Some things are just not acceptable anymore  /  George Le Masurier photo

Why did Comox boot its CAO? No shortage of speculation around town

Sep 20, 2019 | Commentary, News

By George Le Masurier

This article has been updated to correct when Cumberland parted ways with its CAO.

In a special Town of Comox Council meeting this week, councillors voted to dump their long-time chief administrative officer, Richard Kanigan. But rumours are that the vote wasn’t unanimous.

Council members aren’t answering questions about the firing, but there has been plenty of speculation around town and no shortage of issues behind that gossip.

Some believe town staff morale has been at an all-time low ever since the town tried to break up union employees with a two-tiered wage proposal in 2017. The town brought in an out-of-town hired-gun to force the issue and employees responded with a unanimous strike vote and multiple flash mobs waving signs of discontent.

More recently, there are whispers about an alleged suspension and demotion of a public works manager who reportedly hasn’t returned to work. There may be formal grievances to settle in that case.

It’s also interesting that Kanigan’s Executive Coordinator Twyla Slonski quit her job abruptly this summer and resurfaced on July 31 as the new deputy city clerk in Port Alberni.

And then there’s the multiple legal actions that have run up some whopping legal bills for taxpayers.

The town faces a $250,000 lawsuit in BC Supreme Court over erosion and pollution of Golf Creek that could have been avoided a few years ago for about $25,000. And the town’s legal costs for the protracted saga over how the town has mishandled the Mack Laing trust agreement may be north of $100,000.

Or, there could be completely different reasons for Kanigan’s departure.

One thing is for sure: Municipal CAO positions in the Comox Valley have been a revolving door recently. Cumberland parted ways with its CAO in July. Comox Valley Regional District hired new CAO Russell Dyson in 2017 after Debra Oakman retired. Courtenay CAO Dave Allen now has the longest tenure of all his local peers. He was hired in 2013.

Judging by the diversity of reactions to the revelation that Justin Trudeau wore black and brown faces while dressing up in costumes, his indiscretion may not affect the outcome of the current federal election. In the heat of a political battle, people in all political parties can find the justification they need to overlook their favoured candidates’ flaws.

But nobody feels sorry for Trudeau. Dressing up in costumes wasn’t uncommon in the 1990s, and is still popular among some. But adding the blackface is a genuine disappointment for a prime minister who has carefully built his brand around diversity, reconciliation and tolerance.

Of note, in the late 1980s a prominent group of Comox Valley professionals performed a Supremes lip sync song wearing blackface at a private party. Wanna bet they’re hoping no photos of that will ever surface?

The bus accident on a logging road near Bamfield that killed two University of Victoria students led most newscasts this week. And Premier John Horgan promised to fix the road.

CBC Radio did a whole program on the topic of whether we need to pave or otherwise improve well-used logging roads around the province. But to the surprise of the show’s producers, not many of the call-in listeners were sympathetic.

Acknowledging the tragedy of the Bamfield accident, listeners pointed out that other fatal accidents had also occurred recently, most of them on paved and well-maintained roads. For example, within days of the Bamfield accident a crash on Highway 19 north of Campbell River killed two Washington state people.

Many of the show’s  listeners called in to say drivers must take responsibility when traveling on roads of any description, and that each stretch of road requires unique precautions.

Driving a large highway coach bus loaded with passengers on a twisting, narrow gravel road on a dark and rainy night was not a responsible act, some callers said. Nor was it okay to put university students on that bus at that time.

The unintentional question the program left in many listener’s minds was this: Should taxpayers fund the paving of these roads because people wanting to reach remote locations are ill-informed and poorly equipped? And would paving, which allows people to drive faster, just create tragic accidents of a different sort?

Many US colleges and universities now offer free tuition. The state of New Mexico announced this week that it would waive tuition at all of its public colleges and universities for residents, regardless of family income. Cornell University’s medical school also said this week that students who qualify for financial aid would receive free tuition. They aren’t the first to do so.

It’s a trend to relieve students from the burden of crushing debt. Something many European nations did a long time ago. Will Canadian colleges and universities follow suit?

 

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