What are these guys so afraid of?

What are these guys so afraid of?

Opponents of electoral reform are afraid of losing their power

By Pat Carl

At Courtenay’s recent Downtown Market Days, I was out in the crowd talking with various people about proportional representation and handing them a half-page information sheet.

Some people stopped to talk. They wanted more information.

Others walked right by and said they had already made up their minds. That’s fine.

Still others saw me coming and changed their destination enough to avoid me. That’s fine, too.

Several people told me they don’t vote, never have, never will. Not fine, though a symptom, I think, of what’s wrong with our electoral system.

But, almost to a person, everyone I spoke with was respectful, tolerant, and polite in that way that defines us as Canadians.

Notice that I said “almost.”

One older fellow came up to me and said, “It’s all a set-up. A few crazies holding the rest of us hostage.”

His comment felt like a drive-by since he walked away without giving me the chance to respond. But he came back almost immediately, his face red, his arms wind-milling, his voice growing louder as he became more apoplectic. “What we have works and is fine and this whole thing is just a waste of time and money.”

Although not a big man, the level of his frustration and anger surprised me enough that I back-pedaled away from him.

Thankfully, he stomped off then, muttering to himself.

As I watched him go, I thought about the full-page anti-PR ads, the meanspirited commentaries, and the manipulative language and examples designed by the individuals, organizations, and, yes, the BC Liberal Party in their attempts to activate some of the public’s worst fears and biases.

We have individuals like Jim Shepard, the wealthy tycoon and former CEO of forestry giant, Canfor, who recently spent big bucks running full-page anti-PR ads in BC publications, both large and small. In the ads he asserts that the referendum lacks legitimacy because it’s too complex and confusing for people to understand. A person who reads the referendum sees just how ridiculous this claim is.

British Columbians are quite capable of understanding these questions. Perhaps Shepard is implying we’re slow on the up-take.

We have organizations like the No BC Proportional Representation Society headed by Bill Tieleman, Suzanne Anton, and Bob Plecas. Both Plecas and Anton are apt to entone their mantra repeatedly that the current system is simple, stable and effective, so, they assert, there’s no reason to change to a proportional one. Tieleman’s mantra is that proportional representation will lead to the rise of his favourite bogeyman, fringe parties.

These Gang of Three are master manipulators of a human cognitive glitch called the illusionary truth effect. Repeat lies or half truths often enough and the public will believe them. Think about how this works south of Canada’s border and you’ll get the idea.

We have a party, the Liberal Party, so thoroughly opposed to proportional representation that Andrew Wilkinson, now the Liberal Party’s leader, made clear reference to defeating it in his leadership acceptance speech back in February. If anything, the Liberals are bracing for all-out war, as one columnist called it, in its desperate bid to defeat electoral reform.

All this, despite the Attorney General having built a fail-safe provision into the electoral referendum. On page 7 of the AG’s report, How We Vote, it states:

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.

That’s right, a do-over.

With that in their back pockets, I ask, “What are these guys so afraid of?”

The answer, in a nutshell – they’re afraid of losing power.

They’re afraid that lobbying efforts, so long the method most used by the wealthy and corporations to get their way, will be less effective and cost a great deal more in both time and money when they must lobby coalition governments.

They’re afraid that a government that actually reflects the majority of voters will make it more difficult for special interests to have unfettered access to the public purse.

They’re afraid that they will have to actually convince at least one other party of the wisdom of their policy direction.

They’re afraid that voters will vote for who actually represents them and their values.

They’re afraid that the will of the many will win out over the greed of a few.

Pat Carol is a member of Fair Vote Comox Valley and a Citizen Journalist for The Civic Journalism Project. She may be contacted at patcarl0808@gmail.com

 

BREAKING: 3L development vote today

BREAKING: 3L development vote today

Stotan Falls developer tries end run around Regional Growth Strategy

PHOTO: 3L Developments convinced the Comox Valley Record last fall to publish the developers’ opinion article on its front page. It was a breach of journalistic integrity for which the newspaper’s publisher later apologized.

 

By GRANT GORDON

At 4 p.m. today, July 10, the Comox Valley Regional District Committee of the Whole will hear a presentation by 3L Developments to try get their RiverWood proposal classified as a minor amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). Regional district staff have recommended that the 3L proposal be a standard (major) amendment.

If two-thirds of the board’s members vote to override the staff recommendation then their proposal moves ahead to third reading where this inappropriate development could actually come to pass quite easily due to the overwhelming presence of developers’ influence on CVRD board members.

