Inauguration

Yep, I’m busy. So to keep something happening on this page, and in the spirit of recycling and placemarking, Here are the notes I used for the inauguration speech I delivered on Monday. Share and Enjoy.

Thank you.

I am honoured to be here, and humbled to receive the support from the community for this role.

I want to start my remarks by expressing deep gratitude to Mayor Jonathan Cote. I am so grateful for the work he did on Council and 8 years in this chair to move New Westminster forward. His work and vision have left a strong foundation for this Council to build upon – leadership on housing, on climate, on public engagement. Even through this last term with a global pandemic and so much economic uncertainty, we weathered the storm and are a stronger City now than we were 8 years ago.

And personally, having worked with Jonathan for 8 years, I also appreciate his mentorship and his friendship. His knowledge of the job, and his keen eye of my own strengths and weaknesses made our conversations over the last few weeks invaluable. I appreciate his sage and candid advice during the transition, and appreciate the time he took with the new Council Members to inspire their confidence in the work to come.

I also want to thank Chuck Puchmayr, Mary Trentadue, and Chinu Das for your service to this community. I have watched as all three of you put your hearts and souls into this work, each leaving indelible marks on the City. Especially through the challenging last 4 years, I am proud or our reputation as one of the most functional councils in the Lower Mainland, and the work you did to make that happen. We found consensus on most issues, and were respectful in our disagreements. It wasn’t easy, but most Mondays I walked home from the council meeting feeling we did good work for the community, and I thank you for that. I thank you for the sacrifice of your time and energy, the time away from your families, your other plans put on hold, in service to the community.

To the four new members of this Council, Ruby, Tasha, Paul, and Daniel, and to our returning champions Jaimie and Nadine, congratulations on earning the support of the voters, and thank you for stepping up to do this work. I look forward to each of you bringing your unique and diverse perspectives to this Council. My commitment to you is to do my best to empower each of you to do your best work here. This is a council of seven members, and I ask you to remember the community is best served when all of council engages in robust discussion of matters on our agenda, seeks consensus where it can be found, and does not let disagreement prevent us from taking firm and decisive action on the issues important to this community.

We have all spent the last 6 months (or more) knocking on doors and speaking with the community, we have heard the issues that are top of mind: housing, climate, transportation, safety for all in the face of overlapping crises in our region. We also heard that the community wants a proactive and forward-looking Council, not one that shrinks away from these challenges.

I also want us to be mindful of the voices we didn’t hear during the campaign, to recognize that political engagement is often the privilege of the few. It is incumbent upon us to continue to reach out and engage the entire community, especially those who face structural barriers to representation.

I also ask that all of council engage meaningfully in the journey towards reconciliation that we are undertaking as a local government. Be mindful that we are only the latest representatives of a system of erasure, built on the theft of land and of history. As we do the work commanded of us by legislation, we must also do the parallel work of exposing the truth and of building meaningful relationships with the people indigenous to these lands. That work is both collective and individual, and it is at times difficult, but it is your responsibility now, and as important as anything you will do in the next four years.

I also want to make special note of the work the City is doing to address climate change. You will be in these seats at least until 2026, taking us half way to 2030, a year for which bold targets for emission reduction have been set by this City, by the Province and the Nation. Everything else we do in the City – from housing and transportation to recreation and public safety – will be impacted by climate disruption, and will need to adapt to meet these targets. This is the term of council that will decide if our City meets our legislated goals, there can be no delay.

Perhaps an unintentional symbol of this responsibility, City parks staff have planted seven new trees on the front lawn of City Hall to mark the inauguration of the new Council. Let them remind us of our responsibility and the work ahead.

In the next few months, we will engage in a strategic planning process to set out our collective goals for the term, and in this job the consultation with the community never stops. I look around the council table, and I see our community represented by the many different life paths and experiences that brought you here. I know you are ready to do this work, and will make New Westminster proud.

But we cannot do this alone. We need to work as a team, we need to support and empower our staff to find creative and innovative solutions to the unprecedented challenges facing the community and the region. And we need to empower the broader community to be partners in these solutions. New Westminster is a city of incredible teams doing great work – non-profits and social profits supporting community, neighbourhood organizations, Arts and Sports organizations, Business organizations formal and informal. As a City we can harness that energy and talent to do amazing things.

So I close with an invitation to everyone in this room and everyone watching at home, to get involved. Connect with your Residents Association or your local Business Improvement organization, volunteer with the Arts Council or New West Little League. Come to a community engagement session, and bring a friend or two. This is your City, and your community, and you can shape it, but first you have to show up. By taking active part in your community, you in turn empower this Council to achieve the community’s goals.

Working together to support the community we love is a New Westminster tradition I hope we will all embrace.

Poll-by-Poll 2022

The full election results are available on the City website, and as I have done in the last couple of goes-around, I like to look at the poll-by-poll results and infer a few things. Of course, others have taken this on and provided their own analysis, but I love to stick to a trend once I start, which in part explains the existence of this blog. Note: after boldly asserting I am NOT a political scientist, everything I write here has to be taken with a grain of salt.

This overlaps with the point that anyone in New West could vote in any polling station. One might assume that people vote in the station closest to their homes (as I did, voting early at City Hall), but there is nothing stopping someone from voting across town, so the geography of voting location is only a feeble proxy for the political leanings of that neighbourhood, which is the thesis of this entire post. Caveat Lector. But it is always fun to conject, so let’s have some fun. (Thanks Canspice for the image:

Starting with the Mayor’s Race, I marked the first place finisher in a poll with dark green, the second place finisher in lighter green. I also bunched the “Special Polls” and “Mail in” together as a single poll, for simplicity:

I finished first in most polls, and second in all the others, with my strongest polls being Downtown and the Brow, where I pulled greater than 50%. Armstrong won handily (~55%) in the two Queensborough polls, which represent about 10% of the overall votes. He also won the closer race in the Howay (Massey Victory Heights) poll. Puchmayr won Connaught Heights, which also happened to be the smallest poll, and the polls around his home in Moody Park generally had Puchmayr ahead of Armstrong in second place. As others have observed, there is a marked difference between multi-family and single-family neighbourhoods.

The Council race provides a bit more insight into how the vote was distributed. Here I shaded the first place finished in darker green, the second place finished in an apple green, and the other top 6 finishers in pale green. I used pale yellow for the three people just below the line, and no shading for the bottom three.

Much like Nadine Nakagawa last election, rookie candidate Ruby Campbell finished first overall by a good gap, and won the most polls. She finished first in 12 of the 19 polls, and second in one more. She “showed” (finished in the top 6) in all polls except (perhaps surprisingly) Herbert Spencer. Daniel Fontaine and Paul Minhas each led three polls, and Jaimie McEvoy was tied with Campbell for the favourite in the special polls, and was overall winner at QayQayt.

As most candidates were running with a party, there were clear trends related to those parties, and reflected somewhat the Mayor’s race. Community First had better results overall in most neighbourhoods, with the notable exceptions of Queensborough (the effect of Ken Armstrong being a Q’boro resident?) and Massey Victory Heights. The Progressives had a surprisingly strong showing at Herbert Spencer, which presumably draws most voters from Glenbrook North (where 3 of their down-ballot candidates reside) and Queens Park, but the same strength didn’t show at Queens Ave Church or Glenbrook Middle which would also presumably draw from Queens Park and Glenbrook. The two successful NWP candidates also had strong showings in Tweedsmuir (the West End) and Skwo:wech (Upper Sapperton), showing their appeal was broader overall this election than last, though again linked to single family neighbourhoods. The fact Queensborough didn’t show up for the one council candidate from Q’boro, when Downtown and the Brow did, will no doubt be the source of much deeper discussion.

And here are the School Board results with dark green for overall winner, apple green for second place, pale green for the rest of the top 7 finishers:

The results were close between the top three finishers, with third place finisher Connelly actually winning more polls (8) outright than Russell or Andres (4 each), who nonetheless had broader appeal across the City. Again, the NWP candidates followed Mayor and Council in having their strongest results in Queensborough and Massey Victory Heights, and Carlsen not able to leverage two first place and a second place finish into enough overall votes to get across the line. Aside from this single anomaly, it is perhaps surprising that party lines were not clearer. You could convince yourself that Connelly’s popularity pulled votes for Carlsen and Dobre in many polls, but it is far from consistent across the table.

