FCM Live Blog – Halifax 2018

(Latest updates at top)

3:30PM Sunday Final update from the floor

We completed the election of the board members for FCM then there was an panel discussion  on what Canada and municipalitirs will look like in 20 years.

David Colleto. “Canada in 2040” The Demographics Story.

Millenials are now the largest group.

Technological and demographic and generational change happening together are causing very unique new issues.

Immigration will be required in order for Canadian population to grow.

Average age in 10 years of indigenous peoples in Canada will be 40. Ten years younger than general population.

Seniors, boomers, demographic will grow hugely and be up to 2 million over 85. We will need to take care of them.

Next speaker – Paul –

Speaking strongly on the challenges that will occur mainly from climate change but other reasons as well on refugees.

Poverty reduction is a huge way to help retain community resilience.

”Deepening Community”


We will welcome 7 Million refugees if demographics go “as planned” in next 25 years.  Far far more if climate change accelerated. The ideas of borders will be challenged. Do we build walls or be inclusive and welcoming.

Next Speaker – Shawna – On Mobility

Autonomous vehicles, ride hailing, other tech is disrupting all transportation systems.

There are 11 major ride hailing companies in world (worth $1B collectively). None are headquartered in Canada.  We have an opportunity to attract talent and opportunity and jobs.


Should municipalities become more active in community action?


Fun exercise, we were asked to give a one word fill in the blank by text to build a word cloud.

The audience was asked about which topics would be most important in the next 20 years.  Inclusivity won, but the point was made that really the answer is all three.


10:50AM Sunday Elizabeth May Speech

Her talk has been hilarious so far, on Trump and trade wars. Tune in!

”When you walk into a room with a hand grenade with a loose pin (Trump) your number one goal is to walk out again.”.

Excellent short talk and then answers to questions.

8:30AM-10AM Sunday morning FCM AGM

We get into the actual annual general meeting for the FCM this morning. We will be mainly going through the reports from board members and financials of the organization and then electing board members to represent regions across the country.

Numbers on attendance to the conference. 2118 delegates, 3545 with trade show and others participating in the conference.

Today’s question to test the electronic…

The best comment from the podium this morning:

”This is the first conference to be held in both summer and winter”.  (It was quite hot the first 3 days but the maritime wind has blown hard the past two!)



3:30PM -5:30PM – Youth Forum

Completely full house including a number of  Mayors and NDP Leader Jagmeet SIngh.

Our host is a young (28) director from Halifax, Lyndell Smith: “We have to have young people at the table.”

He is the moderator/question poser.

”You have to be a credible messenger”.

Marie-Eve Plante-Hébert (29), Councillor, Ville de La Prairie, QC •

The reality and challenges for young people who are 15 are different than those who are 25. We don’t learn ar school how to work with municipal government. So she took it upon herself to help teach and bring the government to houth so they could learn how to engage. (Gave an example of a skate park).

She also participates on a provincial municipal committee in Quebec that looks at ways to engage women and young people in both voting and running in elections.

There is a program to connect youth with municipality and with jobs as well.

“Simple Plan” From Association of Quebec municipalities.

Thomàs Talamanté who works in the City if Washingto D.C. (29) as liaison between the City and Congresswho also worked on Obama’s campaign.

Gives an example of creating opportunities to engage youth (listening tours) not just on youth issues but all issues. You will find them more often at City Council advocating for their issues, and for all issues.

Need also for Cities to become advocates for youth issues so they feel their issues matter.

The more you do engaging through social media, the more you will see diversity of people and opinion.

”It isn’t your diversity of a city that makes you a leader it is your city embracing of that diversity.”

There are working toward statehood and voting representation and are engaging and using youth to help that because they are very engaged in the topic already. Excellent organic, youth led and activist movement.

Five year olds in D.C. now know they don’t have voting rights due to youth activism and work and funding from the city.

You have to hire young people and trust them. (Gives example of 20-25 year olds who were trusted by Obama to run his campaign and are now mayors, councillors, congress.


A youth from Halifax who works for the North End Community Action Committee. A group that is actially advocating for african-nova scotian issues and trying to ensure the community and culture that exists in the North end (which was a transplant of Afric-Ville). He has become interested in local government through that.

He doesn’t want to speak and engage with “old white people” you need to engage with people from the community to really get people out of their shell especially for “youth youth” (12-25).


David Rauch, Open City and Technology Strategic Planner, City of Edmonton, AB.

Talking a lot about how you can use technology to engage youth and also to give them jobs and training on the job in developing new technology and apps.

Mayor Nenshi from the audience makes a point that maybe social media is not the place to engage youth in politics. (“Twitter is a cesspool”). Maybe 2010 was the time, but not now.

Mayor of Saint John made the point that maybe we need to keep it simple and just make sure we don’t talk down to youth.

2:00PM – Tradeshow, Late Lunch, and Surprise!

Well, this happened!

It was great that he remembered meeting my daughter at ADSS when he came and visited a few months back with Gord Johns. He is a genuinely nice guy.. and he was outside a little later walking casually down the very pedestrian friendly Argyle (that’s the street in front of the Convention Centre!) St.

Perhaps a model to look at for our Uptown near Argyle area? 🙂

One of the more interesting things at these conferences is the Trade Show, and the FCM Trade is the best one of all the trade shows at these types of conferences. It is a huge variety of people and companies.

One of the first booths I came across had a cool electronic voting machine that is touch screen and so very accessible for all users.  It produces a ballot that can then be counted like our ballots do.

10:15AM Saturday Jagmeet Singh.

The FCM Facebook page has a livestream of his speech and sitdown forum.

He is speaking on infrastructure first. Spoke strongly in favour od maintaining publicly owned infrastructure rather than privatization. Public owned airports, public owned electricity and most of all public owned access to high speed broadband internet across Canada.

Now speaking to opioid and drug addiction crisis and decriminilization of hard drugs.

Touched on Climate Change, Affordable Housing and closing tax loopholes and ineqalities.


8AM – 9AM Plenary – Six resolutions

FCM generally has very few resolutions because they weed out things to things that are very clearly federal plus municipal issues.

The first resolution was from the Regional District of Nanaimo on Ocean plastics.

I voted in favour.

Bill Veenhoff, Chair of RDN, spoke to it and it was carried easily.

