The Week: Local virus super-spreader event avoided! Comox doc wants Island bubble

The Week: Local virus super-spreader event avoided! Comox doc wants Island bubble

Coronavirus or holiday lights? Upcoming holidays will test our resolve  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Local virus super-spreader event avoided! Comox doc wants Island bubble

By George Le Masurier

Just when you thought the COVID virus pandemic couldn’t consume more of your life, this week happened. Infections surged around the world. Metro Vancouver became a Canadian hotspot along with Quebec and Ontario.

Right here at home, a Comox doctor and a Victoria newspaper called for a bubble around Vancouver Island to maintain our relatively virus-safe environment.

But, did you know that the Comox Valley narrowly avoided becoming the epicentre of a COVID virus super-spreader event? Probably not, and for that you can thank the quick action of North Island Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns and her team.

The Comox Valley Economic Development Society recently put up a public website inviting people to purchase tickets to a three-day Seafood Festival Nov. 20-22 at Crown Isle Resort in Courtenay.

And the website touted its line-up of featured chefs, many of whom would be coming from the Lower Mainland.

The website promotion was oblivious to BC Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recently imposed special restrictions on the Lower Mainland due to a surge in new infections centered in the Metro Vancouver area. Her new advisory strongly suggested against all non-essential travel in or out of the region.

Chefs coming from a high infection area to prepare food for guests — who might also be coming from off-island — should have raised red flags for somebody.

When Decafnation contacted the North Island public health office on Monday, Nov. 9, we discovered that the festival organizers had not reached out to ensure they were complying with the current public health orders.

But Dr. Enns put her team to work. Within hours we received a response from Charlene MacKinnon, Senior Environmental Health Officer.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention, our team is not aware of the event. We are currently in the process of looking into the matter,” MacKinnon wrote to Decafnation. “As Dr. Enns mentioned we will make sure that the event meets the current orders and health recommendations.”

By late Tuesday, the Economic Development Society had changed their website. It now promises to feature only Vancouver Island chefs, although it makes no mention of refusing attendance to off-Island people.

However, the website continues to promote the appearance of Patrick McMurray, a world champion oyster shucker from Toronto, Ontario, where new COVID cases hit 1,575 on Nov. 12, a single-day record high for the third day in a row.

Neither Deana Simpkin, chair of the society’s board of directors, or Executive Director John Watson, responded to multiple requests for comments on the festival’s planning. It usually takes place in mid-summer.

Who knows what might have happened if public health officials hadn’t stepped in. It might have been fine, or it could have been a disaster. But it shows how we all need to be vigilant in our lives and businesses because one careless moment, one irresponsible act could affect thousands of other people.



Decafnation also reached out to several Courtenay City Councillors to gauge their perspective on the potential virus-spreading event in their city.

Melanie McCollum, who sits on the Economic Development Society board of directors, said she only found out about the event from a hotel manager two weeks ago.

“I fail to see the logic of proceeding with this event, but I can assure you that input from the CVEDS board has not been part of the process of moving forward,” she told Decafnation. “I don’t know who this event is being marketed to, or how many people they are hoping will attend. I don’t understand the rationale for going ahead.”

Doug Hillian pointed out that neither the city or the regional district has been asked to support or endorse the festival.

“While I would see such an event as questionable in current circumstances and would not attend myself, it appears to have been framed as a series of dining experiences with restaurant-specific safety plans in place,” he said. “You may be aware that the Fall Fair operated this past summer with reduced numbers as per health guidelines and with regional district support.”

Wendy Morin has previously voiced disagreement about holding the Seafood Festival during the pandemic.

“I think this is the wrong time to be having the Seafood Festival, even with adaptations for smaller numbers. I have concerns generally about promoting visitors to come here this winter,” she said. “Apparently there is a campaign going on inviting snowbirds. Other communities that rely on tourism such as Ucluelet and Tofino are telling visitors to cancel accommodation reservations. It is the responsible thing to do, especially with our soaring Covid cases recently.”

Mayor Bob Wells said he wasn’t aware of the event when first contacted by Decafnation, but has not offered a comment.



