Council – May 6, 2024

Monday’s meeting was long. Much longer than it had to be, frankly, considering the short length of the Agenda, but again we got the work done. We went a little off schedule as far as which items were covered when trying to accommodate the public and staff time as best we could, so the list below may not be in order, but you can always watch the video here and select the agenda item on the left that you are interested in, and the video should skip right to that item. Pretty slick.

It started with three Reports to Council:

2023 Consolidated Financial Statements
These are the annual financial reports detailing the financial results of the previous year (as opposed to forecasting the next year, which is the budget). It is also when we received the Audit Report based on the Audit Plan we approved back in January. The audit report is pretty simple: “no problems found”.

The Financial Statements show we are in solid financial shape. We are in a period of significant investment in the city, both in getting infrastructure built (our $78 Million capital spending in 2023 included $33 Million towards təməsew̓txʷ , $5 Million in sewer separation work, $5 Million in pavement management, aka. “filling potholes”, $4 Million toward our on-time-and-under budget Q’boro substation, $3 Million toward waterman replacement, and more) and in solidifying our capital reserves to assure we can continue to maintain what we build.

We also did pretty well at getting senior government investment in the City – more than $25 Million between the feds and Province, to help pay for that work. With that support, we had a an “operational surplus” of $105 Million, which is how we finance that capital plan, and is key to our meeting our longer-term Asset Management plans.

We are also taking in debt to pay for some larger items, including təməsew̓txʷ and the Substation. This is purposeful, and we can get into debates about how local governments finance infrastructure like this (as I have in the past – wow – reading that now, I used to be so wordy!). Our debt payments are in the order of $8 Million a year, of which about $6.7 Million is interest (representing a very manageable 2% of our revenue). At the same time, we had a significant increase in the interest earned on our reserves (up to $13 Million), which is due to some great treasury management work by our finance staff.

Council approved the Financial Statements, which allows staff to submit them to the province by the statutory deadline of May 15th.

Train Whistle Cessation – 2024 – Q1 Update
This is just the quarterly report on whistle cessation. It looks like one of the most prominent intersections in Q’Boro is very close to completion, and we are continuing to be challenged by CN on the key crossings in Sapperton. Not a lot to update here.

Recommendations for Council on Belonging and Connecting from the Community Advisory Assembly
This was the first presentation from the Assembly, and it could not have gone better. The first item they were asked to look into is our perhaps vague Strategic Plan pillar around “Community Belonging and Connecting”. The Assembly members provided a report with a lot of ideas around making better spaces for public participation in art and performance, the need for outdoor weather-adaptable gathering spaces, and public toilets. They highlighted the need for sports facilities in Queensborough, in updating our Renter Protection bylaws, and had an idea around a different kind of Community Ambassador program.

There was a lot there, and I appreciated they way they were open about recognizing this is a lot. They balanced well the desire to tell us what they want with leaving it to us as Council to determine what is feasible and what is not, and to set the budget and timelines. Most importantly, I liked how they spoke of the deliberative and consensus-building model they used. I am absolutely enthused about how this report came, and am even more excited about what is to come next.

The following item was Moved on Consent:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 220 Salter Street
Inspection of major sewer conduits under the Fraser has to happen at night when flows are lowest, and a bit of noise is generated at the ends of the inspection routes meaning we need to issue a Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption. Gotta keep the poop flowing!

We then adopted a LOT of Bylaws:

Tax Rates Bylaw 8445, 2024
The Bylaw that sets the property tax rates for 2024 was Adopted by Council.

Code of Conduct for Council Members Amendment Bylaw No.8457, 2024
This bylaw that amends our recently-adopted Code of Conduct to facilitate the hiring of an Ethics Commissioner was adopted by Council.

Riparian Areas Protection Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No 8413, 2024
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No 8421, 2024
Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw Amendment Bylaw No 8422, 2024
These three Bylaws that update our RAPR Bylaw to align with provincial changes was adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (812 Twentieth Street) No. 8443,2024
This rezoning bylaw to permit a liquor store on Twentieth Street was adopted by Council.

Official Community Plan Amendment (909-915 Twelfth Street) Bylaw No. 8399, 2023
Zoning Amendment (909-915 Twelfth Street) Bylaw No. 8400,2023
Road Closure, Dedication Removal, and Disposition (909-915 Twelfth Street) Bylaw No. 8401, 2023
These Bylaws that support the building of a 40-unit residential building on Twelfth Street was adopted by Council.

Then we had a couple of Motions from Council:
Supporting increased openness and transparency at City Hall
Submitted by Councillor Fontaine and Councillor Minhas

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council commit to publicly releasing all in-camera minutes on the City’s website as soon as practicable and once a decision or discussion is no longer required to be secured as confidential.

This motion is asking us to commit to doing something we already do, in that decisions Council makes in closed under Section 90 are effectively released to the public once we those decisions result in public expenditure or new Bylaws. We may discuss a property purchase of sale in Closed under section 90(1)e – because it would be terrible for our ability to get a good deal with public money if we negotiated in public – but we cannot actually close the purchase or sell a property without publicly disclosing we did it. We may discuss HR issues in closed under Section 90(1)a to protect people’s privacy, but cannot hire or fire people without disclosing this publicly. Excepting legal issues that require client-solicitor privilege covered by Section 90(1)g, everything we discuss in closed either goes nowhere, or if it goes somewhere, ends up in an open meeting.

I look at the City of Vancouver’s releases over the last few months, and what do I see? A decision made three years ago about a lease of public land that was already public, an agreement to a collective bargaining agreement made a year previously, a Corporate Officer hiring from a year ago that was already announced on the City webpage. There is nothing here that wasn’t public information already, so the level of transparency this offers is questionable.

Of course increased transparency is a good thing (I mean, I’ve written hundreds of these blog posts now), but I have a bit of a concern about the extra bureaucracy required to track and process item-by-item closed decisions over several years so they can be released in a systemic way. Is this a good use of staff time, considering the item has already, by definition, become public? So in Council approving this motion (with the minor edit of changing “minutes” to “decisions”), we also asked staff to report back on the resources needed before we make the change.

Appointment of new Chair of the Arts Culture and Economic Development Advisory Committee
Submitted by Councillor Minhas

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council recommend to the Mayor that Councillor Daniel Fontaine be appointed as the new Chair for the Arts, Culture and Economic Development Committee

This is, frankly, a bizarre political attack at one of our hardest-working City Councillors. There is currently a Chair of the ACEDAC, and it is Councillor Campbell. Councillor Minhas also serves on that committee, but has (according to the publicly available minutes) failed to appear at a meeting. Why I would take the recommendation of a non-participant to replace the one Council member who is actively doing the work on that committee is… not clear to me. Council did not vote to replace the Chair.

Then we had one item of New Business:

Community Vancouver Canucks Viewing Feasibility
This arose out of a suggestion made by Councillors Fontaine and Minhas that we find ways to support viewing opportunities for the Canucks playoff run. We are starting a bit late at this, but over the last two weeks, staff have burned a bit of midnight oil and come up with a bit of a menu of options for us, but we have to move fast.

I have been told “all this takes is political will”, and nothing could be further from the truth. I hate to break it to you, but politicians don’t do the work of making things like this happen, staff do, and our staff already have full work plans. We say “we should have a public viewing party”, and staff have to scramble to find screens, broadcasting rights, facilities, security, staff, public bathrooms, etc. There is work to do here, and real costs.

That said, Council was generally supportive, and staff did a good job bringing us a scale of options, giving us the opportunity to start with round two, ramp it up for round three, and ramp it up again for the finals (because Vancouver has never lost in the third round). Of course, we want to do this in a way that supports our businesses, not taking away from them, and in a way that our police are confident will result in a safe time for families. So it is happening, and you can get info here.

Go Canucks.

Council – April 22, 2024

We had a long meeting this week, but it is a busy time in the City, so nothing to surprising there. We started with a somewhat uncommon thing, the Parcel Tax Roll:

Parcel Tax Roll Review Panel: Confirm and Authenticate Local Area Service Parcel Tax Roll
This is a bit of a ritual we go through with the Business Improvement Areas Bylaw. BIAs are not your regular business organization, they are constituted under Section 215 of the Community Charter, which permits the City to charge building owners in the designated area a special parcel tax (a tax based on the size of the parcel, not on the assessed value), then return that tax revenue to the organization to spend on business-benefitting activities. Because the parcel tax is based on measurement of area or length of street frontage, we need some sort of process to assure those numbers are accurate, and for folks to appeal if they feel they are being over or undercharged (like the service BC Assessment offers for normal property tax). Once we have provided the opportunity to appeal, the Council needs to sign off on the Parcel Tax Roll. We do this every 5 years for each BIA, and this was us closing off that work for the Uptown BIA.

Our Regular agenda was mixed up a bit by moving items around so public delegates who signed up to speak to items were able to prior to us considering them, so I’m going by original agenda order here, not the actual order we did things at. As always, this starts with items Moved on Consent:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 81 Braid Street (Braid Street SkyTrain Station)
They are doing maintenance at the Braid SkyTrain station, parts of which needs to occur when the trains aren’t running, so they need a bylaw exemption to do that work. ELMTOTS don’t believe this.

Riparian Areas Protection Amendment Bylaw No. 8413, 2024
There is a provincial law called the Riparian Areas Protection Regulation. It is meant to protect riparian areas (areas adjacent to fish-bearing streams, like the Brunette River) form encroachment from development. It requires setbacks from streams be incorporated in new development, though older developments from before the 2005 adoption of the RAPR are generally exempt. The language and regulations change over time, and the City is required to update its bylaws to reflect these changes.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2024 Tax Rate Bylaw No. 8445, 2024
The City’s budget and 5-year financial plan prepared, we now need to approve a Bylaw that reflects the needed taxation revenue to get that work done. This is procedural, but there is some good data in here about how land values impact taxation. I’ll maybe write a follow-up, but with the 7.7% increase in taxes this year, your residential mill rate (the amount you pay per $1,000 of home value) went from 2.50046 to 2.262767. Yes, it went down 9.5%. This is because property values are increasing at a much faster rate than taxes.

Community Advisory Assembly Terms of Reference and Membership Update
The Community Advisory Assembly has had several meeting, and are already working on their first reports for Council. Their first task was to agree to a Term of Reference (which we are approving here). And as is typical with Community Committees there is a bit of attrition as some members have life circumstances that change and don’t allow them to commit their volunteer time to this kind of thing. We have had three members drop off, but have a quiver of applicants from the first call for volunteers. Staff used the same selection process as used originally to assure we are as closely as practicably matching the demographics of the City, and are providing a proper supportive environment for all volunteers.

4.4 Council Code of Conduct Amendment Bylaw No. 8457, 2024
We have adopted a Code of Conduct, and hiring an Ethics Commissioner is fundamental to making the Code of Conduct operable. He position remains vacant, and this amendment will hopefully allow us to resolve the vacancy.

Zoning Amendment and Housing Agreement (51 Elliot Street) – Bylaws for First, Second and Third Readings
This project has been working through approvals for some time, slightly delayed by COVID, by some extensive revisions since initial application, and work to secure operators for the non-profit part of the project. This is a new 37-storey residential tower on a vacant property downtown. It will include 13 non-market homes to be operated by Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation and a childcare to accommodate both toddler and pre-school ages to be turned over to the City to be operated by a non-profit.

It meets all city requirements regarding parking and active transportation measures, is consistent with our OCP and other city policies including meeting Step 4 in the Zero Carbon Step Code (fully electric), though the number of non-market units is lower than we aspire towards with our Inclusionary Zoning policy. The non-market unit count is lower than ideal, as there was a desire to provide larger (more family-friendly) units and to achieve the deep subsidy level of affordability. Having done the economic analysis here, it’s clear the IZ policy cannot be fully applied at this site and still have a viable project. Metro Vancouver Housing knows the affordable housing market, and backs us up on this assessment. There has been consultation on the project, and many of the residents of the adjacent condo tower (built in 2017) about proximity to the tower, shadows and views. The Design Panel support the project.

