What’s Coming to New West Council on February 22, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Special Regular Meeting followed by a Public Hearing on February 22, 2021, and here’s what’ll be happening.

Financial Plan, 2021 – 2025

The financial plan was discussed by Council at the February 8, 2021 meeting so I won’t revisit the details. In a split vote Council approved moving to third hearing and approval, which will be happening on the 22nd.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Secondary Suite Requirements) No. 8154, 2021

In a nutshell, the city wants to make it easier for people to put legal secondary suites into their residences. Council has received no correspondence on this issue, and it’s likely to just breeze right through.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (1135 Tanaka Court) No. 8250, 2021

A company wants to open up a manufacturing facility for “cannabis infused product” in Queensborough. There wouldn’t be any cultivation on-site, and they wouldn’t be doing sales through this location either. The only correspondence Council has received has been from the applicant, so this will breeze through as well.

Heritage Revitalization Agreement Bylaw (404 Second Street) No. 8235, 2020 and Heritage Designation Bylaw (404 Second Street) No. 8236, 2020

These two bylaws are combined because they both cover the same property, 404 Second Street. It’s currently the location of Queens Park Meat & Deli and a residential unit, and they want to do a little bit of expansion in exchange for heritage designation.

The main sticking point with a small number of people is that the land use will be relaxed, opening it up to a slightly larger scope of commercial uses: businesses and professional offices, caf├ęs and restaurants, personal service establishments (with some exclusions) and retail stores.

There is widespread support for the Queens Park Meat & Deli and the proposed changes, so it is unlikely that these specific bylaws would be voted down by Council. What could happen is that Council could ask city staff to restrict the land use to a very narrow scope of businesses.

I think that this would be a mistake, and I’ve written to Council saying so, and I’ll likely be speaking at the Public Hearing asking Council to keep the proposed land use as it is outlined in the proposal. I think that people like this type of business and that restricting its future to only being a butcher would not allow any business to pivot and adapt for changing business conditions (like, say, a global pandemic) and would cause the building to remain empty should the Queens Park Meat & Deli ever move on, which nobody wants to see.

What’s Coming to New West Council on February 8, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Meeting on February 8, 2021, and here are some highlights of what’s on the agenda.

Draft 2021 – 2025 Financial Plan

This is the big ticket item for this week’s meeting. The Financial Plan lays out the financial plan (obviously) for the next five years, something required by law of every municipality in British Columbia. The key takeaways the general public and press fixate on are:

  • 4.9% property tax increase for 2021
  • Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste rate increases of 7%, 7%, and 12%, respectively, for 2021

General Fund operating expenses (this is basically the cost of keeping the City running) are about $138 million, broken down to the nearest million dollars:

  • Police Services, $33 million
  • Engineering, $28 million
  • General Government, $25 million
  • Parks and Recreation, $22 million
  • Fire & Rescue, $18 million
  • Development Services, $7 million
  • Library, $5 million

General Fund capital expenses (this is basically the cost of building new things like the Canada Games Pool) are about $125 million for what are called “2021 project commitments”. They’ll spend about $66 million in 2021 and the remaining $59 million in 2021 (since, y’know, buildings like the new Canada Games Pool take longer than a year to build).

If you’ve got opinions on the Draft Financial Plan, there’s a handy form included in the Council Package, so fill it out and send it in to the Finance Department before February 22, 2021 and let them know what you think!

Design Variance Permit Application for 632 Carnarvon Street

The applicant wants to open a licensed child care facility for 3- to 5-year olds, and licensed child care facilities are required by Fraser Health to have a certain amount of outdoor play space. The applicant wants to convert part of the parking lot into this outdoor play space, which means that they’ll have fewer parking spaces than their zoning requires.

Play space for children instead of storage for vehicles? That sounds good to me. If you’ve got opinions you can send in an email to Council before the meeting.

Landscaping Guidelines for Laneway Houses in Queen’s Park

Also known as The Great Chain Link Fence Fiasco of 2021, if you’re building a new house in Queen’s Park you’re not allowed to just install whatever type of fence you want because the neighbours won’t like it because it doesn’t match their faux-heritage colonial styles.

In this report to Council city staff have said that the builder will be planting a hedge along the hideous chain link fence. The report does not outline what type of hedge will be planted and if the specific hedge meets with the entire neighbourhood’s approval for being “heritage enough”.

To tie this into the Draft Financial Plan, if you’re one of those people who think that the City is “wasting” money on staff salaries, consider that City staff had to spend time and money researching and writing this report about a chain link fence that is hardly visible from the street. But hey, the Heritage Conservation Area is super important and we need to ensure everything in Queen’s Park looks the same and projects the same British colonial feeling, right, no matter what the cost?

I look forward to a Queen’s Park resident petitioning Council because their neighbour bought a car that doesn’t match the neighbourhood heritage.

Westminster Pier Park – Fire Recovery Update

In September 2020 part of Westminster Pier Park burned down.

The City has insurance coverage, and has so far spent just under $3 million on cleanup, with another $1.7 million projected to be spent.