The second resolution was on Climate Change to urge the Feds to meet their Paris targets and partner with municipalities more directly.  Mayor Iveson of Edmonton was sponsor.


There was one notable speaker who I videoed who presented common myths about climate change. Thankfully, the resolution passed strongly. I will post the video later.

I had to record his comments. They were stunning.

I voted in favour. It passed strongly though this just progress, in the past (Winnipeg 2016) these resolutions have only passed in the 50s.

Third Resolution is on Species at Risk… but there is some controversy because it appears this resolution takes away protections for land habitat.

The northern alberta delegates are advocating for this motion and against protection of 1.5 million hectares of cariboo habitat. They want to be able to develop industry on the lands.

I voted against. It passed strongly.

The fourth resolution is on International Trade.

I voted in favour, it passed easily.

Fifth Resolution is on Policy tools for solving rural challenges and creating a “rural lens” to establish impacts from federal policy.

I missed a picture of the vote but I voted in favour and it passed with over 90%.


Last Resolution: on creating Federal Active Transportation Plan with municipalities.

Sponsored by Nova Scotia federation of municipalities and their Active Transportation committee.

There was an amendment passed to strike the whereas clause on conducting research with the justification that there is ample research and best practice out there and that we needed decisive action from the federal government to create a national policy as other countries have.  I voted in favour and it passed easily.



That was it for the plenary and resolutions. Next major event with be a speech from Jagmeet Singh.


1:30PM Friday  – Library Tour. (Will include pictures later)

Library tour – very different philosophy to libraries from traditional.

Used to be large collection of books, rules about food or drink or talking.

this is a social space, designed to come together. Small concert space See teens playing video games. University students working in groups and teams. All social spaces.


Hold public engagement… rooms heavily used.

Construction in May/Opened in 2014 – Budgeted at $55M came in under budget. 130,000 square feet. City supplied land. $12M Fed fund, $11M, and the rest was municipal, mainly from land sale.  Delayed land sale until after library built so that could take advantage of high price because people wanted to build next door.

Costs $6M/yr to operate (80 staff). About 1-2% per year growth. About 80% funded by municipality.

Used “Construction Management Delivery Management” – Fixed Fee for Management company architects and builders collaborate during design as team.

$10M for “soft costs”. About $330/sqft for hard cost.  Don’t talk about capital costs because it puts you “into hole”.  Plan for 50 year with 25 year renovation (which should cost near same).  They used materials that would last 50-100 years.  Europe builds for 300 years.

Achieved $5-6M in donations from both large and small donors.

There also private commercial vendors on contract to City two coffees.

Extensive public consulation. Not as much input from Council. Public demanded music as it is part of culture of Nova Scotia… was not in original plans. Now have two recording studios.

High level of trust of Council to staff to ensure “we have a budget we will stay under… you let us manage it”.

Projected use: 300,000 in previous facility. 600,000 projections. 2M first year. 1.5M plateau.

You will see 15-25 year olds using the space. Benefit of community input.

Parking: (you can never make it work) 88 spots… revenue generator, but chose to build more library versus parking.

On homeless or addicted “problems”.  All peopl are welcome. The open space makes for safe feeling. There is no traditional security. Security officials walk around freely and make relationships with those in need. Engaging with them and has helped to keep security issues very rare. Also now hiring a social worker to provide support when needed.

Totally different philosophy…. open. welcoming, loud, creative, beautiful, inspiring. Books are almost secondary.

Opposition stems from “why do we need a big library. We dont need books anymore”.  They don’t realize the library space is completely different, when they engage and esp. when they see result, it is so much better.

Update 11:45AM Friday: Workshop : Tech & The Future of Public Engagement.

5G is coming from Rogers…. (workshop is sponsored by Rogers). Requires far more towers or end points. Points will be on light standards and other small places. Not towers.

Panelists (Mayor Arnold of Moncton and Bowman of Winnipeg and a city planner);

Talking mainly about things like water and sewer integration with city tech systems for better management. Also Mayor of Winnipeg talking about Waze like system where people can report things like potholes in real time in order to fix very quickly.

Also, WIFI on the bus, Mayor of Moncton says they have had wifi on the bus since 2007.

Bowman of Winnipeg has an “Office of Citizen Engagement”.

On Planning

How do you get people excited about planning??

”Visual Preference Survey” Have to really push the tools on Social Media to have any engagement work now.

On property tax

Bowman notes that Property Tax system needs to be reformed (removed). Era of large warehouse or industrial property subsidizing loval gov is over.

On Decision making.

Getting the Data out there and open and public. Harder to ignore and make poor decisions if open data and information is there for public.

More proactive watching and posting publicly of ongoing projects to show numbers and costs near real time. It avoids surprises and anger.

questions – What Role for Local Gov on Participatory engamgement

Live Stream *all* committee meetings.

But, if you put everything online, you must communicate it. Data is not enough. Has to be user friendly and digestible.

Find the balance between open and always engaging, and people being “elected to make decisions”. Bowman uses “Gecko Board”…. to measure and see facebook and social media trends. Social Media must be used to listen almost more than engage…..

You still need ads in the paper.

Join the FCM Innovation Network. 

Off now to Study Tour to the Central library hopefully!



Friday Morning Trudeau Speech live now.




Midnight Thursday – before I head to bed…

This is a heads up to inform you that I will attempt (technology permitting) to Facebook live video stream Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech on Friday morning on my Councillor Facebook Page.

The speech should begin at 9AM (5AM Pacific) so I will likely start just before then.  I will try to get into the room early in order to get a good vantage point.

I will also try to post a recording immediately afterward. Possibly also embedded on this website. The speech should be no more than 30 minutes.

I will also livestream the Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Sheer, at 3PM (11AM Pacific). And the leader of the NDP and Green Parties on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

See you tomorrow.

4:00PM Thursday – BC Networking event – Political Speakers announced!

This is an annual session for all delegates from the province of BC. There are sessions for each province, or region (like “Atlantic”).

200 meetings by BC FCM caucus with MPs, Senators, senior staff.

Political speakers:

Prime Minister tomorrow morning. Sheer Tomorrow Afternoon. Jagmeet Singh Saturday. Elizabeth May Sunday.

Also Smart Cities finalists will be announced Friday.

$243M for new Brownfield funding.

