təməsew̓txʷ

Wow. It’s really happening. After more than a decade of planning, we are finally opening the doors on təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre.

I don’t want to write too much here, I want the images to tell the story. Even more, I want you to go down to təməsew̓txʷ and see for yourself what an incredible facility the community has built.

The Grand Opening is June 1st, but as we slowly open the doors and bring programming to the new facility we have had a couple of opening events.

The first was a thank you to the teams that made this happen. This included Mayor Cote, who lead the Council through some of the most challenging consultation, design, and decision-making that led us to this day. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate with Councillors Puchmayr, Harper, Das and Trentadue, who each had a role in the development of this project. From the first decision that a new facility was needed, through public consultation, initial design, more public consultation, procurement, and the final go-ahead in 2020, these leaders were there to help guide us to today, and deserve a victory lap of the pool, and the gratitude of the community.

We also got to thank the team that made the vision a reality. The architects at HCMA, the project managers at Turnbull Construction, and the builders at Heatherbrae. They worked with our stellar project delivery team at the City to deliver this project within weeks of the planned opening and within 5% of the original budget.

If that sounds like I’m hedging “On Time and On Budget”, I want to walk you through the headwinds this project faced. Council had to make a procurement decision at the peak of the 2020 COVID pandemic – a time of unprecedented global economic uncertainty. We were guided with expert advice and (it turns out) incredible foresight to procure then the market conditions could not have been better. Since then, the news tells us of a protected regional labour action affecting the concrete industry, a global supply chain crisis, unprecedented regional construction labor shortages, and the highest construction inflation rates of a generation. Through all that, this incredible team brought this project home – an absolute gold medal performance.

And it is a beautiful building. An integrated and connected aquatic, fitness and community complex, physically and demographically accessible to all, and a new social hub and community destination. Two pools, one ready to support inter-regional competition, one more fun and accessible for a broader community of users. Two hot tubs sauna space, all accessible change rooms. Two gymnasia, dance rooms, meetings rooms, fitness area twice the size of the previous buildings, and a community living room connecting them all.

The first aquatic centre in Canada to achieve the Canada Green Building Council Zero Carbon Building-Design Standard, and designed to follow the Rick Hansen Foundation Gold Accessibility certification which considers people of differing levels of physical mobility, as well as addresses gender and cultural sensitivities.

The City’s largest ever capital investment, now having the keys turned over to an operation team who have already spent months staffing up, training up, and learning how to work in this new space. All of this required coordinated efforts across city departments, from Finance, to engineering to Parks and Recreation. There are a lot of kudos to hand out here.

The community has a new heart. I hope you head over there and check it out, because it belongs to you. The “dry side” is open now, the aquatic centre side will soft open on May 14, and there will be a Grand Opening celebration on June 1. All the info you need is available here.

This Happened (23.6)

The last two weekends have been action packed. Summer events season is upon us, and I can’t possibly blog all of the events happening in town, but here are some highlights from the last couple of weeks.

With the end of May comes the opening of the 2023 Salmonbellies season, with a convincing win by the home team, S&O beer for sale, and Chief Larabee performing the ceremonial faceoff, it was a fun night overall! (no, I wasn’t wearing a jersey, I wore that shirt to celebrate the colour of the legendary QPA wood floor)
The Hyack Parade was as well attended as I’ve seen in a decade, and more than 100 entries. Here I was chatting with one of the Filipino cultural groups in the parade, as we all staged for the walk ahead.
There was a great street fest following the Hyack Parade, with booths, music, food trucks, and the best imaginable weather.
There was a great street fest following the Hyack Parade, with booths, music, food trucks, and the best imaginable weather.
There are several other events that come along with the Hyack Parade, including the planting of a rose in front of City Hall by the Royal Rosarians of Portland to honour (or “honor” as they spell it) the President of Hyack.

The same day as the Hyack Parade and Festival, the May Day celebrations took place in Queens Park, featuring 2023 May Queen Alessia Preovolos (right).

The same weekend, the Greater Vancouver edition of the Walk to Make Cystic Fibrosis History started at Ryall Park. There was a great turnout, and inspirational words from people impacted by CF. You can learn more and help them with their fundraising goals here.
This weekend included the annual Newcomers Festival and Information Fair, organized at the Welcome Centre at NWSS, where Chinu Das (a force behind getting the Welcome Centre built) was the Master of Ceremonies.
The Newcomers Fair, I got to meet groups of youth (and their parents) recently arrived from Ukraine, Eritrea, Columbia, and other places. It was great to hear what they liked about New West/Canada and what they missed from home.
I was also able to drop by the Opening of the new show at the New Media Gallery- entitled “Dust”. The Anvil had youth performing in the theatre, a wedding on the main floor, and other events on a busy Saturday.
Arts New West was also holding their first Craft Market of the season at the boardwalk at the River Market.
The Quayside Boardwalk was also the location of the “5th annual” (after a bit of a Covid pause) River Walk for Hospice. It started brilliantly on a sunny Sunday morning with the Rainbow Chorus.

I love Summer time. Wait – its not summer yet?

LOWER MAINLAND LGA 2023 (PT 2)

I wrote last week about the political part of the Lower Mainland LGA annual conference, here is the rest of what happened, including the Sessions and Resolutions.

Sessions:
A major part of the annual meeting are workshops and panel sessions where Local Government leaders can share and learn. Considering about half of the attendees this year were new to the job of being a Mayor of City Councilor, these formal sessions (and the ample informal networking time) is really valuable. This is the briefest summary of the sessions this year.

