Category Archives: British Columbia

People Want BC Corporations to Pay More Tax

…or do they?

Every year the BC government consults with citizens on what should go into their budget.

Last year over 25% of the online survey respondents said new revenue should come from increased corporate taxes, triple the rate of people who thought personal income taxes should go up.

But there are problems with that; see below:

Programs and services are largely funded by tax revenues, and government works to balance where the money comes from. How would you generate one new dollar of tax revenue from among the sources below?

– from Report on the 2014 Budget Consultations

Problems:

  1. There are 4.6 million British Columbians.
  2. Only 262 people filled out the online survey. That’s a bad response rate of only 1/17,557 people.
  3. The government does a poor job actually soliciting people to fill out their online survey of fiscal preferences.
  4. The government doesn’t really care what we think.
  5. So do you think the 2014 budget had massive/any corporate tax increases? The regressive MSP increased. Again. The general corporate tax rate remained unchanged at 11%

Solutions:

  1. Get thousands more people to fill out the online budget survey, somehow?
  2. Publicize the survey widely so people know it’s there, and have people login with their SIN to fill out the survey, making it like a referendum, which would increase people’s expectation of follow-through of their ideas?
  3. Try to convince people that the government actually cares about what we think to the point that more than 262 bother to share their opinions?

Today is the deadline for submissions for the 2015 budget, though in the past they often extended the deadline. Did YOU even hear about it and the survey you could fill out? Will more than 262 fill it out this year? Will the government care about its civil society consultation, or are they far too cynical to actually care?

Apathy and ignorance favour totalitarianism. But when the government cultivates apathy and ignorance and cynicism, they manufacture a state of governance without oversight, a hallmark of the rising totalitarianism.

Clean Energy is Actually the $Trillion Sector, Not LNG

According to Analytica Advisors, the global demand for clean energy technology was estimated at $1.1 trillion in 2012 and projected to grow to $2.5 trillion by 2022. It also estimates that the cleantech industry in Canada grew nine per cent in 2012. In the same period, the mining, oil and gas sectors grew by only 0.3 per cent.

In B.C., Globe Advisors found the cleantech industry was responsible for 123,000 jobs and $15 billion in GDP in 2012. In Vancouver, green jobs increased by almost 20 per cent between 2010 and 2013, with a 50 per cent increase in jobs in the green buildings sector. Now imagine what these statistics would look like if the province put even one-half of the horsepower it has dedicated to LNG into developing the clean economy.

Two weeks ago, the World Bank put out a release in which 73 countries — representing 52 per cent of global GDP — and 1000 companies called for a global price on carbon. In the same week, the Rockefeller family joined a growing number of voices pledging to divest a total of $50 billion in fossil fuel assets.

– See more at: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/10/08/VIEW-LNG-isnt-only-economic-option/#.VDa9D83EH0g.twitter

According to Analytica Advisors, the global demand for clean energy technology was estimated at $1.1 trillion in 2012 and projected to grow to $2.5 trillion by 2022. It also estimates that the cleantech industry in Canada grew nine per cent in 2012. In the same period, the mining, oil and gas sectors grew by only 0.3 per cent.

In B.C., Globe Advisors found the cleantech industry was responsible for 123,000 jobs and $15 billion in GDP in 2012. In Vancouver, green jobs increased by almost 20 per cent between 2010 and 2013, with a 50 per cent increase in jobs in the green buildings sector. Now imagine what these statistics would look like if the province put even one-half of the horsepower it has dedicated to LNG into developing the clean economy.

Two weeks ago, the World Bank put out a release in which 73 countries — representing 52 per cent of global GDP — and 1000 companies called for a global price on carbon. In the same week, the Rockefeller family joined a growing number of voices pledging to divest a total of $50 billion in fossil fuel assets.

– See more at: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/10/08/VIEW-LNG-isnt-only-economic-option/#.VDa9D83EH0g.twitter

According to Analytica Advisors, the global demand for clean energy technology was estimated at $1.1 trillion in 2012 and projected to grow to $2.5 trillion by 2022. It also estimates that the cleantech industry in Canada grew nine per cent in 2012. In the same period, the mining, oil and gas sectors grew by only 0.3 per cent.

