Where Is Christy Clark?

Cast your mind back to August 4, 2014. News came out of a dam breach at Mount Polley mine. millions of cubic metres of water and tailings pond slurry was released into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, and Quesnel Lake. It’s considered one of Canada’s biggest environmental disasters.

BC Premier Christy Clark’s response?

Radio silence.

She eventually flew to Likely (the nearest town affected by the spill) a week later.

Now, Vancouver just had its transit referendum get shot down, leaving the future of transit in doubt. Not a word from Christy Clark on how people are to get around Vancouver over the next ten years.

But that’s not that bad. What’s bad is BC’s wildfires: 178 burning across the province. Metro Vancouver is blanketed in smoke and particulates. Port Hardy and the Squamish Lilooet Regional District are under states of emergency. And worst of all, a tree faller fighting a wildfire on the Sunshine Coast was killed on Sunday.

And where is Christy Clark?

On vacation.

I’d like to use a quote from the Calgary Herald, where they were talking about how Alberta should be thankful that Christy Clark isn’t their premier:

I remember in Psychology 101 that the prof explained it was much meaner to appear indifferent to someone than it was to express criticism. The lack of engagement is more hurtful than it is to put forth a complaint, whether the supposed shortcoming is legitimate or not.

While they were talking about Clark’s missing leadership on the Northern Gateway pipeline, the sentiment holds here. Clark is indifferent and aloof towards British Columbia when it’s in crisis, and that’s what hurts most of all.

…we have to be grateful we have a straight-talking premier like Redford instead of some cloak-and-dagger flake like Clark.

Update: while writing this Christy Clark finally tweeted.

What Now for TransLink?

So the Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite went down in a ball of flames. What now for TransLink? Their CEO said that the upgrades laid out in the Mayors’ Council plan still need to be done, and they’ll get done.

So where is TransLink going to find the money without any new funding sources? After all, by law any new funding source proposals need to be supported by a majority of electors in the region.

I have two ideas.

First: reduce service in municipalities based on their ‘no’ vote proportion. We’re going to mark on a curve here, so Bowen Island Municipality gets no service cuts, as they had the lowest ‘no’ vote proportion at 38.08%. Of the larger cities, Vancouver has its service cut by 12.73% (50.81% voted no, and 50.81 – 38.08 = 12.73), New Westminster gets cut by 16.47%, Surrey by 27.46%, the City of Langley by 34.21%, Richmond by 34.31%, and Langley Township by 36.89%.

Overall, the region should get its service cut by 23.6%. I’m going to use Jordan Bateman math here and say that 23.6% of TransLink’s $1.5 billion budget is about $350 million per year, which is more than enough to fund the Mayors’ Council plans.

(Of course it doesn’t really work that way as cutting 1% of service doesn’t necessarily correspond to saving 1% of budget, but we’re using Jordan Bateman math here — it doesn’t have to be right to make the news.)

My second idea is to abandon the Pattullo Bridge. No, I’m not saying turn it over to the province. I’m saying remove it from TransLink’s jurisdiction altogether by tearing it down and not replacing it. No more $100 million repairs, no more costly studies on what to replace it with, no more South-of-the-Fraser drivers complaining about yet another toll on a bridge. Bring it down and leave it down.

If you really want a car crossing there, buy back the Albion Ferries and bring back the K de K ferry linking Brownsville and New Westminster.

Problem solved. You’re welcome.

Eight Thoughts on the Transit Referendum Results

  1. Welp.

  2. Thanks Christy Clark for your stunning display of leadership.

  3. Congrats to the ‘no’ side for winning! But the joke’s on you: nobody wins.

  4. Hello to higher property taxes!

  5. Property near SkyTrain stations just got more valuable.

  6. Time to buy stock in Metro Vancouver road-building companies, car dealerships, and auto mechanics.

  7. Chilliwack people? Hey how do you like that smog that we keep blowing your way? HAVE FUN NOW, SUCKERS!

  8. I’m still glad I voted ‘yes’, and would proudly do so again.

Fun With Statistics, by Michael Smyth

In his most-recent column, Michael Smyth paints TransLink in a negative light, pointing to “surprises” such as Ian Jarvis’s compensation boost, increased administration costs, and Transit Police going over budget. This plays right into his “holy shit TransLink is wasteful” story that people of his ilk eat up with a spoon (just check the comments for good examples).

But you know what? It’s really easy to cherry-pick statistics to suit your narrative like Mr. Smyth has done. Of course he’s never going to mention anything that makes TransLink look good, because that would be balanced and is contrary to anything he stands for.

So let’s try using the same 2014 report he used, and now we can make TransLink look good.

For example, he’s right in that Transit Police cost more in 2014 than in 2013, with expenses up by $3.7 million, or 12.2 per cent. What he doesn’t mention is that this is because of a collective agreement signing going retroactive to 2011, along with filling vacant positions. The agreement will actually result in annual savings of $800,000 because they’ve eliminated some benefits. Of course, Mr. Smyth completely fails to mention this.

