The CTQ Experience

North Saanich consultant wants more

[by  Steven Heywood - Peninsula News Review, Feb 12, 2014]

North Saanich council will consider paying a consultant nearly double the original price for work on their housing strategy and at the same time essentially shelved the consultant’s report until further notice.

A majority of councillors voted Feb. 3 to ratify an earlier decision to consider paying Ed Grifone of CTQ Consltants Ltd. an estimated $68,595 for the District’s housing strategy implementation plan. That’s $29,595 more than an earlier agreed-upon price of $39,000 — and well above the original contract of only $19,000 set in late 2012.

Council had agreed on the jump from $19,000 to $39,000 following Grifone’s first meeting in early 2013 with staff and council and the realization the project would be more involved than initially thought.

Grifone, in a Dec. 13 letter to council, said the complexity of the assignment pushed his costs to more than $68,000.

Council has decided to consider this increase as long as Grifone supplies an itemized and detailed account of additional services over and above the original terms of reference. Council also voted to only do so if Grifone turns over his raw data from the housing plan. This was approved Feb. 3 in a 4-3 vote.

Council has also asked Grifone to return to give a presentation to council on either Feb. 24 or April 14, and pay him an hourly rate of $170, plus expenses. The consultant had been to council to speak to his work in August, 2013 but that meeting was cut short when Councillors Dunstan Browne and Conny McBride walked out in protest of questions levelled at Grifone from Mayor Alice Finall, Coun. Elsie McMurphy and various citizens.

“It was very unfortunate that your meeting of Aug. 19, 2013 ended so abruptly when I was prepared to address all matters related to the project,” Grifone stated in his Dec. 13 letter.

“We cannot begin to understand the politics of your community. However, we are professionals and we have no reservations about returning to North Saanich to explain our findings…”

Some residents are blaming the council for not hearing out Grifone when he was in the community and are now faced with even more costs association to this project.

“CTQ did come to address council and councillors walked out,” said Lorrene Soellner, a resident and outspoken critic of the council majority. “No debate was even allowed then.”

Coun. Ted Daly noted during the debate that if he was Mr. Grifone, he wouldn’t come back to North Saanich.

Consultant’s report approved, but shelved

North Saanich’s council majority seems to think it got what it wanted out of the CTQ Consultants report on housing in the district for now and have voted to take no further action on it.

On Feb. 3, Coun. Dunstan Browne amended a motion to approve the report in principle subject to changes council may wish to make — adding that staff is not required to take any further action.

Mayor Alice Finall and Coun. Elsie McMurphy called the motion irrational and beyond understanding.

“I am against this,” said McMurphy. “There has been no wide consultation on (the report) in the community. And council has already adopted some things contrary to what’s in the report. It’s a contradiction.”

She also wondered about council stating it can change the consultant’s work.

“I’m worried council would adopt this without consultation or a clear understanding of the issues within it,” added Finall, repeating her call for an affordable housing strategy and even a full review of North Saanich’s official community plan in the wake of the consultant’s findings.

North Saanich chief administrative officer Rob Buchan said council already accepted the consultant’s report in the fall of 2013 and at the same time, accepted two recommended areas for housing growth — the McTavish Road area and land along McDonald Park Road. Buchan said council at that time directed staff to proceed with developing policy on those areas.

“What we don’t know,” he continued, “is what council wants staff to do with (the rest) of the report.”

“What this means,” Browne said, “is we’ll tell (staff) what to do. Right now, there’s nothing more to do.”

The motion passed, 4-3.

Councillors Have a Duty To Taxpayers to Scrutinize Report

[A Letter to the Editor]

The CTQ consultant’s report on housing will cost North Saanich taxpayers almost $40,000.  Wouldn’t you think that our Councillors ought to have a few questions?

Councillor McMurphy not only had the right to query Mr. Grifone, she had a duty to the taxpayers to do so.  As keepers of the public purse, Council would be remiss in their duties if they failed the community they were elected to serve by not satisfying themselves as to the results of the Housing Strategy Report.  It is, and was, an abuse of power to prevent further questions from being asked.

Council must ensure that the consultant returns to a future meeting to further explain his recommendations, which, if adopted, will have a significant impact on all residents of North Saanich.  To do any less would be a dereliction of duty.

It is generally understood that where there is smoke, there is fire.  And there was plenty of smoke in the Council Chambers on August 19th.  If the alleged Councillor contact with the Consultant was of no consequence, why did three Councillors get up and walk out?  Not only did these councillors incriminate themselves and, by extension, Councillor Daly, they also entangled the consultant’s credibility at the same time.  As a result, Mr. Grifone was given no opportunity to attempt to clear himself of any perception of wrongdoing.

Most importantly, if the many questions surrounding the report are not addressed to everyone’s satisfaction, we will be left with a very weak document that future councils would be justified to dismiss.  For $40,000, we should end up with a document that can bear up under scrutiny, and will stand the test of time.  Significant work is still required before we reach that point.

Heather Gartshore, North Saanich

Flaws Highlight Survey

Letter to Editor, published in the Peninsula News Review, Friday, February 28th, 2014

This letter is in response to Mr. Telford’s letter entitled “What was the Point of a Report on a Report?”  I would respectfully like to correct Mr. Telford’s interpretation regarding the events at the Feb. 3 council meeting in which Mr. Spring Harrison was denied the opportunity to present his findings.

First of all, Dr. Smith is an esteemed professor at UVic’s School of Business and not a reporter.  Secondly, Mr. Harrison was attempting to present Dr. Smith’s critique of the consultant’s report which has been considered by many North Saanich residents to be highly biased and therefore of little value.  Thirdly, Dr. Smith’s Final remarks were worded in strong language, in that he said “In my opinion the convenience nature of the sample, and significant limitations in the question wording and measurement scales (answer choices) in this particular survey warrants significant caution in making key administrative or policy decisions, based on the results of this survey.”

What has bothered those who believe a well-planned and informed housing implementation policy be based on a survey that everyone could accept, is that it has now been based on this very flawed survey.  Apparently this was the wish of the majority of councillors who voted to silence Mr. Harrison.

L. Wingate, North Saanich