Public forums kick off 2018 municipal elections

Public forums kick off 2018 municipal elections

Comox Valley citizen groups get active for the Oct. 20 municipal elections; organize two public forums on May 8 and May 24 to press issues, create voter awareness and recruit candidates

 

The 2018 municipal elections are underway. New candidates and incumbents have declared their intentions to seek office and at least two community groups have organized early public forums to create voter awareness and encourage potential candidates.

On Tuesday, May 8, a citizen’s groups called Comox Tomorrow has organized a public forum featuring Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird, who will speak on the roles and responsibilities of a municipal council member. It will be held at 7 p.m. at the Comox Golf Club.

And at 7 p.m on Thursday, May 24 at the Rotary Room on the ground level of the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay, three community organizations will host a public meeting to raise awareness of sustainability issues prior to the Oct. 20, 2018 municipal elections.

Comox Tomorrow spokesman Ken McDonald said “We need citizens and candidates with vision who will help us build the Comox of tomorrow.

“If you are thinking about taking an active role in this fall’s election campaigns, or even running for office yourself, this is a must-attend session for information and, potentially, for support, he said.”

Mayor Baird Baird will explain the role and responsibilities of a municipal council member, why she has devoted so much of her life to public office (28 contiguous years) and how she balances her political and personal lives.

There will also be a question-and-answer period following her presentation.

McDonald said he hopes people thinking of running for Comox Council will come out and perhaps announce their intention to seek office in 2018 at the public meeting on May 8.

The Comox Valley Sustainability public forum on May 24 takes a different perspective.

Born out of a group of citizens from the Imagine Comox Valley project, the May 24 forum hopes to increase voter awareness of the goals of the regional district’s 2010 Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy (CVSS) and identify the candidates who share its values and are committed to achieving its objectives.

The sustainability forum has been organized by the Comox Valley Council of Canadians, Imagine Comox Valley and the Comox Valley Global Awareness Network. You must register for this free event through eventbrite.ca.

The group has reached out to Comox Valley nonprofits who are working on many of the key issues of the CVSS. They asked the nonprofits, “What would be your ask of municipal governments?”

At the sustainability forum, five nonprofits working on CVSS issues will make short presentations. The goal is to provide candidates with current information and to make them aware of expertise that already exists within the community.

The five presentations will touch on food security, infrastructure, ecosystems, housing and air quality.

The groups hope voters will ask for more accountability from elected officials on the CVSS objectives. They have invited all incumbents and those new candidates who have already declared their candidacy.

 

FURTHER READING: Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy; Comox Tomorrow Facebook page

Game changer, but not a game winner

Game changer, but not a game winner

If voters pass electoral reform, the work just gets started

By PAT CARL

I’m a big-time college basketball fan. Men’s or women’s basketball, it doesn’t matter. If a college game’s on, I’m glued to ESPN. Other big-time fans know that a basket at the buzzer won Notre Dame the 2018 NCAA Women’s National Championship on April 1. What a way to win the game!

Unlike Notre Dame’s game-winning Hail Mary basket, if the majority of voters support electoral reform in BC’s November referendum, we will have only a game changer, not a game winner. In fact, the game would not be over at all because the hard work would just be beginning.

Why?

If electoral reform passes, British Columbians must learn to trust those who have worked hard to maintain the first-past-the-post status quo. Supporters of the status quo must, in turn, learn to trust those who supported proportional representation. Beyond that, legislators must learn to collaborate, to find common ground, in order to complete government business.

That won’t be easy.

Let’s try to understand how difficult that might be by using a personal example: my family.

Like some of yours, I’m sure, my family is split down the political middle. For years, my parents were confirmed Democrats (most like Liberals in Canada) because they loved Franklin D. Roosevelt and his necessary social reforms. Later, they became Republicans (most like Conservatives in Canada) because they couldn’t morally support a woman’s right to choose.

They raised four children. Two of us strongly believe in social justice, economic safety nets and environmental stewardship, while the other two believe just as strongly in individualism, growing the economy and small government.

I don’t know how to have a conversation with two of my brothers.  They don’t know how to have a conversation with me.

Sound familiar?

Now take that family dynamic and apply it to BC. How can we avoid creating an unbridgeable divide between first-past-the-post supporters and proportional representation supporters?

For one thing, during the lead-up to the referendum vote, both sides could refrain from exaggerating how wonderful its position is and how terrible the other one is. There’s enough of a difference between first-past-the-post and proportional representation to simply state the unembellished facts and let the voters decide.

