Breaking news: God denies responsibility for Port Mann Bridge ice bombs, files defamation suit against Kiewit and Transportation Investment Corporation

In an ironic twist, I was in the middle of chasing down another Kiewit story when the extraordinary news broke that the  Port Mann Bridge ice bombs were an act of God. http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/07/28/ice-bombs-called-act-of-god

I’m not kidding. Transportation Investment Corporation ( the crown corporation created for this specific project) and Kiewit/Flatiron partnership ( the design/build team) claimed in court documents responding to legal actions that:

“The buildup and subsequent release of ice and snow from the bridge structure was the result of a confluence of extreme environmental conditions, both unforeseen and unforeseeable to the defendants or any of them and was the inevitable result of an act of God,” the companies claimed.

“No act or omission of the defendants or any of them either caused or contributed to any injury damage, loss or expense suffered by the plaintiff.”

Time for a reality check.

1)As any long time resident of the lower mainland will tell you, despite our primarily rainy winter weather, we do still get episodes of snow, freezing rain and worst of all, sometimes a mix of the two as temperatures fluctuate. It can be a nasty wet mess of slush that breaks tree limbs and downs power lines at it’s worst.

2) The design of the Port Mann Bridge is such that the cables cross directly over the lanes of traffic below. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to figure out anything sitting on those cables is going to fall directly down to the traffic below.  In fact, these exact issues are inherent to this particular design and have been noted on other bridges around the world.

3) Documents received as a result of a Freedom of Information filed by Bob Mackin, showed that not only were engineers aware of the risks, while some believed it was a manageable, others were concerned about safety.

And as Bob goes on to report, there was another issue:

“The bridge opening was hurried along for the Premier’s photo op. The bridge was opened during B.C.’s notorious stormy season, yet it did not have its own weather station. In fact, the closest Transportation Ministry weather stations were in Abbotsford and West Vancouver.

One was finally bought for $100,000 and installed in February.
With better understanding of the conditions about to happen and as they were developing, the people that operate and maintain the Port Mann could have halted traffic earlier and avoided damage, injury and embarrassment.”

You gotta love those photo-ops.

Now, head on over to Bob’s older site and check out all the documents that he very helpfully posted on his site,that include “the lengthy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers technical report on superstructure ice protection by Charles Ryerson from April 2009″.

I’m sure the plaintiff’s lawyers will have a field day with them.. if God doesn’t first.

**scroll through them yourself, but documentation showing concerns over icefall start as early as page 5 and on, and Page 21 of the released documents is where some interesting emails come up.***

http://2010goldrush.blogspot.ca/2013/05/blizzard-of-documents-says-port-mann.html

BAM
I’ll have another Kiewit/BC Government story for you shortly, along with a Surrey focus post by tomorrow, pending callbacks from local authorities.

 

Posted in BC Liberals, BC Politics, Laila Yuile, P3 projects in BC | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

This weeks column for 24HRS Vancouver: Oversight needed to fix Translink

This week’s topic: Do recent SkyTrain failures show TransLink is failing riders?

With two massive SkyTrain failures and a couple of smaller system incidents creating commuter chaos in Metro Vancouver recently, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for TransLink officials.

The first major breakdown occurred during afternoon rush-hour passenger traffic and was ultimately found to have been caused by a card failure in the system’s main communications computer — a once-in-a-blue moon failure that wasn’t anticipated, nor planned for. With passengers stranded in between stations on elevated tracks, the problem was exacerbated by frustrated riders breaking open SkyTrain car doors and walking along the tracks back to stations. The entire system had to be powered down to avoid any injury or death from a passenger inadvertently coming into contact with the track.

Just a few days later, the system once again came to a grinding halt for hours and the chaos began all over again. Incredibly, the second outage even shut down the public announcement systems and TransLink wasn’t able to communicate with stranded passengers. Again, in frustration and panic, passengers took matters into their own hands and walked back along tracks to stations – a situation that by any perspective is a recipe for disaster.

One would expect that after two major outages, TransLink would have had things quickly whipped into shape, but yet another “minor systems delay” impacted the morning commute between stations in Vancouver just two days later.