Local Government Partnerships & Innovation
This was a panel discussion with representatives from three Municipalities taking innovative approaches to their unique challenges: Abbotsford taking an Airport the Federal government didn’t want anymore and making it a local economic driver; Whistler working to bring community-based health care work in their unique community; and Chilliwack taking an aggressive approach to Downtown Revitalization.

The last item sparked a lot of interest in the room, and was also the subject of a pre-conference tour. The centre of the discussion is a block branded as District 1881 that over more than 15 years went from this:

To this:

To this:

The Streetview images don’t fully represent the texture of the change, as the first photo has a lot of end-of-life buildings, many boarded up stores and low value leases inthe few remaining. The new Centre is certainly attractvie and higher value (arguably gentrified?). There were some good lessons from their experience here, some not particularly useful now (“buy up land before the prices are driven up!”), and some very useful, though sometimes hard to achieve (“be clear on your vision and stick with it, even through changes in council and government; build partnerships early”). I had some good discussion with colleagues from Chilliwack after the panel to get more details, and will be following up.

Everyone’s Responsibility: Codes of Conduct & Ethics in City Hall Description
This was an interesting and timely panel ad most local governments (by direction of the Province) are reviewing their Codes of Conduct now, we have new Councils across the region, and we were meeting in Harrison, one of the municipalities that is currently facing scrutiny for its council conduct challenges. The Panel included a member of the Provincial government who works in local government oversight, a Councillor for Squamish, which is a municipality with a “model” Code of Conduct, introduced last term, and a Lawyer who guides Cities (including New West) on Code of Conduct issues.

This was an interesting conversation that spoke about the importance of a strong CoC, and also admitted that a CoC was not a panacea for all forms of organizational dysfunction. So many of our systems in local government organization rely on good faith participation, and the development of a CoC is one of these. The importance of developing a CofC when things are going well was emphasized, because trying to bring them in during time of maximum disruption (when they are needed the most) does not work – they have to be in place ahead of time. Lesson learned.

Running a Positive Election Campaign: Reflections and Lessons Learned from the 2022 BC General Municipal Election
This panel brought elected types from Vancouver, Burnaby, Squamish, and Langley together with the observer of all things Municipal, Justin McElroy, to discuss the campaign of 2022, and the potential for positive messaging as a positive force in elections. There was a*lot* here about the battle of ideas, and the absolute quagmire that is election period Social Media. Perhaps one of the insights that stood out was Justin’s advice/observance that elected people who are still talking about the election 6 months later are probably the ones who will not survive, which evokes a bit Nenshi’s comments: stop campaigning and do some work. There will be lots of time to campaign three years from now. Perhaps the most interesting moment was when the question was asked about the role of “Kennedy Stewart’s Road Tax” in a positive campaign, but you had to be there to appreciate it.

We also had a great closing keynote from Bowinn Ma, the Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, speaking about the lessons learned from the atmospheric river floods, Lytton fire, and other major events of the last few years ,and new ways the Provincial Government is working to help local governments be prepared for the next shitty climate-change-driven catastrophe (my words, not hers), including the Climate Ready BC website

Resolutions
Except for years where there is a spectacular speech implosion, the resolutions session is the most noteworthy part of most Lower Mainland LGA meetings. This is the part where municipalities put forward resolutions they hope the membership will endorse, mostly calls for Senior Governments to do things, like change policy, legislation or revenue streams for local government. In 2023 we had 35 resolutions debated, and you can read all about the here. Most were successful, but some failed. I am only going to speak to the ones that New Westminster took to the session. For the rest, you will have to find some other mayor’s blog. This is a really fun debate process for those who dig local government policy wonking, and want to make change.

R9 Equitable Communities
…be it resolved that UBCM call upon the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada to provide resources and policy direction to enable local government to implement analytical processes for the assessment of systemic inequalities (i.e. Gender-Based Analysis Plus) across local government capital investments, operations and strategic initiatives to ensure all citizens can participate fully in civic life and to make measureable progress towards dismantling system inequality in our communities.
This passed non-controversially.

R10 Exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
…be it resolved that the LMLGA and UBCM request that the BC Government request Health Canada add “public park spaces designed for and used by children and youth” to the list of exceptions to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act exemptions.
This resolution was divisive, and was eventually amended to remove the work “park”, which left it asking for a ban for all public spaces. As this effectively results in full recriminalization of decriminalized drugs, this derailed the motion completely. The amended motion was endorsed by a slim majority of delegates, but in this form will no doubt be ignored by the Federal and Provincial governments, a classic example of cutting off ones nose to spite one’s face.

R16 Vacant Property Tax on Commercial Properties
…be it resolved that UBCM urge the Province of British Columbia to provide local governments with an option to introduce a vacant property tax applicable to commercial properties
This was another hotly-debated resolution, but with a solid majority of delegates voting in support. This will no doubt be ever more hotly debated at UBCM, and the rural-urban divide on this issue may be more pronounced than one might expect.

R28 Bringing Equity to Traffic Enforcement
…be it resolved that UBCM calls upon the provincial government to implement a means-tested traffic fine system, similar to Finland, Switzerland, Sweden or the UK where fines may be calculated on the basis of the offender’s income.
Perhaps surprisingly, there was little debate on this issue, and reflecting the public opinion polls on the matter, this resolution was supported by a solid majority of delegates. Again, I expect this to have a rockier ride at UBCM, but the level of support was positive.

