Fact Checker




North Saanich Fact Checker - Updated

This is an updated version of the earlier Fact Checker report.

Who's telling the truth and whose pants are on fire?
 
We will be updating the Fact Checker daily to address any false statements that come up during the week before the election.  Please check back if you hear anything that causes you to wonder.  We may have heard it too.

Statement:

Team North Saanich efforts to reduce tax increases (0%, 1.6%, 0%) over the last three years have
saved the North Saanich taxpayers $500 over that time period. – Dunstan Browne at Deep Cove/Pat Bay Neighbourhood Meeting, Sept. 29, 2014

RulingFALSE

According to District Staff, the savings for the average residence from 2012 to 2014 was $25, not $500.  A portion of the so-called “tax savings” is likely actually tax deferrals, to be reckoned with at a future date.  See next point.


Statement:

A recent BDO study showed that the 28 municipalities studied in BC that had 0% tax increases two years in a row, on the third year, had average tax INCREASES of 14.7%.  -- Elsie McMurphy at the Deep Cove/Pat Bay Neighbourhood meeting on Sept. 29, 2014

Ruling:  TRUE

As reported in a 2013 presentation to the Government Finance Officers Association, research by BDO Canada LLP, a municipal accounting firm, shows that the 28 municipalities studied in BC that had 0% (or less) tax increases two years in a row during the period 2001 to 2011, on the third year had an average tax INCREASE of 14.7%.


Statement:

0% tax increases, i.e. not even accommodating the cost of inflation, will have no impact on tax rates in subsequent years.

Ruling:  FALSE

It is illogical not even to account for cost-of-living increases; few residents would object to such an increase as it is rightfully seen as unavoidable and universal.  Furthermore, it is not really a savings, as the BDO study (above) proves .  District Staff cautioned Council that this 0% increase policy decision was ill-advised, but Team North Saanich ignored that advice.


Statement: 

North Saanich … is dying.  North Saanich has been in this phase for many, many years, for decades.  Schools are closing.  Children are going.  Young people aren't there.  You cannot have a community like that.  – Dunstan Browne to the CRD Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee, Mar. 26, 2013

Ruling:  FALSE

2011 Census data indicates that NS has a higher percentage of children aged 10 -- 19 than the CRD average, and a larger percentage of children and young adults aged 5 to 24 than Sidney has.  This would indicate that NS does a BETTER job of including young families, and provides families with a lifestyle that they are able to afford.  It also clearly indicates that higher densities do not automatically attract young families.  In fact, the opposite may be true.
Higher-density development proponents also say that we need more seniors housing, but 2011 Census data indicates that North Saanich is above average or on-average for people aged 45 to 84 years as a percentage of the population.
Furthermore, while two schools have been closed in NS in the last ten or so years, two new ones have been built in the last six years.


Statement:

“I keep promises.  If I say I’ll do it, I’ll do it.” – Dunstan Browne, All Candidates Meeting, Oct. 30, 2014

“The important thing is, I do what I say I will do.  If you look at our literature from the last election, everything we said we would do, we did.  There’s no hidden agenda… We’re open to scrutiny because that’s what we said we would do.  Whatever we say we’ll do, we do.  You know you’re going to get that.” -- Craig Mearns, All Candidates Meeting, Oct. 30, 2014

Ruling:  FALSE

We will look at the four promises in a handout entitled “Dean Park Area -- Election Issues” delivered by Team North Saanich (TNS) to all the homes in Dean Park Estates only days before Election 2011. The Mayor was forced to mail a response to all DPE residences in the days following, attempting to correct the false information. The four promises in the TNS handout:

1)  Sewer Service:  Team North Saanich said that sewer service costs in Dean Park had increased significantly since 2008. Promise #1: Team North Saanich indicated that if they were elected, they would work with a task force from Dean Park to investigate these taxes and charges, and if possible, find ways to reduce them. 
The truth:  No such task force was created, and no reductions were made.  The mayor’s response letter explained that previous annual fees were undercharging actual costs, which were then being made up out of general taxes.  The adjustment brought the annual cost in line with actual costs of service and with the established “User Pay” policy for sewer services.

