Regional District CAO responds to developer’s lawsuit

Regional District CAO responds to developer’s lawsuit

Photo Caption

By George Le Masurier

Comox Valley Regional District Chief Administrative Officers Russell Dyson issued a statement today, Dec. 27, in response to a petition by 3L Developments Inc. to Supreme Court of British Columbia

Earlier this year, the CVRD board rejected an application by 3L to amend the Regional Growth Strategy to allow a large subdivision in the Puntledge Triangle. The development company then challenged that decision in a court filing, just days before the Oct. 20 municipal elections.

Today, Dyson issued the following statement:

“On October 17, 2018, 3L Developments Inc. filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking court orders to set aside the Comox Valley Regional District’s (CVRD) denial of the 3L’s application to amend the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).

“Our lawyer has advised us to limit our comments on this matter while it is before the court, but we do want to make it clear that the CVRD considered 3L’s application to amend the RGS in a fair, open and transparent process. We followed all requirements set out in Provincial legislation, CVRD bylaws and policies and met the Court’s expectations from previous decisions regarding 3L’s proposal.

“Amending the RGS is a serious undertaking.

“The RGS is a regional planning framework that guides growth and development and protects the environment, health and livability in the CVRD for all citizens.

“We fully consulted with the public and 3L during this process. We kept 3L informed and respected their interest, processing their application in a timely manner.

“The documents below are the same as those filed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia on December 21, 2018 and be found on our website at www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/3l

“· Response to Petition – filed

“· Affidavit #1 of James Andrew Warren – filed

“· Affidavit #2 of James Andrew Warren – filed

“· Affidavit of Russell Dyson – filed

“· Affidavit of Alana Mullaly – filed

“· Affidavit of Edwin Grieve – filed

“· Affidavit of Curtis Scoville – filed”

 

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City CAO David Allen focuses on sustainable asset management

City CAO David Allen focuses on sustainable asset management

Courtenay Chief Administration Officer David Allen at the city’s first ‘complete street’ project  |  Photo by George Le Masurier

By George Le Masurier

Wide-ranging urban expansion has left municipal taxpayers with growing unfunded long-term debt for the infrastructure required by water, sewer, stormwater and other services. But a relatively new framework for management of public assets hopes to change that.

Courtenay Chief Administration Officer David Allen was part of a small group in 2008 that developed this system for managing public assets that provides for service and financial sustainability. It is now used by almost every municipality in British Columbia.

“The goal is sustainable service delivery; to avoid service failures,” Allen told Decafnation. “By moving to a proactive rather than reactive approach to maintenance, we can keep the infrastructure in good shape based on what the community wants and can afford.”

The provincial and federal governments regulate water and sewer standards through statutory regulations. But other things that have value, like quality of life services and stormwater, have not been regulated and the standards are discretionary.

“Therefore, City Council and the public must agree on what services are provided and at what levels of service, compared to the price the public is willing to pay,” Allen said.

Green infrastructure, for example, reduces a municipalities’ dependence on hard engineering in the future, and it does not depreciate and requires less maintenance, he said.

“It also does not have to be replaced in the future,” Allen said. “So it also extends the life of existing infrastructure.”

The city has been working with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI), which attempts to place a value on a municipalities’ natural assets. The Public Sector Accounting Board is working on a shift in official accounting methods to allow for this approach.

“We are using these methods to develop ways to use a combination of engineered assets and natural assets to replace our existing stormwater and flood management systems,” Allen said.

Infrastructure has no value by itself; its value is the service it provides, Allen says.

In 2009, the Public Sector Accounting Board required municipalities to record the value of their tangible assets, not including their natural assets, and only the original or historical costs. It did not consider replacement value in today’s dollars.

The whole Comox Valley has somewhere near $400 million in unfunded infrastructure liabilities, the backlog of foregone capital renewal and maintenance.

“Consequently, those numbers are not realistic and grossly undervalued,” Allen said.

It’s like owning a house or a car, according to Allen. Regular maintenance means no surprising big bills and inevitable down time later.

The Asset Management BC framework corrects this misunderstanding and allows for improved long-term financial planning by identifying what truly needs to be renewed, when that should happen and how much it will actually cost.

The infrastructure deficit is related to the municipal share of the property tax bill, which is about eight percent.

“It’s too low,” Allen said, “because the nature of the services that municipalities deliver are far more dependent on capital assets than other levels of government.”

“Those numbers are not realistic and grossly undervalued”

For example, in most western nations the national governments use capital assets to deliver their services that are valued at approximately the same amount as their total annual revenue. Provincial or state governments have capital assets worth approximately three times their total annual revenues.

But to deliver local government services, municipalities typically own capital assets worth 10 or more times their annual revenue.

Some communities — like Victoria and Richmond — have created new utility functions for stormwater to fund the maintenance and replacement of its infrastructure. In most communities, however, those bills are paid out of general taxation, and most years there hasn’t been enough.

