World Day for Safety and Health at Work: 28 April 2008

The following was submitted as a comment to a previous posting but Voice agrees with the sentiments included and so we are posting it on its own so that it might be viewed by more bloggers. We would like to thank WillMaar for taking the time to write in and for reminding us of this important information.

“On April 28, we remember. We mourn the dead. And we continue to fight for the living.
Some think the labour movement fights only to better workers’ standard of living. Just as often, our struggle is more basic – we’re fighting for our members’ lives. Legislation, regulations and occupational disease prevention would be relegated to the back burner but for the struggle and vigilance of union members.
Occupational health and safety legislation has been in place since the early 70s, but it has failed to check Canada’s dismal record of injuring and killing workers.
As many workers have died at work since that first legislation was passed in Canada in 1972 as the number of Canadians who fought and died during World War II. Is it any wonder workers are asking why the current health and safety system is failing them?
Workers that died in BC in 2007= 139
• 23 in vehicle accidents
• 71 occupational diseases (59 asbestos related)
• 45 traumatic fatalities
• 6 young workers between the ages of 15 – 24
30 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the year 2007
We are in a war zone and we have far too many casualties.
On April 28, we remember. We mourn the dead. And we continue to fight for the living.”

What Density Bonusing Could have Meant to New Westminster

Everyone’s worst fears were confirmed at the Density Bonusing Workshop Wednesday evening. Most of our sister cities have implemented the plan sometime ago, but as usual our council is just beginning to entertain the idea. It is a process whereby developers interested in building in areas designated for higher density under the Official Community Plan would be given the opportunity to increase the size of their building in return for an agreed upon amenity contribution. The following is a quote from The Local Government Act of British Columbia : “Several cities have used density bonusing since the 1950s to achieve community improvements and public benefits. Density bonusing is essentially a system of exchange, allowing zoning requirements to vary in exchange for provision of certain amenities or housing that benefit the community.”
Let’s use the downtown as an example, under the existing OCP the area is zoned for buildings from 4 – 13 stories in height; using Plaza 88 as an example, they are zoned for a maximum of 13 stories. Azure 1 and 11 consist of 33 stories each or 40 stories above what the Official Community Plan allows. If each floor consists. of 5 units which average 900 sq. feet at an average cost to the developer of $24,000, the approximate amenity contribution by the developer to the city would be 200 units x $24,000 = $4.8 million.
Using Plaza 88 as but one example Wayne Wright the self-proclaimed choice of labour and the labour council slate of Cote, Harper, and Williams have sold the farm. The boom is over, they are attempting to close the barn door after the horses have left. Their complete incompetence has set the city back 10 years and cost all of us tens of millions of dollars. When it comes to public amenities New Westminster is a barren wasteland. Given the incredible amount of development this gang has approved divisive public brawls such as the Moody Park Pool fiasco that pitt neighbourhood against neighbourhood should never occur. A lack of theater space, parks, and an adequate ice/lacrosse space would be problems about to be solved. There will be another building boom, let’s shuffle this lot out the door at the next election and turn the royal city around.

It’s time for real answers

Voice director, Patrick O’Connor, had a letter published in “The Record” on Saturday, April 19, 2008

In his weak defence of the Royal City Education Foundation, trustee Ron Bennett is characteristically long on feel-good platitudes and woefully short on providing answers to the serious questions and substantive issues currently being raised by members of this community (Director defends foundation, The Record, April 12).

I have personally received information from parents in five different school communities in New Westminster, expressing their frustration, and even outrage, over their school’s interactions with the education foundation in recent years.

Clearly this is not just a case of “rumours and assumptions … floating around the community,” as Bennett has dismissively phrased it.

These are well-documented and long-standing concerns, and Bennett’s dismissive, platitudinous attitude in the face of these concerns is appalling.

Issues with the Royal City Education Foundation have been brewing in our community for several years, particularly following the controversial hiring in 2003 of a former New Westminster school trustee to work as a “paid fundraiser” for the education foundation, under the umbrella of the school district’s controversial business company.

Back in 2003, when this “paid fundraiser” position was created for the former New Westminster school trustee, a number of the school district’s unionized support staff workers with the Canadian Union of Public Employees indicated their shock and disbelief to me, and to others, and stated that they were just as qualified as the former school trustee was for this “paid fundraiser” position.

They felt the position should have been openly posted, and I fully agreed with them.

Creating this “paid fundraiser” position within the shadowy domain of the business company in order to bypass the normal job posting process showed serious contempt for the spirit and fairness of established employment practices.