2)  Dunsmuir Lodge:  Team North Saanich said in their handout that “the basic problem is that relations have soured between UVic, the owners and the District of NS to the point where there is no communication… Team North Saanich has the connections to re-open that dialogue with the UVic Board of Governors.”  Promise #2:  “Be assured UVic will talk to us, where others have failed.”
The truth:  Mayor Finall pointed out in her response letter that she had met with UVic representatives on several occasions, but that UVic had entered into a confidential “Exclusivity Agreement” for possible sale of land to Pauquachin First Nation.  In the years since the three Team North Saanich Councillors were elected, they have not made any efforts to advance the cause for the district. However, Mayor Finall continues to meet and communicate with UVic.

3)  Medical Grow Ops:  Team North Saanich indicated in their handout that the District “should be making strong representation directly, and through our senior elected representatives, to make necessary changes…”  Promise #3:  “In any case, the District should be controlling the grow-ops through such means as the Home Occupation Bylaw, business licenses, electrical inspection, and other means at our disposal.”
The truth:  In Mayor Finall’s reponse letter, she stated that the District had already been actively advocating a resolution to the matter. Under federal legislation, licensed medical grow-ops are not required to obtain any approvals from the local municipality, and the federal process makes no provision for any notice to municipal governments of medical marijuana grow-op locations (and so the district cannot “control” them). Mayor Finall further pointed out that “given jurisdictional matters, the responses
proposed by some would be illegal for the District to undertake.”  Once elected, Team North Saanich took no action on this.

4)  Water pressure: Team North Saanich falsely stated in their handout that water pressure in the upper reaches of Dean Park Estates is inadequate to safely provide residential firefighting capability. Promise #4:  “Team North Saanich will direct engineering staff to investigate means of increasing
pressure to safe levels.”
The truth:  The fire chief confirmed in phone calls with residents and Mayor Finall, immediately following the distribution of this false information, that water pressure was not a concern for fire-fighting anywhere in Dean Park.  Fire-fighting water pressure is not provided by the water mains but by truck-mounted pumps, and water volume is not an issue as there are two multi-million gallon tanks just above Dean Park Estates.  Once Team North Saanich was elected, they never did anything to address the bogus “water pressure issues” in Dean Park Estates.


Statement:

"If you look at our literature from the last election, everything we said we would do, we did.  There’s no
hidden agenda. … You know you’re going to get that.” -- Craig Mearns, All Candidates Meeting, Oct. 30, 2014

Ruling:  FALSE

There apparently was an unspoken agenda – lots of things were done which were not mentioned in any
campaign literature:
  • Mayor Finall was dumped from the traditional position as NS representative on the CRD.  This deed was clearly planned early and in secret as a bloc maneuver.
  • Development initiatives well beyond a few spot re-zoning projects were not part of the campaign story.  Ultimately, provisions for 520 new small lots were written into Bylaw 1352.
  • Created a consistent voting bloc with very little evidence of independent thinking.


Statement:

The 15 meter setbacks on waterfront properties were initiated by Mayor Finall.

Ruling:  FALSE

The 15 meter (50 ft.) setbacks have been in existence since at least 1977, and can be found in the OCP for that year.  They are also in the 1989, 1998 and 2007 OCP's.
Furthermore, in December of 2013, Council designated a review of the bylaws and restrictions on waterfront properties as a Short-Term Priority (within one year) in the Strategic Plan.  It still has not been dealt with, due to the Council Majority's focus on higher-density development projects.



Statement:

"Supporting sustainability and agriculture in the District of North Saanich” – Conny McBride, Team North Saanich, claiming she supports agriculture in an ad in the Peninsula News Review, August 20, 2014

Ruling:  FALSE

Despite the fact that agriculture is one of the top four industries in NS, Councillor McBride has stated in a Council meeting that she cannot support agriculture as an industry in NS, and often made similar comments which show a strong LACK of support for agriculture.
She has consistently voted against and spoken against the support of agriculture in North Saanich, including, but not limited to: voting in favour of high-density housing on farmland zoned rural-agricultural;  voting in favour of sending subdivision applications of ALR land to the ALC;  speaking in favour of housing on the Sandown lands;  voting against any funding by the district for the North Saanich Flavour Trail;  voting against very modest recommendations made by the Agricultural Advisory Commission, coming out of the Economic Development Strategy for Agriculture, for the support of farmers in the district; and more.  In fact, it’s hard to find a sitting NS Councillor who is LESS supportive of agriculture than she is, although the other two incumbent Team North Saanich members come pretty close.


