Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Highway One Expansion Plan - First Open House, In Langley Feb 18th

Langley is having the first of many regional GVRD "Gateway Plan" open houses on Saturday February 18 from 10am to 1pm at the Walnut Grove Community center. Let’s make sure Langley’s opinions are clearly heard. Organize your neighbourhood and friends to take a position, whatever your position is, and make your opinions well heard. Remember that Langley’s strong voice was significant and overcame the dreaded car tax levy. This is our chance once again, let’s make Langley's needs clear.

This map shows the Gateway plan routes.
View the Vancouver Sun report here. The Sun reports that the new Port Mann Bridge will be built to accomodate "future light transit".

The Gateway Project information is available to be seen here on the CBC site with some informative document links. We at Langley Free Press strongly agree with the Gateway project, especially on twinning the Port Mann Bridge. We are still not convinced that it is fair to charge tolls, considering all the tax money we are paying to all levels for transportation. It seems to penalize us more so than other communities. The important item to be raised is that the Twining will help in the short term of perhaps 20 years or so and is desperately needed now.

We strongly feel that as part of this gateway plan a complementing time line & a commitment to provide an extension of sky train, light Rapid Train or similar rapid transit service to the Fraser Valley in the next 15 to 25 years is desperately required. Growth and gridlock is unavoidable south of the Fraser. We believe this makes eminent sense to plan and commit to now. We need the Gateway project in the short term but we equally have to marry it to a definite mid to long term rapid transit solution as well to the Fraser Valley. We need to plan for at least 50 years not 20 years at a time. It would also be the perfect time to look at the dramaticily increasing container train problems in the South Fraser. The Vancouver malcontent elitists will be somewhat placated with the twinning if they know that a complementary rapid public transit plan is also in the works. Combining long & very long term creative plans that incorporate container trains and perhaps commuter rapid transit now is desperately needed and could not be better timed. Anything less would be unfathomable.

And Then There Was One...Tobin Says No

Brian Tobin has declared 20 minutes ago that he will not run to replace Paul Martin. Well it’s starting to look a lot more like Michael Ignatieff will be the new Crown Prince of the Liberal Party. For those Liberals who support him, contact him here and ask how you can help. Those who hate him, again contact him here and tell him so! For all the others see here and here about him. Keep in mind he has a large following demonstrated by the fact that apparently during his election campaign 4 out of 5 volunteers helping him were from outside his own riding and were significantly composed of law students and lawyers who came especially from downtown Toronto to specifically help Michael. Intellectuals and Liberal leaning youth are especially mesmerized by what we can only define as Michael Mania reminniscent of Trudeau Mania. We sense and predict a wave coming!

Computer Worm Warning For Friday!

We want to keep your computers working so that you read our blog.
So please see this and make sure you virus protection is current.

Canada Is A Left Wing Country

Western Standard makes an excellent point that this past election proves that Canada is more a left leaning Country. Also that the best the Conservatives can do is to steer to the center and basically ignore or spin off social conservatives if they wish a majority or to continue governing at all.

Gurmant Grewal Threatens To Sue

Some things just never go away fast enough!

Its About Time Get On With It

Today’s Sun basically lays out the $3 billion plan B.C. plan which will get the lower mainland back on the move with twinning the Port Mann bridge, highway one, and the south and north perimeter roads. It’s about time.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Frank McKenna - Canada's Loss As Leader

Frank McKenna announced Monday he will not seek the federal Liberal leadership. See here. Increasingly the best possible leaders will refuse to run for politics, leaving the door open to the worst possible leaders only.

Vecchiato’s Voice - January 30, 2006


How important is green space in Langley? How important are streams in Langley? How important are fish in Langley? How important are trees in Langley?

If you’re like me, you’ll know, understand and appreciate that Langley is a gem in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). If you’re like me, you will probably have moved here because Langley is so unique in the GVRD. It is green. It does have fish and you can drink its water.

However, all of this uniqueness is under attack. If we don’t soon pay attention to what is going on in the Planning Department at Township Hall, “we won’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone” because the Township is clearly “paving paradise to put up a parking lot”.

Take for example, stream setbacks. Setbacks are necessary to protect the ecosystem of streams. This is especially important for fish-bearing streams and Langley is fortunate to have 700 km of such streams.

Stream setbacks used to be 30 meters but the current provincial government has recently decreed that setbacks could be reduced by a municipality to as little as 15 meters. This, of course, promotes more development to the detriment of trees, birds, fish and other wildlife because it makes more land available for development especially along the banks of streams and other waterways.

When the province made this fundamental change to green space, township administration told council "the new regulations...are based in land owner arguments that current development setbacks...leave strips along stream banks...equivalent to creating parks without compensation." (Langley Times, March 16, 2005)

My internal response was: 1) So why don't these taxpayers get credit for park space?; and 2) Why is Township staff (whom we pay) giving sympathy to the development community? I think the Township staff’s comments just aid and abet more taxes for all of us. We shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that development cost charges will cover the costs. They don’t even come close to replacing the natural habitat that we’ve lost.

In the relatively recent past, a former Township planner argued that the nesting season clause in the Provincial Wildlife Act did not apply to development parcels. I e-mailed the Ministry, and was told that indeed, the legislation DID cover all parcels.

Unfortunately, Township planners seem to think that bird surveys are not necessary, despite a clause in the Tree Protection Policy that reminds builders of nesting bird protection.

A case in point on this environmental aspect was clearly illustrated when a major development company was allowed to clearcut 215 trees on the corner of 68th and 203rd without a single survey and in the middle of nesting season.

We know this because Langley Conservation Network (LCN) members filed “FOI’s” under the Freedom of Information Act, and no surveys were found. One LCN member even made a delegation to council on the issue, and was moved to the 3 p.m. Council meeting when no members of the public were there.

In addition, a former senior Township staff member was recently quoted in the Langley Times. He said that some bonus density is being used in developing significant buffers along 200th St. Bonus density, according to the reporter's definition, "allows developers to cluster development in higher density...to leave large green spaces."

Is this what you see when you drive down 200th St.? What I see along 200th St is a turf grass margin that sits atop underground services. It has zero habitat value, and little human value for that matter. Is this what we want our children to ‘enjoy’? Who really wants to push a stroller down this while diesel fumes spew across the turf strip and mini-trees?

And, where will the wildlife and birds go? They can’t nest, roost, or burrow in mini-trees. What we’re now witnessing on 200th St will be replicated several times over before Township planners are finished decimating Willoughby. Is this what we want for the future of Langley? Is this the best that the Township’s high-priced and well-educated planners can offer us? Is this why you moved to Langley? It’s not why I moved here.

Cathleen Vecchiato
Langley Conservation Network

Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 5-1/2 years.She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities.Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor-LFP

CCRA – Federal Tax Man Wants to Collect for Other Levels of Government!

Have you ever had the Feds collection department go after you for tax money or GST remittance money? Well guess what? If they have their way they hope to get the provinces, municipalities and other levels of government to use their services! They even hired a public relations firm to help them sell the idea.

Don’t you just feel warm and comfy all over knowing that CCRA may go after you for unpaid dog licenses, business licenses, municipal water bills or other provincial and municipal bill collecting. The old boys club at Township of Langley Council would love it. CCRA could help them maybe collect more cash to help pay for the $3-4-5 Million Grandstand. The City could maybe even use CCRA to help collect for their casino buddies. Imagine the consolidated information data base they could have on each and every one of us then! Big Brother 1984 is back! Shudder the thought! The Canadian Taxpayers Federation doesn’t like the idea either. See the CP report here.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jack Layton - Health Care is Precious!

