Comox Valley sewage issue pushed,  Arnott comments called “out to lunch”

Comox Valley sewage issue pushed, Arnott comments called “out to lunch”

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott adamantly opposes Area B representation on the sewage commission  /  George Le Masurier file photo

By George Le Masurier

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott feigned little knowledge this week of how the Comox Councillors that he appointed to the Comox Valley Regional District Board are voting, and why.

The only item on the Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission Tuesday, Aug. 13, was a reconsideration of its “no decision” last month, a tie vote that technically defeated a motion to allow Area B representation on the commission.

This week, the commission, with CFB representative Major Guerard in attendance, delayed taking any action on the matter until after CVRD staff present their recommendations from a year-old study on how best to restructure the regional district’s water and sewer commissions.

But the issue launched Arnott off on an opening diatribe about why the board had sent the issue back to the commission.

“Why did they send it back?” Arnott asked. “We made a decision. What’s to say whatever decision we make today won’t come back. When does this end?

“I find it disrespectful, and it leads me to wonder where the integrity of the Town of Comox votes lay when we’re a paying member and (deference is shown) to a special interest group,” he said, referring to the Curtis Road Residents Association.

That caused Courtenay Director Wendy Morin to ask for a voting record of the CVRD Committee of the Whole, which comprises the full board.

“If I recall Comox directors voted to send it back,” she said.

Comox Director Ken Grant jumped in to say he could settle the question.

“Yes, Comox did vote to send it back. It was clear we (Comox directors) were going to lose the vote, so we voted in favour to deal with it here (at the sewage commission),” he said. “We were outmuscled.”

FURTHER READING:  Our archive of stories about the sewage commission

Comox is the outlier on this issue. There is support for Area B representation on the sewage commission from Courtenay and some of the electoral areas.

Comox has two directors on the CVRD board, while Courtenay has four and Cumberland and the three electoral areas each have 1. Weighting the votes based on population gives Courtenay 18 votes to 10 for Comox.

Pushing a decision on the issue didn’t sit well with the Curtis Road Residents Association, who have been battling with the regional district over noxious odours emanating from the Brent Road wastewater treatment plant since 1985.

Jenny Steel, the spokesperson for the residents, said the CVRD Board had ordered the commission to further consider the appointment of the Area B director as a non-voting member for a temporary period of time.

“The Commission today failed to follow that direction, there was no substantive discussion at all,” she told Decafnation. “ Instead, they decided to wait for Comox and Courtenay bureaucrats to come up with their “governance study” recommendations — without any input at all from Area B.”

Steel said “the writing is on the wall … Comox councillors will continue their vendetta against any voice for Area B at the table.”

The Curtis Road residents had requested that the Area B director be permitted to participate in the discussion at the Aug. 13 commission meeting, but Steel says the CVRD did not even acknowledge that request.

Steel said the CRRA would now seek out other avenues within the government to resolve their concerns.

“We will formally lodge complaints with the provincial Ombudsperson and the Inspector of Municipalities, as well as expand our outreach to the public and press,” she said. “We do not believe Comox commissioners have acted responsibly on this issue.”

Steel went on to say that Comox Mayor Arnott’s statement that there’s a good relationship with the Curtis Road Residents was “completely out to lunch.”

Area B Director Arzeena Hamir / file photo

“Since our first delegation in April there has been no commitment whatsoever to fix the odour problems or to improve governance moving forward,” she said. “In an earlier meeting, Comox reps had proposed that one of the existing commissioners be our voice at the table – clearly an admission that Area B does need a voice.

“However, they are dead set against that voice being Director Arzeena Hamir, our democratically elected representative. Go figure.”

Hamir told Decafnation that she’s extremely frustrated by the situation and that she feels for the Curtis Road residents.

“They have put so much time and energy into resolving their problem. They read the reports more intensely than some of the elected directors,” she said. “To have the issue punted back and forth (between the CVRD board and the sewage commission) is frustrating.”

Steel echoed that comment.

“It is indeed frustrating to go round in circles on what would seem such a straight-forward and reasonable request,” she said. “Until we get this resolved we have no choice but to continue with our delegations.”

