Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lake Country Staff Learns New and Innovative Solution Seeking Tools

In an age of information overloading, strategic thinking and network leadership, augmented by technological improvement, District of Lake Country staff are finding new solution seeking tools to address the complex situation the community is facing these days.

Four of Lake Country managers became Cognitive Edge accredited practitioners (see to facilitate solutions for complex issues through what is called the Cynefin framework, which is a model used to describe problems, situations and systems. The model provides a typology of contexts that guides what sort of explanations and/or solutions may apply. Cynefin is a Welsh word, which, in a broad sense, conveys the meaning that we all have multiple pasts of which we can only be partly aware: cultural, religious, geographic, tribal etc. The term was chosen by the Welsh scholar Dave Snowden to illustrate the evolutionary nature of complex systems, including their inherent uncertainty. The name is a reminder that all human interactions are strongly influenced and frequently determined by our experiences, both through the direct influence of personal experience, and through collective experience, such as stories.

"We came across the Cynefin framework through one of our councillors, who, in turn, had been made aware by a ph.D. candidate at UBCO" said Chief Administrative Officer Alberto De Feo, "The most interesting part of the framework is the ability to use the information and define it without prejudging the source or the outcome. It is "making sense" of stories that collectively describe issues while at the same time revealing possible solutions and ways forward."

The framework is the foundation to many Cognitive Edge methods that assist in gathering and interpreting narrative data in the context of social systems in such a way that they are situated in one of five domains: simple, complicated, complex, chaotic, or disorder. Once data and perspectives are understood at a deeper systemic and phenomenological level , the 'pieces' of the issues and the solutions can be identified and tackled according to whether they belong to one of those five realms.

"Now that we have a number of managers accredited to use these tools, we have created a working team that will facilitate the discussion and solution-seeking for major complex issues we are facing." De Feo said "In particular, we are going to target aging infrastructure problems, major development application that seem to be controversial, and other community complex issues that need more participation from different and diverse stakeholders from the community."

Information or Crystal Ball Reading?

The District of Lake Country is in the middle of budget deliberations and Council received information from staff in a meeting held in December. As I mentioned in a previous blog, we are trying to approve the budget and the 5-Year Financial Plan as early as possible and February is our goal, long before the mandated May 15th deadline provided by the legislation. We are aware of some discussion at the public level and in some circles with some venturing to guess what the tax increase would be this year (I heard 4.5% is one of the figures). As the Administrator of the District I would love to see into the future and provide an exact forecast of Council's decision about all matters regarding the community, including a possible tax increase. It would alleviate much stress and unnecessary conflict. However, I can certainly provide existing information that may help people understand the complexity of the budget exercise and the decision-making process Council has to go through.

The first point to make is that Council has not made any decision yet on the budget. In order to assist them in making their decision, they received important information in December and they will receive a detailed package this week with some options and recommendations from staff. Council has no obligation to accept those recommendations. Instead, it has the option to provide direction for future consideration.

In the December meeting, Council learned some important facts:

  • There is an inflationary increase of 2.4% for all contractual obligations and purchased services, which will have to be accounted for in the District's operational budget;
  • There are budget increases from two major service providers to the community, the RCMP and BC Transit, that also affect our bottom line: the RCMP cost is increasing $135,000 and BC Transit is increasing $61,000;
  • The total net increase due to what I just described (inflation, RCMP, and BC Transit) is $460,000, which is needed to balance the operational budget;
  • 1% increase in taxes raises only $79,000;
  • To the individual residential taxpayer, a 1% tax increase translates in $2.75 for each $100,000 of assessed value;
  • Of the total amount people pay in taxes to the municipality every year, only half goes to the District. The rest goes to the province and the regional district.

Council also learned that the average tax increase in the last 5 years has been 4% and that it has been lower than the previous 5 years. A 4% increase would result in an extra $11 for each $100,000 of residential assessed value. In other words, if a house is assessed $500,000, a 4% tax increase would be $55.