So all in all, New West was 3 for 4 for our resolutions, and our memberswere the re to support solid resolutions for other progressive councils from around the region – this is an area where Port Moddy asnd Squamish really step up and take some regional leadership.

In what became a running joke for some during the resolution debates, was the frequency with which the term “slippery slope” was used as an excuse to not endorse a regulatory change. This is a bit silly, as all regulation is, buy it very nature, a potential slippery slope, which is why the framing of it is as important as the request for it. But I also note that the “slippery slope fallacy” is the only logical fallacy we common name as we are committing it. In debate, we rarely say “this is a total non sequitur, but…” or “I would like to offer the strawman argument that…”, but we have no shame in saying “If we approve this, it is the thin end of the wedge!”.

Maybe I’ll save the rhetoric lecture for UBCM… 

Lower Mainland LGA 2023 (pt 1)

This week the Lower Mainland Local Government Association held their annual conference in Harrison. The Lower Mainland LGA is the collective of the elected local government officials of Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and the Sea-to-Sky, and includes 29 of the 30 municipalities from Hope to Pemberton as members. (bonus guess on who is missing?). All of New Westminster Council attended, and as is my wont, I like to write an (admittedly-biased) review of what happened. This will be a series of blog posts, as there are three main components of the event, but I’ll start with the one that is freshest in my mind, the speeches, and come back to resolutions and sessions in follow-up posts.

Every LMLGA has speeches, political ones from each of the three main provincial parties (mush of our resolution work and discussion at the event is about advocacy to the provincial government) and a keynote.

The Keynote in 2023 was from Naheed Nenshi, the recently-more-relaxed former Mayor of Calgary. He spoke about the times and the current challenges of Local Government, and of governance of all forms during the “long emergency” we are experiencing. He spoke of the overlap of 5 crises: The ongoing Pandemic (“It’s not over folks!”); Mental Health and Addictions (Sorry, folks the Alberta Model is not a panacea); Racism and Decolonization (this has been going on for generations, but the need to reckon with it is now and present in all of our discourse); Climate (yeah, he kinds breezed over this, as a guy used to speaking to the Calgary business crowd tends to); and unprecedented inequity (economic inequity is higher now than it was during the Industrial Revolution, than it was during the days of Carnegie and Rockefeller).

He also spoke about his affinity for Purple – not a primary colour, neither red nor blue, but both. He had tried himself to be as non-partisan as possible and found success in speaking to issues, not ideologies. It was interesting to hear him talk about that line, as a Mayor of a fairly progressive local government floating in a sea of conservatism, and after him speaking of the issues above through a lens that most would recognize as a progressive one. But his message of service to the community, of love for your community, should be universal for those called to public service.

His message directed at the crowd at Lower Mainland LGA (elected people recently put in office with three and a half years of work ahead of them) was simple. Forget about the campaign and instead do your work. If you are always talking about the last election or the next one, you are not making good decisions, because you are putting the service of yourself in front of service for the community. Now is the time to Do Your Work, and 6 months before the next election, you can point back at that work, and the voters will decide whether that was enough.


The Leader of BC United, Kevin Falcon, gave a campaign speech that was at times confusing. Much like his speech at the UBCM Housing Summit a few weeks ago (where he told a room of bureaucrats that the last thing the housing crisis needed was more bureaucrats), he perhaps missed his audience here by framing the first half of his speech around the inability of government to do anything useful, while he was talking to a room of people recently elected to do things. There was also a lack of internal consistency in his comments. He spent much of the time saying “government can’t build housing”, and lamenting how ideas to build more housing are hampered by BC Hydro’s ability to supply power, by the need to expand sewers and water and roads. Then he switched to his strategy which was to “Flood the Zone” with new housing, while making no reference to the problem with that approach he just talked about. So, a campaign speech.

The speech was also notable in his unique discretion in only saying “Catch and Release” a single time. And once again, he made it clear to everyone he *Really Loves* the current members of Vancouver city council, and *really hated* the old ones. It is unclear how he stands on the majority of Vancouver councilors who were both on the old council and the new one. Maybe I’m missing some nuance here.


Sonia Furstenau of the BC Greens gave a Sonia speech, in that her approach to these events is so notably different than most politicians. She clearly riffs off of her notes, sometimes far off, but speaks about what she is hearing and feeling in a human way. She is also talented at finding parallels with the points made by others (you should never want to go before Sonia on the agenda if you have the option) and reframing them in creative ways. Example: like Falcon, she wants to “focus on outcomes” – but she is more directed in asking what those outcomes are, and who they serve? At each point, she talks at a deeper level, and challenges us to do the same.

There is a luxury in being the Third Party, but Sonia uses that privilege effectively. She is able to get meta (as the kids say), look at the debates we are having and raise the question “why”? If our processes and debates don’t let us agree on the starting point, don’t let us work from the same data, how will we ever agree on the path to better outcomes? A good example is in how she talks about question Period in the Legislature, when the two parties (for the most part) yell at each other hoping for media quotes. She asks – how does this serve anyone? What would question Period look like if we centred the people being served? If we talked about policy outcomes and took that service seriously? Dare to dream.