They have several outstanding issues, including the location of a new holding pond, agreement on an odour standard and covering the bio-reactors, which cause most of the odour issues.

“A Good Neighbour Agreement between Area B and Comox/Courtenay is something we’ve been working on and will bring forward to the Commission soon for consideration,” she said.

 

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Supreme Court rules in favor of CVRD in 3L Developments lawsuit

Supreme Court rules in favor of CVRD in 3L Developments lawsuit

By George Le Masurier

Read the full Reasons for Judgment by Madam Justice Duncan

 

The BC Supreme Court has decided in favor of the Comox Valley Regional District in a lawsuit brought by 3L Developments over amending the Regional Growth Strategy.

Here’s the press release issued by the CVRD this morning.

“The Comox Valley Regional District’s consideration of an application by 3L Developments Inc. to amend the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) was conducted in a fair and balanced way – in good faith and without malice – according to a decision by the BC Supreme Court released August 12, 2019.

“The ruling dismissed 13 claims made against the CVRD by 3L Developments Inc. regarding the management of their application for their proposed ‘Riverwood’ development in Electoral Area C. Costs were awarded to the CVRD.

FURTHER READING: CVRD denies 3L

“We were clear from the beginning of this process that the proposal by 3L Developments would be considered in a fair, open and transparent process and this validates that commitment,” said Russell Dyson, Chief Administrative Officer, CVRD. “The CVRD respects the time, dedication and thought that was placed by the courts throughout the process.”

“The court’s decision is especially important to the CVRD because it protects the Board’s process for considering an application, obtaining public feedback and decision-making.

“We heard clearly through this process strong community interest in protecting the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), and we remain committed to our responsibility to it in order to ensure the long-term health of our community,” said Dyson. The RGS is a strategic plan that aims to establish a sustainable pattern of population growth and development in the region over a 20-year period.

“For background/history about the amendment process, and to view the Reasons for Judgment, visit www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/3l
The decision will also be posted here in coming days: https://www.bccourts.ca/supreme_court/recent_Judgments.aspx

“The Comox Valley Regional Distridct is a federation of three electoral areas and three municipalities providing sustainable services for residents and visitors to the area. The members of the regional district work collaboratively on services for the benefit of the diverse urban and rural areas of the Comox Valley.”

 

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How Alberta’s oil industry co-opted Canada

Former Alberta Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft will discuss his new book in Courtenay on Sept. 13, telling the story of how the collision between climate change and the oil industry subverted the democratic process in Canada

Brennan Day takes on public spending, housing and open government

Courtenay City Council candidate Brennan Day believes that with good planning, the Comox Valley can grow without without losing its charm or small town feel. He would improve infrastructure, housing affordability and promote greater City Council transparency and better communication

Wendy Morin would bring a social consciousness to city

Wendy Morin, a substance abuse counsellor with the John Howard Society and a co-founder of the Comox Valley Girls Group, is running for Courtenay City Council. She would focus on housing, social issues and the environment

Courtenay mayor fails to assuage Airpark closure fears

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What are these guys so afraid of?

If the result of the 2018 referendum is the adoption of a proportional representation voting system, a second referendum [shall] be held, after two provincial general elections in which the proportional representation voting system is used, [to determine] whether to keep that voting system or revert to the First Past the Post voting system. So what are these guys afraid of?

Common sense prevails at CVRD over amending the RGS

An overwhelming majority of directors defeated a motion to consider an amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy via the”minor process” to enable 3L Developments 740-house community near Stotan Falls. But this is still an early round in the 11-year saga

Expediency wins out over CVRD’s growth strategy

CVRD directors overlook their Regional Growth Strategy to expedite an application by 3L Developments to amend the RGS that would enable a 740-house project on the Browns and Puntlege rivers near Stotan Falls

The Week: logging in the watershed, update on Comox parade ban and more

The Week: logging in the watershed, update on Comox parade ban and more

“I can’t believe what these newspapers are publishing!”  /  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

One of Decafnation’s regular contributors, Pat Carl, struck a nerve with her report this week on a visit to TimberWest’s logging operations around the Cruickshank River. Her article reported on the devastation she observed in the Comox Valley’s source of drinking water.