In the end, Council supported this project going to Third Reading, and made a further request that staff work to enhance the width and comfort of the public walkway on the north side of the building to make for a better connection to Albert Crescent Park.

Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment: 408 East Columbia Street – Bylaw for Three Readings
This application was previously discussed at Council, now it is time for Council to make a decision, and it speaks directly to my previous post where I wrote about the desire to find balance between office/service and active spaces on our retail streetscapes. The new 6-storey mutli-use building in Sapperton has residential above commercial and office space. The original intent was for 30% office at grade, perhaps with a restaurant, but a tenant has not been found, and a dentist wants to open up moving that office ration to 50%. I don’t want to go over my other post too much, but Council had a good discussion about this. Dentists do actually drive foot traffic, but don’t generate the kind of space “stickiness” that experiential retail does. In the end Council unanimously decide to NOT support this change, perhaps reflecting that the zeitgeist of the times has got ahead of our ability to bring in policy changes. No surprise here.

We then read a bunch of Bylaws, though none were for Adoption, so no need to belabor those readings here. We then moved on to Motions from Council:

2026 FIFA World Cup
Submitted by Mayor Johnstone

Whereas the FIFA World Cup is the most widely viewed and followed single sporting event in the world, and for the first time ever Vancouver will be a host city for seven games in the 2026 event; and
Whereas association football is a truly international sport, with 48 nations from 6 continents participating in the 2026 World Cup, and represents a unique opportunity for a community like New Westminster with its rich diversity of cultures and nations of origin to bring community together and celebrate our diversity through sport and cultural exchange; and
Whereas there are economic and other barriers to direct participation in FIFA events related with the World Cup for many members of the New Westminster community; and
Whereas New Westminster Council has identified Community Connecting and Belonging as a Strategic Priority, including community-building activities that bring the diverse community together for shared events and experiences;
Therefore Be It Resolved that Staff report back to Council with opportunities to activate public spaces across New Westminster, to apply for external funding, and engage local cultural, youth, sports, and business organizations for free and low-barrier public gathering, public viewing, and community celebration to coincide with the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The World Cup is going to be a big event for the region, and for a City like New Westminster where there is a huge cultural diversity and many first- and second-generation Canadians who still carry a cultural torch for their homelands, it is an exciting time to celebrate and share culture. With all respect to the Olympics, it might be the greatest international multicultural festival on earth. So let’s celebrate.

I intentionally didn’t want to prescribe too much about what we can do here in New West, and I want to start the conversation now, 781 days prior to kick-off, so we can engage our community (such as representatives from the Latina American and African Communities who delegated to Council on this), and give staff the time to plan and budget for an appropriate suite of events. Of course, we also need to engage out BIAs, Chamber, Tourism, and other organizations in the City, to see if and how they want to partner with us. New West is uniquely placed to be a “second hub” of World Cup activity after Downtown Vancouver where the local gems will be held. I want to see us grab this opportunity, and consistent with our Council Strategic Priority Plan, find the opportunity to bring community together in celebration of our diversity and our common spirit of fun.

Council supported this motion.

Improving the public’s access to trees during the City’s biannual tree sale
Submitted by Councillor Fontaine

Whereas the City has a goal of a 27% canopy coverage within New Westminster by 2030; and
Whereas by partnering with residents, the City aims to reach its goal of planting 3,300 trees on private land, and a further 8,500 on public land by 2030; and
Whereas the total trees available for purchase as part of our biannual tree sale regularly falls well short of demand from local residents
BE IT RESOLVED THAT staff be directed to assess whether the Climate Action Reserve Fund decision-making framework can support the purchase of up to an additional 3000 trees over the next three years (2025-2027) to be sold as part of the City’s bi-annual tree sale

The City does two tree sales a year. We buy in bulk and sell at a deeply discounted price of $10. We do this because the our Urban Forest Management Strategy includes an increase of 3,300 trees on private property over 10 years. By selling 300 trees a year for 10 years this solves 90% of our problem, with other strategies (like replacement policies under our Tree Protection bylaw) providing the balance.

Of course, the cost isn’t just buying the trees and selling at a deeply subsidized cost (after all, anyone can go down to the Nursery and buy a tree if they want, we are just giving them a cheaper option). There is also a significant logistics and staffing cost to getting 150 trees together to distribute on the distribution day. I don’t know the total cost of the program but it is tens of thousands of dollars a year.

I actually like that this motion is asking to apply the CARF decision-making framework to determine if increasing the number of trees is an appropriate way to spend CARF money. Council supported this motion.

Then we had two items of New Business

Programs to Serve Isolated Seniors Funded by the United Way British Columbia
This is an announcement (and Council endorsement) of three externally-funded programs to be delivered in the City to support vulnerable and isolate seniors. There are three programs being rolled out – one to coordinate free community meals – three per month in three City facilities in different neighbourhoods, which will not only help with food security, but will also help isolated seniors to build social connections in their community. He second is enhances volunteer coordination staff to improve Century House and Seniors Services Society’s ability to deliver their services in community. The third is a Community Connections coordinator to connect older adults to supports and services through referral. This is all possible though $225,000 in grants from the United Way, and is coordinated by our incredible staff at Century House. External funding leveraged to activate the community on an identified priority topic. This is good news

New Westminster Grant Funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies Youth Climate Action Fund Program
This is another announcement (and Council endorsement) of an externally-funded program to be delivered in the City to support Youth in taking Climate Action. This will provide between $70,000 and $206,000 (depending on program success and need) to activate local youth, provide them resources to engage their community in actions that make a difference, while learning skills and building capacity. New West was selected along with 100 cities across the world who all attended the Local Climate Action Summit to be part of this new program to activate the energy and ideas of youth to move local climate solutions. External funding leveraged to activate the community on an identified priority topic. This is good news

And with all that good news in our back pockets, we called it a night.

Council – Feb 23, 2024

We got a lot of work done at Council on Monday night, with a fairly long agenda, starting with an increasingly unusual Public Hearing:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 8425, 2024 and Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 8435, 2024 for 203 Pembina Street
It’s been a while since we have had Public Hearing, as we have adopted the now-mandated practice that rezoning applications that fully comply with the Official Community Plan don’t require public hearings. Heritage Revitalization Agreements, however, still require them, so here we are.

HRAs are functionally very similar to rezoning, except in rezoning the City gives a landowner some “value” by allowing them to build more or differently on a lot that the zoning bylaw allows, and in exchange, they provide some “value” to the city, in contributing to amenities or making a contribution to our amenity reserve funds. In an HRA, at least part of the “value” given to the city is the preservation of a heritage asset through permanent Heritage Designation. Usually, that is a heritage building, though it can be a landscape, a fence, or in this case, a Heritage Tree. This is a first for New West.

The project is a small 6-unit townhouse development that fits in the neighbourhood in Queensborough. The challenge with the specimen Red Oak tree is that it is located within the “building envelope” already permitted on the site, so the Tree Protection Bylaw would permit its removal. SO the proponent and staff worked on the HRA pathway to allow development of the land in a way that protects the tree, as it is felt to have acquired cultural importance in the community as a landmark and gathering space. The requirements to care for the tree will be baked into a Heritage Designation Bylaw tied to the property.

The Community Heritage Commission did not support using an HRA in this case, but did hope the City could apply a different tool to protect the tree, but the Land Use Planning Committee chose the HRA route. Other than the tree, the proposal aligns with the RT-3 zoning used for townhouse developments of this type in Queensborough, except for a couple of setbacks adjusted to give the tree more room. Public consultation we generally positive.

We had two written submissions to the Public Hearing and the proponent delegated in favour of the project. We also had 5 delegates speak (multiple times each) against the application. I would characterize their feedback as not opposing the development (none lived near the project) or the tree preservation (they all favoured it), but not liking the tool of the HRA being used this way, for non-specific reasons.

In the end, the majority of Council voted to support the application and designation.

The regular meeting Agenda began with the following items Moved on Consent:

Development Cost Charge Bylaw – Inflationary Amendment
We collect Development Cost Charges from new developments to pay for infrastructure costs related to growth. The amounts are based on a budgeted cost to build the specific infrastructure. Since the cost to build that infrastructure goes up every year, we can do inflationary changes to the DCC rates to help pay for part of this inflationary increase, but need to do so through Bylaw to keep things transparent.

Unfortunately, the provincial DCC regulation requires that we use CPI to calculate this inflation increase, and the CPI “basket of goods” does not reflect the massive inflation in concrete, steel, wood, and construction services which are the things the City buys with DCC money. This is one of the unwieldy aspects of the DCC process that comes along with the transparency and predictability benefits the DCC process provides. Everything in government is a compromise.

Then the rest of the items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

12 K de K Court Esplanade Boulevard Trees
Trees are interesting things. They add to the value of property, the quality of life, climate resilience, air quality, and social cohesion. To some they are the view, to others they block a view. A set of trees planted in City lands along the Quayside 15 years ago are reaching maturity, and some adjacent property owners feel they are too large, block their views of the river and light penetration to their homes. The City has been doing extra maintenance to reduce negative impacts, but some residents want them removed. The city is not in the practice of removing City trees, as it does not align with our Urban Forest Management Strategy, or our climate and livability goals. Staff have been working with the owners to address ongoing concerns, and are drafting a Letter or Understanding letter that outlines the city’s commitment to tree maintenance of the three trees of concern.

Budget 2024: 2024 – 2028 Five-Year Financial Plan Bylaw
These are the Bylaws representing the 5-Year Financial Plan worked out through numerous Council workshops and meetings. If you have been following along, there is not a lot of news here, but I will write a follow-up post or two with some of the details of the annual budget. This also includes some public feedback received on the budget, including a request for us to spend more on Bus Priority Measures (we boosted this in 2024, but the writer would like to see MOAR!), some concern that the 7.7% increase was high relative to inflation and Port Coquitlam, and some surprisingly details questions about how we account for the delay of hiring new staff. Once again, the Budget was approved for Three Readings.

Grant Program Refinements
New Westminster has one of the most generous Community Grant programs of any City in the Lower Mainland, with almost $1 million in grants awarded every year to community social development, arts, sports, economic development, environmental and cultural programs. This aligns with Council priorities, so staff are doing a review of the process to make it work more efficiently and serve the community better.

Since I have been on Council, there have already been significant changes to the program. The value handed out has gone up a lot (form $700k in 2015 to $1m now) and we have worked to remove Council from review and approval process to make it more community-centered and improve transparency, while giving more power to the Grant Committee model that includes volunteers from the community. We shifted from 8 streams to 3 portfolios in 2019 to make it easier to manage, but it still takes a considerable amount of staff time to manage.

There is a plan to do a comprehensive review of how this process works, aligned with Council’s Strategic Priority of “Community Belonging and Connecting”, but in the short term, there are some smaller changes being made to address staffing challenges and clunkiness in the existing system. The One-Time Small Grants process has not worked very well, and will need to be revised or rolled into the main grant program. For now, it fails the value-for-money test as it takes a lot of staff time for the small amount it gives out.

As the grant program has evolved over the decades, it’s ad-hoc accounting has become more of a challenge as the values get into the seven figures. More applications arrive every year than value in the budget, and not all of the grants are eventually handed out, as many applicants fail to deliver the idea they asked to grant. So we are undersubscribed, and also underspend, making for a complicated Operational budget impact. A more responsible easy to manage this is to set up a Reserve Fund, so non-allotted money in one year can extend over to the following year, and those carryover funds can help address more applications. There are some complications here, as some of the grant value is in-kind services, but staff are asking to set up a process that is accountable and transparent.