TransLink had budgeted $1.506 billion for expenses in 2014, but actually spent $1.427 billion, which is 3.9% under budget. Of course, Mr. Smyth completely fails to mention this.

Corporate expenses were 10.3 per cent under budget. Bus operating expenses were 1.2 per cent under budget. Roads and bridges were 24.2 per cent under budget. Of course, Mr. Smyth completely fails to mention this.

TransLink’s revenues were up 10.2 per cent over 2013, and TransLink brought in $26.9 million more than it spent in 2014. Of course, Mr. Smyth completely fails to mention this.

See Mr. Smyth? I can cherry-pick numbers too, and pluck statistics to suit my narrative. And as the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Justin Trudeau, King of the Flip-Flop

On December 3, 2014, Canada’s Parliament voted on the following:

That, in the opinion of the House, (a) the next federal election should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system which has repeatedly delivered a majority of seats to parties supported by a minority of voters, or under any other winner-take-all electoral system; and (b) a form of mixed-member proportional representation would be the best electoral system for Canada.

Justin Trudeau voted no on that.

On June 16, 2015, a mere six months later, Justin Trudeau stated “the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post.”

I hereby dub Justin Trudeau as King of the Flip-Flop.

Let It Go (Brown)

In the Lower Fraser and South Coast regions of British Columbia in March 2015, the snowpack levels were at record lows, at 26% and 13% normal levels.

In May 2015, both Environment Canada and AccuWeather predicted a hotter-than-normal summer for BC, one to one-and-a-half degrees warmer.

In May 2015 only 4.2 millimetres of rain fell at YVR, 6.5 per cent of the normal monthly rainfall.

All of these are pointing to two things: this summer is going to be hot, and this summer is going to be dry.

Will we have another 2003, where the extremely dry summer lead to the most expensive natural disaster in BC history? After that disastrous year, the BC government released Dealing With Drought, which states that

Managing community water supplies is a local government and local supplier responsibility. Planning will help your community to protect community supplies for drinking water, sanitation, and fire protection; protect fish and aquatic ecosystems, and sustain industrial development and economic activity.

Unfortunately summer months see residential water consumption spike by two to four times when compared to the rest of the year, and with hotter temperatures expected over the summer, we need to reduce this spike. While Metro Vancouver has lawn watering regulations in place, these restrictions will probably not be enough to conserve enough water in our reservoirs. We all need to use less water over the summer, and one way to do this is to let our lawns go brown.

To help promote this, I am asking City Council to request that the large lawn in front of City Hall go brown over the summer by turning off the automated irrigation system until the fall.

By going brown, we not only save on water, but a brown lawn also requires much less maintenance than a green lawn. A brown lawn does not need mowing, which frees up parks maintenance that can be allocated elsewhere. By not running a mower, the city reduces its air and noise pollution contributions, and saves money on gasoline and mower maintenance.

A brown lawn can also spur discussions about water conservation, using drought-tolerant plants in our landscaping, or the use of grey water systems for irrigation. All of these will help to reduce our impact on the environment, and I’m calling on the City of New Westminster to set an example.

Let it go brown!

New Westminster’s First Parklet

Earlier today Jonathan Coté announced New Westminster’s first parklet. Strictly speaking he wasn’t the first to announce it, as it was in last night’s Committee of the Whole agenda, but who reads those things?

For those who don’t know, a parklet is a mini park set up as an extension of a sidewalk. They’re not very large, typically fifteen to twenty meters long, and about three meters wide. They’re places for people, set up to allow people to meet, sit, and relax. Vancouver has five parklets, and they’ve been big hits almost everywhere they’ve been put in.

Philadelphia’s University City District did a study looking at why some parklets work better than others and found that the most successful parklet in Philadelphia was located in a medium-density residential neighbourhood, outside a taco shop and a popsicle store. Ideally, you want a main adjacent business with modest interior seating capacity, coupled with high turnover of that seating. You also want large windows on the main adjacent business, which gives a sense of connection between the business interior and the exterior parklet.

That said, where is this new parklet going to be located? In Sapperton, on E Columbia Street between Braid and Cedar. Specifically, it will be right in front of Fratelli Bakery and The Bloom Bloom Room, right where this black SUV is parked:

Note that that picture is from June 2014, and The Bloom Bloom Room opened beside Fratelli’s three weeks ago.

Do those businesses meet the criteria? Fratelli’s probably meets the first one (I don’t know, I’ve never been). The windows on both businesses are large and inviting (and I hope The Bloom Bloom Room has removed the bars from their windows!). I suspect that if the BBR puts flower displays out front, it’ll make the whole area even more inviting.