Statement:

Potential sea level rise is not a concern in NS, since a worldwide proliferation of desalination plants would offset sea level rise attributed to climate change. – Conny McBride, Team North Saanich, Sept. 8, 2014 COW, in justifying her opposition to a NS study of the potential impact of sea level rise in NS.

Ruling:  FALSE

While desalination plants will be estimated to process 43,800 million (43.8 thousand million) cubic meters of ocean water per year by the year 2020, the ocean volume is 1,300,000,000 million (1.3 billion million) cubic meters.  The area of the ocean is 361 million square kilometers, which means that, even if 43,800 million cubic meters of ocean water is removed from the ocean annually, and doesn’t return, it would only
lower the level of the ocean by 0.12 mm!


Statement:

Broadening the tax base brings taxes down.

Ruling: FALSE

This is an old wives’ tale that has no credible evidence to support it.   It is a cornerstone of the increasingly discredited “Smart Growth” model propounded by developers and land speculators. Proponents of high-density development claim that more people to “broaden the tax-base” will keep taxes low for all residents. This is not true. 
Development has proven repeatedly to increase taxes.  Rural municipalities like NS typically have lower tax rates than their urbanized neighbours.  The reason for this is simple:  urban densities require urban amenities and infrastructure.  When people live in urban areas on small lots, all the activities and recreation that don’t take place on their own property depend on publicly funded infrastructure.  They require roads to go where they need to go, transit to get there, parks in which to walk and play, soccer and baseball fields for their kids, rec centres in which to swim and skate and work out – all paid for by taxes.  Urbanization also needs increased police services and infrastructure like sewers, sidewalks, gutters and streetlights – that’s why it makes sense to keep urban densities in urban areas like Sidney, where the infrastructure already exists.


Statement: 

75% of Sidney North Saanich Industry Group (SNSIG) employees commute from the West Shore.  – Dunstan Browne, John Juricic (SNSIG Ex. Dir.) and other development proponents, at various times.

“Because right now we're sending all of our people up... as far as Cobble Hill.  That's where they're living, they're living in Langford and Cobble Hill and Shawnigan.” – Craig Mearns to the CRD Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee, Mar. 26, 2013

Ruling:  FALSE

According to the SNSIG’s own survey, only 17% of their employees live in the West Shore and beyond, and 85% have a commute of less than 30 minutes one-way.  According to a Chamber of Commerce survey, only 2% of their respondents live in the West Shore.


Statement:   

When this CTQ study was done... between 70 and 80% of the participants agreed that we should go with this type of housing.  – Craig Mearns to the CRD Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee, Mar. 26, 2013

Ruling:  FALSE

The consultant reported that 75% were open to higher densities, as long as they were affordable.  While the consultant stressed the affordability part, Team North Saanich and the development proponents consistently ignore that qualifier.  In fact, according to the SNSIG’s own survey, 65% (the lowest wage earners) of the respondent employees cannot afford ANY of the proposed higher-density
housing.  Furthermore, the final list of participants in the study was never released. We do know, however, that a large group of them were developers, realtors and other “stakeholders”, and that the survey used to collect this information was thoroughly discredited by an independent survey expert as being unreliable on which to base policy decisions.
Finally, the CTQ report stated that agricultural and ALR land was sacrosanct to participants, yet at least 154 units of higher-density development have now been built or been approved to be built, with Team North Saanich’s approval, on a total of 17.5 acres of land that was formerly zoned rural-agricultural.  In the end, only three units of housing priced below $400,000 were built – at $399,000.


Statement:

The last OCP review that we did [took] 4 years, cost us $400,000.  – Craig Mearns to the CRD Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee, Mar. 26, 2013

Ruling:  FALSE

According to the District of North Saanich, the cost was approximately $97,000.