There is more to come here, and there will be some deeper conversation with the community about how to structure major changes if that is where Council goes.

Initiating process for updating the City’s corporate logo
The City replaced its corporate logo in 2008, replacing the Coat of Arms with a gold crown. It’s time for a refresh. The City will engage a professional Graphic Designer, who will lead a two-phase community engagement around this. Look for opportunities to engage soon!

Leave of Absence for Councillor McEvoy
If you follow the news, Councillor McEvoy had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago. He received incredible are at RCH, and is recovering from surgery at home. The best practice in local government is to grant medical leave and keep his seat warm for him until his return. He does have some committee roles that we need to fill in his absence, and we did so.

Rezoning and Housing Agreement: 145-209 East Columbia Street – Bylaws for First, Second and Third Readings
The owners of an empty lot in Sapperton what to build a six-story mixed-use building. It is aligned with the OCP, but requires a rezoning. This would have retail at grade, offices on the second floor, and 99 Purpose Built Rental homes, adding to the vibrancy of Lower Columbia. The 99 PBR homes meet the City’s Family Friendly Housing minimums and will provide active cooling to all units. As part of the “great dentist office debate of 2024”, the owners are concerned they will not be able to lease the ground floor unless some flexibility is offered to allow medial services in come of the units, and staff have hammered out a compromise.

Public consultation on this project was generally neutral to positive, with some concerns raised regarding parking (natch) and impact on traffic (double natch). There were some who felt it was too big for the location (though this being within 400m of a SkyTrain station, the new TOA provincial regulations would actually permit 8 stories). We also received a bit of “it is being built specifically for renters, meaning this project puts the safety and security of our quiet neighborhood in jeopardy” kind of feedback, which seems out of touch with the reality of our housing crisis, and is rather disrespectful to the 45% of the people in New Westminster who are renters. In the end, Council voted to approve three readings of this project.

We then read a bunch of Bylaws, including the following Bylaws for Adoption:

Development Cost Charge Reserve Funds Expenditure Bylaw No 8437, 2024
This Bylaw that allows us to spend ~$3 million from our DCC funds on the projects they were earmarked for was approved by Council.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (810 Agnes Street) No. 8390, 2023 and Housing Agreement (810 Agnes Street) Bylaw No 8389, 2023
These Bylaws that facilitate development of a 33 storey high-rise tower with 352 Purpose Built Rental homes and a publicly accessible indoor community space and adjacent community park at 824 Agnes Street were approved by Council.

We then went through a raft of Motions from Council.

An information report on a Crime and Safety Townhall Forum hosted by the New West Progressives
Submitted by Councillor Fontaine and Councillor Minhas

Whereas the issue of crime and public safety is of concern to the citizens and business owners of New Westminster; and Whereas Councillors Daniel Fontaine and Paul Minhas hosted a community forum attended by over 120 individuals in November 2023; and
Whereas Councillors Fontaine and Minhas committed to drafting a summary report and submitting it to Council and the Police Board via the Chair;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council receive for information a summary report from Councillors Paul Minhas and Daniel Fontaine regarding a crime and safety forum they co-hosted in November 2023.

The motion here was to “receive the report”. There were no actions coming out of it, which made it a bit weird for a Notice of Motion process. But that aside, the report is a bit of a mess. It is perhaps a demonstration how public engagement without a clear direction or plan is useless at the reporting out stage. I have no doubt people at the event had valuable input and suggestions, but what is reported out here is a series of strangely unanswered questions, quotes pulled from a newspaper story, and unattributed statements that follow no real theme and draw no conclusions. As a result, no clear recommendations can come out of this, excepting the few things in the summary that read like suggestion to do the things we are already doing.

NOTE: the rest of these Motions below are resolutions intended to be considered at the Lower Mainland LGA conference in May, this being the formal process through which we collectively advocate to senior governments for changes in policy or funding

Allowing local governments to apply commercial rent controls
Submitted by Councillor Henderson

WHEREAS the Province of British Columbia regulates annual allowable residential rent increases through the Residential Tenancy Regulation, B.C. Reg. 477/2003, to protect lower income renters from housing insecurity; and
WHEREAS there is currently no similar Provincial policy to protect small businesses or community-serving commercial tenants from unsustainable, unpredictable, and increasingly significant rent increases;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Province of British Columbia provide local governments with the legislative authority to enable special economic zones where commercial rent control and demo/renoviction policies could be applied to ensure predictability in commercial lease costs, so local small businesses and community-serving commercial tenants can continue to serve their communities.

There has been quite a bit of discussion in the community lately about ground-based retail and commercial, and what the City can do to protect local small businesses that make our neighbourhoods more lively. There have been a few stories recently of businesses facing 200% or 300% lease increases, and deciding it is just not viable to run a small business in the face of that. Though commercial leases are different that residential rent, the impact is the same – if a landlord was able to triple your rent overnight, there would be no such thing as secure affordable housing in our community. One important difference is that small businesses often invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in building improvements to make their business fit in a space, which makes it hard to walk away when the lease changes, and creates too much risk with onerous demolition clauses.

We can complain about 7.7% tax increases (which landlords directly download to leasing businesses), but that pales in comparison to 300% lease increases. The first is hundreds of dollars, the second is tens of thousands. We need to find a way to level the playing field between the people who own the commercial buildings and those who want to set up small community-serving businesses.

I’m not sure how the Lower Mainland LGA is going to respond to this, and there are certainly many details to work out on how rent protections would be applied in the commercial market, but we are asking the Province to consider giving Local Governments the authority to explore these ideas within identified areas of the City which has specific economic development goals.

Additional funding for overdose prevention sites across municipalities
Submitted by Councillor Henderson and Councillor Nakagawa

WHEREAS the Province of British Columbia declared a drug toxicity public emergency in 2016, acknowledging the rapid increase in overdose deaths and the need to deploy the necessary harm reduction strategies with urgency to prevent additional deaths; and
WHEREAS over 13,000 people have died of toxic drugs since 2016 in communities across British Columbia, including at least 2,500 people in 2023, about two-thirds of which were from inhalation, yet only about 40% of supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites in British Columbia offer inhalation services;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Province of British Columbia increase funding for Health Authorities to augment existing and to open new supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites, including related inhalation services, across British Columbia and including municipalities which do not currently
offer this service to residents.

Health Outreach Centers with safe, supervised consumption save lives. People who deny this fact are denying the published research of health care professionals. Too many people in British Columbia are dying from the toxic drug supply for us to engage in that kind of denialism. They are not the complete solution, but they save lives and get people connected to other supports including recovery from their addiction. We need these in every community, because every community has people dying of toxic drugs. We also need to fund them adequately so they can provide health outreach and programs to move people beyond addiction. We also need to fund them so that inhalation is available, as this is largely replacing intravenous drug use in the overdose death statistics.

This resolution is asking the Province to increase funding for this important component of addressing the poisoned drug supply crisis.

Eliminating Barriers to Public Home Care Services and Social Supports for Aging in Place and Public Long-Term Care
Submitted by Councillor Campbell

Whereas seniors, families and seniors organizations have been advocating to improve access to public home care services and supports to assist seniors to live at home, in their communities, longer and to delay or prevent premature admissions to public long-term care facilities; and
Whereas finances can become an impediment to access the required home care services such as housekeeping, more frequent bathing and meal preparation necessary to age in place, and community programs that have been designed to try and meet seniors’ needs are unable to fulfil the increasing
Therefore be it resolved that the Province eliminate financial and accessibility barriers by investing in more public home care services and social supports required to age in place, and by further investing in public long-term care to ensure seniors are well supported in the continuum of care.

For those who read my Newsletter (link here to subscribe!), you know the outgoing BC Seniors Advocate was at Century House last month talking about senior services, and the places in our province where we need to bring more support to seniors. Not just because it is the right thing to do for seniors, but because investment in seniors home care save the health care system money, and investments in public residential care save seniors money while providing a higher level of care than for-profit homes do. This is advocacy the folks at Century House asked Council to do, and Council voted to support it.

Creating a Ministry of Hospitality
Submitted by Councillor Campbell

Whereas British Columbia is home to over 15,000 restaurants and foodservice vendors that employ over 185,000 workers across the province, generate $18 billion in annual sales and play a key role in supporting BC workers, families, and vital industries such as agriculture, transportation, and tourism and
are at the heart of every community in this province; and
Whereas the costs of food, supplies and transportation have substantially increased, commercial property owners are passing commercial property taxes on to restaurant and food service tenants, many of whom continue to experience longterm impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic;
Therefore be it resolved the Province create a Ministry of Hospitality to support and engage restaurants, food service vendors and the hospitality sector generally by acting as advocates within government for policy development and reform.

This idea is a bit out of left field, but comes directly from the same advocacy efforts that informed the approach to commercial lease rates control proposed above, the “Save BC Restaurants” campaign led by the BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association and Restaurants Canada. Our Local Chamber of Commerce also supported this. The combines voices of hundreds of New West businesses, thousands of BC restaurants, and tens of thousands of food service business across Canada. Let’s hope the Lower Mainland LGA also hears this call.

E-Comm Governance Review
Submitted by Mayor Johnstone

Whereas E-Comm has struggled to provide service levels that meet established standards or the expectations of the communities they serve, while the cost of E-Comm is increasing at an unsustainable rate, creating budget uncertainty for local Police and Fire services, and
Whereas the imminent introduction of next-Gen 911 will represent the single largest change in emergency communications delivery since the introduction of 911, with uncertain cost and operational impacts,
Therefore be it resolved the Provincial Government engage local governments in a comprehensive review of the governance structure and delivery model of 911 emergency call taking, related non-emergency call taking, and emergency dispatch services across BC with a goal to assure reliable, affordable, and sustainable services for all communities.

This resolution was developed in working with the New Westminster Police Board, who are increasingly frustrated with the lack of value for cost we are getting from EComm, the organization that provides 911 call taking, non-emergency call taking, and/or emergency dispatch services for various municipalities across BC.

I don’t think it is necessary for me to list the challenges with EComm that have been impacting our first responders for the last few years. Exacerbated with challenges in BC Ambulance, worsened during the COVID19 Pandemic, and highlighted during the tragic Heat Dome event of 2021, EComm has been challenged to meet not only the service standards set for their industry, but the service levels expected of the community, for years. New Westminster Police could no longer rely on EComm to provide non-emergency call taking because of the massive number of dropped calls and unacceptable wait times, and have taken the measure of bringing non-emerg calls in house at our own cost. Despite recent improvements, 911 service at the best of times can barely meet industry standards, and there is no evidence that resiliency exists in the system to assure it will operate when even a small a regional disaster strikes. At the same time, costs for our Fire Department and Police related to EComm call taking and dispatch are increasing at an unsustainable rate. Meanwhile, on the horizon is the integration of next-Gen 911 that is already looking technically challenging and massively expensive. Community confidence in EComm being able to address these overlapping challenges in a timely way low.

We am hoping the Lower Mainland LGA will support us in asking for the province to step in and lead a comprehensive review of how emergency communications are managed across the province.

And that was the end of a long meeting, with hundreds of rental housing units approved, a new budget bylaw approved, advocacy on major issues impacting our community, a pretty good Monday all around.