So in case you missed it, a minor amendment classification would allow changing the zoning from ‘two houses per 20 hectares (50 Acres)” over some 400 acres, or 16 total houses, to 740 houses over the same area.

If this proposed amendment doesn’t pass, then 3L’s Riverwood proposal continues ahead as a Standard (Major) Amendment requiring the approval of the all the parties that were part and parcel to approving the RGS Document in the first place: the Provincial Government, the surrounding regional districts, the CV Regional District, local Municipalities and seven First Nations.

Section 5.2 of the Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw # 120, 2010 clearly states that this kind of development in rural areas is well above and beyond all the principals that would constitute a minor amendment: (Pages 108 – 110)

The location is outside of the municipal areas where 90 percent of all growth is to occur and even further out than the reserved ‘municipal expansion’ areas withheld for further growth.

The location is beyond areas with municipal services where water and sewer can be expeditiously supplied.

The location sits astride wildlife corridors where large and small ungulates and carnivores can physically get passed the fenced Inland Island Highway on their way to their prime feeding areas within the Puntledge and Browns rivers and on the dairy farms east of the highway. That’s bears on fish and cougars on deer respectively.

The RGS clearly states that a minor amendment: ” … is not to be of regional significance in terms of scale, impacts or precedence; Contributes to achieving the goals and objectives set out in Part 3; (Regional Policies); and, Contributes to achieving the general principals contained in the growth management strategy Part 4. (Managing Growth) … ”

In my opinion . . . Larry Jangula is for it. Bruce Joliffe (Area A) is against it. Manos Theos is for it. Rod Nichol (Area B) is against it. Erik Eriksson is for it. Curtis Scoville (Area C alt) against. Ken Grant is for it. Gwyn Sproule, Barbara Price and Bob Wells are unknown.

If you think that a 740-house development in an area that has already been excluded from the Urban Sacrifice Zones (Municipal Expansion Areas), with 1,480 vehicles, 740 plus cats and 740 plus dogs and multiple children situated on major game paths is not going to be a major change in the way things have been worked out in the Regional Growth Strategy, then your vision of the Comox Valley is quite a bit different that mine. It is also quite a bit different than the Regional Growth Strategy as interpreted by the CVRD’s planning and legal departments.

Please contact your local representatives to let them know how you feel about this attempt to change the intended Regional Growth Strategy by allowing this proposal to be downgraded to minor amendment status against the wishes of the general public that put so much into developing the RGS and the CVRD staff that are tasked with implementing and overseeing it.

There will be a normal Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at the Comox Valley Regional District Board room.

Then the COW will reconvene a second meeting to discuss this 3L proposal, which goes against the staff recommendation.

Grant Gordon submitted this for publication as part of Decafnation’s Civic Journalism Project.

 

Challenging a colonial Inheritance

Challenging a colonial Inheritance

Giving First Nations a stronger legislative voice by electoral reform

By PAT CARL

Usually I like to write about my successes as a teacher. But sometimes it’s healthy to confess failures. So, here goes.

Bless me, readers, for I have sinned.

While instructing at North Island College in Courtenay, I was assigned to teach English 115, which is a basic composition class that all first-year students must take. The English Department encouraged instructors to create themes for those classes.

During one such class, I thought it might be a good idea to follow the advice of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I provided an opportunity for students to think about the way First Nations people have been portrayed in dominant literature and cinema and to consider alternative views from a First Nations perspective.

Now, if I had to describe myself, I’d have to say I’m a chubby white girl, mostly Irish, a fallen-away Catholic, raised middle-class, a social-justice liberal, an environmentalist, a gardener, a sometimes-writer and a lesbian.

Do you see anything in that list that qualifies me by any stretch of the imagination to conduct a class about the biases prevalent in literature and film regarding First Nations, never mind present an alternative view from a First Nations perspective?

That’s right. Nope, nada, nothing.

In retrospect, I realize it was unwise to address such an ambitious theme without consulting and collaborating with at least one First Nations elder at the college.

And that’s the rub. However well-intentioned, too often white Euro-Canadians have decided for First Nations what’s best for them. Think residential schools. Think the Indian Act. Think of all the recent decisions made by Canada’s federal and provincial governments regarding pipelines and the building of dams.

Unlike Canada, other countries, at least recently, have managed to engage more respectfully with Indigenous peoples.