UBCM/FCM is working on a code of conduct guidelines for all BC elected officials. Expect more info from Elections BC before October elections.

3:30PM Thursday – First Day of Tours. Study Tour: how community partnerships are supporting dynamic rural centres.

The formal conference doesn’t start until Friday but the Study Tours started today at 11AM.  After a nice breakfast in the hotel with the Mayor I headed across on the fantastic ferry between Dartmouth and Halifax. It is part of the transit system like Seabus in Vancouver but has been in service in some form since 1752!  One of the oldest ferry services in the world.

We entered the conference centre to register and were greeted with a little bit of mayhem.

Here it is last night.

The conference centre was packed, this was just the one line to sign up for study tours.  I ended up having to head up to the buses to just try to get in as an extra.


Thankfully my extensive bus experience paid off when the organizers called for people who were OK with standing on a City bus.. yup! That’s me. 🙂

So off we went to a small community outside of Halifax called Musquodobolt Harbour to see their newly renovated small community centre, library and fitness centre.

They are a community of about 6000.  (This is all within the Regional Halifax Municipality which is the size of PEI!)

They took what was a pretty run down little strip mall style building (unfortunately I don’t have a before picture below is today) that looked kind of like the Gertrude Street shopping plaza with RHM.

and turned it into a very well put together modern and multi-purpose community space.

I see the potential here for us to renew buildings like Gyro or even Echo Centre or Glenwood or some of our commercial spaces.

Here is a shot of their multi-purpose rooms, the floor is a rubbery material to make it suitable for yoga classes.

We then went to a former school building that was converted in 2007 to a community space.  They actually talked more about a really interesting small regional transit service that uses small cars and vans to transport mainly seniors from the rural areas into Halifax city.  This could be a model for us perhaps to bring people to and from Port Alberni, Parksville, Qualicum and Nanaimo for health appointments or other things.

It is part of their transit system and costs about $80-$150,000 a year to operate all the vehicles and pay the drivers. The drivers are “not well payed” they said but they love their jobs because of the connections they make with community members. They are currently serving about 500-600 riders a month and are growing rapidly.

Finally, we heard from an Economic Development manager about the “Wild Islands Archipelago” of 700 islands along the Atlantic shore of the huge municipality.  They just talked about the tourism opportunities from these islands which apparently had never actually been properly explored and documented since contact.

We got a bit of a bonus with a tour of a nice new community garden. $20 a year for each box… they mulch to limit watering to almost zero though they have barrels for water.

That was it for the tour and we are going to find some late lunch before a reception this evening.  Main events start tomorrow including finding out who are finalists in the Smart Cities Challenge!

12:45PM Wednesday- Over Northern Ontario – the full program.

I have wifi on the plane but it died half way through this update… add that to the power situation and it was nearing the apocalypse on here. Thankfully, wifi returned.

We just flew over James Bay!


I did manage to download all of the FCM annual general meeting content and read that. You can see that stuff here. 

More interesting though is  the full program.

I put a bunch of stuff in my calendar a week or two ago but it looks like many of the names of the workshops have changed so below is what I am going to try to get to with links.

On Thursday I will try to get to the community partnerships supporting dynamic rural centres study tour.

There are two tours so hopefully I get in one. If I don’t get to one, I may do the Blanket Exercise, which is always powerful and would be very interesting with such a diverse group from across the country.

The study tours filled so fast that I actually only got registered into one (urban trees at work) on Saturday.  So I will just show up at the tours I am hoping for and hope for the best!

On Friday the conference really gets going with keynotes and federal politicians speaking.  I will go for the Tech workshop on engaging the public.

I will see what study tours are available. The Library (let them build it) looks cool. May also try for the urban forest even though I am signed up for saturday. We will see.

In the afternoon I will try for the workshop on “road maintenance best practice”.

On Saturday morning  I will be at the local action on national climate policy.

In the afternoon I will try if I don’t get to my urban tree study tour I will go to the Youth Forum.

On Sunday there is just one (probably giant!) workshop on cannabis legislation. I will be there.

There are only repeat study tours in the afternoon so I may take the afternoon on Sunday to explore Halifax before the big dinner.  We shall see.

That is the update from somewhere over Ontario!

Next update may not be until tonight or tomorrow. I will be landing around dinner time. I have dinner planned with colleagues from other commuities and then back to my hotel room to listen to my daughter in their ADSS band concert!

thanks for reading.

10:10AM – Somewhere over the Alberta – Saskatchewan border…

It was a 3AM wakeup call that came at 2AM since I couldn’t sleep but the transportation so far has been all on schedule.  We (Mike, Bonnie and I) departed Nanaimo at 6AM.  We arrived on time in Calgary and made the very quick connection right onto the plane to Halifax.  We have now settled in to the 4hr 50min flight, dodging thunderstorms over the prairies, and I am going to take the time to read the FCM packages.

As you would expect, the flight is full, mostly of politicians! I have heard mention of Salmon Arm and Red Deer and seen regional directors from the Nanajmo district.  Maybe the extra hot air will carry the plane along a little faster!

Be back in a little bit….

9:30PM Tuesday:

Stay tuned to this space for updates from Wednesday to Monday as I will be attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference.

The Mayor (and his wife Bonnie) and I will be on a flight at 6AM tomorrow morning from Nanaimo, hopefully arriving in Halifax by 5:30PM Wednesday evening (their time).

I’m packed and ready to go and off to bed. 3AM wakeup call comes fast.

Looking forward to a week of learning, networking with 2000 other delegates from across the country, and national policy discussions with federal government.

All the programming info is here.

And here is my preliminary schedule.  I am not sure what study tours I will be on as they were very full so I will be trying to register while I am there.

I will blog more about it from the plane.



AVICC 2018 – Conference Live Blog Friday to Sunday

FINAL UPDATES.  Post is from Friday to Sunday, Top to Bottom.

Another year another AVICC conference!

This one is shaping up to be very busy again.  I will semi-live blog it throughout the weekend.  Which means posting updates here throughout the next three days.

Just yesterday given development in the news I asked that we bring forward a late motion to the floor on Sunday morning titled:



Here is the full text that we will be handing out:

Check out the poll on the side of this page to register your opinion on this question!