Council – Feb 5, 2024

The Monday meeting was an eventful one, and I have already written some initial thoughts about that, and have more thinking and work to do. But before that all, we did get through our full Agenda, which started with us moving the following items on Consent:

Development Cost Charges Expenditure Bylaw No. 8437, 2024
We collect Development Cost Charges from developers to pay for infrastructure related to growth. To spend those DCC funds, we need authorization from Council. This Bylaw authorizes spending (numbers here approximate, itemized to the dollar in the report) $380,000 from our Drainage DCC and $1.2 million from our Sanitary Sewer DCC for sewer separation and modelling work, $145,000 from our Transportation DCC for pedestrian safety improvements, applying $450,000 from our Park Acquisition DCC towards the Pier Park loan, and $850,000 from the Water DCC for water main replacement.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation: 203 Pembina Street – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
There is a property in Queensborough where the owner wants to build townhouses consistent with the OCP, and they require a rezoning to do so. As the City and the community expressed concern about losing a prominent tree on the site, the owner agreed to a path where an HRA is offered instead of a typical rezoning. This provides permanent protection to the tree. This has not happened before in New West, but seems a creative way to balance development and tree preservation. The HRA will go to a Public Hearing, so I will hold my comments until then to respect the process.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 8436 (Miscellaneous Zoning Bylaw Amendments) for Consideration
This is a bit of an omnibus bylaw to update our zoning bylaw in various small ways, correcting the inconsistencies, redundancies, language changes, and administrative errors that accumulate in such a complex Bylaw document. There are also a few minor changes to reflect best practice that are not properly codified in our existing Bylaw.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: Metro Vancouver Valve Replacements (660 East Columbia Street)
A required valve replacement in the Sapperton Water Main that they are coinciding with some TransLink work for a bunch of good efficiency and operational reasons, and it is going to require some work outside of regular construction hours, which received Council approval.

The following items were Removed from consent for discussion:

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 660 Quayside Drive)
The construction of the Bosa development on the waterfront is nearing completion, and they need to remove the crane, which requires Saturday work outside of regular construction hours. Council granted a Noise Bylaw exemption to permit this.

Budget 2024: Draft 2024 – 2028 Five Year Financial Plan
Our budget is approved by Council in the form of a Five Year Financial Plan, with a 5-year Capital Budget that sits alongside it. We have had a half dozen open workshops on this, over 9 hours of discussion and deliberation, including going back and forth with staff on the line items in the plan and the strategy for paying for all of the items in the plan. There were some significant changes made through the last couple of meetings, and asked staff to take all of that away and draft it into a Bylaw we can vote on (as per Section 165 of the Community Charter).

Our Utility rates are going up between 3.3% and 12.0%, driven primarily by the increased cost of service being passed down to us by Metro Vancouver (for water, sewer, and solid waste services), and our long-term asset management plan that is pushing capital investment to upgrade our utility networks and maintain sustainable reserve levels for the future of the utilizes.

Our five-year Capital Plan is pegged at $208.8 million for general City services (e.g. those funded by taxes) and another $272.9 Million in utility investments for a total of $481.7 million. As we are wrapping up a couple of large capital projects, a good portion of our 2024 capital budget will be funded by reserves set up for this purpose, meaning those reserves will be going down, from $256.8 million to $177.9 million. The 5-year plan sees these building back up to $238 million by 2028 as part of our long-term commitment to a sustainable reserves policy aligned with best practices.

Our “General Fund” operating budget has reached $189 million, which requires a 7.7% tax increase to support. More than half of this reflects inflationary increases and new labour contracts secured in 2023. And I wil write up a follow-up piece on the things that informed our budget decisions.

After reading a few Bylaws (none for Adoption at this time, we moved on to Motions from Council:

Establishing delegation to visit Port Coquitlam to review best practices for limiting tax increases while increasing services
Councillor Minhas

Whereas the City of Port Coquitlam with a population of approximately 60,000 people has consistently registered some of lowest year-over-year property tax increases in Metro Vancouver over the last decade and beyond; and
Whereas the City of Port Coquitlam has proudly continued to expand core services for their residents and businesses including the recent addition of 57 free parking spaces in their downtown core; and
Whereas the City of New Westminster experienced a record high level of property tax in 2023;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Mayor request a meeting with elected officials and senior city staff from Port Coquitlam to explore if any of their best practices could be implemented locally with a goal of limiting future property taxes while enhancing service standards

Any motion that starts with inaccurate statements in the preamble needs to be considered in that context. This is far from a “record high” property tax increase, as compelling a political speaking point as that may be. It also seems like I have already had this conversation

On the subject of the motion, I already noted that we had 9 hours of open workshop this year discussing every aspect of the City’s Budget – and the budget was on the agenda today during the meeting – and the mover of this motion had ample opportunity to ask questions of our experienced and professional staff about comparators or different approaches, and those questions were not asked by the mover. Since I was challenged in Council on this point, I encourage folks to watch the 9 hours of publicly accessible video of those workshops and not take my word for it. (they are all available here, The workshop dates were Oct. 16, Nov 20, Nov. 27, Dec 11, Jan 8, and Jan 22). You can confirm for yourself how proactive the mover was in those discussions.

Further, every City’s budgets are open books – the Province even prepares spreadsheets and posts them comparing every City at the end of the year. Any member of Council or public can look at those spreadsheets and see where we are the same, or where we differ. You can not only compare us to PoCo, but to the other 21 municipalities in Metro Vancouver or the other 160 municipalities in BC. There is no “secret formula” or “tips and tricks” used by PoCo or any other City. Public Service accounting standards are used, and audits are publicly reported. The numbers below are not mine, they are directly from the BC Government site I link to above.

If a Councillor or member of the public does that bit of reading, they find PoCo’s increase of own-source taxation on a per capita basis has gone up 32% over the last decade (a timeline mentioned in the motion). New Westminster’s has gone up 35%, with both of us well below the metro Vancouver average of 41%:

At the same time, as there was significant speechmaking in the meeting about PoCo’s investments in infrastructure, PoCo’s 2024 Capital Plan is $33 Million. New Westminster’s is $152 Million. (the numbers I quoted in chambers were off the top of my head, and not accurate – these ones are).

On the topic of best practices, we have talked at length with our staff over the last year and a half about the best practice of asset management. This has informed our ongoing effort to take a sustainable approach to asset replacement and a responsible approach to asset reserves. Besides spending much more on capital projects, there is a significant difference in our reserves over the last 5 years – the timeline when New West began its serious efforts to address Asset Management. In New West they have more than doubled and are now approaching the 5% of asset value that represents best practice. Over the same decade, PoCo has chosen to not invest in their reserves, and they have not grown at all, to the point where PoCo has some of the lowest reserves in the region. This is not secret, this is not trick, this is a choice.

Now, to be fair, this is not a competition. PoCo opened a new recreation facility in 2021, that puts downward pressure on reserves; we are opening our this year, and that will put downward pressure on our reserves. But the choice to assure our 5-year plan offsets this downward pressure over the term of the plan was discussed several times around the Council Table in the last year, and Council has made a clear decision to follow this accounting best practice. Every City is different and has different pressures. We don’t need to go to PoCo to lecture them about this, nor do we need to bother their staff when we have experienced, knowledgeable and professional staff here ready to answer any question the Councillor is willing to ask whenever they arise. in a public meeting. So I could not support this motion, because it wastes the time of professional staff in two cities.

Increasing support in Budget 2024 to enhance the work done by our local resident associations
Councillor Fontaine

Whereas our resident associations have a long history of engaging with City Hall and actively encouraging community participation and engagement; and
Whereas resident associations only receive $200 each to support the funding of their operations; and
Whereas the grants provided to resident associations have not been adjusted in recent memory and they are not tied to the rate of inflation;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT staff be directed to increase the annual resident association budget by up to an additional $200 in the 2024 operational budget; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT this additional increase in base grant funding be available upon written request of the resident association; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT resident associations with a bona fide and active membership base over 150 individuals on December 31st of the previous calendar year are further eligible to request an additional $200 in funding to support their operations

I hate to once again be correcting the information inherent in the preamble to a resolution, but grants provided to RAs were adjusted in very recent memory – about two years ago to address on-line engagement costs related to COVID.

Although I support the spirit of this motion, I was not in support of the resolutions as written. This is because it is not aligned with the requests made by Residents Associations themselves during our most recent RA Forum. Though I recognize the author of this motion was not present at the Forum, and may have not read the follow-up communications I sent to RAs and members of Council.

There was some direction given to staff to help work out a new model that supports the digital engagement the RAs are requesting (and technical assistance may be more appropriate than funding) more fairly reflects the new world of digital engagement, but also recognizes the varied nature of the RAs. Some RAs are in very strong financial shape and have tech-savvy volunteers, some don’t even request the small subsidy the City provides. If there was a more common concern, it was access to meeting space due to insurance challenges, and we are also working on better supporting them in that area. Those discussions are ongoing, and I hope we have some clear direction to take back to the next RA forum with some proposed solutions. What is important here is that we include them in those discussions to put support where it is needed, not just throw money at a problem when that has not been a clear request from the RAs.

Council agreed to provide a bit more funding to the RAs that request it in the short term, but the “bonus” for having higher membership clause was not supported. None of this takes away from the ongoing work we need to do to support RAs.

And that was the end of the business part of the Agenda!

Council – Jan 22, 2024

We were back to a full agenda in our January 22nd meeting, so let’s get right into it with a few Information Reports that were pulled for discussion:

Member Selection for the Community Advisory Assembly
This is a report for information on the Community Advisory Assembly. We had more than 200 applicants, and staff used a member selection process to assure the Assembly as best as possible matched the demographics of the city. The statistics shown in this report demonstrate they did an incredible job.

One bit of update is that the assembly met for the first time two weeks ago, and informal get-together that was unfortunately a little choppy because of the snow event, but we had a great turnout nonetheless. The members were able to get together and meet one another for the first time. A couple of members of Council were there to meet the participants, answer questions, and thank them for their participation. It was a fun group of people from around the city, and it was a pleasure to meet a couple of dozen people I had never met before, but shared only an interest in making their community a better place. This is really exciting work.

Outcomes from Attending the United Nations Conference on Climate Change
This is a report out form Staff on their key take-aways of their participation at the Local Climate Action Summit and COP28. It was a unique opportunity for staff to learn from and share with their professional cohort around the world, and to connect with government and industry leaders in Climate Action on topics as far-ranging as updating the grid to youth engagement. I’m really happy the City was invited to take part, as it will make our City more prepared as we implement our aggressive climate plans.

Train Whistle Cessation – 2023 – Q4 Update
This is our regular quarterly update on Whistle cessation. This information is also available on the city’s website. There is a technical challenge on the Spruce Street crossing that we are taking to the CTA for a ruling, which is a hiccup, but a demonstration of how uncertain this work is.

We then moved the following items On Consent:

Child Care Facility Lease Agreement at 65 E. Sixth Ave
The new TACC includes a childcare facility – 12 infant/toddler and 25 pre-school child care spaces. This is thanks to a $3Million ChildCare BC grant, with the City contributing about $100,000 in construction and furniture and such, along with administering the lease agreement with a non-profit provider. The City went through an EOI then RFS process, and the YMCA of BC was the successful bidder. We charge a sustainable lease rate that is consistent with the non-profit childcare sector and allows us to recover operational costs for that portion of the building. This is the third City-owned and non-profit operate childcare in City buildings, along with the secured new childcare on Furness in Queensborough.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption: 651 Carnarvon Street
The Provincial Courthouse is doing some extensive envelope work. They are of the opinion that this work cannot occur while the Courthouse is in operation. We granted them a shorter-duration exemption to our noise bylaw to keep them accountable to the neighbourhood. We have not received a flood of complaints (in my recollection, Council has received a single complaint). It seems the construction company is demonstrating a level of concern about mitigating neighbourhood impacts. Council agreed to grant the extension.

Funding Submission to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Regional Community to Community Program 2023/2024
We are working through our Year of Truth and reconciliation actions. A large part of this is engaging in a more proactive way with Host Nations and others with a relationship with the City, and UBCM provides a fund to help cover some of these costs, so we are asking for some money from that grant fund.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Addictions Treatment and Supportive Recovery Residences: Proposed Conditions Related to Rezonings and Temporary Use Permits
This is a report from staff on our efforts to support treatment and recovery in the City of New Westminster. We have been proactive in the City in all aspects of the ongoing poisoned drug supply crisis, and we need to frame this conversation by recognizing that this crisis of overdose deaths is multi-faceted. Not all people dying of opioid overdose are addicts, and not all people living with addiction are at risk of overdose, so there needs to be a spectrum of services and supports. Treatment and recovery are a part of that spectrum, and for many people access to treatment and recovery is the best pathway to not just surviving this crisis, but to improving the quality of their life. Currently, access is not sufficient to meet the need.

