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Survey finds Areas A-B happy with regional board, directors, little interest in schools

Feb 15, 2021 | Government Review

By George Le Masurier

Just over halfway through their first terms in local government, regional district directors Daniel Arbour and Arzeena Hamir have earned high approval ratings from the respondents to a Local Government Performance Review conducted recently by Decafnation.

Decafnation initiated the survey to measure how satisfied voters were with the performance of the councillors, directors and trustees they elected in 2018.

The first article summarizing the survey’s findings published earlier this week took a close look at the Courtenay and Comox municipal councils and individual council members. This second article focuses on the rural electoral areas of the Comox Valley Regional District, as well as the District 71 school board and Island Trust representatives from Denman and Hornby Islands.

Electoral Area A Director Daniel Arbour received the highest approval rating of all the Comox Valley’s 33 elected officials reviewed in the survey. Eighty-nine percent of Area A respondents said they were either very satisfied (61%) or satisfied (28%) with his performance so far. That was also the survey’s highest ‘very satisfied’ rating.

Affordable housing the top issue in Areas A and B. In Area C, it was protecting the Regional Growth Strategy

Electoral Area B Director Arzeena Hamir was close behind Arbour with a 65 percent approval rating from respondents, including a 58 percent approval rating in the top ‘very satisfied’ level.

Respondents from electoral areas A and B also said they were satisfied with the work of the Comox Valley Regional District board of directors.

But veteran electoral director Edwin Grieve didn’t fare as well. Fifty-seven percent of electoral area C respondents said they were dissatisfied with his performance at mid-term, including 30 percent who said they were very dissatisfied.

Despite Grieve’s low approval rating, the survey found that Area C respondents were still mostly satisfied with the regional board as a whole, although their satisfaction level (38%) was the lowest of the three electoral areas. Also, the number of Area C respondents who gave the board a neutral rating (neither satisfied nor dissatisfied) was the highest of the three rural areas.

The survey results also show that most residents in the municipalities and rural areas were ambivalent about School District 71 school board trustees as well as Island Trust representatives. With a few exceptions, most of these elected officials’ received the neutral rating of neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

A neutral rating usually indicates the survey respondent doesn’t have enough information to form a strong positive or negative impression or that they are indifferent to, in this case, the school board and Island Trust issues.

Denman Island’s Laura Busheikin received the strongest satisfaction rating (54%) among the four Islands Trust representatives from Denman and Hornby islands. But both Busheikin and Denman’s other representative, David Critchley, received a significant number of written comments.

All four Islands Trust trustees received high neutral satisfaction ratings, probably because twice as many Area A residents live in the Royston to Fanny Bay portion of the district as on the islands. Those residents are not as likely to follow Denman and Hornby civic issues.

“Although a Hornby Islander, Daniel Arbour is doing a good job of representing both the “Big Island” and “Little Islands” parts of Area A.”

The survey also asked respondents to identify the top issues elected officials should address before voters go back to the polls on Oct. 15 of next year.

Although the list of top issues varied in each jurisdiction, areas A and B choose affordable housing as the number one issue. In Area C, the top issue was protecting the Regional Growth Strategy, quite possibly a reaction to the multi-year controversy over a large subdivision proposed by 3L Developments.

The survey was conducted over a three-week period via Survey Monkey and the results independently analyzed by community volunteers not associated with Decafnation.

Respondents could choose among five levels: very satisfied, satisfied, neither satisfied or dissatisfied, dissatisfied and very dissatisfied. For this story, in most instances, we have combined the top two satisfied ratings and bottom two dissatisfied ratings and refer to them as simply satisfied or dissatisfied.

Most of the 314 survey respondents included written comments to help explain their satisfaction ratings. These can be found elsewhere on the Decafnation website.

Here’s a closer look at the results for the Comox Valley Regional District Electoral Areas, school trustees and Island Trust representatives.

 

CVRD ELECTORAL AREA A

Almost two-thirds of survey respondents from Area A (61%) said they are satisfied with the regional district board. That was the highest approval rating of any local government surveyed and may be a reflection of respondents’ satisfaction with CVRD Director Daniel Arbour.

Arbour not only received the highest approval rating in the survey (89%) but he also had the lowest disapproval rating (7%) and the fewest number of indifferent respondents (4% neither satisfied nor dissatisfied).

Area A respondents’ satisfaction level with the regional district board – click to enlarge

One respondent said they were very satisfied with Arbour because, “Although a Hornby Islander, Daniel Arbour is doing a good job of representing both the “Big Island” and “Little Islands” parts of Area A.”

“He has a good media presence so I see things he is trying to do. Shares information on Facebook. Connects with locals about rural concerns and get what it’s like to live rurally,” said another respondent.

You can find all of the regional district, school trustee and Islands Trust comments here.

District 71 school board Chair Sheila McDonnell, who represents Area A, received the highest satisfaction rating (29%) of any school trustee and a low dissatisfaction rating (5%).

But survey respondents across the Comox Valley gave all of the school board trustees, including McDonnell, and the four Islands Trust representatives overwhelmingly indifferent ratings. Sixty-seven percent of Area A respondents said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with McDonnell.

Respondents said they “have no kids in school, so not an interest,” and “No idea what she’s up to.” While another respondent said, “Sheila has been very receptive to feedback and concerns about the school board processes.”