Should Vancouver Island put up a COVID-wall, figuratively speaking? A Comox doctor thinks so.

Dr. Alex Nataros, with the Port Augusta Family Practice, has suggested creating a bubble around Vancouver Island to protect our low COVID infection rate. In a letter to Dr. Charmaine Enns, Nataros writes:

“In light of markedly increased rates of COVID-19 … in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, which stand in stark contrast with the low rates we have preserved in the Island Health region, as well as clear violations of Public Health guidelines including well documented Oct. 31, 2020 public celebrations in downtown Vancouver, I would respectfully ask that, as our North Island Medical Health Officer, you consider advocating for an Island Health regional COVID-19 ‘bubble.’

“As PHO Dr. Bonnie Henry announced … you now have the scope and authority for more region-specific guidelines. I hope that you and our Public Health officers continue your excellent work to date, and move forward with the leadership our region needs.”

Thinking along those same lines, the Victoria Times-Colonist newspaper said this in a recent editorial:

“Local hospitality associations like Tourism Vancouver Island are encouraging Canadians from across the country to visit Vancouver Island this winter. The British Columbia Hotel Association likewise is inviting snowbirds to vacation here instead of heading south …

“Beyond our climate, the unspoken part of the tourist industry’s campaign is apparent: Come here to escape the epidemic. Surely this is not a message we should be comfortable with … As winter approaches, with the threat of a flu season pending, that job is only half done … Permitting an influx of holiday-makers from across Canada at this time, with no controls or protocols that would limit spread of the virus, cannot be in our best interests.”

We concur with both of those sentiments. And keep your oyster chefs in Vancouver.



Finally, we’ll end with a COVID story you won’t believe. And we are not making this up.

New Westminster police have charged Mak Parhar, a 47-year-old BC resident, under the Quarantine Act for repeated violations; specifically, three counts of failing to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada.

Parhar, a well-known BC anti-mask proponent, was arrested when he returned from South Carolina, where he had attended a flat earth conference.

This article’s reference to Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells was updated Friday morning.


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More Commentary | News

The Week: No new snow, no new bridges and no new beds

Every homeowner knows that when you delay repairs to your house, they just get worse and more expensive to fix with the longer you wait. Courtenay City Council learned that lesson this week about the Fifth Street Bridge.

The Week: Comox has a hissy over CV Economic Development Society changes

The Week: Comox has a hissy over CV Economic Development Society changes

It’s stormy weather this week down at the Comox Public Marina  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Comox has a hissy over CV Economic Development Society changes

By George Le Masurier

Well, folks, another week has passed so that must mean another new controversy has erupted over the Comox Valley Economic Development Society. And this one has pulled back the cloak — just a tiny bit — on the behind the scenes politicking at the regional district and the lockstep march of the Comox Town Council.

In the midst of what appeared to be a collaborative attempt to reach a shared vision for the future of regional economic development, Comox Town Councillors have unanimously decided to derail that process by triggering a section of the Local Government Act. That section is often used as the first step in withdrawing from a service.

It’s no secret that the CV Economic Development Society, known as CVEDS, has become a focal point that epitomizes the Comox Valley’s geopolitical polarization. And it’s a red hot point right now.

The region’s remaining old guard, epitomized by Comox Council and Electoral Area C Director Edwin Grieve, love the CVEDS status quo. The new blood of elected officials in Cumberland, Courtenay and Areas A and B do not.

So now, with changes afoot, no one is complaining more about proposed reforms to the regional district’s relationship with CVEDS than Comox councillors. There’s a reason for that.

The old guard loves CVEDS because it has historically done their bidding. A case in point: no Comox Valley jurisdiction has benefited more from CVEDS activity than the Town of Comox.

This imbalance has rankled everyone else. And it’s one reason why Cumberland and Hornby and Denman islands have withdrawn from regional economic development services.

But that’s not the only factor driving the new blood’s desire to transform CVEDS. These elected officials want economic support services that accommodate the community’s shift toward social and environmental values.