But the Asset Management BC framework, which Courtenay has adopted, guides the city to undertake infrastructure conditions assessment, and to assess each asset’s risk of failure. This way, the city can prioritize its maintenance schedule and avoid a major service failure.

When city workers recently dug up a street in one of Courtenay’s oldest neighbourhoods, they found the stormwater pipe under the street they needed to repave was in good condition; it would last for another 30 years. Since pavement only lasts for 20 years, they left the pipe in the ground and plan to replace it the next time the street needs repaving.

Understanding the actual condition of stormwater pipes, Allen says, can prevent premature replacement, so available resources can be directed to those assets that need replacement or to reserves for future renewal when it’s necessary.

“We want to replace infrastructure only when necessary,” Allen said. “Otherwise, we’re wasting money.”

 

THE MUNICIPAL NATURAL ASSETS INITIATIVE

The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) provides scientific, economic and municipal expertise to support and guide local governments in identifying, valuing and accounting for natural assets in their financial planning and asset management programs, and in developing leading-edge, sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure.

Asset management—the process of inventorying a community’s existing assets, determining the current state of those assets, and preparing and implementing a plan to maintain or replace those assets—allows municipalities to make informed decisions regarding a community’s assets and finances.

Unfortunately, local governments lack policies to measure and manage one class of assets: natural assets. Natural assets are ecosystem features that provide, or could be restored to provide, services just like the other engineered assets, but historically have not been considered on equal footing or included in asset management plans.

Read more about MNAI

 

WHAT IS A NATURAL ASSET?

The term ‘Municipal Natural Assets’ refers to the stocks of natural resources or ecosystems that contribute to the provision of one or more services required for the health, well-being, and long-term sustainability of a community and its residents.

 

WHAT IS THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS (EAP)?

Ecological Accounting Process — “The EAP approach begins by first recognizing the importance of a stream in a natural state and then asking: how can we maintain those ecological values while allowing the stream to be used for drainage,” says Jim Dumont, Engineering Applications Authority with the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

 

ASSET MANAGEMENT BC

Learn more about this organization here

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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.

—-

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.

—–

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wells elected CVRD chair, Hamir vice-chair

Wells elected CVRD chair, Hamir vice-chair

George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

Newly-elected Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells has been elected to chair the Comox Valley Regional District board. Wells represented the City of Courtenay on the CVRD for the past four years, along with former mayor Larry Jangula and Councillor Mano Theos.

At its inaugural meeting Tuesday, Nov. 20, directors also elected new Area B Director Arzeena Hamir as vice-chair. This is Hamir’s first time in public office.

There are seven new faces at the CVRD board table this year: Daniel Arbour, Area A; David Frisch, Courtenay; Hamir; Doug Hillian, Courtenay; Jesse Ketler, Cumberland; Wendy Morin, Courtenay; and, Maureen Swift, Comox.

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New Zealander answers three No ProRep arguments

New Zealander answers three No ProRep arguments

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By George Le Masurier

A former Comox Valley resident who now lives in New Zealand, which uses the mixed-member version of proportional representation, answers three common arguments against voting in favor of electoral reform in BC

 

A few readers have criticized Decafnation recently because we have not examined the arguments against changing our electoral system to proportional representation, the main question in the current provincial referendum.

So, we visited the “No to ProRep” website to understand the rationale behind sticking with the current system of First Past The Post.

We discovered that the No side does not extol the virtues of the current system that gives 100 percent of the power to a single party that may only get 30 percent to 40 percent of the votes. The No side website is singularly focused on reasons why proportional representation isn’t a good choice.

We put the “No to ProRep” arguments to Katie Betanzo, a high school teacher in New Zealand who grew up in the Comox Valley and graduated from G.P. Vanier. Betanzo lived in in British Columbia under FPTP and now lives in New Zealand under the mixed-member version of proportional representation.

Decafnation: One of the No side’s arguments is that “the most populated city will decide everything for all of BC. PR will lead to a Vancouver-centric government that only cares about Vancouver issues.” In other words, the No side argues the political power base will move to the largest urban areas and smaller, rural communities will lose influence in the government. Has that been your experience in New Zealand?

Katie Betanzo: I have to say, this is not an issue I have heard much about here. I suppose it’s arguable that, under our system of MMP, most of our ‘list’ MPs come from urban centres rather than rural areas, but it’s just as likely that a rural electorate winds up with effectively two MPs working for them, for instance West Coast –Tasman, with a Labour electorate MP and a National list MP based in the area.

The thing about proportional representation, though, it’s proportional. Every few years we redraw electorate boundaries so that there are roughly the same number of people in each electorate. So, of course, rural electorates are physically very big – but they represent the same number of voters as a relatively ‘small’ urban electorate. The balance of power does come from the cities, but that’s where the bulk of people live. So it makes sense.


Our situation normal is two large parties – centre left and centre right – supported in a coalition government by at least one small ‘extreme fringe’ party and one small centrist party. It tends to balance out.


Historically, our electorates were unbalanced in favour of rural areas. Urban electorates had 28 percent larger populations than rural ones, giving rural electorates a disproportionate amount of power.