To be accurate and fair, SkyTrain is a pretty reliable form of transportation overall. But as any regular rider will tell you, minor “glitches” happen often that never make the news, and questions are being asked whether or not maintenance for the 30-year-old system is being funded properly. Last year, a major failure was blamed on aging parts and a major project was undertaken to replace aging power rails.

While TransLink officials initially said a review wasn’t needed, its CEO Ian Jarvis subsequently came forth in the media and acknowledged several points he personally considered failures to be addressed.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

While I applaud his acknowledgement of failures and commitment to bring in outside experts for a review, concerns about maintenance plans, funding and inadequate emergency response were reason enough for local mayors to call for more governance and accountability – and I agree.

READ the rest of this weeks column, vote and leave your comments at: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/07/27/oversight-needed-to-fix-translink

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Why exactly, is the Mars Bomber sitting idle?

As a northern girl born and raised just north of Prince George, I can tell you firsthand how important first response to a wildfire situation is, just as many British Columbians are saying now. Once a fire is reported and the decision is made that it’s a situation that must be handled, the earlier crews and/or aircraft can tackle the blaze, the more cost-effective it is, and the safer it is for all involved.

The Mars Bomber has for many years, been one part of an effective arsenal of fire -fighting in the province of BC, but last year the decision was made to stop their direct-award contract, and the Mars are sitting idle on Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island – much to the confusion of many who have seen the plane in action.  The Mars is capable of a large payload of water and, in some situations, can knock back a fire with incredible effectiveness, yet it sits after years of service to the province.
From the link above:

” Despite it’s world-renowned ability to scoop up and drop 27,200 litres of water at time and a 53-year legacy of dowsing forest fires across North America, this year the provincial government opted not to renew its contract with Coulson Flying Tankers, the Hawaii Mars’ owner.

Instead the province looked to Abbotsford-based Conair for aerial fire suppression, gaining the services of four smaller turbinepowered aircraft instead of the massive Hawaii Mars.

Early into the forest fire season, it appears the situation in B.C. will be particularly serious this year.

Halfway through July, 624 fires have been documented by the Wildfire Management Branch, encompassing 105,697 hectares. The spread of forest fires this summer has already eclipsed the 2013 total of 18,259 hectares, and appears to be approaching the average burn total of 141,000.T

he cost of fighting these blazes is yet to be released, but as a relatively calm season drained $122.2 million of provincial funds, the 2014 forest firefighting costs should be enormous.

According to Coulson Group of Companies CEO Wayne Coulson, the Mars bomber’s firefighting contract in 2013 amounted to $750,000, yet this year the province decided to go with Conair’s smaller, more modern aircraft for $1.8 million.

After the deal was made Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource operations cited the bomber’s “operational limitations” with respect to performing multiple drop patterns in B.C.’s mountainous terrain.

The decision to with the Abbotsford company was made while considering the “more cost-effective, efficient options available due to advances in airplane technology,” Thomson said. But the price disparity between the two options warrants a more detailed explanation of why the government chose the costlier contract.”

Hmmm.. who would be best suited to offer a knowledgeable perspective on the governments choice to go with the costlier contract to Conair?

How about someone with first-hand, government experience, who joined Conair in the spring of 2013 after a 36 year career with the British Columbia Forest Service, all in the forest fire domain with 26 years specifically in airtanker operations. Jeff was the head of British Columbia’s Airtanker Program from 1996 to 2013.”  http://conair.ca/conair_team/jeff-berry

With Jeff’s direct and long experience within the BC Forest service, he might be able to lend some perspective on why the Mars sits idle.

 

Incidentally, and I am sure, purely coincidental… it was the spring of 2013 when the owner of the Coulson group came out strongly against the  BC Liberals prior to the election, and the poor Liberal forest policies that impacted small communities all over the province.

coulson

http://www.coulsongroup.com/newsletter/PDF/volume%2013-184.pdf

While Conair has donated exclusively to the BC Liberals since 2005, with one donation in the spring to the BCNDP when it appeared they may win the last election: http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=conair&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=2014/07/21&DateFrom=2005/01/01&DFYear=2005&DFMonth=01&DFDay=01&DTYear=2014&DTMonth=07&DTDay=21

Conair Group president and CEO Barry Marsden also received the Order Of BC : http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/05/30/Lib-Donors-Get-Order-of-BC/#sthash.l3oXx69s.dpuf

Some backstory on the Mars contract and service: http://www.avtimes.net/news/local/bomber-a-heroic-giant-1.621281

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, forestry, Laila Yuile, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: B.C. government lets industry run wild

Can we safely balance industrial growth and air quality in northern B.C.?