Here is an interesting trend. Last election, about 21% of vote was cast at an advance poll. That went up to 27% this election. What’s interesting is in how the advance vote was distributed. Last election Team Cote got a bit more support at the advance than election day polls in comparison to the New West Progressives. This election, NWP candidates got an average of 28% of their vote in the advance polls, CFNW candidates only around 26% on average, with the Mayoral candidates having the biggest spread. See these tables with colour-coding for party affiliation and winners bolded:

Now, 2% isn’t a huge gap, but it is such a consistent trend between parties that it can’t be a coincidence. The prominence of an advance poll in Queensborough (and relative NWP popularity there) is not enough of a vote gap to account for this, so we need to presume something shifted in overall popularity between the first advance polls and the final election day. Community First got more popular as the election went on. The said, if we only counted advance pollsthe results in the end would be pretty much the same. The only difference would have been Carlsen being elected instead of Slinn for the final School Board spot.

Finally, there were 15,923 ballots counted, but 108 of them (0.68%) did not select a Mayor Candidate. If we project that same number of ballots to the Council race, there were 95,538 potential Council votes (6 per ballot), and 81,144 votes marked, or 85%. With School Board and 7 votes per ballot, there were 73,202 out of a possible 111,461 (66%) votes cast.

Council, October 21, 2022.

Believe it or not, we had a Council Meeting on Friday. The shortest council meeting ever, with only one item on the Agenda. But  I’ve reported here on every other council meeting over 8 years, so it would be a shame to miss this one and break the streak.

Permissive Property Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 8366, 2022
The City provides permissive property tax exemptions to some properties that are used for community service of charitable purposes. Every year we need to update the Bylaw that empowers this. Our council schedule got messed up by the stat holiday to mark the death of the Queen, and this one outstanding piece of business needed to be addressed on a legislated timeline. So we met to Adopt this Bylaw. And voted unanimously to adopt it.

The new Council is sworn in on November 7th. See you there!

The Campaign

What a wild ride that was.

In early January, I started to ask people if they thought I should run for Mayor, and started noodling about what a run would look like. It took a few months for me to convince myself that there was a viable path, that it would take a strong team, I would need a lot of help putting that team together, but the team was there to be brought together. That work took another 3 months, with conversations and facilitated sessions and the help of many people with experience in organizational development and politics. Bylaws, an AGM, candidate search and nomination process, it was a whirlwind. Then we started knocking on doors and connecting with the broader community, developing platforms, and setting ourselves up for Labour Day, when the real rush begins…

All though the campaign, I found I kept saying the same thing to the candidates: Keep it positive, and do your work. In the good times and the bad times, when we were excited and when we were lagging, when facing conflict or negativity, we just told each other to stay on the positive, and then found some work to do.

There are so many people to thank, and those will be more personal notes than this. I thought for my first post-election blog, I wanted to write a bit about the experience. I’ll follow up with more of a “what’s next” post later. For now, here are my 8 things I learned this campaign:

People are good: I admit to being a bit nervous about door knocking back in June. For a lot of people the last two years have been shitty: locked down and stuck at homes for long periods, shifts in their work and social lives, a lot of anxiety driven by economic uncertainty, concerns about health and family, loss of loved ones, doom scrolling bad news locally and around the world, and clear signs of climate disruption warning us things are not going to get better. I was afraid people were not in a mental space to talk to a hopeful election candidate who shows up at their house.

For the most part, I was wrong. Door knocking was an encouraging experience. People were happy to talk, were looking for reasons to be positive and optimistic. Yes, they had concerns and gripes, but they also had ideas about what we can do better and wanted to hear from candidates that we had ideas for a brighter future. So many people in New West responded to crises and anxiety with hope and optimism about things getting better. Door knocking was uplifting, and I hope the candidates don’t lose that feeling over the next 4 years.

Algorithms are Bad: I shouldn’t have to tell anyone that Facebook is not the real world, but I have never seen a contrast as strong as this election. If the election result was determined by Facebook comments, I had no chance this election, nor did any incumbent in the election. After all, I was called everything from an idiot to a sociopath to a “vampire slug” by people I know in the community. Some of my (alas, inevitably) non-male colleagues faced much worse. And the algorithms assure any time I spend in social media world emphasize and amplified those few voices. The contrast between the vitriol on Facebook and the conversations I had every day with real people in this community was remarkable. I’ll write more about this in the “looking forward” post, but I cannot imagine what value Facebook provides to people interested in engaging with the community. It is a broken interface.

Politics are Parochial: In our doorknocking this time, it was a good reminder of how local many concerns are. Sure climate and COVID and big issues impacting the world right now are getting all the news space, and people want to see us taking serious action on Big Issues. However, when you ask folks about issues on the spot, they can usually physically point at the thing on top of their mind as they stand on their doorstep. A sidewalk in need of repair, the loss of trees, a too-stringent tree bylaw, parking (always parking), a fire hydrant in need of painting, the schedule for glass recycling. The little details of daily life are things that people think about when they think City Hall.

Housing Matters: One big difference this election over previous ones (in my imperfect memory) is that the housing crisis was top of mind for everyone this year, even those comfortably housed in single family neighbourhoods. Previously, you heard a lot about housing security and housing affordability in multi-family and rental buildings, but now the impacts of the ongoing crisis are being felt by everyone – because their kids cannot afford to live in the neighbourhood where they grew up, because rental availability is so low, because it is harder to find employees, because homelessness is more visible than ever. There were other issues this election, but the marked difference in the housing discussion really stood out to me.

Teams: I’m really proud of the team I ran with, and so grateful of the work we did. No-one has ever knocked on as many doors as Community First did during this campaign. Some members faced unique challenges and the other members stood up to support them. The incumbents pulled for the new candidates, and the volunteers and campaign staff were always there to enable the candidates to concentrate on connecting with voters. And when something went sideways – as will inevitably happen when you have 13 stressed candidates and dozens of passionate volunteers interacting with thousands of engaged residents on a tight deadline – we were able to pull together and regroup and get back to the positive, and back to doing the work.

Who knows what works? I am a physical scientist, and a member of Generation X. Both of those characteristics lend me towards wanting to understand how things work. How does [this one thing] get me closer to [the goal]. In a campaign surrounded by political activists, experienced campaigners, and enthusiastic volunteers, you hear a lot of differing opinions about what actually works in pulling the vote: the air game vs the ground game; the lawn sign war; Full Page Ads; viral TikToks (whatever the hell those are). Few people will agree on what is most important and what isn’t, and most of the traditional knowledge is wrapped in confirmation bias, survivorship bias, and anecdata. A local government election with limited media and 13 candidates on a team is also a very different animal that a traditional two- or three-party campaign we are used to with senior government.

I guess there is a thing called “Political Science”, but I have not studied it beyond reading Hunter Thompson books from the 1970s, as I tend to be reading about policy ideas and policy failures, assuming good ideas with predictable outcomes are all people want. But good policy is really hard to meme, and often the electorate is busy, otherwise engaged, or indifferent. So, to our incredible campaign staff, I apologize for every time I took part in the “Lawn signs don’t matter” vs “We are losing the Lawn Sign War!” debate in the office. Thanks for indulging us, letting us vent, then getting us back on track.

Elections are hard: Running for office is an emotional rollercoaster. If you care about the work, about the community, and about the ideals you bring into this, then there is some point in a campaign where it is going to hurt. Maybe low blood sugar and a couple of bad interactions at a door line up and your imposter syndrome hits you and you question why the hell you are doing this. Maybe you get stuck in the spiral of reading your opponent’s messaging (“did they just say that!?”) and Facebook comments (“do people actually believe that!?”) and you have to swallow the irritation because your team keeps telling you to keep it positive. Maybe you know you need to go hit doors or attend an event, when all you want to do this evening is sit down for dinner with your daughter and talk about her first day at school. Having a great team of supporters to pull you through those low points makes it easier, and sometimes we lament the burden taken on by our families and friends in supporting us as candidates. In the end, the positives of working together to build something positive wins out, even if we sometimes need to be reminded of this. A year from now we are going to remember the funny stories from doorknocking, not those low points, but at the moment, they are hard. A campaign office with sugary snacks help.

Losing sucks: I’m heartbroken that my colleagues Chinu and Bereket were not able to get over the top. Maybe I can speculate about the “why” part when I dig into the poll-by-poll results, but for now I am just disappointed and feel badly that our team didn’t do more to help them. Chinu has been an incredible source of calm wisdom and incisive fire at Council, and I have felt honoured to sit with her and learn from her. I was feeling really confident about Bereket from the day I met him about a year ago, he is smart, principled, and was so charming at the doors, while also pulling in an amazing team of volunteers. He was persistently positive, lifting the team every chance he had, and reminding us about Queensborough if we ever let it slip. I know they will both continue to be passionate advocates for their community, it is in their hearts to do this work.