The new blood sees the old CVEDS as promoters of environmental projects like the Raven Coal Mine and bullish land developers such as 3L Developments. They see CVEDS undermining a proposal by an active Exhibition Grounds user in order to promote a convention centre on ALR land. They see a lack of accountability, a lack of interest in the social issues that affect economic vitality and a lack of attention to non-profit organizations that contribute to economic readiness.

They also see the regional district’s reprehensibly long history of a lack of meaningful oversight of an organization funded with public money.

It’s not surprising that the Town of Comox would object to any reforms of the regional economic development service that might divert staff attention and funding to other beneficiaries. Like the agriculture community. Or the arts and cultural community. Or some other physical location of the valley.

But the extent of Comox Council’s territorial protectionism is confusing and conflicted.

This was evident at a recent CVRD workshop solely focused on economic services. Comox Councillor Ken Grant objected to any funding or initiative to promote mountain biking or improve the sport’s infrastructure because it might benefit Cumberland, where the most trails and amenities exist, but who no longer participates in the service.

Other directors were quick to point out that being known Islandwide as a mountain biking mecca brings economic benefit to all kinds of businesses across the entire Comox Valley.

In fact, it was a Comox business — the former Simon’s Cycles, now known as the Comox Bike Company — that practically invented mountain biking in the Comox Valley. There are still two bike stores in Comox and residents/taxpayers/voters often go to the Cumberland Community Forest to ride.

And yet, Comox wants support for its own marina and Comox Valley Airport projects.

Here’s the problem. Everything was working fine for Comox until the new blood turned its attention to the CV Economic Development Society. Now, no longer in the majority, the town sees its influence and benefits drifting toward other areas of the community. And they don’t like it.

So, they’ve started a statutory service review of the regional district’s economic development service under the Local Government Act. But the regional district had already scheduled a complete review and reimagining of the service for next year.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. Except, the formalized service review includes a provision for Comox to withdraw from the service if it doesn’t like the outcome, which it probably won’t. This is the same process requested by Cumberland when it decided to withdraw.

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott implied in a statement to Decafnation this week that the town doesn’t intend to withdraw. But what other benefit exists for going the formal route over the already planned informal route?

Well, the public can’t discern the town’s motive or long-term goals of this action because Mayor Arnott has locked up his pack of councillors from speaking about it without his permission.

When Decafnation asked councillors for more explanation and for their personal opinion on what they hoped this action would achieve, they refused to talk.

Councillor Alex Bissinger said the council decided that only the mayor could speak on the topic to avoid “mixed messages.” In other words, any slight deviation from the company line might cause trouble.

Heaven forbid that a Comox council member might have an opinion that differs from the rest of the council or whose feelings about an issue might present a perspective that hasn’t been pre-vetted. Imagine the chaos that would ensue!

By comparison, Courtenay council members regularly disagree with each other and express their views openly for public consumption. By Comox council standards, it’s a wonder the city gets anything accomplished. But they do and their constituents usually know what they’re doing and why.

So the CV Economic Development Society drama will now play out in a formalized setting without all the voices at the table. Only one representative from Comox and Courtenay will be able to participate.

Even the recently formed Economic Development Select Committee will meet this week to fold up its tents. It had been charged to investigate efficiencies and cost savings from integrating CVEDS activities and office space with the regional district.

But that committee’s effort was probably going nowhere anyway. CV Economic Development Society Executive Director John Watson has arranged for new office space in … wait for it …

Comox Town Hall.









Go HERE to read all of our stories on the Comox Valley Economic Development Society




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More Commentary | CVEDS
Seniors advocates call for longer and more frequent visits to care homes

Seniors advocates call for longer and more frequent visits to care homes

Decafnation file photo

Seniors advocates call for longer and more frequent visits to care homes

By George Le Masurier

The COVID virus has negatively impacted many lives, from those out of work to parents struggling to find child care when schools were closed to business owners who shuttered their doors. But none more than our seniors who have been locked away in assisted living and long-term care facilities.

And while the pandemic’s mortality rate has been higher among seniors than other age groups, life and death have not been their only struggle.