Health Care is Precious as found among others on satirical political comedian, Rick Mercer's blog.

Scott Brison Testing the Liberal Leader Waters

Canadian Press reports that not only may Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Brison become interim Leader but he is obviously thinking of running to replace Paul Martin as Liberal Leader. Also see CTV story as well. Wow imagine that former Conservative and openly gay Scott Brison, running for Prime Minister of Canada against Stephen Harper’s Conservatives who have a healthy contingent of far right wing social conservatives! I can just see the fireworks now even as interim leader we would all be intently watching the CPAC house of Commons question period. Too much fun!

Letter to The Editor - January 29, 2006 - From Bruce Northway - School District Plan

(We post letters to the editor prominently sent to our attention. EDITOR-LFP)

Here are three ‘Letters to the Editor’. The first is from me (Bruce Northway) and was printed in both the Advance and Times. The second is a response from the School District that was printed in the Advance. The third is my response sent to the Advance today and not yet printed.

Jan 25 2006

On Jan. 17, our school trustees voted unanimously in favour of reviewing whether they should close South Carvolth Elementary. The process will be tortuous for everyone involved, and I feel for the students, parents, staff and trustees.

It’s quite possible that when taken in context of what is best for the Langley School District the closure of a school with under 100 students is worth the $300,000 savings envisioned by the district’s brain trust. That said I still have a problem with the announcement of the review.

During the recent campaign, each and every trustee candidate promised an elevated
communication level with the community. As well, this new board has not yet created a strategic plan. In fact, the district’s website has a strategic plan posted on it that is dated 2003-2005.

A few questions come to mind. Where did the idea to close this school come from? Why close a school prior to the board publishing a new long-term strategic plan? Is the community going to be involved in the planning process?

It is obvious that the timing of the review is based on wanting to have it completed in conjunction with this year’s budgetary process. This makes common sense. But I believe it also indicates a less than attractive planning process that is looking more short-term from within than long-term in partnership with the community. I hope I’m proven wrong.

Bruce Northway,Langley City

Dear Editor,
Your correspondent suggested Langley School District is operating without a long term strategic plan in place [Community communication lacking, Jan. 24 Letters, Langley Advance]. He noted that the Strategic Plan posted on the Langley School District web site is for the years 2003-2005.

The Strategic Plan of Langley School District is a key document, guiding the efforts of the school district to improve student success.

The 2003-2005 document was updated continuously through the term of the last school board, and many of the items listed in the plan were achieved during its term of office.

Readers can find out more by going to www.sd35.bc.ca/board/strategic_plan.html. A "backgrounder" on that page notes that the Strategic Planning Cycle will result in a 2006-2009 Strategic Plan, as the new board, inaugurated in December of 2005, consults with communities and stakeholders and determines what its planning priorities should be. That document should be available by the spring of this year.

Other planning and consultation processes implemented by the district include: the Accountability Contract, School Planning Councils, and the Budget Planning Process, all of which can be accessed on the district web site or by phoning the School Board Office at 604-534-7891.
Langley School District encourages public involvement in its decision-making processes.

Craig Spence, Communications Manager, Langley School District
published on 01/27/200

I was surprised to see the Langley School District Communications Manager responded to my last ‘Letter to the Editor’. I was more surprised to see the District missed the point of my letter.

The District’s response focused on my observation that their Strategic Plan is out of date. It did not address my main concerns. One of these was that the Trustees voted to review closing South Carvolth Elementary prior to publishing the new 2006-2009 Strategic Plan. It seems obvious to me it makes more sense to produce a long term plan prior to closing any facilities.

I also asked if the community is going to be involved in the planning process. In his letter the Communications Manager stated that the Board ‘consults with communities and stakeholders’. To my knowledge past Strategic Plans were produced by the Trustees and the District’s bureaucrats brainstorming over a weekend. There was little if any consultation with the general public.

The Communications Manager also stated that the ‘District encourages public involvement in its decision-making processes’, yet during the last campaign the Trustee candidates heard over and over again the public’s main complaint; a lack of communication.

It is easy to state you encourage public involvement. Our Trustees need to follow up on their promise to do more than past Boards to make sure that involvement takes place.

Bruce Northway
Langley City

Mr. Northway was an unsucsesful first time candidate for School board in the November 2005 municipal elections and is a frequent commentator, critic and community activist focused on helping to improve all aspects of the Langley School District. - Editor LFP

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Layton's NDP Signals Willingness To Work With Harper's Conservatives

CTV reports Layton saying, "I am going to make a legitimate, determined effort to find things where there can be common action," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"I believe there are ideas in all of our platforms for the parties to get something done." Oh my Gawd, the Devil and the deep blue Sea getting together! Does Layton have no shame?

Trinity Western University Students Want Paradigm Shift in How Trinity Is Run

Recent situations raise questions about University Governance from some Langley Trinity University students themselves, as reported by the Vancouver Sun. These issues arise from procedures for dealing with harassment out of a recently reported and apparently resolved harassment complaint and some subsequent student's concerns of representation on the board.

The Mars Hill student paper as shown by the editorial by student paper editor Matthew Jenkins seeks appropriate representation and these comments by student Kristin Ostensen suggests election of a student, faculty and alumni representative to the Board.

BC Libs & NDP Want Action Re Bountiful Polygamy

Both of BC's major political parties seem poised to start action on the Bountiful Polygamy issues to the apparent chagrin and disinterest of the federal Conservatives, specifically local Kootenay-Columbia Conservative MP Jim Abbott. For full details view here and here.

Harper Govt To Alberta's Klein - Abide by Canada Health Act

Concerns regarding Alerta Premier Ralph Klein's move to expanding private health care in his province have led to broad concerns of threats to Canadian Medicare. A Conservative Government spokesman clarifies that any changes made must not violate Canadian health act. See full story here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dosanjh Considering Lawsuit

He's thinking about suing over allegations that he offered rewards to get a Conservative MP to switch parties last spring.

Prime Minister Elect Harper Goes To Hospital

Stephen Harper went to an Ottawa hospital after suffering an asthma attack Thursday night. Apparently not the first time. Also see asthma major among our young.

Canwest Employees Beware

Canwest Mediaworks CEO Peter Viner says "We will increase our focus on cost containment,". The Sun, Province & Langley Advance paper is a division of Mediaworks.

Liberal Leadership Insider Thoughts

Some interesting insights as to who will go for the brass ring.

Local News Review

Langley Politics Dotcom – Wednesday January 25, 2006Besides the traditionally consistent friends, family and social conservative insiders who rant, rave and abase in the comments sections (much better than CKNW callers ever do by the way), Jordan Bateman buries some gems as comments under one of his postings that we just can’t ignore. Don't get us wrong though we love Lang Pol dotcom (even though they won't link to us!), it inspired us and we still hold out great hope that Bateman won't ever join the dark side! Picture Aniken before his conversion by the evil EMPEROR PALPATINE!

Councillor Bateman states the following regarding the $3-4-5 Million over budget MAP Grandstand Project:
“I don't believe in leaving a building half finished and unusable. So, is it a bigger waste to have spent $1.65 m (the Township's share) and have nothing, or to add $950k and get it done? It's a policy call, and I chose to see it finished. I also don't believe in paying the City's share, so Charlie and I had it amended to subtract the 20% the City should be kicking in. Jordan”Sounds a little too simple to me. Less than 30 days after being elected, damm the torpedoes full speed ahead. If I were a bureaucrat, that would make me real comfortable in going over any budget on other projects, because "they will just want to finish it"!

Councillor Bateman further says:
" City residents get more out of Township services in almost every partnership--one of the things I'm committed to changing. " " Jordan"
Gee, he sees our point of view great. But in our opinion saying this won't help you negotiate with the City, Jordan.

