“Unbelievable accusations” move water bottling to public hearing

“Unbelievable accusations” move water bottling to public hearing

The CVRD moved a rezoning application for a water bottling plant in Merville to a public hearing later this summer after the applicant complained the process has not been fair or transparent

 

UPDATE, 10:30 am June 18 — In a surprise move, the Comox Valley Regional District Electoral Areas Services Committee did not take a vote this morning (June 18) to reject a rezoning application for a water bottling plant in Merville.

Instead, following complaints by the applicant, Christopher Scott Mackenzie, that his rezoning application process has been unfair and not transparent, Area C Director Edwin Grieve made a motion to take the application to a public hearing. No date has been set.

The CVRD staff recommended the committee deny Mackenzie’s rezoning application — see original story below.

At this morning’s meeting, Mackenzie said the staff report contained “a lot of derogatory comments that lack any real substance.” He called them a “barrage of unbelievable accusations” that have “spiraled out of control.”

Mackenzie submitted documents to the CVRD that he says show fears about depleting the aquifer from which he would draw up to 10,000 litres per day are not true.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. And he briefly noted claims in his submitted documents that the aquifer is actually a catch basin that recharges every year.

He said water levels in the aquifer have increased by 3.2 cm in the last 14 years — the equivalent of more than 300 million litres of water — despite  92 years of water extraction by neighboring property owners.

Before being cut off by the committee chair, Mackenzie alleged that neighboring farms and homesteads had multiple wells into the aquifer, including some that are “free-flowing artesian wells.”

Mackenzie said he doesn’t like how his “simple application” has been represented and that he’s gotten no support from Director Grieve, the Area C representative. 

In making his motion for a public hearing Grieve said, “The applicant is concerned about the protection of his process. I don’t want him to think he isn’t getting a fair shake.”

The public hearing is likely to be held sometime this summer.


The original story ….

The Comox Valley Regional District staff has recommended denying a rezoning application for a Merville area property that would permit a water bottling operation.

But the fight to stop the extraction of up to 10,000 litres of groundwater per day is not over.

The Electoral Services Commission is expected to rely on the staff report at its meeting this morning (June 18) and reject the rezoning application. But that only means the applicants cannot operate a water bottling facility on the Sackville road property.

The water license issued to Christopher Scott Mackenzie and Regula Heynck by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) remains valid.

They can still extract the water and, with an amendment to his license, can sell it by some method other than a bottling facility on the property.

If the couple attempts to truck water off the property to sell and deliver, the case could end up in court over whether “trucking” falls under the CVRD’s rezoning authority.

FURTHER READING: Ministry stalls FOI request; Farmers urge CVRD to reject Merville water bottling operation; Water Bottling project raises aquifer concerns

So the fight to protect the aquifer for nearby farmers has, for now, shifted to the Environmental Appeal Board and a citizens petition.

Bruce Gibbons, who owns and lives on ALR land about 300 metres from the Sackville Road site, has filed an appeal under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA).

Gibbons expects a decision any day on whether he has the right to appeal, meaning whether the merits of his appeal meet the criteria of the WSA. If the board rules in his favor, then he can makes arguments in front of the board for withdrawing or altering Mackenzie’s and Heynck’s water licence.

The Merville Water Guardians, a group of neighboring landowners formed to fight the water bottling operation, is circulating a petition for the BC government to stop approving groundwater licenses for bottling and commercial sales.

“The petition focuses on groundwater,” Gibbons told Decafnation. “With fresh water licences, you can see the effect — a stream goes dry. But with groundwater, you can’t see the impact on an aquifer.”

“The people … must demand … immediate action to stop approving groundwater aquifer licences for bottling and commercial sale to ensure we all have access to good, clean water for our personal needs, to grow our backyard gardens and to supply the farms that grow our food,” the petition reads.

The CVRD staff report echoes that sentiment.