New Westminster has many treatment and recovery programs operating, and they have traditionally been integrated into community, because that is how they are most effective. These are rarely embraced by the community when proposed, as they represent uncertainty to many people, but once operating the city rarely has concerns raised about the programs. The City traditionally regulates this landuse using Temporary Use Permits or a Rezoning. This report outlines work staff have been doing to identify potential policy or guidelines to guide future TUP or RZ decisions regarding residential treatment and recovery facilities.

E-Bike Share Implementation Plan
Bike Share may finally be coming to New West. Staff have taken a cautious approach here, and I am confident we have done our due diligence. Shared mobility is a part of our Master Transportation Plan, our eMobility Strategy, and TransLink’s 2050 Regional Transportation Strategy, but we also need to take an approach that recognizes the complexity and potential externalities of new mobility. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of some other jurisdictions, but we do want to learn from their example. There is a great report here folks who geek out on transportation should read.

There are several models of shared e-mobility. For simplicity (because there is more complexity in all three of these than can fit in one paragraph), we can think of three main models: the Vancouver/Montreal model where the City itself runs the bikeshare program. This provides a lot of control over how it operates, but in every example we see in North America this comes at a significant subsidy cost to the City. The San Diego model is more of a free-for-all; let the market see what works. This looks cheap and easy, but created such chaos in San Diego with multiple scooter share programs and questionable practices that San Diego had to bring in a bunch of regulations after the fact that ended up pushing all of the providers out of the market, paradoxically going from way too many to absolutely none in only a couple of years. The third model is a request-for-service like the North Shore, Richmond, and Coquitlam are doing (and like San Diego is migrating to), where the City doesn’t provide the service, but asks a service provider to bid on the opportunity to provide the service. This gives the city some authority through the contract to manage the externalities, while allowing the market to guide how the service is operated. We are going with #3 here.

Financial Statements Audit Planning Report for Fiscal Year ended December 31, 2023
Our financial statements are prepared to follow Provincial Law and the Public Service Accounting Board standards, and we have auditors who review them every year. This is always an interesting report because it outlines some of the new requirements under PSAB standards (there never seems to be a reduction in standards but only new standards applied). We need to appoint those auditors, this report does so. The cost of appointing auditors has gone up about 50%, but that appears to be consistent with the market. So much for 7% inflation!

Food Security Update and Funding Request
Since the GVFB announced they were ending distribution from their current location in the Brow of the Hill for logistical reasons, I have been working with staff to engage with food security providers in the City (GVFB, Don’t Go Hungry, St. Barnabas Shiloh Fifth Avenue, and Hope Omid) to determine what the GVFB move means to service in the community, and how the province can help to assure that people in need for food bank services can continue to get the help their families need.

We may have found a solution for GVFB in an underused City facility, but it is not clear that it will work for everyone, as the building is clearly end-of-life, slated for demolition for some time, and we need some clarity about the cost/benefit of re-investing in upgrades for building in this condition, especially as this may be a very short-term investment without a long-term value to the City. In the scope of out $200+ million capital budget, it is a small line item, but Council wants to be clear what the ask is before we make this investment.

The rest of this report (including one-time support to a couple of food hamper providers) speaks a bit our grant structure, the need for a reserve fund for grants to give us ability to react to this type of situation from a reliable and transparent funding source.

Report back to Council on September 11, 2023 motion regarding Samson V oil spill
This is a report back on the clean-up of the oil spill from the Samson V, and work done to prevent a re-occurrence. The good news is that the spill was remedied within a couple of days, and 100% of the spilled oil and impacted sediments were removed and properly disposed of to the satisfaction of the Regulatory Agency (the Coast Guard). The remediation cost for the spill in the river was about $35,000, and the required end-of-spill report was issued indicating that no detrimental impact on human health, aquatic ecosystems, flora or fauna was identified as resulting from the spill.

This also launched us to do some work that no-one in the city knew had to be done, because staff did not know there was oil in the Samson V. For whatever reason, the City assumed the fuel had been removed when it took possession of the boat from a local not-for-profit a couple of decades ago. So staff did now what staff should have done back then, and had the oil removed from the boat and installed a bilge hydrocarbon filter system, which all total cost us about $180,000.

We then closed with Motions from Council:

Request for a full accounting and report back to Council regarding trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates by Mayor Johnstone
Submitted by Councillor Fontaine

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Mayor provide a report to Council regarding the details pertaining to his recent business trip to Dubai, UAE; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the report include the following information:
• Detailed breakdown of the financial costs pertaining to the trip including items such as meals, flights, hotel accommodation, ground transportation etc.
• Detailed summary of what the 3rd party funder offered the Mayor’s Office by way of free trips to Dubai for either himself, City staff or any members of his family
• A day-by-day itinerary of all meetings and events attended by the Mayor while in Dubai
• Estimated carbon footprint of attending the Dubai conference in-person rather than virtually
• Summary of the direct benefits to the City of New Westminster of the Mayor’s office delegation to Dubai
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the City’s new Ethics Commissioner be requested to conduct a workshop with Council regarding the Community Charter Act with a particular emphasis on section 105 pertaining to the restrictions imposed on municipal officials by the Province of BC regarding the acceptance of gifts.

Section 100(2)b of the Community Charter requires that members of Council self-declare if they have a potential conflict of interest in a discussion at Council, and recuse themselves if it is so. I sought advice from the City’s legal staff and they advised me that there was no pecuniary conflict of interest, but the motion was worded in a way that challenged my actions, and as such, I could potentially be challenged with Conflict – how can I fairly moderate a debate on my own actions? So it was recommended to me that I recuse myself from the discussion in order to assure compliance with the Charter.

You are best to watch the video if you want to see how the discussion went down, but the short result is that Council did not support the first two clauses of this motion, but did support asking the new Ethics Commissioner to provide a workshop to Council on Conflict of Interest and Section 105.

And that was the end of the program. Once again, if you want a shorter news update with a different style of take, sign up for my newsletter here, coming out (almost) every Wednesday.

Council – Jan 8, 2024

For the first time I remember in my 9+ years on council, I was not present at a council meeting! Back in September, we planned a family vacation that I recognized may overlap with the first council meeting of the year, but also recognized that the agenda for that first meeting was likely to be very light coming off the Christmas Break, and indeed there were only two items on the Agenda.

Since I wasn’t there, and I still feel compelled to write a report about it as some sort of Completest thing, I am going to take a slightly different approach. I will talk a bit more about the process we see by watching from the video, I finally had time today to watch the video, so here goes.

Adopting the Agenda:
Council voted to adopt the agenda as usual, though there was a dissenting vote. One Councillor wanted to bring an information report forward this meeting for discussion. This is highly unusual and that takes us into our first process discussion.

We have adopted a practice this term of moving “Information Reports” to the end of the agenda. What makes these reports different is that they require no decision from council, no commitment of new resources of money, and no new direction or guidance. As the name implies, they are there simply to provide information to council. This speeds things up a bit as we don’t have to formally approve the report, but it also economizes a bit on staff resources. Having staff who are providing an Information Report hang around until 9 or 10 at night to see if there are questions or follow-up on what should be a straight forward report is not a good use of their valuable time (yes, staff are paid for the time they spend in Council Chambers, it is a job). If a member of council has a question or needs clarity on an item in the report, they can either ask the CAO to provide council a follow-up email with that info, or they can “pull the report” for the next council meeting, as Councillor Henderson did for the Whistle Cessation Report on the agenda (at the end of the meeting). Staff are then informed there are questions, and a week or two later, appropriate staff will attend council that night to address the questions. This meeting had four information reports (not an unusual number), and the Councillor wanted to “pull” one (again, not unusual).

What is unusual is that the Councillor wanted to pull it forward to be discussed at this meeting. That is not a typical practice, and has not in my recollection ever been suggested before. Staff who prepared the report were not present, so they would not be able to answer the questions. The Councillor continued to assert he wanted to “debate” the report, which is a strange thing to do for an Information Report, but safe to say there was some political showmanship going on here. Council wisely decided to follow standard established practice and pull the Information Report next meeting.

We then had a second request from the Councillor to amend the Agenda, adding a Notice of Motion that was not included in the Agenda because it was not submitted in time for inclusion according to the timeline provide to Council. There was some discussion about the date it was submitted and whether staff calculated the timeline correctly which I frankly had a hard time following. Council wisely decided to err on the side of good faith and allowed the Notice of Motion to be read so the Motion can be debated next meeting.

As a bit of a political aside, I do want to note that a similar motion last meeting to bring a Motion on Notice (the motion debated later this meeting, in fact) forward when we had a room full of audience members interested in hearing that debate was defeated by the same Councillor who made this motion to move his motion forward this meeting. Council could have saved hours of time at this meeting if that Councillor had voted for an accommodation that meeting that he requested and was granted this meeting. I have never seen it taking 20 minutes to adopt an agenda at Council before, and no criticism of the Chair here, I think Acting Mayor McEvoy did a great job wrangling the unusual procedures before him with a Councillor who showed no respect for the rules of order and intentionally misled the public on how the procedures of Council operate, but kudos to Councillor Fontaine for managing to say some variation of “the Mayor’s Trip to Dubai” eight times over a few minutes when it wasn’t even on the agenda.

The following item was Removed from Consent for discussion.

Construction Noise Bylaw Variance Request: Metro Vancouver Front Street Pressure Sewer – Manhole Abandonments
This is a request to do night work on Front Street to allow work on the sewer at a time when the sewer can be shut down (middle of the night when people do much less flushing, and on a day when it isn’t raining hard. It’s the reality of sewer work, folks. Council approved the request.

We then had Public Delegations which are not usually something I report on here, but I do want to speak a bit to process at delegations. We have a practice at New West where anyone can come to council to delegate for 5 minutes on pretty much any topic (except those not permitted under the Community Charter). There is a practical issue here, in that there needs to be some limit on how long we spend hearing delegations, and we therefore limit it to 10 people ,and have a process for people to sign up to delegate. Notably, this is more accommodating to Public Delegation than any other City in the Lower Mainland that I am aware of – some allow 2 or three minutes, some strictly limit delegations by topic, and some don’t permit delegation at all. 10 people at 5 minutes each, with time for discussion, usually takes one and half or two hours. That is a *lot* of council and staff time, but the principle of open local government is important in New West.

A problem with limiting it to 10 is that one relatively small group can sign up for all 10 spots on a single topic, and effectively crowd out others with contrary opinions, or people on other important topics. So staff have developed a procedure to prioritize delegates, a first-come-first served process, but also accommodating as wide as possible a range of topics. If 10 people sign up to talk about A and one signs up to talk about B, staff will allow only the first 9 speakers on A to accommodate the one speaker on B. It’s not perfect, but up to now it has worked pretty well on the few occasions when we have had more than 10 people sign up.

Alas, much like the rest of our processes, this is based on the principle of good faith – the assumption people will be respectful to the community and truthful to council. This meeting, some people chose to not be respectful or truthful, and mislead staff on the topics they wish to discuss with a clear intent to crowd other speakers out. I’m really disappointed this happened, and again commend Acting Mayor McEvoy for handling this with the grace and professionalism I am not sure I would have been able to show in the same situation.

