Hear Jane Philpott interview on CBC radio

Hear Jane Philpott interview on CBC radio

FromWikipedia

By George Le Masurier

Jane Philpott, who was expelled from the federal Liberal Paty caucus this week, along with Jody Wilson-Raybould, spoke about the affair on CBC Radio this Morning. Asked by Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current why she chose to sacrifice her political career over this issue, Philpott said this:

“I chose the truth. I chose to act on principles that are so important to the future of our country. That’s more important than my political career. I got into politics to improve people’s lives, to be the very best member of parliament for Markham-Stouffville that I could possibly be, to stand up for truth to represent what I heard from my constituents. If that means that — in some way — I’ve been taken out of opportunities that I had before, it makes me very sad. I loved the work that I was able to do, but I have to be able to speak to my children and my mother and my husband and say I did the right thing. And to my constituents and say I did the right thing.”

You can read excerpts and hear the full interview here.

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The Week: bizarre backstory; great news on sewage planning

The Week: bizarre backstory; great news on sewage planning

You can ride this wave in either direction  /  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

Good morning. Decafnation took a hiatus over the winter. Here are some of the news stories from this week and the last two-and-a-half-months that caught our returning eye.

Bizarre story about the regional water line break

If you get your water through the Comox Valley Water System, you’ve already gotten the bad news. Several holes in the concrete-encased main transmission line running under the Puntledge River means that for 11 days, starting April 12, you can’t use water for anything but drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene.

But the backstory about why it’s taking longer than normal to repair this leak, which has been spilling small amounts of chlorinated water into the Puntledge River since December, has taken a tragic and bizarre twist.

When Comox Valley Regional District staff found the leak, they began planning how to repair it. Fixing a leak in this most difficult section of the pipe to access requires special skills — including a scuba diver doing welding from inside the pipe — and a special valve, neither of which are readily available.

The custom valve was ordered from the Henry Pratt Co., a manufacturer of industrial valves located in Aurora, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. And that’s where the story turns tragic.

In mid-February, a recently-fired 15-year employee of the Pratt Co. walked into the building and started shooting his colleagues, killing five co-workers and wounding five police officers before being shot dead.

The subsequent closure of the plant during police investigations added to production delays caused by losing so many key employees and a necessary period of mourning and counseling.

The new valve is now in hand at the CVRD and the specialized workers have been scheduled. But this is a tricky repair, fraught with myriad things that could still go wrong. Stay tuned.

Not everybody is happy

Mayor Russ Arnott campaigned in last fall’s municipal election on the theme that “people are generally happy” in the Town of Comox. But that has proven not entirely true.

Residents of 17 units at the Mariner Apartments near the former St. Joseph’s hospital site were forced out of their homes by a burst in the town’s water line in January, making many homeless. And they weren’t happy about how the town failed to help them, although a benefit concert and silent auction held in Courtenay provided some relief.

Comox’s d’Esterre Gardens recently tried to evict a woman with cerebral palsy and chronic fatigue syndrome from the low-income seniors housing complex. But an unhappy Zoe Nagler fought back and she won an arbitration case that allows her to stay in the place where she’s lived for the past six years.

And now some council members aren’t happy with the way Arnott has handled council discussions about Mack Laing’s home, called Shakesides, and over disagreements on the implications of a March 6 vote to modify the Laing Trust.

It’s been a rough first five months for the new Comox mayor and council. So the town’s excellent plan to make it easier for Comox residents to add secondary suites and coach houses on their in-town properties comes at a good time.

This new bylaw will create urban density without adding expensive infrastructure, and can help people afford housing during a period of skyrocketing real estate values.

Not everyone is happy about the new housing bylaw, but it’s a good plan.

Good news about sewerage planning

On the advice of CVRD staff, the Courtenay-Comox Sewer Commission stepped back from its formerly ill-advised and patchwork plans last year. Under the direction of CVRD engineer Kris LaRose, legitimate public and technical advisory committees have been working with the WSP engineering consulting company from North Vancouver on a long-term, bigger scope reinvention of how to convey and treat the two municipalities sewage, and reuse it’s resources and byproducts.

The working groups have short-listed a number of options — including several that involve tunneling beneath Comox Road and Lazo Road — all of which would move the main sewage transmission pipes out of the K’omoks estuary. The short-list will be presented to the sewage commission this month.