“The proposed land use is incompatible with the surrounding area, and once such land use is permitted through zoning, the CVRD is potentially enabling the use of this property for water bottling at a much greater scale in the future,” the report reads.

K’omoks First Nation

The CVRD reached out to numerous stakeholders and other regulatory agencies for feedback on the rezoning proposal, including the K’omoks First Nation.

In a strong letter to the CVRD, Chief Nicole Rempel noted that KFN had originally opposed the application back in 2017 when the ministry considered the water license.

“I wish to advise you that in addition to the matters that we have raised in our various communications with the province, we are concerned that the actual license has been issued unlawfully,” Rempel wrote. “It is obvious to us that the consultation with K’omoks on this matter has not been meaningful and our substantive concerns have not been addressed.”

FURTHER READING: Read the 206-page staff report, which includes the feedback from K’omoks First Nation and agencies, as well as the public feedback.

 

A caregiver’s hard decision: help wanted

A caregiver’s hard decision: help wanted

Is it okay to strap a loved one into a wheelchair?

BY DELORES BROTEN

So we have come to a point where my love is walking … meandering, staggering … around with his eyes sometimes closed. His legs are buckled, he leans sideways or backwards and it is truly scary. It looks like he could fall any minute, and he could. Not all the time but a lot. And he sometimes does fall, and quite often nearly does. He usually won’t sit down for long.

The care home aides and nurses want … or suggest, that he needs to be strapped into a wheelchair. To prevent falls. They are as terrified as I am when walking beside or behind him. He could hurt himself or them.

And he has fallen a few times … kind of sliding to the ground in confusion when his legs don’t work. No injuries yet. “I don’t know what is wrong with my leg,” he says.

Neither does anyone. It is a guess but probably it is a possible bout of sciatica, part the pain meds, possibly the dementia closing down another segment of the mind, but mostly because he can no longer orient vertical, up and down. That was an early problem. Now he doesn’t know where is upright and can’t tell his legs what to do. The dementia is taking away even that.

Top photo: Don Broten at Miracle Beach in better days. Above photo: A more recent image

So it is a safety issue. But I cannot see the advantage or the care in strapping him down like the worst kind of tortured prisoner and I am refusing to sign the paper.

It is illegal to restrain him without my okay.

And I am NOT okay with this.

Over the two-and-a-half years we have been there I have seen this. The patient starts strapped down for safety but is taken out and up on their feet for a walk 20 minutes a day. At most. Soon of course they can’t walk at all and life becomes a Brody chair. Where they lie swearing and trying to get out, while the care machine rolls on around them and staff gossip and go for breaks.

Then, unlike when they were mobile, the patient-victims really ARE swiftly parked and ignored. Oh fed and cleaned and cooed at from time to time, but that’s about it. No interaction except with family. Even the recreation aides don’t have much to offer once they are parked.

I want to puke. This is not humane.

Many of the parked recognize that I am a friendly face and make some kind of happy contact. But like everyone, I walk on by, with other things to do.

Part of me thinks wildly that i could bring him home, transform our house … foam on the floors and clear out the furniture such as it is, and extra care aides. Let him wander and fall safely in his strange fragmented world. Bring him home.

But foam doesn’t clean well and it is not that simple. It is the 36-hour job.

We don’t have family willing or able to take shifts and we don’t have that much money to get a suitable house, transform it and hire help. That is for the one percenters. For us, we are beyond lucky to have public care. Many don’t.

There is also my own slowly eroding remnant of a life to consider – although at moments like this it doesn’t count for much, and those who depend on my work. That must count too.

On the other hand my own mother was strapped in a chair because she kept trying to walk when she was totally paralysed on the left side, with resultant dementia. And there was no other choice. But she was not drugged and never parked. She had my father with her 24/7.

I have no idea what kind of love and determination that took. After she died he regained a huge amount of mental capacity and resilience. He did see what was coming for my love and me and told me not to do as he had done.

Comments and advice are welcome, here (on her blog), on Facebook, or by personal email. I need some help with this.

