisis Team (PACT) Pilot Project Update
The City is collaborating with the Canadian Mental Health Association on a PACT pilot project. This follows up earlier acknowledgement that people suffering from a mental health crises in our community need a new approach other than the limited options Police currently have which has traditionally been to take the person to the hospital or jail, neither necessarily equipped to address sometimes very complex issues. The PACT project would see mobile crisis intervention teams (a Mental Health Professional and a trained Peer Crisis Responder) responding to mental health calls as an auxiliary service to the Police.

This is going to take a community to be successful, so not-for-profit and faith-based service providers, police, government social service and health service agencies and First Nations will be engaged in a community planning table. We also need to hire a Coordinator to move this forward through engagement and into implementation. This is ground-breaking in BC, though there are similar programs finding success in other North American jurisdictions, and well understood best practices. I’m really proud that our Council has supported this work, and that the community partners are working with us to bring this to reality.

People, Parks & Pups: A 10-Year Strategy for Sharing Public Space
There are lots of dogs in New West, with something like 40% of households having a dog. We have several Off Leash Areas (OLAs), much less park space dedicated to dogs by area and per capita than Vancouver (for example) but more than Surrey (for example). Of course, these comparisons are difficult because of the urban nature of the City, but we have also had a bit of an ad-hoc approach to new OLAs. This strategy brings a more holistic approach. 50 recommendations covering 15 different aspects of making better spaces for dogs and their people. If you are a dog person it’s probably worth a read, as there is a lot of great goals in here: an off-leash area within 1km of most residents; a better more integrated approach to dog waste; better strategies to reduce dog-people conflicts; better design of OLAs to make them more accessible and more fun.

This is a decade-long plan, but some of the early work is already in the City’s Capital Budget and will be rolled out soon, like the accessibility audit of the existing OLAs and the first “Puppy Parklet” Downtown. Woof.

Provincial Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program Funding Approval for the Riverfront Tugger – Community Gathering and Play Space
You might have notice the three little tugboats and rubberized scramble/play area where the Exop86 Tugger used to be. This was a pretty big piece of work, as the piers and decking around Tugger needed significant repair and upgrade with the removal of old steel bulk. But the City got financial support from the province (which is why this report arrived, as we have to officially authorize spending that money we were given on the thing for which we were given it). We were also given a substantial donation from the Rotary Club of New Westminster in recognition of their late member and New Westminster doctor and humanitarian Irwin Stewart. In honour of his work on pediatric hearing care, there is a bit of an Easter-egg in the design of the play area involving those colourful pipes. Kal Tire also donated through their Kal’s Replay Fund, allowing the installation of the recycled rubber surface for the scramble area. Have fun!

Revised Public Art Policy
The City has a Public Art Policy that needed an update after a decade. This is a little bit administrative (we are clarifying roles and procedures), and a little bit foundational (we are establishing guiding principles and adjusting our Artist Selection Process). There is a good body of work in this update, worth a read if you want to know the hows, whys and whats of Public Art in the City.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Extension Request: New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
The major re-piping project downtown has gone on too long. This project was supposed to be off our streets by now, and some of the important work we need to do downtown seems stalled by this project taking up space. That said, this is as important a piece of work as it is complicated, and I recognize I have no idea what the engineering challenges may be, even as my patience is running out. I walk downtown almost every day, and that pile of pipes in front of the Anvil Centre doesn’t seem to be shrinking, leading me to believe that progress is not being made, which had me concerned. But it appears the pipes are ready to get moving, as the massive amount of prep work before the actual pipe slip-lining work is now at the point where the pipes can go in.

So we are extending the Noise Bylaw exemption they need to do that slip-lining work, and the sooner it gets done, the sooner we can get them out of there and give the streetscape back to the businesses and residents of downtown.

Still, this project timeline has expanded more than we expected, and considering the high profile and impact of these works, and the concerns Council and the BIA raised as Metro Vancouver began consulting with us on this work, I thought it was timely to ask Metro Vancouver for an update on the timeline. I asked for three points of clarification: when they will be out of there, what efforts are being taken to accelerate the work to assure they finish in a timely manner, and what extra mitigation is being considered for businesses and residents of downtown considering the extended timeline.

We will be expecting a follow-up report next meeting, but the good news since the Council meeting is that slip-lining is proceeding this week, and that pile of pipes should be going away soon.

Filming Activity in 2021 and Proposed Filming Fees for 2022
The Film industry has been impacted by COVID-19 like everything else, and City revenues from film permits has gone down from the Pre-COVID average of about $800K/year to about $600K in 202. Note, these are Gross values, as film permits include providing some services to the film industry which cost the City some money to provide – though we do have net “profit” from having this activity in town. This is also aside of the spin-off economic benefits to local residents and businesses that the industry brings, which is more than $1 Million a year.