When I saw the news release announcing the Kitimat Airshed Emissions Impact Assessment report was complete, I immediately wondered what information the report contained that wasn’t favourable.

It’s a time-honoured tradition for governments to release bad news on a Friday so it can fizzle out over the weekend, and good news on a Monday so they can optimize press exposure all week long. If the report had been completely favourable, the government would have waited until Monday to release it.

The government summary referred to in Brent’s column is carefully worded and doesn’t give the complete picture of what the report actually states. The report studied the impact of building not only four separate LNG plants in the Kitimat region, but also considered the impact of adding an oil refinery into the same area. Currently there have been two proposals for oil refineries brought forth for the north coast and Kitimat has been identified as a potential location for both.

The airshed report is highly technical, hundreds of pages long and likely to be not easily understood by the average person. However, section seven offers a summary of results that contains some critical points that must not be overlooked, nor glossed over for their importance.

In fact, so serious are some of the key findings that Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and deputy leader of the BC Green Party, publicly called out the government in a statement issued the same day as the report, stating: “This is a nail in the coffin for the Government’s lavish LNG dreams in Kitimat. It is a thorough and excellent study and it is clear in its conclusions; the government simply cannot spin its way out of this. If you build those four LNG plants, they will put the people of Kitimat, Terrace and many other communities in the area at a critical risk to their health.”

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

READ the rest of this weeks, column, vote and comment at  http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/07/20/bc-government-lets-industry-run-wild

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“INVEST IN RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT.GET A NICE RETURN”

HYPOCRISY

No… this did not come from The Onion.  

But seriously…no joking now… considering the recent release of the public accounts I just blogged about... that show that under Christy Clark,Queen of LNG fantasies:

“For a government that sought re-election on the promise, blazoned on the side of the campaign bus, of a “Debt-Free B.C.,” the public accounts released this week provide a sobering reality check.

Total provincial debt as of March 31, the end of the last financial year: $60.693 billion.

Total provincial debt inherited by Christy Clark when she took the oath of office as premier in mid-March 2011: $45.154 billion.

Increase: $15.539 billion, or 34 per cent.”

 

So, just so I have this correct… humour me now…

The Christy Clark BC Jobs Plan is a dismal failure… http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/reality-check-b-c-s-jobs-plan-1.1401889

The public debt, as shown above, has grown…

And Christy Clark still wants you to invest in a responsible government???

Please tell me that I am not alone in seeing the hypocrisy in this donation request for the 2017 election… or in wondering how much support Premier Christy Clark really has among her own caucus?

https://voterid.bclp.bcliberals.com/pub/donate/help2017/gendisplay

… and I haven’t even started on why this is so just so, so wrong, on so many levels… least of which is the lack of attention this government has given to what really matters: Education.

 

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Corruption, crime, Enbridge, forestry, Independent power projects, Laila Yuile, P3 projects in BC, The China Connection, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

BC Wildfire information and resources

Spent a long night talking to friends and readers from different areas of the province who are dealing with and worrying about the many wildfires all over the province and woke up this morning to see pics of my hometown of Prince George on twitter being smoked out to the point the street lights are on this morning! :(

With the hundreds of wildfires around BC, I thought it might be helpful to post the information you may need to reference if you are travelling in different areas or simply worried about what the situation is your area.

If you follow twitter, I have posted links there as well at @lailayuile
Follow  https://twitter.com/BCGovFireInfo for updates and info on the wildfire situations

Please report all wild fire starts at 1-800-663-5555 or call *5555  on your cell.

In urban areas report grass fires and fire starts in parks to 911 or your local fire department.

You can also follow access forest fire information at this website: http://bcwildfire.ca/Situation/ 

Reports on the most notable fires, with links to Drive BC reports for smoke warnings etc here: http://bcwildfire.ca/hprScripts/WildfireNews/OneFire.asp

Air quality indexes and warnings  from forest fire smoke: http://www.bcairquality.ca/

Most of all, be safe. It only takes a small spark from equipment or a BBQ, to a careless cigarette butt toss to start a massive fire.