Nobody wants a tax increase, no matter how small, but the community owns important infrastructure that needs to be fixed, replaced and regularly maintained. We receive feedback from the citizens, either directly or through our Council members, and people expect that the roads will be in good conditions at all times, that when they turn on the tap the water will come out, that their sewer will receive the by-product of their daily activities with efficiency and no problems, and so on. We also know that there is a general concern for the safety of our roads, especially with respect to pedestrian traffic.

Council understands that there is a cost associated to all this and that we are living in tough times. I personally do not envy them as they go through these deliberations. However, I admire them for their leadership and courage to even be in the hot seat, something that not many would gladly do. It is also frustrating for them and the community when for each $100 of all the taxes we pay each year, $92 go to the federal and provincial governments and only $8 go to municipalities. To make things worse, the federal and provincial governments do not have to balance their budgets, like we have to, and for political reasons they keep downloading to municipalities functions that are traditionally in their realm without any funding to support the new programs, which makes the $8 value even more skewed.

I wish to invite all of the readers to come to our January 25th Council meeting and observe. If you have concerns, please tell us and we will take those to Council. I am confident that our residents will find answers to their questions. The meeting starts at 7pm.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 18, 2011 Council Meeting Highlights

Welcome to Youth Councillor Vicki Boitchenchko!

Council welcomed their second Youth Councillor at the January 18th Council Meeting. Vicki Boitchenko, a grade 12 student from GESS comes to us highly recommended from Ms. Kitzinger the principal of GESS. Vicki has lived in the District for 3 years, speaks three languages in addition to English and her academic interests are general in nature but include: Business, Law, Communications and Political Science. Vicki is very musical, playing the piano and singing with her youth group. The Youth Councillors may ask questions and participate in Council discussions, but will not be voting on any items.

Water Sustainability Act Process

Staff will be writing a letter to the Honorable Minister Coell, Minister of Agriculture, and submitting a resolution to the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) expressing concerns about the proposal to consider trading water rights as an economic instrument as outlined in the Water Sustainability Act. If implemented, there may be no means to restrict the trading of water rights outside of BC or Canada.

Council will also express their support for the introduction of Ground Water Regulations and the establishment of an Agricultural Water Reserve which will ensure water rights are committed to specific agricultural land to safeguard long term agricultural use.

Business Licence Renewals

Invoices for Business Licence renewals in Lake Country, which include home based businesses, have been mailed out and are due on January 31st. If you have not yet received your notice for 2011 please contact the District as soon as possible. For new businesses that have not yet applied for their licence, it is a mandatory requirement with an application fee of $90 and application forms are available on our website. Inter-community businesses are also required to purchase a business licence which is valid in 18 Okanagan communities and costs $150 annually. If you have a business in the District without a current and valid business licence you may be subject to a $100 fine.

Agricultural Advisory Committee

The Ministry of Agriculture is hosting an Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) workshop and inviting members from all BC Agricultural Committees to attend. Council approved a maximum of $2,000 from Council Contingency to allow 3 members of the District’s AAC to attend the workshop in Richmond on February 24, 2011.

Public Hearings

Two Public Hearings were held prior to the Regular Council meeting. The Public Hearing for OK Land Development Official Community Plan (OCP) Amendment Bylaw 771, 2010 and Zoning Bylaw Amendment Bylaw 772, 2010 are housekeeping amendments to correct discrepancies between the original hand-drawn zoning maps and the new computerized plans. Staff reassured residents that there would be no impact to the existing parkland in the area. The amendments will not increase or decrease the density and both bylaws received third reading and adoption at the Regular Council Meeting.

Council heard concerns from neighboring residents at the Public Hearing for Zoning Amendment (Bowman) Bylaw 766, 2010. Bylaw 766 proposes to change the zoning from Agriculture 1 to Public Park and Open Space, Town Centre Commercial and Low Density Multiple Housing for a proposed multi-family development on Reimche Road. Residents are concerned that the development will negatively affect their views and property value.

Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) Funding Application

Staff will be submitting a grant application for $250,000 to the Capacity Building and Integrated Community Sustainability Planning Projects under the Gas Tax Agreement to develop an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) for Lake Country. Council and the community are pursuing a more sustainable community and an ICSP is about planning for the future of our community and working together to achieve these plans for residents. The ICSP integrates land use, social, environmental and economic elements into a single plan over the long term and is developed collaboratively through community awareness on sustainability planning and then through full involvement and engagement with the community. Click here to view the full report to Council!