The part of the park that burned down had the only reliable emergency access to Pier Park. Before the remaining portion of Pier Park can be opened, this emergency access needs to be restored, and City staff have been working with CP Rail to establish this access. This emergency access is the primary blocker towards the park re-opening, and that is expected to happen sometime in April 2021.

Motion regarding Capital City Arcade

The Capital City Arcade on East Columbia Street is trying to get a Liquor Primary license, and the City has a motion on the table recommending the issuance of that Liquor Primary license.

What’s Coming to New West Council on February 1, 2021

New Westminster City Council is having a Regular Meeting on February 1, 2021, and here are some highlights on what’s on the agenda.

Letter from New Westminster Police Board to New Westminster City Council

Backstory: in December New West City Council requested that the Police Board draft a 2021 budget with a 0% increase, in part to push forward calls for reforming police departments towards different models of providing services that better serve marginalized people in our society. Protests that have been occurring around the world, including those led by Black Lives Matter groups, have brought the inequities and injustices built into policing to the forefront, and this motion is a first step towards righting those wrongs.

The Police Board wrote back to Council, and they essentially said “sorry, but no” and they won’t be cutting their 2021 budget. I fully expect this to spur some lively and spirited discussion. I don’t know what Mayor Cote’s role will be in this discussion, and whether or not he’ll have to recuse himself because he is also the Chair of the Police Board.

There are two options for council to take in response to the letter:

  1. They can accept the letter and tell Finance to incorporate the Police Board’s recommended original budget into the 2021 Budget, or
  2. They can tell the Police Board to fuck off (rather, reject the recommendation) and tell City staff to figure out what the next steps are and what the tax rate implications will be for the 2021 Budget.

I suspect ultimately Council will go with option 1 but I highly doubt it’ll be a unanimous vote.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Task Force Updates

New West received “confirmation of approval of its application” for $101k from the federal government (I think that means the City will be receiving that money, or maybe the feds have confirmed they’ve received the application…? Tweet me to let me know!) to set up some food security hubs, along with planning and program coordination services, volunteer recruitment, and training towards improving food security in New West.

City staff are working with faith-based and non-profit organizations to put together a program where precariously housed or homeless individuals can have a shower at the Canada Games Pool, and they’re looking at providing individuals with a basic toiletries set as well, along with bus tickets and towels.

A “Rediscover New West” program will be launched on February 1 to support restaurant and entertainment venues.

The COVID compliance hotline is showing a decrease in calls per day, with 2.2 calls per day in January, mostly about businesses not following COVID-safe procedures.

Council will also be asked to support the New Westminster Digital Inclusion Project by donating 25 decommissioned iPhone 7s to allow at-risk and vulnerable people be able to access digital information more easily.

E-Comm Nominations for 2020-2021

Backstory: E-Comm 911 is the organization that handles 911 services across British Columbia. They have a Board of Directors. Various groups nominate representatives for the E-Comm Board, and New Westminster is part of a small group of municipalities (Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, Belcarra, Coquitlam, and Port Moody) that nominates two candidates. In 2019 Burnaby, PoCo, Belcarra, and Coquitlam all nominated Burnaby councillor Joe Keithley and Coquitlam councillor Brent Asmundson. Port Moody didn’t send in a nomination. New West objected, essentially saying “we don’t need two more white dudes, thanks”.

Through 2020, further motions and discussions happened, and at the end of the day for the 2020-2021 term only Joe Keithley was unanimously nominated, and the other seat will remain open (Coquitlam and Port Moody nominated Brent Asmundson again, Port Coquitlam and New Westminster nominated PoCo councillor Nancy McCurrach).

Development Stuff

A townhouse complex in Queensborough is applying to have half of their resident parking spots be tandem parking, where instead of having two parking spots side-by-side, they’ll be end-to-end so that you have to drive through one to get to the second.

Walmart’s asking for new signs so they can direct people to their online purchase pickup spots.

The City will be keeping Canada Post in business writing to nearly every First Nation in the Lower Mainland, along with the Board of School District 40 (that’s New West!), Burnaby, Coquitlam, TransLink, and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure about the Sapperton Green development at Braid and Brunette where the Amazon warehouse is.

And the Metro Hall at 759 Carnarvon (across from Ki Sushi) is looking to get a permanent liquor-primary license instead of obtaining a Special Event Permit for nearly every single event they hold there, and in getting the license they’d also require a Zoning Bylaw amendment.

2020 Filming Activity Overview

New Westminster received $730k in permit revenues from filming activity in 2020, even though filming could only happen during seven months due to COVID-19. In 2019 filming permits brought in $795k, so COVID-19 didn’t have a huge impact, but without the restrictions New West probably would have brought in quite a bit more. The City made some fat cash thanks to the Mighty Ducks.

Bill C-213, an Act to enact the Canada Pharmacare Act

“Hey, New Westminster isn’t the Federal government,” you say. You’d be right. But most New Westminster City Councillors have fairly strong relationships with their provincial and federal counterparts (especially now that New West is entirely NDP at those levels), and New Westminster’s Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, is the sponsor of Bill C-213 to allow all Canadians to access prescription drugs without financial or other barriers, in the same way that all Canadians have access to healthcare (but not dental care, which is another area the federal NDP is targeting).