To put things into more context, here’s the current sidewalk:

…and here’s the proposed sidewalk with the parklet:

Now, of course, this wouldn’t be a post about New Westminster without some discussion of parking. This parklet is going to remove two parking spots. Luckily, that end of Sapperton doesn’t get much business and, as such, there is almost always parking available. And if we go back to that University City District study, they found that business owners reported a 20 percent increase in sales in the two weeks following a parklet installation. This jives with stats from California that found a 9-20 percent average increase in local business revenue.

This is to be the first of five New Westminster parklets installed over the next five years. I look forward to visiting Sapperton’s once it’s installed!

Announcing the Plebiscite Predictor!

The Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite is finally coming to a close. During the mail-in period, Elections BC has been releasing the interim ballot returns broken down by municipality.

You can find out all sorts of things, like which municipality has the highest turnout, or… which municipality has the highest turnout. Okay, it’s dull.

But the most recent data release allows us to try and guess what the result is going to be. To help us out, I whipped up the Plebiscite Guesser Program Thingy 5000.

All you have to do is guess the percentage of votes the yes side will receive for each municipality, and it’ll tell you which side wins!

Here’s an incredibly realistic situation: every municipality votes 40% no, except for Vancouver, which votes 77% yes. Yes side wins!

Keep in mind that the results you get are actually wrong: everybody loses in this stupid plebiscite that we never should have had in the first place because fuck you Christy Clark.

Hidden Gem: Glenbrook Ravine Park

Glenbrook Ravine Park is a nice little park nestled between residential complexes in New Westminster. British Columbia’s oldest public park, it’s a combination of manicured and wild. You can access the park either at its lower end off Jamieson Court, or from its upper end off Glenbrook Drive, or from the middle off Blackberry Drive. The whole trail is about one kilometre long.

The lower section of the park holds the Glenbrook Park Amenities Centre, a small pond that has ducks, fish, and turtles, and a good collection of flower beds. You can even get a little bit of learning from the old bell from the old BC Penitentiary, if you’re so inclined.

Walk uphill from there, and the best part of the park awaits. Just past the manicured park, up on the left side of the hill, there are remnants of the BC Penitentiary cemetary. Unfortunatly you can’t get there from the ravine; the access looks to be blocked off by townhouse and condo complexes (I’ll try to figure this out soon!). At the first fork, take the right path and you’ll quickly come to a daisy-filled meadow — an ideal spot to have a picnic or play bocce with the kids!

This section is the most disappointing to me, as one bank of the hill is entirely covered with invasive Himalayan blackberry — good for picking but horrible for the native plants. I hope that cleanup and restoration of this section is on NWPCR’s radar.

Take the left path from the fork and you’ll continue up through more natural forest. Look for salmonberries and skunk cabbage! This is the quietest part of the park — you’ll hardly hear the native New Westminster fauna. This is one of the best places in New Westminster to get away from the noise. Yes, you’re not truly away from it all, but there aren’t many places in New West that are this peaceful (Lower Hume Park is probably the only other). You’re not going to spend days here reconnecting with nature, but it’s a short bus-ride from downtown, so you didn’t have to spend hours in a car getting here either.

When you’re nearly to the top, on the left side there’s a stone riverbed coming down the hillside. This is where some local history took place back in 1907. Billy Miner, train robber extraordinaire, robbed a train near Kamloops in 1906 and was captured shortly after that by the Royal North-West Mounted Police. He was sentenced to 25 years in the BC Penitentiary in New Westminster.

On August 8, 1907, two boys were swimming in the creek just upstream from the stone riverbed when a man came to them from downstream. He told the boys that they didn’t see anything, asked them what they’d say if anybody asked (they said “nothing”), wished them a fine day, and continued on upstream. Minutes later the escape bell at the Pen rang out — Billy Miner had escaped.

(I first heard that story from a Jane’s Walk given by Dale Darychuk two years ago. With luck he does the Jane’s Walk again in 2016!)

The trail exits through switchbacks onto Glenbrook Drive, or earlier on up stairs to Blackberry Drive. It’s much nicer to just double back and enjoy the park all over again!

Jonathan Cote Can Control the Weather!

I ran into New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote at the first Royal City Farmers Market Summer Market today. I commented about the turnout (large) and the weather (nice), and he dropped this bomb on me:

Yeah, Council was arguing about what sort of weather we were going to have today but I pushed the nice weather through.

I laughed, and wished him a fine rest of his day, but then I got to thinking… the weather has been pretty good recently. Blue skies for New West’s 145th May Day. Blue skies for The Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery anvil salute. I mean seriously, check out this quote from Archie Miller:

“That was one of the first Victoria Days in a number of years that we haven’t been watching clouds or rain coming. It was beautiful,” said Archie Miller, the group’s historian. “The day was really, really nice. Everything went well.”

And as proof of his benevolence? The forecast for Sunday, May 24, when the “ousted” Royal Lancers are holding their community heritage picnic?

Sunny, with a high of 21.