And that set off long strings of comments on Decafnation and on various Facebook pages. Some defenders of logging in the Comox Lake Watershed wrote wearily long diatribes that included attacks on Carl and this website, and those spoke for themselves.

The fact remains that logging above Comox Lake is a major reason why taxpayers are funding a $120-plus million water treatment plant.

But it’s not the only factor.

In fact, the Comox Lake Watershed Plan highlights camping, swimming and hiking as activities just as hazardous to the watershed as timber harvesting.

And that raises the question of whether Comox Lake should be a no-go conservation area that prohibits ATVs, dogs and fossil-fuel spilling motorboats.

Short update to Comox Mayor Russ Arnott’s chilling attempt to stifle free speech by ordering the Nautical Days parade marshall to rescind her approval of a Mack Laing Heritage Society float. Arnott justified his dictate by referring to many complaints of “alarming and inappropriate behaviour” by Mack Laing supporters in the Courtenay Canada Day parade.

But checking with the Courtenay parade marshall, Scott Mossing, reveals a different story.

Mossing says, “I can confirm that I have not received nor have any complaints regarding Mack Laing Heritage Society’s involvement in the July 1st Parade.”

It makes you wonder where Arnott got his information.

The Courtenay-Comox Sewage Commission will reconsider on Tuesday a request from the Curtis Road Residents Association to add the Area B representation to their deliberations.

Odours from the sewage treatment plant have plagued Curtis Road homeowners for more than 30 years and, despite some improvements from new technology, still isn’t acceptable to them. Besides the loss of enjoyment of their homes at certain times, the strong odours have also significantly devalued their properties.

At its last meeting, the Comox Valley Regional District board pushed the CRRA’s request back to the sewage commission for reconsideration.

The commission previously couldn’t decide, with a vote to allow Area B representation ending in a tie because the CFB Comox delegate missed the meeting. Courtenay directors were in favour of allowing representation in some form, but Comox directors were not.

The CFB delegate may not show up again. The Department of Defense doesn’t like getting tangled in local politics, so it’s possible the military delegate will avoid this meeting, too.

But even with a deciding vote present, directors might choose to wait for the much-anticipated staff report and recommendations emanating from last year’s omnibus report on governance of the regional district’s water and sewage commissions.

The governance study was commissioned after CVRD engineers scrapped a plan about two years ago to patch the current sewerage system that included building a new pump station in the neighbourhood of Croteau Beach. There were serious technical problems with that plan and considerable public push-back.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report this week that blames agriculture for rising temperatures and the release of greenhouse gases. More specifically, the report says how we produce our food is a large part of the climate change problem.

And if we don’t change the way we eat, the report predicts the instability of our global food supply.

Short summary: eating less meat equals less heat. Agriculture generates 44 percent of all methane gas emissions and up to 37 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gases. Agriculture leads to deforestation.

The report recommends encouraging diets based on plants and grains, which take less land to produce than meat. And they have specific recommendations to improve food production’s negative effects on the environment.

 

 

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A case shrouded in mystery: Strathcona Park hiker lost in 1977 was never found

A case shrouded in mystery: Strathcona Park hiker lost in 1977 was never found

Mt. Septimus in Strathcona Park, Duane Bressler’s destination before he disappeared  /  stock photo

By George Le Masurier

Update: Former Comox Valley Search and Rescue leader Mike Fournier has informed Decafnation that a tip from hikers led to the discovery of Duane Bressler’s body more than a year after he disappeared.

 

Hiking the trails of Strathcona Park can be one of the summer’s greatest pleasures. But it can also turn into a tragic nightmare. All it takes is a few steps in the wrong direction.

Last month, a Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue team spent several days looking for Murray Naswell of Cumberland who got lost in Strathcona Park. In June, a Parksville area farmer died in the area of Mt. Donner. This week another hiker was rescued in the park.

But back in 1977, a hiker by the name of Duane Bressler, a 20-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, wasn’t so lucky — or was he? He was reported lost in the Flower Ridge area and, despite an all-out, two-month effort by the Comox Valley Search and Rescue team, he was never found, dead or alive.