Development Permit (van der Star)

At the Development Permit Committee meeting on December 16, 2010 the Committee an application for the construction of a single-family dwelling on a ridgeline that does not meet the setback requirements was met with a tie vote. As per District bylaws, if there is a tie vote the item is forwarded to Council to make the decision. Council passed staff’s alternate recommendation approving the applicant’s request to locate the dwelling in the original location. The application is subject to terms and conditions outlined in the report which includes a geotechnical report, a wild land fire report and a security deposit.

Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP)

Carolina Restrepo‑Tamayo, OCCP Coordinator, presented Council with an update on the OCCP program which is a partnership between various levels of governments, land trusts, stewardship outreach organizations and academia with goals of maintaining regional biodiversity, protecting species at risk, maintaining ecological connectivity throughout the Okanagan Basin and balancing regional growth with conservation. The OCCP has designed a website that provides access to resources to support ecosystem planning and conservation efforts. Click here to view the presentation to Council.

Community to Community Forum with OKIB

Council is looking forward to attending the Community to Community Forum with the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) on January 27 at the Head of the Lake Hall. Some of the topics for discussion will include a review of the District-OKIB Protocol Agreement, the sharing of services and economic development opportunities.

Friday, January 14, 2011

January 11, 2011 Council Meeting Highlights

Youth Councillor’s First Meeting

Grant Hendricks, a grade 12 student from GESS, attended his first Council meeting as a Youth Councillor. In December of 2010 Council approved the idea of having a Youth Councillor attend Council meetings to add another perspective to Council’s discussions. The Youth Councillors are able to participate in Council discussion, but will not be voting on any decisions. Grant comes to us highly recommended from Vianne Kitzinger, GESS Principal. Grant has lived in Lake Country for 10 years and his academic interests include English/Arts, Creative Writing and Political Science. Vicki Boitchencko, our other Youth Councillor and grade 12 student from GESS, will be taking part in the January 18th Council meeting.

Towns for Tomorrow Grant Application

Staff will be submitting an application to the Provincial Government “Towns for Tomorrow” Grant Fund for a maximum of $375,000, which, if successful, will be applied to the costs of improving Lodge Road. Pedestrian and traffic safety is a huge priority in the community, especially along Lodge Road because of the high pedestrian and vehicle traffic and narrow roadway. The estimated cost for Phase 1 of the Lodge Road Multi Modal Transportation Corridor Project is $1.3 million which will re-construct Lodge Road from Bottom Wood Lake Road to the 90 degree corner, add bike lanes on both sides of the road, a separated pedestrian pathway and streetlights. If the $375,000 is received through the “Towns for Tomorrow” grant, design will occur in 2011 and construction in 2012. The remaining $925,000 portion of the project will be funded from the District’s allocation of federal gas tax funds from the years 2010 to 2012. Check out more details on the project in the Transportation Action Plan Discussion Paper.

Pest Control

During Public Comment section of the meeting, Council was presented with a complaint from a resident who fears that the raccoon population in Lake Country may be underestimated. It was suggested that staff look into drafting a pest control policy that would offer possible solutions for a variety of pests in the municipality, before the problem gets out of control.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw

Sonata Ridge Zoning Amendment Bylaw 767, a bylaw to change the zoning from Direct Control 6 to RM5, Medium Density Multiple Family, received approval from the Ministry of Transportation and was given final adoption by Council. The property is intended to be the site of the future ‘Sonata on the Ridge’ condominium development and the bylaw is a minor zoning amendment intended to bring the property’s zoning in line with Council’s original intent.

Discharge of Land Use Contract Bylaw

Council approved staff’s recommendation to discharge the Land Use Contract on a group of properties located on Hallam and Camp Roads. The Land Use Contract is a 32 year old document that outlined the subdivision of the properties and restricted the uses. Subdivision on the property is now complete and the property will be required to adhere to Zoning Bylaw 561, 2007.

