Is Everybody h AAP y???

Ron Bolin: March 25, 2018

The Province has now granted the City of Nanaimo authorization to hold an AAP process which, if successful ( i.e. does not draw more than 6842 votes) will allow the City to borrow up to $17 million dollars for up to 20 years for a new Fire Station in downtown Nanaimo via an Alternate Approval Process (AAP).

An AAP is a political form of Negative Option Billing which is a practice like that used in the old days by book clubs to charge for publications which had not been requested but had neither been formally refused, i.e. If you didn’t let the book club know that you didn’t want the particular book of the month, it was deemed to have been ordered, was sent, and you were billed.

Similarly, in the Alternate Approval Process, if one doesn’t specifically reject a City’s borrowing plan by a formal vote, the City can use your silence as approval and proceed to a project forthwith. In most of the AAP processes in Nanaimo’s past, most citizens have remained blissfully unaware of what was taking place in their name. As you can imagine NOBs are illegal in most circumstances these days: AAPs are not.

The nature of the AAP Process can be found here:

Notification of Provincial Approval for the AAP Fire Station borrowing can be found here:

One might be tempted to think that the sum mentioned in the AAP question is the maximum which is being allotted to the project, but this ignores several other factors in the final total cost of any project, these include expenditures beyond this borrowing limit which can range from taxes or other funding methods in future budgets or further borrowing to be paid back in less than five years, interest on the debt over the period of the loan; and additional asset management and infrastructure costs associated with the new structure and its servicing. It was duly noted at the Council meeting which passed the AAP for the Fire Hall that there was no current structured plan with sufficient detail on which to base accurate estimates on expenditures for the project.

In this regard the VICC Referendum Approval question was limited to the borrowing of $30 million dollars. In the end the project came in at over, some would say well over, $70 million dollars. I am not aware of any full audit of that project which indicates where all of the additional funding came from, but we all know that somehow it came, and indeed is still coming, out of our pockets.

The history of AAPs in the last 10 years can be found here:

All the AAPs from 2010 on transpired so silently that none received more than three (3) votes. I use the term silently as I find it difficult to understand how any known issue in Nanaimo could be so benign as to draw so few votes…

On the other hand, the Cable Bay Lands AAP in 2008 drew 7908 votes while only 5815 were required to defeat the AAP. From experience shared with many others while distributing information and collecting forms it was learned how difficult it is to gather sufficient votes to defeat an AAP. On the other hand an AAP requires almost no effort on the part of the City.

The AAP process and form for objecting to the Fire Station  for any reason is repeated here:

Upon due consideration of the issue of the kind of non-democratic participation involved in a Negative Option Billing/AAP Scheme and in the knowledge that a true referendum can be held at no cost along with the Municipal election this fall, ask yourself -and ask your Council representatives- why they chose to saddle citizens with an Alternative Approval Process in this case and at this time and with so little public notice or discussion.

PS: Should, by some miracle the AAP process fail, Council can still put the Fire Station borrowing bylaw on the ballot at the municipal election at no cost… It’s just that an election process requires that votes must be earned while an AAP can just slide a matter in under the radar…

PPS: I am not against the proposal itself in principle… only to its use of the AAP and the fact that such a major cost currently has no accountable report or plan or public participation.  Blank Cheques for millions of dollars have no place in our municipality…