The last week has been a different kind of whirlwind. I am working with my elected colleagues and City Staff to get organized around inauguration (November 7th in Council Chambers, mark your calendar), and getting all of council prepped to do the work. I have chatted with and am planning more meetings with Jonathan, and have also set up some meetings with Mayors from around the region to connect again with those I already know and introduce myself to those I have I haven’t worked with yet. And the invites for events of all types are starting to stream in.

I will hope to find time this weekend to write a bit of a “what’s next” follow up to this, but first things first, to answer the big question here:

Yes, I intend to keep blogging, but it is going to be different. I don’t even know how it will be different yet, because I need to find a new context for this writing. For good or for bad, anything written by the “person wearing the chain” becomes conflated with the “Official position of the City”, and I am aware of my need to separate those two. My council colleagues and staff of the city need to know I am not going to make their work harder through this part of my new-found bully pulpit. There is also the time commitment required to do this that I will need to understand and manage.

But writing this blog has become part of my “process” for understanding and keeping track of what is happening in council business. Somewhere in my University days I learned if I can’t write clearly about it, I clearly don’t understand it. So writing the notes that become this blog are part of how I read and absorb my council package and the reports attached. for now I suggest the presentation may change, the tone may change, but I do intend to keep connecting directly like this as long as it is viable to do so.

So thank you to my regular readers (Hi Mom!), and let’s see where this goes!

Council – Oct 3, 2022

TOO MUCH HAPPENING! AAAAHHHH!!!

Ok, I’m over that. Here’s the report.

We had the last Council Meeting of the Term on Monday. It was a real roller coaster, because we covered some significant topics, putting a point on the road for some large topics in the hope the next Council will carry them forward – there are lots of “passing the baton” metaphors below. It was also the final council meeting for Mayor Cote and Councillor Trentadue, and at least one other member of Council. So there were emotions in the room. But for the purposes of this report I’m going to stick to the Agenda.

We started with a couple of Temporary Use Permits :

Temporary Use Permit No. TUP00028 for 97 Braid Street
The Construction of RCH has brought a lot of workers to Sapperton, and there has been a temporary parking lot installed by the Braid SkyTrain station with shuttles that run workers back and forth to the construction site. This is not a regular use of that property, so we issued a Temporary Use Permit to allow it. They are asking for a renewal, as construction is ongoing.

There was a call for public comment, sign on the site, and received no comments from the public. The operation has been largely without trouble and does actively relieve some of the parking stress Sapperton already y feels during the construction, so Council voted to support the TUP.

Temporary Use Permit No. TUP00029 for 311 Louellen Street
The owner of a large house on the Brow of the Hill Neighbourhood wants to provide a Group Living facility for people living in recovery from addiction (including alcohol, drugs, and gambling). This land use is consistent with the Official Community Plan for the neighbourhood, but would require a rezoning or a Temporary Use Permit for up to 3 years. Here were two separate public calls for comment on this, and a public Open House (with 33 neighbours attending), and we received more than 100 pieces of correspondence, mostly in favour of providing these types services in New Westminster, with some comments concerned about the specific location, operational details and effect on adjacent property values.

New Westminster has a good history with supporting these types of transitional housing operations, and they have without fail turned out to be good neighbours that do not cause conflict issues in residential neighbourhoods. That said, the regulation and oversight of an operation like this not as consistent as some in the community may like, although this is evolving. Staff have provided a list of conditions to help address some of the community anxiety around this change.

I voted in favour of this TUP with the conditions attached. I have personal experience with being a neighbours with a similar facility by a different operator that works on a very similar model, and recognize that many of the anxieties felt about these sites are just not born out in practice. They do not constitute a threat to vulnerable people in the community, nor do they correlate with nuisance behaviours or crime. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The TUP and conditions attached should provide some incentive to the operator to assure their commitment to being a good neighbours is met, and on balance having facilities in our community that help people get past the health impacts and stigma of addiction is an important step in building a strong community for all.


We then had two Reports to Council:

Peer Assisted Care Team (PACT) Pilot Project Update
The PACT model is an exciting and innovative way to deal with mental health crises in our community, being piloted here in BC in New West, Victoria, and North Van, but based on proven models from other jurisdictions around North America. It is in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Purpose Society. This came out of our earlier submissions to the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, and has taken a real drive be several members of Council and partnerships with the Provincial Government and other agencies to see the light of day. We are still working on the effort to properly integrate the PACT model with 911, which will lead to more consistent dispatch and better data gathering.

This does have the potential to be transformational in people’s lives, and an example of what a community can do when all members meet together with a common understanding of a problem, apply evidence-based policy and compassion, and are willing to find flexibility and innovation in finding solutions.

Council Update on Research into Actions taken by the City of New Westminster involving Indigenous Peoples from 1860-1999
Friday was National Truth and Reconciliation Day, and it was profound to see Pier Park as full as I have ever seen it, more than a thousand people, most in orange t-shirts, to witness and learn about residential schools and reconciliation. It is timely that the City provide an update on the work we have done towards Truth and Reconciliation, so we can hand over the baton to the next Council in the hopes they will continue to carry it on this long journey.

The first part of Truth and Reconciliation is Truth. It is about exposing and talking about the record of what occurred, and when it comes to the colonization and subjugation of Indigenous Peoples, a lot happened in New Westminster. As part of our work, the City went about combing the archives and records of the city to outline exactly what happened. Recognizing our records only tell the story from the colonizers’ point of view, and therefore our written record in incomplete, it is nonetheless important that we expose this history to the light, and find a respectful way to share this learning with the people who were impacted, and their descendants, in accordance with the TRC Calls to Action and the Articles of UNDRIP.

The City has begun engagement with many nations to whom these histories are relevant, and will be working through shared learnings with those nations, now that this report is available. For now, a summary report is available for the general public to review, with the more detailed and technical report being used as the foundation for deeper consultations.

At this point, we are receiving the report, and updates on progress the City has made in our Reconciliation Strategy. Much of it (training and learnings for staff, relationship building with Nations around the region, this research work) has been “behind the scenes” for good reasons, but it is outlined on the city website now to let those interested see where we are at. We also received in update on the next steps ahead in Reconciliation for the city. May the baton be passed on to the next Council, and may they run with it.


We then moved the following items On Consent:

Formal Recognition of National Aboriginal Veterans’ Day
The RSIE Task Force is recommending Council formally recognize National Aboriginal Veterans’ Day on November 8th. And we will do so.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement: 441 Fader Street – Preliminary Report to Council
The owner of this unique 1930s house in lower Sapperton want to build an infill house on the property with a secondary suite and preserve the existing house with Heritage Protection. The zoning allows three units on the property (a house with a suite and a laneway house), but this arrangement, where the existing “main” house is smaller and the infill house has the suite, and the proposal to stratify the property so it operates more like a duplex instead of subdividing or making them all single ownership is unusual. This is a preliminary application, and will go to public consultation and Public Hearing before Council makes any decisions, so let us know if you have opinions!

Uptown Business Association and Downtown New Westminster BIA – 2023 Business Promotion Scheme Budget Approvals
The City’s two BIAs operate by the City collecting a special tax on the member businesses, then turning that money over to the BIAs to do the work their board determines best serves their members. As their budgets (~$150K/year for Uptown, ~$300K/year for Downtown) mostly go through our budget, and their work plans mesh with work the City is doing, we have an opportunity to review and comment on their budgets.

This is more of a report for information than it is a request for approval, as the BIAs operate fairly autonomously.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Carter Street Foreshore Lease Agreement Renewal
There is a part of the Queensborough waterfront by Carter Street where the City pays the Port about $600 a year to lease. This is to assure public access as a watery extension to the foreshore park where the City has park benches, trails, interpretive signage and such. We are renewing the lease we have carried since 1997 for another 10-year term.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

All Ages and Abilities Active Transportation Network Plan
A year ago, I brought a motion to Council asking that we establish a core mobility lane network and that we integrate the building of that network into the City’s 5 year Capital Plan. After a year of work, engineering, design, and public consultation, this is the draft network, and the price tag.

I wrote a lot about this last year, and I don’t want to repeat it all here, but I think this work is necessary, is “core work” for a 21st century urban city, and is timely. It will represent an increase in our 5-year Capital plan, but an increase of less than 10%, and with significant senior government support available through the National Active Transportation Strategy and the CleanBC Active Transportation Fund. It is still a significant amount of money, and will also require increased staff resources to roll out on the timeline suggested, but if we want to meet the goals set out in our 7 Bold Steps, if we want to achieve the safe roads and public spaces and prepare ourselves for the transportation revolution coming with new mobility devices, if we want to be a modern forward-looking city, this is work we need to commit to now. This will be transformational.