Finally, Councillor Bateman says:
...and it should be noted that the rest of Council was skeptical they would (referring to city increasing their funding for the Grandstand), but Mayor Fassbender is hinting that they might. It's hard to cry poor with $4.5 million in casino revenue jingling in your pocket. …Jordan”

OK Councillor Bateman, so let’s see – the traditional funding formula between city & township is about 1/5 city and 4/5ths Township. So far, the city has committed to about $200k and TOL about $800k based on the original $1 mill portion of the initial $3 million Grandstand. With Jordan’s motion pushing the project up substantially to about $5 mill, that means about $3 mill should be shared by both municipalities. So very simple math means 1/5 of $3 mill is $600k from the city and TOL will pay $2.4 mill. Wow, $2.4 million - forgot how big our share is even if they paid their share. Anyhow, ok, I’m dying to see Council get $600k from the City when they were apparently never confirmed to agree to the extra $ when the infamous 3-4-5 Grandstand project grew from $3 to $4 to $5 Million. They stopped at $3 mill and we kept going like the energizer bunny! Were they an uninformed silent partner? Or was the Township the uninforming silent partner? So far all they ever confirmed to pay is about $200k based on the first $3million project.

So go for it, Jordan. While you’re there, why not ask for them to return about 3 years of TOL financing for the city cops at about $700 k annually - for a simple total of about $2 million! You negotiate these two and you’re a hero in my books. Heck, at least try to get 50 cents on the dollar if you can. Sweeten the pot and suggest you’ll call it the Fassbender Grandstand for the total $600 k!

Langley Advance - Tuesday January 24, 2006
Obviously Tuesday’s paper had the whole front page about Warawa wining the election. Wow surprise. Also Libs and NDP proclaimed they won too. Yeah right. Page 3 talks about casino windfall royalties for Langley City and how they are going to use some of it. No mention of helping pay their fair share of the gold plated Grandstand though. Great to see emergency plans in place for a Pandemic (hope we never need it) in Langley. Also Rich Coleman once again comes through for $100k funding for Fort Langley channel. The editorial gives us hope that they are finally putting reelected Warawa on notice that he better start delivering for Langley. Way to go, Bob! Oh wait the editorial signature is M.C. !

Langley Times – Wednesday January 25, 2006
Yup, you guessed it. Front page picture and story about Warawa’s reelection victory. It quotes Mayor Kurt Alberts as gushing that he “ has done so much for Langley as it is that it can only get better when his party is in power.” Is this the same MP we are talking about? Or is this just a way to put him on notice to deliver? It goes on to talk about Kurt’s pet project: the Aldergrove Navel base as an environmental reserve. Hope Mark got his message. He’s on notice again. We’ve got to agree with Kurt on this one though. An environmental reserve for the base is a great idea as long as it costs $0.

Also, Angel Claypool (who we think has a bright political future) says she will keep Warawa’s feet to the fire. Please do. The press generally doesn’t and worse still, constantly gushes with loving platitudes about him. Then again on page 4, the Times talks about the City’s casino windfall and their being a Cloverdale Casino killer.

Page 6 has Al Irwin finally reporting on the Grandstand fiasco and the fact that the petulant private old boys club on council ignored Kim Richter’s motion. See here for background, if you don’t already get it. The best line is Alberts comment: “I think we actually saved money” . OK, let’s see - $3m to $4m to $5m and we saved money. Right! When caught in bed with someone other than your spouse, the best advice is to keep denying and adamently say nothing happened!

In Bucholtz’s editorial, he essentially also puts Warawa on notice saying its time for him to deliver, especially on overpasses and shelters for the homeless. With all due respect, he comments that Warawa has proven to be hard working and diligent. We do have to give Warawa some slack on this one. We give him the fact that he is constantly working very hard trying to find something to get his teeth into that he can deliver. Now that he is on the government side, we also put him on notice to deliver. Nice guys trying and not delivering just don’t cut it.

Also the letters to the editor has Blair King’s letter on the parking tax that he first submitted in LFP and has forwarded as we suggested to the Mayor (Translink Board Member) and the local papers. Bruce Northway, who ran for School Board, rightly suggests that the new School Board revisit a new strategic plan.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Letter to the Editor - January 24,2006 - From Tom Ouellette - Homeless Housing

We post letters to the editor prominently sent to our attention. EDITOR-LFP

Attention: Editor

January 24, 2006

The Township of Langley is spending $5 million dollars on a covered grandstand, $ 6.5 million on a golf course we can not use for 20 years, and only the mayor and council know how much has been spent buying up land for the arbor ribbon.

Yet I have not heard of one cent being spent to aid or house the homeless roaming around the Langley’s. Granted we have food banks, we have soup kitchens but we do not have housing. How many are going to be camping out on in the doorways of the churches, in the bushes along 56th Avenue near the By-pass before both Langley’s recognize we have a problem. These people do not need charity, they need they need a warm dry place for one or two days before they move on.

What are the Langley’s going to do, a study, a report from staff, or are we going to continue to ignore these individuals until they fade away or die from exposure. If we are doing something why is it a big secret? Let the public know your intentions and maybe, just maybe you will get some strong volunteers to assist in your endeavours. Sitting around saying you know we have a problem with homeless people and doing nothing does not help with a workable solution.

Tom Ouellette
c.c. Aldergrove Star, Langley Times, Langley Advance

Tom Ouellette ran unsuccessfully against the incumbent, Mayor Kurt Alberts, in the past November 2005 Langley Township Municipal election. While not successful, his showing was impressively close to the incumbent especially since he was relatively unknown and had a fraction of the incumbent's campaign funds. He provided a clear wake up call to Mayor Alberts. - Editor LFP

Richter Report - January 26, 2006

And the budget numbers just keep on ballooning....

At the Township Budget Meeting held on January 16, 2006, Council was presented with a list of “General Major Capital Requests” (p.10; Slide 19). Included in this list was a $9.0 Million expenditure proposed for 2007 to expand the WC Blair Pool.

This was very interesting since the 2005-2014 10-year plan (approved by Council in Spring 2005) only included a $1.25 Million improvement to the Blair facility. So why the increase (in less than one year) from $1.25 Million to $9.0 Million? Have construction costs gone up that much? If they have, then we really should be putting a moratorium on new facility development until after the 2010 Olympics. Besides which, just how much bigger a Blair Pool does the Township need – especially when the growth in the Township is in Willoughby, not Murrayville?

From my perspective, if we need a pool expansion right now, it’s not in Murrayville – it’s in Aldergrove. And, if we need a whole new pool facility, it’s also not in Murrayville – it’s in Willoughby (based on population growth).

So just to keep the financial record straight, let’s remember that in the last year, the Township has:

i) Opened a new Township Hall;
ii) Added a new Library, Fitness facility and Community Police Office;
iii) Bought a golf course;
iv) Covered a $250,000 budget overrun on a field house;
v) Approved a $2+ million animal shelter; and
vi) Is building a $5.2 Million Grandstand.

Given all of these major capital expenditures (and this does NOT include roads or sewer or water improvements), does the Township really need a bigger Blair Pool in 2007?

By the way, the proposed new $35.6 Million of debt (to be incurred from 2006 to 2008) that I referenced in my last report does NOT include planned DCC debt. It is also over and above the proposed 20.35% increase in property taxes during the same period.

Do you still think we’ll be able to afford to live in Langley?