Delores Broten is one of British Columbia’s many thousands of unpaid caregivers. She is the editor of the award-winning Watershed Sentinel magazine published in Comox. She wrote this for her blog “CaringCV,” and is reprinted here with permission. She may be contacted at editor@watershedsentinel.ca. 

 

FURTHER READING: Read Delores Broten’s blog, “CaringCV”  

 

An alternate reality: Clark pumps PR

An alternate reality: Clark pumps PR

Christy Clark supported PR in 2009 CKNW broadcast

By PAT CARL AND MEL McLACHLAN 

Upon winning the BC Liberal leadership, Andrew Wilkinson, a long-time party fixture, lost little time in reminding his people that the party’s most important goal is the defeat of proportional representation in the upcoming provincial referendum.

While Liberal opposition to proportional representation is no secret, there is a BC Liberal insider whose thoughts regarding proportional representation they probably wish didn’t exist in the public domain. But they do exist, and the words are from none other than Christy Clark.

Yes, you read that right. Clark articulates a thoughtful, informed case for changing our voting system and, at the same time, levels a powerful indictment against the politicians who are fighting tooth and nail to keep first past the post.

FURTHER READING: Listen to Clark’s 2009 broadcast

In this rather confessional 2009 CKNW radio broadcast, Clark, who at the time was not in politics, admits, that while in the Gordon Campbell government, she avidly supported first past the post because it worked for her, was in her own interest. She confides, though, that since she has “left politics my views have changed,” mainly because she hears from her CKNW listeners who are “sick to death of the way our political system works.”

She agrees with listeners’ grievances, which include having their votes “thrown in the garbage,” politicians who “ignore what their constituents want” and an “relentless vitriolic” war of words during question period that “poisons us all against our democratic process.”

Clark’s indictment of those who fight against proportional representation is stark:

“When I look at the people who are actively campaigning against [proportional representation]” I see “people whose interests and, in many cases, whose income is dependent on keeping our system the way it is. People who … relish the ugly realities of the first past the post system.”

Clark believes that electoral reform actually frightens them.

Clark continues by saying that in proportional representation, all politicians will need “to compete for all of your votes,” they’ll need “to listen to their communities first and their leaders and their parties second,” and that voters can choose a representative they “think is the smartest, the one you think is most ethical.”

Further, according to Clark, “all politicians will have an incentive to get along,” which means a return to “civility in politics.”

Listening to this broadcast for the first time is like stumbling into an alternate universe. Certainly, not the same old, same old Liberal position.

We never thought we would say this: Listen to Clark, and vote for proportional representation.

Pat Carl and Mel McLachlan are members of Fair Vote Comox Valley

FURTHER READING: Fair vote BC; 

 

 

Is Site C a Done Deal?

Is Site C a Done Deal?

Dam opponents share concerns at a Comox Valley town hall meeting

PHOTO: Arlene Boon,on the Boon’s farm in the family for three generations, points out the proposed flood line if Site C dam goes ahead. Note the yellow stakes, raising funds for the First Nations’ court challenge. Photo by Sally Gellard

 

BY SALLY GELLARD

Last Friday evening 150 people gathered at the K’omox First Nation Band Hall for a powerful inspiring evening of speakers who proved that the fight to save the Peace River Valley is far from over.

The attentive audience heard from Ken Boon, farmer and member of the Peace Valley Landowners Association; Steve Gray, Site C Summit co-chair; and Wendy Holm, agronomist.

All three speakers explained why Site C is a boondoggle.

Boondoogle, a word rarely used before Site C, is defined as “unnecessary, wasteful and often counterproductive.” It is also a leather cord worn by Boy Scouts. There is no mistaking which definition Rafe Mair refered to in his latest book, “Politically Incorrect,” published shortly after his death in 2017.