There is a lot in here about how we got from idea to a network map, and I will maybe write more about that in a follow-up post, I but I think this plan is good. To reach AAA (“All Ages and Abilities”), staff created a CCC framework (“Comfortable, Complete and Connected”) to make sure a bike route is near every home, connects to key destinations, and is not only safe for all users, but comfortable for all users. And connected means we are finally going to invest in getting rid of the persistent gaps in our mobility lane network that created comfort and safety barriers for so many users.

Community Energy and Emissions Plan 2050 – Adoption
Another big file I am glad to see advanced before the end of the term. The City has two Plans for reducing GHG emissions- the “Corporate” plan that covers everything the City itself does from running garbage trucks to heating City Hall, and the “Community” Plan, which is all the GHG emissions residents and businesses create by driving their vehicles or heating their buildings or generating waste. Our corporate plan was reported on last meeting (we are ahead of schedule getting to 2030), and this report is asking for adoption of a new Community Plan – one to set a new target to “near zero” emissions by 2050.

This is a big strategic plan with clear actions that are already starting, and creates a strong roadmap for the next 7 years. This means faster Step Code implementation to get new buildings more efficient faster; it means retrofit assist to get older buildings off fossil fuels and adapted to our new climate; it means a faster roll out of EV-support infrastructure and transportation infrastructure that reduces the reliance on cars. And it means adopting Just Transition and Climate Equity lenses in how we prioritize and fund this work.

With adoption of the CEEP, we have clearly set out the path ahead. Again, the baton is being passed to the next Council, and I hope we have a Council ready to run with it.

Development Permit Application: Brewery District Transit Plaza – For Information
The Brewery District is looking at how it will design the last pieces of the puzzle. There is one more building (which is proposed to be mixed use with lots of commercial space) to be built, and a completion of the groundworks around the entrance to the SkyTrain station. This report outlines the preliminary designs for the latter. This is a report for information, and a development permit to approve the design will be managed through staff without further Council input.

It looks pretty good. The route from SkyTrain to RCH and Sapperton will be universally accessible, where it is now a bit challenging with existing slopes and ramp designs, and an elevator on the RCH property that has not be functional for several years. I still chagrin that the RCH design does not address the SkyTrain station better, but Wesgroup is making up for it in this plaza design. They are still taking public input, so if you have opinions, let them know here.

Lighting Up City Hall in Celebration of Diwali
The RSIE Task Force is recommending we light up and decorate City Hall to mark Diwali, so we are going to do that. This is a change from our usual practice of mostly only decorating City Hall for Christian holidays (Christmas, Easter).


And finally, we adopted the following Bylaws:

Anvil Theatre Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8367, 2022; Climate Action Planning and Development Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8358, 2022; Cultural Services Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8359, 2022; Electrical Utility Charges Amendment Bylaw No. 8368, 2022; and Engineering User Fees and Rates Amendment Bylaw No. 8360, 2022
As discussed over the last two meetings, these Bylaws that set our fees, fines, and user rates for various services in the City for the year ahead were all adopted unanimously by Council.


Whew! There were a few speeches made, and you can watch the video, but I am sure I will have more to say about this term and my colleagues on Council after October 15th. For now, I gotta go GOTV. Remember to vote!

Council – Sept 26, 2022

In more than 10 years, I don’t think I have gone more than three weeks without blogging, even when I took extended vacations. Sorry folks, it has been busy and this page has dropped in priority over the other engagement and media work I have been doing. Still, I am committed to reporting out every council meeting for the last 8 years, and I’m not stopping now!


The penultimate Council Meeting of the term took us on our annual (excepting COVID disruption) trip to the Queensborough Community Centre, where I was expecting a big turnout, but was surprised to see so few people present.

Nonetheless, we had a full Agenda that started with the following items Moved on Consent:

Appointment of Acting City Clerk
Our City Clerk is seconded to act as our Chief Electoral Officer. This is getting busy, and so for the next three weeks the assistant Clerk is taking over Clerk duties. City Clerk has clearly defined and legislated duties, so we have to officially, through a motion of Council, assign these duties to the Assistant until the Clerk is free again in October.

Budget 2023: User Fees and Rates Review Amendment Bylaws
We reviewed the proposed fee increases for 2023 last meeting, Every department reviews their rates annually, and try to balance three things: Inflationary increases so rate increases are gradual and we don’t get behind on CPI; Reviewing the cost of delivering the service so (ideally – not always) fees cover those costs; and a comparison to fees charged in adjacent communities to make sure the City is not out of touch with what is charged elsewhere. This year staff are recommending most rates and fees go up about 2.4%, to reflect CPI, though some fees are not going up (QtoQ Ferry, Inter Municipal Business Licences, EV charging costs) and some are going up more than 2.4% based on previous policy decisions (e.g. Parking fees are mostly going up to align with the 5-year plan for Parking rates approved by Council after much discussion back in October of 2018).

We reviewed the reports last meeting, allowing staff to prepare the empowering Bylaws. If a Councillor wanted to suggest changes to these Bylaws, last meeting would have been a good time to do that so we could have a fulsome discussion and staff could prepare a response giving Council any extra information they may need (e.g. budget implications) to make a decision. Alternately, they could pull this item from consent and have the discussion now, though staff would be a bit on their heels. Doing it when we are giving the Bylaws three reading later in the meeting can only be interpreted as grandstanding. Ugh. Elections.

City’s Response to the Accessible British Columbia Act
BC has a new Accessibility Act, and will require local governments (and Police and Library Boards) have organizational accessibility plans and accessibility committees, and to develop plans to meet Accessibility Standards for our employees and in service delivery. So we are complying, and staff have given us a bit of a framework of how we will get there.

Infrastructure Canada Active Transportation Fund – Grant Agreement
When Council supported my motion to get staff developing a complete and connected AAA mobility network in the City, they got to work. There is now Federal Government Funds to help pay for this planning work, and we are applying to said grant for one of those grants. Well, we already applied and got approval in principle, but we need to formalize the authorization and delegate the ability to sign a grant agreement. Government.

Manufacture’s Patio Application (Pacific Breeze Winery)
Pacific Breeze is a small winery off Stewardson Way, and they have been operating a small patio during COVID through the temporary measures taken by the City to support these licences. There have been no problems with this operation, so the City is supporting their application with the Province to make this permanent.

Official Community Plan Amendment Section 475 and 476: 501 Fourth Avenue and 408 Fifth Street (Holy Eucharist Cathedral), and 1135 Salter Street – Consultation Report
The Ukrainian Church in Queens Park wants to expand their campus to include some affordable housing and other uses to support their function, which would require an OCP amendment. There is also a property in Queensborough that wants to build residential units that would require an OCP Amendment. We have only seen preliminary plans for both of these, and sent them to the regulatory-required outside agencies and First Nations for consultation before we can consider the OCP amendments further. This report adds 6 more First Nations to the list of those requiring consultation, based on further evaluation by Metro. This report approves the start of that expanded consultation. Both of these projects will also be going through Public Consultation, so more on this to come.

Rezoning Application for Duplex: 376 Keary Street – Preliminary Report
The owner of a single family house in Sapperton wants to build a duplex. This aligns with the OCP, there is no net increase in living units (a laneway house would otherwise be permitted here), no variances, but “duplex” triggers the need for rezoning. This is a preliminary application, so it will go to public consultation, Drop us a line and let us know what you think.

Rezoning, Development Variance Permit, and Development Permit: 114 and 118 Sprice Street – Preliminary Report
The owner of these lots in Queensborough where there are currently two single family homes want to build 10 compact lot single family homes on the largish existing lots. This is a pretty complicated application and an interesting design approach. This is, however, just a preliminary application that will go to public consultation. If you have opinions, let us know.


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Council Code of Conduct
Our Council has a Code of Conduct, but the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has a new requirement that we “publicly revise” our Code. We have updated ours in review of the development guide provided by the Province and looking at best practices in other communities. This new Code includes a more prescribed method to investigate breaches to the Code, including stricter timelines to investigation and assigning a third party to investigate to put a bit of a fence between Council and the investigation.

This is a good step, but it is not the solution to many of the issues around the region over the last few years when it comes to Council as a respectful workplace. New Westminster has for the most part avoided the worst of this, but I can name a half dozen council colleagues around the region who have been bullied, harassed, and treated in a way that no employer would permit in any other workplace, but do not have the protection of an Employment Standards Act, of an Ombudsperson, or a Union. Updating this Code is a step to better workplace conditions for elected officials, but we still need the Provincial Government to do more.