Kim Richter

Kim Richter is in her 3rd term as Langley Township Councillor and also is a Professor of Business at Kwantlen University College. She holds a masters degree in health administration and was a health care management consultant.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Open Letter To Mary Polak: Work Alone Legislation Required, Especially For Youth

17 year old Female gas station attendant in Montreal suburb murdered on her first overnight shift

This is an open letter to our Langley MLA, Mary Polak, to initiate strong "work alone" legislation, especially for our youth whose lives are at risk for the sake of small amounts of cash in the tills of the convenience stores, gas stations and other similar work places.

Young kids, women and increasingly our seniors, who work for minimum wages are often put in perilous situations especially on the midnight shifts as they are often left working alone. Yesterday a 17 year old girl was stabbed and killed for about $50 when she was working alone for the first time on the midnight shift at a Shell gas station in Montreal. See this Montreal Gazette report.

We all have children, or are related to, or know kids, who work for $6.50 an hour or minimum wages under similar dangerous situations. At least a mandatory employer/employee Work Alone information and training program is required. But our thought is that a minimum age should be legislated to limit immature younger kids from being put into dangerous work alone environments. Their lack of life experience makes them especially prone to those who would feign anything to get access to so called secured areas like gas bar booths.

The only legislation that seems to focus at least on awareness seems to be in Alberta. In BC, the only focus we could find was concern that the employee working alone should be checked up on at intervals to see if they are ok! Gee, isn't this effective at 3 AM?

This is definitely another opportunity for our MLA to earn her pay check.

Editor-Langley Free Press


NDP Says Rich Coleman Should be Ashamed

Doug Routley, NDP Opposition Critic for Housing today accused Rich Coleman who is the Liberal Minister of Housing of leaving seniors and people with disabilities in the lurch especially when the waiting list for social housing has climbed to 14,000 from 10,000. Posted on their website. Apparently this comes on the heels of three social housing groups who were reported by Sean Holman' Public Eye Online to have serious concerns. Meanwhile the only response found so far is from Jordan Bateman at Langley Politics who works for Coleman's office in communications who obviously says that Rich's plans are "intelligent, well-reasoned, and should result in the most significant creation of social housing in the history of the province". Gawd! What do we expect him to say! I wonder if Jordan will use those same words for Langley's Grandstand $3-4-5 million project as we now fondly will refer to it as the 3-4-5.

Ambassador Frank McKenna Resigns To Harper

Canadian Press reports that Ambassador Frank McKenna has submitted his resignation to prime minister-designate Stephen Harper. Well I guess this is our first candidate for the Liberal Leadership coming up. Now lets see Conservative patronage in action. Who does Harper appoint to the plum Washington Ambassador Job? Maybe appoint Randy White! Just kidding!

Letter to the Editor - Jan 20,2006 - From Blair King - Parking Lot Taxes

We post letters to the editor prominently sent to our attention. EDITOR-LFP

January 20, 2006

The Honorable Kurt Alberts,
Township of Langley,
Municipal Hall
20338 - 65 Avenue
Langley, BC, V2Y 3J1

Dear Mayor Alberts,

Re: TransLink Parking Site Tax

The purpose of my letter is to take advantage of your new position on the TransLink Board to address an inequity in the new TransLink "Parking Site Tax". While I recognize the need for increased funding for transit, it is clear that the "Parking Site Tax" that has recently been put in place by TransLink is inequitable, specifically in that it charges comparable parking tax rates regardless of access to TransLink services and has the perverse effect of collecting greater taxes from individuals and businesses that are under-served by TransLink (and thus require more parking) than businesses and individuals that are well served by transit. As described on the TransLink information page:

the parking tax will be a implemented as a property tax on parking area. The amount of the tax will not be based on the assessed value of the land, but on a rate per square metre that TransLink will set through a by-law.

Based on the current formula businesses in rural Langley, who are unserved by any transit, are being charged the same rate as businesses at Metrotown Mall, which is served by over 10 bus lines and the SkyTrain, and businesses on Broadway in Vancouver, where a bus passes by every 2-5 minutes. Since these taxes will ultimately be passed on to the consumer this has the effect of placing an unfair burden on the citizens of Langley, Surrey and the other outer municipalities to provide greater services to the citizens of the core municipalities. Consequently, as our new representative to the TransLink Board, I would like to request that you forward a motion at your earliest convenience to amend the current parking tax calculation to prorate the levy dependent on available bus/SkyTrain service in the area. In this way the merchants and shoppers of Langley, that are virtually bereft of transit service and are utterly dependent on automobiles for their customers and shopping, will not be subsidizing parking spaces for shoppers in Vancouver who have other options. I am not requesting that you ask to repeal the tax as it is clear that road and bridge improvements will simplify commuting in our region, merely that the rate be lowered in regions where viable alternatives to the personal automobile do not presently exist.


Blair King

CC (via email): Editor - Langley Times
Webmaster - LangleyFreePress

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Township Council Votes NO To Prevent Future Cost Overruns!

Rest of Langley Township Council Votes Against Richter/Bateman Motion to in Future Prevent More Grandstand “Fast Ferry” Type Projects!

All of Council last night except for Councillors Richter & Bateman voted against the motion “that Council take action to prevent similar significant budget escalations on future major capital projects...”

Sources who were at the 7 PM Council meeting clarified the following information and forwarded to us the attached documents herein. We thank them for that. Apparently the Motion (actual motion viewed here) that Councillor Kim Richter submitted and that Councillor Jordan Bateman agreed to second was discussed at last night’s Township meeting and failed by a vote of 7 to 2. Apparently only Mayor Alberts and Councillor Mel Kosistky spoke up to say they did not support the motion because they thought that the preamble to the motion had things in it that were not true or correct. Looking at the motion you will see that the preamble only discusses the dollars going up at the Nov 29, 2004 Council meeting from the originally planned $3 million to $4 million when the Federal and Provincial funding was confirmed. The remaining preamble then refers to bumping it up to $5.2 million at the Dec 21, 2005 Council meeting.

In rebuttal to Alberts and Kositsky’s accusations, Richter referenced her motion and specifically asked staff to confirm or deny 2 key questions. They were: 1. In November 2004, was a new $4 million total for the project and a $1.58 million cap on Township's contribution to the project approved in accordance with staff's recommendation?; and 2. Was 80% of an additional $1.2 Million (over and above the $4 Million) approved on December 21, 2005? Their answer was yes to both questions with some vague waffling. The waffles were not elaborated on, discussed or understood at all. Nor did Mayor Alberts or Councillor Kositsky ever once explain what they thought were untruths in Richter’s motion preamble. Why? Is it because her preamble is accurate and very well documented?

The attached documents (slide presentation viewed here- large 12mb file) shows the entire slide presentation made by Staff to Council on November 29, 2004. As you will see, staff clearly recommends which cost action to proceed with (i.e. Option 2 - $4.0 Million). The covering letter (dated January 17, 2006) on the first page of the slide presentation states that it does not include any “actual” Council resolutions that may have resulted from the presentation. However, the Council as you can see from the actual minutes of the very same Nov 29, 2004 meeting (Minutes Nov 29/04 viewed here) went along with the November 2004 staff recommendations almost word for word and except for Councillors Arnason and Richter chose to increase the project dollars by $1 million to the Option 2 – Medium Scope of $4 million. In fact the motion clearly stated that not a penny more should be spent on the Grandstand! They chose this one over both Option 1 – Smallest Scope of $3.1 million or Option 3 – Original Scope of $5.7 million.

View these options yourself in the attached slide presentation. Yes, the Council decided in Nov 2004 not to stick with the $3 million amount as initialed planned for the Grandstand which they could have hopefully done by going with Option 1 (although much smaller in scope than initially desired and the presentation suggested it had an upside risk amount of extra unknown $).

