Gord Johns touts record federal investment in Courtenay-Alberni

Gord Johns touts record federal investment in Courtenay-Alberni

NDP incumbent MP Gord Johns is seeking a second term on Oct. 21

George Le Masurier

By George Le Masurier

Gord Johns, the incumbent MP for the Courtenay-Alberni riding, went to Ottawa in 2015 believing that members of minority parties could get things done in the Canadian Parliament. And, he says, he proved it was true.

During Johns first term as a New Democratic Party MP, he passed two motions with unanimous support. One that benefited 40,000 Canadian veterans and another that benefited the world’s oceans. He helped bring $100 million to his riding for community infrastructure projects.

And, he says, he has been a voice for indigenous people on the national stage. He secured funding for a coordinator of the new Coast Guard Auxiliary Indigenous Peoples program that will employ 10 First Nations people located in Tofino.

Johns helped seure $375,000 for a new art gallery on Hornby Island, where 40 percent of residents make their living from the arts. And he used the media to shine a light on the derelict and abandoned vessels in Deep Bay, something the former Conservative MP John Duncan promised for years but didn’t do.

He played a key role in securing funds to restore the Sproat Lake water bombers with a new technology that enables them to fight fires at night. And he helped Pacific Coast University access $200,000 to fund a return-to-work pilot program that could ultimately expand to benefit 1.2 million Canadians who have been hurt on the job.

“We have lots of little communities in this riding, and everybody counts,” John said. “The mayors and councils know who’s been helping and working collaboratively for their benefit.”

And if the NDP hold the balance of power in a new Liberal minority government on Oct. 21, as he expects, Johns says he will have the opportunity to do even more for the Courtenay-Alberni riding.

 

First term accomplishments

Johns, who was born, raised and educated (Camosun College) on the Island, has served on the Tofino district council and as executive director of the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. He has owned and operated several businesses, including EcoEverything that specialized in sustainable products.

He is the only federal election candidate in Courtenay-Alberni who has held public office, led a nonprofit, run small businesses or has lived on the Island for a lifetime.

And, he is the first MP in 25 years to have two private member’s motions/bills pass in a single parliamentary session.

In 2016, Johns first motion restored $372 million in lapsed Veterans Affairs funding to improve services and benefits for veterans seeking medical care. The MP says there are about 40,000 veterans’ medical claims that haven’t been addressed. But reallocating those unspent dollars will clear the backlog.

The next year, Johns introduced a motion for a national strategy on plastics pollution that was passed in 2018 after months of discussions. His motion ultimately led to the Liberals pledge of a national ban on single-use plastics by 2021.

If he’s returned to parliament, Johns promises to ensure that a Liberal majority or minority government will follow through on that promise.

Johns was one of 25 federal candidates endorsed by GreenPAC, a nonpartisan nonprofit supporting environmental leaders from all major Canadian parties.

 

Conservatives failed the riding

Johns sees the Courtenay-Alberni riding as a contest between the NDP and the Conservatives. That gives voters a clear choice, he says, between a candidate who is connected to the wealthiest people who dropped into the riding from West Vancouver and himself, a local candidate who has proven he’s on the side of the people and the communities.

“While I was helping 40,000 veterans, by contrast the Conservatives had cut 1,000 jobs and closed nine offices in an attack on the veterans community,” he told Decafnation. “While the local Conservative candidate calls my bills irrelevant, his party leader, Andrew Scheer, voted for it.”

Likewise, Johns says Coastal BC needs $500 million for salmon restoration and habitat enhancement, which is part of the NDP platform. But when the Conservatives had power they cut $100 million out of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and “gutted it.”

“Now our salmon are in crisis. The Fraser River return was the lowest in history,” he said. “We talk about the devastation that forest fires cause in the north, well, this rises to that level for coastal people. It’s our food, our culture, our way of life.”

The Conservatives 97 members in the last parliament rose to argue against the carbon tax 748 times in question period, he says, but never once in favor of helping Pacific salmon.

Johns rose 652 times during his first four years, compared to former MP James Lunney’s 660 times in 15 years.

“I rose to mention Nuu-chah-nulth 48 times, Lunney rose zero,” he said. “Rising to speak in the house gives a voice to the needs and concerns of people in the riding. Under the Conservatives they had no voice. They were not represented.”

The NDP, he says, are pledging a public dental plan and pharmacare, while the Conservatives promise deep tax cuts.

“It’s a clear choice,” he said.

 

Predicts no pipeline

Johns is also confident the TransMountain pipeline won’t be built.