The NDP were represented by “our” Minister, Anne Kang of Municipal Affairs (though Minister Bowinn Ma was also on a panel on Friday). She opened in referring to herself as the “Minister of Friendship” – and her first goal being to get to know and meet with the local government leaders around the region. This is a big task with ~180 Local Governments, but Minister Kang has been working hard to make those connections. Spending time as a City Councillor herself, she was able to relate to the folks in the crowd, and received more applause than perhaps the other folks giving Friday speeches on Friday – the benefit of being able to talk about the $1billion Growing Communities Fund and other funding the Province has sent to local governments (Library funding perhaps the most popular in this crowd – note to all current and future Ministers of Municipal Affairs).

She had a few great lines (“Alberta may be calling, but only because this is the place people actually want to live”) but her speech (to my taste) leaned a bit too much on the speaking notes, and not enough on her personal experience in local government and her personal learnings from her first few months on the job. She is new to the role, and has room to grow in it, but the best part was her clear willingness to make the connections that Local Government needs in Victoria.


This points a bit to the overall tone of the room during these speeches, and over the three days. When I was first attending these Lower Mainland LGA and UBCM events 8ish years ago, relations between the Provincial Government and Local Governments were strained. There are, of course, local elected people across the political spectrum, but 8 years ago the lefties and the righties seemed fairly aligned on the idea that the province was doing local governments few favours. This shifted when the NDP got elected. Minister Robinson was “one of us” (a Local Mainland LGA Executive member!) and a bridge builder, as was Minister Osborne. The provincial government was present again at Lower Mainland LGA and UBCM events, and were actively engaging local government. Most of the lefties and the righties agreed this was a breath of fresh air, and received this support warmly, even if some begrudgenly did so.

After a few years of not meeting like this, and with the NDP now owning a long enough legacy of successes and failures, It was clear the room was more divided along partisan divisions than I ever remember feeling before. Perhaps this is “regression to the mean” after a decade of anomalous swings, maybe it is the room half full of new folks trying to find their place and their voice. But I’m afraid the message of Mayor Nenshi may have fallen on ears less purple than we might hope.

THIS HAPPENED (23.5)

Aya Carumba, I been busy. Mostly good stuff, but a lot going on. I’m walking every day (come along!), there are Metro and TransLink meetings happening, and as we wish April Showers goodbye, it looks like my May calendar is already filling up to a distressing degree. So I don’t have time to blog much, but here is my oft-promised and always-late photo essay of things I have been doing that aren’t strictly work, though a lot of it is work.

I got to stand next to a ribbon being cut! This for the KIDS Queensborough Childcare centre, built through a partnership between the City, the Province, and Anthem Properties. This is a City-owned building that the development built as an amenity as part of their townhouse development, with funds from the City and the province to fit the spaces out.

I took a quick trip over to Victoria for the Municipal Finance Authority Annual General Meeting (New Westminster is a member). While I was there I was able to set up a couple of side-meetings, including with Jason Lum, who is Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District and an all-around great guy. We talked about Metro-FV alignment on flood preparedness, air quality, and inter-regional transportation in preparation for the Lower Mainland LGA meeting coming up in May.

I also went out to the Fraser Valley to join Metro Vancouver senior staff and Board Members for a two-day Strategic Planning session that was informative and at times challenging, with the massive scale of infrastructure work Metro needs to do in coming years.

New Westminster hosted (for the first time!) the Pacific Contact conference at the Anvil Centre and Massey Theatre. This conference by the BC Touring Council brings performing artists and venues across BC together to showcase, network, and coordinate seasons for travelling performing artists. It was great for New West to showcase the Massey Theatre and Anvil Theatre, and I was able to provide a welcome to delegates and provide a bit of the background of the two theatres and the City’s continued commitment to performance arts. It was great to run into (and bend the ear of) Briana Doyle, who is more famous in New Westminster than you might expect!

Vaisakhi was on April 14th, and the good folks at the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar wanted to “share the harvest” and thank City staff for their work thought the pandemic, and offered a free lunch to crews at the City’s Works Yard. The food was delicious, and we lucked out with a sunny day that made for a great picnic for staff. This was a really generous offer by the folks at the Gurdwara, and it was great to be able to break bread with the outdoor crews in such a casual setting.

The Local HUB Cycling chapter invited me to their monthly meeting to talk about what the City is doing for active transportation, and to let me know what they see as the big priorities in the year ahead.

Like many Local Government folks around the region, I attended the UBCM Housing Conference in Vancouver. I don’t remember there ever being an event like this, with so many elected folks and planning staff from local governments, provincial government representatives (including the leaders of all three Provincial parties) and housing providers in the same room, talking about the need for different and more aggressive approaches to getting housing approved and built. The panels were great learning, but the networking and connections were the most valuable part, especially for the new members of Council.

One of the Conference days, I slipped out for an hour to run across the street and see the UBC SACRP Studio student project presentations, including one sponsored by the City of New Westminster on the topis of public washroom services.

I also dropped by the opening of the New West Artists pop-up gallery space at the Community Space at Columbia Square,

A few members of Council attended the Fraser River Discovery Centre Hall of Fame induction of SRY and SeaSpan. It was great to meet more of the people who work on the river, and bend the ears of the Port and marine carriers about our common interests.

And finally, Earth Day came and went, which brought a lot of activities to the City. I joined the Family Bike Ride organized by a couple of local “Rad Moms” and Babies for Climate Action with some support for the local HUB chapter. A few folks there were unsarcastcially thankful of City of New West for building safer bike infrastructure, though they do still need work to do to make the network complete.