It’s refreshing to see innovative thinking and 100-year planning where it didn’t exist in the past.

The strength of Jody Wilson-Raybould

It takes courage to speak truth to power. If you’re a woman, it takes even more courage. And if you’re an indigenous woman, it is even more courageous to take on the male-dominated power structure.

But the Comox Valley’s own Jody Wilson-Raybould has that courage. She has taken on the Ottawa-Quebec Liberal Party power base, and its long connections to the Trudeau family, over a fundamental issue of prosecutorial independence.

Anybody who has paid attention knows the story about the allegations of bribes and fraud used by SNC-Lavalin to obtain global engineering contracts. Instead of owning up to what is now obvious political interference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen to launch personal attacks on his former Attorney General.

Was Wilson-Raybould really difficult to work with in caucus, or is Justin Trudeau just not comfortable with a strong woman who refuses to be bullied and bend to his will?

We think it’s the later.

 

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Council vote sends Mack Laing Trust issue back to court

Council vote sends Mack Laing Trust issue back to court

Shakesides

By George Le Masurier

Comox Town Council voted 5-2 this week to continue designing a viewing platform to replace naturalist Mack Laing’s heritage home, rejecting any other proposals for the property, as it prepares to head back to the BC Supreme Court.

The town has petitioned the court to alter the 37-year old trust left by one of the community’s pioneers, even though it has done nothing over nearly four decades to live up to the terms of the trust.

The recent vote at this week’s regular council meeting was on a motion by Councillor Ken Grant to proceed with one of three options presented to council by Chief Administrative Officer Richard Kanigan.

The option referred to in Grant’s motion was to send comment sheets from the March 27 public workshop back to the designers of the viewing platform and to request a redesign. It was amended to include input from K’omoks First Nation and the Mack Laing Heritage Society.

The other two options were to approve the original concept and, lastly, to “consider a completely different proposal as decided by council.”

By rejecting the last option, Town Council has effectively abandoned any thoughts of saving Shakesides, and will eventually pursue its original petition to the court with a slightly different platform design.

Councillors Nicole Minions and Stephanie McGowan cast the only two votes opposing the motion.

“Councillor McGowan and I voted against moving forward with the platform as we want to explore options around Shakesides,” Minions told Decafnation via email after the meeting.

Councillor Alex Bissinger, who voted with the majority to approve the motion, said her understanding of the vote was “that it will be up to the AG (Attorney General’s office) to decide whether or not saving Shakesides is in the books.”

All three councillors — Minions, McGowan and Bissinger — voiced their frustration with the public workshop process, which they felt was unfairly manipulated in favor of a viewing platform. Mayor Russ Arnott did not present workshop participants with any option other than a viewing platform.

The Mack Laing Heritage Society wanted workshop participants to consider its proposal for saving Shakesides as a community volunteer project, but town staff, with the Arnott’s support, denied the MLHS workshop participation as well as a later request to host a table outside of the workshop meeting room.

The three councillors also refuted Arnott’s characterization of a March 6 council decision as affirming that saving Shakesides was no longer an option.

The three councillors said they did not vote at that meeting to demolish Shakesides, only that whether the house was saved or not, some details of the trust couldn’t be honored and needed court approval to forego them.

Arnott became combative as each councillor spoke in turn, often interrupting each speaker. He interrupted Councillor Minions often, once to admonish her for saying council voted on Feb. 6 to put the matter into abeyance for three months.

Arnott said the abeyance wasn’t for three months, rather for “up to three months.” Yet, he did not bother to correct CAO Kanigan’s report, which they were discussing at the time, that also stated “the three month abeyance ….”

Under normal codes of conduct, only one councillor or director of a municipal government has the floor at any one time, and other councillors or directors show respect by refraining from interrupting or calling out comments during that time.

Arnott appeared to be debating each of the three women as they voiced their concerns.

The day after the Town Council meeting, Arnott reached out via email to MLHS President Kris Nielsen to invite him or another representative of the society to participate in last-minute design changes to the platform.

Nielsen declined the offer because he said spending time on the design of a viewing platform was premature, referring to possible outcomes of the now inevitable Supreme Court trial that might deny the town’s petition.

“So for me to entertain some speculative designs/problems is just not in the cards,” Nielsen wrote to Arnott. “I could point out the image of the cart way out in front of the horse picture, but I will refrain from that.”

The town’s petition was first heard by a Supreme Court Justice last April.

