An alternate reality: Clark pumps PR

An alternate reality: Clark pumps PR

Christy Clark supported PR in 2009 CKNW broadcast


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




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.


Municipal election 2018: Who’s in, who’s out around CV

Municipal election 2018: Who’s in, who’s out around CV

PHOTO: Courtenay Councilor David Frisch will seek a second term to finish work on transportation, zoning and the city’s downtown core (See story below)


With just 257 days before Comox Valley voters choose the 29 elected officials who will run local governments and school district through 2022, only a few people have declared their candidacy.

That’s not unusual for this community, where candidates historically wait until summer to announce they are running. But it’s not the norm in other communities.

In the Capital Regional District, for example, most of the 13 incumbent mayors have announced their plans to stand for re-election.In a Decafnation survey of the Valley’s three municipalities, only four incumbents say they definitely plan to seek office again: Courtenay’s Erik Eriksson and David Frisch, Comox Valley Regional District Area B Director Rod Nicol and School District 71 Board Chair Janice Caton.


FURTHER READING: David Frisch, “There’s a lot of work to do” — (SEE BELOW); Eriksson to seek mayor’s chair.


No one from Comox Town Council replied.

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said his decision whether to run again weighed on several factors.

“It is far too early to make any decisions now,” he said. “I will make my mind up in the summer.”

In reference to City Council member Eriksson, who announced in October that he would seek Jangula’s mayoralty seat, the incumbent said, “It is very distracting when people indicate they are running a year away from an election. It takes everyone’s mind away from what they are doing and it politicizes every decision made at Council.”

Jangula said his decision will be based on a number of factors including his wife’s health, his health and “an examination of who might be running.”

Eriksson said, “I just had to get my campaign started. It takes time to put together a successful support team for the mayor’s office.”

Courtenay councilor Rebecca Lennox said she’s undecided.

“The opportunity to serve on council has been life-changing and I am so honoured to have had this experience,” she said. “​Being diagnosed with cancer half-way through​ this term​ has defin​i​t​e​ly changed many things for me​.

“At this point I am undecided​ whether I will run for a second term,​ and will see how I feel and how my results are looking nearer the time.” she said.

Cumberland’s Roger Kishi says he’s leaning toward running, but will decide in the spring.

Jesse Kelter, also a Cumberland councillor, said she has not decided “one way or the other about running in the next election.”

“As you can imagine, as a parent of young children and a professional it is a very tricky balance to give so much time to Council and all the committees that go along with it,” she said. “I have a lot of things to weigh ….”

School District 71 Trustee Cliff Boldt said he and his wife, Maureen, were mulling over a re-election bid, but that there were “lots of considerations.” He hasn’t decided yet.

Former NDP hopeful for the provincial Comox Valley riding, Kiyoshi Kosky said he’s also considering a run at municipal office.


David Frisch hopes to finish zoning, transportation work


First-term Courtenay Council Member David Frisch didn’t originally intend to seek a second term.

“I thought I would do a shift,” he said. “But I discovered it takes so long to do things; I’d feel like I was quitting now. There’s a lot of work to do.”

In his first term, Frisch has focused on two primary issues: zoning and transportation.

“That’s the core of what we do,” he said. “The roots of what we have today go so far back, to the Joseph McPhee layout of the city in the late 1800s, that it’s a big weight to move now.”

But Frisch believes the current council has made dramatic and positive shifts in the city’s direction. He points to the fact that council now approves all development applications and questions the value of each application to the city’s future and the Regional Growth Strategy.

He sees his role in supporting that shift in direction as one of the accomplishments of his first term.

“We’ve steered developers toward multi-unit projects and opened the door to secondary suites,” Frisch said. “There’s no easier or better mechanism to get affordable housing.”

Frisch has championed the creation of multi-use lanes. Three years ago, he pushed for protected bike lanes on Willemar Avenue, which is a corridor for three public schools. But he couldn’t move council at the time, “It was too progressive for them.”

But three years later, those bike lanes are in the transportation plan.

Frisch sits on the Comox Valley Regional District Integrated Resource Transportation Select Committee whose two main goals are: one, to create a multi-use path for bicycles, scooters and walkers along the Dyke Road; and, two, to establish a single point of contact for future transportation initiatives between municipalities.

