BC Liberals Brennan Day: economic recovery calls for bold ideas and actions

BC Liberals Brennan Day: economic recovery calls for bold ideas and actions

Brennan Day and family  |  Submitted photo

BC Liberals Brennan Day: economic recovery calls for bold ideas and actions

By George Le Masurier

As the youngest of the three Courtenay-Comox riding candidates seeking election to the provincial legislature, 36-year-old Brennan Day hopes his 15 years of experience in business management and the oil and gas industry will appeal to voters.

The BC Liberal nominee is also the most fiscally conservative candidate. During his 2017 campaign for a seat on Courtenay City Council, Day advocated for more responsible local government spending and lower municipal taxes.

It’s an approach to governing and economic prosperity that he says stretches back to his youth as a graduate of Highland High School.

“I, like many others my age, graduated high school after a decade of poor economic growth in BC. Career grade jobs were scarce in the Comox Valley, and I moved away like most for opportunities elsewhere,” Day told Decafnation in a telephone interview last week.

Now Day sees an even greater economic crisis that calls for bold ideas and action.

“We are effectively dealing with the worst economic fallout in generations. It is government’s role to maintain services and ensure we can rebound quickly,” he said. “My strong management background and international experience gives me a broad knowledge to rely on.”

Day believes the BC Liberal Party’s proposals to eliminate the PST tax and end the ICBC insurance monopoly are the kind of big ideas that will get the BC economy moving again.

 

ONE YEAR PST RELIEF

Day supports his party’s promise to eliminate the seven percent PST tax for one year and then bring it back at three percent for at least another year or until the economy fully recovers from the COVID pandemic’s economic impact.

“The PST elimination for one year gives lower-income earners the most benefit as a percentage, and encourages middle-income earners to spend on larger purchases,” he said. “Once the economy has recovered sufficiently, the PST will be restored.”

The two-year PST promise would reduce provincial revenues by about $10.8 billion, but Day says that won’t negatively affect government programs.

“The BC Liberals will not be looking to cut spending; we need to take bold action to give consumers confidence in the economy quickly to save our jobs and small businesses,” he said.

Day did not say how the government will balance its budget with such a substantial loss in revenue, although he said the PST reduction would allow businesses to reinvest and “get the economy moving again.”

 

ICBC: A FAILED SCHEME

Day believes his party’s plan to eliminate the ICBC monopoly on car insurance by opening the market up to private insurance companies will result in lower annual premiums.

“ICBC is a failed insurance scheme that’s not protecting anyone,” he said. “The goal was to keep rates affordable and protect victims, but ICBC is doing neither.”

Day says opening up the car insurance market is not an attempt to shut down ICBC as some opponents have suggested. They say private insurers will cream off the lowest-risk drivers, and leave ICBC with those who present the highest risk, including young drivers.

“We’re just forcing ICBC to be competitive,” he said. “That should bring down rates for everyone.”

And he says the NDP’s recent introduction of no-fault auto insurance has taken away the rights of catastrophically injured victims to seek higher compensation awards through legal action.

Day says that occupational therapists have told him it’s difficult and “troubling” to get care for seriously injured car accident victims.

“People have lost their advocacy under the no-fault system,” he said.

Under a public-private system, people could use the legal system to seek larger compensation awards than are currently allowed under ICBC’s no-fault plan.

 

PRIVATE CARE HOMES NEEDED

Day believes there is bi-partisan support and understanding of the need for more long-term care beds and a higher standard for quality care.

“But we need to be realistic,” he said. “We can’t rely on the public system alone. We need a dual system of both public and private facilities.”

The BC Liberals agree that more oversight is needed, Day said, because in some facilities the “conditions are reprehensible.”

That’s why he backs his party’s promise to spend $1 billion over the next five years to replace and upgrade existing facilities to ensure that “safe and dignified” options are available to seniors.

In the meantime, Day says his party will provide a $7,000 per year credit for home care to seniors who want to stay home as long as possible.

“With the sheer enormity of the demand for long-term care beds that we know is coming, the public process is too slow,” he said. “Private operators are needed because of the speed at which we need to build new facilities.”

 

NORTH ISLAND HOSPITALS

Day does not agree with the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s trend toward centralizing some health care services in Victoria. VIHA has eliminated onsite clinical pathology services in Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

“In hindsight, splitting the hospital between two communities wasn’t the best decision,” he said. “We need to treat the Comox Valley hospital as a regional hospital.”