In B.C., Globe Advisors found the cleantech industry was responsible for 123,000 jobs and $15 billion in GDP in 2012. In Vancouver, green jobs increased by almost 20 per cent between 2010 and 2013, with a 50 per cent increase in jobs in the green buildings sector. Now imagine what these statistics would look like if the province put even one-half of the horsepower it has dedicated to LNG into developing the clean economy.

Two weeks ago, the World Bank put out a release in which 73 countries — representing 52 per cent of global GDP — and 1000 companies called for a global price on carbon. In the same week, the Rockefeller family joined a growing number of voices pledging to divest a total of $50 billion in fossil fuel assets.

– See more at: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/10/08/VIEW-LNG-isnt-only-economic-option/#.VDa9D83EH0g.twitter

The longer we delay with the LNG mythology, the later we enter the post-carbon energy infrastructure sector.

That would make us morons.

Don’t be a moron.

According to Analytica Advisors, the global demand for clean energy technology was estimated at $1.1 trillion in 2012 and projected to grow to $2.5 trillion by 2022. It also estimates that the cleantech industry in Canada grew nine per cent in 2012. In the same period, the mining, oil and gas sectors grew by only 0.3 per cent.

In B.C., Globe Advisors found the cleantech industry was responsible for 123,000 jobs and $15 billion in GDP in 2012. In Vancouver, green jobs increased by almost 20 per cent between 2010 and 2013, with a 50 per cent increase in jobs in the green buildings sector. Now imagine what these statistics would look like if the province put even one-half of the horsepower it has dedicated to LNG into developing the clean economy.

Two weeks ago, the World Bank put out a release in which 73 countries — representing 52 per cent of global GDP — and 1000 companies called for a global price on carbon. In the same week, the Rockefeller family joined a growing number of voices pledging to divest a total of $50 billion in fossil fuel assets.

VIEW: LNG isn’t BC’s only economic option | The Hook, A Tyee blog..

When Shaming Survivors is Not Enough: Police-State Motives Behind Sexual Assault Transit Ads

Photo credit @the_noush. Permission to use granted.
Photo credit Instagram: @the_noush. Permission to use granted.

By Emily Griffiths

The Transit Police got burned in the media recently, when rad feminist transit riders called them out publicly for their summer-line of sexual assault ads. These ads use language that shames the survivors of sexual assault, stating, “the real shame of sexual assault is that it goes unreported.” It turns out that the transit police were the ones doing something that “doesn’t feel right” and making riders “uncomfortable.”

The whole thing was a PR blunder for the transit cops, who realized it right away and are now busily placating the public, regrouping, and working toward Version 2.0. This time, they’ll be sure to “include representatives from women’s rights groups” so as to remain in public favour. Great! Problem solved, right?

Maybe. If the ignorant and hurtful language of the original ad was its only flaw, the only reason to be concerned, and if there wasn’t another, equally repulsive message lurking underneath, then, yes, the problem would be solved. Sadly, that’s not the case.

The sinister implications of this transit ad not only shame survivors of sexual assault, but they also work to bring us all deeper into the police-state that Canada is quickly becoming (and perhaps, for those who are marginalized, always has been). An important piece of information appears at the bottom of the ad, in the second biggest font, urging readers to TEXT 87.77.77.

I’m sorry, what? We’re texting the cops now?

Yeah, what’s wrong with that?

Well, don’t you think it’s a little weird, like, ratting on random people to the authorities? It’s a little sci-fi. …a little Soviet Russia…a little Nazi Germany…

You’re so negative! Besides, it’s to stop sexual assault! You don’t like sexual assault do you?

The theme of sexual assault serves as the catalyst for gaining public acceptance for the practice of text messaging the police, for promoting and normalizing a tattletale behaviour in the populace. It functions much the same was as the issue of child pornography functions online. Child Pornography serves as the excuse for police-state surveillance tactics in the digital realm. Everybody hates Child Pornography. Everybody hates Sexual Assault. These issues serve as PR strategies to introduce the public to a new tool for surveillance and to further limit our freedoms. The report-your-neighbour text-message campaign goes nicely with the transit police smart phone app, OnDuty, which enables users to report “crimes”, view “Crime Maps”, and check out who is “Most Wanted!” It also gives the transit cops opportunity to gain access to your call logs, photos, locations, and more.