There is also a petition going to urge the government to bring back the Mars Bomber, which is an incredibly effective fire fighting tool as anyone who has seen it in action can attest.

Sadly, they were taken out of service last year: here is a bit of info on that http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/martin-mars-water-bomber-grounded-after-53-years-in-b-c-1.624458

A bit of a shame,considering forest fires not only create risk of loss of life and home…. but also have a huge ability to reduce merchantable timber to ashes, impacting forestry jobs for decades to come in some areas, along with impacting tourism in areas where fires burn out areas around lakes and camping areas.

Here is a link to the petition https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/christy-clark-contract-the-martin-mars-waterbombers-for-5-more-years-to-protect-bc

 

Posted in BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“The short memories of the voters is what keeps our politicians in office” ~ Will Rogers

“People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.”
― George R.R. Martin

There is no greater tragedy than the governments Public Accounts being released in the heat of summer, when the sirens song of summer turns voters attention to everything and anything but politics – and no greater boon for the Christy Clark Liberals in charge.

As expected by many, while the government heavily relied on the tabling of a ‘surplus’ and a balanced operating budget in press opportunities, the magnitude of the debt the province is carrying was for the most part, glossed over.

There was little talk of how the ‘surplus’ was actually tabled… except by the BC NDP:

“This government says they are bringing in a modest surplus, but what they aren’t telling the public is that it’s the result of charging hard-working British Columbians more for things like Medical Service Premiums,” said New Democrat finance critic Mike Farnworth.

“Families are already stretched to the limit when it comes to affording the basic necessities, yet this government thinks it’s completely acceptable to gouge hard-working people with increased fees across the board.”

Farnworth was responding today to the release of Public Accounts from the 2013-14 financial year. The report shows that 86 per cent, or $303 million, of the government’s published surplus of $353 million was derived from an “Increase in fees and licenses.”

“The fee increases include another Medical Service Premium increase of four per cent,” added Farnworth. “This year, like each of the last five years, when families came to insure themselves and their children for health services, the Liberal government demanded that they pay more. In the meantime, the Liberal government spent less on health than they budgeted for in 2013-14 despite a crisis in many B.C. hospitals.”

“These fee increases don’t even include the 28-per-cent hydro hike the Liberals forced onto families or rate increases at ICBC,”

Hmm – a minor/not so minor detail left out of the Liberal press release when heralding a modest surplus… and one that did indeed impact many British Columbians, including friends and colleagues.  It’s not a new form of revenue seeking for the Liberals, who under the Campbell government reduced personal income taxes to the lowest level ever, but never replaced the resulting loss of tax revenue with an alternate revenue stream to replace it.

They’ve been playing catch up ever since, and with some sources of resource revenue in a steady decline, paints a picture that isn’t very pretty, or fiscally responsible.

In fact, the debt load has been steadily increasing under Christy Clark,an irony missed by few:

“For a government that sought re-election on the promise, blazoned on the side of the campaign bus, of a “Debt-Free B.C.,” the public accounts released this week provide a sobering reality check.

Total provincial debt as of March 31, the end of the last financial year: $60.693 billion.

Total provincial debt inherited by Christy Clark when she took the oath of office as premier in mid-March 2011: $45.154 billion.

Increase: $15.539 billion, or 34 per cent.”

Nothing to see here folks, as BC Mary used to say…move along, keep it moving…

Yes in fact, the situation is so dire, Christy Clark has cinched the belts so tight, that only the most essential spending is allowed:

restraint

I would laugh if it wasn’t so sad. Christy’s promise of a debt- free future thanks to LNG is looking dimmer all the time - It’s a risky move, and rare is the financial advisor who would endorse putting all your eggs in one basket. But here’s the catch. Voters memories are  strange and remarkable thing.

While occasionally a politician will commit some heinous act or make a comment so remarkably stupid they effectively end their own careers, surprisingly voters memories are often so short they elect the same government again and again. And end up complaining about them over and over. Rob Ford didn’t happen by accident, my friends.