Centralizing medical services may make sense in urban areas, but doesn’t best serve rural communities.

He thinks stronger advocacy within the provincial government is needed.

 

A MORE RESPONSIVE MLA

Day promises to be responsive to Comox Valley constituents and a strong voice in Victoria, something he believes has been lacking.

“I’m trying to run a positive campaign and not take shots, but our campaign hears almost every day that Ronna-Rae’s responsiveness has been less than optimal,” he said.

The feedback he’s received is that MLA Leonard is “generally not available … phone calls are not returned … And it’s not just from one sector of the community.”

“We need better vocal representation in Victoria,” he said.

 

AGRICULTURE DECIMATED

Day says he was disappointed that agriculture wasn’t brought up during a recent Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce all-candidates meeting.

“It’s a huge driver of our economy,” he said. “But it’s been decimated by the NDP.”

He said dairy farmers have lost processing facilities and meat producers have difficulty getting cattle on and off Vancouver Island due to BC Ferries’ new regulations about live cargo.

Day said he’d work with the agriculture community on building the infrastructure needed “to get their products on our shelves.”

He also criticized the NDP’s Bill 52 and Bill 15, which were enacted, respectively, to stop monster homes on farmland and to prevent landowners from constantly applying to remove their land from the ALR.
He says Bill 52 had significant unintended effects here locally.

“Previously, secondary residences were permitted under ALR zoning for farm workers or family members; this blanket bill prevented this from being an option,” Day said. “Generational farming families are now no longer permitted to construct a secondary dwelling to house their family members or workers.”

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

The BC Liberals have yet to release a climate change policy ahead of the Oct. 24 election, but Day says it’s coming.

“The environment is not to be defended just by the left, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure we are making smart and strategic changes to preserve the natural beauty of the Comox Valley for our children.,” he said.

 

 

 

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR COMMENTS

Decafnation encourages comments and a free exchange of ideas about our articles. Please limit your comments to fewer than 200 words. Longer comments will be removed. If you wish to submit an article for our commentary section, please send it to george@decafnation.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCT. 24 PROVINCIAL ELECTION INFORMATION

The 2020 provincial election takes place on Oct. 24.

Advance voting begins at various locations on Thursday, Oct. 15 and continues every day through Wednesday, Oct. 21. A schedule and list of polling stations are posted on the Elections BC website.

Candidates in the Courtenay-Comox riding are incumbent Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP), Gillian Anderson (BC Greens) and Brennan Day (BC Liberals).

In the last election (2017), 66.89 percent of the riding’s 43,671 registered voters cast a ballot. The results were:

NDP Ronna-Rae Leonard received 10,886 votes or 37.36%

BC Liberal Jim Benninger — 10,697 votes or 36.72%

Green Ernie Sellentin — 5,351 votes or 18.37%

Leah McCulloch — 2,201 votes or 7.55%

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Greens Gillian Anderson: stop fossil fuel subsidies, only public long-term care beds

Greens Gillian Anderson: stop fossil fuel subsidies, only public long-term care beds

BC Green candidate Gillian Anderson waving signs at the Comox Valley Farmers Market  |  George Le Masurier photo

Greens Gillian Anderson: stop fossil fuel subsidies, only public long-term care beds

By George Le Masurier

BC Green Party candidate Gillian Anderson used to be a life-long supporter of the New Democratic Party. She sought this riding’s NDP nomination in 2017 and, after losing to Ronna-Rae Leonard, campaigned for her.

But Anderson says there were no sour grapes about her move to the Greens.

“I left the NDP because John Horgan broke all of his environmental promises,” she told Decafnation in a telephone interview last week. “To stay and support the NDP would be endorsing those lies and destructive acts, which are increasing, not decreasing BC’s carbon emissions.”

She says the NDP lied to British Columbians when they promised to shut down the costly Site C dam project, when they reversed their position and became a “cheerleader” for liquid natural gas (LNG) and when they allowed private companies to log more than a million acres of the province’s old-growth forest.

“If you tell lies to get elected, how can people believe anything you say?” she said.

Anderson was no less blunt about the Oct. 24 election call.

“I have to smile when the NDP talks about the province needing a stable government,” she said. “Horgan had a perfectly solid agreement with the Greens. He didn’t need to unethically cancel that agreement and call an election.”