Which brings us to the single Motion from Council:

Call for a Ceasefire in Gaza
Councillor Nakagawa

WHEREAS human rights groups such as Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations have cited growing atrocities in Israel and Gaza including the deaths of many civilians, including children; and
WHEREAS the City of New Westminster condemns the rising incidences of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in our communities; and
WHEREAS the City of New Westminster stands up strongly for human rights everywhere
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of New Westminster write a letter to the Prime Minister urging the Canadian government to immediately:
Call for a ceasefire
Support unrestricted access to humanitarian aid
Secure the release of all hostages.
• Call for an end to the siege of Gaza;
• Support unrestricted access to humanitarian aid;
• Support actions to secure the release of all hostages, including both Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and
• Stop all arms shipments, sales, and trade to Israel in compliance with Canadian Law.

Respecting the process of us getting a motion in front of Council takes a couple of weeks, the Christmas Break added time to this schedule, events in Gaza and the actions of the Canadian Government (due to pressure at all levels, including motions like proposed in New Westminster passing in numerous Canadian cities) have changed since the original motion was presented, and an amendment (as seen above) was moved to the motion.

In yet another procedural challenge, two members of Council tried to abstain from a vote by walking out. They did this after first taking part in the debate. They provided speeches on the topic, then made like Brave Sir Robin. The problem being that the Community Charter does not permit abstention from votes unless there is a direct Conflict of Interest. Neither member indicated Conflict of Interest, so choosing not to vote is a violation of the Community Charter. The Clerk and Acting Mayor could have brought this to the members, but engaging in a debate then leaving the room before a retort is something I have not seen in my 9 years on Council. Amazing.

In the end, the Motion as amended was unanimously supported by Council, and if I had been present, I would have also supported it. I am not someone who typically brings these types of motions to Council, but I think Acting Mayor McEvoy eloquently made the case for why Local Governments will bring issues of conscience to the Chamber. When a motion like this is put in front of me as a member of council, I look at the material of the motion and how it aligns with the principles I hold and have represented to the public in my time as an elected official. In this case, I want humanitarianism to take hold in Gaza, and I want Canada to stand up and call for it. This includes the release of Israeli Palestinian prisoners, and unrestricted access to humanitarian aid in Gaza. I want Canada to more firmly stand against Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia here in Canada. The things this motion are asking for are things I support.

Council, Dec 11, 2023

We had a full Council day on Monday, the last meeting of 2023. It included daytime workshops where among other things we worked through some details of the operational budget (including our first look at potential tax rates for 2024), but I’m here to write about our evening meeting, as that’s the Agenda where the rubber hits the road. We started my moving the following items on Consent:

Authorization of LTSA Document Signing of Corporate Officer
There are some legal documents we sign as the City, most of them require signature from the Mayor and a Corporate Officer. Which member of staff serves that Corporate Officer duty for specific documents is a decision of Council. This changes that assignment for one type of document because of some recent staff changes in the City.

Multilingual Services for Energy Save New West: Outcomes and 2024 Initiatives
Energy Save New West is our program to provide a one-stop-shop for residents and businesses to access local, provincial, and utility-provided energy-saving and emissions-reducing programs, services, and incentives. Want to upgrade your home, look for rebates and support? ESNW should be your first stop.

This report outlines the success we have had in extending ESNW services to 5 new languages, to increase impact and equity. Through this, we have reached 269 multilingual families, distribute 51 energy saving kits and delivered 34 workshops – and helped 15 non-English-speaking families get access to utility rebate programs. It also incorporates some changes to the program that came from feedback of the participants.

2023 Capital and Operating Quarterly Performance Report
This is our quarterly financial report, and there are no big surprises here. Our annual Capital Budget is being adjusted to recognize some increased costs, but the $900k increase is only about a 0.5% increase, which is not scary considering the inflationary pressures we are facing. Operational revenue is up ($33.4M) but so are costs ($4.4M). Notably. Most of the revenue increase is the insurance settlement for Pier Park, though we will be transferring this to capital reserves at the end of the year. We are also seeing higher than anticipated building permits, and more investment interest, which are good for the books.

Renewal of Uptown New Westminster Business Improvement Area – Results from Notification of Affected Property Owners
Before we adopt the BIA Bylaw that sets their rates and budget, legislation requires we survey the property owners affected. Three of the 54 property owners Uptown (5.5%) were opposed. So we proceed.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 2126 Seventh Avenue (22nd Street SkyTrain Station)
The work TransLink is doing at 22nd Street SkyTrain station is taking longer than anticipated, so TransLink’s contractor is asking to extend the construction noise variance until April (excepting the Christmas season, when no work will be done). We have no received any complaints with the existing work, and the request remains reasonable considering the operational needs of transit, so we approved this extension.

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2024 Council Appointments to Internal Advisory Bodies of Council and External Organizations
This is a review of the list of appointments to various internal and external committees. For the most part there were no changes proposed or approved. are no changes proposed. Councillor Mihas wanted to be on the Tourism Board, and Council moved to support this. There were also several motions to appoint other Councillors to Metro and TransLink positions that were not supported.

Fire Department Strategic Plan
This is the final version of the Fire Department’s new Strategic Plan. It was heartily endorsed by all of Council, as the Fire Department is in a good place right now, and is being pretty proactive at dealing with the many changes in their service and delivery model related to population growth, climate disruption, and their being at times thrust to the front line of the Three Crises response for the City.

It is clear for us all that it is time to make some perhaps overdue investments in Fire and Rescue Services. WE need to start planning the replacement of Hall #2, that is at end of life. We also need to assure we are investing in the resources to address increased health care response, increased density and more complex building forms, and simply the increase in population. If we bring a true Vision Zero approach to road safety forward in the next year or two, there could be an enhanced role for Fire in the investigation and follow-up of traffic incidents, that will be offset in to the longer term by savings in reduced accident calls (road accidents are about half of current fire department calls), but will require up-front and shorter term investment to see those savings.

Fortunately, we do have some new tools from the provincial government to raise funds for fire hall replacement, in the new housing regulations released by the Province, and new support form senior government for climate adaptation, which Fire and Rescue will be at the forefront of. This Strategic Plan will help us get there with a clear path.

Rezoning (408 East Columbia Street) – Preliminary Report
The owner of one of the ground-level retail units in a new building in Sapperton wants to open a dental office. It’s not strictly “retail”, and we don’t want too much office space at ground level as it does not add to the overall activity of the street (we have lots of second-floor office space of this type in New West!), but staff consider this use reasonable and are recommending a rezoning to adapt the zoning language here. This did lead to a longer conversation about how we are incenting better storefront space use, and what tools we may have to support more local small business. After that, Council agreed to advance this application for further considerations once the bylaws are created.

Temporary Amendment to the Vehicle Procurement Process
There appears to be bit of a supply chain problem in new vehicles in Canada. This means low inventory and long lead times for orders. Our procurement policy requires extra steps that is making it hard to acquire any cars (when a vehicle is found, it is commonly sold to other customers before our purchasing folks can get approval). Staff are asking to suspend the usual process for a bit so they can be more nimble in getting new vehicles when needed. Note, there is no request to increase budget for vehicles here, or reduce transparency in our purchases, just a request to temporarily shift to a more nimble purchase process.

We then read several Bylaws, including the following Bylaws for Adoption:

Building Amendment Bylaw No. 8433, 2023
This Bylaw that establishes new Energy Step Code and Zero Carbon Step Code requirements from 2024 to 2027 was adopted by Council.

Electrical Utility Amendment Bylaw No. 8441, 2023
This Bylaw that sets electrical utility rates for 2024 was adopted by Council, but not before all three readings of the Bylaw were challenged (included being voted against by a Councillor who voted to recommend the rates to Council at the Electrical Commission meeting), and a motion to rescind the third reading was defeated. This becomes important further on in the meeting.

Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8440
This Bylaw that sets the rates for various fees and rates in the City was adopted unanimously by Council.

Heritage Designation (441 Fader Street) Bylaw No. 8407, 2023and
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (441 Fader Street) Bylaw No. 8406, 2023
This Bylaw that permanently protects a heritage home in Sapperton in exchange for building an infill house on the same lot was adopted by Council.

Parks Reserve Fund Bylaw No. 8939, 2023
This Bylaw that creates a reserve fund for the Pier Park insurance settlement was adopted by Council.

Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw No. 8438, 2023
This Bylaw that authorizes staff to temporarily borrow up to $3 Million to cover any seasonal cash shortage was adopted by Council.

Uptown Business Improvement Area Bylaw No. 8424, 2023
This Bylaw that renews the Uptown BIA agreement for another 5 years was adopted by Council.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (808 Royal Avenue) No. 8416, 2023
This Bylaw that finalizes the zoning for a new academic and residence building for Douglas College was adopted by Council.

We then moved onto Motions from Council

Improving affordability for New West residents by temporarily eliminating the 3.5% Climate Action Levy on electrical rates
Councillor Fontaine

BE IT RESOLVED THAT staff incorporate into the City’s 2024 Operating Budget a temporary one-year elimination of the 3.5% Climate Action Levy imposed by the New Westminster Electrical Utility

As is my duty on Council, I ruled this motion out of order. Agreeing on advice from the City Clerk, it was considered a “Motion to Reconsider”. The same effective motion (to suspend the Climate Action Levy) was moved and defeated earlier in the evening under Bylaws, and was moved three separate times in the last meeting as we considered each reading of the empowering Bylaw. Council clearly answered “no” to this request four times over the last two weeks. For practical reasons, there is only so many times a member of Council can ask the same question. Under Roberts Rules and our Procedure Bylaw, a “Motion to Reconsider” is always in order – Council can change its mind once and reconsider a vote – but that motion must come from a member that voted in the majority. No-one at Council who voted with the majority here was willing to put this on the table for reconsideration, so it was out of order.

Creating safer streets for everyone with intersection safety cameras
Councillor Henderson

BE IT RESOLVED that New Westminster City Council direct the Mayor to write a letter to the Provincial Government to request that the Provincial Government install additional speed and red light intersection safety cameras in the City of New Westminster, prioritizing:
• Intersections with a high rate of crashes that resulted in injuries or fatalities as identified in the 2023 New Westminster Intersection Safety Study; and
• Intersections near schools with a high rate of crashes that resulted in injuries or fatalities.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the letter request that the Provincial Government allow BC local governments to install speed and red light cameras at their own cost and collect fines and that the Provincial Government provide all revenue from additional speed and red light cameras to municipalities as grants to be invested in implementing local road safety improvements.

This motion reflects similar motions from other municipalities concerned about road safety, and especially safety around schools. It was endorsed by road safety advocates and the public health officer in town, and council endorsed it. I also added an amendment suggestion that the motion (slightly modified to be broader than just New Westminster) be taken to Lower Mainland LGA and UBCM as a resolution to be endorsed by the members, which amplifies the advocacy level.

Speed and red light cameras work. It has been proven that they reduce dangerous driving behavior and save lives, including those of vulnerable road users. They are also politically popular according to recent polling. There are some technical challenges in rolling them out in bigger numbers, regardless of who holds the management of them, and this motion is not too prescriptive, so we hope the Province can include local governments in development of whatever process works best to get them on the road, because they save lives.

Direct election of Metro Vancouver representatives
Councillor Fontaine

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council support the concept that voters in our region should be asked by way of a ballot question during the 2026 municipal election whether they want to have the opportunity to directly elect their Metro Vancouver representatives; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Council writes a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs requesting they undertake a public consultation regarding a governance review of Metro Vancouver with the goal of establishing an appropriate ballot question to be included in the 2026 municipal election.

This turned out to be an interesting conversation at council, with a diversity of ideas presented, and I think a positive example of all of council working to seek a consensus point. Challenging, because several different ideas pop up in this motion. Again, I’ll just speak to my thinking through this process, and how I feel we got to the end, as I don’t want to speak for anyone else.