A court ruling on the town’s petition could have been made nearly a year ago, but the three Supreme Court dates held so far have been consumed with attempts by the town to deny the MLHS an ability to present its evidence to the court.

The town eventually lost that battle and the upcoming trial will hear evidence from the town and the Attorney General’s office, as well as the Mack Laing Heritage Society.

 

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CVRD implements stage 4 water restrictions for emergency fix

CVRD implements stage 4 water restrictions for emergency fix

By George Le Masurier

Directors of the Comox Valley Regional District Water Committee implemented Stage 4 water restrictions as of April 12. The restrictions will remain in place during an emergency repair of the CVRD’s main water transmission pipe from April 12 to 22.

In order to maintain sufficient water flows for domestic and firefighting water needs, Stage 4 restrictions prohibit all use of water for any purpose other than drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene.

The CVRD will begin a public outreach and education campaign this week.

The CVRD bulletin says compliance with these restrictions is important. “Non-compliance will make demands on the pipe untenable and the system may not be able to supply the water needed for indoor and firefighting use. If water use extends beyond the system’s capacity, a “do not use” order would need to be issued for the duration of the repairs”

To report water restriction infractions, please contact:

City of Courtenay
Tel: 250-334-4441
CVRD or Town of Comox
Tel: 250-334-6006

For more information about Stage 4 please visit: www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/restrictions

 

STAGE 4 WATER RESTRICTIONS

During stage 4 water restrictions, all use of water for any purpose other than drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene is strictly prohibited.

Prohibited uses include:
-Watering lawns, gardens, plants and trees in any manner or by any means, including watering by hand
-Filling or topping off or operating residential or commercial pools, hot tubs, ponds or fountains
-Operating local government outdoor water parks and pools
-Washing vehicles, boats or outdoor surfaces
-Irrigating golf courses and other public and/or school district property
-Where reasonably possible, swimming pools, hot tubs, fountains and ponds should be drained for health and safety purposes and such water used for irrigation.
-No new lawn permit shall be issued during Stage 4, and no new lawn permit, whenever issued, shall be valid during Stage 4.

Exceptions to Stage 4 Restrictions:
-Spot cleaning of vehicles and boats with a sponge and bucket for health and safety reasons (windows, lights, license plates, etc.) is permitted.
-Local government watermain and hydrant maintenance is permitted, but only for unscheduled safety or public health reasons.
-Irrigating local government all-weather playing fields is permitted.
-Water use is permitted for farm and agricultural operations, but only for livestock drinking purposes.
-Cleaning outdoor surfaces is only authorized when required by law to comply with health or safety regulations, or to comply with an order of a regulatory authority having jurisdiction, such as WorkSafeBC or a public health inspector.
-Water use is permitted for firefighting.

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Town creates confusion, rift over Mack Laing process

Town creates confusion, rift over Mack Laing process

Hamilton Mack Laing  — BC Archive photo

By George Le Masurier

Rather than create a period of community reconciliation over the 37-year mishandling of the Mack Laing Trust, the Town of Comox has used its self-imposed 90-day abeyance of legal action to ignore opposing visions for the famed naturalist’s park and heritage home.

In doing so, the town has also created a rift within the Town Council.

It now appears that, despite the expectations of the public and some council members, the Town of Comox never intended to discuss options for saving the famous naturalist’s home, called Shakesides, during the abeyance.

Since the Feb. 6 Town Council meeting when the abeyance was passed on a 6-1 vote, the town has not entertained any ideas other than its original plan to demolish the house and erect a viewing platform.

The town has not held any good faith discussions with the Mack Laing Heritage Society to search for mutually agreeable ideas that could avert a lengthy and costly trial at the B.C. Supreme Court. Nor has it called for an external, independent audit to determine an accurate accounting of the trust’s current value.

This approach appears to be driven primarily by Mayor Russ Arnott, who cast the only vote against creating the 90-day abeyance.

In public communications, the office of Arnott and town Chief Administrative Officer Richard Kanigan has suggested that because council voted on March 6 to continue “with the modification of the trust in its current format or a modified proposal,” that, therefore, saving Shakesides is no longer an option.

Arnott reinforced that interpretation at last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting and public engagement workshop on visions for Mack Laing Park. Arnott was asked by a Comox resident why the workshop was limited to considering only a single vision — the viewing platform.