Some think it was a case shrouded in mystery.

Here’s what I wrote about it in 1977.

The gentle slopes of the Forbidden Plateau are no threat even to the most inexperienced hikers if you stay on the trail. But elsewhere in Strathcona Park, Flower Ridge, for example, even well-marked trails can become treacherous let alone the dense brush that cowers in from all sides.

No one knows the perils of the forest better than the 30 members of the Comox Valley Search and Rescue team. A dedicated group of volunteers versed in survival, rope climbing and first aid, they are currently working on their 18th major search in two years.

Right now, the team is embroiled in a mystery case, they think might be resolved tomorrow.

A hiker from Wichita, Kansas, Duane Bressler, 20, was ambling along Flower Ridge with a group of companions. They began at the usual starting place at the south end of Buttle Lake and were apparently not rushing down the trail that leads to Mt. Septimus.

The ridge trail starts off easily enough but later becomes a dangerous edge falling off several hundred feet on either side. At one point. Hikes must shuffle along a rock ledge to traverse corners, holding on by crevices in the sheer walls. That’s no place for the foolhardy, even without a 50-pound backpack.

The group reached the 5,000 foot level of the ridge when they saw what they thought was Green Lake, their primary destination at the foot of Mt. Septimus. By trails, weaving around a few of these tricky rock ledges and circling around steep drops, the lake is about a half day’s hike.

Bressler, however, determined that by cutting across country, through the thick underbrush and down the steep side of the ridge, it would only take an hour and a half. He left the group on July 26 to save a few hours time.

He hasn’t been seen since.

His party waited two days for him at Green Lake before hurrying out to report his absence. That’s when the Valley search team was called in to find Bressler, who was last seen carrying a 100-pound pack with a fishing rod, canteens and other items tied on the outside.

Headed by Mike Fournier, the team airlifted into the area by a CFB Comox helicopter, and for the first week Sgt. C. H. ‘Chuck” Clements — the rescue hero injured in a 75-foot plunge last week — directed ground search operations.

It is now five weeks later, and the searchers have spent over five full 10-hour days scrambling over snags and checking under every bush.

Green Lake at the foot of Mt. Septimus in Strathcona Park

Bressler’s fishing rod was found broken near the Green Lake area, so it is believed he made it there. Not knowing how long it might take his companions to comer around the other way, Bressler could have waited at Green Lake for five to six hours. He might have thought they turned around and went back via the ridge trail.

He might have followed Price Creek, which runs from Green Lake to Buttle Lake, hoping to reach the starting point without climbing back up the ridge’s steep walls.

What puzzles the Valley searchers, though, is that besides Bressler’s cap turning up in a net stretched across the creek at Buttle Lake, there has been no other sign of the hiker.

They have searched extensively the whole area. Campbel River RCMP have used dogs up and down the creek. Parks branch personnel have searched. An infrared camera on a helicopter has scanned the area and no sign or smell has been detected.

Searchers discount the possibility of Bressler having been dragged off and devoured by an animal because his metal and plastic gear would have been strewn around everywhere.
Team member Wayne Jardine has even donned a wet suit and swam the creek’s deep holes behind log jams. Members Brian Evans and David Cronmiller have plodded through difficult terrains and scratchy salmon berry bushes. Cronmiller’s hands were reported severely injured from fighting through Devil’s Club — a bush sprouting millions of spines that embed themselves in your flesh. They are the plague of the woods in Strathcona Park.

Tomorrow, the team returns to search the final miles and a half of Prince Creek. They believe they’ll find something.

This last section was not searched before because vertical walls loom high on either side and it’s impossible to reach without ropes. At the bottom, several log jams have created pools that are perhaps 10 feet deep.

It is now suspected that Bressler might have followed the creek out of the woods, reached this section and was forced to inch his way along the walls at some height. He might have fallen. With a 100-pound pack — he was carrying, among other things, an inflatable rubber boat — he would have sunk right to the bottom of a deep pool.

Even if he hadn’t been knocked out, he might have been unable to release himself from his gear in time. His cap would naturally come off easily and float downstream.