This Happened (23.4)

It’s been a busy week, a busy month. Lots going on. I hope I don’t sound to frantic!. I do occasionally like to write these blog posts to give brief summary of some of the things I have been up to, but have some catching up to do, so this goes all the way back to March 8th when there was…

The Downtown BIA AGM and Social! I wasn’t able to stick around for the entire AGM, but it was a well attended event at the Terminal, and fun and smiles were all around.

I left early as that night I took part in the annual Metro Vancouver Homeless Count. Over the two days of March 7 and 8, teams across the Lower Mainland attempt to estimate the number of people without secure housing, and do a bit of a survey to help determining the factors and causes that led to them not having secure housing. The stories you are told, the diverse histories of people living rough in our community, and the systemic failures that often lead to a form of societal abandonment are both shocking, and banal.

Along with MLA Jennifer Whiteside, I was able to provide some welcome remarks and attend some of the Bottom Line Conference at the Anvil Centre. This conference was organized by the Canadian Mental Health association and was a gathering to talk about workplace mental health.

I also had a chance to have a pretty informal meeting with Mayor Lahti of Port Moody to talk about some regional issues, dog sports, and the nexus of conditions that led to Brewery Row.

Bosley’s Pet Store held a Bollywood Fundraiser to celebrate their 12th anniversary, and to raise money for the New Westminster Animal Shelter, where elected officials were offered the chance to embarrass themselves in a Bollywood Dance off. And we did so.

New West Pride also held a Pride Pub Night that raised some money for their organization, brought folks together and allowed us to celebrate Don’s 60th Birthday!

I was asked to drop the Puck for the final game of the Al Hughes Tournament for U-13 teams hosted by the New West Minor Hockey Association. The Royals fought a valiant battle for silver in the tournament, matching the silver medal won by the U-11 team in the same event.

When a group of Reporters-in-Training from BCIT’s journalism program shows up at a Council meeting, they were hoping to interview me after the Meeting. As the meeting went pretty late (alas) I agree to meet them later in the week at City Hall, and they had a chance to do an old-fashioned scrum, peppering me with questions about the Council Meeting. And mug for a few photos.

The Royal Westminster Regiment held their first Annual Dinner since the COVID thing shut this type of event down. I had some great conversations with the CO and the Chief Warrant Officer about the impacts of COVID, changes in the forces related to NATO support for Ukraine, and some potential increased collaboration between the Regiment and City.

Speaking of doing your duty as a Canadian, I was one of a small elite team of volunteers who took the CAO of TransLink (who was born and raised south of the Curling-NASCAR line) to the Royal City Curling Club and taught him the basics of the Roaring Game. Have to say, dude got the knack of it fast!

Yes the meeting with Anita Huberman happened. And… I think I’ll have to write a blog post about that.

I was able to have sit-downs with the two newest members of the New Westminster Police Board, and you will be hearing more about their contributions in the years ahead.

Finally, I was able to sit down at City Hall with the new Minister of Municipal Affairs. We were able to talk about some of the City’s ongoing initiatives around housing and livability, discuss our support for regional calls for better accountability of local government elected officials, and thank her for championing the Growing Communities Fund through cabinet.

This Happened (23.3)

Another necessarily-incomplete run-down of the things I have been doing that aren’t Council Meetings. It’s a little weird to try to report on everything, because my calendar is stuffed these days, and some things are more fun/interesting/relevant than others. So in no particular order, here are some things I’ve been up to. Besides randomly running into people at coffee shops and posing for selfies:

Met with Aman Singh at Mood Swing Coffee to talk Q’boro transportation, and another Q’boro denizen dropped by.

There are a series of talks and events at Douglas College under the umbrella of the “Changing the Conversation Project” which are exploring different aspects of community, housing, homelessness, and poverty. As February is Black History Month, they led a panel discussion on the Black experience in housing in the Lower Mainland, tying together the history of Hogans Alley to the Swahili Vision participation in an affordable housing project in New Westminster.

The moderator of the discussion “From Displacement to Housing Justice” was Lama Mugabo, Founding Director of Hogan’s Alley Society.

February also brought us Family Day, and there was a lot going on around New West, including an open door at the Learning Lab at the Anvil Centre. This is the hands-on offshoot of the New Media Gallery where people of all ages (yes, adults can learn to 3D print!) learn about new media video and sound, programming, electronics, robotics, and digital creativity. You should check it out.

Kids playing with Little Bits, a learning toy that does for electronics what Lego does for construction.

Some members of Council took a tour of the Fraser River Discovery Centre to see what their new initiatives are, and to learn about their vision in the years ahead.

Members of the FRDC Board and staff guide Council members though their exhibit spaces.

I went to my first wedding in something like 8 years. It was great fun (Congrats Jack and Jason!) but more personal than Mayoral, so I wouldn’t normally report out here. Except that the grooms knew enough to seat me next to a guy who I have mentioned on this blog, but never actually met before, Jens von Bergmann at Mountain Math. So it was half wedding, half geeking out on housing policy, and therefore a perfect evening!

We went to a wedding, and a housing policy discussion broke out!

You may not know that March 3rd is Bulgarian Liberation Day, marking the day in 1878 that the Treaty of San-Stefano was signed, and Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule. For the first time since COVID, this day was marked by the raising of the Bulgarian flag at Friendship gardens, an event attended by representatives of the local Bulgarian-Canadian community, the honourary Consel General, and Senator Yonah Martin, who is co-chair of the Canada-Bulgaria Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group.

The Bulgarian Flag was raised at Friendship Gardens to the sounds of Mila Rodino.

