41% of voters cast ballots as of this morning

41% of voters cast ballots as of this morning

BY GEORGE LE MASURIER

Update Friday morning, Dec. 7

Elections BC reported this morning that it has received 1,356,000 ballots in the electoral referendum as of 8.20 am this morning. That is a 41 percent turnout of BC registered voters.

More ballots should arrive throughout the day, until the cutoff at 4.30 pm this afternoon.

Saanich North and the Islands still lead all areas with a 52.4 percent turnout of ballot screens so far, with Parksville-Qualicum close behind at 51.4 percent. The Comox Valley isa 46.8 percent.

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Update Thursday morning, Dec. 6

Saanich North and the Islands and the Parksville-Qualicum area continued to lead British Columbians in electoral reform voting. 50.3 percent of Saanich North’s register voters have had their ballots screened by Elections BC, and 49.2 percent of Parksvile-Qualicum registered voters. So far, 45.5 percent of Comox Valley registered voters have returned ballots that have passed through the initial screening.

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As of 8.20 a.m. Wednesday morning, Elections BC had screened the ballots of 34.2 percent of registered voters in British Columbia. But they have received ballots from about 40 percent of voters.  

The rate of return has been high in some communities like Parksville-Qualicum, where 47.7 percent of voters have returned the ballot package. The top voting region so far is Saanich North and the Islands with a 48.8 percent return.

The Comox Valley also topped the 40 percent mark, at 43.9 percent this morning.

Other top voting communities include: Oak Bay-Gordon Head at 45.5 percent, Nelson-Creton at 42.7 percent, Powell River-Sunshine Coast at 43.5 percent and Saanich South at 42.1 percent.

The lowest number of returned ballots so far have come from the many Surrey ridings, with Surrey-Green Timbers ranking the lowest of the low at 20.2 percent.

Only ballots received by Elections BC by 4.30 pm on Friday, Dec. 7 will be counted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golf Creek: A case study in stormwater planning gone wrong

Golf Creek: A case study in stormwater planning gone wrong

Ken McDonald in front of Golf Creek and the first bank that collapsed and his $15,000 geotextile wall. Photo by George Le Masurier

This is the second in a series of articles about how traditional stormwater management has contributed to the death of waters in our urban environment, and how we’re learning from those mistakes.

Today’s story begins the Tale of Three Creeks: Golf, Brooklyn and Morrison. Golf Creek is dead, Brooklyn Creek is threatened and Morrison Creek is thriving, with a pristine and intact headwaters that the Comox Valley Land Trust and the Morrison Stream Keepers hope to protect.

 

BY GEORGE LE MASURIER

Like most Albertans, Ken and Norine McDonald moved to the Comox Valley for its moderate climate and natural beauty. From the front window of the house they would purchase on Jane Place in Comox, the Beaufort Range of mountains formed a forested backdrop for the K’omoks Estuary as it flowed into the Salish Sea.

Behind the house, the picturesque Golf Creek meandered around a bend on its way to Comox Bay. There were stairs down to a wooden bridge over the creek, where their granddaughter often splashed and played in the water.

They didn’t know then that fecal coliform in the creek could reach 230 times the maximum allowed under BC Ministry of Environment water quality standards, or that mercury levels could exceed limits by 800 times. Or that the water sometimes contained 50 times the provincial maximum of copper, which can be deadly to salmon.

And they did not know initially that the large volume of fast moving water that was undercutting their stream bank came from a confluence of pipes carrying contaminated stormwater runoff from most of downtown Comox.

It’s hard to find Golf Creek today, unless you play golf. The creek runs between the third and fourth holes of the Comox Golf Club, crosses the fourth and fifth fairways, and then disappears into a pipe under the Comox Mall and the Berwick Retirement Community. It surfaces again on private property from the south side of Comox Avenue down to Comox Harbour.

Twenty-three separate municipal stormwater pipes gush contaminated runoff into Golf Creek. Eighty-six percent of the creek is buried and no fish even attempt to swim it. It is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

The lawsuit

After the McDonald’s spent $15,000 constructing a green geotextile wall to guard against further erosion of their property, they discovered the high volume and fast flow rate of the creek after rainfalls was a result of stormwater runoff from the neighborhoods north of the golf course, the course itself and most of downtown Comox. Months later, another section of the McDonalds’ bank collapsed, which will cost another $15,000 to repair.

When the town refused to accept responsibility for the damage and compensate them, the McDonalds filed a small claims court lawsuit in June of 2016. They have spent $20,000 on a nearly three-year legal battle that has not been settled.