The truth is, things aren’t going as planned for the so-called ‘new’ BC Liberals and it’s not exactly breaking news that the provincial debt with lackluster revenues is going to leave our kids and grandchildren a legacy of debt.  And while claiming austerity, the public accounts are full of examples of skewed spending priorities. They’ve had to take from Peter to pay Paul and guess what? You’re Peter in this scenario and Paul is up the creek without a paddle in this LNG fantasy.

When you compare the promises of the New BC Liberal platform under Christy Clark, as compared to the very first platform of the same old/new Liberals under Gordon Campbell, with the exception of Clark’s penchant for LNG, there isn’t much difference at all.

Proving once again that when it comes to the BC Liberals, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

*** I encourage readers to take a look at the entire set of public accounts, at this link: http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/ocg/pa/13_14/Pa13_14.htm

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Guest post: “Vote Wisely in the next election”

Because  schools out for summer, that means I am juggling summer vacation along with my other commitments… and finding concentrated time to blog is difficult at best.

So, over the summer I promise I will find time to do an occasional blog here and there, but will also be inviting others to do guest posts on different issues and topics, and re-running some past posts that are still very relevant to people and politics in B.C. I know that many readers are asking for more provincial posts, and I will definitely have some coming, but thank you all for understanding the focus on Surrey occasionally as issues heat up here in the city!!

Today, I’m hosting a guest blog by Gary Cameron, founding member of the Grandview Heights Stewardship Association, as he explores his reasons… and perhaps yours… for voting wisely in the next municipal election. While his post is about his views on Surrey planning,development and funding, the same can be said for looking to see what drives the direction and activities of city halls everywhere.

As usual.. all you have to do is follow the money.

When you speak to Surrey residents, most will say that a reasonable level of development is inevitable and even desirable, but in the same breath they’ll tell you that development is now obviously out of control as evidenced by the latest nightmare subdivision they’ve seen created in their own neighbourhood.

When asked what should be done, they invariably shrug their shoulders and say something about not being able to fight developers and Surrey City Hall.

There’s a huge difference between reasonable development and overdevelopment, which is often characterized by a lack of meaningful consultation with the community, inappropriate high-density construction that is premature or excessive in terms of demands on infrastructure and services, and urban infill subdivisions forced on suburban neighbourhoods that don’t want them.

So, what is driving the current overdevelopment in our community, aside from the fact that there appears to be an insatiable demand for housing in the Lower Mainland?

I read the 2014-2018 Surrey Financial Plan and noticed a pie chart on page 12 entitled 2013 Budget: Where the Money Comes From. It shows that Developer Contributions and Developer Cost Charges amounted to 21.1% and 14.9% respectively of the city’s revenue sources for a total of 36%. Taxation for city purposes was only 32.7%.

I checked several other municipalities and there were none where the amount raised by developer fees and contributions was even close to tax revenue, let alone in excess of it.What does this mean to Surrey taxpayers?

Given the fact that Surrey is considering running up some substantial debt does it seem wise to count on raising 36% of its revenue from development sources given the fact that the economy will inevitably face a downturn sooner or later, and the housing market could crash at any time?

Lest you think it can’t happen here, remember the 2007 US subprime mortgage financial crisis where housing prices fell nearly 30% on average. Consider what might happen to our housing market if interest rates spike upwards suddenly or if the economy once again slides into a deep recession.

There are other ramifications from overdevelopment. At this website they examine what recently happened to the Florida housing markets: “Too often local politicians approve residential development without consideration of its huge costs: roads, schools, police, fire, water, sewer, garbage, etc. These costs are paid by taxpayers, through local sales taxes, property taxes and assessments. Local politicians justify unrestrained residential development on the theory that it will pump up the local tax base because developed land generates higher property taxes than undeveloped land. In reality, these politicians fail to calculate the full costs associated with providing infrastructure and services to the new development. Even at the height of the (housing) bubble, taxes and impact fees generated by new development failed to cover basic infrastructure and services costs. When the bubble burst and property values collapsed, tax revenues also collapsed. But the recent development still requires infrastructure and services. These costs are largely fixed and local government is stuck with them. To compensate, politicians have raised taxes and diverted revenue.”