This report also includes planned fee changes based on the first review of our fees in 5 years, and comparison to industry standards around the region.

We then adopted some Bylaws:

Heritage Designation (125 Third Street) Bylaw No. 8306, 2021
This Bylaw to designate this 1905 House in Queens Park and preserve it for posterity was adopted by Council.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (323 Regina Street) Bylaw No. 8304, 2022
Heritage Designation (323 Regina Street) Bylaw No. 8305, 2022
These Bylaw that permits the construction of an infill house along with the designation of the existing 1928 house in Queens Park to preserve it for posterity was adopted by Council.

Housing Agreement (520 Eighth Street) Bylaw No. 8273, 2022
This Bylaw that secures rental tenure for 60 years or the life of this building (whichever is longer) was adopted by Council.

Finally, we had a Motion from Council:

Support for Bill C-229 – Banning Symbols of Hate Act Mayor Cote

New Westminster City Council endorses MP Peter Julian’s Private Member’s Bill C-229 – Banning Symbols of Hate Act.

We received correspondence from MP Julian seeking endorsement for this bill recently raised at the Parliament. The recent events in Ottawa has put this issue on the front burner but I do want to mark there has been some local action by residents (perhaps most vocally, Kevin McConnell) asking for action like this based on some local events and historic sales of Nazi-themed paraphernalia in New West. Council voted to send our endorsement of this bill, with a caveat regarding the need for some cultural nuance in some of the symbolism typically related to hate in our culture, and the need to differentiate that use of the symbol from some traditional or very culturally distinct uses of the same symbols before they were appropriated by hate groups.

And that was all for the Valentines Edition of the New West Council Report. Please share with those you love the most.

Census 2021

The 2021 census data is starting to trickle out. The first release of data is on population and housing, which is obviously a hot topic in the Lower Mainland. This means there are a lot of news stories about what has changed since last census in 2016. However, because of the work I do, I prefer to look at the change over the full decade since 2011. This is because 2011 was the “baseline” population level that the 2040 Regional Growth Strategy for Greater Vancouver is pegged. Since every municipal Official Community Plan was developed in context of the 2040 RGA, and since we are currently updating to a new 2050 RGS, I thought it would be good to re-look at Greater Vancouver population change in comparison to the RGS with the new census data.

Regular readers (Hi Mom!) might remember me doing something like this last year with the 2020 Stats Can population estimates. As it turns out, actual counts are more accurate than estimates*EDIT – see below*, and an update is required. Here is the table of Municipalities with 2021 Census population sorted by the rate of growth since the 2011 Population used for the Regional Growth Strategy (yes, I excluded the minor Municipalities like Anmore and Electoral Area A, for simplicity, laziness, and because I can).

Where to start? Overall, the region (excepting those small Munis ignored above) grew by an overall 11% over that decade, falling far short of the predicted growth of 18%. This means there are at least 157,000 fewer people living the in Greater Vancouver than expected. Only three Municipalities added more population than the RGS expected: Maple Ridge, the City of North Vancouver and White Rock. That last one might be a surprise, but remember White Rock had the lowest predicted growth over the decade, and so their growth being on par with the regional average put it way above what was expected.

Note that North Vancouver District and Port Moody have essentially not changed in population over the last decade (though found two very different political pathways to this lack of change) and West Vancouver lost population. The overall result is that every region of greater Vancouver fell short of the predictions, excepting the Northeast corner of the regional district.

The story locally is that New West also surprisingly fell short of the RGS goals, though only by a small amount. Nonetheless our 17% growth rate was one of the fastest rates in the region. This is perhaps more remarkable when you note the only Municipalities growing at a faster rate happen to be the 3 easternmost ones – those with the greatest access to greenfield into which to sprawl.

Which bring us to the other New Westminster headline of this census release: New Westminster being touted as the major municipality with the second highest density in Canada. This is interesting, but I may argue this is a bit of an artifact of the data and political jurisdictions.

We are surely a dense urban community, which is a natural result of being the nucleus of a rapidly growing urban area for more than 150 years. Our footprint is compact (under 16 square kilometers) and we don’t have farms or large undeveloped areas of forest, having chopped most of those down about 150 years ago. Our urban form was mostly established before the automobile era, and was not extensively re-drawn with Motordom.

However, this does not make us that different from many older urban areas of Canada. But in looking at the data, we need to remember that satellite centres of Toronto or Montreal are amalgamated into one larger municipality. Shown at the same scale using and population density data, it doesn’t immediately appear that New West (as a 79K population commuter suburb of Vancouver) is much denser than, say, the arguably comparable (population 72K commuter suburb of Montreal) neighbourhood of Verdun.