But what kind of ‘crimes’ can be reported on a smart phone?  Is it just sexual assault? This question is asked in the comments of the Transit police reddit article:

shabadoo111
Can I report someone on transit for being drunk and loud?

TransitPoliceBC
You can definitely report those situations. It’s an offense in the criminal code … We are very accountable, and are legally required to act to protect the public and preserve the peace.

So, perhaps it’s not only crimes that are being reported. After all, both the text service and the OnDuty app are for “non-emergent” reports only. And what kind of sexual assault is “non-emergent”?  Traditional 911 works just find in summoning urgent police presence, so why these new social tools? It seems like they exist for reporting suspicion, rather than dangerous ‘crimes.’ In this arrangement, every person with a smartphone is a potential cop, a potential punisher, and people learn to suspect each other.”

“See something. Say something,” the transit ad reads. This isn’t entirely a bad idea. But to whom do we “say something?” It’s assumed that the answer is the police. They will swoop in and save the day and no one has to feel guilty for staring passively at their phone while someone is being assaulted, In Real Life, right in front of them. It’s understandable that even bystanders feel unsafe in these situations and may not be able to intervene, but we do have a collective responsibility. We need to decide whether we want to create a community in which a bus full of people band together and say “No!” to abusive behaviour, or to create a ‘safe’ community in which people are picked off the bus, one by one, by big men with guns?

We know which world the police are envisioning. There seems to be a real emphasis on punishment over prevention, in the language used by transit police. The Transit Police ad tells riders that not reporting sexual assaults is the real shame, rather than the fact that these assaults occur in the first place.

Spokesperson, Anne Drennan is quoted in the Metro as having never intended to “lay blame on victims in any way, but rather to suggest that it’s a real shame that these people get away scott free when these incidences are not reported.” It sounds as if the goal is not to stop potential abusers, but to punish perpetrators.  Rather than prevention, the ad itself, supported by Drennan’s comments to the media, implicitly promote eye-for-an-eye, revenge-style ‘justice’ which serves as reinforcement for role of police in our communities.

The language of the transit police also includes a heavy use of the word “victim”, to describe those folks who have experienced sexual assault, despite the fact that the chosen identifier for these folks is “Survivors.” A survivor is strong and empowered, while a victim is weak and in need of protection, presumably by the police.

It’s clear from their language that neither preventing assault, nor empowering women and the community, are top priorities of the transit police. Instead, they actively present the world as a scary place and the police as our only protectors. If we need the police, if they are keeping us safe, then we won’t have a problem with them invading every aspect of our public and private lives, cracking down on every transgression and injecting our community with suspicion and fear.

Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories.

 

BC’s Deep Deep Racism, Shhhh!

Shhh, this is uncomfortable. It might make you ashamed.

Hopefully it will anger you to action?

First Nations burial grounds in BC have less protection than settler cemeteries.

Along with desecration at a Musqueam burial site, someone is building their home on top of another burial ground on Grace Islet off Saltspring Island. On stilts [see the horrible details below]. And the person building this home was once fined $150,000 for putting fake safety labels on retail products. Sigh. Morality much? Ever?

The minister responsible said in the legislature that Grace Islet’s “owner” “and the archaeology branch had done everything they needed to do to proceed” with the home construction. Except live moral lives, that is.

What kind of universe are we living in?

What kind of sick racist society allows people to build a home on someone’s burial ground?

Ours.

If this makes you ashamed as a British Columbian, you have a good soul. Here’s what you can do to force our elected “honourable” leaders to stop this blatant racism.

Educate yourself on this shameful situation. This is a good start. And you can follow developments in the Twitter.

Sign this petition. Then…

Email/phone the following people and tell them the following things:

  1. BC’s laws are racist and inadequate. You won’t tolerate this.
  2. Tell them to pass Private Members’ Bill M 208 to help First Nations protect their burial sites.
  3. Tell them that dignity matters to you and it should to them.