“The town’s strategy is simple, bleed our savings until we relent,” McDonald said.

During research for their legal case, the McDonalds discovered the town had commissioned multiple engineering reports that recommended mitigation measures for the high volume and flow rate of Golf Greek. Several of them, including a 26-year-old report by KPA Engineering, advised the town to construct a detention pond to control the release of upstream rainwater and to help settle out contaminates.

The town continues to ignore those recommendations.

Golf Creek: what happened

For 2,000 years, indigenous peoples continuously occupied the stretch of Comox Harbour in the lee of Goose Spit, living off of a wide range of natural food sources. They harvested fish from Golf Creek and Brooklyn Creek, drank their waters and harvested shellfish during the summer low tide cycles.

Colonial occupation and eventual urban development took a toll on both creeks, but Golf Creek suffered the most. While lumber baron Robert Filberg preserved a large chunk of green space for a golf course, through which the creek still flows today, residential development above the golf course buried the creek’s headwaters, and a shopping mall buried a short portion below the course.

But the creek was still alive.

In the 1960s and 1970s, long-time Comox Residents Greg Rohne and Ted Edwards remember seeing fish in the creek, and watching tiny newly-hatched salmon fry. Another long-time resident, Gordon Olsen remembers catching fish in the creek as a teenager.

The creek was still natural below the Comox Mall when the BC Legislature passed the Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR) in July of 2004. It added stricter protections for provincial waters than the previous Streamside Protection Regulations of 1997, which compelled local governments to “protect streamside protection and enhancement areas” from residential, commercial and industrial development.

That should have prevented the town from allowing more of Golf Creek to be buried in pipes, but it did not. The RAR’s accompanying regulations weren’t issued until March 31, 2005.

A few months after the RAR was enacted, Berwick was granted a development permit that included permission to build over Golf Creek. And a building permit was issued on Jan. 4, 2005, just weeks before the enforcing regulations came into effect.

Beyond erosion, health concerns

Leigh Holmes, a retired professional engineer, has lived near the mouth of Golf Creek, about 200 metres downstream from the McDonalds, since 1998. In an affidavit sworn for the McDonalds’ lawsuit, Holmes says the creek has been turned into a sewer.

When a thick white foam coated the surface of the creek in 2002, Holmes “discovered that the Fire Hall was testing foam fire retardant during training and that they had hosed the excess foam into a nearby road gutter.”

Three weeks ago, CFB Comox announced it would conduct precautionary groundwater testing after a toxic substance found in firefighting foams, known as PFAS, was detected in nearby groundwater and Scales Creek.

In his affidavit, Holmes said “the creek is virtually devoid of life and is heavily polluted. The Town of Comox has transformed what once gave sustenance to people for hundreds of years into an open sewer.”

McDonald had concerns about water quality in the creek, because his granddaughter frequently played in it. He took a water sample on Sept. 7 and had it analyzed by Maxxam Analytics in Burnaby and the results interpreted by Victoria biochemist C.A. Sigmund.

Sigmund found high concentrations of nine metal ions, including mercury and copper, and he found an extremely high fecal coliform count, possibly through cross-contamination from town sewer pipes, and most probably from pets, birds and deer, which are abundant in Comox.

The expert noted that the data represented a snapshot in time. He recommended that water quality should be monitored regularly for 12 months, and that point sources of contamination should be identified.

This has not been done, in spite of the fact that the town was repeatedly advised to do water quality testing as far back as a 1999 Koers and Associates Stormwater Drainage Study commissioned by the town.

Even now, the town has not monitored Golf Creek water quality.

Recommendations ignored

The McDonalds commissioned a study by Dr. Richard Horner, an international expert on stormwater located in Seattle, Washington, to analyze the town’s stormwater discharges into Golf Creek and their role in the erosion of McDonalds’ property. Horner assessed nine separate engineering consultant studies between 1992 and 2014 in his analysis.

Horner found the town “ignored recommendations from its consultants, and even its own Official Community Plan that could have prevented or at least arrested the erosion of Golf Creek and the delivery of urban pollutants to Comox Harbour.”

Horner pointed to three reports that specifically recommended an upstream detention pond or other water control measures. He noted three others that recommended water quality monitoring programs.

The town did take some action to divert stormwater from Golf Creek, but Horner found “the actions the Town of Comox did take have been relatively ineffective in addressing the channel erosion and water quality problems created by permitting development without stormwater runoff mitigation.”

