Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Will there be several new faces on North Vancouver School Board?

Somewhat overlooked with the election of CNV and DNV Mayors and Council, the school board election plays an important role in our community and it's being rumored that many of the incumbent school trustees will not be seeking re-election in 2014.  The only candidates/incumbents that have been said are running again in 2014 are Francis Stratton and Cyndi Gerlach. Barry Forward is rumored to be seeking a Distinct council seat and  Mike McGraw is just not running at all. It could mean as many as six of the eight seats will be up for grabs.

There has been little or no coverage in the North Shore News about the looming School Trustee vacancies probably because they are waiting for the nomination deadline on October 10th.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Some interesting observations from retiring City Councillor Guy Heywood's Blog http://www.guyheywood.ca/blog-thoughts-of-a-retiring-councillor/the-coming-dearth-of-democracy-in-north-vancouverand-some-of-the-consequences

While democracy may not be dead at the local level in North Vancouver, there is going to be less of it in the future. There are going to be fewer opportunities for citizens to have influence on their local governments for several reasons:

1. Longer terms. After the election in November it will be four years until the next one. So if you don't like the direction your mayor and council are going, it be an extra year before you will be able to vote them out.

2. The provincial government's failure to reform local election financing.  Developers and unions that have the greatest interest in council decisions and which are the main contributors to the campaigns of Councillors and Mayors that support their objectives, are free to continue to do so and their better financed campaigns will drown out the voices of independents and suppress serious discussion about the future of our communities.

3. Official Community Plans are pretty much finished. The District finished theirs last year and the the City is almost finished it's latest one. In the City, staff is seeking to extend the horizon of the plan to 30 years.  Most planners would prefer not to expose the land use planning process to public scrutiny any more frequently than absolutely necessary.  It could be 20 years longer until the next mandatory review of the plan and opportunity to ask planners fundamental questions about land use policy and its impact on the community.

4. Media restructuring. The ability of local media to provide coverage of local politics in smaller municipalities is already overtaxed given the revenue sources they have available to them.  The editorial and reporting capability North Vancouver Outlook was a victim of the last wave of retrenchment.  Social media (Twitter, Facebook and blogs) is growing, but it is not clear if it can fill the gap.

Adding to the challenge in North Vancouver, there is likely a majority of people who don't know if their government is the one on 14th and Lonsdale or the one at 29th and Mahon.  Is their biggest concern a shared service (police, recreation)? Or is it a duplicated one (library, fire halls)? Do they want a bike lane on the north side of parts of Keith Road or 29th Street (District) or on the south side (in the City) and who is responsible for painting the line down the middle?  I can understand why someone not directly involved in local politics loses patience and gives up.

Normal pressures of everyday life just don't leave enough time to figure out how vote or otherwise influence our complicated local government structure. Without declared parties to frame the issues and connect them to overarching ideologies and perspective, the citizen who may want to vote feels lost and, 4 times out of 5 in North Vancouver, they don't bother other to participate at all in the election of the government that arguably influences their lives the most on a day to day basis.

Mind you, it is also possible that people who are lucky enough to live in a place as fabulous as North Vancouver are predisposed to trust that the people in charge will do the right thing.

But what if those people in charge, blinded by inertia and self interest, are not doing right by the community? What if there is an unacceptable level of duplication and lack of coordination between North Vancouver’s two governments 15 blocks apart? What if this becomes painfully obvious when long term plans for land use, density and infrastructure are being developed? And what if it is getting worse the longer it is allowed to persist?

From 2005 to 2013 City and District government expenditures grew by 46% and 40/% respectively, the economy and average family incomes grew by around 8%. With requirements to fund a new sewage treatment plant, and other projects like Harry Jerome or the new $30 million waterfront attraction that Mayor Mussatto would would like to build, we can't keep sticking our collective heads in the sand.

Citizens of North Vancouver deserve to be confident that our local governments are spending our money wisely. That it is not being spent on duplicated overhead and that major projects affecting all North Vancouver are being properly managed. I am not confident at all. I believe there is a lot at stake and that we are on the wrong track.

I thought my concerns could be addressed by taking up a standing offer the Province makes for any local governments that wants to look at restructuring. This suggestion was welcomed by District Council, but met with fierce resistance at the City. Mayor Mussatto went so far as to bully the President of the Chamber of Commerce for expressing the Chamber's support for the idea of a study. The City Manager then wrote a report strongly recommending against the initiative (surprise) which resulted in the motion failing by a 4 to 3 vote at Council.

While the study is not going ahead, the ferocity of the resistance to it is very troubling. I am now more convinced that all citizens of North Vancouver would benefit from an objective look into the shape and effectiveness of our local governments. But when the chances to ask those questions are going to get fewer and farther apart I fear that it is not going to happen.  Does anyone else share my concern?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Who's running in the DNV and CNV and who's not November 15th.?

With last nights regular council meeting being the last until September 8th, many people away on vacation, and that fraction (those who blog here) of the 20% percent  who vote enjoying their Summer, it has also been the trend over the past 10 years for the Blog too slow down on topics and issues. No fear! There's nothing like a good rumour or two or three to liven things up a tad! Who's heard what about who's possibly, maybe, definitely not, etc. running in this Autumns Municipal Election? Incumbent Clr. Alan Nixon has stated he is not running in the District. The best I could get from Barry Forward was a "maybe". There's word Wendy Quereshi will try again too. John Gilmour as well. In the City we have Bill and Dot Bell running and there may be a couple of seats vacant there. Also Mayor Mussatto has some competition this time around.