The 2017 election cost British Columbians about $40 million, but because of necessary safety protocols during the COVID pandemic, the 2020 election will cost even more.

“Plus, with more than 430,000 mail-in ballots, we won’t know the results of the election until maybe late November. That effectively freezes everything,” she said.

She said the Greens would be more responsible than the NDP or BC Liberals about how they spend the province’s money.

The Greens would end the “billions and billions wasted on Site C” and the millions of taxpayers money given as subsidies to the fossil fuel industries, she said.

“If we keep wasting it propping up the dying, sunset fossil fuel industry or on unneeded dams, then there’s not enough for the things that are really important to people,” she said. “We (the Greens) would take a holistic view and reallocate money away from ridiculous mega-projects and use it to create a sustainable community where everyone has a home and is safe.”

 

LONG-TERM CARE BEDS

Anderson said the Greens have a clear position on long-term care facilities and the growing demand for more capacity: They would stop public funding of beds in privately owned facilities, and divert that money to more effective strategies for improving the quality of long-term care.

The Greens are the only party to distance itself from private care homes, which have come under increased scrutiny for poor working conditions, insufficient care hours and low wages paid to health care staff.

“The fact the COVID virus is frequent in our long-term care homes comes in part because employees have to work multiple jobs, because wages in private homes are so low. That shows that we are not funding long-term care properly,” she said.

She said all of the new beds promised for the Comox Valley are already spoken for. “Capacity has been outstretched by demand,” she said.

The Green platform includes funding a national dementia strategy and using money saved from mega-projects to fund even more new beds.

Anderson said her party would put additional funding into home care support programs, including rent subsidies. She said it’s less expensive to support people to stay at home and it’s also better for seniors’ mental and emotional health.

And the Greens would “recognize long-term care workers as the professionals they are and pay them the wages they deserve.”

She scoffed at the NDPs sudden “grand pronouncements” about long-term care since the election was called.

“The NDP had 40 months to tackle this problem,” she said. “But where were they when the Comox Valley Seniors Village had a major lapse of care and standards that resulted in a high-risk rating from Island Health? Where were they when there were 22 contraventions of regulations since 2018, filthy conditions and falsified records, key positions left vacant and a staff strike over poor wages?”

 

NO SUPPORT FOR TAX CUT

Anderson said the Greens would not support the Liberals proposals to eliminate the PST tax for a year and reduce it after that. She said that would take $10.8 billion out of provincial revenue and would benefit wealthy people who make most of the big-ticket purchases.

“The last time Liberals cut taxes, they froze social service spending for years, from which we haven’t fully recovered and that partly laid the groundwork for today’s issues of homelessness, addiction and mental health suffering,” she said.

That nearly $11 billion could be spent on long-term care, child care and other services such as public transit and after school programs for at-risk kids.

She said the money could be used to help support stressed families. It costs more to remove a child from a stressed family than giving them direct financial support, and it also creates happier and more loving families.

 

YOUTH STRESSED BY CLIMATE CHANGE

The Green Party’s focus on clean energy, eliminating fossil fuels and other climate actions will help today’s youth who are “deeply troubled” by the long-term impacts of climate change, Anderson says.

“There’s a certain hopeless dream affecting many young people today,” she said. “It’s an overwhelming slow-moving trainwreck coming their way and they feel that adults aren’t doing anything to stop it.”

The NDP’s record is fueling that worry, she says, and young people feel betrayed by their government.

“They read that the permafrost is thawing and will release methane into the atmosphere and they’re wondering what kind of world they’ll have when they reach their 40s and 50s,” she said.

Electing more Greens to public office would help reduce that stress, she said, because they know we’re going to address their issues.

 

PLATFORM FOCUSED ON PEOPLE

Like other Green Party policies, its proposed restructuring of municipal financing is designed to create more livable communities for people. At present, local governments rely mostly on property tax, which limits the funds available for projects to create walkable neighbourhoods and better public transit.

Anderson says the Greens would bring in free child care for children under three and fund early childhood education for three- and four-year-olds. The party would also provide $350 a month for stay-at-home parents and start exploring the feasibility of a general four-day workweek.

 

 

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR COMMENTS

Decafnation encourages comments and a free exchange of ideas about our articles. Please limit your comments to fewer than 200 words. Longer comments will be removed. If you wish to submit an article for our commentary section, please send it to george@decafnation.net.

