The Next Big Reveal at City Hall (Don’t be COWed)

Ron Bolin: Jan. 19, 2013

At its COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting  on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 at 4:30pm in the Shaw Auditorium of the VICC, Council will receive a presentation from Ms. Jean Crowder, MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan regarding local and federal government issues.  One may hope that among these issues will be the right of our federally chartered Port Authority to sublet their responsibilities to a foreign company, to assign treaty rights to a foreign company, and/or to sunder parts of a city which are separated by waters of disputed authority.


Also on the agenda is an open spot for delegations who wish to speak to the 2013-2017 Financial Plan.  This opportunity is open to all and does not require prior registration.  This is an opportunity to raise questions about the City’s use of our tax dollars and to suggest methods for the improvement of services.  It can be noted that none of the six Strategic Priorities mentioned in the Strategic Plan recently adopted by the City pertain specifically to minimizing costs.


Following delegations on the budget, Mr. B. E. Clemens, Director  of Finance, will give a presentation of the use of the “Balanced Scorecard” approach to the evaluation of programs, infrastructure and services in Nanaimo.  This is another Big Reveal from the City and has been in the works for several years.  According to the Balanced Scorecard Institute:

“The balanced scorecard is a strategic planning and management system that is used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve internal and external communications, and monitor organization performance against strategic goals.”

The brief report in the agenda for Monday’s meeting states that:

“As part of the Building Trust program, staff undertook to develop a new type of organizational performance measurement known as a Balanced Scorecard. A Balanced Scorecard is a set of quantifiable measures that go beyond the usual financial measures to include other ways of looking at organizational performance.

The standard scorecard has been modified to better suit the City’s objectives. Six perspectives have been chosen: customer, social, environmental, employee, service & program delivery, and financial. Within these categories there are a total of more than fifty different performance measures. The measures were chosen by a team of staff representing all departments and were shown to Council in fall of 2011. During 2012, staff worked to develop baseline data and to start to create linkages between these measures and organizational priorities and to identify targets and initiatives for each measure. This process has resulted in some adjustments to the measures to conform to the data that is available.”

This can be another major card in the hand which is being dealt to the citizens of Nanaimo if we carefully examine the premises and the conclusions in the scorecard.  It can open a new window for seeing the city, its resources and its use of them and that window will surely need cleaning from time to time.

The Balanced Scorecard is to be available on the City’s web site and the presentation will, in addition to discussing its makeup and objectives, show Council and the public how to access it on-line  Whether it is interactive is unstated in the report.


2013-2017 Financial Plan Process Mr. B.E.Clemens will carry forward the Staff Recommendation that Council endorse the process for completing the review of the 2013-2017 Financial Plan.  This plan involves the following steps:

January 28      Regular Council -first three readings of the budget bylaw

February 18    Regular Council – adoption of the bylaw

March 4             Electronic Town Hall Meeting (tentative date)

Feb to April      Budget briefings on selected issues and budget discussion

April 22              Regular Council – Introduction of amended budget and tax rate bylaws

May13                 Regular Council – Final adoption of amended budget and tax rate bylaws

It is further proposed that Staff present briefing sessions on specific aspects of the budget, such as:

  • “RCMP contract budget – how we budget for the largest single operating expenditure and past and future trends in policing costs;
  • Municipal cost pressures- e.g., energy costs, vehicle fuel costs, GHG offsets, asphalt, and how similar expenditures impact the budget. This would also include a discussion about
  • why the Consumer Price Index does not represent municipal cost increases;
  • How wages and benefits are calculated and budgeted for and their impact on the budget;
  • Tax policy- relationships between the property tax classes, with opportunity for discussion on commercial and industrial tax rates;
  • Debt policy – when it is appropriate to use long term debt, how we compare with other municipalities, and some long term forecasting of our debt levels;
  • The long term fire plan and its impact on the budget;
  • Reserves – uses and balances;
  • The five year capital plan – review of major projects.

The list of topics may be modified and may not be presented in the above order. Other topics may be added if Council has any specific requests. The briefings will be held as part of the regular open Committee of the Whole or Council meetings between now and the introduction of bylaws in April.”

These sessions, in conjunction with the Asset Management Plan and the Balanced Scorecard should prove interesting for all involved, including the public.  Perhaps out of all this will come a better understanding of priorities on the ground as opposed to those in the sky.  The instruments should pull back the veil, at least part way, for all of us and it will be up to us to peer behind it.


At last week’s meeting Council appointed Councillors Greves,Johnstone and Kipp as a Steering Committee for the Governance Policy, Structure and Process Review which was released as an RFP last year. This evenings recommendation from Staff is for the approval of the Mandate and Objectives of that Committee.


As the COW meeting is now the only meeting at which citizens can bring forward items which are not related to a Report to Council, there are four delegations seeking indulgence from Council:

13. DELEGATIONS (not related to a Report to Council): (10 MINUTES)

  • Mr. Mark Collins regarding Development Permit DP00075, for an 11 unit strata townhouse development at 3217 Hammond Bay Road
  • Representatives from CVI Centre for the Arts regarding the exterior repairs needed at Nanaimo Centre Stage
  • Mr. Craig Evans regarding the Colliery Dams
  • Mr. Jeff Solomon regarding the Colliery Dams.

Followed by the Question Period (for Agenda Items only)

I hope to see you there.