Aside from that, there is the usual wide array of conference sessions and materials to consider.  Things are already getting underway this morning but I am at VIU until at least 1PM this afternoon before I’ll be driving down with Councillor Minions.  I believe Councillor Sauvé and Washington are already there, Councillor Paulson is coming today and Mayor Ruttan is attending Saturday/Sunday.

Here is the Convention Program, we hope to be there by 4PM for Premier Horgan’s address this afternoon at 4PM.

You can see all of the materials from the conference including the resolutions being considered here. 

I haven’t gone through them all yet. Will have to do that later this evening. The next update will likely come Saturday morning as we start into sessions and the business of the Convention.  See you soon!  Also watch out for live video feeds. Depending on WIFI performance and battery life on my phone. 🙂

Lots has happened since I arrived here around 2PM on Friday.

Councillor Minions and I carpooled down Friday afternoon. We arrived in time to catch some of the afternoon sessions as well as the address by the Premier.

As we arrived, the Keynote from Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City was just wrapping up. From the wikipage:

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design is a 2013 book written by the Canadian author Charles Montgomery. Gathering insights from the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, urban planning and Montgomery’s own social experiments, the book makes the case that the manner in which we build our cities alters the way in which we feel, think, and behave as individuals and as a society. Montgomery argues that the happy city, the green city, and the low-carbon city are the same place, and we can all help build it.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7

There were great questions from the floor, this is something that needs to be on our collective reading lists.

Next was Premier Horgan’s adress. I live streamed it on Facebook, you can view it here, no login required.

Housing Session 4:45PM — This session was an update from BC Housing

$7B over 10 years in 2018 budget is the most in one province ever. Federal bilateral agreement coming soon. The stars are aligned.  Must create housing that matches need on the ground. In past has not matched.

This is one of the biggest issues in our province and country and the revenues are now being directed for a huge push.

To Zone for Rental. Property tax exemptions. –  Revitalization tax bylaw required first. The housing continuum… far left gets most press. Also working on far right important for fental and home ownership.

Need to get in on Housing Hub for Port Alberni. BC Housing is hiring additional staff for the staff to meet need. Tiny homes are not a panacea… they take a lot of land. 

BC Housing can’t mortgage them when they come in on wheels. Working on a Homeless Action Plan – from a prevention program perspective. Housing Agreements :  Peer to Peer program will be created to help Local Government work with tools like housing agreements.

7AM Saturday Morning – Social Procurement

Town of QB Social Procurement Policy 6000-3. Using the polivy to re work their Memorial Drive with a pedestrian and cycling separate path and realign dangerous intersection.

Social procurement is something we are working hard on in Port Alberni.  The Canadian Mental Health Association has had a farm on Beaver Creek Road (across from COOP) that has adhered to these principles. They are a great example.

The really interesting part about the AVICC presentation was the notion that it is about more than just helping the disadvantaged in any particular town and building that into every city project. It is about all sorts of different “social” values that the community can set that would ensure that no matter what project is ongoing at the City, the outcome reflects the community more deeply than just paving a street.

More notes from the presentation:
VICA is training, 6 weeks class 3 weeks on site.  100% of contractors said they would use potential individual if trained and available.

Social value is about more than just employing people. It is about what the community values, indigenous, environment, people.
POSSIBLE MOTION Bring membership in social hub forward to council?

Resolutions Saturday!

The rest of Saturday morning was taken up by the actual business of the conference which is mostly considering and debating motions.  It was actually quite an active session (You can see all the motions at the links at the top of the page).  The most contentious one that got the most debate was whether we should ask the BC Government to put Local Government councillors, mayors and directors back on a 3 year rotation rather than 4 years between election.

After lots of good points on both sides… most of which I agreed with on both sides, we had a close vote to keep it at 4 years. The argument for 3 years boiled down mostly to ensuring people were not scared off by the longer commitment and to give more opportunity for voters to have a say.  The argument for 4 years was that there was a much better chance to get things accomplished, particularly for new people (like myself) and it provided more ability for the community to see what a council actually could achieve before “silly season” of an election year hit.

I personally lean toward the 4 years for both of those reasons. Also this is only the first term that we have had 4 years between local elections. I think it is worth giving it another term or two before we go back to the Province and say it was a mistake to try this out.


Later on Saturday we got an update from the outgoing ICF CEO.  There was not a lot of new information, but it is good to hear the entire report from the source. There was no lack of interest. The small room it was confined to was packed.

Sunday Early Morning!

Sundays are always difficult after a long evening of networking the night before! But we hunkered down at 8AM to get back into it.  We heard from Minister Selena Robinson who is “our Minister” for Local Government. She is Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing]. Apologies, no video feed as my phone was acting badly.

She spoke of the need to address the housing crisis among other things. I was also very impressed to hear her mention climate change in our remarks and the fact that the impacts of climate change will affect local community infrastructure the most. That is where we will need to focus a huge amount of senior government dollars in order to adapt to the changes that are already here and coming soon.  I like to think that the little bit of pushing we at the City of Port Alberni did at the UBCM last September to highlight the impacts of recent flooding that has occurred more frequently, likely due in part to climate change, maybe played a role in her making that mention.

After all the talking was finished, we finally got back to the Resolutions. There was a lot of concern we would not have time to get to the one that the City of Port Alberni wanted to bring forward about Oil Spill Response but lo- and- behold we got there with just 20 minutes left in the morning!

A huge thanks to Councillors Sauvé and Minions for helping distribute the papers on all the tables on both days and also to Councillor Kirby from Oak Bay who was very active and helped both distribute and talk to people abut the importance of the motion.


The great thing about these conferences is the people you meet and learn from and the friendships you build.  This was a great example of one of those friendships helping to pass an important resolution for our community.  I hope the AVICC writes that letter soon and we see some movement from the Governments of BC and Canada to guarantee those oil spill response bases on our coast.

And that… with about 5 minutes to spare… was it!!


Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit report – 2017 – Updating Wed/Thurs

I am here for the VIEA Summit 2017 on behalf of Council.  I’ll be doing a report like I have done for UBCM.  It is just a two day conference with just three or four sessions that I’ll be able to attend but I have always found it to be very valuable.  Below is my schedule:

It is now 3:30PM and I’ve already had a number of great conversations with folks, from a solar installer in Nanaimo, to Sheila Malcolmsen NDP MP for Nanaimo about derelict vessels and a rep from the Coastal Community Credit Union about community funding of local agriculture!