For example, look at the Maori Party in New Zealand.

When the Maori Party helped to form government, it introduced traditional approaches to New Zealand’s social services and child welfare systems; the party influenced government expenditures that targeted poverty abatement and the elimination of homelessness; the party improved the delivery of education among Maori youth; the party defended and expanded treaty rights; the party secured monies targeting the environment in order to improve Indigenous lands; and the party worked to place the delivery of the Maori language and culture in the hands of Maoris.

To be clear, all of these Maori political achievements were accomplished since proportional representation replaced first-past-the-post as that country’s voting system. While New Zealand provides a federal example, there’s nothing that limits that example from being applied provincially in BC. The New Zealand example shows how a proportional electoral system can be a change-maker for Indigenous peoples that first-past-the-post doesn’t provide.

And there I go again.

It’s so easy for privileged people like me to forget that, even with the best examples at hand, like those offered by the Maori in New Zealand, it’s not up to me to decide. It’s not up to me even to suggest.

With that in mind, let’s consider How We Vote: 2018 Electoral Reform Referendum, the report and recommendations which was released on May 30 by Attorney General David Eby. And let’s consider specifically the results of a survey conducted among an admittedly small number of Indigenous leaders and youth as well as among members of two Bands. The survey results are documented in Addendum I, “Indigenous BC Elections Referendum Survey Results.”

Of the 132 respondents to the survey, “73 percent do not feel that Indigenous voices are currently adequately represented in the Legislative Assembly” in Victoria. Additionally, First Nations leadership called for “designated Indigenous representation in the Legislature.”

Further, more than half of all respondents to the survey want “better representation of groups that are currently under-represented in the Legislative Assembly.” Another 38 percent want members of the Legislature to “cooperate to make decisions,” and a total of 81 percent want a spirit of greater compromise to inform Legislative decision-making.

All of these assertions are overlaid by 81 percent of respondents who either strongly agree or agree that a “greater diversity of views” should echo throughout the halls of provincial governance.

Most telling are the narrative comments made by 20 of the respondents at the end of the survey.

Some were concerned about how MLAs and parties receive funding from corporate and wealthy interests, which causes legislators to be unduly influenced by the privileged one percent rather than being concerned about the interests of their constituents.

Others were concerned about how little attention the legislature pays to ensuring that Indigenous peoples, especially those in remote locations, have easy access to the polls.

But, what struck me the most were the multiple respondents who believe that First Nations need to be included in the Legislative Assembly as MLAs. This may require, as some suggest, the establishment of First Nations’ Legislative Assembly set-aside seats. Additionally, respondents assert that the Indigenous people who occupy those seats be selected by Band members in transparent elections.

A system of voting that represents the will of people, a system that provides a way for making sure everyone can vote, and a system that finally hears the voices of the most excluded voters in Canada.

Sounds like support for the principles of proportional representation to me.

Pat Carl is a member of Fair Vote Comox Valley and a Citizen Journalist for The Civic Journalism Project. She may be contacted at patcarl0808@gmail.com

 

Only safe source will curb overdose crisis

Only safe source will curb overdose crisis

Courtenay parents, nurse petition Ottawa for system to prevent opioid deaths

BY SHANYN SIMCOE

Over 7,000 Canadians died of opioid overdose in 2016 and 2017. Courtenay parents John and Jennifer Hedican’s eldest son, Ryan, was one of them.

He was 26-years-old and a third-year electrician. He had completed eight months of recovery, returned to work, experienced a relapse, and was found unresponsive on his job site in Vancouver during a lunch break on April 24th, 2017.

Relapse is a normal and anticipated stage of the recovery process and the Hedicans believe that if he had access to a safe source of narcotics, Ryan would not have died by fentanyl-poisoning that day.

In Ryan’s honour, the Hedicans have partnered with me to author a petition to the House of Commons demanding that a system be created to ensure a safe source of substances so that people who use drugs experimentally, recreationally or chronically, are not at imminent risk of death due to a contaminated source.

FURTHER READING: How could this happen?

The Hedicans and I believe that access to a safe, regulated and monitored source is the only solution to prevent overdose and fentanyl-poisoning deaths.

We are astounded at the lack of aggressive action by our federal government in response to such devastating, preventable and continuing loss. We are asking Canadians to join their call to action by signing the petition and pressuring their MPs to demand that our prime minister and government make the policy changes needed to save lives now.