I also had a visit in the Mayor’s Office from a group of new Canadians that was organized by the Welcome Centre at NWSS. This group have been learning about Canada and New Westminster, and were able to tour City Hall to learn about how local government works. It was great to welcome them, and show them around Council Chambers and some of the curiosities of the Mayor’s office, like the Chain of Office and registry signed by the actual Queen and the King of Pop.

The Mayor’s office is a bit small for this number of visitors!

This last weekend was also busy with overlapping events. The Dancers of Damelahamid were hosting the annual Coastal Dance Festival at the Anvil Centre, and I was able to see several performances, including the group Dakhká Khwaán from Whitehorse who really (in their own words) brought the noise.

Spot the Light Sabre.

Saturday was also Hoobiyee, the Nisga’a New Year celebration. This is a big event both in the Nass Valley, and in the Lower Mainland where a large number of Nisga’a people live, and the celebration is shared with Indigenous people from around the province and beyond. This year, the festival filled the PNE forum with dancers, music, crafts, food and storytelling, and I was honoured to meet the organizers and take part in the event.

Hoobiyee 2023 at the PNE Forum

And finally, I was invited to join the head table at the New Westminster Police Department’s annual Mess Dinner – their first post-COVID. It was a great evening of speeches, memories, more than a few jokes, (“What happens when a member of the NWPD leaves to join the RCMP? The average IQ of both organizations go up!”) with a mix of camaraderie and formality that always kind of keeps you on edge.

The Head Table at the 2023 NWPD Mess Dinner

Now that curling season is almost over, and the days are getting longer, event season is rushing towards us. I hope I will have time to keep writing these summaries. Meanwhile, get out there and enjoy the events of New West. If you see me out there, be sure to say Hi. And remind me to get a photo.

This Happened (23.1)

Regular readers (Hi Mom!) might remember some of my earlier practice of talking up community events I go to and cool things happening in the City. I am going to try to get back into this practice, because there is a lot going on, and because I don’t have time to celebrate it all at the great length it probably deserves. I’m so grateful for all the people doing good things to bring the community together and celebrate New West. Here’s some good moments that happened so far in 2023:

Had a meeting with the one and only Cassius Khan to talk about his experiences as an artist and an arts supporter in New West. He also signed CDs (you can’t really sign a digital file!) for me and Councillor Campbell. As always, he was generous with his thoughts and ideas, and the most gracious person you could ever meet.
New West Firefighters had their annual Tree Chipping, event at City Hall to give folks an chance to recycle their dried out tree, and raise money (More than $5,000 this year!) for their Charitable Society. Every day, NWFF deliver heavy lifting with a smile!
I was able to do a tour of Douglas College, see some of the exciting changes at the New West campus, and talk about their proposed new academic and residence building. I also learned about their “Coat of Arms”, that was recently designed by Carrielynn Victor, an artist from S’olh Temexw who was able to blend traditional knowledge and language from this region into what is typically a very Colonial media.
I was at the Royal City Curling Club to give greetings from New Westminster to the Scottish contingent visiting Canada as part of the century-old tradition of the Strathcona Cup series of  friendlies between Scottish and Canadian club teams.
There is a new photography exhibit at the Anvil Centre Community Art Space on the third floor. These are photos and short essays on “What Housing Means to Me”, prepared by residents of the supportive housing lodge in Queensborough. This is a simple, but really thoughtful, exhibition you should check out!
There was also a near full house for the first evening of the Outside/In program at Anvil Centre, as the BC World Music Collective brought a diverse program of music from around the Americas (with a bit of Africa thrown in) that left everyone thinking on the way home: Who knew you could do that with a tambourine?
And of course, January 22nd was Lunar New Year, and there were a few events around the region, including a traditional big event at the Nikkei Centre featuring the Whos Who of Burnaby and New West, where I was honoured to be invited to Dot the Dragon’s Eye and enjoy the loud and boisterous dance. I also go to hang with these cool kids…
…and we were also invited to take part in a perhaps louder and more boisterous Dragon parade at the Starlight Casino, which really pulled out all of the stops to ring in the Year of the Rabbit. gōng xi fā cái!

Ask Pat: The Market

I got to set up the Ask Pat booth again! After a pandemically-induced 2 year hiatus, I pulled the dusty booth out of the basement, fixed a few nails that had worked their way proud by unknown forces of time, and gave it a bit of a wash down. The best thing about the booth being that it folds right up and straps to a dolly for instant portability, so I put on my questionable hat and wandered down to the New West Farmers Market to set up camp between the music booth and a craft beer stand.

I had many questions, so many that I missed most in my note-taking, but here is the speed-dating version of Ask Pat based on the notes I was able to make. If you want the longer answers, drop by the booth next time it pops up:

Dog Park at Simcoe is noisy: Hey, check out the People Parks and Pups strategy the City just completed, and provide feedback to parks on that!

Pickle Ball Courts aren’t regulation: I had no idea! Interesting to learn about the (subtle to non-players) differences in court dimensions. Good input for planning new multi-sport courts in Hume and the gymnasiums in təməsew̓txʷ.

Permit times are too long for small renos: Yep, I hear you. We are a little short-staffed in planning right now, and because every City in the Lower Mainland is in the same boat, we are all challenged filling those gaps, but we are working on it.

No SPARC parking on Market days: Already talked to the Market Manager and put her in touch with our Transportation folks about this.