One thing to note, though, is that we have a party which was founded since the introduction of PR that has a focus on the regions (rural areas). Because of PR, that party consistently winds up in parliament and at the moment are in government – part of the coalition. So we have both a properly representative and proportionate government, and also a strong pro-rural voice in government.

We also have a certain number of seats for Māori, our indigenous people, who are more likely than the general population to live in rural areas. Māori can chose to vote in either a general or a Māori electorate, but this ensures a strong voice for indigenous issues in central government. These seats date back to 1867.

Decafnation: The No website also claims that under PR, “the rise of backroom deals and political posturing is inevitable.” Does this happen in New Zealand?

Betanzo:: I suppose this is a concern and it does get thrown around from time to time, but it’s almost never proven — certainly no more prevalent than under FPTP. If anything, having to work together with at least one other party in government tends to keep parties honest.

The closest I can think of is some past manoeuvring by a right-wing party to ensure that another, very small right-wing party won an electorate seat (the larger party did not stand a candidate in the electorate), and thus would bring two MPs into Parliament under our MMP rules. This was widely held to be a corrupt practice and created quite a scandal.

As for any type of cronyism or nepotism – it doesn’t happen – not more than under FPTP.

Decafnation:: And last, anti-Pro-Rep people say the system gives the balance of power to extreme fringe parties on the right or the left. They say PR allows “extremist parties to have a say.” Has that happened in NZ?

Betanzo: In theory, it is possible that an extreme fringe party could sway a government (the tail wagging the dog). But in theory, it is also possible that an extreme and vocal faction within a larger party could sway that party’s policies. (That happened here when a small group within a socialist party drove their neoliberal economic agenda through into law.)

I’ve done a far bit of research, and the most common mention of the “tail wagging the dog” or “unpopular legislation” is in the context of people complaining about proportional rep. It’s a myth. There are a few examples of small parties using their leverage to get bills introduced to parliament, but once the bill is before the house it has to pass the same scrutiny as any other legislation.

Our situation normal is two large parties – centre left and centre right – supported in a coalition government by at least one small ‘extreme fringe’ party and one small centrist party. It tends to balance out.

Once or twice a far left or right party has managed to tug a government a bit further to the left or right, but nothing like the myth of the country being held hostage by an extreme fringe party.

 

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Help! Recruiters Needed for Pro Rep Vote

Help! Recruiters Needed for Pro Rep Vote

Relational voting takes democracy back to the citizen level

 

By CHRIS HILLIAR

Two weeks ago I signed up as a recruiter with Dogwood to help get out the Yes vote to support proportional representation in the BC referendum. The strategy being used by Dogwood is intriguing and I wanted to know more about it and about the local person driving it.

I sat down to speak with Dave Mills. He’s the Deputy Director of Organizing at Dogwood. He has a degree in Science from the University of Victoria, and a 25-year career in resource management and public services. “Dogwood”, he said, “first became well known in BC when they created the “no tanker” loonie sticker – a simple statement of resistance you could paste on the back of our dollar. It was a simple tactic that got under the government’s skin, rallied supporters and put the public on notice. The group continues to be creative and their work promoting Pro Rep is a good example.

I asked Dave to describe the new tactic Dogwood is using to encourage support for Pro Rep. “It’s called Relational Voting” he said, “a simple concept – friends talking to friends. Our networks contain the people most like ourselves. If you’re a ‘Yes’ voter chances are your friends and family are as well.”

As a get-out-the-vote strategy Relational Voting has been used in select US district and congressional races over the past two years. “So in one sense it’s quite a new strategy” he said, “but in the truest sense, it’s as old as the bedrock of democracy itself – conversations between people who share values.”

Relational Voting is ideally suited to the current political climate of mistrust because it bypasses the untrusted messengers of today such as corporate media and government institutions. Even large organizations like Dogwood are not immune to mistrust but Relational Voting means you, personally, deliver a message to your friends and family. “It’s twice as likely to result in action”, he said.

I asked Dave why someone reading this article should take the time to get involved with Dogwood to support pro rep. His response came without thinking so I know it came from his heart. “Because without the individual’s participation democracy unravels” he said. “If we opt out of participating, then democracy goes on death watch.”

“And”, he said, “participation at the citizen level rather than at the party level is the best medicine for what ails our political system.” “Conversation around kitchen tables is how democracy started. Relational Voting gets those conversations started and gives you tools to amplify them.”

If you want to get involved with helping to get the vote out to support Pro Rep, click on this link: https://organize.votebc.ca/recruiter

By the way, if you are worried about how to answer question #2 on the ballot because you don’t feel confident about the different types of proportional representation Dogwood encourages you to just vote Yes to proportional representation on question #1 and leave question #2 blank.

If you want to take a seven minute questionnaire to determine which voting system is the best fit for your values please check out this link: www.referendumguide.ca

Chris Hilliar is a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. He can be reached at hilliar1@telus.net