The rescue team isn’t looking forward to a pleasant time tomorrow. Although they welcome a challenge to their abilities and skills, they would rather rescue live hikers than decomposed bodies.

It is an opportunity to remind would-be masters of the wilderness that over-confidence can be a killer.

And then, several days later, I wrote this:

Members of that dedicated group (the search and rescue team) were lowered by ropes into the rugged, final 1.5 miles of Price Creek Saturday to attempt locating the body of an American hiker last seen on July 26.

After an all-day effort of diving the deep pools and scanning the near-vertical walls enclosing that section of the creek, the team left without a single clue and even more baffled than before as to his whereabouts.

Officially, the search for 20-year-old Duane Bressler has been cancelled. Chances are his body will never be recovered and no one will ever know what happened to him. He might be found later this fall by an unsuspecting hiker, or perhaps next year. But for now, he’s just been swallowed up by the dark of the forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STRATHCONA PARK FACTS AND HISTORY

Strathcona Provincial Park, designated in 1911, is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. Located almost in the centre of Vancouver Island, Strathcona park is a rugged mountain wilderness comprising more than 250,000 hectares. Two areas – Buttle Lake and vicinity, and Forbidden Plateau – offer a variety of visitor-oriented developments. The rest of the park is largely undeveloped and appeals primarily to people seeking wilderness surroundings. To see and enjoy much of the scenic splendor requires hiking or backpacking into the alpine regions.

Strathcona Park, designated in 1911, is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. In the valleys and lower regions of Strathcona are forest stands that were already old when Captain James Cook of Britain’s Royal Navy landed at Nootka Sound in 1778, on the west coast of Vancouver Island a few kilometres from what is now the western boundary of the park.

Strathcona Park was named for Donald Alexander Smith, First Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, a Canadian pioneer and one of the principals in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. On November 7, 1885 Lord Strathcona drove the last iron spike into the twin ribbons of steel that united Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific at Craigellachie in BC’s Selkirk Mountains.

— BC Parks

STRATHCONA WILDERNESS INSTITUTE

The Strathcona Park Wilderness Centre at Paradise Meadows will be open 7 days a week from June 28th onwards for the summer season, with normal operating hours of 9.30-3.30. The Centre will be staffed by students hired under the Canada Summer Jobs program and by our cohort of energetic volunteers.

Summer programs include Nature Walks, Talks and Hikes with expert naturalists and guides on weekends through August and September.

 

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The Week: Town of Comox parade denial was a petty ploy

The Week: Town of Comox parade denial was a petty ploy

Canada Day parade crowd in Courtenay, circa late 1970s  /  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

Update: Courtenay Canada Day parade chairman Scott Mossing says “I can confirm that I have not received nor have any complaints regarding Mack Laing Heritage Society’s involvement in the July 1st Parade.”

 

Another week has come and gone and once again the Town of Comox has done something stupid. If it seems like The Week criticizes Mayor Russ Arnott and his gang a lot, it’s just because “the powers that be” at town hall can’t help making themselves a target.

This week, Mayor Russ Arnott called Nautical Days parade organizer Wendy Petrie and demanded that she revoke her approval of an application by the Mack Laing Heritage Society to appear in the Nautical Days parade. His justification: the “alarming” and “inappropriate behaviour” of MLHS in the Courtenay Canada Day parade.

After telling the Mack Laing society they were prohibited from being in the parade, Petrie later convinced Arnott to reverse his order and she rescinded the denial later in the week. She says the group is once again welcome in the parade.

But the MLHS says the rescinding order came too late and “some special participants and supporters … were not able to attend or assist, having made other arrangements. Given the restrictions placed on us, which are not listed in the official ‘Parade Guidelines’, we felt it best to cancel our appearance.”

Petrie told Decafnation in a telephone interview that the special restrictions — not to have petitions or hand out any negative paraphernalia with participants or spectators — apply to all political groups in the parade.

But there is something seriously “alarming” about this turn of events. Mayor Arnott has attempted to stifle the free expression of genuinely-held viewpoints that run contrary to his own. And it appears that he used his position to do so without Town Council support.

Could the mayor have committed a violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom?

Were the other Comox councillors aware of his actions and do they support them?