A recently updated US study reflected on the problem of overdevelopment in the New York area:

So what are the implications of overdevelopment of residential units in Upstate communities? It bears repeating: since residential development is the most expensive land use to government and taxpayers, the residentially overbuilt communities are likely facing worsening fiscal deficits and growing difficulties providing and maintaining infrastructure and services. In addition, these communities will continue to experience more vacant properties and the associated costs, and lose their open space and farmland, as well as rural character and heritage, as the excessive new housing continues to spill into the countryside.”

So, will Surrey suffer long-term damage as a result of the overdevelopment we are currently experiencing?

The answer is that nobody really knows, because as far as I can tell there is no accountability or oversight of the way Surrey Council has handled development issues in our city, and overdevelopment continues unabated.

As Laila Yuile stated in a recent blog post: “The city of Surrey is still growing tremendously, and the struggles of unchecked development at a pace that has exceeded the ability of the provincial and federal governments to keep pace with funding, are stark. It did not stop with McCallum, but continued under Watts.”

Is there a solution? Given the history of politics in Surrey it won’t come from the current crop of Surrey First politicians.

Here’s a Vancouver Sun story on the 2012 Surrey election entitled: “Construction sector cash built up Surrey First’s campaign.”My advice?

Vote wisely in the upcoming municipal election.

 

Posted in BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” Ambrose Bierce

Normally at this time of year, political chatter dies down as politicians and media take their vacations and give everyone a much needed break. In Surrey however, the political scene just keeps heating up, as former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum tossed his hat officially into the ring again today.

To the thousands of new Surrey residents who’ve come to the city in the years since he’s been gone, he appears to be making a great deal of sense. In fact, the large majority of his basic points touched on today are remarkably similar to the platform and vision presented in the last election by mayoral candidate Ross Buchanan.

From the move and costs of the new city hall, the real state of crime in the city,to trimming costs and dealing with the horrific state of roads in the city, Doug McCallum hit every single issue Ross campaigned on and the buzz today among those unfamiliar with the issues that lead to his eventual loss to Dianne Watts, was definately one of curiosity.

However,the reaction of many long-time Surrey residents to this news, has been anything but curious – many have told me they feel so strongly opposed by his return to the political scene that they will put their homes up for sale if he were to win. McCallum is a polarizing figure to many: you either like him, or hate him,and there is no in between.

wattsmcCallum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The anger runs deep and long among his critics, not unlike a stubborn wound that refuses to heal, and for good reason.

Many of the issues the city still struggles with are the direct result of policy and planning decisions made during McCallums time as mayor. This article from the Vancouver Sun written in 2006 about Dianne Watts, touches on where and how it all went wrong for McCallum before his stunning defeat:

…Her (Watts) penchant for speaking frankly put her on a collision course with Mayor McCallum who didn’t suffer dissidents on his own team gladly.

Watts and McCallum clashed in April 2003 over his troubled relationship with the Surrey RCMP. An e-mail was leaked to the media in which McCallum criticized an RCMP superintendent for sending out news releases that McCallum thought portrayed Surrey in a negative light.

Watts quit SET after McCallum removed her from the public safety committee. Watts said at the time that she would sit as an independent because of McCallum’s “abusive behaviour” and because the mayor told her “that I should bring motions forward to have RCMP officers fired.”

~~~~

Watts described McCallum’s style as “aggressive and domineering,” and added that “the more you stepped out of line, the more domineering and aggressive he became.”

~~~~

Watts decided to take on McCallum because “like many of the residents in the city, I really saw the city at a crossroads and we just could not continue down the path we were going.

“In prior years it was development at any cost: tens of thousands of trees being destroyed, development over natural areas, strip malls at every corner.”

Indeed, there was growing unease with the city’s excessive growth. People were finding, for example, that it was taking them 20 minutes just to drive through a four-way stop intersection like the one at 32nd Street and 168th Avenue.