Lessons from Golf Creek

The McDonalds say they care about the environment of their community. They have begun a project to construct a net-zero-energy addition to their home, which will create roughly the same amount of energy or more than it consumes. Their home will also manage most of its stormwater via a green roof, a 3,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system and a pervious paver driveway.  

McDonald sees himself as a warrior for change.

“There are three ways to get local governments to improve their stormwater practices … using education, a carrot, or a stick. Some municipalities respond to education, some won’t move until the province hands over bags of money, and sadly, others only change when compelled to do so by a judge.

“Our hope is that the new mayor and council will respond to education.”

The tale of Golf Creek may represent a bad case of urban planning gone wrong, but it is not an isolated case. Over the last several decades, many Comox Valley creeks and streams have disappeared from view and are now in pipes under parking lots, buildings and roadways.

And it’s not an unwarranted fear that without a change in development practices by municipal planning and engineering staffs, and given the region’s rapid rate of population growth, every creek or stream in the Comox Valley could be polluted to death. Many more could disappear entirely despite the tireless work of hundreds of volunteer stream keepers.

Golf Creek may never have fish again. But McDonald hopes to force better stormwater practices by the town that could still help protect Brooklyn Creek and Cathrew Creek, and other Comox Valley waters from dying the same death.

The Town of Comox did not respond to a request for comment on this story. But a lawyer for the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia did respond saying “our office has no comment until this court matter ceases.”

 

 

 

 

For further reading …

RIPARIAN AREAS REGULATION — Riparian areas link water to land. They border streams, lakes, and wetlands. The blend of streambed, water, trees, shrubs and grasses in a riparian area provides fish habitat, and directly influences it. Read more here

 

STREAMSIDE PROTECTION REGULATION — A fish protection act preceding the Riparian Areas Regulation. Read more here

 

GEOTEXTILE — Fabrics that, when used with soil, have the ability to separate, filter, reinforce, protect and drain. Read more here

 

FECAL COLIFORM — Microscopic organisms that live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. They also live in the waste material, or feces, excreted from the intestinal tract. Although not necessarily agents of disease, fecal coliform bacteria may indicate the presence of disease-carrying organisms, which live in the same environment as the fecal coliform bacteria. Swimming in waters with high levels of fecal coliform bacteria increases the chance of developing illness (fever, nausea or stomach cramps) from pathogens entering the body through the mouth, nose, ears, or cuts in the skin. Diseases and illnesses that can be contracted in water with high fecal coliform counts include typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, dysentery and ear infections. Read more here and here

 

RUNOFF — Excessive rain or snowmelt that produces overland flow to creeks and ditches. Runoff is visible flow of water in rivers, creeks and lakes as the water stored in the basin drains out.

 

DR. RICHARD HORNER — To read some scholarly articles by this international expert on stormwater, click here

 

PFAS — A group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. Read more here, and here

 

 

 

Cumberland’s dilemma: Save the Ilo Ilo or create arts space elsewhere?

Cumberland’s dilemma: Save the Ilo Ilo or create arts space elsewhere?

Henry Fletcher at The Convoy Club, an attempt to create a co-working space in Cumberland. Photo by George Le Masurier

BY GEORGE LE MASURIER

Does Cumberland want to save the historic Ilo Ilo Theatre or does it want to create a performing arts space in the most viable location?

That was a question debated Saturday afternoon in the renovated lobby of the former opera house by about 30 Cumberland business people, residents and performers.

It’s an urgent question because Henry Fletcher, who has spent “a stressful” year trying to save the theatre as a performance venue, has reached the end of his resources and is moving back to Toronto this week.

His parents, who bought the building in 2007, have listed the Ilo Ilo for sale at $1.25 million.

The building began life in 1914 as an opera house and transformed over the years into a movie theatre and a dance hall. It was last used as an an auction house operated by Dave and Cathy Stevens until July 2007.

None of those discussing the theatre’s fate on Saturday questioned the need for a new performing arts venue in the Comox Valley.

“There’s a hunger for performing arts space,” said Meagan Coursons, an arts promoter and executive director of the Cumberland Community Forest Society. “People are starving for it.”

It’s hard to book the busy Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay, and it’s expensive for struggling performing arts groups.

And there was no doubt among participants in Saturday’s discussion that a cultural economy could be created in Cumberland around the demand for space.

Darren Adam, owner of the Cumberland Brewing Company, said if the building could be renovated, then the “end result as an economic driver is beyond words.”