Whether Bennett wants to admit it or not, there is a cloud hanging over the Royal City Education Foundation, and the issues must be addressed. Questions and concerns surrounding the foundation have accumulated to the breaking point, and it’s time to sort this mess out.

I’m also certain that it hasn’t been lost on anyone that the Royal City Education Foundation now represents a third problematic leg in the New

Westminster school district empire. The disgraceful saga surrounding the school district’s business company and the efforts that were made by those in charge to rebuff questions and concerns raised by the community is something that everyone is well aware of. And, as everyone will recall, in the case of the business company, the community’s questions and concerns finally prompted the minister of education to appoint an outside investigator to look into the situation.

That outside investigator ended up recommending several new regulations to govern the affairs of school district business companies, and most of these stemmed directly from the issues that diligent members of the community had identified, particularly with respect to issues of accountability and transparency.

Likewise, community concerns about the botched high school replacement project and the inability of the school district to build a badly needed third middle school led the minister of education to appoint the same outside investigator to look into the high school replacement issue.

When all was said and done, it was shown that the school trustees had frittered away $7 million on their high school plan, with nothing to show for it.

And, although the outside investigator’s report to the minister of education regarding the botched high school project has never been made public, to my knowledge, the letter of understanding between the school district and the Ministry of Education laying down the terms for a renewed effort to build a new high school and middle school for New Westminster does shed some light on what he reported back to the minister.

Section 1.8 of the April 27, 2007 letter of understanding states that “the review team noted weaknesses in the project development work that was undertaken in advance of issuing a call for tenders. … Different grade configuration options were not evaluated. … Enrolment projections did not accurately reflect the trend in actual numbers of students being generated from new development in the community. … Inclusion of additional space for ancillary programs and services complicated the building design … (and the) building was not designed to stay within the approved funding allocation.”

Given the apparent but fairly obvious conclusions of the outside investigator about the operation of the school district’s business company and the poor planning involved in the failed high school/middle school projects, one would think that Bennett would take seriously the concerns and issues now being raised by diligent community members about the Royal City Education Foundation.

But, as past experience has demonstrated, Bennett is being true to form in attempting to dismiss these concerns the way concerns about the business company and the high school project were previously dismissed.

Concerns and issues being raised about the Royal City Education Foundation must be investigated. There are too many people in the community who are raising similar concerns, independent of one another, for there not to be something substantively wrong, just as there was with the business company and the high school project.

The only question now is whether the school district will voluntarily submit to an outside review of the foundation and the district’s fundraising efforts or whether such a review will end up being imposed from the outside by the Ministry of Education.

Plaza 88 gets lots of free publicity – complete with inaccuracies

The article in today’s Record (April 16th) on Plaza 88 contains some inaccuracies. At the meeting on April 7th when he was asked about the tenancy status of Safeway and Shopper’s Drugs Mike Degelder replied that he originally had a memorandum of understanding with them, but now they (Safeway and Shopper’s) were “balking at the deal” because of increased costs. Mr. Degelder went on to blame the potential demise of the deals on what he said were, “City staff dragging their feet on the development permit.”
It would appear then that the commercial space is anything but certain. In addition, according to Mr. Degelder, only about 55% of the third tower is sold because of the slowdown in the market. Unfortunately the Record didn’t seem interested in asking the tough questions.

What to do with Metro Vancouver’s Waste??

Every year, Metro Vancouver residents and businesses generate:

  • 440 billion litres of liquid waste; and
  • 3.6 million tonnes of garbage and recyclables (”solid waste”)

Throughout April and May 2008, Metro Vancouver will hold a series of public meetings across the region to hear citizen’s comments. To see where and when you can attend one of these meetings check their site.

New Westminster by the Numbers

6 – National ranking by MacLean’s for most dangerous Canadian cities
3 – Third highest taxed city in Metro Vancouver
10,000 – Population increase in five years
0 – New or added public amenities in five years
2 – Public amenities torn down or closed in five years
0 – Number of West Side Middle Schools built in five years
1 – Number of High Schools partially demolished in five years
2 – Number of High Schools designed in five years
0 – Number of High Schools built or started in five years
1 – Number of High Schools built or started in China in five years
1 300 000 – dollars in red for SD40’s business company