“Site C, perhaps the most monstrous of them all, because we have the opportunity with a new provincial government to rid ourselves of this massive destruction of farmland and desecration of First Nations heritage in order to build a dam to provide power we don’t need, to customers we don’t have, just to satisfy the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark/Fraser Institute-inspired mad energy philosophy. The cost of this giant boondoggle to date has been massive, the environmental damage gross,” he wrote.

That about sums up all the significant arguments against Site C, with the exception of the geotechnical issues, the soaring cost over-runs, the massive debt and land destruction we are leaving for future generations and the exciting new advances in alternative energy sources emerging globally which we, in BC, are not investing in.

Without a change of heart by our provincial government, we look for hope to the Moberly Lake and Prophet River First Nations as they go to the courts to defend their homeland, their way of life, their historical and sacred sites and the recognition of Treaty 8 and the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples.

As well, two new books emerge this month in the fight to save the Peace.

“Breaching The Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand Against Big Hydro,” written by Sarah Cox, award-winning journalist; and, “Damming The Peace: The Hidden Costs of Site C Dam,” edited by Wendy Holm.

Both these books will be “a powerful resource for the resistance to the travesty called Site C,” says Maude Barlow.

There’s lots we can do to stop this boondoggle.

Donate funds for the First Nations court challenge at www.stakeforthepeace.

Locally we are holding monthly Stand For the Peace vigils in front of our MLAs office on Fifth Street in Courtenay, on the 11th of each month, the anniversary of the announcement by a sour-faced premier on Dec. 11, 2017.

Sally Gellard, a Comox Valley resident, wrote this article for Decafnation. For more information about how to get involved, she may be contacted at sallygel@gmail.com.

The buck (doesn’t) stop here

The buck (doesn’t) stop here

Island Health fails public accountability scorecard

By Stephen D. Shepherdson

The key to maintaining the public’s confidence in its government departments and agencies, is the concept of public accountability. Nothing touches Canadians like the delivery of healthcare services. Island Health’s board of directors met people in the Comox Valley last week and heard from five different groups making formal presentations.

The gap between the serious nature of the issues presented by community representatives and the response provided by Island Health is staggering. Island Health acknowledges its accountability but does it, in fact, hold itself accountable?

They did well in coming to the community. The public forum itself is important in terms of demonstrating accountability to taxpayers and the community being served. There are a number of positive initiatives underway such as the neighbourhood care model for homecare.

As measured against the high-level expectations embodied in the BC Taxpayer Accountability Principles (June 2014), Island
Health might give itself a passing grade. From the viewpoint of this taxpayer, there is much opportunity for improvement.

For example, how did the board and its presenters perform against the principle of ‘respect’? Did they engage in “equitable, compassionate, respectful and effective communications that ensure all parties are properly informed or consulted on actions, decisions and public communications in a timely manner”?

Did they “proactively collaborate in a spirit of partnership that respects the use of taxpayers’ monies” (BC Taxpayer Accountability Principles, June 2014)? In my view, they substantively missed this mark.

Island Health staged the forum in a manner that avoided any need to directly address the specific concerns of the community members assembled. Despite advance knowledge of the points of view for the five presentations they selected, no attempt was made to meaningfully address the concerns presented. By comparison, considerable hard work was put into the community’s presentations. 

Advance questions from the public were answered in a written handout that, in most cases, provided unclear and confusing responses. 

Communications specialists would call the room set-up ’confrontational’ in that it made the presenters accountable to the public in attendance while the board sat on the side as the public’s observers. The meeting was adjourned early omitting the Question
Period for questions from the floor as referenced in the published agenda.

It is disrespectful to ask people to do something and then ignore their efforts and point of view. The board lost an opportunity
to address the questions raised or even give the community one positive take-away.

What does good public accountability look like? First, leaders are clear in acknowledging the situation or issue being addressed. Second, leaders use facts and stories that deal with people to frame the issues. They employ facts and analyses that reflect current results, describe activities underway and identify root causes of the issue or problem. Third, leaders acknowledge limitations and constraints and are careful to address constituent expectations.