I’m not ready yet to say what it all means, as there is more data and mapping to come out. However, New Westminster is part of a region facing a long-standing housing availability crisis, and more acute housing affordability crisis. We may be bringing on supply as fast as anyone in the region (and faster than most) but at 79,000 people, we are still only 3% of the region’s population, and addressing the supply crunch is going to take more than New West can do alone. We need more action across the region.

At the same time, I am proud to say that New West is bringing in not just supply, but a diverse type of supply. Market condos are meeting the region’s most aggressive Family Friendly Housing policies. We are approving more Purpose Built Rental than we have in decades, and we have truly affordable housing options being built across the City as fast as the funding for these units becomes available. Though the value of land has shifted regionally past where rowhomes and townhouses represent “affordability” for most families, we are starting to see a big uptake on this type of build in traditionally Single Family parts of the City, and this long-standing gap in supply is finally being filled. We are also bringing this supply on while protecting the more affordable housing in the City, for the most part avoiding the mass displacement of people from existing lower-cost housing through strong policy. We have a lot of work to do, but we are on the right track.

*EDIT *: TIL: I’m completely wrong on this point.  Census population estimates may actually be a more accurate count of the number of residents living in a municipality, because they account for the way the census systematically undercounts. Read more here, if you care. Fascinating!

Council – Jan 31, 2022

The January 31 #NewWest Council meeting was a great blend of old and new, all done virtually because this plague keeps sticking around. The agenda was fairly light, but we started with two always exciting Pubic Hearings, both on heritage houses in Queens Park:

Heritage Designation: 125 Third Street
This property owner wants to “designate” their home in Queens Park, which results in a higher level of preservation than even the Heritage Conservation Area under which this house is already protected. Designation is the highest level of protection we can do in local government in BC for property we don’t own, and for all intents and purposes prevents the building form ever being demolished. This designation does not include an HRA, in that the homeowner is not asking for compensation through a zoning relaxation or other benefit, but this designation does not preclude them applying, in the future, for some changes of the land such has the building of a laneway house or changes to the building, but it would have to align with the Heritage Conservation principles inherent in the designation.

We received three written submissions on this application and one person spoke in favour. Council moved to give the Designation Third Reading, which means we supported it.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement 8304, 2022 and Heritage Designation 8305, 2022: 323 Regina Street
The owner of this house in Queens Park wants to build a laneway house, and is asking for two variances to allow that to happen, for setbacks and to allow the laneway house to be bigger than guidelines (1420sqft instead of 958sqft), in exchange for Designation of the main 1928 house which permanently protects it. The extra square footage of the laneway house is basement, so the effective surface expression will be similar to a typical 958sqft accessory building that meets the guidelines.

This project has changed a bit since first proposed, including a reduction in the size of the laneway house, based on earlier public feedback and committee review in the City. We had 10 written submissions and about a dozen people present at the Public Hearing, with a mix of support and opposition. Some concerns were raised about the restoration that had already occurred on the house, but the Community Heritage Commission supports this project, as the work previously done on the existing house meets the Standards and Guidelines typical of heritage restoration. There was also some concern about the density on site, though it meets the guidelines for above-ground massing, though it is located on a corner lot, so the laneway house faces the main road more than the lane.

Ultimately, the variances here are reasonable in my opinion, and the opportunity for intergenerational living and added housing diversity in Queens Park is aligned with our goals in the City. Council voted to support the application and give it three readings.

In the Council meeting that followed the Public Hearing, the following items were Moved on Consent:

Covid-19 Task Forces: Update
This is our regular update on work that staff are engaged in towards supporting the community during the COVID pandemic, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations.

Heritage Review Policy Update: Buildings on the Heritage Inventory
The Community Heritage Commission made a recommendation that we shift a bit how we review the heritage merits of buildings likely to face demolition or renovation through permit applications at the City. Every building that is older than 100 years is reviewed when an application comes in, and if there is heritage merit to the building, the potential for Heritage Restoration as part of the application is reviewed. This change would add “all building on the Heritage Registry” to this list, adding about 89 registered by less than 100-year-old buildings to this review process. This may actually simplify our internal process slightly, as it takes two separate streams in city processes and amalgamates them.

Housing Agreement Bylaw and Development Variance Permit to Vary Residential and Visitor Parking Requirements: 520 Eighth Street – Bylaw for Three Readings
This existing apartment building wants to convert some parking spaces to residential units. The building will go from 56 homes to 61 homes, but the parking count will go from 62 spaces to 49 spaces. As per our existing parking policy, the 5 new units don’t need parking, but the loss of existing parking does require a development variance. In exchange, we are entering into a Housing Agreement to secure all 61 units as rental for the life of the building or 60 years.