 

 

 

 

 

OCT. 24 PROVINCIAL ELECTION INFORMATION

The 2020 provincial election takes place on Oct. 24.

Advance voting begins at various locations on Thursday, Oct. 15 and continues every day through Wednesday, Oct. 21. A schedule and list of polling stations are posted on the Elections BC website.

Candidates in the Courtenay-Comox riding are incumbent Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP), Gillian Anderson (BC Greens) and Brennan Day (BC Liberals).

In the last election (2017), 66.89 percent of the riding’s 43,671 registered voters cast a ballot. The results were:

NDP Ronna-Rae Leonard received 10,886 votes or 37.36%

BC Liberal Jim Benninger — 10,697 votes or 36.72%

Green Ernie Sellentin — 5,351 votes or 18.37%

Leah McCulloch — 2,201 votes or 7.55%

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Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

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Tensions rise as Liaison Committee explores integration for CVRD, CVEDS

Tensions rise as Liaison Committee explores integration for CVRD, CVEDS

A display inside the Comox Valley Visitors Centre, which now houses the CVEDS offices  |  George Le Masurier photo

Tensions rise as Liaison Committee explores integration for CVRD, CVEDS

By George Le Masurier

Members of a committee investigating the potential for integration of Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS) operations with the regional district agreed on a short list of possible shared services at their inaugural meeting last week.

The committee instructed Comox Valley Regional District and CVEDS employees to consider collaboration on financial accounting, the audit process and related costs, office space, website and communications and human resources including staff evaluation and training. Visitor Centre operations were also seen as worthy of discussion by the committee and a presentation on the topic was requested for the next meeting.

But there wasn’t complete agreement or clarity on the larger issue of the scope of the committee’s authority and responsibilities. 

Deana Simpkin, president of the CVEDS board, asked whether she and board members Mike Opal, Bruce Turner and Paul Ives were full members of the committee or serving in an advisory capacity. Turner wondered if the board’s role, in general, had been changed.

In his opening remarks, Committee Chair Doug Hillian addressed that issue saying he hoped the group would work collaboratively and that their work would result in a closer relationship between CVEDS and the CVRD.

“This is uncharted territory, there have been significant contract changes,” Hillian said. “The rationale is that the relationship in the past has not been as close as it might be and this has led to conflict.”

Hillian assured CVEDS board members they were full participants in the Liaison Committee and called the committee’s work a “shared responsibility.”

And he added that “nothing was off the table” for discussion and invited “general comments” from everyone.

But tensions rose when Area B Director Arzeena Hamir commented on the committee’s responsibility “to collaborate in the ongoing review and clarification of contract deliverables,” according to Section 15 of the new CVEDS contract.

And she later asked CVEDS Executive Director John Watson a series of questions about a late three-month report, why minutes of the Economic Recovery Task Force haven’t been made public and why the society hadn’t held a required Annual General Meeting in 17 months.

That didn’t sit well with CVEDS board member Paul Ives who characterized comments about “deliverables” — actions required by the contract — as committee members “taking shots at each other.”

“I’m troubled by this line of questioning,” he said. “Why are we putting CVEDS staff on the hot seat? The CVRD questions are inappropriate.”

Hamir responded that it was “definitely within the purview” of the committee to ask questions of staff and appropriate to check on contract deliverables.

Chair Hillian said if the committee was going to work collaboratively and with transparency, then questions could be asked. CVRD General Manager of Planning Scott Smith also approved the questioning.

Hillian suggested CVEDS could answer Hamir’s specific questions at the next committee meeting when he hoped Watson could “attend the whole meeting.” Watson came late via teleconference to the first meeting and left early.

 

COMPLAINTS ABOUT FUNDING

CVEDS board member Bruce Turner, who attended via teleconferencing, said that reduced funding from the regional district had made it impossible for the board to meet its fiduciary responsibility. He and other board members said the new budget was hampering operations and that a reduced staff didn’t have time to fulfil all their reporting requirements.

Simpkin said there is “a backlog behind the scenes” because one staff member chose to leave and CVEDS had laid off three Visitor Centre staff. The society currently has eight staff members.

She said this lack of resources has put pressure on staff, many of whom are working from home.

For CVRD Director Hamir, the funding concerns raised the question of where regional district responsibility ends and where CVEDS responsibility begins.