If he’s re-elected next fall, Frisch says he will pursue more transportation and zoning solutions. He’s particularly excited about creating a scooter/cycling plan to help people move through all of west Courtenay. He envisions a grid of pathways connecting Willermar, Fitzgerald and Cliffe avenues.

And he’s not limiting his transportation vision to traditional infrastructure. Frisch believes the city can have important transportation corridors that aren’t on existing roadways. He points to the Rotary Trail alongside the E&N rail tracks and the Courtenay River Trail as examples of alternate ways for people to move around their community.

After becoming engrossed in these issues and seeing how long it takes to make progress, Frisch admits the work “might take a lifetime to do.”

But for now, he’s simply committing himself to serve a second term.


With PR, everyone has a voice

With PR, everyone has a voice

Former Valley resident shares her NZ experience

Editor’s note: Katie Betanzo was raised in the Comox Valley and New Zealand. She’s a former editor of The Breezeway, the now defunct award-winning student newspaper at G.P. Vanier High School. Betanzo moved to New Zealand in 2001 and now teaches media studies and English in Auckland. She’s agreed to write a series of articles over the next year about how proportional representative government works in her adopted country. This is the first of those articles.



It’s been a long time since I took Politics 101. It was 1996, the year of the first MMP (mixed member proportional) election in New Zealand.

And while I have banished much of the content of those university lectures to the attic of my mind, I remember one story clearly: that of Sir Bob Jones and the 1984 New Zealand national election.

Jones, a business tycoon, wanted to bring down the right-wing government. But instead of throwing his weight behind the major left-wing party, he founded an ultra-right-wing party that won 12 percent of the votes and no seats.

But he succeed in splitting the right-wing vote. That helped the left-wing Labour party form a government with just 42 percent of the vote, and 59 percent of the seats.

This was possible because of the rules of the first-past-the-post electoral system (FPP).

Jones was not left-wing — far from it, in fact. But he could not abide the ultra-protectionist policies of the right-wing Muldoon government. By openly supporting the left-wing Labour Party, whose neo-liberal economic policy was right up Jones’ alley, Jones would have gained little.

Before New Zealand’s electoral reform and conversion to proportional representation, minority parties gained as high as 20 percent of the vote, but won only one or two seats. These MPs languished on the back benches of the opposition, effectively powerless, and the voices of the people who voted for them reduced to inconsequential protest votes.

Fast forward 33 years. In the general election of September 2017, the National Party won 44 percent of the vote, but could not form a government.

This is a good thing made possible by New Zealand’s electoral reform.

Effectively, 55 percent of the population voted for a center-left or left-wing party. Opinions differed about just how left we were willing to go, but that’s reflected in the wide choice of parties and policies. We now have a center-left coalition government, and in the spirit of compromise, we will please some of the people some of the time.

CBC, Wikipedia and Facebook tell me that British Columbia has a minority NDP government. We Kiwis are not strangers to that concept, although coalitions between like-minded parties are more common than minority governments.

The thing is, though, under a proportional system, there would have been no question of Clark forming a government. The Liberals and NDP would each have had 35 seats, and the Greens with 15 would hold the balance of power. (The remaining two seats would either have gone to the largest of the minor parties, or been split between Liberals and NDP — MMP is a tricky beast.)

In a later column I plan to talk about the pros and cons of different types of proportional representation, from my obviously biased perspective. However, it’s worth facing one criticism head on: uncertainty.

In an FPP system, forming a government is pretty straightforward. The party with the most seats is in charge. Under MMP, any group of parties able to command the majority of votes can form a coalition government.

For most elections, this is straightforward: many smaller parties go into the election campaign having already declared which of the major parties they are willing to work with. However, in the event that an undeclared centrist party holds the balance of power, negotiations can take a while.

Case in point: our most recent election. Election Day was Sept. 23. The government wasn’t formed until Oct. 19. There were plenty of disgruntled people following the formation of the government, as I imagine there were in BC following the last election.

There’s a brilliant explanation of our election result here. It involves a group of politicians trying to buy a pie (we are Kiwis, after all). By applying the analogy to BC, it’s very simple to see that Clark would not have been able to “buy the pie” with her share of the seats; the Liberals and NDP would both have courted the Greens.

Still, in the eight elections since MMP was introduced in New Zealand, this sort of protracted wrangling has happened only twice. Situation normal is to cast your vote knowing you are supporting a coalition that will be headed by a major party on the left or right. The Greens will only ever form a coalition with Labour; the Act party (far-right neo-liberals) can’t abide Labour. Pretty simple.

