The anti-tax wave turned into a progressive tsunami in Courtenay; Long undercuts Jangula; 48% of Cumberland voters cast a ballot and a woman of color will contribute her world view to the regional district
This article was updated Oct. 30 to correct information about the Area C election and previously to correct the vote totals on the Cumberland referendum
As the Comox Valley awoke this morning, stumbled into the kitchen and stared vacantly out the window at a spectacular sunny late October day, were people thinking about the whirlwind six-week election campaign that ended last night?
Or were they still stoned from too much Legalization Day celebrations? Hung over from too much Election Night joy? Or, just seeing a yard full of maple leaves begging to be raked up?
Well, over here on Nob Hill, at the international headquarters of the Decafnation, we were thinking about what voters were thinking. What the election results mean, and what they don’t mean.
We did notice that of the 22 mayors, councillors and regional directors elected yesterday, Decafnation recommended 18 of them.
But in our own decaffeinated stupor this fine morning, these random thoughts passed through …
— Did Harold Long split the non-progressive vote and derail incumbent Larry Jangula’s bid for re-election? Jangula finished second to mayor-elect Bob Wells by 438 votes. Harold Long got 1,165 votes.
Long and Jangula feuded over a pact that Long says the pair made four years ago. Long would support Jangula in 2014 if Jangula supported Long in 2018. Long says Jangula reneged on the deal and Long ran anyway.
FURTHER READING: Detailed election results here
— The Comox Valley Taxpayers Alliance tried to rally the fiscal conservative vote, but did it actually show up? The CVTA endorsed six candidates for council and Jangula for mayor. Mano Theos was their only candidate to make the cut.
But looking at the mayor’s race, Jangula and Long captured 3,677 votes, more than Wells and Erik Eriksson, who received 3,597. A mere 80-vote differential.
On the other hand, Courtenay voters — where the CVTA exclusively focused their “taxes are too high!” message — elected a nearly unanimous progressive council. Theos is going to feel a little lonely for the next four years.
So, what to conclude? Jangula probably had individual popular support. Long cost him the election. But overall the efforts of the CVTA, despite all the money they spent on full-page advertising, didn’t make a difference. It may even have triggered a counterproductive effect by rallying progressive voters.
— We were surprised that Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird’s opponent got even 229 votes.
— It’s a cliche, we know, but every vote does count. Incumbent Roger Kishi missed re-election by 2 votes. And the Comox Valley lost an important voice of diversity.
— We don’t think there’s a provision for recounts in municipal elections. Why not?
— Which community had the highest voter turnout and which was the worst? It was no contest. Cumberland had a 48.0 percent turnout the highest in the region. The Comox Valley’s worst was the rural electoral areas at 28.7 percent.
Courtenay had a 37.1 percent turnout and Comox had 40.4 percent. Campbell River did the worst of all at 25.4 percent. Qualicum was the best regionally with 58.9 percent. Parksville had 43.5 percent and Nanaimo did well at 40.3 percent.
— How did mayors fare compared to their elected councillors? Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird got 83.25 percent of the vote, the highest of any Comox Valley candidate. No village councillors got a higher percentage, but Vickey Brown topped the polls with 63.6 percent.
Mayor-Elect Bob Wells got 40.56 percent of the vote, and five councillors grabbed a higher percentage of the vote. Will Cole-Hamilton topped the city polls with 48.6 percent.
Comox Mayor-Elect Russ Arnott received 61.8 percent of the vote. Two of his council members got more, including Alex Bissinger who topped the polls with 63.9 percent.
— In a move that will benefit the entire Comox Valley, Cumberland voters gave their Village Council approval to borrow up to $4.4 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant by a substantial margin: 1,011 to 316.
Voters really had no choice because the village has to upgrade its operations for face potential fines from the Ministry of Environment for being out of compliance with provincial standards. But the strong “yes” vote gives the village extra leverage in obtaining grant external funding and lowering the amount it has to borrow.
— Courtenay voters also approved a non-binding request for City Council to undertake a study of Valley-wide governance reforms all the way up to amalgamation. It will be interesting how this study evolves, if at all, because Cumberland and Comox haven’t expressed interest. The vote was 4,734 yes to 1,494 no.
— Vickey Brown, who stepped down as a school trustee to run in the Cumberland municipal election, topped the polls, besting re-elected incumbent Jesse Ketler by 44 votes. Brown previously sought a council seat in the 1990s and lost by just 10 votes.
— Erik Eriksson was the first Comox Valley candidate to announce his campaign. Just over a year ago, incumbent councillor Eriksson said he was running for mayor, a move criticized by some as starting the campaign too early. But it did force other mayoral hopefuls David Frisch — who later dropped out to re-run for council — and Bob Wells to announce their intentions just four months later.
Eriksson finished last in the four-way race for mayor. Was it because he announced so early? Did he ruffle too many feathers with his council colleagues by refusing to abide the chamber convention of referring to each other as “Councillor Hillian,” etc., and using just their first names?
Or did he lose progressive supporters by voting with Jangula, Theos and Ken Grant on 3L Developments proposed amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy? While the optics of Eriksson’s action may have cost him support from anti-amendment voters, he did it to continue the consultation process, including a public hearing.
Eriksson’s fears materialized when 3L filed a multi-faceted lawsuit just three days before the Oct. 20 election, essentially alleging that the Comox Valley Regional District didn’t give their proposal fair consideration.
— It’s interesting that voters convincingly supported Edwin Grieve in Area C, despite being banned from 3L discussions at the CVRD board table because of a settlement agreement of a Human Rights Tribunal complaint made by a 3L executive. Voters gave Grieve a vote of confidence.
— For the first time, a woman of color will represent a CVRD rural electoral area. Arzeena Hamir, who defeated incumbent Rod Nichol in Area B, was born in Tanzania, East Africa, moved to BC in 1973, served as a CUSO volunteer in Thailand, where she’s fluent in the language, and spent time in India doing field research for a Masters degree in sustainable agriculture that she earned from the University of London, England.
— Finally, more than half of the Comox Valley school district board of trustees were elected by acclamation (four out of seven). Why is there so little interest in the school board? (Full disclosure, Decafnation did not profile school trustee candidates or survey them on education issues. Nor were we able to profile every mayoral and council candidate.)