“Both boards were aware of the terms of the agreement when they signed the contract, including the funding,” she said. “The contract spells out what needs to be done and when. The ‘how to do it’ is up to CVEDS. These are separate jurisdictions.”

CVRD Director Maureen Swift said the funding issue was the purpose of exploring greater integration with the CVRD.

“CVEDS can’t operate as it has in the past with the new contract,” she said.

Hillian closed the meeting hoping for better collaboration.

“It’s inevitable there would be a little tension considering the difficulty in getting to this point,” he said.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

When CVRD directors couldn’t agree on CVEDS future by the March 31 contract deadline, they chose to sign a two-year agreement with the understanding that the matter was unresolved. That agreement provided for the formation of a Liaison Committee comprising members from the CVRD and CVEDS boards as a means to assure better communication and that deliverables were meeting CVRD expectations.

The next meeting of the Liaison Committee is at 1.30 pm on Oct. 19.

Meanwhile, the CVRD board is holding a two-day workshop next week in an attempt to find common ground among directors about the future of economic development.

 

 

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The Week: Canadian snowbirds plan winter visit … no, not those Snowbirds!

The Week: Canadian snowbirds plan winter visit … no, not those Snowbirds!

An unusually large and beautiful Brugmansia suaveolens plant adorns Comox’s main intersection. Just don’t eat it.  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Canadian snowbirds plan winter visit … no, not those Snowbirds!

By George Le Masurier

The snowbirds are coming! No, not the Snowbirds that cause chaos in the skies over the Comox Valley every spring. These snowbirds are much quieter and they’re coming in droves to Vancouver Island.

Comox Valley hotels and RV parks report that retired Canadians from Alberta to Ontario who usually go south for a warmer climate in the winter have turned their sights this year on Vancouver Island.

And why not? Florida or Mexico might have Vancouver Island beat for heat, but it’s not as cold as Saskatchewan.

Comox Valley RV parks and hotels that offer in-suite kitchens expect to be full this winter because the COVID pandemic is keeping snowbirds at home.

At the Cape Lazo RV Park, Steffany Martin told Decafnation that their spaces are normally fully booked, but there’s a slight difference in clientele this year.

While the RV park is getting a handful of new reservations from eastern Canada for the winter months, they are getting even more requests from Vancouver Islanders.

“There’s a lot of full-time RVers — and new ones, first-timers — out there who live here in the summer and go south for the winter,” she told Decafnation. “They’re staying close to home this year and have been since the summer.”

The Old House Resort and Spa General Manager David Rooper told Decafnation that he may not be able to accommodate all the demand this winter.

“Our travel partners and vendors who constantly assess the travel market patterns are all forecasting strong western-bound vacationers this winter,” he told Decafnation. “It is still early for mid-winter bookings; however, we now have less inventory to offer given early bookings by traditional key business contracts. Our summer and fall bookings have seen increased visitation from Islanders, the BC Mainland, and some interprovincial.”

 

Perhaps no local business has suffered more during the pandemic than the Comox Valley Airport.

In 2019, the airport transported more than 400,000 passengers, which was its second-busiest year on record. But from April to July this year, that number fell by 95 percent, with an equivalent drop in revenue for the self-sustaining entity.

Both Air Canada Jazz and Pacific Coastal suspended services.

The airport has stayed open to support WestJet service but the gift shop and coffee shop have closed, rental car agencies have reduced their hours and the volunteer program has been suspended.

A relatively small number of snowbirds from eastern Canada may fly into YQQ, but it won’t be enough new business to make up the pandemic’s catastrophic blow.

 

Have you noticed the gigantic bouquet of unusual yellow flowers at the public square on the Comox main intersection? It’s a spectacular living plant, but be careful, it’s also toxic.

The plant is a Brugmansia suaveolens, often called an angel trumpet and it is a member of the more poisonous nightshade family. It is now extinct in the wild.

According to Wikipedia, every part of Brugmansia suaveolens is poisonous, with the seeds and leaves being especially dangerous. While the sap may only be a skin irritant, ingesting the plant could be fatal.

According to WebMD, when taken by mouth, Angel’s Trumpet is unsafe. And the BioNET-Eafrine website says the use of B. suaveolens as a landscape plant is banned in some municipalities in the USA.

So, enjoy the beauty of its hanging flowers, just don’t try to eat one.

