There was some trash talking that took place at Qualicum Beach council meeting on Monday night, March 19, but not in the figurative sense. This time, the trash talk was literal.
The issue was about staff’s recommendation to outsource garbage collection for single-family residential properties to the Regional District of Nanaimo. It was not entirely welcomed by council.
Councillor Barry Avis was against it and requested that votes be recorded. Based on the survey conducted by the town, Avis pointed out that 85 per cent of the respondents wanted to retain the status quo while six per cent of residents favoured the proposal. He also believes that the town is already paying a lower rate compared to the RDN fees, as it uses garbage collection protocol to hire students as part of the municipality’s job training program.
“The idea of providing a style of town as we are — and we pride ourselves in being a small town with local services — I think it’s important to the people. It’s important to the people of Qualicum Beach to see that,” said Avis. “That’s why I asked for a recorded vote because there’s things that, from my opinion as just one councillor, I don’t like to see what’s happening to our town. We’re moving away from a small-town, quality style of town. I think life is more than just money. If we’re saying we’re going to move away from our local employees doing this because each household is going to save $17, which I am questioning because we have a rate here that nobody else has at $23.71, I really have a problem with it. I have a problem with the direction.”
Mayor Teunis Westbroek agreed residents favoured the current garbage collection in the survey, but he pointed out the efficiencies that would be created from outsourcing the garbage collection was not included.
“I don’t think they would say ‘We don’t like it’ if it is more efficient,” said Westbroek. “Or ‘We hate it even more’ if it became so efficient and produced less greenhouse gas. They never saw that option. But that’s the option we’re looking at. It will reduce greenhouse gases.”
Westbroek added he has seen redundancy in the garbage collection at present, as there are two collections taking place in Qualicum Beach.
“Right now I have seen it in front of my place. The green bin truck goes and then later a garbage truck goes by. That doesn’t make any sense,” said Westbroek.
“Parksville caught on to that. The RDN caught on to that. They have the same truck pick it up. That makes sense. That’s efficient and reduces greenhouse gas.”
Councillor Neil Horner highlighted the benefits of switching to the RDN’s garbage collection services based on the briefs he received from staff.
“It’s cheaper, it makes logical sense, the move doesn’t cost any jobs; it just moves them around,” said Horner. “And they’re all union jobs, so they stay union jobs. And the RDN plans to reduce garbage by 90 per cent so they’re only picking up about 10 per cent of what they used to pick up. Those are the positives that have been laid out for me.”
Horner encouraged his colleagues to convince him why they should not proceed with this plan. “I don’t see a strong case on the other side,” he said.
Councillor Anne Skipsey said this move will cause more damage to the relationship the town has with its union employees, a relationship she said is still recovering from the last labour dispute in 2015.
“I have spoken to a number of employees myself, and they and the union are not in favour of contracting out this municipal service,” said Skipsey.
“I believe this is not a move in the right direction, especially when we will soon be going into contract negotiations.”
The motion for the town to switch to the RDN garbage collection services for single-family residential properties eventually passed 3-2. Avis and Skipsey voted against it while Westbroek, Horner and Bill Luchtmeijer endorsed it.