My not-for-Profit could use a small grant for meeting space That should be easy, our next Community Grants application window opens next month.

Why is Agnes now one way?: Community was asked if one-way or stripping parking from one side was preferred with width constraint relating to new mobility lanes, and parking preservation was preferred in that stretch. Also, one-way reduces through-traffic bridge queue jumpers during critical school safety times.

What parks can we drink in? Pretty much any park that has a public bathroom in it, full guide here. And yeah, there were no problems with the pilot, so we are going to keep doing this.

Pineapple on Pizza? Why not?

How are we going to build 2,000 units of non-market housing in 10 years? This is the number our Housing Needs Report says we are short of current need. Alas, I also don’t think it is a number we can get built without some order-of-magnitude shift in how senior governments fund housing. As a City, we are approving every unit of affordable housing the City can get funded, have fast-tracked approval on affordable projects with senior gov’t funding, and have a new inclusionary housing policy to bring affordable units to new market projects, but 200 non-market units per year every year is a tall order.

When will 22nd Street Station area get redeveloped? Not soon. The City is getting into a “Master Planning” process to draw a comprehensive vision, and this alone may take two years. If all goes well, then maybe some developers will look at what was scoped out and decide they want to try to make it work. They would then need to buy land and design and build, project-by-project. So I would suppose we are still years away from significant changes.

Why is there no bathroom in Tipperary Park? We looked at this, and when the costs were worked out, it fell off the priority list for park upgrades. That said, public bathrooms are a pressing topic right now, but at upward toward $1Million each for capital cost (maybe half that if we take a modular approach) and likely $200K each in annual operating cost, we need to fit it in the budget priorities. That conversation is ongoing, though.

How can you justify the preservation of Colonial houses in the era of Reconciliation and an ongoing Housing Crisis? Owch. There are three overlapping questions there, but the overlap shows how we need to think deeper about systems in our planning and our response to issues. This was actually a great question, and lead to a great conversation, where I think we both walked away thinking a little differently. Yowza.

And finally, Thank you Leslie (sp?) for asking these two surprising questions:

What are you most proud of in your work on Council? My reflex answer was our housing policies – from preventing Renovictions to the amount of Purpose Built Rental we are getting built. But walking home from the market, I realized I should have said trees. The thousands of trees we are planting today will make this a much better City in the decades ahead, long after my time on Council (or on Earth) is over.

What is your biggest disappointment? The Heat Dome. We still have not, as a community, come to a reckoning with what that event meant, and what it means for our future. We were not ready (as a city, a region, or a province) for that event, and people died. Many more were traumatized, including first responders trying to deal with the failures in response. There is a lot going on locally and provincially to be more ready for a repeat of that event, but it really shook a lot of what we assumed we knew about climate disruption and about community preparedness.

So on that somber note, I want to thank the scores of people who came by and asked questions, and the wonderful Dani Black for the musical accompaniment to my day in the Market!

UBCM 2021

One of the things that kept me too busy to blog last month was the annual Union of BC Municipalities meeting. As with many of my Council colleagues, I attended the meeting virtually, and had a bunch of accessory meetings around the main UBCM meeting events. It’s a little tardy, but here is my slightly Inside Baseball run-down of my extended UBCM week.


Minister Meetings
UBCM presents an annual opportunity for Local Government elected folks (with staff support) to meet with Provincial Government Ministers (and their staff) on pretty much every topic under the sun. Depending on the Local Government and the Minister, this may be asking the senior government for money to support projects, for changes in legislation, for partnership on specific initiatives, to share concerns or to get clarity on programs. As this was a pandemic meeting, and therefore remote, we were not as rushed to meet during and in between UBCM events, so most Minister meetings happened in the week before the actual UBCM conference.

The City had several meetings with Ministers, attended by different members of Council. I was fortunate to be able to meet with Minister of Municipal Affairs, and along with Councilor Trentadue, provide her a summary of some significant Capital Works we have planned- including upgrades to the Massey Theatre and renewing a vision for connecting our Riverfront from the Queensborough to Sapperton Landing. We also talked about a potential for regional coordination of fire boat services.

Though I could not attend, the City also had meetings with other Ministries, including with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and the Minister of Public Safety in regards to reviewing how we can better address the community impacts of homelessness and addiction and take the load off of Police for this work that really needs a compassionate heath-focused approach.

In my role on the executive of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, I was also able to meet with Minister of Environment and Climate Change Action Heyman to talk about our members’ recent resolutions regarding the end of CARIP and the need for some more tools to Help Cities Lead and our hopes that the next stage of Clean BC will include these supports.


Resolutions
This session stretched over two days is where Members vote to endorse or not support Resolutions proposed by member municipalities. In sense, this is meant to represent the collective desires of Local Governments across BC, but should usually be seen through the lens of the slightly strange political structure of the UBCM. Any municipality can put a resolution forward, but the Resolution Committee of the (elected) UBCM Executive vets them and prioritizes them for voting, even recommending if Members should vote for specific ones. The voting members are not weighed by population or any such thing – essentially any elected official who registers for the meeting and shows up for the resolution session gets a vote. So eleven possible votes from Vancouver, seven possible votes from New Westminster, five possible votes from Pouce Coupe.