Here’s who you contact:

  1. The minister responsible: Minister of Forests Steve Thompson: FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca, 250-387-6240
  2. The premier: Premier@gov.bc.ca, 250-387-1715
  3. The opposition leader: john.horgan.mla@leg.bc.ca, 250-387-3655
  4. M 208’s MLA, Maurine Karagianis: maurine.karagianis.mla@leg.bc.ca, 250-387-3655
  5. Your MLA: see the listings here.

Then share this article with the 3 people in your life who appreciate human dignity the most. You have good taste in friends. They will support you in this campaign because they’ve got your back.

Finally…

Here’s some of the disturbing background about this stilt house on a burial ground.

Provincial archeologists in the 1970s marked Grace Islet as part of an ancient First Nations village. It later became privately owned and subdivided into a residential lot. The 0.75-hectare piece of land was bought in 1990 by Alberta businessman Barry Slawsky, who is now building a luxury home on the site.

The development has been intermittently stalled by a series of archeological assessments and permit requirements since the remains were found.

The owner has fulfilled all legal requirements and adjusted his plans. He is building the house on stilts so as not to disturb any burial spots, and has begun to clear the land.

Jacks said Slawsky has not responded to requests to sell the property or meet with First Nations. Some band leaders even enlisted a local rabbi to appeal to Slawsky on a religious values level.

“Can you imagine if us chiefs went to Ross Bay Cemetery (where several historical figures are buried) and said we’re going to build a longhouse over it?” Jacks asked.

The Tseycum chief is among a growing group of people — including several First Nations, politicians, archeologists and residents — opposed to building over the burial grounds. They want the land to be protected, but the province has said it has no plans to purchase the land.

In British Columbia, burial sites dated before 1846 fall under the Heritage Conservation Act and any alterations are managed by the archeology branch. Burial sites established after that time, including Ross Bay Cemetery (1873) and Pioneer Square (1856) in Victoria, fall under stricter cemetery legislation.

– from First Nations chief says province’s burial ground policies are racist.

 

Occupy, For Democracy

Journalists protest the erosion of freedom of expression in Canada on Feb. 27 in Toronto. Photo Credit: Hiba Zayadin

When I write about soft fascism, I sometimes feel too Canadian. I don’t want to be impolite and talk about hard or old school or 20th century fascism because frankly, when people read that word, they think, “hey, is he talking about Hitler kinda stuff? Ok, then, so it’s not fascism.”

It is though. You don’t have to start a genocide for someone to consider your actions fascist.

It’s a kind, gentler, Canadian-style fascism with a hit of Tom Horton’s and a bonspiel on TV in the background.

Attempts to suppress democracy, though, ARE fascism. From the Conservative government’s voter suppression actions, and contempt of legislature and the courts, they seek totalitarian power.

This is why I Occupy.

And while we figure out what Occupy Vancouver is going to look like going forward, it is this kind of work to decriminalize journalism that we need to be mindful of. See below.

Now, more than ever, because there’s a federal election brewing and we know that the federal government will cheat again to keep its power because it thinks it’s right and they know best for all of us. Like the BC government’s election gag laws and the city of Vancouver’s pre-Olympics and Occupy era democracy suppression measures.

We can be vigilant or we can be sheep. If you want to be a sheep, fine. Stay away from me. If you want to be vigilant, sign up for email updates over there on the right. We’re all about vigilance around here. And I believe Stephen Harper is mentally ill, WITHOUT even having seen the Flanagan interview from Friday night.

And we’re about making Occupy potent, and unlike the governments, transparent and accountable and democratic.

Respect.

Culture of secrecy endangering democracy: CJFE

Listen

“Canadians have lost even more ground in one of the fundamental elements of free expression—the ability to know what their government is doing and why,” says a news release issued by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. The CJFE has just issued its 2014 Review of Free Expression in Canada and it gives the Canadian government “a failing grade.”