Introduction of the Local Government Climate Action Program and 2021 Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Update
I might have railed here or there about the end of CARIP, a Provincial funding source to local governments for climate action. The Province heard many local governments (and the organization of which I served as Chair, the Community Energy Association) in the need for a replacement program that all local governments could rely on as base funding for these efforts.

The Best news is that New West will receive just under $300,000 from the CARIP replacement program (Local Government Climate Action Program – LGCAP) in 2022, which is more than twice what we received under CARIP. Similar to CARIP, this program requires some reporting of our efforts to the Province and alignment of our actions with the CleanBC plan – which are things we are already doing in our 7 bold Steps for climate.

This report also outlines our progress toward 2030, 2040, and 2050. Our original targets (compared to the 2010 baseline) were 45% reduction by 2030, 60% by 2040, and net zero by 2050. We also have a Corporate target to be net zero by 2030. As of 2021, we are 29% below baseline, but the curve is definitely bent to the right direction. I’m so proud of the work this council has got done to set bold targets, to empower staff to achieve them, and to get us in a leadership position regionally on this most important of issues. I have heard people suggest New West talks a lot about climate action, but what are they actually doing? Here is the answer; we are getting it done.

Latecomer Agreement for Extended Servicing Costs Related to the Servicing of the Queensborough Special Study Area
This gets a little into the weeds, so hold on. When development happens, it often means we need to build bigger off-side supports for the development. Bigger sewer lines, bigger water lines, bigger pumps for both, roadways, etc. This is usually covered by Development Cost Charges (“DCCs”) – we make the developer pay that cost by charging them per square foot of new density, then when enough developments come along making the increased capacity prudent to build, we use that money to build it.

However, sometimes a large development means capacity needs to be added right away, so we get them to build it right away. But it is also possible that more future development in the area of this first one will mean we want to build that capacity bigger than strictly needed by the first developer, so we don’t have to rebuild it a few years later when the next phase of development happens. One way to manage that is to ask the first developer to build the extra-big capacity, then when the next developer comes along, they can benefit from that expanded capacity. The “latecomer” developer then pays back the first developer for the extra cost of that extra-large capacity that was conveniently built for them.

To do that, we need to agree on what capacity is needed, how it will be built, and how much the Latecomer will pay to tap into that expanded capacity. This requires a legal agreement between the City and first developer. This report is about us developing such an agreement with the company hoping to develop the mixed-us “Eastern Node” neighbourhood in Queensborough. The form of the agreement is laid out by Staff, and Council are asked to approve it. This is a bit unusual for New West because we don’t do much “Greenfield” development, but it is common in other communities.

Permissive Property Tax Exempt Properties for 2023 – Review of Application Result
Some properties don’t pay property tax because they have a statutory exemption set by Provincial Law (Churches, private schools, provincial government agencies, etc.). Others don’t pay property tax, or pay reduced property tax, because the City has determined that there is a community benefit to their being here worthy of reduced taxes. There are some limits to whom we can give this permissive exemption (church accessory buildings, sports clubs, social service providers), and the City has a well written policy to guide new exemptions one we have followed pretty closely in my time on council.

There are several applications for new exemptions this year, three of which were already eligible for Statutory Exemption, and the others that do not meet out policy threshold for new permissive exemption.

Q2 2022 Capital Budget Adjustments
We have started quarterly reporting of our Capital Budget, instead of the previous practice of doing annual updates with occasional ad hoc adjustments as major capital projects proceeded.

As per Local Government regulation, our Capital Budget exists as a 5-year Capital Plan Bylaw, with annual Capital budgets. This means if we want to change the overall budget over 5 years, we need to amend the bylaw, but if we want to move proposed spending from year 1 to year 3, or vice versa, we don’t need to amend the Bylaw, we just need a motion to do so. This gives staff some flexibility to adjust capital planning do deal with minor cost overruns, unexpected savings, or changes in delivery times for different projects – like if we break a truck and need to replace it sooner than expected, or if a construction project gets delayed by supply chain issues.

This quarter, we are adjusting the 2022 Capital Budget by $1.7Million, but are NOT increasing overall spending, but are instead deferring or delaying other projects in the 5 year plan. These changes include:
$0.7M increase in the cost for the Wood Street drainage upgrades;
$0.5M in increased spending on sidewalk repair and replacement;
$0.3M for increased Pier Park fire remediation costs;
$0.2M for expanded scope on some road safety projects.
There is a spreadsheet attached to the report here if you want more details on cost increases and decreases that offset them.

Queensborough Ecological Restoration Project
The little slough on the south end of Ryall Field South and the trail that leads from Ewen at Stanley Street to the Riverfront will see ecological restoration, including refurbishment of the wetlands portions, new trees and native plantings, improves trails and new signage. More than an enhancement of the Perimeter Trail, this will support the ecological network model of our new Biodiversity and Natural Areas Strategy, and the Urban Forest Management Program.

Rezoning Application for Detached Accessory Building: 228 Seventh Street – Preliminary Report
Westminster House wants to expand their existing accessory building for their operation in the Brow of the Hill. I am an almost immediate neighbor, I recused myself from this discussion or decision, as there may be a perceived pecuniary interest.

Update on the Community Action Network Leadership Training Program and the Ethics of Engagement Project
The CAN Leadership Training program has been operating in New West since 2020 to bring people with lived and living experience with homelessness into planning and decision making around municipal efforts to address homelessness and poverty. We now have 16 CAN Leaders in New Westminster who serve on City Advisory Committees, Task Forces and Working Groups.

If you want to know what makes New Westminster innovative, you may want to read this report. It is a great summary of what an inclusive and compassionate City can do to improve people’s lives, and improve the community while we are at it. It is also groundbreaking in how we are expanding Public Engagement to include participatory decision making, and reaching out to residents traditionally not included in Public Engagement efforts.


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

Delegation Amendment Bylaw No. 8365, 2022
This Bylaw responds to some recent changes in department structures in Staff, and makes clear who is what delegated authority as required by provincial law. We adopted it.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (616 and 640 Sixth Street – Text Amendment) No. 8348, 2022
This is the final Bylaw to support the construction of a mixed use, Purpose Built Rental toawer in uptown – the first significant density approved Uptown in a decade, and the first Purpose Built Rental building in longer than that. Council adopted it!

Heritage Revitalization Agreement (108-118 Royal Avenue and 74-82 First Street) Bylaw No. 8339, 2022; Heritage Designation Bylaw (82 First Street) No. 8340, 2022; and Windsor Road Closure, Dedication Removal and Disposition Bylaw No. 8350, 2022.
These Bylaws approve the development of a new 6-8 storey residential building on Royal Ave and the retention and protection of one heritage house on the lot. Council moved ot adopt the Bylaws.

Official Community Plan Amendment (514 Carnarvon Street – Holy Trinity Cathedral) Bylaw No. 8088, 2022; Heritage Revitalization Agreement (514 Carnarvon Street – Holy Trinity Cathedral) Bylaw No. 8089, 2022; and Heritage Designation Bylaw (514 Carnarvon Street – Holy Trinity Cathedral) No. 8090, 2022.
These Bylaws approve the building of a new Mixed-use tower including public amenity use, rental and market Condos adjacent to the HTC, along with a restoration and preservation plan for the 120+ year old Cathedral itself. Council moved unanimously to adopt.


finally, we had two pieces of New Business

Disposition of Unused 2018 Campaign Funds, Mayor Cote
When we fundraise for campaigns, there are all kinds of rules about how that money is spent. Surplus funds at the end of the campaign can be held in Trust by the City for the candidate to pull out next time they run. If the candidate chooses not to run again, it is unclear where those funds go, except into general revenue in the City. The motion here from the Mayor is to move unspent campaign funds to a charitable cause or scholarship program at the discretion of the departing candidate. I support this, as these funds were either the Candidate’s own money, or that of people who politically supported the Candidate, and the candidate is therefore in the unique position of knowing where their supporters would like to see the money go.

Extreme Heat Event Monitoring Centre Initiative
This late addition to the Agenda was nonetheless notable, in that the City is partnering with Fraser Health and Emergency Management BC on an advanced response to Heat Dome events, a response led by New West Fire and Rescue. The plan is to set up a Heat Response Centre to offer immediate care to less-acute cases at Century House, with LPNs and trained Firefighters providing patient monitoring, relieving the Ambulance Service and Emergency room to address more seriously impacted patients. I like this innovative approach, and the partnerships we are able to leverage across municipal and provincial authorities.