As a footnote comment, in our opinion, Council should ideally have refused all options and sent the whole project back for redesign to get it back to closer to a firm $3 million design. It seems that staff clearly submitted the $3 million Option 1 in case the Council decided to stick more closely with the previous very first $3.06 million estimated amount that Council approved on August 25, 2003 and submitted to the federal and provincial governments for joint funding. On April 5, 2004, this was again endorsed by Council. However, by November 2004, Council changed its cost position and went with staff's recommendation for the $4 million Option 2. Most recently on December 21, 2005 once again with Councillor Richter opposed, Council again increased the project's dollar funding to $5 million at taxpayers expense. This project clearly started at $3 m went to $4 m and now is at $5 million!

The decision of all of Council, except for Richter and Bateman, to vote against the motion is a travesty because they do not at all clarify or even attempt to clarify why or what they think is untrue. Staff FAQ’s also confirm Richter’s chronology and facts. Council minutes and the slide presentation also confirm the motions and more importantly show that this Grandstand project has undisputedly gone from $3 to $4 to $5 million with the Township’s cost portion rising from the first contemplated $800,000 to over $3 million. Those are the facts. Attached is the documenting proof.

Answers to the real questions arising out of last night’s Council meeting should be demanded. Specifically, why was this motion defeated? What items in Richter’s motion preamble are not deemed true? Why weren't these disagreements discussed in last night's meeting? Is this simply an attempt to hide the truth from the taxpayers in Langley? Is it an attempt to punish the messenger? Is this a cover up? Or, is it just very bad business sense coupled with an out-of-control "Tax , Spend & Borrow" Council that cares more about getting themselves top of the line Blackberry cell phones than keeping tax dollars low? Or is there another answer? What is the real answer?

This Council has rejected Richter’s motion that would have at least put some new measures in place to help prevent this Grandstand fiasco from occurring again. But a $5 million Grandstand project cost, initially planned at $3 million, is a very big deal especially when we end up probably paying $3 million instead of our initially planned $800, 000 portion of it compared to our 3 partners. But $3 million when Township only brings in about $80 million annually represents about 4% of our annual budget and is a big deal. Not only should we be trying to prevent this from happening again but we should try to hire a Sheila Fraser type of auditor to investigate this to find out why this gross overrun happened in the first place and why the apparent attempt to stifle Councilor Richter and cover this up.

Unfortunately, we were told that only the Times were in attendance at last night's Council meeting. It will be interesting to see what their take is on the attempt to rewrite history on the Grandstand cost overruns. Stay tuned.

For more information on the Grandstand fiasco see the initial columns by Councillor Richter who broke the story here first in Langley Free Press. The links to view are here, here and here.

Casino Revenues for Langley City Better Than Expected

The Vancouver Sun reports that the Langley Cascades Casino is making more money for Langley City than expected at the expense of other casinos that are not doing that well. The Cloverdale Racetrack casino for one is apparently one of those that are under performing. The City expected to earn $3.5 million as its share of the casino take. It looks like it well be much more. The City now expects to pay down the debt completely on the property where the casino stands earlier than expected in the first year. UPDATE: Also see today's Langley Advance for more details.

Since the Casino is doing so well for the City, perhaps now the City will finally pay its fair share of the policing cost in the Langleys and help the Township out with Grandstand costs!

Who will want Paul Martin's Job?

Who will want Paul Martin’s job? But who will most likely get it. See our poll for some suggestions. LFP right now is betting on Michael Ignatieff. New on the block and touted as the next Trudeau. Manley and Mckenna are suggested as most likely. Have early backers & machines ready to go.

Hebert - New PM Faces Tough Balancing Act

Toronto Star CHANTAL HEBERT gives her first comment on the election.
We predict Harper's primary focus from now on will be Quebec first to get a majority next time and urban communities secondly especially Toronto.

More Harper Win Editorials and Comments.
view here forTYEE blogger comments.
view here for Globe & Mail story.
view here Van Sun Editorial, concensus needed
view here for Canadian dollar down
view here Harper still scary in BC
view here Province editorial
view here National Post Editorial
view here New York Times
view here BBC News
view here Montreal Gazette Editorial
view here Calgary Herald Editorial
view here Ottawa Citizen Editorial

Cpac Ses Nightly Poll Deadly Accurate

This is the second election where SES comes out shining. You can see from the below why Langley Free Press provided the daily updates exclusively. It would appear that the SES 12.5 % undecided had no single focused real impact on the party numbers.

Canadian Popular Vote…Actual…SES Poll
Liberal ………………….......30.2%.....30.1%
NDP ……………………........17.5 %.....17.4%
Bloc ……………………........10.5%......10.6%
Green/Other ……………....5.6%.........5.6%

View final SES nightly Jan 22 poll here.
View final SES nightly Jan 22 regional breakdown poll here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Canadians Win Minority Change- Warawa Langley Winner

Paul Martin announces he will not stay on as Leader.
Locally, Warawa big winner, increases his vote by 4.9%.
Local Gap between Libs & Cons widens to 29.5% from 23%.
Langley NDP vote increase by 1.6%. Closing in on Liberals.

2004 Langley Election
47.7%.....24390 votes….Conservative…Mark Warawa
24.7%.....12649 votes…..Liberal………....Kim Richter
16.8%.......8568 votes…..NDP………........Dean Morrison
6.1%.........3108 votes…..Green…………...Patrick Meyer
4.7%........2422 votes…..Independent….Mel Kositsky
65.4%.. turnout of… 78394 eligible… 51268 voted

2006 Langley Election
52.6%..28586 votes.Conservative.Mark Warawa(+4196 & + 4.9%)
23.1%..12529 votes..Liberal………....Bill Brooks……(-120 & -1.6%)
18.4%..10017 votes..NDP………....Angel Claypool(+1449 & +1.6%)
5.5%......3010 votes..Green…………...Patrick Meyer.(-98 & - .6%)
.4%.........211 votes..( C. A . P.)......Vicki Lee Sloan.
66.6%.. turnout of…81580 eligible...54353 voted

Changes in brackets show change of votes & % of votes over 2004 election.
Note 2004 Independent (-2422 & -4.7%) vote loss to be factored also.

More Rewriting of History Attempts on Grandstand Fiasco

Councillor Jordan Bateman on his website langleypolitics.com when commenting on the Richter motion tonight regarding reeling in out of control Township spending, like the gold plated Grandstand project, forgets to mention he is indeed the Councillor that put forward initially the motion in late December to go over the Grandstand budget by $800,000.00 to $1,000,000.00. His comments seem to have earned a rare comment on his same posting by Councillor Kim Richter (one of LFP's contributing columnists) herself, clarifing what her motion is.

Of interest is Bateman saying that "Mayor Alberts calls it a service improvement". Obviously Bateman has been speaking to Alberts behind the scene and this would appear to us to be the newest previously unheard of yet history rewrite spin being floated. Remember the last rewrite attempt was to say it was always budgeted at $5.7 million not $3 or $4 million! If that is correct does it mean that Councillor Bateman moved the motion in late December as a service improvement only! Did he know that at the time? Great priorities on spending!

To be fair to Councillor Bateman, is it possible that when Bateman moved the motion in late December, remember he was only on Council for less than 30 days, perhaps he was for some reason unknowingly snookered to move the motion? Or did he just feel, get on with the project? But why then did he not try to make any attempt to keep the cost to the originally approved budget? He always talked of the right fiscal priorities during the Municipal election campaign. Perplexing. To see the true whole history on the Grandstand fiasco go to the original breaking story here , here and here.

From our point of view this is a bad cost overrun like the fast ferries was. Or it was always planned to be over $5 million but never truly revealed? Which do you think?

