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Oh, where do I start…

Well, after years of using local media to try to get Tofino to come up with a safer and more appropriate earthquake/tsunami emergency plan, to no avail, I finally went to bigger, out-of-town media, hoping to get some reaction.

And it’s finally worked! Our mayor, John Fraser, spoke on CBC Radio’s show On the Island this morning, in response to my concerns. (You can read about my concerns in yesterday’s blog post, or you can listen to them on my own CBC On the Island interview of two days ago).

For those of you who missed it, you can listen to what our mayor had to say today by clicking Read the rest of this entry »

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Sometimes I wish I didn’t know the things I know (see references listed at the bottom of this article).

But even if I didn’t have a PhD in Structural Geology (study of movements in the Earth’s crust, e.g. faults), and even if I hadn’t read most every scientific paper published about the earthquake and tsunami risk here on the West Coast, I think I’d be asking someone who did know. This is life-and-death stuff.

Even more relevant now, with a new geological study published last month, saying that the likelihood of the big earthquake+tsunami coming within the next 50 years is nearly 4 times higher than previously thought. I sold my house on Chestermans based on the old data Read the rest of this entry »

Well, it’s certainly getting a lot of media attention. Councillor Stephen Ashton is up to 10 live interviews and counting.

Not sure how many of you heard Stephen on the national CBC Radio show Q today. He did a really good job of answering questions, and explaining what our community has to gain by this: retaining our uniqueness, our spirit, our identity. It’s both for ourselves, and for our tourism “brand” (oh I hate that word, but you know what I mean).

Jian Ghomeshi has posed it as his question of the day:

Should a community be able to ban retail chains and fast-food franchises?

As of nearing midnight, he has got well over 100 responses from across the nation – almost all of them strongly in support of the motion to ban the chains. There is even a refrain echoing in numerous posts of “Go Tofino!”

Check out the comments (you can add one there, too – or here): http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2010/03/should_a_community_be_able_to.html#comments

You can also listen to Stephen’s March 19th Q interview online – as of Friday night it has not yet been posted, but I am sure they will have it up shortly: http://www.cbc.ca/q/pastepisodes.html Click the March 19th podcast to listen to it now; to save the mp3 and listen later, right click (PC) or option-click (Mac).

Republished from Greg Blanchette’s blog

Given Tofino’s longtime agonizing over our affordable housing crisis — played out for years as summer staffing shortages, now escalating to the threat of school closure — it’s interesting that tiny houses have not been looked at as part of the solution.

As far as i know, there’s a minimum square footage requirement on habitations in the district. (Can anybody confirm that?) Which, combined with the price of land on the West Coast, pretty much guarantees Read the rest of this entry »

The sludge (see yesterday’s post, below) is now on Tonquin Beach – and I wonder where else.

Of course getting any of our governmental organizations to look into this is not easy.  Coast Guard says it’s not their department; DFO was reluctant to get involved (update: but apparently will now look into it); District of Tofino says it’s not within their jurisdiction either.

Hopefully someone will take it upon themselves to Read the rest of this entry »

THE TOFINO WATER BLUES
(or Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town)
(or Third Door on the Left, Town Hall)

by Dennis Currie

I’ve built a secret outhouse
It’s hidden in my trees, they’re lush
Since I received my Tofino water bill
I’m never going to flush

I’m never going to shave again
Or wash my face or hair
Instead of the white porcelain commode
I’ve got a two holed wooden chair

I’m never going to wash my clothes
Or eat a crab that’s boiled
I knew it would happen some day
Water costs more than sweet crude oil

And yet outside my door it’s pouring
Torrents of water flood Olsen Creek
While over at the Meares Reservoir
It must be 30 feet deep

Cascading over the top of the dam
Ever flowing to the sea
And yet just to brush my teeth
I’d need a dollar fifty three

Now all the rents are going up
I heard the Laundromat is closing down
Soon we’ll all smell and look like hippies
That’s actually good for this hippie town

It’s not called Tough City for nothing
We’re not like those clean folks commuting from Uke
They really should be embarrassed
To live where parking and water are free

No, I’m never going to flush again
I’m going to save lots on soap and shampoo
If you ever care to join my protest
My secret outhouse has seating for two

I tried flushing down with Evian
But the plastic bottles fill our dump
So I thought I’d dig my own well
Install a big old manual pump

But I’d need an $18,000 permit
For any land improvement
So I going to my covert outhouse
For all my future movements

Perhaps my lack of flushing
Won’t bother those in power
I’m warning them when I pay my bill
It’ll be a month since I had a shower

And still the rain is pounding down
Helping my trees grow tall
I guess if I really miss the flush
I could use the toilet at Municipal Hall

But there just might be a bylaw
Against my using their W.C.
And I sure don’t want that bylaw guy
Sniffing around behind my trees

Perhaps some day they’ll change the rate
Though I’ll bet it won’t be soon
But for now I’m slippin’ my rain gear on
Headed for my secret shack with the quarter moon

So, how do Tofino’s bizarrely complex rates compare to other districts?  Do other municipalities also charge residents more? (And, if you still do not believe that residents are charged more, then I am sorry – I just do not know how else I can explain this any more clearly: you can go back to my August 2nd post, which outlines how our system works).

Then, let’s look around – at Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Victoria, and Vancouver (I’ll add Ukee, too, if I can – their rates are not posted on line) – and see how we compare.  

And, I know my posts are long – I’ll give you the summary now (keep reading if you want to see the supporting facts).
1.  None of these districts differentiates between residential and commercial rates.