We recently held a signature drive in downtown Courtenay, Campbell River and Cumberland, collecting 781 new signatures.

We are also asking that personal possession be decriminalized to reduce the stigma resulting from the criminalization of substance use. They want our government to adopt a model similar to that used in Portugal, which treats problematic substance use as a health, rather than criminal justice issue. Fear of stigma and punishment currently prevents people from accessing health care services and treatment.

The third ask is that the opioid crisis be declared a national public health emergency.

The number of preventable overdose deaths to date has far surpassed the total number of deaths of all other public health emergencies in the last 20 years including SARS, H1N1, and Ebola, yet the crisis has not achieved national emergency status. Despite the expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program and the establishment of Overdose Prevention Sites, approximately four people die each day from opioid overdoses due to fentanyl-poisoned sources.

Males aged 19-49 are at the highest risk. Sixty-three percent of overdose deaths occurring in private residences. 120 Canadians are dying every month, each one a child, sibling, spouse, parent, colleague, client, friend.

Our online petition has over 2,100 signatures and many paper versions have been mailed in.

FURTHER READING: Sign the online petition here.

MP Gord Johns tabled the petition in the House of Commons for the first time before the summer sitting. You can see his speech here

The online petition closes July 25th and the government is required to respond within 45 days. This petition has recently been endorsed by the British Columbia Nurses’ Union.

Shanyn Simcoe is a Comox Valley nurse activist. She wrote this article for the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at shanyn.simcoe@gmail.com

 

Furstenau Sets Tone at Green Party AGM

Furstenau Sets Tone at Green Party AGM

Comox Valley Green Party members hear about sustainable futures

BY PAT CARL

More than 30 people attending the North Island-Powell River Green Party AGM in Campbell River on June 16 heard from the David who defeated the provincialGoliath and saved the Shawnigan Lake watershed.

Not so David-like anymore, Sonya Furstenau, Deputy Leader of the provincial Green Party and the MLA representing the Cowichan Valley, held listeners enthralled as she related a conversation she had with her 12-year-old son.

When asked by Furstenau how he was feeling about his future, her son responded “not so good.”

“Why not?” Furstenau asked.

“Because of pollution,” he said, “and climate change, and Trump.”

A sobering assessment for one so young. His response, though, prompted Furstenau to think of her own experience in organizing community members. Such organizing in Shawnigan was successful and taught Furstenau the value to hope.

While the federal government continues to “look backward by doubling down on the decreasing returns” associated with resource extraction, Furstenau claims new approaches rooted in education must encourage the development of innovative technologies to secure a healthy, sustainable future for our child and the planet.

To refuse to embrace such a future is to “download the cost of climate change onto local communities” leading to the numerous forest fires and the catastrophic flooding that plagues Canada and the rest of the globe.

Most worrisome for Furstenau is the Trumpian tendency of our elected representatives in provincial legislatures and parliament to “mistrust” each other and to avoid “working together across party lines.” Good ideas die on the vine because our elected representatives see collaboration as a weakness.

The lack of collaboration leads to polarization. Observing this at first hand fuels Furstenau’s support for proportional representation. The provincial referendum, scheduled in six months, gives voters a chance to reform BC’s electoral system.

Such reform will lessen the “community fractures along party lines” as candidates will “no longer seek to destroy the opposition” because they will need to work together, if elected, to develop long-lasting policies that benefit British Columbians.

According to Furstenau, “Fear drives the anti-proportional representation campaign. The antidote to fear is hope.” Despite challenges, Furstenau continues to be hopeful about her son’s future.

Accompanying Furstenau to Campbell River was Sonia Theroux, the Green Party of Canada Director of Mobilization, who describes herself as loving governance, but not politics. She encouraged Green Party members to step-up their organizational and volunteer efforts within their communities. Don’t look to others to do the work. “If it’s your idea,” Theroux said, “it’s your project.”

Business conducted at the AGM included the election of a slate of candidates to the North Island-Powell River’s Electoral District Association.

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PHOTO: (Left to right) Members of the Green Party of Canada North Island-Powell River Executive: Doug Cowell, Terry Choquette, Jay Van Oostdam, Mark de Bruijn, Guest Sonia Theroux, Megan Ardyche, Mark Tapper, MLA Sonya Furstenau, Blair Cusack, Cynthia Barnes, and Gail Wolverton.

Pat Carl is a Citizen Journalist with the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at patcarl0808@gmail.com