“The opposition of coastal people is too strong. Local people always win,” he said. “Justin Trudeau has underestimated the will of coastal people.”

Johns wants to address housing issues next. In the 1970 and 1980s, there was 10 percent of housing available at non-market rates. Today it’s only four percent. In Europe, it’s 30 percent. The NDP has pledged to build 500,000 housing units to get Canada back to the 10 percent level.

And he says the NDP will fight the inequality that has grown under recent governments, and inject fairness. Their platform includes a one percent tax on every million dollars of wealth over $20 million, a plan that would raise $70 billion over 10 years.

“We’re asking them to pay a little bit more se we can do pharmacare, dental care and fund early childhood education,” he said. “We need to pull together to make our nation work for everyone.

This article has been updated.

 

 

 

 

 

ADVANCE VOTING DATES FOR COURTENAY-ALBERNI AND NORTH-ISLAND POWELL RIVER RIDINGS

Friday, October 11, 2019
Saturday, October 12, 2019
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Monday, October 14, 2019

Or before Oct. 15 at the Elections Canada office at 2435 Mansfield Drive
Courtenay BC V9N2M2

 

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How the Comox Valley formed an Economic Development Society and killed Comox Valley Tourism

How the Comox Valley formed an Economic Development Society and killed Comox Valley Tourism

Photo of this summer’s BC Seafood Festival, courtesy of the Economic Development Society

George Le Masurier

By George Le Masurier

Second in a series about the Comox Valley Economic Development Society

In 1988, the Comox Valley’s economic boom created by expansion of the Alberta oil fields and direct Westjet flights to Calgary had not yet occurred. The migration of Hong Kong residents to Vancouver that would indirectly drive Comox Valley population growth and inflated real estate values was still a decade away. And the now internationally-owned Mt. Washington Alpine Resort was less than 10 years old and not yet well-known beyond Vancouver Island.

So a group of elected officials at the time saw an urgent need to drive economic growth. To do that they created the Comox Valley Economic Development Society, known as CVEDS.

The society was originally overseen by a board of six directors (it recently expanded to 11 positions) and operates with a full-time staff of five. The board meets five times a year.

It was created by Comox Valley Regional District bylaw 345 (updated in 2016) to “encourage the responsible expansion of the Comox Valley economic base as well as enhance wealth and employment opportunities.”

That was 31 years ago. Today, the scope of CVEDS services has radically changed.

“Economic development is just one of the many services provided by local government. We work with various departments in the municipalities. We’re inter-related. It’s all part of one mandate, different components of the same thing.”  — CVEDS Executive Director John Watson

What began as an organization providing strictly economic development services has grown into something different.

In 2007, CVEDS swallowed up regional destination marketing responsibilities and forced the closure of Comox Valley Tourism, a 22-year-old member-based organization of hospitality professionals. In 2012, it also took over visitor services and management of regional Visitor’s Centre from the Comox Valley and Cumberland Chambers of Commerce.

And along with those responsibilities came new public funding.

CVEDS received the funding previously allocated for those organizations. And in 2012 when a two percent hotel room tax was implemented to boost tourism by putting “heads in beds” — known officially as the Municipal and Regional District Tax, or MRDT — those funds also went to the Economic Development Society.

Once established as the Comox Valley’s official tourism marketing entity, CVEDS became the repository for provincial and federal funding, and tourism-related grants from other sources.

 

Takeover controversy

Local governments established Comox Valley Tourism in 1986 to promote and facilitate tourism activities, and for years the organization functioned with only membership revenues and part-time staff. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that CVT started to receive public funding.

In 2002, the Comox Valley Committee of the then Comox-Strathcona Regional District board decided to streamline its grant approval process. They opted to merge funding applications from tourism promotion, economic development and Visitor Centres into a single package. They paid the Economic Development Society about $10,000 per year to collect and submit the various funding requests, and then distribute the approved funds to the appropriate groups.

But five years later, the CVEDS board had other ideas.

On Dec. 6, 2007, CVEDS announced that it would assume the mandate for destination marketing services as of Jan. 1, 2008, and would no longer distribute any CVRD funds to Comox Valley Tourism.

That decision instantly became controversial.

From 2001 to 2004, Dennis Strand, a former Comox Councillor, chaired the regional committee that oversaw funding for tourism, economic development, chambers of commerce and Denman and Hornby Island tourism.

Dennis Strand

In an op-ed newspaper article published on Dec. 21, 2007, Strand argued that it was never the intention of his committee to merge economic development with destination marketing for tourism.