There units will be small, with the front partially below grade, they will be at grade at the back, and will be at the affordable end of the “market rental” scale (though not, regulated “affordable housing” where rents are set below market value by regulation). We have seen a few applications like this a parking need reduces in the rental market. The only variance here we are being asked for is the parking (not the building form, FSR, or anything like that). Council moved to give notice it will consider the development variance permit.

Recruitment 2022: Appointments to Advisory Committees, Commissions, Boards, and Panels
Staff brought recommendations to our last closed meeting on applicants for the various Advisory Committees in the City. Council approved the recommendations, and this is now released to the public. The City has taken greater effort to account for diversity in life experience and neighbourhood in our committee appointments, and though it is always positive to see new people signing up to join committees, but it is also sad to see some people not returning after having contributed their time and energy. Thank you to everyone who volunteers in to helping staff and council make better decisions for the entire community.

Summer 2022 Outdoor Aquatics Plan
With the CGP out of service, staff have been looking in how much we can practically expand the outdoor pool season, and did some public engagement to test the public’s interest in an expended outdoor season. Moody Park will be opening in April, and Hume (due to ongoing maintenance of the building) in June, while both will be planned to operate until October.

There are some details to be worked out with outdoor tented or shelter areas (because many pool users, especially youth, are accompanied by parents or other supporters when they attend the pool) and area heating for change areas or spectator areas. Unfortunately, completely covering a pool with a bubble as some suggested is prohibitively expensive, as much because it would involve some complicated HVAC / air handling engineering required by building and health codes, but hopefully we can make other areas a little more comfortable in mixed weather.

And the following item was Removed from Consent for discussion:

Canada Games Pool Fitness Centre Relocation Plan
As we all know now, the Canada Games Pool had some unexpected mechanical and structural failures that make it unusable. Not just the pool, but the water management and drainage systems that make it impossible to operate the fitness areas as there are no useable bathrooms, showers, or even hot water to clean and maintain the building.

The fitness equipment in the pool, from free weights to treadmills and elliptical trainers and other gym machines, were very heavily used by the wider community, even through various COVID-related restrictions. So staff were charged with the task of finding a way to make this equipment available to the community in our limited available community spaces without interrupting existing programs (fitness programs and pickle ball for the most part) using those other spaces.

The gym at the Centennial Community Centre is one of the few spaces in the City that can accommodate the range of fitness equipment currently at the CGP, however there are programs that operate out of that gym, and after some initial investigation of this option, it was made clear by the community that those programs are valued. So Staff found creative solutions to assure all of those programs can continue to operate at the same capacity as they have for the last few years. Some will move to a separate room in the Centennial Community Centre, some to the Centennial Lodge in Queens Park, and some to Century House. Herbert Spencer School is also going to help us out to host some community Pickleball.

The closure of the CGP is unfortunate, and untimely. We really hoped to keep it running until the TAAC was opened, with its expanded gyms and activity rooms that would allow us to grow these programs. Fortunately, staff have done an exceptional job shuffling the decks, and partners from the Arts Council (who do some programming in the Centennial Lodge), the Century House Association, and the School District have helped immensely in assuring every program has a home and secure place to operate.

Then we read some Bylaws including adopting the following:

Five-Year Financial Plan (2022 – 2026) Bylaw No. 8308, 2022 290
As previously discussed, the five year financial plan was adopted by Council, formalizing our budget for the upcoming year.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Bicycle Parking) No. 8231, 2021 295
As discussed back in October, these amendments to modify bicycle parking requirements and bicycle facility design standards for new buildings were adopted by Council.

Finally, we had a Motion from Council:

Maternity/Parental Leave, Councillors Trentadue and Nakagawa

Whereas the Local Government Act, Community Charter, and New Westminster Council Procedure Bylaw do not provide maternity and/or parental leave rights to elected officials; and
Whereas the absence of maternity and/or parental leave for local elected officials specifically disadvantages persons considering running for office and, hence, is a systemic barrier to attracting more diverse and representative candidates to local government; and
Whereas an elected official may want to take maternal and/or parental leave from their position and it is currently unclear as to this leave availability. It is unreasonable to expect the Councillor to have to rely on Council deliberations or “hope” that their request for leave will be accepted officially;
Therefore be it resolved that staff report back on options that would include common entitlements for maternity and/or parental leave for elected officials in the City of New Westminster following the birth or adoption of a child.

In recent work with UBCM and the Lower Mainland LGA, this has increasingly been seen as an overdue change. We are not the first community to take this step, but I think when we talk about removing systemic barriers to the work of representative government, this is often an overlooked area. I very much support this, and also strongly support us having strong policy guidance on this so people considering this work are not put in a position of uncertainty, and that leave options are not something only available at the whim of a council.