2.  They especially do not distinguish between type of business, giving some more favourable rates than others.

3.  Some of them add a flat-fee monthly or quarterly charge that goes up according to the size of the water delivery pipe – this is a way to charge businesses proportionately more for their higher usage.

4.  Some have a few tiers, and some have no tiers.  Where they do have tiers, they are the same for everyone.

5.  All of them have simple rate-charging systems that anyone can understand.

Beside each place’s name, you can clink on the link to see where I got the information from.  There’s also a listing of water and sewage rates for towns Canada-wide here: http://www.ec.gc.ca/Water/en/manage/use/e_mun.htm#BC.  I have not had time to look through all of these – but if anyone else wants to, and post some info to share here, I’d sure welcome it!

PLEASE REMEMBER: meeting tonight to discuss all of this (plus the $1.50 surcharge they are proposing to go on top!) – at the Community Hall, 7pm.

Port Alberni: PDF file
They have the same rate for residents as businesses, with a total of 4 tiers – but customers with bigger delivery pipes (i.e. bigger commercial users) pay a higher monthly fee on top.
The first tier  is extremely high, kicking in at 1,133 m3 (per 4-months; in Tofino we are billed each 3 months) – which means all residents would always be at the first-tier rate of $0.37/m3.
Interestingly, they do two things about industrial users:
– the rates actually get lower as usage increases, but
– they add a monthly charge according to the size of the user’s delivery pipe (ranging from $10.48/month for 3/4” or less, to $166.68/month for a 10” delivery pipe)

Nanaimo: http://www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=915
They have the same rate for residents as businesses with a total of 6 tiers.
They work their rate by average daily consumption – multiplying that out by 90 days (to compare to our quarterly billing) means that the lowest rate is $0.86/m3 for up to 63 m3 per quarter, and the next tier up is $1.00/m3 for up to 126 m3 per quarter.
– like Tofino, their rates go up with increased usage, but they go up much more rapidly, hitting the top rate of $3.00/m3 when quarterly usage exceeds 316 m3 – which means that higher consumers (i.e. businesses) pay more at pretty much all usages, not just at extremely high usages (unlike in Tofino – where a fish plant or large resort wouldn’t hit that rate until their consumption exceeds about 2000 m3)

Vancouver http://vancouver.ca/fs/treasury/utility/meterRates.htm
They have the same rate for residents as businesses, no tiers at all – but, like Port Alberni, businesses pay an additional charge that relates to the size of their delivery pipe.
What a simple system.  Their combined water+sewage rate (they calculate it in per 100 cubic feet) comes out to $1.08 per m3.
Like Port Alberni, they then add a quarterly charge that ranges from $25 to $536 per quarter, dependent upon the size of delivery pipe (i.e. big businesses with big delivery pipes would pay more).

Victoria http://www.victoria.ca/cityhall/departments_fincon_utilwaterrate.shtml
As far as I can tell it is the same rate for residential and business, with no tiers – but, like Port Alberni and Vancouver businesses pay an additional charge that relates to the size of their delivery pipe.  The volume charge fore everyone is $0.7o per m3 and the delivery charge ranges from $20 to $1000 per quarter.

Victoria’s Western Communities http://www.crd.bc.ca/water/waterbilling/residentialrates.htm
They have the same rate for residents as businesses, not no tiers at all.
Again, what a simple system – a flat rate of $1.37/m3 for all users.

Tofino  look at the graph
Residents pay more than businesses.
The complicated rate system means rates per m3 range from $0.90 to $3.70/m3, with certain classes of businesses getting much cheaper rates than others.  In addition to these rates, there is a proposal to add $1.50 per m3 in order to improve our water delivery system so it can deal with current and future usage requirements.

Councillor Dorothy Baert was the lone dissenting voice in saying that we should open this for public discussion.

But the remaining councillors approved the new proposed rates without even reviewing them. So, residents continue paying the highest rate per volume, and the biggest businesses (large resorts and fish processing plants) pay the lowest rates.

The exact motion put forward by our financial officer Edward Henley was:

THAT COUNCIL consider the proposed changes to the utility rates and recommend modifications to either the proposed rates or the water and sewer budget to achieve a balanced water and sewer budget.

However, instead of “considering the proposed changes and… recommending modifications” as Henley proposed, our council simply approved the Table of Rates as is.  Read the rest of this entry »

NOTE: there is a council meeting to discuss rates this Tuesday August 4th, 9 am – please show up or write to them if this matters to you.

I have graphed out the new proposed water rates so we can actually see how they compare.  No big changes coming – residents still pay more at the same volume of usage. The big hotels and the processing plants still get the cheapest rates – both at high and low volume of usage.  Of the high-volume rates, the school and the hospital pay significantly more than the for-profit businesses!

As a trained scientist, I am well aware how people can use statistics to say things that are not exactly untrue, but that are misleading.  So I am going to use this graph to clarify some things that are commonly mis-stated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our council is one step away from approving a new bylaw that will affirm the intention behind the Tofino Public Market: a place for the creators of products (food, art, crafts, clothing) to sell their own hand-made products.

Parks and Rec says that Tofino’s market goes by the “Make it, Bake it, Grow it, Gather it” principle. This means no flea market or commercial merchandise will be permitted. I’d like to commend council members for working towards affirming this, and maintaining the market’s unique and personal charm that its founders have worked towards for years.

Read more about the proposed bylaw in this Westcoaster article. (Did you think this website was only going to be about water?  No, no no….)