Over the last nine months, 151 seniors in British Columbia died from the COVID virus, but 4,500 seniors also died from other causes. And almost all of them died alone.

MP Rachel Blaney

In an online meeting, last week about seniors advocacy arranged and hosted by North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, more than 80 participants heard BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie call to lift the restrictions that have prevented family member visitations.

“You have to ask, what is the purpose here?” Mackenzie said.

In a report also released last week, Mackenzie said that a survey of 13,000 care facility residents about their experiences during the pandemic showed seniors would have preferred to see their families and taken the risk of contracting the virus.

Before the pandemic, most seniors were visited by family members for an hour or more several times per week and some daily. These family visitors performed essential care for residents, such as grooming, assistance with feeding and staying mobile.

But that all came to a halt as the virus spread quickly through long-term care and assisted living facilities in the early stages of the pandemic. During the first four months, family members could not visit their loved ones at all.

Under current visitation policies, the majority of family visits are only once a week or less, and more than half are for less than 30 minutes. And recreation activities at the homes had also ground to a halt and even now remain limited.

“When we initiated visit restrictions back in March, most of us, myself included, supported the measure,” Mackenzie said about her survey and report. “However, I did not foresee that nine months later we would be where we are today, with prolonged separations for some family members and only brief impersonal visits for many more.”

Mackenzie said the restrictions have created a nine-month suspension of individual liberties.

But she and Laura Tamblyn Watts, the CEO of Canage, a national seniors advocacy organization, also noted that the measures taken by BC Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in early March improved the province’s outcomes, which they agreed were the best in Canada. Ontario and Quebec had 10-times the infection and death rate as BC.



Noting that BC had the best response to COVID, MP Blaney said that shows that Canada needs a national strategy for seniors.

Blaney worked on a 2018 committee report as the NDP Critic for Seniors Issues at the time that made 29 recommendations, including reviewing Guaranteed Income Supplement rates and creating a National Seniors Strategy, most of which have not been acted upon by the federal government.

“Recognizing that the provinces and territories are responsible for delivering many aspects of support and care for seniors, a properly resourced National Seniors Strategy would provide national standards, and a platform for sharing best-practices,” she told Decafnation after the online meeting. “We know we have an ageing population. It’s crazy that we don’t have a national plan and vision for providing our seniors with the dignity and care we all deserve.”

Seniors Advocate Mackenzie said the federal government has to champion a Canada-wide coordinated approach. She said other countries with a system similar to ours, such as Australia, have a strong national regulator.

Mackenzie suggested that governments could attach strings to seniors program funding as an incentive for the owners of private care homes to “do the right things”

“It’s the way we fund them (that’s the problem),” she said. “We should say, spend these dollars on X and spend these dollars on Y, instead of handing them an envelope of money.”

For example, Mackenzie said, some funding should be specified to pay the care staff more, not just to hire more staff.

A wide variety of other topics were covered during the two-hour meeting, most of which have been discussed previously.

“We have a growing population of seniors across Canada, but especially in our riding,” Blaney told Decafnation. “In 2017, I did a series of town halls around our riding to hear from seniors and many of the issues they raised are the same ones that are getting national attention now because of the pandemic.

“As we heard (during the online meeting), some great work is being done to show a path forward. Now we need to follow it.”








Before the pandemic, 55% of families were visiting long-term care and assisted living residents for an hour or more several times per week and even daily;

Prior to COVID-19, the majority of visitors were performing essential care for residents, such as personal care, grooming, assistance with feeding and mobilization;

Most family members were not aware of the possibility of essential visits during the first four months of visit restrictions, and almost half of the people who did apply for an essential visit were refused;

Under the current visitation policy, the majority of visits are only once a week or less, and half the visits in long-term care are 30 minutes or less;

30% of current visits are outside only;

Currently, 65% of visits are observed by staff for some or all of the time;

Only 21% of visits are in the privacy of the resident’s room (75% of long-term care residents and almost 100% of assisted living residents live in private rooms);

70% of visitors are not allowed to touch their loved one;

Most visitors are washing their hands, wearing a mask, having their temperature checked, and answering health questions prior to each visit; and

Most family members and residents support some visit restrictions during the pandemic, although they believe visits should be more frequent and that at least one more visitor for each resident should be permitted.