Look At The Real Losers After Tonight

Chantal Hebert looks at the real losers after tonight’s election campaign.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blog Power Rules !

Support your local Blogs. Here’s why.

Martin-Layton Coalition Government?

Shane Dyson forwards an interesting premise. Specifically the scenario setup and the question raised:

Stephen Harper has just won enough seats to form a minority Government, yet the Liberals and NDP combined have more seats than the Conservatives. Paul Martin calls Jack Layton up and asks for a formal coalition to keep the Conservatives out of power.

Good question, food for thought. The bigger question is how Martin could bear talking to Layton after Layton focused his current campaign exclusively on picking at the carcass of the Liberals instead of the Conservatives! Also strategically may be wise to fend off post election criticism of Layton indirectly having helped the Conservatives. But seriously if your scenario is correct, does Martin go to the Governor General and officially ask that he remain the PM?

Shane by the way ran for Township Council and quite frankly we were disappointed that the voters did not chose to elect him this past election. Next time Shane, we'll support ya! You can see him at his website and we also thought we would add some colour to this post by showing his picture here as well. Thank you Shane.

Category - Canada At War In Afghanistan

This is a category page. The following posts (listed in order from newest to oldest) comment on anything about or posted by Your Editor about the Canada-Afghan War.

Final SES Poll before Election - Look Out!

Cpac Ses Nightly Tracking Poll final before Election results:
Gap has closed in Ontario to 2 % points! Atlantic last moment big switch to Liberals.
Based on 3 day rolling , 1200 voters as reported since December 1
( as logged on sidebar to the Right)
Be wary of sample polls that are for info only and not statistically accurate. But then again any poll may in the final analysis be inaccurate!

Liberal ………..30%
NDP ………….17%
Bloc …………..11%
Green ………….6%

And Look out in seat rich Ontario;

Conservative …..38%
Liberal ………....36%
NDP …………...20%
Green ……………6%

Both Martin and Harper Ending Election In Lower Mainland

Martin & Harper stomping around Vancouver because BC is “crown jewel” in election hopes by both leaders. Quoted in news 1130. Your last chance ever to see one of them!

Ottawa Sun's Thoughts On Harper Cabinet

The Ottawa Sun muses about Harper’s Government cabinet and the only BC Harper minion it mentions is Stockwell Day. Oh, how embarrassing for BC if this is true! Is this the best of BC's Conservative MPs ?

Embarrassing Old Martin Tributes to Gagliano

The following video link is suddenly released. We wonder who made sure to dig this up, on the day before the election! They are obviously 2 old videos of tributes to none other than Alfonso Gagliano by, you guessed it Paul Martin in the good ole days of entitlements. Ouch!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Local News Review - Jan 15 - 20, 2006

This week was Category 1 News week. In our opinion this past week, Jan 15 through today Jan 20 has not been a stellar week for the local papers. We come to the simplistic conclusion that the papers have 3 kinds of stories. The first is filler or what we could call lazy news which is basically nothing spectacular and quite frankly boring. Examples abound like the overly balanced news on the election candidates in Langley, some theoretically heart warming stories, cops find human ashes in car, editor shaves his head bald, merchant closes shop, etc. Basically boring and the editorials and even letters to the editor are boring. The ads are generally more interesting on category 1 days! Filler news is category 1. Some Cat 1 news in a paper is expected , but mainly or only cat 1 news is disappointing.

Category 2 News has some sparks of life and potential with some interesting stuff but once again not as hard hitting or investigative as they could be. It leaves the reader craving more and feeling as unsatisfied as a disinterested lover. This week's papers had potential category 2 stories like the township tax increases hinted at but buried deep in the Times paper's bowels! For another version on tax increases look here. Also some potential not followed up on in detail was the Grandstand story( not enough info, scratched the surface), the Hornets leaving (again no impact or real background), and the school closings scratchings. We believed these stories had potential. Climax free news is Category 2.

Category 3 News seems to be very rare and the only good example was a few weeks ago when the Times had a detailed, well reported series of comprehensive angles and background articles in their crystal meth series of stories in one paper. I still congratulate them on that to this day. Brilliant! Category 3 stories are in depth stories on things like the real story on the gold plated Grandstand which still remains unreported. High impact, eyebrow raising, innovative, pertinent, investigative, interesting and informative is Category 3 News.

This past week has been category 1 for just about everything in all papers. One Category 2 item was the Grandstand cost overrun in today's Advance. But readers were only titilated on this one. For the life of me I did not understand what the $40ok overrun was referring to. I do know the project started at $3m, up to $4m, up to $5m and In the mean time some attempt is being floated that it was always $5.7 million. Yet the city still is expecting to pay only their share of the $3 million option to this day.! (Find another version on this story here & here) .

The other category 2 Advance story was that the Hornets are moving. Heck, where are the comments that the Township spent gobs of money to keep them here a couple of years ago by upgrading the seats, elevators and what ever else and the fact that we heard that the Hornets were not allowed to extend the advertising at the civic centre. The Township tax increases story was buried in the Times so far in we can't even find it any more. See here for another version of theTownship tax increase story. The School closings including Carvolth just has to get more in depth. The school board seems to constantly glide under the media's radar. During the election they promised more interaction with the community. The article in today's advance displayed none of this promise.

The editorials have been essentially category 1 and the multitude of letters including the "I love Harper" or "I fear Harper" have been category 1. The exception is on page 57 (as far back as you can go) in the Advance where a resident relates her story about her mother's treatment in Langley Hospital. This is Category 3 and it should be followed up on. If only the Langley Free Press was able to have as many reporters as the local media we would strive to bring the standard up to category 3 as much as possible! But we are only a local blog.

Keep in mind the foregoing is only this writer's opinion and maybe we are being unrealistic and far to harsh. Perhaps this is the standard that a community newspaper can deliver to, should deliver to and is expected to deliver to, especially under a large umbrella business organization like Black Press & Canwest. Maybe this is normal and ok. If it is, I apologize. They are obviously not a Globe & Mail or Vancouver Sun nor do they have their resources. But one can dream can't one?

Michael Ignatieff - Next Trudeau?

We predict that you will hear much more from Michael in the future. Especially with talk of Liberals losing the election and perhaps Paul Martin too. See the British Guardian paper article. At the Liberal convention early last year he apparently excited the audience and especially electrified the youth in attendance. Many say he could be a second coming, reminiscent of Trudeau.

Vancouver Sun & Province Endorse Harper

The Vancouver Sun Editorial Board today in the Sun Editorial endorsed Stephen Harper’s Conservatives especially focusing on reforming the political side of government but strongly suggested that Harper not revisit the same sex marriage issue nor pursue the Conservative approach to illicit drug use. The Sun is also concerned with Harper’s $22.5 billion cuts in government spending impact. The Vancouver Province also endorse Harper.

Separatists Big Losers In Quebec

Chantal Hébert reports in the Toronto Star that essentially the biggest irony is that it is the Conservatives with an Albertan leader, Harper, that is now killing the sovereignty movement in Quebec!

Vecchiato’s Voice Is Coming To Langley Free Press

We are pleased to announce that Cathleen Vecchiato has agreed to become our 3rd and most recent contributing columnist with Langley Free Press. She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities. She has been a frequent fixture at Council meetings advocating for the environment and wildlife. She is always well researched, passionate and articulate on conservation matters. She has also contributed extensively to the print media over the years about balancing and conserving the natural beauty of our communities.

Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 5-1/2 years. Raised in Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and San Francisco, she earned her Bachelor's in English at SF State University. After moving to Langley in 1997, she has followed municipal issues closely, made delegations to council, and formed Langley Conservation Network. Vecchiato became a Canadian citizen on December 3, 2003, primarily so that she could vote in Canada.

