Archive for April, 2012

An Idea In Affordable Housing

A thought I have been having lately on affordable housing combines thoughts I had, with a thought I heard elsewhere.

The general idea is that realistically everyone should have the ability to own their own home at a rate and payment that is useful. The idea I had originally heard was based in the downtown area and was aimed at those on assistance.

My thought is that this is a great idea however it should be moved from the thought of just downtown and be expanded to the entire Moncton city limits and should be changed from those on assistance to those who would be classified as low income.

The idea surrounds the idea of the rent formula for low income housing and that figure should be used to indicate the rental payment. The details past that need to be sorted out. Here is my thoughts on how this would best be accomplished.

All those who sign up for this plan enter an enforceable agreement that all employment income would be sent to a special account directly by the employer. From this account the formulated “rent” payment would be deducted and the remainder transferred to for the use of the ordinary recipient.  This rent payment would cover the load payment and perhaps also the property tax and electricity costs as well. 

The total bill owed would be monitored including the cost of the original loan, the interest (charge to be determined), and services included. Once the total cost of all billing is paid off then the rental payments would be stopped.

As an additional possible add on for a small percentage increase a vehicle or two could also be included in this plan to allow for transportation options.

The overall idea of this plan is to allow all people in the province the opportunity to own their own home as well as to give them the ability to gain more control over the direction of their life through increasing their ability to achieve meaningful goals such as owning a home and a vehicle.

I believe a program similar to this would be a great bonus to give people the ability to get ahead in life while still earning their way.

It really is not something that can be blamed on anyone. That is not the purpose of my aim to fix this lack. Without a strong push to create aspects of city run programs that allow for the inclusion of special needs children, it is often overlooked, not through being nasty but because people forget it that the need is there.

There are plenty of programs all over the city during summer months, and even some off season programs, for those who do not have special needs. What happens is special needs children and their parents are often left scrambling to find suitable programs for their children, they are often out of province and at a substantial cost. The question is why is there no provisions for special needs children within the confines of existing programs. In all honesty I believe it is mainly because of two factors. There has not been a seriously vocal demand for these programs, and they are not cheap.

If municipal officials are going to put these programs in place, they need to expect there to be a demand for them. Why they do not see the demand is because parent’s looking for summer programs for their children do not bother fighting the issue. They look online find there are no provisions and simply go look elsewhere and this leaves the city with the impression that they are meeting this need. The unfortunate truth is they are not. The parents are simply looking elsewhere for the programs.

I found out for instance today about a program called the SMILE program, something that I may have been interested in sending my son to and the one existing program for special needs children that is at least partly run by the city. The issue is that the program started in January and I do not remember it being mentioned at any time in the past. That is not to say that it was not mentioned but simply that I did not see it.

To me this means that we have to find some way to integrate and include special needs children into the present existing city run camps and programs, but as well we have to look at ways of making sure that the parents that would be interested in these programs are aware that they exist.

Somehow this is something that will have to be addressed in the during the next term for council, how to get these programs set up and how to make sure that the people who want to use them are aware that they are there and have the means to access them.

The city of Moncton would have people believe that the entire Codiac Transpo contract dispute is entirely over wages and that the drivers are asking for to much.

The city is lying by omission. While wages are a major sticking point what is not being talked about is the rest of the contract as well as the side issues that are also relevant.

Due to the recent contract signing by other city workers, the offer the city is presently making would put bus drivers as the lowest paid city employee. Because of the skill and responsibility involved this is not acceptable.

The drivers union put forward a contract offer that was approved by negotiators. That deal which is the one that is under major contention requested what at first blush looks like a lot of money.  And when you look at just the salary it would be.

What the city is neglecting to discuss is why a comment that the Mayor made recently is so telling regarding the offer. George Leblanc was quoted in the media as saying that the offer by the union was a “break even offer” and he said that this was not good enough. This issue takes us to two majorly different points both in favour of the drivers.

Firstly and of major importance. In my recent memory the only times a union accepts a contract that does not include improvements in both pay and benefits is when the company involved is in dire risk of going bankrupt. Case in point here would be the big three automakers who got major concessions during a major restructuring. Moncton is not at risk of going bankrupt.

Secondly is why would a contract with what is perceived as such a massive pay raise be considered a “break even contract” This could only happen if there was an equal DROP in benefits.  This is what has happened.

To give you an idea just how much of a concession has been made I will try to give you some details.

  1. Bus drivers used to get an extra week vacation for booking off peak. This is now gone.
  2. Senior drivers were offered overtime first and then junior drivers were given what was left available. New contract allows junior drivers to get their 40 hours first before senior drivers start overtime (in very general terms exact language I am uncertain of) This drastically cuts down on overtime. (when was the last time a union gave junior members first crack at extra hours willingly)
  3. Many of these benefits the union has fought 30 years to gain and are now allowing to be given up just for the benefit of their junior drivers and to offset the higher salary.

In my opinion the city has slacked off on several items over their term. They have let the province do almost anything they want within the city without standing up and saying that they must work within the municipal plan set forth by the city. They signed a contract for other city workers that was far in excess of what they wanted to pay.