 

Archeologists have discovered an Ancient Canadian village on Triquet Island in the Great Bear Rainforest that’s older than the pyramids.

The village has been buried beneath nearly 10 feet of soil and appears to be around 14,000 years ago, thousands of years older than the pyramids, or ancient Rome.

The unearthing has been done by researchers from the Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria, with local First Nations members. Its discovery may shed light on the migration patterns of early human species, including how the first humans arrived in North America.

 

 

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More Commentary | News
A shifting political climate means change for 32-year-old society, but board still divided

A shifting political climate means change for 32-year-old society, but board still divided

Responsibility for management of the Comox Valley Visitors Centre is one of many items under discussion by CVRD directors 

A shifting political climate means change for 32-year-old society, but board still divided

By George Le Masurier

Achanging political climate that brought new faces and fresh perspectives to the Comox Valley Regional District boardroom has thrust the three-decade-old Comox Valley Economic Development Society into an uncertain future.

And that uncertainty has been compounded by a regional district board that appears to have been ill-prepared to renegotiate the society’s existing contract by its March 31 expiration date.

Ten months after serving notice last June of its intent to enter contract negotiations, the board still struggled with an irreconcilable diversity of opinions about whether the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS) should be scrapped, tweaked or left in its present form.

And further hampered at the last minute by the COVID pandemic, regional directors ultimately punted its decision-making into the future.

In the interim, the CVRD signed a revised two-year contract with CVEDS provided less funding and made more demands for accountability.

“It was a poor process. Guilty as charged,” CVRD Director Doug Hillian

They also created a three-director Liaison Committee to review the society’s performance and explore new models for delivering economic development, destination marketing and Visitor Centre management.

The regional district originally created the Economic Development Society in 1988 as an arms-length organization with its own governing body to “… encourage the responsible expansion of the Comox Valley economic base.”

Operating under the guidance of its own hand-picked board of directors, the society ballooned into an agency for destination marketing and industry event productions.

But the 2018 municipal elections brought a new, more progressive political perspective to Courtenay’s municipal government and to some rural electoral areas and created change that eventually spread to the regional district.

The old status-quo regime was out. Younger and more progressive thinking was in.

Two years later, that new political climate has begun to impact the Comox Valley Economic Development Society.

Blank cheque, free rein and unquestioned allegiance are now out. Financial transparency, increased scrutiny and meaningful performance reviews are in.

 

A REGIONAL BOARD DIVIDED

In June of 2019, the Comox Valley Regional District announced its intention to renegotiate their existing five-year contract with CVEDS, which was due to expire on March 31, 2020. That gave elected officials more than nine months to gather the information they needed to assess the effectiveness of the 32-year-old society and chart a course for its future.

But by the expiry date, the board had not yet held sufficient meaningful discussions to produce a majority view about how or whether to revamp CVEDS.

Sensing the philosophical divide and without clear direction from directors, CVRD staff did not push the board for a timely contract decision. Nor had the board garnered helpful information from a consultants report that had been conducted on narrow, contract-specific terms of reference.

CVRD Director Doug Hillian said he was “disappointed” in the evaluation. For starters, the consultants delivered their report late, well past the Dec. 31, 2019 deadline. Hillian said it was one of the factors that delayed the contract negotiations.

“I had hoped the full report would have given more insight than it did,” Hillian told Decafnation. “It was unsatisfactory on every level.”

“Economic development has been at arms length, in its own silo, for so long, but we’re understanding now that it needs to be part of the whole,” CVRD Chair Jesse Ketler

CVRD board chair Jesse Ketler agreed.

“The performance review was purely contractual and was no help to directors in reaching agreement on how to approach the CVEDS contract,” Ketler told Decafnation. “In fact, in some ways, the report made the problem worse.”

Without a guiding document, the discord among directors became a stalemate.

“There was disagreement among directors on how to proceed with CVEDS and the conflict was tense,” Ketler said.

The CVRD board did have discussions during which numerous aspects of CVEDS were identified that people wanted to be examined or changed. But no director ever made a motion or proposal to either seek a new model or to sever the contract with CVEDS.

However, as the contract deadline approached, staff initiated the idea of holding a board-only workshop to get directors on the same page about the best way to handle economic development, tourism marketing and Visitor Centre management.

But before the workshop could take place, the COVID virus struck. The workshop was cancelled and dealing with the pandemic lockdown became the board’s priority.