Jaimie McEvoy brought forward a motion asking Council to officially support Bill C-213.

I suspect that there will be discussion by councillors falling over themselves to show how much they support universal pharmacare (Councillor McEvoy will obviously speak to the motion) and unanimous support.

New Westminster Election Prediction Results

The final results are in for the 2020 British Columbia Provincial Election, so let’s see how my predictions fared!

To recap, I made the following predictions:

  • Jennifer Whiteside, NDP: 62%
  • Cyrus Sy, Green: 23%
  • Lorraine Brett, BC Liberal: 13%
  • Everybody else: 2%

And here are the final results:

  • Jennifer Whiteside, NDP: 60.25%
  • Cyrus Sy, Green: 19.02%
  • Lorraine Brett, BC Liberal: 16.26%
  • Everybody else: 4.48%

I guess I didn’t do that badly!

But had I stuck with my original numbers (60 / 21 / 17) I would have been even closer. “Never second-guess yourself” is the lesson here!

As everybody expected, Jennifer Whiteside ran away with the election. As probably everybody expected, Cyrus Sy came second for the Green Party, and Lorraine Brett finished third again.

New Westminster: safe for the NDP and ultimately quite boring when it comes to elections.

New Westminster 2020 Provincial Election Forecast

Hey it’s election time again! And that means I’m going to gaze into my crystal ball and forecast what the numbers are going to look like for the New Westminster electoral district (not the Richmond-Queensborough one!) after all the votes are counted.

Last time around the BC NDP had Judy Darcy running for re-election, the BC Green Party had a strong candidate in Jonina Campbell, and Lorraine Brett ran for the BC Liberals. Ultimately Judy Darcy improved upon her popular vote percentage, beating Jonina Campbell 51.55% to 25.36%. Lorraine Brett picked up 21.27% of the vote.

This time around the overwhelming majority of the drama came before the election, as Judy Darcy announced she would not be running for re-election. Two candidates stepped forward to take her place, Jennifer Whiteside and Ruby Campbell, and Jennifer Whiteside won the nod from the NDP constituency. For the BC Greens, Cyrus Sy put his name forward, as Jonina Campbell is now the Executive Director of the BC Greens. For the BC Liberals, Lorraine Brett decided to run again. Conservatives and Libertarians are also running candidates.

That’s the local flavour. How will it all play out, with the snap election complaints from non-NDP parties, the pandemic raging around us, and the partisan nature of politics we’ve been moving more and more towards in recent years?

My bold prediction is that Jennifer Whiteside and the BC NDP will win New Westminster. That’s no surprise. The BC NDP could run a potted plant and win here. That’s why I said the drama came before the election campaign started, because it was actually the NDP constituency members who were voting on who New Westminster’s next MLA will be, not the voting public in New Westminster.

I predict that the numbers will come down like this, plus-or-minus a couple of percent: Jennifer Whiteside: 62%. Cyrus Sy: 23%. Lorraine Brett: 13%. Everybody else: 2%.

Why did I pick these numbers? Let’s start at the bottom: While people have heard of the BC Conservatives (and maybe some people remember Benny Ogden from the last municipal election), and the leader of the Libertarian party is running in New Westminster, they’re complete non-entities in New Westminster. Between them I don’t see them getting more than 3% of the vote, if that.

I don’t see Lorraine Brett improving her numbers at all. The BC Liberals are circling the drain, and their low polling numbers in BC will only lead to a worsening of their support in New Westminster. That said, there isn’t any other proper right-wing party for right-wing people to vote for, so maybe 20% is about where the floor is for their support. Whatever it is, Lorraine Brett is going to hit it.

Last-minute update: I started writing this post on October 14. Early on October 16 news broke that Lorraine Brett thinks JK Rowling’s transphobic writings are her “best work”. I don’t know what effect this will have on her results, but I’m going to guess that it won’t be that great for her. Correspondingly, I’ve dropped my prediction for her by 4% and given it equally to the NDP and Green. My original numbers were 60%, 21%, and 17%.

Cyrus Sy isn’t as well-known as Jonina Campbell, and the BC Green party hasn’t been polling particularly well on a regional basis. There may be some disaffected NDP voters who would have preferred a candidate with more community ties than Jennifer Whiteside who will swing over to vote Green, but there won’t be more than a handful of them. I think that the 25% that the BC Greens got in 2017 is their ceiling right now. A lesser-known candidate combined with weaker polling for the BC Greens provincially, which means I backed him off to 21% 23%.

And that means whatever left over is for Jennifer Whiteside, which is 60% 62%.

The only thing worth watching in New Westminster is the race for second. My prediction is that the BC Greens come second again, and the BC Liberals finish third.

Is a 39% margin of victory plausible? This year, yes. The NDP is polling well, the Liberals lurch from homophobic candidate to transphobic candidate to misogynistic candidate, and the Greens haven’t had enough time to find their footing under a new leader. New Westminster is a strong NDP riding, and it will definitely be reflected in the results of the 2020 provincial election.