— BC Seniors Advocate office


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More Health Care | News

Abbeyfield closure highlights seniors housing issues

They come here to retire. They come from across Canada, the United States and other countries. They come for the Comox Valley’s moderate climate and spectacular landscape. They come, they stay and they age. And so the Comox Valley's population has aged at a rate...

After hospital transfer, Valley must confront moral issues

The Comox Valley’s sparkling new North Island Hospital opens this weekend, resplendent with the latest medical technology and designed to inspire happiness and hope. It’s a joyous occasion. But with every yang, there’s also a yin. The bright new government-run secular...

Comox, Area C may derail regional economic development planning

Comox, Area C may derail regional economic development planning

The Comox public marina  |  George Le Masurier photo

Comox, Area C may derail regional economic development planning

By George Le Masurier

Another controversy has erupted over the Comox Valley Economic Development Society, highlighting once again how the community’s political shift has caused turmoil behind the scenes.

In a move that surprised many Comox Valley Regional District directors and staff, the Comox Town Council along with Area C Director Edwin Grieve have disrupted a plan to start discussing the best method of providing a regional economic development service.

Two weeks ago, CVRD directors held a special workshop as a first step toward finding consensus among the board about whether the existing Comox Valley Economic Development Society is still the best method for providing economic development services or if the 32-year-old model needed some reforms.

Although there are hard-line differences of opinion between Comox and Area C and the rest of the regional district board, directors appeared to leave the workshop thinking they had made progress on a path forward.

But just 10 days after the workshop, the seven-member Comox Town Council voted unanimously to initiate a formal service review of the regional economic development function. It’s unclear who Director Grieve consulted, but he also sent a similar letter to the CVRD.

The Local Government Act allows participants in a municipal service to initiate a review of the service or to withdraw from it. The act also specifies the process for both and for dispute resolution.

Part 10, Division 6 of the act specifies that “a preliminary meeting must be held within 120 days” of the written notice to establish the process for the review. It states further that negotiations must begin within 60 days of the preliminary meeting.

The long end of those timelines would delay discussions about how to deliver economic development services for six months.

At the workshop, directors were urged by the consultant facilitator to begin discussions immediately about whether they wanted to continue with the Comox Valley Economic Development Society as it’s currently structured, reform it or replace it with a new service delivery model.

The facilitator pressed directors to have a preferred option for going forward by next December, a year before the current CVEDS two-year contract expires on Dec. 31, 2022.

It’s unknown at this time how this formal service review might affect the board’s plans unofficially made at the workshop. Directors could carry on concurrently with the formal review or wait for the outcome at its conclusion.

One major factor that differentiates a formal service review from the board’s own informal considerations is who gets to participate. The whole board attended the workshop and all directors had input into their agreed-upon strategies.

But The Local Government Act specifies that during a service review only one representative from each participant engages in the negotiations. That means just one director from Courtenay, Comox and Areas A, B and C. It’s not clear who would represent the CVRD, if anyone, as Board Chair Jesse Ketler is a Cumberland Councillor and the Village is not a participant in the service.



The Village of Cumberland and Hornby and Denman islands followed the service review process when they individually withdrew from the economic development function.

But in a statement to Decafnation, Comox Mayor Russ Arnott denied the town was preparing to withdraw.

“Our current staff have full-time jobs and commitments, so the idea that they could take on the economic development portfolio is just not realistic,” he said.

However, neither Area C Director Grieve or any of the Comox councillors contacted by Decafnation have responded to questions about why they took this formal action rather than working through the process discussed at the recent workshop.

But Comox Mayor Arnott said his council started the review because he believes there has been a breakdown in governance and direction of the economic development service.

“For the past few years select members of the service have been constantly criticising the independent work of CVEDS,” he told Decafnation Tuesday. “This has led to dysfunction and inefficiency during the most important economic development challenge in a generation as well as a major loss in experience with staff and board members resigning.