First session I attended was on Trade and Transportation.

Here are my notes:

Keynote – Dan Tisch

Mr. Tisch spoke about the fake news phenomenon and how to manage communications with customers and clients and constituents in that new world.

He emphasized the need to create trust and how the (social) values of an organization has become extremely important to their overall reputation and success.

Openness, willingness to listen, and willingness to take and maintain principled stands will lead to success for the organization as a whole.  This is definitely something that applies to Cities as well.

VIEA Trade and Transportation Session

Short Sea Shipping –

Peter Amott – Pacific Basin

They moved log shipping (export) from Fraser port to Nanaimo because of shipping costs, delays, etc at Lower Mainland. Realized major volume increase in Nanaimo, 60 jobs.

Tabare Dominquez – DP World – Major Container Shipping (10% of world shipping). Only lift on/off (no dreyage, no trucking) on Vancouver Island for import/export to Asia.

Adam Cook – CN Rail

“Truck like service at the cost of rail” Partners with Southern Rail of VI at Annacis Island to Welcox Seaspan – BC Ferries – DP World – Steamship Lines

Alison Boulton Small Business BC – Export Navigator Pilot (also in Port Alberni through Community Futures). Facilitates communication with exporters. Export Advisor in each community…


To DP World —

Infrastructure is a significant constraint. It is fragmented.  It would be good to concentrate volume. We are ready to invest if there is more volume.

Q: Nanaimo/Alberni or Prince Rupert is place for expansion if Vancouver is maxed?
A: vancouver capacity is tight. Rupert and Island do not compete.  He sees opportunity for direct calls to the Island.


Renewable Energy Session


Solar energy installation in the world is currently at “one Site C per month”. In 10 years, world will install 1 Terawatt per year. In US, grid parity has been achieved (solar is as cheap as coal or gas) in 27 states.

Price for utility solar is now $1 per watt. Residential in US is about $2 per watt (installed). Resource on Vancouver Island is good in SE, plus Port Alberni and Comox Valley.  Maps available here.

Gave an example of Sooke first Nation for net metering (which is similar in payback to WCGH installation)

The cost needs to be below 11c/kWH to beat BC Hydro and achieve a payback.  The grah below shows the potential.  2 axis refers to the solar panels being able to track the sun horizontally and vertically.  Most installs, like WCGH are fixed (blue dots).

Nanaimo, Tofino and Comox are listed and are indicated to be just above the threshold. Port Alberni should be as well.

Renewable Natural Gas – Fortis BC

“Carbon Neutral option”. “Biogas” is injected into the conventional natural gas stream.

Take gas from landfills, farms. 200,000 GJ of NG in 2017. City of Surrey is doing a biofuel plant in 2018 that will take organics.  Will provide 120,000GJ. City of Surrey uses CNG for their garbage trucks, will potentially use RNG for their trucks will reduce their carbon footprint.

Percentage RNG – is currently 0.25% of installed capacity of traditional gas. Fortis can move up 5% or 9 petajoules per year to RNG. (How likely is this??)

VIU Allan Cumbers -Geo Exchange utilizing old Mine shafts

Water is 12°C year round.  Will be used for multiple buildings on a 3 loop system for both heating and cooling. Health and Sciences centre (being built now) will be first building.  Then Gathering Place and Building 205. Then HSC 2.  If pilot project is successful should be able to expand district system to all buildings where it makes sense to retrofit for geo-exchange.

Expect to save 320 tonnes of CO2 on first building on Phase 1, payback is 18 years.

We will be hearing from the Premier at dinner tonight. He is addressing us by video link from Victoria (due to needing to be in the Legislature for votes in the house).  Will report back tonight or tomorrow.

Thursday morning.

We started with a breakfast and keynote focusing on Earthquake preparedness and risk management and then that continued into the first session of the morning.  Here are notes from that:

  • At LA International Airport they focused on what was needed to operate. Only two things… runways and communications not buildings.  So they focused on hardening those.
  • Nothing in BC is designed to survive mega earthquake

  • Japan earthquake. Nuke damage was done by tsunami, not earthquake. The company built a 7m wall when data said it should have been 15m. Has cost Japan $1 Trillion.
  • Another nuke plant, Onagawa… undamaged. Had a 15m wall. The ground dropped in earthquake (much closer to epicnter) by 1m. Tsunami was 13.5m.  Largely undamaged and safe.

  • The risk in Vancouver Island is very high.. as high as any japan, mexico, just less frequent. Studies are often too academic.  Frequency is almost irrelevant. Focus on simple study of elevation and practical steps to harden buildings. For houses… keep them on their foundations. Bolt them down.

BC Code should be closer to Chile and California, we need to compare Canada and other codes to learn from their experience.

  • Municipalities – do a strategic risk – find the most critical pieces.
  • The building code is not always the end all be all… building code is for life saving, not business interruption. Low bidders may be life saving minimum code only… higher cost, possible business interruption which is key.

For mitigating Tsunami. Really can only build a wall (backfilled with parkland) direct the water away from downtown…. or long term plan to move people/business out of flood zone.

Film and TV Session

BC is the 3rd largest film production in North America, biggest in Canada. #1 for visual effects in the world

$2.6 Billion in production this year. $1 Billion in wages. $23 Million in wages on the Island. 50 productions on the Island, 250 filming days. Chesapeake Shores spent $5M alone. Streaming services (Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Google) will add $25 Billion to global production business.

32,000sqft of stage space in Parksville. 3-4 Million sqft of stage space in BC.  Why B.C.? -> locations. Every possible type. Episodic TV is now main source of revenue in BC.

There is no Commercial space in lower mainland. 1% vacancy. Film Commissions cannot charge fees… so are left to ask for community grants to help fund their activities.

For Film Studio space you need high ceilings,  30-40ft. Clear span no pillars. Purpose built is usually best though small productions can use smaller spaces, but are unlikely to commit long term.

Parksville is going out on a limb. Because it is a location spot, not studio.  There are numerous people on the Island and the training is key.  Need more infrastructure in terms of rentals for video and lighting and audio.  Usually if a space is built, and a long term contract found, then the rental infrastructure companies come.

