Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guaranteed incomes and social outcomes

Carol Goar of the Toronto Star writes here about the 1970s "Mincome" experiment in Manitoba under Ed Schreyer's NDP and with the support of the federal government.  Guaranteeing incomes in a small community had numbers of positive outcomes for the community.  Goar notes, however, that a report on the experiment has never been written but research gleans from hard to get documents in Ottawa point to the program's success.

Thanks to Janine Bandcroft for tracking this one down.  Here's Goar's story:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Living wages

Esquimalt Council recently endorsed a living wage policy that will advance the municipality forward to esnure that city workers and contractors are paid enough to live in Victoria.  It's been spearhead by Councillor Randall Garrison.  It's slow going but it's a good idea. 

We need to find ways to provide more income equity in Canada and market forces are unsufficient to achieve that objective.  That said, a very strong supporter of free markets in this country, the Canada West Foundation, has even published recently on the issue of civil servant pay and the performance of governments and economies.  Holding onto skilled workers requires paying them a decent living and it is not cost effective to try and suppress wages or salaries in pursuit of illusory tax savings.  Governments, like any business in the private sector, are delivering a product or a service, and key to provide value for money is having that skilled, experienced workforce.  Losing staff or having to rehire, train up etc. is a costly strategy for any organization.

As living wage discussions take centre stage, some of the other discussions around compensation are worth looking at.  Here's the Canada West piece; good reading on the subject:  http://cwf.ca/_webapp_1198328/Cutting_Civil_Servants_Pay_a_Bad_Idea

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Evolving Douglas Street

Douglas Street is the right corridor for rapid transit in Victoria and Saanich.  It ranked high in evaluations conducted by BC Transit analysts.  Certainly those in the community who understand how transit works also support Douglas for the new project.

There is some resistance, however, from those in the community who believe that any project that proposes to diminish capacity for vehicle travel or storage (parking), will ruin downtown.

I expect to work my blog, Facebook updates and my Flickr page to counter some of the myths over the next few weeks as we work towards a decision at the Regional Transit Commission, where I also sit as a member.  We need to be mindful of the concerns of our business community but we do need to build a more effective and responsive transit system.

One flaw in the argument about how traffic works on Douglas (or throughout most of the system in fact), is that the demand for vehicle travel and parking is constant and overwhelming.  It's not supported by the facts, and for many retailers, their most important market is the 17 shopping days leading up to Christmas.  Traffic congestion and the demand for parking is high and it is the formula that drives the design of shopping mall parking lots.  Street design can't provide for that small slice of the travel market only to leave streets underutilized and parking spaces empty for the rest of the year.

That's a bit simplistic.  Traffic on Douglas does bunch up in morning and afternoon rush hours when workforces are commuting to and fro, but transit improvements would sure help to relieve the pressure and make it easier for those who must or choose to drive to get into or out of downtown.  For shoppers, who may not always be traveling at commute times, that congestion is irrelevant - Douglas St. is not overburdened at other hours of the day.

More to come but here's a glimpse of Douglas during the day.  There's no lack of space for shoppers coming downtown by car here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/luton/5375349509/

Monday, January 3, 2011

Green Buildings and Transportation

The Chicago Tribune lately posted an article by Julie Wernau on the disconnect between the green building movement and the transportation impacts of development.  More and more, however, the development industry, local governments and other public agenicies and private sector players are recognizing that a key element of the carbon footprint of any building is related moreso to how people get to and from their workplace or other destinations than it is to the energy efficiency of the building itself.

A "green building" or neighbourhood in the middle of nowhere, far from services, transit, or in a transportation environment hostile to biking and walking, is no benefit to the environment.  It is important to build to new standards that require energy efficiency and minimize emissions from building energy use for heat, light, water use etc. More importantly though, a building houses people or workplaces, and how those people travel is more critical to the carbon footprint of our built environment.

Recently I sent in comments to the latest revisions on green building standards, mostly related to providing a more supportive cycling and walking environment.  The Tribune article goes one further to talk about location, location, location - the classic real estate mantra.  We need to locate buildings within or near to services and other destinations serving people (recreation, health services, entertainment etc.) so that they can walk or bike more often.  We need to connect residential density, commercial and workplace developments with transit services so people don't need to drive everywhere.  We also need to stop building on "greenfields" - cheap, undeveloped land distant from urban areas where the services and transportation network are already in place.

Read more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-1227-outlook-energy-index-20101227,0,202383.story