But Adam questioned whether a community project to preserve, restore and promote the Ilo Ilo as a performing arts space was a viable option.

Nick Ward, owner of The Update Company, a website design and marketing business, said it would take at least $500,000 and probably more to renovate the theatre building. And Adam doubted whether the village or individuals with the expertise to take on such a large fundraising project had the capacity to do so at this time.

“There’s no privately owned theatre in Canada that doesn’t rely on a public subsidy,” Adam said. “And the village is already heavily taxed.”

He said it took “an amazing effort” to create the Cumberland Community Forest, but to do it again would be “a long shot.”

Admitting that she has a “romantic attachment” to historic theatre, Cursons said the community needs to have a larger conversation about it really wants — to save the Ilo Ilo or to create performing arts space.

The Cumberland United Church building is also for sale at a much lower purchase price and could be renovated more inexpensively.

“We have to focus on one project, or we could lose both,” Cursons said. “What is the more achievable goal? If it’s performing arts space we want, then we need to get this conversation outside of the building (Ilo Ilo).”

The group agreed on the need for a community mandate.

There was also consensus that to attract an “angel benefactor” willing to preserve the Ilo Ilo and transform it into a quality performing arts space, the village has to have a governance structure and a business plan already in place.

And that raised the question if there are people willing to donate time and energy creating a society and a plan knowing that another buyer could tear down the building for some other commercial purpose.

A spokesperson for the Cumberland Culture and Arts Society said they already have a nonprofit society for this purpose. It staged the recent Woodstove Festival. It’s annual general meeting is scheduled for January.

Cursons expressed sadness around how many times people have gotten their hopes up about restoring the Ilo Ilo only to see it flounder again.

An exhausting experience

For Henry Fletcher, the Ilo Ilo has been “an emotionally exhausting period of exploring an idea that nobody in their right mind would undertake.”

Fletcher came to Cumberland with hopes of creating a cultural economy, using the Ilo Ilo as a hub for performing arts, town hall meetings, a dance studio, weddings and other events.

“I’ve been spraying ideas around to see what sticks,” he told Decafnation. “But nobody was ready to join on that train.”

Fletcher is a performer himself, mainly through a fictional comedic character he created called Henri Faberge, a naive buffoon and European aristocrat. Faberge is the protagonist in improv performances whose eyes help the audience understand other characters.

Henri Faberge is also a foil for Fletcher’s own self-examination.

“Sometimes the lines are blurred,” he said, referring to his obsession to animate community interest in his ideas for a common performing arts space. “It me, it’s not me. It’s hard to shut off.”

He questions whether it was his own naivete about navigating bylaws, about how to do fundraising and writing grants and about how to run a business that doomed the Ilo Ilo project.

“I struggle with not pursuing the vision I have. It’s a mental illness, I can’t not do it,” he said. “Everyone wants arts and culture, they just can’t pay for it.”

Fletcher thinks his timing might have been wrong. He sees Cumberland at a point where it has attracted a large community of creative people, yet not enough resources to support them.

But he’s glad for having tried and for the learning experience he’s had.

“Because, you know, it’s the maniacs who are either A) burned at the stake; or, B) achieve a new paradigm and change the world.”

 

HISTORY OF COURTENAY’S SID WILLIAM THEATRE

Vancouver Island entrepreneur E.W. Bickle designed and built what is now the Sid Williams Theatre. The state-of-the-art movie house was opened on June 20, 1935, with a gala presentation of the new colour film spectacle “Babes in Toyland.” E.W. wanted to create the finest movie theatre on Vancouver Island, and his new Bickle Theatre on Cliffe Avenue featured many luxuries that event theatres in bustling Victoria did not offer. Bickle also built and owned Cumberland’s Ilo Ilo Theatre, Courtenay’s E.W. Theatre (subsequently the Palace Theatre on 5th Street), and the Comox District Free Press. The theatre’s current namesake, Sid Williams, actually worked at the E.W. in the 1940’s.

Bickle was a “hands on” theatre owner; many locals still remember attending shows and seeing him sitting in a leather wing chair in the lobby supervising the crowds as they came and went. Well into his senior years he arrived each evening in a chauffeured limousine to collect the day’s box office take. After E.W. Bickle passed away, the building operated for a time as an auction house and later became vacant for a number of years. On an early January morning in 1968, the Riverside Hotel next to the theatre at the corner of 5th Street and Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay burned down. This event was the turning point by which the citizens of the Comox Valley acquired a civic performing arts theatre.