Tofino was great to shoot but no hotels… so used Best Western in Port Alberni for shoots for a commercial.  Major production facilities requires 5 star hotel for the actors. So only Victoria and Vancouver currently. However, small scale commercials or TV could use production space on an interim basis.

X-Men spent $40,000 just on ferries.

Biggest takeaway is for communities to always be welcoming, not to lie or gloss over locations, and to roll with the punches.  TV Industry is extremely fast paced, last minute, and unconventional.  They respond to places that can meet their idiosyncrasies with a smile.

That’s it! It was a very quick, but very good conference.  Lots of things to take away and learn from. I’ve already sent a number of emails to a bunch of people following up about it.


My (oh my!) Mini Split Heat Pump Savings! They could be yours? :)

I just received confirmation that BC Hydro has received (by email) my application for their $800 Rebate for mini-split heat pump installs. Woot! Hopefully the cheque comes back soon. 🙂
(note the rebate is only available for mini-split not traditional heat pumps)
I could only apply for the Hydro rebate (there are a bunch!) because I got rid of my oil furnace 10 years ago when we moved into our home, but if you upgrade from an oil furnace you can apply for an extra $500 rebate from the City of Port Alberni!
The total cost was $8099.75 for the heat pump plus $163.67 for the electrical work so $8263.42 total.
It is a Fujitsu variable speed heat pump with one outdoor unit (pictured) and two indoor units.  AHRI Number 6998277.  Here is the system’s AHRI certificate.
I am super happy with the installation and the comfort level of the system compared to our electric baseboards. (or… way back when… the noisy, smelly, expensive and inefficient oil furnace!) We keep the house at a steady 20C.
The two indoor units, one larger one on the main floor and a smaller one in the basement have no trouble keeping the house (2500sqft, built 1940, EnerGuide rating 64+) warm. And both they and the outside unit are basically silent from inside the house!

We are also in the middle of replacing a roof/ceiling in our 2nd floor bathroom which means there is no insulation up there so lots of extra heat loss temporarily. (It’s chilly in there at night!).  Once that is insulated again I expect our savings to increase.

We turn the breakers off on our baseboard heaters through the summer and most of them have remained off except our two upstairs bedrooms, but those are turned down to 18C and haven’t come on yet, even with the bathroom work. 

By The Numbers

I ran some numbers comparing this time period (Oct 6-22) in 2015 and in 2016 and comparing, thanks to BC Hydro tracking average temperatures, with days of similar temperature.

I grouped days by their temperature and by year and then got an average temperature and KWh usage for that temperature for each year.

2016 is the comparable year: Average consumption since installing the system Oct 6 has been about 62% of last year: a range of between 48% and 74% of last year in kilowatt hours per day.
I used groups of temperature days at 8C, 9C, 10C, 11.5C, 12C and 12.5C… a total of about 26 days of comparison between the two years.  So differences in daily weather patterns are minimized.
If I am super conservative and take the low end savings, I get 25% off of last year’s power usage, that would be a saving on my November 2016 bill of 636kWh… all on the top tier of 12.43c/kWh which would have amounted to a savings of $79.08 on my November 2016 bill.  
If I go on the top end of the savings calculated I go as high as a 50% reduction in power usage, that would get me to 1272.5kWh less usage compared to last November’s bill which is within Tier 1. I would have saved $154.79 on that bill.

Last year was, by far, our most expensive and consumption rich year ever since moving into the house.  A combination of a very cold winter, and a family that is growing up and using more heat (kids having showers!) and finishing the basement, etc etc.

We use electricity exclusively for our energy/heating needs.  We paid a total BC Hydro bill last year between May 2016 and May 2017 of $2724.32.

A 25% savings on that would be:


A 50% savings on that would be:


per year.

Subtracting the $800 rebate, the cost of the Heat Pump would be paid for in 5 to 11 years.
I suspect that the savings will be somewhere in the middle of that range on a percentage basis, but it is of course difficult, if not impossible, to predict the monetary savings given annual weather and hydro rate variables.  It does seem certain that hydro rates will rise, and so with them, savings. A 5-10 year payoff seems quite likely and I’m OK with that. 🙂

(Updated Dec 21) CanTimber Golder report raises serious concerns that must be addressed before restarting

(Updated Dec 21)

Subsequent the City of Port Alberni has released a statement on the report.  Here is the City of Port Alberni’s statement.

Earlier this week, the Port Alberni Port Authority publically released the evaluation of operations and emissions at the Cantimber Biotech facility. The evaluation was conducted by Golder Associates, an independent consulting firm with expertise in emission measurement and controls and air quality permitting.

The report provides a thorough review of Cantimber’s operation with key findings and recommendations regarding the facility operation, emissions testing, air quality, and other regulatory considerations.

While the report outlines Cantimber’s general compliance with many of the provincial limits for emissions, there are air quality concerns identified that the City feels must be addressed before operations resume.

The City of Port Alberni’s paramount concern is for the health and welfare of the community. As such, the City is committed to working with the Port Alberni Port Authority, Golder Associates, Cantimber, the provincial health and environmental authorities, Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations, and the many regional partners to ensure the facility’s operation is safe and environmentally responsible.  The City’s support of Cantimber operating in the community is contingent upon their being consistent with the high environmental standards that were committed to at the developmental stage of this venture.

Cantimber has expressed a strong commitment to fulfil the operational and emissions improvements identified in the report. The City remains confident in the opportunities to establish and grow an eco-industrial forest products cluster within the Alberni Valley as an economically and environmentally responsible component of our existing forest-based economy.

As the regulatory authority, the Port Alberni Port Authority(link is external) will be providing further information regarding the operational status and progress of Cantimber in addressing the report’s recommendations.

I in general agree with the City’s statement and their direction on this particularly the expectation that CanTimber operate ‘contingent upon their being consistent with the high environmental standards that were committed to’.