We look forward to Cathleen sharing political & conservation information and discussion about the community with the community here in Langley Free Press. Tomorrow will be Langley Free Press's 1st month anniversary and we have come a long way. Three columnists and thousands of viewers in just 30 days and growing exponentially! How fitting for us to celebrate with Cathleen's Voice joining ours! She will be submitting in the upcoming week. Welcome Cathleen.
Editor Langley Free Press

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Que Liberal Candidate Clarifies, Vote Him First, Federalist Second

Gilles Savard, the Liberal candidate running in the Jonquière-Alma riding clarified earlier media reports that suggested he is throwing his support behind a Tory. Reported by CTV. "I do not concede victory to any of my adversaries before the actual results of the election are known,'' Savard was quoted as saying. He then encouraged all Liberal voters to support him, and above all else, to support federalist candidates.

The next few days will be wild with tension, hope, and yes desperation by all parties! Right up till Monday you will read many more wild and wooly stories that all the political parties are grabbing on to and spinning like mad. Don’t believe everything you read in the next few days because the media are also just as desperate and just trying to score first. The worst media spinner right now, bar none is Bourque!

Canadian Bar Association Burns Harper

Brian A. Tabor, Q.C. is the President of the Canadian Bar Association which represents lawyers and I guess also Judges across Canada. Tabor, without naming Stephen Harper directly, obviously chastises him for his remarks about suggesting Canadian Judge’s may have political biases against Harper’s Conservatives. In the CBA website, he refers to politicians, “tempted to score easy political points by attacking judges who can't defend themselves in public debate.” Ouch, Harper burned! And Tabor goes on to say anyone suggesting that Canadian Judges have social agenda biases “ damages the integrity of the justice system to suggest otherwise.” Well you heard here first folks a lot of lawyers are steamed with Harper. Any good lawyer jokes?

Bill Brooks Bash Bust

Long time Senator Jack Austin visited the Aldergrove Banquet Center for a fund raising rally for Bill Brooks yesterday morning. Our sources say the attendance was about 10 supporters! Why pick a banquet hall that can seat 1000? Oh boy we better adjust our guess on % of votes for the Liberals in Langley. Curiously Brooks’s website shows about 15 in the picture. Must have included 5 or 6 Banquet Hall staff! I guess the photographer was Langley Poltics.Com’s Sam Kirk!

Fewer Goodies for Langley & BC With Harper as PM

The election is over except for the crying and laughing. It certainly looks like Harper’s conservatives won this one even though the undecided are still out there and today’s SES poll shows the Liberals are tied with the Conservatives in seat rich Ontario. Is it minority or majority though? Our concern in Langley and BC should now be about having influence with strong representation in Harper’s cabinet. We at Langley Free Press are concerned that we won’t have as much influence and local investment as we had under Paul Martin’s cabinet. Under Martin’s government we had four ministers. They were Ujjal Dosanjh, (Minister of Health), David Emerson (Minister of Industry), Raymond Chan, (Minister of State (Multiculturalism)) and Stephen Owen (Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State & Sport). Lets face it BC and Langley was finally getting attention and money from the feds with these senior ministers.

The issue is that BC will not have the same strong conservative cabinet material. For instance in our opinion Langley’s Mark Warawa is not cabinet material, probably never will be and will keep warming up the back benches. It’s really unfortunate that in Langley the social conservatives helped plant Warawa over Bev Braaten at their nomination meeting in 2004. She had the political connections, was articulate and intelligent, fast on her feet and we think was many more times the cabinet material of a Mark Warawa. With the lack of strong if any substantial females (except for perhaps Rona Ambrose) in the Harper Government she would have most certainly been in cabinet. The social conservatives have hijacked many Conservative ridings all over BC and mostly in the west . They essentially supported single issue puppets in ridings just as they solidly helped elect Warawa in Langley. These elected candidates will know where their bread is buttered and unfortunately will remain pretty much single issue candidates with similar capabilities as our local MP. Hence, many back seat bench warmers in government.

So who will Harper choose for his cabinet? Another problem for BC is Harper’s focus on Quebec, Ontario and home ground Alberta. An indicator of BC’s importance is demonstrated by Harper’s 8 BC election visits so far compared to Paul Martin’s 11 visits. BC’s only possible list of cabinet material possibilities is not overly impressive. Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl, Jay Hill, John Cummins and James Moore are the only ones that we can see Harper choose from. Moore who is bilingual and brash and energetic has excellent potential. The rest speak for them selves. The Harper cabinet ministers and more importantly the senior ministers will primarily hail from Ontario, Alberta and now probably from Quebec too. As local Liberal candidate Bill Brooks points out, he has been more effective in helping get Langley infrastructure monies as a non elected volunteer than our sitting MP Mark Warawa. Therefore, Harper as PM will unfortunately provide no better local benefits for Langley and we are further worried about losing influence and money for BC as a whole as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Translink Chair Waffles on Port Mann Doubling

Does new Translink Chair Malcolm Brodie (Richmond Mayor) want to twin the Port Mann or not? He better do something for the South Fraser commuters! CKNW reports.

Langley Election Prediction Contest

2004 Langley Actual Election Results
(51,268 people voted out of a possible 78,394 for 65.4% turnout)

47.7%.....24390 votes….Conservative…Mark Warawa
24.7%.....12649 votes…..Liberal………....Kim Richter
16.8%.......8568 votes…..NDP………........Dean Morrison
6.1%.........3108 votes…..Green…………...Patrick Meyer
4.7%........2422 votes…..Independent….Mel Kositsky

Our 2006 Langley Election - January 18 Prediction
(We at Langley Free Press predict a 67% turnout this time)

53%.......Conservative…………............Mark Warawa
18%........Liberal……………...................Bill Brooks
19%........NDP………............................Angel Claypool
9%.........Green………………………..........Patrick Meyer
1%..........Canadian Action Party.........Vicki Lee Sloan

What’s your best guess?
Closest on Election Day wins the “Smiling Gumby” award.
Rules? You gotta be kidding! Your way too serious!
Your last best guess by first poll closing is the one that counts.

Guess The Election Candidate Celebrity Supporter

Note the Warawa sign affixed to which Langley Celebrity home?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Richter Report - January 17, 2006

Township Tax, Spend & Borrow Plans - Going from the sublime to the ridiculous

20.35% tax increase and $35.6 Million in new debt presented!

Yesterday, Township Council spent 2½ hours reviewing the Township’s draft 2006 to 2008 Budget. On December 21, 2005, Council had asked staff to “prepare the 10 year Long Term Financial Plan based on the preferred Service Enhancement Option D” and to bring this back to a Budget Workshop on January 16, 2006 at 3 pm (as reported in Langley Free Press [LFP] on Dec. 23/05). Those of you who visited LFP in December 2005 will recall that “Option D” was the most expensive option presented to Council for its consideration.

At yesterday’s meeting, Council did not get past the 2008 numbers. So the new Council failed to meet its earlier objective of reviewing a 10 year plan as originally scheduled. However, given the dramatic cost increases presented for 2006 to 2008, it was probably a good thing that we stopped at 2008 and did not proceed to 2016. (Otherwise, we’d likely all have to sell and move out of Langley because we wouldn’t be able to afford either the anticipated taxes or the new debt load).

We were fortunate to have had one member of the local media present. However, he only stayed for the first hour of the meeting and therefore missed the major piece of Council discussion on anticipated new debt plus new tax rates over the next three years.

While he was there, staff confirmed that the basic general levy tax increase being presented over the next 3 years is 20.35% (5.6% in 2006 plus 8.95% in 2007 plus 5.8% in 2008). Of course, this simple total of 20.35% does not include the compounded effect over 3 years.