Bring on the Silly Season!  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Unanimous decision on Lynn Valley Mall development

 At a SPECIAL MEETING OF COUNCIL held last night in Council Chambers  'all were in favour of ' 1.1.    

                              Bylaw 8051: Rezoning Bylaw 1309 (Lynn Valley Mall),                                        
               Bylaw 8052: Phased Development Agreement (Lynn Valley Mall)
               Bylaw 8054: Affordable Housing Agreement (Lynn Valley Mall)
               Bylaw 8055: Housing Agreement (Lynn Valley Mall)

Monday, June 09, 2014

Liberals need to get in Touch with their inner Elizabeth Warren

Trudeau likes to point out that Medium wages have been stagnant for over 30 years now. This is just as true of Canada as it is of the US. However, Trudeau has failed to gain much traction for two reasons. One, the issue of fairness aside (productivity has gone up by nearly 47% since then), Trudeau never identifies why this is a pressing issue rather than an annoyance. After all, it would appear that the kids are alright. Your average worker is doing just as well as his 1980 counterpart. As a result, Trudeau’s remedies seem unconvincing and somewhat half baked. Local Liberals have fared no better. I recently attended a Liberal event in which the evening’s speaker, Kevin Evans, channeled Mr. Kijiji Jason Kenny and outlined the skills gap that he contended currently plagues Canada. The only problem is there is no evidence whatsoever that a skills gap exists. This was pointed out recently by Don Drummond and by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. You can read the later’s report here. As for the government's job vacancy numbers,

"the growth in job postings was almost entirely due to a rise in postings on the classified site Kijiji. The site allows the same job to be posted in numerous sections, which inflated the job numbers." 

The second problem is that the vacancy rate is not the only bad numbers the government has been flaunting. By scrapping the mandatory long form census and replacing it with the voluntary National Household Survey, the Conservatives have effectively cooked the books. According to census data, between 1980 and 2005 median income jumped a mere $53. However according to the most recent census in mere 5 years it jumped an impressive $6464 -- in midst of the Great Recession no less. To say this is a wildly improbable finding would be an understatement. Canada was not the one Western nation to see massive increases in the median wage when most nations were at best holding steady. Something else was afoot.

 “Brian Murphy, special advisor with Statistics Canada’s income division, cautioned not to read too much into the large jump in income from 2005. “It’s a brand new survey,” he said. “I’d be looking for these long-term trends in other data sources. It’s really important for income statistics to hold the methodology constant.” 

A note attached to the new survey warns people of the change.

 “When comparing income indicators from one source to another, users should be aware that the methodology of how the information was collected, the concepts used and response patterns can affect the comparability of income information. Given the sensitivity of most income indicators to such methodological differences, users should use caution when comparing income estimates from the NHS to other household income surveys, administrative data or 2006 or earlier censuses." 

 Still people will naturally enough want to compare the new data with the odd thinking they are making an apples to apples comparison. The Liberals need to do a far better job explaining that they are actually making an apples to oranges comparison. They could start by pointing out the huge uptake in the non response rate between 2006 and 2011. The non-response rate for the 2006 long form census was 6%. This compares to a 20% non response rate in Vancouver and Montreal and a 25% non response rate in Toronto for the NHS.

To add insult to injury, the Conservatives almost always talk about family median income instead of about median income. This matters a lot. For one, the number of women entering the workforce has risen steadily over the last couple of decades and with that household income has also risen even has median income has remained the same. There are more two income households than ever before. For another, Canadians are getting married ever later in life and as a result many more Canadian couples are into their peak earning years by the time they decide to tie the knot. This has impacted the numbers. For these and other reasons the Liberals bring the discussion back to median income.

That said, in order to really make hay, the Liberals at both a local level (nominations are coming up) and federal level need to switch from talking about the need to increase wages per say to talking about the need to reduce fixed costs for families. For it is fixed costs that are jacking up private debt levels and putting the Canadian economy at risk. Child care is one driver. In Vancouver it is $1200 a month. But most important of all is housing. In Vancouver the average home listing on MLS in 2000 was around $300,000. A decade later it was over $800,000. A modest increase in the median wage and or modest tax cuts are not going to do the trick. As RBC pointed out,

"A typical Vancouver-area home buyers would need to allocate 92% of their income to carry the costs of a two-storey home".

Liberals also needs to bring the soaring costs of post secondary education into the equation. In Ontario, for example, average fees, in current dollars, have increased from $1,464 in 1990-91 to $6,348 in 2012-13. They can do this by pointing out how the ever increasing student debt levels, coupled with sky high cost of housing will ultimately worsen the coming demographic crush. Couples, especially those living in the Lowermainland, can not afford to have too many kids full stop. However, for those that can afford them, the point at which they can afford them is getting later and later in life. Indeed, more babies in Canada are born to women over 30 than under. Incidentally, the two provinces where women wait the longest to have kids, viz., Ontario and BC, also have the most expensive real estate. In 2010, 56.2% of Ontario babies were born to women over 30 and 55.7% of BC babies were born to women over 30. The Canadian average is 51.2. The longer couples wait to have kids the smaller their window for having kids