7 – Months until election

HOW COUNCIL NEARLY BLEW MOODY

Monday night’s Council meeting certainly was a variation from the from the leaderless and vanilla drivel we have become accustomed to.
The comments, challenges and insults volleying back and forth had the Mayor looking like he was a spectator at a tennis match. Thankfully, for this city, Councillors Osterman and McIntosh stepped into the breach and provided the much needed leadership in the chamber.
Responding to the request from Voice to put a motion on the table, limiting the expenditures at Moody pool to $3.3M., Councillors M&O put some sanity into a situation that has been marked by incompetence, pandering and games-playing.
Voice, in it’s letter to the councillors, reiterated the position that it has made publicly on several occasions. First, Voice supports the construction of a pool in Moody Park, an area highly in need of amenity services. Second, Voice does not support the expenditure of $6M. on a two month a year pool operation. If that figure is to be seriously looked at, Voice is in favour of examining the feasibility of a year round pool operation in the immediate area.
The meeting on Monday night, the salient portions of which we hope to soon have available on this site, certainly further revealed what to many has become abundantly clear:
1. The absolute leaderless drift of this council,
2. The complete disregard by the Labor Council Slate (Harper, Williams and Cote) for those people paying the freight, either directly through property taxes, or indirectly through rents,
3. The impetuous, sanctimonious and disrepectful behaviour of some council members reveals their hidden agendas and their inability or unwillingness to examine the issues impartially.

The Moody Park Pool, once again, is an issue that highlights the lack of direction at city hall and good public policy regarding development, development cost charges and amenity charges. The dictum in progressive communities, that growth must pay for growth, has been ignored in this city, to the peril of it’s residents.
Although there have been countless missed opportunities, Council now needs to proceed on a steady course, and provide sound direction to staff based on the needs of the community and also on the resources available.
There certainly is no place for the threats, insults and childish behaviour witnessed on Monday night.
– C.C.

Steve McClurg weighs in on smoking in public places

I am pleased to see new smoking laws taking effect on March 31st. The legislation is long overdue, but better late than never. However, I am really disappointed to see the province leave a ban on smoking on patios up to local government. I had hoped to see such a ban evenly enforced across the province.

There is much discussion in New Westminster surrounding the Livable City Strategy. Should we tear down the parkade? Should we encapsulate the tracks along the waterfront? Should we construct a pier along the downtown? All of these are important questions to consider. However, wouldn’t we also make the city more livable if we could sit on our public patios and not have to endure clouds of smoke?

If I am elected to city council in November, I will serve notice of motion to ban smoking on public patios. In the meantime, I hope all residents will urge council to move on this critical issue. Let’s show leadership in New Westminster and lead the region into a healthier environment

Steve McClurg

Issue larger than just privacy – Inkfish v.2.0

Published: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 in The Record

Dear Editor:

A lack of coordinated accounting practices at the Royal City Education Foundation resulted in significant funding losses for the Richard McBride school parent advisory council, as reported by past parents’ advisory council co-chair and bursary committee chair, Judy French (Bursary fund troubles, Letters to the editor, The Record, March 19).

Since that accounting fiasco, the F.W. Howay parents’ advisory council (PAC) received a letter soliciting payment for Royal City Education Foundation bursary funds that had already been paid and might have been paid twice except for the fact that the PAC was able to produce foundation-issued receipts as proof of payment.

It is interesting that school board chair Michael Ewen, in his recent letter to the editor (District must guard privacy, Letters to the editor, The Record, March 26) failed to comment on these, and other related PAC/education foundation issues.

More importantly, his account of the district’s difficulty involving the Privacy Act is incomplete because he neglects to mention how the issue originated: based on a random government audit of the Howay PAC, inquiries were made about scholarship/bursary donations to the Royal City Education Foundation.

The intent of asking the audit-related questions was to track our donated dollars, not the students whose names were previously announced at an open, public ceremony.

In an e-mail response dated Feb. 5, in lieu of answers, Mr. Ewen stated that the Royal City Education Foundation was “an independent organization under the Societies Act” and informed the PAC that answers would be provided to them after legal counsel determined if the questions violated the Privacy Act.

Mr. Ewen’s evasive course of action, used to distract focus from the real issue of education foundation accountability, raised more red flags with both the Howay PAC and the government auditors.

The fact is, not one of the Howay PAC questions required the release of a student name, and so at no time was any individual’s privacy ever in jeopardy.

Further, it is unlikely that any student receiving PAC money to assist with their post-secondary tuition would consider the PAC to be a threat.

Mr. Ewen’s response reflected poorly on himself and on the Royal City Education Foundation.

Moreover, by raising the Privacy Act controversy at a public school board meeting, he created a public issue where none existed.

Despite Ewen’s unwarranted roadblock, the Howay PAC remains resolute to achieve compliance with the audit findings and is currently awaiting confirmation from the education foundation chair, trustee Ron Bennett, that unclaimed Howay monies will be returned from the education foundation to Howay PAC coffers.

Paul Johansen, PAC president, F.W. Howay