I am not particularly opposed to a review of governance at Metro Vancouver, but feel this is an area where New Westminster needs to be strategic and consider whether our voice (as only 3% of the region’s population) will be weakened or strengthened by any change. I am not sure that we want to move to a system where more weight is thrown over to the larger cities, with Vancouver and Surrey having combined the balance of population and vote. Many of the votes at the Board are weighted (imperfectly) by population, but no voted at committee are, and committee is where a lot of the work gets done. I’m not sure if a change would continue to support what I think is a strong voice we currently have at Metro, and it is this uncertainty that made it hard for me to support the first half where New West is effectively endorsing a popular vote referendum.

My other challenge with this wording is that it seems non-collaborative with our 22 partners at Metro Vancouver to go directly to the Province without at least including them in this conversation. The Metro Board is working in a fairly open and collaborative way right now, and I want to respect my colleagues there. I think they need to be engaged first in any discussion of a governance review.

In the end, Council did not support the first “Be it resolved” of this motion but did support the second “be it further resolved” half, with the addition of an amendment asking that Metro Vancouver Mayors Committee be engaged first in this conversation. I think it is an interesting conversation for us as a region to undertake, though I enter it cautiously.

And that ended our last meeting of 2023. We will be back together in January, where our first order of work will be to wrap up the 2024 budget.

Council – Nov 27, 2023

We had a significant agenda for our regular New West Council meeting this week, and it all started with a Public Hearing:

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw No. 8406, 2023 and Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 8407, 2023 for 441 Fader Street
The owner of this property in Lower Sapperton wants to build a second infill house on the corner lot, while restoring and preserving for posterity the existing 1930 heritage house. Heritage Restoration Agreements require a Public Hearing, and here we are. The request here in exchange for the HRA is a slight increase in allowed density (FSR 0.662 instead of 0.61 permitted) and permission to stratify so the houses can operate like a duplex instead of one being rental. Overall, there will be three units here, as one of the Strata units will have a rental suite.

The Community Heritage Commission supported the application, and the applicant-led public consultation was pretty mixed, with a lot of people feeling that this was too much density for lower Sapperton (I might counter by saying these is more density coming with the upcoming change in Provincial Legislation, but that’s a blog to come) and expressing concerns about parking (though the existing house has zero off-street parking spaces, and the resultant three homes will have three off-street parking spots), and some pretty mixed feelings about whether heritage preservation is a good or bad thing (there is room to disagree on this).

We had four written pieces of correspondence, mostly expressing the concerns raised above, and a few public delegations, including the proponent, and neighbours both concerned and supportive. In the end, Council unanimously to support this HRA, and gave the empowering Bylaws three readings in the subsequent Council Meeting.

We then got to our regular meeting with a Report for Information pulled from a previous meeting for discussion:

Report Back on Motion Regarding Speed Limits for Motorized Devices Operating on Sidewalks
This is the report back form staff on a motion brought to Council in September asking them to look into putting speed limits on Sidewalks. There is little surprise in here to anyone who had read the City’s eMobility Strategy, the 2022 updates to our Master Transportation Plan that addressed this directly, or was aware of the ongoing provincial pilot program related to e-mobility. As I wrote back when this motion came to Council, “…these are action items already in staff workplans as part of the eMobility Strategy adopted back in June of last year”, and this report confirmed that. It also confirmed that this work really need to wait until the Provincial regulation is amended (presumably before the Pilot Program ends in April) so we can align any local regulatory change with the provincial one.

The following items were then Moved on Consent:

2024 Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Amendment Bylaw 8438, 2023
The regulations around how the City can borrow money are pretty strict – we can’t borrow without explicit Council support for that borrowing, even for the very short term. The nature of our business is that we spend money year-round, but get most of our revenue at tax time, which means every year we run a slight risk of not having enough cash on hand to pay our bills in the few weeks before those tax dollars arrive en masse. So we get a line of credit to cover us off for those few weeks, which means we need a Bylaw that allows that temporary borrowing, and it needs to be approved by Council every year. This is that approval.

Acting Mayor Appointments for November 2023 through October 2024
We always have to have an Acting Mayor designated in case I can’t do one of my functions as Mayor because I am out of town or under a bus. As I had heard no complaints about how we did it the first time, we are continuing the practice of rotating all 6 Councillors for 2-months stints, and because I find alphabetical order to be boring, I suggested we do it in order of poll results from the 2022 election. Everyone gets two months, so don’t read too much into it.

Approval of Parks Reserve Fund Bylaw No. 8439, 2023
When we have money ear-marked for a specific purpose, it sits in a reserve fund. Those reserve funds are empowered by a Bylaw that sets out how we spend it – the Bylaw is the figurative ear-mark. The insurance settlement for the Pier Park fire site is an example, and this Bylaw sets up the reserve fund so that money is transparently reserved. We report on the state of all Reserve Funds in our annual financial documents (see Page 24 of our 2022 Financial Statements here)

The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Building Amendment Bylaw No. 8433, 2023: New Energy Step Code and Zero Carbon Step Code requirements beginning Jan 1 of 2024, 2025 and 2027 – Bylaw for Three Readings
We are moving to a Province where fossil “natural” gas will no longer be a tool for heating our buildings or cooking our food. That is explicit in federal climate targets, in Provincial Law, and in our own Climate Action plans. One tool to move us toward this transition is the Zero Carbon Step Code – a gradual change in the building code that removes fossil gas as a permitted energy source in new buildings. Much like the existing Energy Step Code, which gradually increases the energy efficiency rating of new builds, the ZCSC allows local governments to choose to move faster than the code requires by moving up “steps” faster than Provincial Regulation requires – “Opting In” to exceed minimum standards.

There is some technical stuff in these reports, with “Part 9 buildings” (houses and townhouses) and “Part 3 buildings (most multifamily homes), and about the balance between the Energy Step Code and the Zero Carbon Step Code. We want to incent people to move faster, we need to assure that there is a building sector that can meet specific standards and that we don’t price that building out of the market as we are in the throes of a housing crisis. For this reason, the city engaged a technical review and industry consultation that is included in this report. This bylaw outlines a stepped pathway to all new buildings in the city being Zero Carbon by 2027, which is three years ahead of the Provincial target, while at the same time incentivizing the immediate adoption of zero carbon by relaxing the energy step code requirements, which means it should be a little cheaper to build your building if you don’t use gas, while allowing the industry to catch up a bit on both codes. According to a recent Community Energy Association survey, this puts us on track with or ahead of every jurisdiction in BC, while meeting our Seven Bold Steps target for buildings. This is good work, and a huge part of our Community Energy and Emission plan.

City of New Westminster Guidelines to Promote Sex Worker Safety
Part of being a just society is recognizing people who are most at risk in that society, and addressing that risk in way that centres the experience of those facing it. The work to identify and address the risk sex workers face in New Westminster was perhaps overdue after several instances of appalling violence in the City, and several changes in Federal legislation following the Bedford decision. With sex work moving on-line and into hidden place, the risk has only increased.

The City’s response has been to look at what other jurisdictions are doing, and have peer-informed consultant determine the most evidence-driven approach for us to adopt. This includes a working group of peer-driven organizations, local non-profits, and City staff in Social Planning. They will keep communications with the NWPD open, though the NWPD is not explicitly a member of the working group based on the recommendation of the participants with lived experience. This will guide further internal staff straining to members of the City staff who may interact with sex work though their duties – predominantly Bylaws, Business Licensing, and First Responders.

Fair Wage Policy at the City of New Westminster
Back in September, Council endorsed a motion to determine if a Fair Wage Policy is right for New Westminster. This would follow the lead of municipalities like Burnaby and North Vancouver, and would be an important augmentation to our Living Wage Policy. This is not the decision point, but a report back to Council on the work the City’s HR and Legal folks would need to do to allow us to make an informed decision. We are agreeing to tell staff to do that work, and we expect a report back in mid-2024.

Food Security Programs: Update and Proposed Next Steps
The Greater Vancouver Food Bank has been operating out of a church in New Westminster, serving hundreds of families every week. For a series of logistical reasons, they are no longer able to operate out of that location, and are asking those clients to shift to their warehouse location near the Production Way Skytrain station in Burnaby. The service at the door will be better as they will be able to provide a more diverse food supply, but there will clearly be transportation problems for many New Westminster families who rely on this service. City staff and the GVFB folks have been working to find an alternative location in New West that meets their operation needs, to no avail.

The Don’t Go Hungry food hamper program is a newer offering in New Westminster, operating out of three locations, including the Queensborough Community Centre, and also serves hundreds of people every week. They are feeling increased pressure to fulfill community need, and are challenged with fundraising capacity. Along with providing space in the QCC, the City has provided tens of thousands of dollars of grant money over the last couple of years to keep the DGH operation afloat.

There is a third food hamper program operating in the city and serving hundreds of people, with an emphasis on newcomers to Canada. Hope Omid is operated by Roqiya Ahmadi (recently named New Westminster’s Citizen of the Year) and is similarly dealing with increased need and limited fundraising ability. I think it is important that they are included in this discussion

Between the three of them, there may be thousands of people in this City whose food security and nutrition needs are linked to their services. With grocery prices (and profits!) increasing at unsustainable rates, this is not a problem that is going away. So the City’s Social Planning staff are going to work with the three providers to determine how best the City can support the work they do to improve food security in New Westminster. We are diving into work here that is not strictly “local government”, but food security is yet another area where jurisdictional battles do no-one any good, and the public expects all levels of government to step in where they can, as it is such an important part of community sustainability.

Pavement Restoration Policy
You know what pavement cuts are. Those strips of uneven pavement that crisscross roads across the city, connecting homes to water, sewer, or other utility services. They are necessary, but can quickly degrade the asphalt and reduce the life of the pavement, leading to increased paving costs. You would not believe how much pavement costs, and it is increasing in cost much faster than “CPI” inflation.

When a cut is made, the contractor has to restore the road to a Municipal Access Agreement standard, but this standard is a bit inconsistent, and does not reflect the true cost to the City related to cumulative degradation of the roads because of lower-quality cut and fills. We need to standardize this, and update our standards and costs related to this.

Staff Recommendations Related to the Council Motion Regarding the Chinatown Community Stewards Program
This is a follow-up from a resolution earlier this year that actually arose from some Strategic Planning discussions around alternate approaches to address some challenges in the downtown. The Chinatown Stewards program in Vancouver has been successful, so Council inquired whether something similar would work here, and asked how the City could support it.

The current I’s On the Street Program coordinated by the New Westminster Homelessness Coalition has significant overlap with the Chinatown Stewards, in that they provide employment for people with lived or living experience in homelessness and pay them to be stewards of public Urban space in Downtown, Sapperton and Uptown, assisting with litter management and sharps disposal, disseminated resource info to people living downtown, and being, as inferred, “eyes on the street”. Staff is recommending instead of a new program, enhancing I’s on the Street to fill more of the functions of the Stewards. This also means committing or finding funding, as the I’s on the Street program funding is coming to a close at the end of the year.

The Right Person, the Right Time, the Right Place: Council Motion Update
Earlier this year, we had a delegation from Century House present a report to Council on how we could better support seniors in the community through programs that better support aging in place and public health care for seniors, especially in light of the massive failures of Privatized Seniors Care during the Pandemic. As we see Alberta doubling down on the privatization route, the need for evidence-based policy that centres Seniors’ quality of life, not the profit model is as acute as ever.

Working with the Century House group, City staff have looked at a new Age-Friendly Community Strategy, with initial work to be launched to coincide with Seniors Week in 2024. At every step, the City will include the seniors who advocated for this work in the conversation, and will be looking to engage senior government to help with inevitable legislative change and resource needs.