Officers & Other Exempt Employees Amendment

Recent amendments to the Local Government Act (LGA) dealing with the submission of subdivision and building permit applications required the District to amend their bylaw to ensure that the Approving Officer was also a designated officer appointed by bylaw, rather than by Council Resolution.

Woodsdale Security Issuing

The District is moving forward with the next steps in finalizing the debt for the Woodsdale Local Water Service Area. Property owners within the local service area were given an opportunity to commute their portion of project and the net balance requiring the issuance of long-term debt is $371,212. This will be funded through a low-interest loan from CMHC (Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation) under the Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Employers gain confidence, good jobs stage comeback

I wish to focus your attention not only on bad news but also on good news. I found the following and another article recently published in the Globe and Mail very interesting. The first one, which I transcribed below, is encouraging for our economy in general and depicts a positive outlook for the future. Remember, Canada has shielded better the recession than our American neighbours and even better than EU countries, with rare exceptions. If we continue to be prudent and visionary, we can be well positioned in the future to be a major player in creating good, solid economic policy for the entire world.

"Canada's economy is creating more secure, higher paying jobs, suggesting companies are responding to a more entrenched recovery and preparing to power it forward.

Employers hired more workers than anticipated in December, Statistics Canada said Friday, creating a net 22,000 new positions, though not enough to nudge the unemployment rate down from 7.6 per cent. More important, the increase was concentrated in full-time private sector jobs, after several months in which gains were largely limited to part-time work, fragile government jobs and self-employment.

The December gain capped a year that saw the economy recoup all of the jobs lost during the recession, making Canada the first Group of Seven country to return to pre-crisis employment levels. December also marked the labour market's best performance in four months. The economy created a total of 368,500 jobs in 2010, Statistics Canada said, a 2.2-per-cent increase in the work force after a 1.1-per-cent decline in 2009.

Significantly, December's showing suggests companies are more confident in the outlook for the Canadian and U.S. economies, and positioning themselves to play a more meaningful role. The U.S. economy has been showing signs of picking up, although the American labour market remains weak.

The restoration of more full-time private sector jobs means a greater share of new positions are the type that offer workers better job security and thus a greater sense of financial well-being, as well as bigger paycheques to spend throughout the economy.

"Job gains will be smaller than they were at the start of the recovery, but the quality and the composition will improve," said Pascal Gauthier, a senior economist with Toronto-Dominion Bank. "The scenario of a double dip is becoming more marginal, and that positive snowball effect of income growth and job growth is becoming more entrenched. There are headwinds out there, but you would need another tremendous negative shock to tilt the economy backward again."

Early last fall, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney lamented that only about half of the job growth since the recession was in the private sector and many jobs were "involuntary part-time." Indeed, total hours worked have not returned to precrisis levels, and much of the job creation last year was in government jobs or came from self-employment.

But Friday's report showed full-time employment rose by 38,000 positions, the fourth increase in five months, compared with a drop of 16,100 in part-time work. Businesses added a net 52,500 workers, led by a record-breaking surge of 65,700 manufacturing jobs and 44,500 transportation and warehousing jobs.

By contrast, just 7,400 new positions were added in the public sector, which will likely see tiny increases or even contractions from this point on, given the pressure on governments throughout the developed world to attack their budget deficits.

Compared with the eye-popping numbers seen in the first six months of 2010, job gains could be too incremental to keep up with the growth of the labour force, meaning that a jobless rate described by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as still too high could be relatively static for months.

The unemployment rate has fallen from 8.4 per cent in December, 2009, but is well above the 6.8-per-cent level of late 2008.

Nonetheless, analysts said the private-sector-led hiring in December points to a recovery that is becoming more sustainable.

The impressive increase in factory jobs is the latest sign manufacturers are adapting to the strength of the Canadian dollar, which rose after the jobs report and has been hovering around parity with its U.S. counterpart for months.

Mr. Carney is widely expected to keep his benchmark interest rate at 1 per cent at his Jan. 18 meeting, but the report intensified speculation that he may step off the sidelines and raise rates sooner than previously thought, perhaps as early as March.