Now they have an election coming and they have to look like they are doing something right so they decide that they are going to play hardball with a union that is in all honesty doing them a huge favour. They are doing this to appear like they are in control of the situation and they are doing this to try to boost their reputation before the election comes because in all honesty I feel many of them believe they could be at risk in this coming election.

I honestly believe that the city is going to attempt to lock the drivers out for not signing a contract and I expect they will try it before the election in an attempt to show that they are willing to go to the wall.

I will give you one final bit of information. In the city’s latest contract offer to the union, they kept the large majority of the concessions the union made in an effort to get the larger salary but offered a salary significantly less. If they intend on getting a deal signed that does not include the higher salary then the city is going to have to return all of the concessions the union made.

Personally I believe the city is making a serious mistake not signing the original contract that was negotiated on and agreed to. I believe that when the public finds out the whole truth they will be extremely unhappy with the city for keeping this labour unrest going as long as it has. I also believe that if the media ever shows the unions side in full detail that the city will find itself with extremely hard feelings not only by the drivers but also by the public because once the public finds out, the city will lose most of the support they have.

A Dream Or Two For Moncton

I have had a couple of thoughts on things I would like to see that would be beneficial to our city.

  1. A system of community gardens.
  2. An improved sports program
  3. An improved park/green space program.

These are of course nice ideas but what exactly do them mean.

A system of community gardens

I would like to see a system where we could have small plots of land set aside for individuals and families to grow their own vegetables. The high price of raw, unprocessed vegetables is getting to the point where it is difficult for many families to be able to afford good unprocessed vegetables and this system could at least help.

This project would include a scattered system of small lots of land that could be either lent or rented to individuals to allow them the opportunity to use for gardening. While the ideal situation would be to have them used for vegetables, realistically I would suggest that we allow them open access to growing whatever legal plants they wish within their portion of the available lot.

The size of the lot allocated to each individual or family would be determined by the number of interested people and the number of plots available. Obviously an attempt would have to be made to have some land available in each area of the city to allow for things like walking distance etc.

An improved sports program

I would like to see an improved program to increase participation in active lifestyles for all people.

Ideally my system would involve working with all the various sporting associations that offer amateur sports in the city and working with them to create a system where everyone would be able to play sports without pressure regardless of age,  skill level or fitness.

This program would involve coaches who taught the sport to those who were interested at all age levels. It would involve an intricate system of keeping people playing at the level at which they were best suited (at a level which allowed each individual to improve their skill while still not applying the pressure that is found in some levels of sport today). The goal is to allow everyone an opportunity to play sports and to make sure that it is an environment that is non confrontational while still being sufficiently challenging as to allow individuals to reach their maximum potential. Preparing those who are interested to advance to the next level of the game while still making sure that everyone else has the opportunity to play at a level that is enjoyable and engaging to them.

An improved park/green space program.

I would like to put a program in place that would increase the amount of green space, playground space and recreational space in each neighbourhood. This would involve normal playground equipment as well as a sports field or two that would be maintained and kept in functional condition at all times. This also could involve turning some of these areas into outdoor rinks during winter months.

It also would involve planting and maintaining trees in an appealing manner so that they were able to grow and yet still provide enjoyment for the entire neighbourhood.

300 Military families. That is what is being transferred out of Moncton to other regions. Those figures are from the Head of Enterprise Greater Moncton.  He is the first person I have heard who has realized how significant this loss is to Moncton.

300 Military service people who will no longer be bringing a wage to spend in Moncton. Using a base rate of pay of 33,000/yr. that would be 1 Million out of Moncton’s economy with one stroke of the pen. But let’s use reality these are not  all privates. With salaries for Sergeants ranging to as high as 75,000 this could potentially take as much as 2 to 3 million per year out of Moncton’s economy.

This is a huge loss and yet all our mayor or our MP can say on the matter is that the loss of the 23 civilian employee jobs is difficult for them but hopefully they can find new work. Or they say they heard rumours this was coming.

Where is your indignation this is OUR city that is being financially slammed yet again by the federal government. To Robert Goguen I don’t care if Harper is your glorious leader, We elected you to stand up for our city and instead you have replaced the invisible man with yet another invisible man.  To George Leblanc, do you care so little for your city that you do not realize the damage that taking this amount of money from our city is going to cause.

We have a responsibility to stand up for our city. We have had a thriving Military base that was one of the largest equipment bases in the air force reduced to nothing but a reserve unit sitting on the corner of a busy street. We have had a TWO CNRail repair shops shut down and the thousands of skilled trades jobs that were erased with these federal government jobs over the years were offset only by minimum wage jobs. This is unacceptable. We are being farmed out as a call center capital thanks to Frank McKenna and instead of high paid skill trade jobs instead we have low paying, high stress, high turnover jobs to replace them and it is called an even trade. This is unacceptable and yet our MP and our Mayor do not even recognize the level of damage that is being done to the economy in our city by these repeated moves.

Because we always sit and take this type of garbage handling by the federal and even by the provincial government, the next time they decide they want to cut jobs or even want to consolidate to a single location, they will again look to us and say, they don’t mind they never complain so let’s just cut their site again, it is easier that way. We need to stand up and say if you want to consolidate then it is time to start consolidating TO Moncton, not keep continually consolidating out of Moncton.