I’m sure though that the editor of his paper will explain the difference between ‘simple’ and ‘compounded’ increases so that we’ll all be able to understand how a simple increase of 20.35% is not so bad, especially because the compounded increase is 21.7%.

Of course, these numbers depend on an increase in assessed property value of 13.58%. If your assessed property value increased more than this, the 20.35% won’t apply. You can expect more. Again, I’m sure that the newspaper editor will explain all of this to you.

Getting back to the main issue, tax increases may be justified (depending on who you are talking to). But, how do you also explain/justify increases in Township debt? Is new development really paying for itself? (This is a key issue that I’ve raised before).

Yesterday, Council was informed that in addition to the 20.35% tax increase in the general levy from 2006 to 2008, a new debt load of $36.5 Million in same three year period (2006 to 2008) would also be required (and this new debt does NOT include the $30-$52 million estimated in the Fall of 2005 for Aldergrove’s Sewer and Water).

Our existing debt is about $4.5 million. Previous councils have worked very hard to pay the Township’s debt level down. So now that it is down, why do we want to run it back up again? And especially if running it back up again does not include key health and safety issues like sewer capacity in Aldergrove.

I sincerely hope that the rest of Council (especially the new Councillors) finally understand what I have been concerned about for many years. We are living beyond our means and our growth is not financially sustainable.

Council has been approving spending and new development on a piece-meal (by project) basis without regard to the bigger picture. As a result, Council has been increasing taxes to homeowners to pay for it. I don’t think we can continue in this manner. We must start differentiating between “Need-to-Have” and “Nice-to-Have”. It would be nice to have a new museum in Fort Langley but we need to have a new sewer system in Aldergrove and better roads in Willoughby.

If we don’t start making this key differentiation soon, we’ll be bankrupt (or taxed out of existence). Like many other people in this community, I started my family here and I want to retire here, but if taxes keep going they way they are, I won’t be able to afford to do so (and neither will you).

Like a buoy, I have been ringing a bell. The numbers are out of control. If you want examples, look at field houses and grandstands. Look at “old” (3 years ago) and “new” 10 year financial plans. Look at blackberries and expense accounts.

The budget planning meeting was to have been completed yesterday. But after the many questions that I (and a couple of other new members of Council) asked, Council decided to review these numbers again at a workshop in February and to delay all the public open houses/surveys for another month. Here’s hoping that the Council will be what it was elected to be and that is a Board of Directors. The Board should set the parameters and staff should respond to those parameters.

Now as shareholders who elect the Board of Directors, here’s your job. Do you agree to the following numbers? If you don’t, call your councillors and let them know your position. (Their phone numbers are available on http://www.tol.bc.ca/Langley/Council/Members/).

Proposed Tax Increases (2006 to 2008)
2006 tax increase 5.60%
2007 tax increase 8.95%
2008 tax increase 5.80 %
Total 3 yr simple increase 20.35%

Proposed Debt (2006 to 2008)
New Debt:
2006 General Capital $ 6.65 million
2008 General Capital $ 10.00 million
2007 Water Capital $ 1.50 million
2008 Water Capital $ 4.00 million

2006 Storm Water Capital $ 1.5 million
2007 Storm Water Capital $ 8.2 million
2008 Storm Water Capital $ 3.8 million

Total NEW DEBT $35.65 Million

Current Existing Debt $ 4.5 million
Grand Total Debt $40.15 Million

Summary Comments & Suggestions:

  1. In the last term, Council proudly announced that the Township no longer had significant debt. Obviously, this could be history. And, why should we incur more debt?

  2. Substantial decreases in the Township tax rates contemplated in December 2005 will not occur.

  3. Council should consider hiring an independent financial actuary to assist it in drilling down to, and understanding, the macros of the numbers presented by staff. With all due respect to Council, a business background is an asset and we need independent advice.

  4. It clearly appears to me that even with dramatic growth in housing and commercial development starts, we are not able to pay for new development. We either have to stop new development or dramatically raise DCC’s. Alternatively, we could tax and borrow a lot more BUT only if our spending is non-exorbitant (which it’s not).

  5. At what point do we ask ourselves whether we are living beyond our means? Maybe it should be soon and maybe we should start requiring more reports from developers as to their impact on the immediate and extended neighbourhoods, and especially about impact on new residents’ expectations concerning neighbourhood and community services.

Kim Richter

Kim Richter is in her 3rd term as Langley Township Councillor and also is a Professor of Business at Kwantlen University College. She holds a masters degree in health administration and was a health care management consultant.

Bureaucratic attempt to Rewrite History on the MAP Grandstand?

Jordan Bateman of Langley Politics.Com has posted “Grandstand grandstanding” where he posts a new Township document with a frequently asked Questions report on the MAP Grandstand. Clearly from our perspective it confirms everything Councillor Kim Richter has said about the project. Richter first broke the story here in LFP in her previous 3 part series Grandstand column. Essentially the report says the same she said with some very disturbing and we think misleading embellishments and distortions. The report essentially says;

  1. Initial budget was $3.0 million (Grant application went in on February 2001 and was approved in 2004)

  2. In 2004 Council approved an increase to $4.0 million (it was recosted & apparently staff wanted to up it to $5.7 million then. Council seems to have had some brains by apparently saying no to $5.7 million)

  3. In 2005 Staff wanted another $1.2 million, approved by Council except for Richter but they won upping it to $5.2 million (Wow, they almost got their previous $5.7 money anyhow! Report says increased costs were for roof area increase and complete bleacher seating and roughed in areas. What the heck are all these? Sounds like cost plus items. And what the heck is Phase 2 or Phase 1 for that matter? Is there an expensive Phase 2 coming?)

  4. It says Township is ultimately on the hook for $2.965 Million (and they are still trying to get money from the City and any body else they can to mitigate the project’s cost! Good luck. The City obviously also never knew that the budget really was supposedly $4.0, $5.2 or $5.7 million, because they are still committed only to the same portion of the original $1 million City/Township portion of the $3 million. Even after all this time! Unbelievable!)

So this report says what we already know. It agrees with Councillor Richter. These are the facts and they remain unchanged.

What we at Langley Free Press find very disturbing is in the real intent and curious undercurrent of the document which is glaringly set in sophisticated bureaucratic gobbley gook. Most importantly it also shockingly seems to be back dooring an admonishment and also suggests muzzling of the facts is necessary and requested of Richter or anyone else who would dare to question or criticize the cost overruns on the Grandstand in public. I can’t believe any level of government would blatantly promote the conscious censoring of opinions and facts on any taxpayer paid venture. Are all these accidental or deliberate? Essentially the report blatantly suggests that vocal concerns for spending tax dollars on this project could harm the public’s perception of the project and further fundraising for the project. The tail is trying to wag the dog! Gee, the only vocal person has been Richter! How dare she! Yet it agrees with Richter’s exposé on the project. It just seems to try and gloss up the whole thing and almost literally badly attempts to rewrite history.

We ask what is really behind this bureaucratic piece of fluff and why? Let’s face it folks we can add too, $3 million, up to $4 million, up to $5.2. Million and we pay $3 million in the end hoping to get the City to pony up their share. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Don’t be fooled.

We thank Langley Politics.com for bringing our attention to the document they posted today. But we also have to ask why is Jordan Bateman of Langley Politics.com posting this bureaucratic document and titling the posting “Grandstand grandstanding”? Who is he suggesting is grandstanding? Why is he suggesting this? What is his alternative to shed light on this and other significant public issues not reported in the traditional media? Will he answer these questions?