However, one thing the statement does not address is the water treatment and disposal issues that were identified in the report.  As such, I have sent the following letter to City Staff and Council on the topic:

I think the statement is good however, I am concerned by the details in the report of disposal of the scrubbed water. What is in the water (which wasn’t part of Golder mandate)? How is it being transported (plastic containers? Then?), and where is it being disposed of?  I am concerned by the potential noted in the report of that solution overflowing during strong rain events. What happens in that event? What are the consequences and actions? And finally, I am concerned about the cooling water, even though it should be “clean”, simply being sent down the drain.  These all strike me as both City (sewer or waste disposal through acrd) and DFO items.
I would like to please request that these issues be brought up with DFO to see if they have any concerns and some more detail provided by Cantimber or Golder on disposal, etc.
Without these all being addressed fully it will be very hard to convince an already skeptical public.
Thanks for your continued attention to this issue.

I hope the City will take this water issue seriously and bring DFO to the table.  There was never any indication from the original reports that there would be any potential harm to the Harbour from the operation but I believe the water scrubber material and the hot water discharge put that at risk.  Unfortunately the whole “no emissions” idea just hasn’t held up.

It should also be said that there were positives in the report, and it was not my intent to ignore those.  The particulate and other air emissions were good and well within limits.  It is the NO2, Carbon Monoxide, and the potential for PAHs that were a surprise and I am hopeful that CanTimber takes those concerns seriously and addresses all 21 of the recommendations fully before restarting operations.

Original Post

I have read the report on the emissions testing from engineers at Golder Associates.  These are my personal views on the report.  You can download the report here in PDF.  It is very good. I give credit to PAPA for bringing in Golder. They have produced a comprehensive and objective report.

The Bottomline

I was very hopeful for this facility and believed it could be a new way forward for our industry, but what I have read leads me to believe that at the very least this facility may not be viable in its current location, and at worst it may not be viable at all.  They have much work to do before I would be comfortable with them restarting operations.

This report raises serious concerns on both the air and water emissions. Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and PAHs were all identified as areas of concern and the water emissions from the scrubbers and cooling equipment are also issues.  The report indicates emissions modelling, ie. what we expected from the stacks and how it would behave, done for the 2015 Levalton report was “not considered to be representative of the facility”.  Carbon Monoxide levels were two hundred and fifty times higher than the licensed limits which is of similar magnitude as an operation the size of Catalyst Paper.

I believe these issues will need input from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (who has not been involved to this point) and the Provincial Ministry of Environment.  Had this report been provided in place of the Levalton report I personally would not have supported this operation.

It is very far from “emissions free”.

There are major actions that need to be taken by CanTimber in order to ensure this facility is safe and can be properly monitored for their workers, for the neighbourhood, and for the air and marine environment.  Currently, I can’t realistically support it being operated at its waterfront Harbour location.

The Concerns and Recommendations

First, there are 21 recommendations in total.  There are 11 recommendations (shaded in grey) that “should be completed prior to the facilities resumed operation”.

Some are relatively simple like installing permanent monitoring and alarm systems for temperatures and air quality.  Others are much more involved like upgrading the water disposal system to be a contained system that is regularly and safely emptied.

I will go through each of the 11 immediate concerns in order of what I think is most important, though they really should be all taken together and the final recommendation #21 speaks directly to that point.

RECOMMENDATION #10, 11 and 13

….updated modelling should consider emissions of PM2.5, NO2, CO and individual VOCs including Acrolein, Acrylonitrile, Benzene and Napthalene.

…GIven the magnitude of the CO emissions, the modelling assessment should be undertaken to confirm that the level of emissions result in acceptable ambient concentrations of CO prior to the facility re-commencing operations.

Monitoring for CO at the facility and associated procedures should be developed to reduce the risk of worker exposure to CO….

These are the most serious deficiencies, and recommendations, of all of them and it has to do with the emissions from the stacks.

Table 1 provides a summary of the stack test results. A comparison is provided against the emission rates used as the basis of the dispersion modelling assessment undertaken by Levelton (Levelton 2015).

The numbers on the left hand most column are what we expected based on the modelling reports the City and PAPA were provided prior to Cantimber starting up.  CanTimber then agreed to adhere to those numbers (4.15 for Nitrogen Dioxide and 2.08 for Carbon Monoxide).

The Golder engineers bolded the areas of concern in the table.  Most of the emissions are well within limits but there are two, the Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and the Carbon Monoxide (CO) that are beyond the limits.  Nitrogen Dioxide is estimated to be double the agreed emissions and Carbon Monoxide more than 250x the agreed standard.

That level of emissions puts the small Cantimber Facility at the same general level as Catalyst Paper. Which Golder illustrates fully in the table below:

That amount of Carbon Monoxide emissions from such a small facility is shocking.

This is also concerning:

Measured stack temperatures are significantly lower than those used as the basis of the dispersion modelling (Levelton 2015). The lower temperatures will result in less thermal buoyancy, and therefore poorer dispersion of stack emissions.

Measured volumetric flow rates, and consequently stack gas velocities are lower than those used as the basis for the dispersion modelling (Levelton 2015).

You can see the flow rates and velocity in the first table above.  The numbers on the far left column should be lower than the numbers on the far right.  Unfortunately, they are not.

These factors together mean that all of that Carbon Monoxide is being emitted into the air and it is not dispersing very well.  Golder identified it as a potential safety hazard for workers onsite.  I would also be worried that it may be a hazard for neighbours including residents and WFP workers as this is a significant new source of Carbon Monoxide in the area.

I personally would never have given my support to a project with those levels of emissions in that location.


Naphthalene, a polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) was detected within both the carbonization and activation stacks. This was the only PAH compound currently included in the stack test. Based on the presence of naphthalene, stack testing of speciated PAH’s is recommended in the future.

These are potentially harmful emissions.  PAHs are nasty compounds.  These were also not considered a concern based on the previous reports so Golder has recommended that new assessments be done with those in mind.

It is recommended that the modelling assessment is updated for PM2.5, NO2, and CO, and additionally the modelling is used to assess the off-site concentrations of individual VOCs detected, including Acrolein, Acrylonitrile, Benzene and Napthalene.

Again, I would not have been as supportive of a project that produced these toxic chemicals and the fact the previous reports had no mention of even the possibility of some of these compounds is very disturbing.


“The scrubber water disposal system should be upgraded to a contained system prior to the facilities resumed operation. “


“There should be a mechanism/procedure in place to replace the scrubber water as required to maintain efficiency of the particulate removal from exhaust gases.”

This scrubber water, which is in an open-to-the air vessel where the water is collected and evaporates will contain potentially harmful emissions (tars, acids, PAHs etc) from the stack gases.  In a heavy rain event, this vessel could conceivably overflow.  It is imperative that this water be removed in an efficient and safe way.