Many south Surrey residents were concerned with the new mega-mall development called Grandview Heights with its three big-box stores.

~~~~

But by the autumn of 2005 many Surrey insiders sensed that the city’s political landscape had shifted, he added.

What set off the tremors was McCallum’s handling of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against a senior manager at city hall.

The harassment scandal received huge coverage in the local media throughout August and into the fall — to McCallum’s detriment. The mayor was seen to be operating in a heavy-handed manner without regard to proper process or to the community’s wishes.

School trustee Heather Stilwell, a long-time SET member, and party president Gordon Schoberg quit the party over the scandal. So did SET founder Gardner who became Watts’ campaign manager…

Full stop for me, right in those paragraphs.

The city of Surrey is still growing tremendously, and the struggles of unchecked development at a pace that has exceeded the ability of the provincial and federal governments to keep pace with funding, are stark. It did not stop with McCallum, but continued under Watts.

Crime is still very much front and center for most residents, and it’s not just Newton feeling the concern. We’re a border city, and with that comes the associated issues of being an entrance/exit point for drugs,weapons and money laundering. The trickle down impact of that creates a large amount of petty crimes, which are hard to get a handle on.

Neighbourhoods and high density housing are popping up everywhere, and when a new school is finally opened, it’s already over capacity. Older schools are losing play area to portables. Many areas of the city don’t even have sidewalks and seeing moms with strollers walking alongside roads is not unusual…. nor is it safe. The roads are indeed in a horrible state, a patchwork quilt in fifty shades of grey from being dug up, repaired and dug up again the next time a new home or development goes in.

We have city planning that allows new development in the middle of nowhere, completely inaccessible by transit and instead of a cohesive city, we have, in essence, many small towns competing with each other for dollars and infrastructure. And competition between resident associations doesn’t create community, it divides it.

At some point, someone has to say it’s time to step on the brake and slow it all down.

It’s not acceptable for local politicians to abdicate their personal culpability for creating this situation by saying it’s the provinces fault for not keeping pace with our growth…. how about planning growth around and in conjunction with the provincial ability to provide?

It’s just commonsense, something that Surrey at times, is sorely lacking.

But here is the fifty million dollar question…

Where has  Doug McCallum’s voice of outrage been all these years, as a Surrey resident, calling for change?

Where was he in the last election when the costs and the move of city hall were first brought up?

Where was he when in 2008/2009, the city was under siege in a gang war that left local politicians under heavy fire in the media?

In fact, in talking to involved residents throughout Surrey, no one has really ever seen him at any community meetings, or forums, or holding the current mayor and council to account…until it became an election year.

Suddenly, he’s outraged,concerned and everyone’s new best friend….and he’s going to save the city from the very same issues he left it with the last time he was in power.

It will be up to the voters to decide if McCallum is worthy of another run, and to examine his past record and his work or advocacy in the community since then( or lack of it), because as the old adage states: “Actions speak louder than words.”

 

Posted in BC Liberals, BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Not enough Bang for Olympic Buck!!

In the world of politics, I’m admittedly a neophyte in comparison to many pundits and columnists who have observed and reported on several different governments in B.C. While I’ve always been interested in politics, it wasn’t until approximately 2005 that I really began to study and take notice of how things get done and, more importantly, how things are presented to the public.

A great example is the statement so often used by our current government when referring to completed projects or major infrastructure — “Delivered on time, on budget.” It’s a catchphrase used so often, no one really questions it or thinks about what that means.

To get to the heart of the matter, you often have to look beyond the press releases and delve into the financials and past announcements. More often than not, what you will find is that throughout the delivery of a project, the budget was actually increased as costs rise, far beyond what the originally announced budget actually was. So, it’s not technically a lie to say it’s on time and on budget — but it’s not exactly the truth either.

Where am I going with this? The 2010 Olympic costs and legacies are great examples of this kind of presentation. The recently released VANOC report states the 2010 games broke even, but the report only refers to direct VANOC costs and revenue. It doesn’t include any of the additional costs to taxpayers at provincial and municipal levels – if indeed it did, the picture may very well be quite different.

No one can argue an upgrade to the Sea-to-Sky highway wasn’t sorely needed, but because the province financed it via a public-private partnership, taxpayers will be paying for that highway for many more years to come. The same holds true for the Canada Line.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here

The Vancouver Convention centre quickly became known as yet another “boondoggle” when cost overruns on the project ran nearly $400 million over the original budget. To be frank, there isn’t enough column space to address the plethora of other costs related to the games….

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/07/06/not-enough-bang-for-olympic-buck

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , | 1 Comment