Why not embrace nuance rather than exaggerated claims that sound like first-past-the-post and proportional representation are characters in a Shakespearean tragedy?  

We need to ask: What portion of the first-past-the-post arguments and what portion of the proportional representation arguments are true; what portion is exaggerated to the point of being untruthful or divisive?

Finally, the general electorate must take seriously the gift we enjoy and the responsibility we have living in a democracy. We must challenge ourselves to become politically literate by investigating the issues, by understanding that issues are seldom black or white, and by voting thoughtfully and wisely.

We and our legislative representatives will be far more likely to work collaboratively post-referendum if, during the lead-up to the referendum, we honestly and civilly discuss the issues. The less baggage we accumulate as we debate electoral reform, the easier it will be to accomplish good governance after the referendum.

Remember: Unlike a game-winning basket, if electoral reform happens, the game changes, but it’s not over.

Pat Carl is a member of Fair Vote Comox Valley. She wrote this for Decafnation’s Civic Journalism Project. She may be contacted at pat.carl0808@gmail.com.

Can a family of four live in the Valley at $16.59 per hour?

Can a family of four live in the Valley at $16.59 per hour?

A new study says $16.59 per hour is a minimum “living wage” for families of four in the Comox Valley (two working parents). But the study assumes people can find housing at 30 percent of their gross income, and it doesn’t consider the plight of single parents

 

The Comox Valley is one of the least expensive places in the province to live, according to a new study by a British Columbia advocacy group that encourages employers to pay a living wage.

It’s a claim by the Living Wage for Families Campaign that would surprise most people trying to find affordable housing here. Especially single parents.

And yet, if the group’s data is accurate, it still requires two working parents to each work full-time and earn a minimum wage of $16.59 per hour to support a family of four in the Comox Valley.

That’s $5.24 per hour higher than the current minimum wage of $11.35 And When B.C.’s minimum wage increases to $12.65 on June 1, it will still fall short by $3.94 per hour.

FURTHER READING: Living Wage for Families website

B.C. Premier John Horgan has vowed to increase the province’s minimum wage to $15.20 by the year 2021. But even that is already lower than the current living wage requirement in most areas of the province, according to the study.

So the questions are: how accurate is the Living Wage for Families Campaign study, and does it apply to single people or single parents?

Did it consider the Comox Valley’s lack of affordable housing, or the low vacancy rate and high rental rates that exist here.

The Living Wage for Families Campaign estimates of a living wage in selected B.C. communities

If two parents both earn $16.59 per hour and work full-time (35 hours according to the study), they could afford to pay about $1,500 per month in housing costs. The study assumes paying roughly 30 percent of gross income on shelter.

Two bedroom units in the Comox Valley renting at $1,500 per month are difficult — maybe impossible — to find.

According to a quick check of for-rent ads on Internet sites and Comox Valley property management listings put the range for two bedroom units in multi-floor apartment buildings at between $950 per month and $1,250 per month. And only one or two had vacancies.

Two bedroom small houses rent for $2,000 per month and up, if you can find one.

So Comox Valley families of four would find it difficult to live on even the study’s living wage estimate.

And it’s worse for single people.

A single parent with two children earning $16.59 per hour and paying 30 percent of their gross income for housing could only afford $755 per month. Good luck with that in the Comox Valley.

Having to pay $1,000 or more for even basic housing means a single parent family would have just $900 or less left over each month for hydro, food, taxes, transportation and clothing.

For many single parents this study’s living wage sounds more a survival wage.

But here’s the real tragedy.

The B.C. government will raise the minimum wage to just $12.65 on June 1 of this year, and then to $13.85 next year, to $14.60 in 2020 and finally to $15.20 in 2021.

By that time, the Comox Valley’s living wage will have gone far beyond the $16.59 it’s estimated at today.

And the government’s plan separates out farm workers and liquor servers (bartenders, waiters and anyone who serves liquor) for lower minimum wages than other working people.

FURTHER READING: B.C. minimum wage fact sheet; Minimum wage by province

So it’s no surprise that the B.C. NDP government has been criticized by labor unions and other worker advocacy groups for moving too slow on increasing the minimum wage.

Among Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories, only five had a lower minimum wage on April 1, according to the Retail Council of Canada.