You can read all of the Resolutions here. The City of New Westminster had two resolutions:

NR36: Single-Use Item Regional Regulation

Whereas enactment of bylaws to regulate single-use items by individual municipalities could lead to a mosaic of regulations across the region and in BC, which may lead to confusion and inconsistency for residents and businesses in the sale or distribution of these items; And

whereas greater consistency could be achieved by implementing a regional approach; And

whereas regional districts do not have the authority to establish bylaws or regulations in relation to the sale or distribution of single-use items:

Therefore be it resolved that UBCM request the Province to engage with regional governments to develop legislation which would provide regional districts with the legislative authority to restrict the sale and distribution of single-use items.

NR45: Inclusion of Allied Health Workers to Help Combat the Opioid Crisis

Whereas the opioid crisis and mental health challenges affect at least 1 in 5 BC residents and has been compounded by the COVID-19; And

whereas evidence shows that access to upstream services such as counselling related specialties and physical/occupational therapy decreases opioid use and/or provides better health intervention outcomes, but these are not accessible to many residents as they are not covered and are much too expensive through fee for services; And

whereas communities are currently struggling to meet the needs of our residents, between funding of community programs and increased mental health calls for first responders, which already comprise between 20-30 percent of local government expenditures and are not often the most appropriate service to support people in crisis:

Therefore be it resolved that UBCM request that the Province expand access to and funding for allied health professionals, particularly mental health counselling specialties and physical/occupational therapy related specialties, through expansion of team-based care through not-for-profit delivery including community health centres, available to all BC residents regardless of their immigration status and income, throughout the province; And

be it further resolved that the Province increase support and funding for Peer Navigators as part of the BC Mental Health and Addictions Strategy

Members of the UBCM voted to endorse both of these motions.

I was also there to champion two resolutions from the Lower Mainland LGA:

EB35 Help Cities Lead

Whereas emissions by buildings account for 40-60 percent of a community’s green-house gas (GHG) emissions, and current actions in British Columbia to reduce GHG emissions from buildings are insufficient to achieve the province’s GHG targets for 2030 and 2050; and

Whereas the November 2020 mandate letters to ministers include direction to provincial ministries to move forward with three of the five policy measures included in the Help Cities Lead campaign to drive GHG reduction in British Columbia’s building sector:

Therefore be it resolved that UBCM call upon the provincial government to immediately introduce legislation supporting the three measures identified by Help Cities Lead and addressed in ministerial mandate letters: GHG requirements for new buildings, PACE financing, and home energy labelling; and

Be it further resolved that UBCM call upon the provincial government to introduce empowering legislation to permit local governments who so choose to implement the remaining two measures identified in the Help Cities Lead’s campaign: GHG requirements for existing buildings and building energy benchmarking.

NR32 Renewed Vision for Fraser River Estuary

Whereas the Fraser River Estuary is a diverse and productive ecosystem, supporting over 100 species at risk, including salmon and southern resident killer whales, and, is under increased development pressure and impacts of climate change, including flooding of industrial and agricultural lands, and would benefit from a regional planning approach that balances the needs of the ecosystem, people and the economy; and

Whereas Indigenous people have lived in and stewarded the Fraser River Estuary since time immemorial, and know the various species, habitat, and ecosystems as integral to their existence and identity, and are integral to the planning and governance of the of the Fraser River Estuary:

Therefore be it resolved that UBCM call on the federal and provincial governments to allocate the necessary resources and appropriately fund and support a renewed Fraser River Estuary Management planning process that will collectively protect the ecosystem of the Estuary through inter-agency collaboration; and

be it further resolved that the planning process includes, but is not limited to: First Nations, federal government and provincial governments.

Both of these Resolutions were also endorsed by the Membership.


Conference

The other part of the UBCM is all of the stuff you would usually have at a conference: Workshops, panel discussions, and Plenary sessions where we get speeches from important people, from John Horgan to Rick Mercer. I would have to say one difference this UBCM compared to some previous events was the openness of the NDP cabinet members all the way up to the Premier, even taking Questions from the (digitally) assembled crowd, instead of just doing a speech. It may be my bias, or it may have some relationship to our coming out of the peri-Pandemic times and the virtual nature of the meeting, but I get the sense that the shine is not off the NDP (yet?) for most local government officials, and the reception to them was warmer than in previous years, and with previous governments.

Unusually, I was on a panel this year (see photo above) talking about the Heat Dome event, what went wrong locally, and what it means for decision making ahead. I also attended a few other sessions, including a Town Hall led by the Minister for Local Government with a few other members of cabinet on Building Resilient Communities (which was frustratingly neoliberal in its definition of the problem, and its proposed solutions), a Workshop on Climate Action and the Municipal Pension Plan that turned out to be an hour of excuses about why they won’t do the fossil fuel divestment many of their members want. (Ugh).


The 2021 UBCM was virtual. The organization put together a really strong on-line portal to access the event, and it ran super smooth. The public face of the platform was so seamless and functional, it must have only been possible with a bunch of sweat, stress, and chaos behind the (digital) curtain. So kudos to the organizers for achieving that, and i hope the folks who made it work get the thanks they deserve.

Although I missed having those important informal social connections with my Local Government cohort from across the province, I did walk away from UBCM, once again, recharged and excited about the work ahead. So many leaders are doing incredible work to support their communities, finding local approaches to global problems, it makes sharing both the successes and the frustrations so important. Especially over the last 18 months, it has been easy to get discouraged or disheartened about the challenges. Challenges seem to be piling up everywhere, from Vancouver to Pouce Coupe. But knowing there are so many people dedicating themselves to making their corner of the province work better, be safer, more prosperous, and more just, gets me back in the mood that we can make a difference.