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Tom Henheffer of CJFE says there is a growing culture of secrecy in government. © Andrew Williamson

Government ‘defunding’ access to information

Access to information law means any Canadian can apply for access to any government document for a fee of five dollars. “It’s something that’s absolutely critical for the functioning of Canadian democracy because it helps to keep Canadians informed. It’s crucial for investigative journalism,” says Tom Henheffer, executive director of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

“The fact is the government is intentionally dismantling it. They’re defunding access department so when someone files a requests there’s no response. Eighty per cent of documents that do come back are censored, many of the heavily censored,” says Henherrer, noting that there has been a 51 per cent increase in complaints about missing records in the past year.

‘A growing culture of secrecy’

“Even worse than that is the fact that there is this growing culture of secrecy in government, both federally and provincially and in some municipalities,” says Henheffer. He says politicians and civil servants are deliberating not keeping records, avoiding e-mail and sending messages from BlackBerry to BlackBerry that are erased every 30 days.

“In the past Canadians have had a robust access to essentially the decision-making process that goes into forming policy in Canada and that access is being taken away.”

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CJFE Review warns of a ‘dangerous’ decline in freedom of expression in Canada. © CJFE

Whistleblower protecting ‘ineffective’

Surveillance of citizens is another major concern listed in the review as well as a lack of any effective protection for whistleblowers. Henheffer says civil servants who flag problems in government lose their jobs. “That’s why we have such a culture of secrecy, part of the reason why, because we don’t have this protection so people aren’t coming like say Edward Snowden (American intelligence contractor who leaked documents revealing widespread surveillance of citizens by U.S. spy agency). We don’t have anyone like that in Canada because the sacrifice that they would make is too great and as a result we don’t know what we don’t know.”

Culture of secrecy endangering democracy: CJFE.

Does BC’s Neglect of Poverty Constitute a Eugenics Plan?

There has been a great deal of talk in recent decades about the cycle of poverty, how it’s a vicious circle that children have difficulty getting out of.

telomeres.jpg
Human chromosomes with telomeres stained fluorescent red. Copyright Nakamura et al.

It makes sense. If parents are short on economic resources, have to work multiple jobs, have little free time to nurture their children, it can impede children’s growth.

What if poverty actually harmed children physiologically, not just impeding socio-economic opportunities? Wouldn’t that then constitute a plan to ensure the poor really, really, really stay poor?

An underclass?

It wouldn’t be a eugenics plan, however, unless we actually knew that poverty stunted children physiologically and we set up greedy, self-serving, 1%-worshiping policy that kept the poor down.

It’s not like poverty can harm a child’s growth and development like cigarettes or nuclear waste.

But then I read this:

Continue reading Does BC’s Neglect of Poverty Constitute a Eugenics Plan?

Poor Kids, Poor Families and Shame

“When Centennial’s students found out Seymour couldn’t hold a pyjama day because many students didn’t have pyjamas, they fundraised to buy every Seymour student a pair last Christmas.”

When the Field Trip’s Too Pricey, Students ‘Self-Exclude’

BC’s disgusting and preventable child poverty crisis. Let’s stop coddling the rich!

When parents receive letters from their kids’ school asking for donations for playground upgrades or library books or technological devices, a certain segment of the population sighs, grows a few more grey hairs and dies a little bit inside.

Parents who are struggling financially cannot afford the luxury of even a tax-deductible donation to the school their children attend.

Sometimes, parents are confused. Don’t we pay taxes? Aren’t taxes structured in such a way that those who are more well-off shoulder a bit more of a burden for social services than the poor and struggling? That’s called a progressive tax system, but it is hated in our neoliberal era of tax cuts, austerity, privatization and social service cuts. The BC Liberal Party hates the poor and has been bashing them for most of this century.

But these are often just abstract policy debates. The reality is that there are real families, tens of thousands of them in BC, and real children who suffer and are often ashamed, too ashamed to trot out their poverty at school.

Who teaches them to be ashamed?

Continue reading Poor Kids, Poor Families and Shame

Expanding Our 2014 Boycott List: #BoycottLoblaws

First, it started with IKEA, which has been locking out its Richmond, BC workers for 11 months. Then it expanded to a white Richmond farmer who isn’t all that happy with all the non-white farmers changing the complexion of farming in BC.

So we’re all committing to #BoycottIKEA and boycotting W & A Farms products.

Now, it’s Loblaws/ExtraFoods/T&T/RealCanadianSuperstore that needs a hefty, long-term boycott.