And with that, our Penultimate Meeting is a wrap. Tune in a gain on October 3rd for the final meeting of the term, which will no doubt have some weepy moments for a few members of Council, and a bit of fun to mark the occasion. Now back to the Campaign Trail.

Council – Aug 29, 2022

Summer is not over. Another week until kids go back to school, and the Autumnal Equinox is still weeks away, but the summer hiatus at City Council and staff is over, and we were back in business with a full Council Agenda. This week’s Council meeting began with a special Presentation:

2022 Planning Institute of BC Excellence in Policy Planning Award: Seven Bold Steps for Climate Action
The City’s Planning department won this award last month at the annual PIBC conference. But this presentation was about thanking the people who helped make it happen. When the Council was elected, and told staff we were serious about Climate Action, that we were ready to be challenged to approve a really bold climate action plan for the City, staff responded with this really great piece of work. We knew at the time (a notion reinforced now by the award) that it was region-leading, as bold as anything happening at the Municipal level in Canada.

When I ran for Council, when the current Council ran in the election in 2018, we all talked about Climate Change, and about the need for us to take action to address our corporate and community emissions to meet the challenge of the Paris Agreement. And we got elected making that promise. But even six months after election, the mandate delivered is questioned, which is why it is important that the community continue to call on the Council to do this work. When the Bold Step plan came to Council, several groups came to support Council, imploring us to say “yes” to bold action. So we wanted to take this chance ot share the Award given to Council with a couple of those community groups who came to Council back in 2019 to push us forward –to tell us this work mattered to the community. Who made it easier for us to say “yes” to climate action.


We then moved the following item On Consent:

Amendments to the 2022 Schedule of Council Meetings
We are making some changes to the Council Schedule in light of the upcoming UBCM conference, the election, and the anticipated need for a Finance Workshop in November to get the new Council up to speed. That means this is the semi-penultimate Council meeting of the term.

Appointment of City Officers:
There is a bit of staffing change going on in the City, like every organization on earth right now. Several positions in the City have very specific legislated duties, job positions that come with specific responsibility and delegated duties under the legislation that empowers the Municipality to be a Municipality. These are two positions where Council must approve the appointments so the staff can act under those responsibilities.

Budget 2023: Fees and Rates Review:
The budget process at the City is a long one. In order for staff to project forward to next year’s budget, they need to know the fees and rates that make up about 1/3 of our revenue. So an early step in every budget year is updating the applicable Bylaw to codify and change in fees or rates for everything from swim lessons to parking passes to building inspections.

Every department reviews their rates annually, and try to balance three things: Inflationary increases so rate increases are gradual and we don’t get behind on CPI; Reviewing the cost of delivering the service so (ideally – not always) fees cover those costs; and a comparison to fees charged in adjacent communities to make sure the City is not out of touch with what is charged elsewhere. This year staff are recommending most rates and fees go up about 2.4%, to reflect CPI, though some fees are not going up (QtoQ Ferry, Inter Municipal Business Licences, EV charging costs) and some are going up more than 2.4% based on previous policy decisions (e.g. Parking fees are mostly going up to align with the 5-year plan for Parking rates approved by Council after much discussion back in October of 2018). You can read the reports for all the juicy details!

Construction Noise Bylaw Exemption Request – New Westminster Interceptor – Columbia Sewer Rehabilitation
That sewer work on Columbia Street is not over. They got out of the way to give our downtown retailers a break during the all-important summer festival season, but the tying in of the sewer lines is still a necessary project for the long-term viability of the sewer system. There will be some disruption between now and December.

Delegation Bylaw Update to facilitate Acting Director Roles
More about some of the re-organization happening with retirements and other staff changes at City Hall, This to update who is delegated to do delegated duties when the delegate is off duty. And we codify it by Bylaw, as required by Legislation. This seems kind of bureaucratic, and it is, but legislative function requires clear responsibility and chains of delegation so everyone is accountable.

Electronic Message Centre for Ryall Park / Queensborough Community Centre
The Queensborough Community Centre used to have a “static” sign on Ewen Ave, and a few members of the Q’boro community have been asking for a digital sign that can highlight events and share other City info. Staff looked into whether a partnership with a third party provider was viable, and it turns out the traffic counts there are just not enough to make this attractive to advertisers. We already have money in the Capital Budget to install a digital reader board sign, so we are moving ahead.

Official Community Plan Amendment and Rezoning Applications for Infill Townhouse: 102/104 Eighth Avenue and 728 First Street – Preliminary Report
This is a preliminary report on a townhouse development in Glenbrook North that would see 10 townhouses where there are currently two houses (one a duplex). This one needs an OCP amendment along with a rezoning, so it is going to consultation, and will end up at a Public Hearing, so I’ll hold my comments until then.

Recruitment 2022: Appointment to the Social and Cultural Vibrancy Grant Committee
We have community members serve on volunteer committees to help us evaluate applications for Grants. We put out a public call for applications due to a vacancy, and Staff have recommended a person for the SCV Grant Committee, who we now official appoint.

Temporary Use Permit: 97 Braid Street (Royal Columbian Hospital Parking) Phase 2 – Consideration of Notice of Issuance
That big parking lot for RCH construction workers by the Braid Skytrain Station operates on a Temporary Use Permit, which is expiring. They need a few more years to complete Phase 2 of the RCH Project, so we are issuing another TUP.

Temporary Use Permit for Group Living Facility: 311 Louellen Street – Consideration of Notice of Issuance
The owner of this large house in the Brow of the Hill would like to operate a residential support facility, which would require a Temporary Use Permit for three years. This is within the OCP use, but would need a TUP to address zoning issues. This report is just notice that Council will consider the TUP in a future meeting. If you have feedback, let us know!


The following items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

Fall 2022 Outdoor Pools Operating Schedule Update
With the closure of the Canada Games Pool and the Edmonds Pool in Burnaby, we are extending out Outdoor pool season well into October. This is an update on the schedule, and a reminder of a few operational constraints. Staff limitations is part of the equation, but there are also operational constraints at Hume (lack of lighting, an older boiler that probably can’t keep the pool warm as the weather changes) that may limit the usefulness of the pool. And, of course, the use will likely be impacted by weather, and we just can’t predict that.

We have also heard a few concerns about the booking system that changed during COVID, with parts of it still being used to manage capacity more fairly as we emerge out of the worst of the pandemic. To be truthful, I have heard very positive reviews and some negative reviews. Staff is going to take some time in the off-season to engage a bit with the user group and do a review of the system and report back to Council with some potential changes or improvements.

Massey Theatre Renovation Update
The City made a significant commitment to the Arts community when it committed to saving the Massey Theatre from demolition along with the old NWSS. The Land Transfer from the School District was a bit of a challenging negotiation (as it was a complex three-way conversation with us, the province, and the School Board about current and future land needs), but we now have the land secured and a long-term partnership with the Massey Theatre Society for operating the space. They have been doing incredible work already in expanding into the programmed space of the “Little Gym” and old music room spaces. This is a partnership that will serve the local arts community for decades.

But now comes the tough part. The Massey is an old building, and as it was not part of the School District’s long-term planning, it was hard for them to justify spending their limited capital finding on upgrades or updates. Now that the City has taken ownership and has been able to do some more comprehensive evaluation of the building, we need to prioritize capital costs to assure the building remains viable, safe, and functional.

The planning now is to look forward to where the building needs to be in 25 years, and what we can do to bring the building up to Building Code compliance, operational efficiency, and modern accessibility standards. The current budget (~$14 Million) is likely not enough to complete this work, and the business case and building evaluation do not support maintaining the “Big Gym” and cafeteria space on the north side of the building, so it will be demolished as was the original plan (though we took a bit of extra time to do detailed studies to assure demolition was the best option).

That said, we also need to be thoughtful in taking a phased approach to renovation and upgrades. Doing it all at once might be cheaper and quicker, but supporting the ongoing operation of the MTS means any closure of the Theatre needs to be short and predictable to allow ongoing and consistent programming. We also need to be mindful of the external presentation of the space (the accessibility, the greenspaces and parking around, etc.) as this work is ongoing. We have great partners in the MTS, and this partnership will help guide us through the next 5 (or more) years while we keep our commitment to preserving the Theatre. But ultimately, these decisions will be made by the next Council, as there are budget implications of all of these decisions. For today, we are just approving the steps to get us to a final project scope decision in January of 2023.