“Council voted for modifying the trust. We’re moving forward, not going backwards,” Arnott said.

But not all council members agree with Arnott’s interpretation.

“Speaking for myself, that is not what I voted in support of,” Councillor Alex Bissinger said in an email response to Decafnation.

“My intent with that motion was from the understanding that anything that defers from 1. restoring the house and converting it to a nature museum 2. having an onsite caretaker 3. having the property in that exact location and 4. storing (Mack Laing) artifacts in said museum, would require modifications to the trust, therefore needing to proceed with the court action,” she said.

Bissinger brought the motion forward to council.

“I am still of the opinion and mindset that saving Shakesides is an option, and from the workshop held last week an interesting option came to light, which was to handle it all as a community project. I have emailed the CAO and Council such that this option be discussed in our RCM (regular council meeting) Wednesday,” she said.

Councillor Stephanie has a similar perspective.

“Due to the specifics of the trust, I believe it is going to have to be modified in some way as I don’t believe archives and certain things are feasible and safe to keep on site without risk of damage. However, this vote, in my mind, did not mean Shakesides being restored was not an option,” she said in an email response.

“There seems to be some confusion, however, and as a team, (we) will need to clarify, both with each other and the public,” McGowan said.

Councillor Nicole Minions declined to comment, but did say, “We will be discussing Mack Laing and the Public Session during our upcoming Regular Council meeting this Wednesday, April 3rd, which will open communication of our Council business in the public.”

Arnott did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

 

What is the value of Laing’s trust?

The exact current value of the financial trust Mack Laing left to the Town of Comox has never been conclusively determined by an external audit.

The town claims Laing left $48,000, an amount disputed by by the Mack Laing Heritage Society. They say the amount was about $60,000.

After the town confessed to spending trust money inappropriately since the world-renowned naturalist died in 1982, they added funds that brought the total to $261,474. But according to an independent audit commissioned by Comox resident Gordon Olsen several years ago, the trust should be valued closer to $500,000.

The discrepancies stem from how the money was invested, the revenue received from renting the house for more than 30 years, missing funds from the sale of Laing artwork and donations to a never established Art Trust, unrecognized inappropriate expenditures and other miscellaneous items.

Only an external audit by an external accounting firm, such as Deloitte or KPMG, could bring closure to that issue.

 

Is the building worth saving?

Those who support tearing down Shakesides and replacing it with a viewing stand believe the building is not worth restoring. The Mack Laing society disagrees.

At last week’s public workshop, Comox Resident John Tayless noted there was an assumption being made at the meeting that Shakesides could not be saved.

“But other engineers say it can and that the building is recoverable,” he said.

Asked how the town determined the building wasn’t restorable, Comox Parks Manager Al Fraser said a “cursory report” was done, but he admitted it was “not comprehensive.” Fraser preferred to call the report a “soft pass.”

“Let’s say there’s still considerable work to be done in that regard,” Fraser told the audience.

And later when MLHS President Kris Nielsen asked if the town had commissioned any professional assessments of the heritage value of Shakesides, Fraser said, “no.”

The Mack Laing society has organized more than two dozen community volunteers from the construction industry and created a business plan for restoring Shakesides as a community project.

 

Comox Heritage Register

Councillor Stephanie McGowan gave notice of a motion expected at this week’s council meeting to establish a Comox Heritage Register. Comox is the only municipality in the Mid- and North Island that doesn’t already have a heritage register.

Registering buildings with heritage value opens up a broad range of potential funding for maintenance and capital improvements. Heritage sites like the Filberg Lodge and The Little Red Church could benefit.

The Mack Laing Heritage Society has already paid a provincial heritage consultant to complete a Statement of Significance for Shakesides and Heritage BC has promised substantial grant funding for its restoration.

The chairman of Heritage B.C., a provincial agency committed to “conservation and tourism, economic and environmental sustainability, community pride and an appreciation of our common history,” believes the heritage value of Shakesides demands that Laing’s former home should be “conserved for … future generations” and that the Town of Comox should “use the building in ways that will conserve its heritage value.”

Heritage B.C. has also offered its assistance, at no charge, to the Town of Comox, for the duration of the process to repurpose Shakesides, and has all but guaranteed a provincial grant through the Heritage Legacy Fund Heritage Conservation program.

 

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More Mack Laing

Five anti-fracking activists speak at CV forum

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