“Our goal is to make this service once again work for Comox and the communities in the valley.”

Three CVEDS board members have recently resigned. Three staff members were laid off and one, Lara Greasly, quit to take a job with the Town of Comox.

In its press release, the Town of Comox noted five achievements it attributed to CVEDS work that “have added countless jobs, enjoyment, and prosperity to the entire valley.”

They were: expansion of the Comox Valley Airport, the evolution of the BC Seafood Festival, enhancements of Marina Park in Comox, the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue training centre at CFB Comox and the redevelopment of Comox Mall.

In his letter to the regional district, Area C Director Grieve also noted the society’s three decades of “bringing benefit to the region.”

“However, over the past two years, this independence has been severely eroded leading to resignations from members of the society’s staff and executive alike,” he wrote. “This in effect puts it at odds to the “Society Act” and doing so turns it into yet another arm of local government exposing it to vagaries the local politics.”



Disagreement at the regional district board has historically often split along the border between Comox and Courtenay. This has become a sharper line since the 2018 municipal elections brought new and more progressive directors to the CVRD board table, and including changes in Areas A and B.

CVRD Director Ken Grant, a Comox councillor, has been vocal at recent board meetings about his disapproval of the changes made to the CVEDS contract and the active role directors have taken toward integration of shared services and setting the society’s work plans.

Sources close to the board say Grant has talked behind the scenes about withdrawing from the economic development function and putting that money into the town’s marina development plans. And he has publicly expressed hostile views about economic development funds going into projects promoted by other directors, such as agriculture, arts and culture and mountain biking infrastructure.

Other directors have starkly different views of economic development that include social and environmental values that they say better represent the shift in community priorities. These directors have pressed CVEDS to include projects in their work plan that address, for example, child care and support for non-profit organizations.

The CVRD board has always had contractual final approval over CVEDS work plans, although past boards have provided almost no oversight or input.

That this board has been more aggressive in setting CVEDS work plans and demanding accountability, and cut its $1.2 million budget by a third, has rankled those who were happy with the status quo.



The CVRD board will likely get a report from its staff about the service review process at either the Nov. 17th Committee of the Whole meeting or at the full board meeting on Nov. 24.

This article has been updated to include portions of Area C Director Edwin Grieve’s letter to the regional district asking for a service review of the economic development function.



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The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral

The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral

An orange day-lily (Latin name: hemerocallis fulva)  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral

By George Le Masurier

Decafnation readers sent last week’s articles viral about the resignation of the Comox Valley Hospital’s remaining two pathologists and the troubling story of Shirley Brown, whose cancer diagnosis was delayed almost two months because of the shortage of pathologists at the Campbell River Hospital.

And it would have been even longer except that Shirley’s husband is Dr. Paul Brown, a 40-year physician who knew the system and who to call.

As Shirley’s story showed, it’s not just that long periods of uncertainty cause unnecessary anxiety and stress, although that’s bad enough, but delays can cause significant unfavourable modification in how doctors are able to treat their patients.

There is no doubt that a shortage of healthcare services available on the North Island can and will have tragic consequences.

People all over Vancouver Island are reading these stories because they realize that what happened to Shirley Brown could also happen to them. And that sad scenario becomes more likely as Island Health continues to take health care services from our hospitals and give them to private doctor corporations in Victoria.

Now that the NDP appears to have won a majority government, will our two North Island MLAs have the decency (backbone?) to intervene on behalf of their constituents?

This week’s top story reports on a recent two-day workshop where regional district directors initiated discussions about the future of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society. Although directors haven’t yet taken an official vote to start exploring other — read: better — options, this movement is long overdue.

Part of the problem is evident in the list of economic strategies that regional directors want CVEDS to consider for their 2021 work plan. The list includes topics such as child care, arts and culture, the green retrofit industry, communal workspaces and more.

For too long, social and environmental values have been foreign to the old CVEDS mindset.