He said CVEDS responsibility was to consolidate the budgets to save time and to later distribute the “funds fairly and equitably only, not to cut funds … and then suggest they merge.”

“Does (CVEDS) have justification to make these sweeping changes because the political appointees vote a certain way at the (CVEDS) board level? The answer is unequivocally no,” Strand wrote.

The CV Tourism board opposed the takeover, arguing in a letter to its members that “an independent destination marketing organization focused solely on destination marketing would best be able to provide this service to the Comox Valley.” Their protest received wide-spread support from the local tourism industry that still lingers today.

But the fight was already lost.

A vote later by the new Comox Valley Regional District — in 2008 the Comox-Strathcona Regional District was split into two entities — formalized an agreement with CVEDS for all three services.

Marty Douglas, the last chair of the Comox Valley Tourism board that oversaw its demise, said in 2007 that, “There has to be an organization that is solely committed to tourism and not fragmented into other areas.”

Today he says the CVT organization folded in 2007 because of “politics.”

“But there’s nothing more sinister about how it went down other than the municipalities not wanting to deal with it all — Visitors Centre, hotel tax, destination marketing funds — and giving it to this guy (John Watson) who wanted it,” Douglas told Decafnation.

And yet the change negatively affected local chambers of commerce.

 

Chambers funding reduced

Comox Valley and Cumberland chambers of commerce managed two Visitor Centres, one in Cumberland and one in Courtenay, with funding from the CVRD via CVEDS and the province.

The Comox Valley Chamber had operated the official Comox Valley visitor centre on Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay for over 50 years before CVEDS took it over. Diane Hawkins, president and CEO of the chamber said several people lost jobs due to the merger.

“The change impacted the community,” she told Decafnation. “Nearly two-thirds of visitors to the Visitor Centre were local.”

The new Visitors Centre was relocated on a back road close to the intersection of the Inland Island Highway and the connector that leads to 29th St. in Courtenay.

After Comox Valley Tourism folded, the loss of Visitor Centre funding essentially wiped out the Cumberland Chamber.

 

What CVEDS does today

The Economic Development Society receives local tax dollars via the Comox Valley Regional District, which specifies that roughly a third of the total be spent on each service: economic development, destination marketing and Visitors Centre operations.

CVEDS board and staff submit a work plan to the CVRD by Jan. 1 of every year that shows how it will deliver those three services along with a corresponding budget. Regional district directors can approve the plan or send it back to the society for changes. Something that has never been done.

According to CVEDS Board Chair Deana Simpkin, the CVEDS board is a policy-making board, not a working board.

“We set the strategic direction, local governments approve it, and the staff executes it,” she told Decafnation.

During a group interview with Executive Director John Watson and three board members, Decafnation asked them for some of the society’s top accomplishments in economic development.

Watson was reluctant to be specific.

“Economic development occurs in a similar fashion all across Canada,” he told Decafnation. “We learn where our focus needs to be, whether its farm, marine, seafood now or scientific research and the tech sector in the future. Once you have a sense of priorities, you learn what’s needed to succeed.”

But he did pause to mention the Farm Cycle Tour, a partnership with the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition.

“It shows off our agri and culinary product, which is a Comox Valley strength,” he said.

“Of course, it does not generate the same dollars as the billion-dollar Search and Rescue training center at CFB Comox, in which we played a role,” he said. “But they are both community successes.”

CVEDS Director Bruce Turner said the BC Seafood Festival was a major accomplishment that has helped the Baynes Sound shellfish industry.

Watson also mentioned a recent housing conference his office organized to address the need for right-priced employee housing. Watson said the discussion included the City of Whistler’s plan to build affordable public housing for its minimum wage hospitality industry workers, as well as how AirB&B and VRBO rentals affect affordability.

“Now the conversation has been changed a little and may inform the City of Courtenay’s Official Community Plan update,” he said. “And recent apartment developments around the Valley have responded.”

“We have little wins like that every day,” he said.

 

Job creation goes beyond CVEDS

The interview group did not point to any specific business it had attracted or to any number of jobs it had created. And you won’t find those numbers in any of the CVEDS annual reports.

Watson says that’s because CVEDS work is just a supporting role in a complex interplay among local government, private investors and entrepreneurs.

“Economic development is just one of the many services provided by local government,” he told Decafnation. “We work with various departments in the municipalities. We’re inter-related. It’s all part of one mandate, different components of the same thing.”

In its most recent (2018) annual report, previous CVEDS board President Justin Rigsby noted six highlights of the society’s work in 2018.