“The containment may not be adequate, particularly during periods of significant rainfall. During the evaporation, any water soluble organic compounds collected by the scrubbers have the potential to be re-emitted to the atmosphere.

During the site visit, an upgrade to the scrubber water system was discussed which includes capturing scrubber sump discharges within plastic containers, and subsequent removal off site for disposal. It is Golder’s understanding that these upgrades are currently in process and will be in place prior to the re-start of operations. “

I am not convinced that removing the water scrubber discharge in ‘plastic containers’ is very efficient or reliable.

This is also potentially a fishery concern if there is a chance that the system could overflow during heavy rainfall events.

Speaking of fisheries, Recommendation #8:

Cooling water should be adequately cooled prior to discharge to surface drains.

This is *not* a recommendation that is suggested to be complete before restart.  However, here is what is stated from the report during the testing:

“Cooling water discharges were identified during the facility operation. The cooling water is non-contact water that is not in direct contact with the process gases.”

The temperature of the water discharge from the carbonization process “was estimated to be 50-70 °C” and  “was discharged to a surface water drain.”  The temperature from the water discharge from the activation process “was estimated to be 30-40 °C” and “was discharged to a surface water drain (Photograph 1). “

This should be simply city water that is being brought into the facility for cooling purposes only and not have anything added to it so it should be safe, but Golder was not asked to test this water and to my knowledge the Department of Fisheries was not contacted to ensure any discharges into the Marine environment is safe.

In my opinion, DFO should be brought into this process to sign off on the impact to the Harbour from both a potential spill of the water scrubber effluent and from this hot water discharge.  We should also hear from the Provincial Ministry of Environment on what is in the scrubber discharge and where it is being taken.  This would be standard for any industrial operation like Catalyst or Western Forest Products.  The City of Port Alberni may also have a responsibility to provide a sewer hookup for the facility.

Recommendation #2 and #3:

“A low temperature audible alarm is installed on both combustion chambers.”


“A datalogger is installed to record temperatures within both high temperature combustion chambers.”

The report states:

“To keep the combustion chambers temperature above 875 °C charcoal was added manually, approximately twice an hour. The timing of the charcoal addition was entirely dependent on the chamber temperature, and was therefore not added on a regular time basis (e.g., every 30 minutes). The temperature in the chamber relied on the operator visually monitoring the temperature read out, and acting to add more charcoal when the temperature decreased close to 875 °C.”

This strikes me as a surprisingly ‘hands on’ and inefficient approach.  A high operating temperature is critical to ensuring emissions are kept to a minimum. This labour intensive approach makes that much more difficult.  Golder recognized this as well as their Recommendation #1 : “The fuel source for the combustion chambers is changed to natural gas, and is automated.” speaks directly to that.  I am a little surprised that Golder did not recommend that that change over to natural gas be done before the system is restarted because this is also a concern that was raised before both by the Air Quality Council (by the Provincial Ministry of Environment) and by the general public.

There are also Worksafe BC concerns around emissions from leaks that were detected from the carbonization equipment itself and to protect the workers in that immediate vicinity.

“During the monitoring a leak was detected near the fire door of eastern furnace #4, which was traced to the nearby syngas valve. Concentrations at the leak location were detected up to 40 ppm. A temporary seal was made to the leak at the time it was detected. Concentrations at the other syngas valves ranged from 200 ppb to 15 ppm.”

Recommendations 4 and 5 address those concerns as there were leaks detected in the equipment during the testing.  They recommend regular testing be done while it is in operation to identify any leaks so they can be resolved immediately and workers are not exposed to harmful emissions and are aware of exposure limits.

Recommendation #9

A meteorological station with a datalogger and web portal access to the data is installed in the proximity of the facility.

The specification and location of the meteorological station should be approved by a suitably qualified person.

There is a serious problem with the assumptions made because the weather at the facility is not the same at the nearest reliable weather station on Alberni Elementary (run by the BC Ministry of Environment)

Given the significant difference in wind pattern between the Cantimber and elementary school station locations, the meteorological data from the elementary school location is not considered to be representative of the wind pattern at the Cantimber facility. Therefore it is recommended that a meteorological station is installed in the vicinity of the facility. This will provide information to use in the investigation of complaints and interpretation of ambient monitoring data. The specification and location of the meteorological station should be approved by a suitably qualified person.

This means that because the modelling done for dispersion of air pollutants for the 2015 report relied on the Alberni Elementary station, it would not match the real world because the wind is so different along the Harbour.  (As anyone in Port Alberni would know).

So I (and the City) made a decision to support the facility based on potentially incorrect data.

This would be an excellent argument for Environment Canada to re-install a meteorological station on the Somass River which should be much more representative of the Harbour, and of the City in general.


Inclusion of a condition in the permit to avoid saltwater contact with the wood chip feedstock.

Golder said:

The permit should include restrictions around the source of wood chips to ensure they are not in contact with saltwater, as this could potentially result in air emissions of dioxins and furans.

This was a surprising finding as I was always under the impression that none of the wood used in the facility was going to come from saltwater booms and so there was no worry about the wood being impregnated with salt which is well known to cause harmful emissions when it is burned, especially at low temperatures.  I do wonder if the simple proximity of the wood to the Harbour may be enough to have them absorb some saltwater from mist and spray in the area.


The current license requirements for quarterly stack sampling should be updated based on the results of the recommended updated dispersion model assessment. As a minimum, quarterly stack testing for PM2.5, NO2 and CO is recommend during the first year of operation.

This means that Golder believes CanTimber needs to have its license requirements updated *after* more modelling based on an updated dispersion model.  This would depend on all of the previous monitoring related recommendations being followed through on first.

Golder recommends that this all be done *before* CanTimber is allowed to resume operations.


I don’t know if all of these recommendations amount to a show stopper for CanTimber but one thing is for sure, I cannot support CanTimber restarting its operations until they have at least complied with the 11 recommendations from Golder.  And preferably they should have to comply with all  of them.

Realistically, they may not be able to comply with these recommendations and deal with the implications and still be sited on the Harbour Waterfront.

I do not believe at this time that this facility should be operating on the City of Port Alberni waterfront.