The shift in emphasis has upset many of the CVEDS own board of directors and especially because the regional directors have taken such an active role in setting CVEDS priorities. Three CVEDS directors have resigned recently — Bruce Turner, Justin Rigsby and Brian Yip.

But the CVRD has always had the contractual authority to set CVEDS’ priorities and direct its work plan. Previous regional directors just never chose to exercise it.

Perhaps if the CVRD had provided more meaningful oversight a long time ago, and if the CVEDS board had been more in tune with shifting community values, and if the staff had not soured some relationships within various business sectors, then maybe the political rancour over reforming the organization might not have needed to reach this point.

Not had enough politics? How about throwing your hat in the ring for the Comox Valley school board? There’s a position open in Electoral Area C after Ian Hargreaves recently resigned in a huff.

You have until Nov. 6 to pick up a nomination package at the school board offices in Courtenay.

Did British Columbia voters really elect an NDP majority government? The election night tally seems to indicate so, and everyone assumes the mail-in ballots will follow that trend.

But there are 11,500 uncounted mail-ballots in the Courtenay-Comox riding and the NDP leads the BC Liberals by about 3,000. That feels like an insurmountable margin. But it’s not yet guaranteed.

Decafnation asked a few people how they saw the preliminary results. We pointed out that the NDP appears to have gained an additional 10 percent of the total vote in the Courtenay-Comox riding, while the BC Liberals lost about six percent and the Greens gained about three percent.

BC Liberal Party candidate Brennan Day hinted that he would have a lot to say about the general tone of this campaign from Vancouver. But he was “going to reserve comment until the votes are counted.”

Dave Mills, the manager of organizing programs at the Dogwood Initiative, believes that COVID dominated voters’ perspectives. “It governed … the perception of what issues generally are most important – how the pandemic is managed.”

Mills thinks that the voters who had the capacity and felt confident enough to turn out at the polls on Election Day would be the same people “who appreciate Horgan’s centrist vision.”

Delores Broten, editor and publisher of The Watershed Sentinel, said she was waiting for the final count, “but overall, I think Bonnie Henry just got elected.”

And she credited the local Green Party for the scramble they went through to do as well as they did in a month. Candidate Gillian Anderson wasn’t even nominated until a week into the short campaign.

“So if I were the greens I would not be disappointed,” she said. “Maybe also ask the question the other way around: What happened to crushing the Greens so they would lose all their seats and just go away? They came second in several ridings which I don’t think has happened before.”

Speaking of Dr. Bonnie Henry, we’re thankful for the new guidelines to keep household gatherings down to a Safe Six, and that she expects people to wear masks in all public places. Henry stopped short of making mask-wearing a mandate. But based on our local experience, it might become necessary.

Every day, we see people in stores without masks. Just this week, the front door greeter at a prominent grocery store in the Comox business district offered a mask to a male shopper. He not only refused but did so emphatically.

Finally, a Decafnation reader wrote to us about the large, beautiful Brugmansia suaveolens plant displayed at the main Comox intersection.

“One reason the plant is banned (in many cities) is because, in small amounts, it’s hallucinogenic(!) – that is, people are reckless enough to eat it to try to get high. Perhaps wise not to mention that and encourage anyone!”

Holy Moly, if we let that get out, all the stoners from Eastern Canada will be camping on Comox Avenue in their VW buses. Shades of The Great Mushroom Rush of 1985 on Headquarters Road.










While physical distancing isn’t required within your household or your “safe six,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19:


Keep a safe physical distance.
Gather in well-ventilated areas.
Clean surfaces that people often touch. 
Wash hands frequently and do not touch your face.
Limit time together indoors.
Go outdoors as much as possible.
Do not serve food buffet style.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has made no recommendation about the use of masks at private gatherings. 
But she said this week that she expects people towear masks in all indoor public places.




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More Commentary | News

Violations spark demand for Seniors Village takeover

After three residents died as an indirect result of a norovirus outbreak at Comox Valley Seniors Village earlier this year, a group of family members of the facility’s residents demanded an investigation and better oversight of the facility by Island Health