About 20 percent of British Columbians earn less than $15 an hour. Nearly half of those are university and college graduates over the age of 25.

Low wages and rising housing costs trap people in poverty and closes off avenues of upward mobility. In turn, that deepens the divide between rich and poor and keeps people from ever getting a foothold into the middle class.

Addressing the minimum wage issue requires unraveling a complex web of economic factors, including the shortage of affordable housing.

In the absence of a significant increase in the minimum wage, B.C. should make funding the construction of affordable housing a high priority.

Doing so will both stimulate job creation and sales tax revenue, and reduce the housing cost burden that keeps families trapped in poverty and frustration.

Random related facts

Due to the Comox Valley’s demographics, we have a high percentage of residents paying more than 50 percent of their gross income on housing. Many of them are elderly.

¶ Over 110 companies and organizations across BC, employing more than 18,000 workers and covering many thousands more contracted service workers, have been certified as Living Wage Employers. These include Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Vancity, the United Way of the Lower Mainland, the City of Quesnel, the City of Port Coquitlam, Urban Solar and PARC Retirement Living. In 2017, the City of Vancouver certified as a Living Wage Employer, and eight other local governments in BC have living wage policies.

During the City of Seattle’s minimum wage debate several years ago (they implemented it), Tom Douglas, owner of 14 restaurants in Seattle, emerged as voice of reason. He voluntarily raised the pay of all his employees to $15 per hour.

Why? As he told National Public Radio, “The more you put dollars into people’s hands to be spent, I’m sure it probably would be healthy for the economy.”

In other words, doing the right thing and taking good care of your employees makes business sense.

It could make sense for British Columbia, too.

 

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; 

 

 

Mayor criticizes the focus of mayoral candidates

Mayor criticizes the focus of mayoral candidates

Mayor Larry Jangula says the candidates’ focus on their political careers, not city business, has caused discord and promoted electioneering

 

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula has accused the three incumbent council members seeking to replace him of “electioneering” during City Council meetings.

Jangula says Erik Eriksson, David Frisch and Bob Wells should focus on city business, not their political careers.

“I have already seen signs of electioneering at our council meetings and it is causing a distraction,” Jangula told Decafnation in a written statement.

“Not to mention that it is most unfortunate that these councillors are focusing on their political careers and not on city business, especially at this time of year when important matters like budgets, taxes and service fees are being decided,” he said.

It’s unusual for incumbent council members to challenge a sitting mayor, unless decisions or personalities have caused a major disagreement. It’s open season, however, if the incumbent mayor is retiring.

But Jangula says he hasn’t decided whether to seek re-election.

“My energies are being focused on the issues that impact the community and the taxpayers,” he said. “I will decide at a more appropriate time if I will be seeking re-election and I have no further comment on this matter at this time.”

No obvious disagreement has occurred, although some council members have privately criticized Jangula’s handling of meetings, especially citizen presentations. Jangula got embroiled in a social media firestorm last year over an email reply to a citizen that was widely regarded as condescending and sarcastic.

It’s more likely the three candidates suspect Jangula will step down and are jostling early to build support.

“I am very disappointed that members of my council have decided to start their campaigns in March, a full eight months before the Oct. 20, 2018 municipal election,” Jangula said. “One of the mayoralty candidates, Erik Eriksson, actually started last October, a full year prior to the election.

But Eriksson says the long lead time gives voters a chance to evaluate candidates.

“I announced my intention to run for mayor one year ahead of the election for two reasons,” he told Decafnation. “One is to give people lots of time to evaluate my readiness to serve as mayor.

“The other reason (as I’ve been telling people on the doorstep) is there’s a lot of doors to knock on. ”

Jangula also criticized council members not running for mayor but who are already supporting a colleague.

“I am very concerned when certain councillors are publicly endorsing other councillors for the position of mayor, which is already causing disharmony and discord at our council table,” he said.

Council member Doug Hillan last week announced his support for David Frisch’s campaign.

Frisch, however, rejects the mayor’s criticisms, and says he is focused on city business.

“I have been working for changes to improve housing affordability, transportation options, and downtown vitalization since I was first elected 3 1/2 years ago,” he said. “My focus on council remains the same and my run for mayor echos these principles.”

In regards to council member’s distractions, Frisch said it’s possible that his positions are gaining more attention now, and “that bothers other members of council.”