As always, there were caveats.

Economists at Scotia Capital Inc. questioned whether such a huge rise in Canadian factory employment was really possible, given the tentative environment for exports to the United States.

And while the world's biggest economy is certainly showing signs of improvement, a U.S. Labour Department report Friday showed that it produced far fewer jobs in December than Wall Street analysts were hoping for.

In Canada, hiring may have run its course for now, if companies heed policy makers' calls to turn their attention in the year ahead to improving their competitiveness and productivity.

Kriska Transportation president Mark Seymour said his trucking company shared in last month's record Canadian job gains in transportation and warehousing. Kriska, based in Prescott, Ont., has added 10 to 15 full-time drivers to its staff of 500 in recent months to meet a jump in demand from its manufacturing customers in Central Canada.

But like a lot of Canadian businesspeople, Mr. Seymour remains wary about what's ahead and is being very prudent about adding new employees.

"There's been so much lost margin in our industry that we can't afford to make a prediction and be wrong," he explained. "Right now, we're just being very conservative and cautious."

Similarly, parcel-shipping company Canpar Transport of Mississauga, Ont., also enjoyed a strong December, benefiting from better-than-expected holiday retail sales. However, president Jim Houston said the company is adding workers because it's taking business from rivals, not because he has become unwaveringly confident in the economy.

Another key barometer of the prospects for companies and the labour market comes Monday, when the Bank of Canada releases its latest survey of executives.

But according to the head of one job placement firm, even full-time private sector jobs – welcome as December's increase may be – aren't as secure as they used to be.

"Full-time jobs are becoming less and less permanent," said Jim Geraghty, president of Happen, a Toronto-based network for unemployed mid- to senior-level managers and executives. "So we strongly encourage people to look at their next position as if they're being self-employed, because it's likely going to be no more than a three-year stint."

With a report from Barrie McKenna in Ottawa"


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lake Country: A Community in Bloom?

The Christmas season has offered, I hope, a bit of respite from the day-to-day stress. Certainly, it is a time of reflection and goal setting – a time for renewal. I certainly enjoyed my family time and considered the many blessings we have in the Okanagan. I am sure that people, for the most part, love where they live and wish to maintain their communities and homes clean and beautiful. Municipalities all over the world participate to a competition called 'Communities in Bloom', which is held on an annual basis. Lake Country is not a participant, but staff is going to propose Council to enter the race, so to speak. There are various levels of participation and a number of categories for which the community is judged. To participate means a lot of community volunteer work.

I have seen what a 'Communities in Bloom' community effort may look like in places like Langley and Williams Lake. The roads are clean, the businesses are tidy, the trails are cared for and there is a neatness that is special. But most of all, there is a sense of pride in the community. If you drive through Williams Lake, especially during the summertime, you can see it is not the dusty frontier community that it was some years ago, but a beautified city with flowers, resplendent with stunning beauty. Some say it's the Cariboo way. The fact is that Williams Lake won a national award for that. Obviously is not about the award but about the transformation and the participation of its residents to that transformation.

I hope Lake Country can step up to the plate and show that it is indeed the jewel of the Okanagan: in fact the most brilliant one. I hope we can show our community pride to the Communities in Bloom judges, sooner rather than later. However, we do not have to wait until then to create that pride. We should start now if we are not doing so already. Look around and see if you can help.

I know a place where we can start. The other day I met a resident from Oyama who was astonished at the amount of garbage that is thrown on the roads of Lake Country these days. It is mainly disposable coffee cups and empty cigarette packs. The litter is unusually high and takes time and effort to clean. I was raised by my parents to respect the environment where I live. I would have never fathomed, in my childhood, to throw away something on the street without being reprimanded by my father or mother. I am teaching my kids the same thing. I want to believe that it is the same for everybody else in Lake Country. Maybe it is the tourists but this is happening now as well, when the tourist season is slow, almost to no activity.

Then, think before you throw and teach those around you to respect what we have. If you see someone in the act of littering, tell him or her to stop and enjoy, rather, the surroundings. It will make us even more proud of where we live.