Arnott’s personal feelings about the Mack Laing society also put Petrie, a dedicated volunteer who has organized the Comox parade four times in the past, in a difficult spot.  

FURTHER READING: Who is Mack Laing and what is this dispute about?

Petrie said she agonized over how to tell MLHS they could not participate in the parade. In the rejection email to MLHS on July 30 — eight days after approving their parade application — Petrie wrote that while “researching” the society’s “alarming behaviour” and after hearing “from many people how inappropriate your behaviour was” in the Courtenay Canada Day parade that the MLHS application had been denied entry into the town’s “family-oriented” parade.

What was this “alarming” and “inappropriate” behaviour that might threaten family values in Comox?

During the July 1 parade, MLHS supporters say they handed out a few tee-shirts and a bag with the society’s logo. They also carried a banner saying “Join us to preserve heritage” and signs that said “Mack Laing Matters” and “Keep the Trust.”

They were accompanied in walking the parade route by well-known local fiddler Jocie Brooks, the granddaughter of naturalist painter Alan Brooks, who was a close friend of Mack Laing.

Scary stuff, indeed.

It’s clear that the decision to exclude Mack Laing from this weekend’s parade was made after Arnott discovered the society had been approved. Petrie, in fact, freely admits that she didn’t make the decision to reverse her approval and deny entry. She agrees it was a raw deal.

In subsequent emails to MLHS, Petrie says, “I know I was looking forward to having you, but this was not my decision. I have to listen to the powers that be.” And, later she says, “I am as disappointed as you are.”

Mayor Russ Arnott’s actions — and/or whoever else conspired in this travesty — played petty politics.

Arnott doesn’t want the public to hear about Mack Laing. He doesn’t want the Mack Laing Heritage Society to generate any additional support for forcing the town to abide the terms of the famous naturalist’s trust agreement . He wants the Mack Laing debate to just go away.

So he kicks them out of a parade. Sounds like middle school.

But the “alarming and inappropriate behaviour” here is that an elected official would use his position to prevent the free expression of ideas. Mack Laing supporters have a different point of view from Arnott about the town’s action in regards to Mack Laing’s trust and the fate of his heritage home, called Shakesides. Thankfully, expressing differing points of view is still legal in this country.

An email sent to Arnott inviting him to explain his actions have not been answered. Petrie responded quickly with a phone call. 

On a related topic, the Comox Valley Record recently took a strong stand against anything in local parades except horse-drawn wagons, clowns, animals and bands.

In the editorial, Record editor Terry Farrell writes, “Put the fun back into parades, and for a change, leave the politicking at home.”

Farrell makes an exception for local elected officials, but doesn’t explain why. Maybe he classifies them as clowns or animals. They certainly don’t put any more fun in a parade than the real targets of his editorial: the Green Party and the Mack Laing Heritage Society.

And how do commercial vehicles offering nothing but their business names add to the fun in a parade? Farrell doesn’t mention them.

Besides the fuzzy argument that tries to distinguish between local politicians and federal or provincial ones, and between acceptable nonprofit organizations and not-acceptable ones (the ones he doesn’t like?), Farrell makes one point on which we can agree: Parades should be fun, not sombre events.

Parade participation or not, there is a federal election coming on Oct. 21, and the political parties have already started their pre-official election campaign campaigning. See the Election Countdown Timer on the Decafnation home page.

One of the interesting debates already occurring concerns the possible shifting of traditional NDP votes to the Green Party. Strong NDP advocates are all over social media slamming Green Party leader Elizabeth May in an attempt to discourage this shift. They have blasted her for, among other things, saying she might consider an alliance with Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives under certain circumstances.

But NDP stalwarts can relax because, according to Scheer, that’s not going to happen.

In an ad that keeps popping up on The Week’s Facebook page, Byron Horner, the Conservative candidate for Courtenay-Alberni, says don’t be fooled by the new Green Party slogan. “The Green Party is a Left-Wing Big Government party that would economically devastate Islanders who own a car or a home. Thinking about the Green Party? Read the fine print.”

It appears there will be at least one federal election all-candidates forum in the Comox Valley. Details to follow.

 

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