— Hosted more than 600 businesses in a range of workshops
— Piloted a Downtown Comox ambassador program that engaged 2,000 visitors
— Leveraged the local hotel tax to secure a $225,000 grant from Destination BC for marketing
— Worked with 24 regional businesses to expand their exporting capacity through the Export Navigator Program
— “Developed and hosted” the three-day BC Seafood Festival for more than 5,200 ticket buyers
— Secured a new memorandum of understanding with the Comox Valley Arts Council

The society is currently working on its Innovate 2030 strategic plan required by the regional district as part of the contract renewal process. The plan is due Oct. 31, 2019 and the CVEDS contract with the regional district expires on March 31, 2019.
Next: A look at CVEDS financial statements and measuring the value of taxpayers’ investment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CVRD AND CVEDS:
TERMS OF AGREEMENT

The agreement between CVEDS and the CVRD for economic development, destination marketing and Visitor Center services expires on March 31, 2020.

On June 1, the CVRD provided a letter to CVEDS that it would enter into negotiations for a potential five-year renewal of the contract after it had received the society’s new strategic plan on Oct. 31 and following an independent contract performance review due by Dec. 31.

However, the letter did not commit the CVRD to a new agreement, according to Scott Smith, the regional district’s general manager of planning and development services branch.

Some key sections of the CVEDS agreement”

“20. On or before January 1 of every year of the Agreement, the Society will submit to the CVRD board its Annual Work Plan … for the provision of Services for the following year and corresponding budget.”

“21.a) On or before April 1 of every year of the Agreement, the CVRD will either approve the Annual Work Plan and inform the Society or have otherwise returned the Annual Work Plan to the Society with reasons why the Annual Plan is not approved.”

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More CVEDS

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Key excerpts from Dennis Strand’s 2007 op-ed about CVEDS

Key excerpts from Dennis Strand’s 2007 op-ed about CVEDS

Dennis Strand, former Comox councillor and former chair of the Comox Valley Committee of the Comox-Strathcona Regional District, which was subsequently split into two jurisdictions

George Le Masurier

By George Le Masurier

Did Comox Valley Committe of the Comox-Strathcona Regional District in 2002 intend for the Economic Development Society to take over Comox Valley Tourism and keep its funding?

They did not, according to the former chair of the committee.

In an op-ed article published in the Dec. 21, 2007 edition of the Comox Valley Record, Dennis Strand says it was the regional district’s intention for CVEDS to only collate and distribute funds, not make decisions to curtail them.

Strand was a former Comox Councillor and former chair of the Comox Valley Committee of the Comox-Strathcona Regional District before it was split into two regional districts later in 2008. From 2001 to 2004, he chaired the committee that oversaw funding for tourism and economic development.

Strand wrote his article after the Comox Valley Economic Development Society cut off funding to Tourism Comox Valley and assumed all of its destination marketing functions.

Here is the key excerpt of his article:

“One function (of the Comox Valley Committee that he chaired) was approving the budgets of Tourism Comox Valley, Economic Development, Courtenay Chamber of Commerce, Cumberland Chamber of Commerce, and Denman and Hornby Island tourism.

“In my first year as chair of the committee, we dealt with each budget individually based on their selective requests. This amounted to a combined total of $250,000-plus of taxpayers’ money.

“In the second and third years, the suggestion was made and it was voted on to have Economic Development review all the above budgets and bring one single amount forward. It was determined that this would be more efficient and less time consuming.

“This is where it gets interesting.

“The EDS contracted for, if my memory is correct, $10,000 annually to bring in the budget package. I thought of it in the more practical sense as parents giving one child the right to pass out candy to the other four children.

“I always wondered if it would come back to haunt anyone and maybe now it has.

“Economic Development is contracted to the regional district to administer funds fairly and equitably only, not to cut funds to Tourism Comox Valley, for example, and then suggest the two merge, i.e. not giving candy to one sibling.

“The tourism board is made up of local business and professional folks and the economic development board is made up of some politicians, some political appointments and some members of the community at large.

“Does Economic Development have justification to make these sweeping changes because the political appointees vote a certain way at the board level? The answer is unequivocally no. Economic Development is only on contract to the regional district and has limited powers.

“Political appointments are a very valuable commodity, but they are not voted in by taxpayers. My opinion, and the base of my concern, is that this dilemma can only be resolved by the new regional board. It is the only entity with the authority to make the final budget decisions.