After a great deal of fundraising, a land swap involving Crown Zellerback, a generous donation by the E.W. Bickle family, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on the part of many individuals and groups in the community, the black hole of the former Riverside Hotel got cleaned up. A fountain was built, the old Bickle was renovated and in September 1971 the new Civic Theatre and Civic Square were opened by Premier W.A.C. Bennett.

In honour of a much loved local actor and comedian, it was named the Sid Williams Civic Theatre in 1984. Sid Williams was born Frederick Sidney Williams on October 14th, 1908, in New Westminster, BC, and arrived in the Comox Valley in 1921 at the age of 12. Sid’s earliest stage appearance was in a school production in 1922. This began a lifetime of theatre involvement. From his tours with the Barkerville Players and as Century Sam; his many live appearances, both local and distant; to his television work (on The Beachcombers, PharmaSave commercials, and a documentary for CBC’s On the Road Again), they brought him many honours. Sid also served continuously as Alderman for the City of Courtenay from 1942 to 1964.

Sid ran the Civic Theatre for many years as a one man tour-de-force, and rain or shine could be seen up a ladder every week changing the messages on the theatre’s marquee. He passed away on September 26th, 1991. View the Courtenay & District Museum’s online exhibit Sid Williams: Out of the Ordinary.

The Sid Williams Civic Theatre has been serving the Comox Valley for over 25 years as a performing arts facility, and has had a professional administration since 1992. In 1998, the theatre was closed for some much needed renovations. After a few seismic tests, the City of Courtenay extended the original $1,000,000 budget to an incredible $2,500,000. The renovations extended the lobby, added a concession, a large ticket centre, family viewing seats, a 144 seat balcony, many needed washrooms, larger dressing room space, and much more.

Now a 500-seat performing arts facility, the Sid Williams Theatre will continue to host quality entertainment in the Comox Valley for many years to come.

Excerpted from a history courtesy of the Courtenay & District Museum on The Sid’s website

 

 

Hanukkah: celebrating the promise of hope in dark times

Hanukkah: celebrating the promise of hope in dark times

BY RABBI SETH GOLDSTEIN

Tonight marks the beginning of Hanukkah, that eight-day celebration when we bring light into the darkness by lighting the menorah each night.

The story of Hanukkah is retold and well known—the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) lead a revolt against the assimilationist forces of Antiochus and the Syrian-Greeks and emerge victorious. When they go to rededicate the ancient Temple—the most sacred site of the Jewish community—they find a small vial of sacred oil to light the Temple lamp (menorah), a light that was meant to burn continuously. As the story goes, there was enough to last for one day only, when lit however it burned for eight days. That provided enough time for new sacred olive oil to be produced.

There are a lot of complications with the story. The sides of the conflict were not clear cut, and it was in many ways an intra-Jewish battle between religious zealots and Greek sympathizers. The story of the oil and the story of the battle appear in different sources and are brought together later. The length of the holiday has as much to do with the 8-day Festival of Sukkot as much as the story of the oil. But told as it is, it provides a powerful narrative of the confluence of divine light and the light of the human spirit.

A question that ran through my mind recently is, what would have happened if they didn’t find any consecrated oil at all? If as tradition teaches, it took eight days to make consecrated oil, then would the Hasmoneans simply had to wait eight days before they could finish dedicating the Temple?

Presumably so. And yet, they did find the small vial, and then rather than wait until more oil was made, a condition in which they could have been assured of a constant flame, they decided to go ahead and light it anyway.

As I have shared in the past, perhaps the miracle of Hanukkah is not that a day’s worth of oil actually burned for eight days, but that the Hasmoneans recognized that they did not have enough, but decided to light it anyway. They knew in that moment that they could not do it all, but they decided to do what they could, hoping that it would be enough.

And that is another way to think about this holiday. The Hasmoneans knew they needed to move beyond the recent past of destruction and desecration. At the same time, they did not know what the future would hold. Thus the lighting of the small vial of oil is an act of being in the present, of doing what one can do right now, with the resources one has in the situation one finds themselves, without certainty about what comes next.

One can imagine each day watching this flame, not knowing whether that day was the day it would finally burn out. A precarious situation that reminds us that each day was a victory, each day a success, each day a step to celebrate.

Presumably on the ninth day, everything would have been back to normal. The lamp in the Temple would have been continuously lit, enough oil would be in store to keep it going, and the community would press on as it had before. The eight days of Hanukkah therefore celebrate the “in between”–the days between destruction and return to normalcy.