A portion of every dollar you spend at any of that chain’s stores goes to fund the anti-social Fraser Institute and its campaigns to destroy the public education system in Canada.

The [Weston] family foundation has donated nearly $22 million to the Fraser Institute for its programs to destabilize the public education system and promote school choice and vouchers.

Milton Friedman was the inspiration for these programs. His 1995 Washington Post editorial said it all: “Public schools: Make them private.” And that’s what the Weston-Fraser partnership has set out to do.

But, wait, there’s more!

The Fraser Institute’s ability to obtain such vast sums from Weston may hinge on the fact that two Galen Weston cousins are Fraser Institute directors. They’re also on the board of the family foundation that doles out the money.

And it’s fine for people to express opinions and fund whatever they way. Within constitutional limits. But it’s also within our rights to oppose and boycott companies that are reprobates with anti-social tendencies.

So the 2014 boycott list is hereby expanded:

  1. IKEAs all around the world, #BoycottIKEA
  2. W&A Farm products from Richmond
  3. All Loblaw chain stores: #BoycottLoblaws

Sing it, people! 🙂

Resistance is Futile: Steveston, Developers, PR flacks, and the Borg

The idyllic town of Steveston, located at the western tip of Richmond, is the site of what appears to be a battle for the ages: the City Council is facing an invasion of the Borg as they debate what to do with a developer’s plans for an historic district along the waterfront.

borgYes, the Borg. Those Star Trek baddies who are part-human, mostly-machine who invade, who tell you in a terrifying voice that “Resistance is futile,” who ignore the fact that you just want to get on with your own life, and who assimilate you – forcibly make you be part of their plans, and do their bidding.

They’re pretty awesome villains on TV, and while Steveston isn’t actually facing an invasion of robots who want to take over your life, they’re facing a foe that’s pretty comparable.

Enter Onni. Onni is a real-estate development company. In Vancouver, that’s pretty much tantamount to the Borg. And Onni is making their stand in Steveston at Imperial Landing, a stretch of newly-developed land along what used to be the BC Packer’s fishing land and cannery alongside the Fraser River in Steveston. And they want you to comply with their wishes, and the won’t take no for an answer. Resistance is futile.

According to Onni’s website, Imperial Landing is a mixed-use community, featuring residential suites above “60,000 square feet of retail space.” However, if you were to visit Imperial Landing right now, you wouldn’t know it, because the bottoms of these new fancy residential suites are all empty.

“Empty?” You might ask. Why would valuable retail space alongside a waterfront in Vancouver be empty? A very good question.

It turns out that Richmond’s City Council wanted to preserve the character of the property that was up for development when BC Packers – the fishing and canning company – sold the land. So they zoned it “Mixed Maritime Use” – a land-use decision that intended to preserve the character of the area by restricting it to maritime-related uses, like fish markets, boat supplies and services, offices, and the like. They did this a long time ago.

But Onni didn’t like this. According to documents before the Richmond City Council’s Planning Committee, Onni has been, for some time, trying hard to convince Richmond to re-zone their land so that they can do more than just maritime related uses.

Richmond has so far said no – they have wanted to preserve the land for maritime uses. It’s a valid choice that the Council – democratically elected – has made. And in our society, that’s generally something to be respected.

But again, Onni won’t take no for an answer. Resistance is futile.

Onni went and built their Imperial Landing in the mixed maritime use land zone. They’re relatively pretty buildings, all new and shiny. And despite Onni arguing since at least 2007 that the mixed maritime use zone was economically unfeasible – they built them anyways.

And now that Onni claims that because they haven’t been able to find tenants to fill their mixed maritime retail spaces, they should be allowed to rezone them for broader retail uses. In effect, Onni wants to do an end-run around the planning process after they’ve been denied so many times.

Someone named Bob Ransford is leading a PR campaign on social media to support their desires to do just that. He’s a local Steveston resident, PR person who works for real estate developers amongst other clients, and principal of Counterpoint Communications. He’s tweeting doomsday messages about the upcoming decision  – in his words, surely only a sadistic City Council would allow such beautiful buildings to go unfilled. If you read his tweets, you’d think that Steveston were facing economic collapse if these buildings weren’t immediately rezoned and leased out to the highest bidder.