Master Transportation Plan Amendment and Monitoring Report
Our Master Transportation Plan is seven years old. The principles are still strong, but there are a couple of areas where it needs an update. The first part of the report is an update on the 123 policies and actions from the plan (61% ongoing actions that are the new normal, 11% completed actions, 21% underway but not yet complete, 11% either not started or abandoned) and an update on the 12 measurable “Key Performance Indicators” about how the MTP is going (6 are on track, 5 are behind pace, one is waiting for updated data).

New Mobility is a catch-all phrase for new technology like e-bikes, e-scooters, automated vehicles and electric cars. Our 2015 MTP does not speak to these, and we are adopting some updated policies to address them. Some of this is engineering changes to make micromobility safer, part is advocacy to senior governments to address the gaps in current legislation, along few other policy direction like addressing end-of-trip facilities and storage. And, yeah, we are looking for opportunities to bring an electric bike share program to New West.

Curbside Management is another area where we need an update. Changes in how retail and service industries work (exacerbated during COVID), and more demands for accessible curb space and providing space and comfort for vulnerable road users mean the priorities for the curb have changed, we need a set of priorities established to help make decisions around curbspace allocation.

Finally, we are asking staff to bring back a report on potential MTP updates to introduce Vision Zero principles. This will be a decision for the next Council, and I will be talking a lot about this in the future, as I have a lot to say about the need to take a more comprehensive approach to road safety in the City.

We than had a bunch of Bylaw Readings, with the following Bylaws for Adoption,/u>:

Zoning Amendment Bylaws Repeal Bylaw No. 8353, 2022
This Bylaw repeals the two Bylaws that received previous adoption but, due to an administrative error, were given public call for comment prior to the Third Reading instead of prior to the First Reading as is required with the recent changes to the Local Government Act, as has been discussed at some length. Once Repealed, we can adopt them again.

Zoning Amendment (1321 Cariboo Street) Bylaw No. 8345,2022
This Bylaw changes the zoning language to permit the construction of a 15 unit Purpose Built Rental building in the Brow of the Hill, as was discussed in a Public Hearing on June 30, 2002. It was adopted unanimously.

Development Cost Charges Bylaw No. 8327, 2022
This Bylaw updates our DCC rates to catch up to changes in the cost of necessary infrastructure upgrades related to growth in the City, as discussed back in May. It was adopted unanimously by Council.


Finally, we had two Motions from Council:

Advocacy for Inclusion of Sexualized Violence Prevention as part of the Serving It Right program, Councillor Trentadue
That Council request the mayor write to Minister Farnworth and Parliamentary Secretary Lore advocating for the inclusion of ‘sexualized violence prevention training’ within the Serving It Right curriculum to provide foundational education to people with the front-line opportunity to take action to prevent sexualized violence and respond appropriately and with care when incidents occur.

This is in support of good work happening in Victoria to call for more protection of service industry staff.

Low Carbon Energy Systems Councillor Nakagawa

THAT the City of New Westminster recognize both the significant difference in the lifecycle emissions associated with different gaseous fuels including RNG, blue and green hydrogen and biomass, and the limited supply of truly low-carbon RNG; and
THAT the City of New Westminster direct staff to prioritize electrification over gas when proceeding with work on acceleration of the Energy Step Code, and in particular explore ways to exclude RNG from future Low Carbon Energy Systems; and
THAT the City of New Westminster consider electric heat pumps systems the preferred option for space and water heating in buildings and intend to encourage the use of limited RNG resources for their highest and best use and not for residential or commercial heating; and
THAT the City of New Westminster include the above in our Community Energy and Emission Plan (CEEP) and our Corporate Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy (CEERS); and
THAT the City of New Westminster write a letter to the BC Minister of Environment encouraging that this definition be adopted provincially, and encouraging the Province to evaluate the highest and best use of RNG considering its limited availability.

The City is already working to incent the move from fossil fuel to low-carbon energy systems for new buildings in the City, through leveraging the Step Code and our updated Community Energy and Emissions Plan. However, there is a “fuzzy” bit in most legislation around “Renewable Natural Gas” as a transition between fossil fuels and full electrification. This is, of course, heavily promoted by the legacy gas industry. This motion moves the city in our internal policies and in our senior government advocacy toward rapid electrification in place of this stopgap that doesn’t actually reduce emissions.

And that was a meeting! Back to the door knocking!

Police Numbers (update!)

The topic of policing is coming up across the region in various forms, most of them related to elections. Last week, two non-incumbent people running for Mayor in the two largest Metro Vancouver municipalities are promising to increase the number of police officers to address a perception of increased crime. I have also heard some discussion recently about New West not increasing its police force to keep up with population growth. So I thought it would be good to write a blog that looks at the data, as a precursor to what is likely to be a deeper discussion in the community about policing.

When I say “the data”, I mean the information provided by police themselves and reported to the Province of BC. The Province has a page dedicated to collecting and reporting out all kinds of police information from across the province that you can find here. The part I am most interested in is report linked at the bottom of the page entitled “Police resources in British Columbia, 2020“. It is the most recent and comprehensive comparison of police forces across the province, and though I’ll add data caveats below, it seems like as definitive a source as one can find.

In comparing Metro Vancouver policing, there is one thing that needs to be addressed up front: of the 17 municipalities with more than 5,000 residents, 12 are served by municipal RCMP forces, and 5 are served by Municipal Police. When you dig into details, the service model is actually much more complicated than this, as there are Regional Task Forces that are shared between multiple jurisdictions and may include Muni and RCMP staff, and every city receives some services from some task forces while most also lend staff to these task forces. There are also other forces such as Transit Police and Federal RCMP detachments operating in the region. The overlaps are complex, and the report itself has a lot of text explaining these complications. Read that report if you want those kind of details.

A commonly heard point is that Municipal police cost more, but provide better service and better local accountability. This is the concept behind Mayor McCallum’s argument for establishing a Municipal force in Surrey. There are a couple of ways to look at policing cost, but these two make sense:

The orange points are Municipal forces, the blue are RCMP. You can see the policing cost per capita does tend support the notion that local cops cost a bit more. You also see there is a wide range of per capita costs regardless of the provider – Vancouver and Langley City residents pay almost twice as much as North Vancouver District residents do for police. You can see New West has the lowest costs of any Municipal force, but is still more costly than most RCMP forces. The cost per officer to run the police force does not vary quite as much, and you can see New West is middling-to-high compared to our cohort, but not completely out of scale with the regional average.

This brings us to the number of officers per capita, or (the easier wat to count it) the number of residents per police officer. I think the most interesting way to look at this number is compared to the Case Load. That stat is the number of criminal offences per officer, which is an imperfect but useful proxy for “how busy is the average cop?”

You can see here that New West is about smack dab in the middle of the region in both of these counts. Our numbers are remarkably close to Surrey, which is a very different city with an RCMP force (these stats were collected before the Surrey Municipal police force was set up). You also note that Municipal forces general have fewer people per police (more police per capita) and lower caseloads than RCMP forces, with New West again leaning towards RCMP levels more than fitting in with the Municipal Force cluster.

Of course, this discussion leads to a discussion about growth, and whether the police forces are keeping up with regional population growth. The data here is a again from the BC Government report, including the 2020 population data. I gathered the 2011 population data from another BC Government dataset you can find here if you want check my numbers.

You can see that by percentage of growth over the decade, very few police forces have added members at the rate that population has grown (the dots on or below the blue diagonal lines being the few that did), and two North Shore municipalities have fewer police now than they did in 2011. You will also note that there isn’t a clear divide between RCMP and Muni forces here. It is clear that the increase in Police in New West (going from 108 to 113) has not kept up with the 22% population increase. It is also interesting that Surrey and New West are so far apart in this graph, when they were overlapping in the last – the relationships between officer count, case count, and growth are obviously complex.

So those are the numbers (table form below for those who wish to nit-pick), and I am sure that this kind of data will lead to principled and well informed discussions in the community. I just want to make the point that is often missed in these discussions: City Councils generally do not determine police officer counts. In RCMP-serviced communities, I have no idea how those decisions are made. For a City with a Municipal force, that is the job of the Police Board working with senior policing staff, backed by provincial service standards and based on the unique needs of the community. If you are interested in leading the discussion on police officer counts in New Westminster, your opportunity is now, as the province is currently receiving applications for Police Board members right here in New Westminster. Apply here, the closing date is September 9th.

Finally, it is important to note some data caveats. These are 2020 numbers, the most recent the province has available. The actual number of sworn officers in your community is likely lower than the numbers here, because these stats are “Authorized Force” and assume that all funded positions in the police force are filled. This is rarely true in the best of times, but in the last few years we have had events that made it less true, such as the regional shifts related to Surrey ramping up its Municipal Force and the COVID-related Great Resignation affecting many sectors of the economy. Also, there was a dip in crime in 2020 related to COVID (this is discussed in the report), and though we might presume this dip was systemic and equal across the region, this data neither confirms nor refutes that.