“In my last year as chair, the idea of combining these two was brought forward but there was no political will for them to merge. Economic Development and Tourism CV are like apples and oranges; they supply specific services, but have different philosophies.

“If the 300+ Tourism CV members were surveyed today, as they were two or three years ago, to see whether they are interested in joining with Economic Development, I expect the answer would be a resounding no again because they have separate roles and want separate budgets.

“With the incredible growth in the Valley, the work of the EDS is essential. As well, with the 2010 Olympics approaching, Tourism Comox Valley is more important than ever.”

Note: Decafnation attempted to contact Dennis Strand, but did not receive a reply

 

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Local pleas at UBCM this week: fire halls, groundwater, herring and liquor taxes

Local pleas at UBCM this week: fire halls, groundwater, herring and liquor taxes

George Le Masurier photo

George Le Masurier

By George Le Masurier

Many of the Comox Valley’s 29 municipal elected officials will attend the annual Union of BC Municpality’s 2019 convention in Vancouver this week, and some will present resolutions they hope delegates will endorse and lead to provincial change.

UBCM resolutions usually originate from specific local issues, but address issues common to other municipalities. They almost always have the support of regional associations, such as the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities.

Here are some of the key resolutions from our region.

Property transfer tax redistribution for affordable housing

This resolution from the Comox Valley Regional District would petition the BC government to share some of the $2 billion in annual property taxes with local government to address housing for low-income citizens. The UBCM has made similar requests of the provincial government in the past.

Share of liquor tax for policing

Courtenay bears the bulk of policing costs for the Comox Valley and it’s one of the city’s biggest expenses. So councillors want a portion of the BC Liquor tax dedicated to municipalities to help pay for policing. The city argues that the availability of alcohol can have significant impacts on local policing costs.

Single use disposable products

Powell River wants the BC government to impose an environmental fee on all single-use plastic products and packaged goods entering the BC marketplace. The idea is to incentivize retailers, manufacturers and the industry to reduce reliance on single-use products and to help subsidize regional solid waste management programs. UBCM has endorsed similar actions in the past, but this is the first resolution that includes an environmental fee.

Groundwater extraction

This resolution from the Strathcona Regional District would require the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development to stop issuing licenses for the extraction of groundwater for commercial water bottling or bulk water exports from aquifers. The SRD argues that water is an essential resource and a public trust for present and future generations and must not be compromised by commercial operations. UBCM has endorsed related resolutions in the past.

Funding fire halls and public safety buildings

The Village of Cumberland requests the BC government to amend the Local Government Act to allow development cost charges to be used for expansion of fire protection infrastructure. Community growth has a direct impact on municipal expenses to provide fire and public safety, including buildings. There is another similar resolution to modernize municipal development financing that asks the province to conduct a comprehensive review of funding mechanisms for growth-related infrastructure services.

Public Library funding

Strathcona Regional District says the province’s libraries exist on levies paid by local governments and provincial library funding has been stagnant for 30 years. The SRD wants the province to add $20 million to the 2020 budget for libraries across the province, and ensure a sustainable level of funding in the future. The city of Sidney and others have requested similar actions this year.

Moratorium on Hornby and Denman Fishery

The CVRD wants the Department of Fisheries to place a moratorium on the annual herring fishery located around Hornby and Denman islands, or at least a sizable reduction in the allowable catch in 2020. Four of the five herring fishery locations on the BC coast have already been closed. The K’omoks First Nation is concerned about current harvest levels along with more than 70,000 people who have signed a petition against keeping the last herring fishery location open.

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS THE UBCM?

The UBCM was formed to provide a common voice for local government and this role is as important today as it was 100 years ago. The UBCM reflects the truth in the old adages “strength in numbers” and “united we stand – divided we fall”.

Convention continues to be the main forum for UBCM policy-making. It provides an opportunity for local governments of all sizes and from all areas of the province to come together, share their experiences and take a united position.

Positions developed by members are carried to other orders of government and other organizations involved in local affairs. Policy implementation activities have expanded from annual presentations to Cabinet to UBCM involvement in intergovernmental committees, regular meetings with Ministers and contact on a daily basis with senior government.

In today’s ever-changing world, where shifts in senior government policies, or in economic, social or political conditions, can have an immediate effect on local government, UBCM stands as a “listening post”. UBCM initiates, monitors, interprets and reacts where such changes could have an effect on local governments and the communities they serve.

The result is improved local government and BC’s communities are the real winners. Through the UBCM, local government has achieved much, and the potential is always there to achieve even more.

— UBCM website

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

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

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

George Le Masurier

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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