Uptown Business Association and Downtown New Westminster BIA – 2024 Business Promotion Scheme Budget Approvals
The Uptown and Downtown BIAs both operate through the Community Charter model: the City collects a tax from their members (about $150,000/year for Uptown, $300,000/year for Downtown) and turn that money over to the respective BIAs to do programming that supports the needs of the BIA as identified by the members. Their spending is made transparent to the community through their “Business Promotion Scheme” budgets, which this report outlines. Council is asked to approve this spending, though it is a bit unclear in the Charter what it would mean if we chose to NOT approve it, as it is their money, we are just administrators. That said, supporting the BIA process is one of the ways the City partners with the Business Community for the betterment of the entire community.

We then read a bunch of Bylaws, with the following Bylaws for Adoption

Growing Communities Fund Reserve Fund Bylaw No. 8415,2023
This Bylaw creates a reserve fund to segregate the Growing Communities Fund proceeds provided by the Provincial government from other existing reserve funds, and it was Adopted by Council.

Code of Conduct Bylaw No. 8408, 2023
This is the Bylaw that formalizes our updated Code of Conduct for all Council Members. It took a lot of work with Council, staff, and our external counsel to put this together, and it will make us a stronger organization going forward. I’m really happy Council endorsed this, and am disappointed it wasn’t unanimously supported.

Finally, we had a single Motion form Council to consider:

Providing equitable funding to cities with municipal police forces impacted by the Surrey Police Service transition
Submitted by Councillor Fontaine

Whereas the Province of BC has committed up to $150M to the City of Surrey to cover part of the transition costs related to the transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service; and
Whereas the City of New Westminster and other jurisdictions with their own municipal police force have been impacted by the Surrey police transition as it pertains to the recruitment and retention of staff;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council request a memo from the NWPD Chief regarding the current and anticipated future impacts of the Surrey Police Service transition on our NWPD staffing retention and recruitment strategies; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Mayor be asked to write a letter to the Solicitor General asking the Province of BC to provide additional funding to municipal police forces that have been or may be impacted by the Surrey Police Service transition.

I had to be careful to speak only as Mayor and not as the Chair of the Police Board here, but I was opposed to this motion simply because it is 100% a Police Board matter. Council does not direct the Police Chief, and the Police Act draws a strict firewall between the civilian Police Board and the elected City Council for exactly this reason – intentionally to keep political interference and partisan politics out of the operation of police.

The Police Board understands this division, and its duty. It also understands the value of working collaboratively with Council to assure the community’s interests are represented and understood. The Board and Council have started having formal meetings (we had one just last week) where we had a fulsome and meaningful exchange of ideas, but people stayed in their own lane. I suggest that as the appropriate venue for an elected member of this Council to engage with what are strictly Police Board items.

I also need to address some of the information being shared around this motion, as it did not (in my opinion) reflect the reality of the NWPD recruiting situation as reported to Council at that meeting last week. It is true that 15 members of the NWPD changed jobs to join the SPS in 2021 and 2022. However, none made the move in 2023, and over the same three year period, NWPD has successfully recruited 21 members from other police forces. Officers moving between services is a regular part of the business, but our Chief is clear in communicating that morale in our department is high, and we have become a service of choice for police officers.

In the end, Council decided to defeat the first resolution, and to refer the second half of this motion to Police Board, where advocacy about Police Funding really need to reside. That is not to say the City doesn’t have a role, indeed, in the Council / Police Board meeting last week, both organizations agreed that “joint advocacy” should be an area we work together on. Going around the Police Board to advocate directly to the Minister on police matters does not seem to be in the spirit of that agreement.

And that brought the meeting to an end. It was a meaty agenda with lots of important work on it, but we managed to get through it all fairly efficiently, while giving lots of space for discussion and dialogue. I think we are getting the hang of this council thing, one year in.

Workshop – Nov 20, 2023

We didn’t have a regular Council meeting this Monday in New West, but we did have a Council Workshop. This represents a bit of a shift in how we will be doing Council business for the next year at least. The goals is to try out various strategies to make Council more efficient and effective, while assuring time for all of Council to have comprehensive discussions around important issues and initiatives (even get into the weeds a little, if needed). These workshops replace our earlier Task Force model where a sub-set of Council worked with staff on specific topics of priority before the results are brought to Council for decisions. Workshops are more like Committees of the Whole (but for legislative and procedures reasons different) that include everyone on Council, but provide more flexibility and less structure than Council. Ideally, we can work out details, address concerns raised by Council members, and give staff a heads-up about how Council will receive upcoming reports so recommendations to Council can be better informed by the “mood of the room”. These are not replacing Council meetings, but enhancing them. Yes, we will have more meetings, but maybe fewer of them will fo until midnight.

As it was my regular pattern here to only report on actual Council Meetings, I’m not sure how much I want to report out on the Blog about workshops, but this one had a few interesting topics, so from this point forward, we’ll see how it goes. You can see the agenda and watch the video here.

Budget 2024: Service Enhancements, Strategic Plan Implementation, and Revenue & Funding Projections
This report form senior staff in the City went through department-by-department on pressures being felt and their approach to addressing Council strategic priorities in order to inform any enhancement requests that will be coming forward in the Operational Budget discussion. This speaks a bit to how we do budgeting in the City and how it is different than your household budgeting, or even how a small business manages their budget. But that is longer blog post discussion.

One of the major drivers to the budget this year is the opening of təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre. It is not only the largest ever single investment in community infrastructure in New Westminster, it is also going to cost money to operate. Detailed study suggests it will cost $1.4Million a year more to operate as it is much larger and more complex than the facilities it replaces. It will also recover more revenue, as use is expected to be much higher than the facilities it replaces, resulting in up to $500,000 more in revenue every year. This still leaves an operating deficit on the order of $900,000 per year, and we need to budget for that.

Yes, a large pool and recreation centre costs money to operate, and we cannot recover all of those costs, Indeed, we don’t want to recover all of those costs, because like a library or a skating rink or a public playground or a fire department – these are services provided to the community based on community desires and need, not based on whether we can make money running them.

We also talked about some significant restructuring work we are doing inside City Hall. One example is bringing the Electrical Utility and our Climate Action staff together to form a single department, recognizing that the synergy that will be found in having an electrical provider involved in the electrification push that all jurisdictions will we encountering over the decade ahead. This brings our utility that is really good at keeping the lights on together with the strategic drivers of climate action, so everything from retrofits of buildings to EV charging strategy are addressed in a synchronized way. Another example is the staffing up of a Housing Division in our Planning and Development department, which will allow us to be more nimble in responding to funding opportunities in housing while assuring we have capacity to meet the various new changes in how housing is regulated in the province. We are also amalgamating several functions in the City into a new Community Services department, so we can be more streamlined in how these various outward-facing services operate, and can fulfill our Strat Plan mandate around Community Connections and Belonging.

There is also a good memo in here worth reading about how successful we have been at getting senior government funding for various initiatives in the City, and our strategy to keep on that path as both the Federal and Provincial governments are getting into their respective election cycles.

Appointment of Chief Election Officer for SD40 Trustee By-election
Under the Local Government Act, the City is responsible for organizing a By-election when one is needed, and if it is a School Board by-election, we send the bill to the School District. This report was about the hiring of the Chief Election Officer and their Deputy, and set out the legislated timelines for the election. Election Day is February 3rd, and everything counts back from there!

Code of Conduct Review
Council has been working on an update of our Code of Conduct for many months. We hired an external expert to guide us through constructing a robust Code, and agreed with the best practice of having and an external Ethics Commissioner to adjudicate the Code in the event it is invoked. This has been an iterative process in developing the Code, as there is are necessary nuances in balancing rights and responsibilities, and in the complex relationships between elected folks, staff, and the public. We want people aggrieved to be empowered to invoke the Code, but also want to avoid the Code being wielded as a partisan hammer or a tool for harassment. It is actually a complex piece of policy development that required careful consideration by Council and the insight of a consultant with practical experience in operating a Code of Conduct in a political realm.

Council voted to give the empowering Bylaw Second and Third Reading, meaning the drafting of the Bylaw is over, we just need to adopt it at a subsequent meeting to make it law.

Council – Nov 6, 2023

November 6th marks the 23rd meeting of the term and the last meeting of the first year. We had a relatively gentle agenda that got us out of there in time to watch the Canucks disassemble the Oilers in the third period. But we all know they will break our hearts soon enough. Before that, on to the Agenda, which started with the following items that were Moved on Consent

Appointment of Director of Finance/Chief Financial Officer
We have a new Director of our Finance Department and Chief Financial Officer. As this job has some specific regulatory roles under the Community Charter and some City Bylaws, Council has to formally make the appointment. Welcome Shehzad!

Approval of Growing Communities Fund Reserve Fund Bylaw No. 8415, 2023
We have not yet spent our $15.8 M Growing Communities Fund, but will be including it in our future Capital budgeting. In the meantime, it formally sits in a Reserve Fund that we need to create through Bylaw. This is that Bylaw.

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request: 660 Quayside Drive (Bosa Developments)
One of the construction cranes on the Bosa waterfront development is coming down, which requires some traffic disruption and work outside of regular construction hours to accommodate this disruption.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement and Heritage Designation: 441 Fader Street – Bylaws for First and Second Readings
The owner of this house in Sapperton wants to build a second infill house on the lot, stratify the property, and restore and preserve the current house through a Heritage Designation. The total density on site will be a little above what is permitted, and the stratification requires Council approval. It saw some community consultation, but will also come to a Public Hearing (as is required for HRAs), so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Housing Agreement Bylaw No. 8389, 2023 (810 Agnes St) – Bylaw for Three Readings
This is the agreement between the City and the developer that assure the new tower proposed at 810 Agnes be a rental property for 60 years or the life of the building, whichever is longer.

We then had a couple of items that were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Anvil Centre Engagement Objectives
The Anvil Centre is working towards its tenth anniversary, and Council wants to have a conversation with the community about how it serves the community, and how it could serve the community better. This report outlines the engagement process and frames the questions the City will be asking the community. Watch Be Heard New West for engagement opportunities if you care about the Anvil and making Downtown better.

Motion Response: Increasing Access to Fresh Drinking Water for Local Residents and Their Pets
There was an earlier motion to have staff look at installing temporary drinking fountains attached to fire hydrants like they piloted in Vancouver. This is the report back from staff, and I can sum it up as “Uh… no”.

Vancouver had the ability to fabricate these in-house for their pilot, and have decided after the pilot to scale this program back and move back towards permanent stand-alone fountains. There are a bunch of reasons for this, from chlorine and sediment flushing requirements at the “dead end” that are often used for hydrants, interference between the hydrants use as a drinking source and as a firefighting source (meaning they were only installed where there was another nearby hydrant), and other technical and maintenance challenges. But most importantly, the cost to make and install these is equal to or higher than the cost of purchasing and installing off-the-shelf stand-alone permanent fountains. The temporary items don’t work as well, are more hassle, and cost more than the alternative. No surprise staff did not recommend we follow this less effective and more expensive path.

That said, we are going to do an assessment of where we may be deficient in water fountains (look! open data!), and will come back with a plan to prioritize installations of new (permanent) fountains as Council releases budget to do so.

We then read a few bylaws including the following Bylaws for Adoption:

Anvil Theatre Fees and Charges Amendments Bylaw No. 8426, 2023
Business License Amendment Bylaw (2024 Fee Schedule) No.8420, 2023
Climate Action, Planning and Development Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8428, 2023
Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No.8430, 2023
Electrical Utility 2024 Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8432, 2023
Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8423, 2023
Fire Protection Amendment Bylaw No. 8431, 2023
These Bylaws that set the fines and fees for the next budget year, including annual adjustments for inflation, were adopted by Council.

We also had some delegations, and some direction given to staff rising from those delegations, but I will report those out here when we get some actionable items back from staff and know where we are going with the items. As always, you can watch the delegations and all of the meeting by looking up the video here. As you will see, we have Council working like a finely honed machine, and had a pretty quiet end to year one, let’s go year two!