FURTHER READING: B.C. Taxpayer Accountability Principles

What did we hear or not hear on March 29? We did not hear that the board holds itself accountable, there was no “the buck stops here” moment.

There was no acknowledgment of issues like the need for more home care support services (except an oblique reference to working on it), the inequity of the current residential care bed allocation, and the immediate need for more residential care beds than planned. Even if solutions are not readily available, acknowledgment of issues is key to public accountability.

It was not clear that stories about people’s experience at the new Comox Valley Hospital and its state of cleanliness were heard by the board and management. The reaction was defensive, failing to differentiate between ‘unusual and critical’ vs. ‘normal’ issues with a new hospital start-up.

That reaction does not make me feel that the Board and management are in control. I would have expected to hear an acknowledgment that we are experiencing problems and this is what we are doing to resolve them. 

Finally, in terms of public accountability, we must be careful not to attribute responsibilities to Island Health that are the responsibility of the BC Ministry of Health. Financial resources are not infinite, they are limited. But Island Health is accountable for its allocation of entrusted resources, the quality of healthcare service delivery, operational improvements, employee engagement and morale, and community relationships.

The community wants and needs Island Health to be successful on all of these dimensions; after all, these are the services we need in our community. Words on a website and declarations that “we do all those things” are well intended. But, if the board and management do not acknowledge the need for direct action when issues are raised with them, then public accountability claims ring hollow.

Stephen D. Shepherdson, Comox, is a retired management consultant and operations management specialist. He wrote this commentary for Decafnation, and may be contacted at: sshepherdson@shaw.ca

 

Turbidity at Langley Lake?

Turbidity at Langley Lake?

Union Bay residents meet to protect their watershed

BY ALICE de WOLFF

Forty-five residents of Union Bay met on Monday evening, March 19, to discuss their concerns about proposed logging on the lake that provides them with drinking water, and to begin to work together on how to address these concerns.

Langley Lake is a small, shallow lake that currently provides drinking water and fire services for over 600 Union Bay residences. Island Timberlands owns the land around the lake and has announced plans to log within 20 meters of the shoreline in 2019.

The evening was the first public meeting of the newly formed Union Bay Watershed Protection Society. The group’s intention is to first, stop logging around Langley Lake, and then to promote provincial legislation that enables all BC communities to protect their watershed. Current provincial legislation does not make this possible.

Residents at the meeting all expressed concern about the likelihood of increased turbidity in their water after the logging. The Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) has just approved plans and financing for a new water treatment facility, but it is not designed to handle the turbidity that could be the result of the logging.

“Surely we can learn from the experience with Comox Lake and the very expensive system that they have to install now. Let’s be pro-active and not let this happen here,” said Yolanda Corrigall.

The meeting learned that UBID’s water quality monitoring shows that after a section of the lakeshore was logged in 2008, turbidity increased and did not settle to pre-logging levels until 2017. Longer-term residents described how their tap water used to be “brown” and that they needed to use in-house filters.

The meeting also heard about the efforts of the residents of Stillwater near Powell River, who went through a long but ultimately successful process of protecting their watershed from logging. This lead to a discussion of what actions Union Bay residents could take, and plans for further actions.

The agenda included 20 minutes for people to take the immediate action of writing letters to elected officials. Hand written letters are still one of the most effective ways to reach our elected representatives.

The meeting started with an acknowledgement that Union Bay has a fractious history and that there are many tensions in the community. Towards the end of the meeting several residents expressed a cautious new hope that working together to protect our water might help heal some of the divisions in the community.

Facilitator David Mills asked the group to work respectfully and to focus on our common concern – safe, clean drinking water.

 

FURTHER READING: Logging at Langley Lake; Contact the Union Bay Watershed Protection Society at woodenmosquito@gmail.com

 

Alice de Wolff is a Citizen Journalist for The Civic Journalism Project. She may be contacted at alicedewolff@gmail.com

 

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