In 1993, the final FPP election here, only 31.5 percent of votes cast were for the National Party, which formed the government with 50 percent of the seats. Eighteen percent of the votes went to the left-wing Alliance party, which gained only 2 percent of the seats.

Since 2002, all governments have been coalitions commanding 50 percent or greater of the seats in the house, as well as 50 percent or greater of the popular vote.

As rule by the people, for the people goes, I think we’re on the right track.

Further reading: The road to MMP; from the website, New Zealand History


Courtenay opens the door for private digital signs

Courtenay opens the door for private digital signs

Courtenay City Council appears to have opened the door for businesses to erect electronic message boards, despite unfavorable public opinion of digital signage.

At its Nov. 20 meeting, council defied its existing sign bylaw and approved a variance for an electronic message board for Prime Chophouse, a restaurant visible, but not accessible, from Ryan Road.

Chophouse owner Kory Wagstaff told council people have difficulty finding his restaurant, which is threatening the viability of his business. He said his location makes it a challenge to stay open for lunch and the business itself may not be sustainable without help from the city.

Wagstaff argued that digital signs are more representative of “the style of the Comox Valley.”

The current sign bylaw prohibits electronic message boards except for institutional uses. The Lewis Park Recreation Centre has one, as does St. George’s Church and Mark Isfeld High School.

Prior to 2013, the city disallowed all such signs. But the parents association at Isfeld High School lobbied council to amend its bylaw after they had raised the funds for an electronic sign.

A staff member told council that the city receives frequent requests from private businesses for electronic signs, but rejects them because during the 2013 public hearings for the Isfeld amendment, people were clearly opposed to them. Staff said people don’t like the esthetics and the added illumination of digital signs.

Council member David Frisch moved to reject the Chophouse application for a development variance permit, because “The city … sign bylaw was passed in 2013 to ensure that the character and visual appearance of our community would be maintained, and that traffic safety would not be compromised.”

Frisch’s motion was supported by councilors Doug Hillian and Rebecca Lennox.


But they lost the battle to Mayor Larry Jangula and councilors Erik Eriksson, Bob Wells and Mano Theos. Their support seemed to be based on the Chophouse’s support of local charities, that it’s a “great restaurant” and its location has access problems.

The most surprising support came from Councilor Eriksson, who has announced his candidacy for mayor in this fall’s elections. He had previously opposed the electronic sign at the Lewis Centre, but supported this variance application.

“I support this … it’s a great restaurant,” he said.

Eriksson later said via email that “ Lighted digital message signs are becoming more commonplace, where appropriate … I think the applicant made a good case for a variance ….”

Only Mayor Jangula addressed the key issue of whether council was opening a Pandora’s Box.

In an emailed statement to Decafnation, Jangula said, “During the meeting I commented that this was a unique problem requiring a unique solution. This is not a precedent for other electronic signs in Courtenay, and there are no plans to update the sign bylaw at this time.”

“Prime Chophouse has some unusual access problems,” Jangula said. “Council acknowledged that the lack of access off Ryan Road, which is under MoT jurisdiction, has been a challenge for this business.”

But Councilor Hillian worried about precedent.

“There’ll be no rationale for refusing any future (similar) requests,” he said.

Lennox told Decafnation, “While I have compassion for the inconvenience people have when trying to locate the entrance to The Prime Chop House, I didn’t support the resolution.

“I feel the community has been very clear about it’s hopes for modest signs without illumination​ and felt the applicant could have used a traditional sign to convey the same information,” she said.

Frisch, who moved the motion to reject the private business sign, said electronic message boards are allowed at schools, churches, rec centres and other public assembly locations.

“I believe this reflects the general will of our community and I support the idea that too much signage detracts from our natural surroundings, while providing limited benefits to our citizens,” Frisch said. “I am always open to revisit and discuss our bylaws and would consider variances as well. However, the benefits of changed and variances must be in line with our community values and must not simply be for the sole benefit of a few.”

Lennox and Frisch offered solutions other than an electronic sign for the Chophouse dilemma, but Jangula shot them down saying the sign bylaw wouldn’t permit those concepts.

But, in fact, those alternate solutions could have been permitted by a variance granted by council, which it then proceeded to grant the business owner.