Statement: 

We don't have any housing under about $600,000 in NS.  – Craig Mearns, to the CRD Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee, Mar. 26, 2013

Ruling:  FALSE

Around the time that Coun. Mearns made this statement, and the Canora Mews development began selling, there were homes for sale in the NS area around that development starting at $399,000.  Yet, Team North Saanich has said that they’ve created housing that was not available before in the price range of $400,000 to $550,000.  In fact, Team North Saanich has NOT facilitated the creation of a single unit of housing at a price that was not available before they spot-rezoned for these higher densities. 


Statement:

We're not doing [building higher-density housing on] farmland.  Not going to touch farmland.  We're not interested in touching farmland, we can't, we don't want to.” – Craig Mearns to the CRD Planning,  Transportation and Protective Services Committee, Mar. 26, 2013

Ruling:  FALSE

Canora Mews was built on former ALR farmland, zoned rural-agricultural, that was approved for rezoning by Team North Saanich plus Daly.  The same Councillors also approved rezoning of the Reay Creek Meadows land: 13.5 acres of former farmland with Class 3, improvable to Class 2 soil, from rural-agricultural.  The new proposal will put 95 units, plus a possible 19 more carriage houses, on the land.  That equals 154 units (so far) of higher-density housing on farmland formerly zoned rural-agricultural. 
It should be noted that land speculators are buying farmland, letting it sit fallow for a length of time, then saying that because it’s not producing anything, it’s “perfect for development”.  Team North Saanich apparently agrees with them.  This practice drives the price of farmland up, making it increasingly unattainable to young farmers.


Statement:  

“PROPOSALS that are FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE and are in the best interests of our residents such as the final deal that Team North Saanich Councillors negotiated for the acquisition of the SANDOWN land;
(saved millions of dollars)” – Team North Saanich Campaign Website

Ruling:  FALSE

While it is true that Mr. Randall did sweeten his share of the reclamation costs to include full coverage in the second agreement, that amount was estimated to be $750,000, not “millions”.  What WAS millions, however, was the property tax revenue given up by Team North Saanich in sinking the first Sandown proposal.  The 12 acres retained by Mr. Randall would have generated at least $350,000 per year, easily covering the reclamation bill in only a few years, even with a cost over-run.  After clearing the reclamation costs, the entire annual tax income would have accrued to the District in perpetuity, amounting to $5.7 million, net, by 2032.
As Coun. Daly noted on his Facebook page, the prospects of reviving this proposal at the time of its cancellation were very slim indeed.  With this admission, Team North Saanich and Daly revealed the real scope of their financial blunder and their callous disregard for the many benefits this proposal would have provided. 


Statement: 

“[Mayoral Candidate Peter] Miller said the animosity between councillors and bad behaviour seen over the course of the last term has a lot to do with leadership…’If performed properly, that seeps down to the other councillors and to staff. Better leadership starts at the top.’ -- PNR, 17 October, 2014.

Ruling: FALSE

In a conventional team organization, the leader has a hand in choosing the team, and has power to discipline members who don’t support the team vision.  People who are not “team players” can even be dismissed.  In our present civic government structure, the mayor has no such power.  She is given a team of randomly selected individuals by the voters.  She has one vote, the same as the other members of the Council, and can be overruled and sometimes even supplanted (as in the case of the CRD directorship) by votes of other members of Council.  There is little she can do about uncooperative, rude, disrespectful, even undemocratic behavior, if she is not supported by the majority of Council, as has been the case for Mayor Finall.  It is up to the voters to get rid of the less civil or less community-minded appointees.



Statement: 

The average house price in NS is $800,000 [or $850,000 or whatever sounds good to the pro-higher-density speaker at the time].

Ruling:  FALSE

There have been many exaggerated numbers thrown around by proponents of higher-density, many of whom have a pecuniary interest in the outcome, to justify urbanization in NS.  The actual figure at the moment for a “benchmark home” (defined as a notional home with common attributes of typical homes in a defined area) in NS, according to Victoria Real Estate Board MLS reports is $612,000.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments and contributions are welcome, but must remain within the bounds of good taste. Vulgarity, abusive comments, and personal attacks will not be tolerated. The NSCV reserves the right to moderate inappropriate comments.