Just this week, the CVRD board rescheduled the workshop for mid-October.

“It was a poor process. Guilty as charged,” CVRD Director Doug Hillian told Decafnation. “There was not enough in-depth discussion until it was too late due to failings of the performance evaluation and the onset of the pandemic.”

“It would have been helpful to have had a working committee and the workshop much earlier.”

So the hope of reaching a long-term plan for economic development and other services was made more difficult, according to Board Chair Ketler.

“But the board felt it needed to do something in the short-term to respond to COVID,” she said.

The answer was to form the Economic Recovery Task Force while continuing to negotiate a new contract with CVEDS.

The CVRD and CVEDS finally reached an agreement on July 27, four months past the expiry date. The two-year contract required CVEDS staff to provide administrative support for the Economic Recovery Task Force.

(Editor’s note: See the sidebar information on this page.)

Among other changes, the new agreement included the formation of a Liaison Committee of the CVRD board to continue discussions with the CVEDS board of directors about its future, and to review and clarify specific deliverables required in the contract.

 

A CONTENTIOUS COMMITTEE

During a contentious meeting on August 25, the CVRD board selected three directors to form the Liaison Committee: Chair Doug Hillian, Area B Director Arzeena Hamir and Comox Director Maureen Swift.

At first, Area C Director Edwin Grieve proposed Hillian, Comox Director Ken Grant and Area A Director Daniel Arbour to form the committee. But several directors opposed this composition, including Courtenay Director Will Cole-Hamilton.

“Over the next two years, there is the opportunity to see if this model is sustainable or not,” Hillian

“I will vote against this composition. There are different schools of thought around this table that were quite divisive during the course of our sessions,” he said at the August meeting. “This group of people — and I count myself among them — have reservations about this agreement and it would be good to have representatives on that (liaison) committee who clearly represent that viewpoint.”

Cole-Hamiltion added that the board will only come out of the process united “and with a clear conscience if the full spectrum of viewpoints is represented appropriately and respectfully.”

That led Grant and Arbour to withdraw their names from the nomination.

Grant said he was stepping out because he couldn’t “see this going in any way” to make the CVEDS service better.

Comox Director Maureen Swift and Arzeena Hamir were then nominated, with Grant and Swift cast the lone votes against adding Hamir to the committee.

 

HILLIAN, KETLER ARE OPTIMISTIC

Despite its rough start, Hillian told Decafnation last week that he’s optimistic about what the committee can achieve.

“This opens the door for discussions about whether CVEDS is in sync with community and board values, whether the relationships impacted over the years are salvageable — whether this is a structure that the board wants to continue investing in for the long-term,” he said.

Board Chair Ketler believes the values of CVEDS need to align with the changing values of our community and that of the CVRD board.

“Economic development has been at arms length, in its own silo, for so long, but we’re understanding now that it needs to be part of the whole,” she told Decafnation. “We see that now especially with COVID — things like housing, food, health and a safe environmental are all foundational to economic prosperity.”

Hillian hopes the committee’s work can answer questions “such as personnel, operation style and is it the right structure.”

“Over the next two years, there is the opportunity to see if this model is sustainable or not, while also working toward better integration and communication,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEW CVRD-CVEDS CONTRACT 

The Comox Valley Economic Development Society has historically benefited from five-year contracts, more than a million dollars in local taxpayer funding and sparse oversight. Their new contract with the regional district, valid for just two more full years, looks dramatically different.

Under the new terms of the agreement signed July 27, the CVRD has, among other things:

— reduced funding by about $160,000 for the remainder of 2020 and by $400,000 (nearly a third of its budget) in 2021 and 2022.

— ordered an annual schedule of remuneration and expenses for all employees earning more than $75,000 per year.

— specified that CVEDS follow Canadian accounting standards, maintain accurate records and permit CVRD inspection.

— required that the five elected officials assigned to the CVEDS board be given a full vote in all board matters.

— imposed mandatory performance reviews of all staff and the executive director.

— created a liaison team to investigate possible structural changes, integration of operations and generally review all aspects of the CVEDS’ function.

Since the contract renewal, destination marketing officer Lara Greasley left for a post at the Town of Comox. And CVEDS has laid off three employees of the Visitors Centre.

The CVEDS staff has also closed their offices above the Comox Valley Art Gallery on Duncan Avenue and moved them into the Visitors Centre near the Island Highway.

 

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