And by celebrating these days of “in between,” our tradition teaches that ultimately, they are not the “in between,” but simply, what is. Hanukkah teaches us to celebrate the here and now, the small victories won each day. We hope for a better future, but we also live each day as best we can, nurturing the flame that we have.

In these dark times, it sometimes feels that we can not generate enough light to sustain us. But we know we are never in complete darkness, there is always a small vial of oil, of promise, of hope, even if we don’t see it at first. And no matter what, when we find it, we light it, doing what we can in this moment, on this day, to bring about a new reality.

Rabbi Seth Goldstein serves Temple Beth Hatfiloh and may be reached via his website, Rabbi360.com

 

 

 

About Hanukkah

Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple. Also spelled Hanukkah (or variations of that spelling), the Hebrew word is actually pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-new-kah. — From Chabad.org

Back in 139 BCE, the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. In the Temple, they built a new altar and made a new menorah. When they wanted to light it, they found they only had enough oil to light it for one day. But that lamp kept burning for eight nights and was considered a miracle. Since then a festival of lights has been celebrated every year to remember the occasion. Candles are lit for eight nights, and families eat foods cooked with oil and exchange presents. — From CBC


 

Read more or contact the Central Vancouver Island Jewish Community Society in Parksville here

 

 

The week in review: new councils make their own first meeting statements

The week in review: new councils make their own first meeting statements

It’s a long and lonely road to the top. George Le Masurier photo

BY GEORGE LE MASURIER

Voters meted out the biggest changes to local government this fall in Courtenay and Comox with a sharp shift toward younger and more progressive councillors. But it’s still the Cumberland Village Council that, so far, has delivered on the progressive agenda.

Mayor Leslie Baird’s crew needed just a couple of meetings to approve two marijuana dispensaries, agree to a prohibition on water bottling and start the ball rolling on a village-wide plastic bag ban.

Of course, Cumberland already had the most functionally progressive council in the Valley, and had only one change after the election — Vickey Brown for Roger Kishi. Courtenay has three new councillors and Comox has four.

— Kudos to Comox Councillor Patrick McKenna for casting the lone vote against awarding council members what many will see as a pay increase. It’s not, of course. The increase merely covers the loss of tax-exempt status on council expenses. And the remuneration for elected officials wasn’t overly generous to begin with.

But the optics were bad. Whoever decided to put that decision on the table at the new councils’ first meeting, did the disservice of putting them all in a bad position.

— No one ever doubted that funding for the $125 million water-filtering plant would materialize. It’s being built as a result of government (Island Health) mandated standards and, environmental cynics would say, because of provincial policies that allowed logging practices in the Comox Lake watershed that caused most of the turbidity problems in the first place.

Still, the $63.9 million for the project announced this week was comforting. The feds threw in $34.3 and the province gave $28.6 million, $7.5 million of which goes to the K’omoks First Nations. Comox Valley taxpayers will buck up the balance of $54.9.

And for that $125 million about half of Comox Valley residents get no more boil-water advisories. The other half will continue to drink from their wells and other water sources.

— What a difference a year or so makes. The Mack Laing Heritage Society asked Comox Council to put a tarp on the roof of Shakesides, the famous naturalists last home on Comox Bay back in April of of 2017 and never got a formal reply. The issue was never even brought to council for a vote.

But the new council (four new, three incumbents) discussed and approved the request at its very first meeting. What changed? Did the three who served on the previous council suddenly get religion? Or, did they and certain staff members just realize the majority of four new council members had no interest in playing the “I can’t hear you game” with Shakesides supporters?

Whatever the reason, the council did the right thing. Until the court rules on the town’s petition to alter a generous man’s gift to his community or some other way forward is adopted, the building in Mack Laing Park must be protected.

— Who doesn’t want to live in a community where the City Council bikes to its meetings? Well maybe the Comox Valley Taxpayer’s Alliance. But many of us do.

Yeah, we know, it was nothing more than a PR stunt hastily arranged when Courtenay council members gathered at a downtown bike shop and rode together to their first council meeting. And, yet, it meant something important. It represented an attitude and a vision for how this council will address transportation and related issues. 

City councillors aren’t all going to bike to every council meeting. They just took an opportunity to make a simple, positive statement. Now they need to back up that message with policy.

— Overheard at the Comox public input session regarding the Comox Valley Sewer System redesign, which primarily serves Courtenay and Comox residents …

“Know why Courtenay should pay the full cost of odour control measures at the treatment plant? Because in Comox, our s–t doesn’t stink.”