“But disagreement is nothing new. In fact, disagreement is the foundation of a full discussion and council is the place where issues are debated and, ultimately, decisions are made,” he said. “I look forward to being a leader who understands this and doesn’t shy away from difficult issues or attempt to silence or discourage views which oppose my own.”

Councillors Mano Theos and Rebecca Lennox have not responded to Decafnation’s enquiries about which of the three mayoralty candidates they might support.

Wells said his candidacy for mayor has not distracted him from making effective decisions.

“I can only speak to my focus on getting things done,” he said. “I respect the mayor and city councillors and I think we work well as a council even when we disagree.”

Wells told Decafnation that since being elected in 2014, he has “worked hard to learn as much as I could to make the best decisions possible and will continue to do so.”

“I have not found announcing my candidacy for mayor to be a distraction for me to make effective decisions,” he said. “As someone that loves budgets this is my favourite time of year, and I’m compelled to be prepared and engaged at all meetings.”

FURTHER READING: Erik Eriksson’s website; David Frisch’s website; Bob Wells website

 

 

Wells, Frisch and Eriksson will battle for Courtenay mayor

Wells, Frisch and Eriksson will battle for Courtenay mayor

This article has been updated to include Rebecca Lennox’s announcement to seek re-election.

This article has been further updated to include Bob Wells announcement to run for mayor of Courtenay

 

Courtenay City Council member David Frisch announced early last week that he is running for mayor.

Frisch is the second sitting councillor to enter the mayoral race, just 225 days away. Erik Eriksson launched his campaign for mayor several months ago. Then, late in the week, Bob Wells announced that he would also compete for the mayor’s chair.

That makes half of the existing Courtenay Council running for mayor. It means there are now three open seats on council and two of the mayoral candidates will no longer serve on Courtenay council.

Mayor Larry Jangula remains undecided about whether to seek re-election. In early January, Jangula told Decafnation it was “too early” to decide and that his decision will be based on his wife’s health, his own health and “an examination of who might be running.”

Jangula is out of town and could not be contacted after Frisch’s announcement.

FURTHER READING: Who’s in, who’s out for Election 2018; Eriksson announces mayoral bid

Frisch told Decafnation that he’s running because he’s the best person to keep Courtenay growing in a healthy direction.

“I’m running for mayor because I have a vision to keep Courtenay’s natural beauty, access to recreation, and affordable living for generations to come,” he said. “My focus is on fostering an inclusive community and planning for growth in a responsible way, balancing economic needs with the need for a healthy and vibrant community.”

Frisch was the top vote-getter in the 2014 election and is serving his first term on council. He received 3,671 votes, hundreds more than his nearest competitor at 3,033.

“I’ve had the privilege to serve with the mayor and my fellow councillors for four years and have learned a lot,” he told Decafnation. “When I imagine how the valley will look in another 10, 20 or 30 years, I can’t think of anyone better to create an inclusive, people driven agenda.”

By seeking the mayor’s chair, Frisch, Wells and Eriksson will give up their council seats.

“The fact that my seat as a councillor will need to filled is only an invitation for another community minded leader to step up,” Frisch said. “The people of Courtenay will take care of choosing that person and I can work with whoever that may be.”

Rebecca Lennox, another first-term council members announced on Facebook late Thursday that she would also seek re-election.

“International women’s day is here​ so I thought I would tell you that​ I have decided to run in the 2018 election​,” Lennox posted. “It has been my greatest honour to serve on council these last years and I will always be so grateful of the opportunity to do so. If I am lucky enough to be elected for a second term I will continue to do my best in the role of councilor.

“I hope to see a few more ladies round the table next time as one out of seven is not a great balance,” she wrote.

And newcomer Kiyoshi Kosky, who recently sought the provincial NDP nomination, said he is running for a council position.

In an email interview several weeks ago, when Frisch was considering a mayoral run, he told Decafnation:

“As mayor, I plan to embrace the opportunities we have and lead our community to grow in an environmentally responsible way while capitalizing on our opportunities for economic growth – particularly in internet technologies, destination tourism, and retirement living,” he said.

“This includes doing as much as possible to support affordable housing options for young adults, families and seniors, as well as doing the much needed long range transportation planning to keep us all moving.

“My role as mayor will allow me to lead the city to engage with the people of Courtenay and create a long range plan particularly for sustainable development and efficient transportation.”

Voters go to the polls on Oct. 20. Candidates for the 2018 municipal election must file during a 10-day period beginning Sec. 3.