Raw numbers used in the charts above. Sources listed and linked to in the text above.

BONUS CONTENT!

In the comments, a reader suggested comparing Case Loads between 2011 and 2020 would be interesting. The table I downloaded from the province didn’t have case load data from 2011, but you can find CC Case counts in the “Jurisdiction Crime Trends” table on the same page. From that and the Authorized Strength already reported, you can calculate Case Loads from 2011 an 2020. The results are interesting, if a bit unclear. And again, I want to emphasize the 2020 data is likely anomalous due to COVID, so I also did the math comparing 2011 to 2019, which might be the most recent “representative” year. Sorry, the best you get is a table:

So Case Loads are generally down, but there are some municipalities where they went up, some by quite a bit – West Van and Maple ridge share a strange similarity here. You can also see an almost universal drop in 2020, except in White Rock. My first impression is probably that the majority of cases are likely more complex now than they were a decade ago, but once again, you can read form the numbers what you will! I’m just reporting here.

Bad Data. Again.

The Fraser Institute are up to their old tricks: shabby data gathering resulting in inaccurate results. I’ve demonstrated this before, and even sent them a letter outlining the big mistake they made last time they did this (not coincidentally four years ago, just before the last municipal election), and they have blithely made the same mistake again. So here I am to correct the record. Again.

The Record shingled this story into my social media feeds, and it speaks to this report prepared by the Fraser Institute. The report attempts to compare “spending per capita” and “revenue per capita” across the 17 largest municipalities in Greater Vancouver. I’ve said before, this is not a competition, but on the face of it, this isn’t the worst way to look at whether residents in various municipalities are getting value for their tax dollar. There are a few problems with over-simplification (I’ll talk about those further down), but as a first pass it is an interesting easy-to digest media byte.

The problem is, New Westminster, unlike any of the other 16 municipalities listed, has an electrical utility, and the data used by the FI rolls that Electrical Utility into the overall revenue and spending amount. Residents of every other city pay for electricity, but it is not included in these comparisons. This is not an insignificant difference. New West Electric pulls almost $50 Million in revenue ($622 per capita), and spends more than $40M ($505 per capita) every year.

So, much like I did last time, we can adjust for this significant factor, and shift the FI charts to reflect an apples-to-apples comparison. You see New West, when fairly compared, does not have the second highest spending in the region, but is tied with North Van City for 8th place, firmly in the middle of the pack:

Table from Fraser Institute report, modified to show how New West compares when the $40.6M in annual Electrical Utility spending is removed, allowing a true apples-to-apples comparison with other municipalities that do not have an electrical utility.

And when fairly compared, New West does not have the second highest per capita revenue in the region, but instead tenth, slightly below the regional average:

Table from Fraser Institute report, modified to show how New West compares when the $50 M in annual Electrical Utility revenue is removed, allowing a true apples-to-apples comparison with other municipalities that do not have an electrical utility.

The FI also conflates all revenue sources. This is problematic, because they vary greatly across the region. Municipalities have different fees for services and different ways of managing utilities. Also, as this is a data snapshot for only one year, factors like one-time senior government grants or sale of properties in any given year can really juice the numbers and make apples-to-apples difficult. When fans of FI reports talk about City spending, they are usually worried about taxes, so it is fortunate that the same government database from which the FI draws their numbers breaks down the revenue sources. It is easy to separate out Property Tax revenues from the pile, and compare on a per-capita basis. When you do that, you see New Westminster is one of the (and I totally buried the lede here) lowest-taxed municipalities on a per capita basis in the Lower Mainland:

Comparison of Revenue from Taxation across the lower mainland. Population Estimates same as used in Fraser Institute report cited above, taxation data source is BC Government Schedule 401_2019, column D “Total Own Purpose Taxation and Grants in Lieu”. available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/local-governments/facts-framework/statistics/statistics

And in case you are interested, here is that data in tabular form:


Now onto the detail part for those still interested.

I find the lack of adjustment for the electrical utility fascinating, not only because I pointed it out to them last time, but also because they do make and adjustment for the West Vancouver Blue bus system – a single-municipality expense and revenue stream. If you compare the FI data to the government database, you find West Van expenses are actually higher (by $417 per capita for spending and $910 per capita for revenue) than the FI report. They make that adjustment for West Van blue bus, but not for New West Electrical. This seems inconsistent.

Looking at the government database also demonstrates the problem with using snapshot data for one year. Line items in spending like “loss on disposition of assets” sound technocratic, but it is writing off value of assets either destroyed or sold off, and it varies across the region year by year as you might imagine. Add to this annual amortization adjustment, and cities with lots of physical assets (like Vancouver) and those that have invested recently in important infrastructure are disproportionately cast as spendthrifts. On the revenue side, one-time grants for big projects may be counted in this year data, but not reflect overall revenue generation ability. In 2019, Coquitlam sold $60 Million in assets – more than every other municipality combined – but that is not an annual (or sustainable) trend and does not reflect any long-term economic comparison between Coquitlam and any other municipality.

So the comparison is sloppy. And as much as I would like to counter some critics with the table that shows New Westminster spending growth over my time on Council as one of the lowest in the region (and, notably, much lower than the 18% cumulative inflation of the 10 years ), the way the FI presents data is so poorly explained that I don’t even feel good using it to tell a story that makes New West look like the kind of fiscally responsible municipality the FI would allege to support:

Table copied directly from the Fraser Institute report cited above. The only thing I added was the red arrow.

I just want the FI to do be fair, and the local and regional media to do a little bit of preliminary analysis before they credulously print their press release. After years of this kind of sloppy work the FI deserve to be treated with more scrutiny.

Reaching out

Hey Folks.

Not much updating going on here. Council is on the summer break but I am busier than I have ever been, because I am running for Mayor. Every day is filled with meetings, scheduled or impromptu, in person and on-line, with campaign team folks, with other candidates, with community stakeholders. I have been helping with platform discussions and writing and design, planning out comms for September, helping coordinate events and fundraising, helping line up volunteers for the work ahead. We have a great team and a lot of tasks, and the Mayor candidate tends to get pulled into a lot more of them. Yesterday I got through 4 of the 7 things on my morning To Do list, today my list is longer. And this note wasn’t even on it…

It can be exasperating at times, barely keeping up, but most evenings (when there isn’t another event) I drop it all at 5:30 or so, and meet a volunteer for a couple of hours of door-knocking. By 8:00 I am recharged and excited again, because meeting people and talking about the city – what we do well, what we need to do better – is just about my favourite thing in the world. People in this community are so positive and forward-looking. It’s joyful work and those conversations are like a breath of fresh air.

I don’t generally use his Blog for campaign stuff. You can find campaign info at my campaign site, at my Facebook site, and of course I’m always Twittering, I only rarely put campaign stuff on here and that won’t change. But I’m talking Campaign on my blog today because I want you to go here right now: communityfirstnw.ca/donate_patrick

There are a lot of people who read this blog who I don’t have other direct contact with. I meet people on the doorstep who tell me they read this and appreciate the work I have done to try to make the work of Council easier to understand and more transparent. It takes a lot of time and I don’t get paid extra to do it, but it is part of the commitment I made when I got elected to Council 8 years ago.

If you are reading this, and have been reading this, you know who I am and what I stand for. At a time when politics is increasingly cynical and polarized, I still believe we can talk through the challenges in our community in an open and transparent way, we can hear different voices and stand behind decision making. We can also change our mind when given new information or better data. We can make this a better City and a better world by doing these things.

If you think this too, and appreciate the work I have done to bring the community into City Hall, then I ask that you donate to my Campaign for Mayor so I can keep doing this work.

Why You? Because new campaign finance rules mean I cannot receive any business or union donations. Nothing from CUPE, nothing from BIA members, nothing from the development companies. Every donation must come from an individual, and no individual can donate more than $1250. I am not even allowed to donate more than $1250 to my own campaign. This means I am not allowed to pay for my own lawn signs, or for a campaign office. I can pay for newspaper ads or pamphlets, but not both. I need those who support me to donate to my campaign, and our team needs to pool funds to get those things done. We need you.

As always, if you have a question or concern, drop me a note. I might not have time for an ASK PAT response right now, but I try to reply to every email I get. Please consider helping me out if you are able, then get back to enjoying the summer. And now I’m off to the New West Farmers Market to judge a Pie Contest. But that’s another blog…