Few Area A respondents said whether they were satisfied not with the Denman and Hornby Island Trust representatives.

Denman’s Laura Busheikin topped the survey for most responses and respondents also gave her the highest satisfied rating (54%) and also the lowest indifferent rating (37%).

“Laura is by far the best Islands Trustee we’ve had in the 31 years I’ve lived on Denman Island. She’s smart, hard-working, and faultlessly ethical despite being cast, in some Islanders’ minds, as a foil to Local Trust Committee members whom they regard as “elitists,” said one respondent.

Area A respondents’ top issues – click to enlarge

Only about 20 percent of Area A respondents said they were satisfied or dissatisfied with Hornby trustees Grant Scott and Alex Allen and Denman trustee Dave Critchley. But respondents did have several conflicting comments about Critchley

“Trustee Critchley is a lawyer and performs his LTC job officiously. He tends to take a conservative position on certain issues, particularly housing which has become a hot-button again as the IT Council has decided to crack down on non-conforming dwellings and has been issuing eviction notices since last winter. These “illegal” dwellings have existed on this Island for 47 years—ever since the imposition of the Islands Trust. They exist because they are critically necessary: the AVERAGE age on Denman is 61 years old and younger workers of every sort are needed—and need places to live. Trustee Critchley has tended to support the recent crackdown on non-conforming dwellings. About 20% of our population lives in these,” said one respondent.

And when it came to the top issues Area A respondents want Arbour to address before the end of his first term, Affordable housing topped the list (66%). Next was mental health and opioid addiction issues.

 

CVRD ELECTORAL AREA B

More than twice as many Area B respondents to the survey say they are satisfied (53%) than dissatisfied (20%) with the regional district board. And 65 percent say they are satisfied with the performance of Director Arzeena Hamir. Just 13 percent said they were dissatisfied.

Area B respondents’ satisfaction level with the regional district board – click to enlarge

“Arzeena Hamir is an outstanding director. I highly respect her for her willingness to speak up and be vocal about issues she feels strongly about. She communicates professionally and thoroughly researches issues she’s addressing. She has been unafraid to speak publicly about CVEDS, and other challenges the CVRD is facing,” said one respondent.

“Have been very impressed with Director Hamir in every way. Particularly appreciated her support of Curtis Road residents in our difficulties with the Sewage Treatment plant,” said another who echoed other respondents’ comments.

The comments from Area B respondents, which can be found here, included these:

“On the whole I am pleased with how the CVRD has handled things this past term. I’m especially happy that they are putting CVEDS through their paces and bringing them to task for the years of secretive operations and inadequate service to the area as a whole,” said one.

Area B respondents’ top issues – click to enlarge

While another said, “I think that personal relationships seem to trump community greater good when it comes to decision making for Director Edwin Grieve. Very satisfied with Daniel Arbour and Arzeema Hamir.”

Survey respondents were dramatically indifferent about school board Trustee Michelle Waite. Ninety percent of Area B respondents said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, because, according to one respondent, “No idea how that is going.”

Another respondent said, “The school district does a poor job of getting its news and information to the public. Sometimes this feels intentional.”

The top issues Area B respondents want to be addressed are affordable housing and the Regional Growth Strategy. But they also noted support for the farming sector and climate change as top issues leading up to the 2022 civic elections.

 

CVRD ELECTORAL AREA C

Of the Comox Valley’s three electoral districts, Area C is the most unhappy with their regional board representation, and the least happy with the CVRD board itself.

Area C respondents’ satisfaction level with Director Edwin Grieve – click to enlarge

Area C respondents said they were decidedly dissatisfied (56%) with the performance of Director Edwin Grieve.

“Grieve appears to support the visions of CVEDS and the Exhibition Grounds Committee that are not in keeping with more sustainable, grassroots, community-based values. BIG is not necessarily beautiful. Input from local growers and the community at large should be valued and respected, not minimized or criticized. Time for him to join many of the other “old boys club” members and step aside,” said one respondent.

All of the survey’s written comments about Grieve, the regional district and their school board trustee can be read in their entirety here.

But 30 percent of Area C respondents were also satisfied with his performance.

Area C respondents’ top issues – click to enlarge

“Edwin has been between a rock and a hard place for a long time, what with 3L being in his grill for so long. Director Grieve seems to be a conciliator personality type and is not his own best advocate. I think that many times what he does is not actually understood by the electorate and the press,” according to another survey respondent.

The recently appointed school trustee for Area C, Cristi May Sacht received equally small numbers of satisfied and dissatisfied respondents and 81 percent who said they didn’t know enough about her or were indifferent to school issues.

Protecting and updating the Regional Growth Strategy is the top issue (65%) that respondents from Area C want their director to address in the last half of his term. Respondents ranked affordable housing second (52%) and then economic development and climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW YOU RATED ELECTORAL AREA DIRECTORS, SCHOOL TRUSTEES AND ISLANDS TRUST REPS

Cumberland school board trustee Sarah Jane Howe’s result derives from only three respondents, two who gave her a neutral rating and one who gave a satisfied rating.

 

 

SURVEY RESPONDENTS BY GOVERNMENT JURISDICTION

 

 

SURVEY RESPONDENTS BY AGE GROUPINGS

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