Bob Ransford insists that he’s doing this out of the goodness of his own heart. Which is probably a good thing, because if he were being paid by Onni to do this work, they might want to revisit his instructions.

Here’s one of his recent tweets. See if you can spot the problem, and the Borg-ness of Onni’s demand to Richmond City council:

bob-ransford-purpose-built-cafe

See the problem? Let’s go back to the current zoning of the land: mixed maritime use. For maritime related businesses and offices. How could, then, Onni purpose build a cafe in a maritime use?

Here’s where the Borg come in. Remember, resistance is futile.

The process to get a construction permit in Richmond is apparently a quick review to ensure that your proposed building meets the zone in “character and form,” ie, that it isn’t completely out of whack. Since these are buildings to be leased, their use is flexible – they’re effectively empty shells waiting to be filled in.

This is a loophole – obviously, the assumption  that you will get a development permit for a building that suits the zone and then use it for those purposes. I suspect that the grand strategists at Onni saw an opportunity – while they had been arguing for some time that mixed maritime was economically unfeasible, they’d build buildings anyways, let them sit empty, and then push for the rezoning ex post facto – all to get what they wanted after being denied. The tell is in Bob Ransford’s description of the space as a “purpose built cafe.”

As the Borg would say, “you will comply.”

There’s more. Onni has been pushing for a 17,000 square foot grocery store – one of Jimmy Pattison’s Nester’s Groceries – to be stuck in one of the buildings. Totally not an allowed use under mixed maritime use zoning. So they hired Mustel, a polling and public opinion firm, to see if local residents wanted a new grocery store.

In the report to city council, Onni claims that the survey was overflowing with “unprompted” responses from residents who wanted a new grocery store. Except that the poll was a push-poll. The first four questions asked poll respondents just how far they had to go to get groceries, and how much grocery shopping they did outside of Steveston. Then they asked: “What stores would you like to see in the new development?”

Unsurprisingly, people wanted grocery stores! This is hardly news: when you ask leading questions, you’re “priming the pump” and making people think about what you want them to think about. This can be put to terrific use with unscrupulous polling.

But again, who’s surprised? Onni is the Borg. Resistance is futile.

Onni hired experts to say that the retail in the new buildings wouldn’t compete with other shops already existing in the village. They claim to be looking for a different tenant mix. But Steveston already has a grocery store. Bob Ransford thinks this is fine, because, after all, competition is “quite legal and common in free market economies.”  Except, of course, that it’s the opposite of what Onni is promising Richmond.

The issue will go before Richmond’s planning commission tomorrow night (April 8) and I doubt that Onni will lose again. Because resistance is futile. And because Onni is offering a $1,500,000 “voluntary contribution” to Richmond’s leisure and culture fund.

Sadly, though, this highlights the death grip that real estate developers have on the Lower Mainland. The duplicity in this case is just more staggeringly obvious.

Here, we have a developer that has insisted that the property zoning on their land isn’t “economically feasible,” but they went and built what they wanted anyways. Now they say that the City has to acquiesce and comply with their demands, simply because the buildings that they built are empty.

What precedent would Richmond set here? A horrible one. Developers can built whatever they want, no matter the zoning of the land, and then force the City to change the zoning later. The death of local land use planning, all through a set of buildings along an idyllic waterfront.

While people like Bob Ransford might insist that they’re just concerned about the community, it strikes me that they’re only concerned about parts of the community that they agree with. Ransford himself says he was on the planning committee 17 years ago that set the mixed maritime use zone – he disagreed with it then, disagrees with it now. Only problem with that argument is that Council has decided, and Council represents the community. Nice collateral attack against the decision, though.

Ransford doesn’t seem to get the problems here with the developer’s duplicity – building what they want and then trying to force the decision ex post facto. He says he doesn’t care about the developer, only the community.  But perhaps he should remember that “perception is reality.”

Onni is about to score the ultimate goal: forcing City Council to reverse its decision simply because they did what they wanted. Better to ask forgiveness than permission.

Duplicity abounds. Resistance is futile. You will comply.