The Lows and Highs of Grassroots Initiatives

The Lows and Highs of Grassroots Initiatives

The Lows and Highs of Grassroots Initiatives

Fair Vote needs volunteers for the final push to electoral reform

By Pat Carl

Two things happened very recently that illustrate the lows and highs of grassroots efforts like the campaign to change BC’s electoral system.

The first thing that happened was the release of an Angus Reid poll taken in September. The poll asked voters in BC how they intend to mark their ballots when it comes to voting on the referendum about electoral reform. According to the poll, about 60 percent of voters are pretty evenly split in their support of either the current electoral system or proportional representation (Pro Rep).

But it’s the other 40 percent of the poll respondents who caught my attention: these are people who describe themselves as undecided. For a grassroots activist, it’s those undecideds that are the really scary wildcard.

The second thing that happened was a folding party. What’s a folding party, you ask?  Well, it’s when an organization like Fair Vote Comox Valley (FVCV) can afford to print 5,000 one-page, two-sided flyers with information in support of Pro Rep, but can’t afford to have them folded. Then you have a folding party at your house, invite your friends to fold the flyers, and serve them chili and wine or beer as a thank you.

That’s what FVCV did the evening before municipal elections and, wonderfully, over a dozen people arrived at a supporter’s home around 5 p.m. and spent several hours folding flyers and eating, the buzz of friendly talk in the air.

These two things that happened are representative of the lows (the 40 percent of people still undecided about Pro Rep) and the highs (volunteers folding flyers) that many of us who are working on the referendum have felt over the 10 months of the campaign.

We attempt to keep our sights on highs, but we can’t ignore the lows.

Two examples of lows: The half truths and downright lies spouted by the BC Liberals and their leader, Andrew Wilkinson, and the nuisance injunction brought by the Independent Contractors and Business Association of BC challenging the referendum, which BC Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper declined to grant. 

Despite lows like these, FVCV and its grassroots volunteers have tirelessly reached out to voters.

We have canvassed two times a week most weeks since January, so much so that our tennis shoes are showing serious tread wear.

We have hung thousands of information door hangers on door knobs, we have written articles and letters to the editor, and we have sponsored and continue to sponsor numerous public presentations about the referendum which includes the  audience taking a quiz that helps participants to focus on their values in relation to the referendum questions. 

We have made so many phone calls to rural Valley voters that our ears are tattered remnants hanging off the sides of our heads.

We have staffed information tables while sitting in uncomfortable folding chairs until our behinds are screaming for mercy.

And then, of course, there’s the folding party.

We were under the gun because the flyers folded at the party were intended for distribution the very next day outside polling stations in Cumberland, in Courtenay, in Comox and in Areas A, B, and C. And here’s the amazing part:  Thirty-three of us worked a total of nearly 100 person-hours to hand out the flyers between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day.

Now we’re on a real, non-chemically induced high, but, frankly, we’re still worried about the high percentage of undecided voters.

The referendum ballots are on their way to voters’ mailboxes. Voters will have until Nov. 30 to follow the instructions and send their ballots back to Elections BC. FVCV will continue to get the word out about Pro Rep, but we are getting a bit tired, as you can imagine.

So, I have a big ask:  Will those of you who support Pro Rep, but have had other challenges on your plate, now join our grassroots effort to reach even more people about proportional representation? Come help us cross the finish line with arms held high in the air.

That’s right. I’m asking you to get involved. It’s not too late. We need your help.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends right after you exercise at the Rec Centre or at d’Esterre in Comox. Don’t be afraid to contact Fair Vote Comox Valley at fairvotecomoxvalley@gmail.com and pick up some door hangers that you can distribute in your neighbourhood while you’re taking your dog on her morning constitutional. Don’t be afraid to sign in and let your views be known to all those friends you have on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to tweet those 240 characters in support of Pro Rep.

Don’t let this proportional representation opportunity pass without pitching in. 

Believe me, your efforts will not go unrewarded. You’ll have done a great service by supporting electoral reform and our provincial democracy. 

Pat Carl is a member of Fair Vote Comox Valley and a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She may be reached at pat.carl0808@gmail.com.

The Death of Governing Whiplash

The Death of Governing Whiplash

The Death of Governing Whiplash

Imagine legislators working together for long-lasting priorities

By Pat Carl

The other day, I stopped by the grocery store to buy a few things. I took a chance and stood in the express line which also sells lottery tickets. Sometimes the line can move really quickly, but, at other times, because of the lottery tickets, the line can slow down to a crawl.

In this particular case, an older woman, older than me anyway, was cashing in her lottery tickets. The clerk handed her a couple of tens and then five twenties. Although the woman was a winner, I wondered how much she had lost over the years compared to how much she had won.

My father also played the lotteries. I quizzed my mother about that, since she was very tight-fisted in her spending habits, and she said, “Your father is a bit foolish about money. It’s a good thing I’m not.”

I’m like my mother when it comes to the uses of my money, especially my tax dollars. On the one hand, I believe the federal and provincial governments should be spending money to support social programs like housing initiatives and public education, or spending sufficient dollars to keep Canada’s military well fitted with updated equipment and its people well-trained, or spending adequate dollars to maintain infrastructure and to support technological and industrial innovation.

On the other hand, I am a fiscal conservative. I firmly believe that if I can balance my cheque book, make smart investments, and save wisely instead of spending unnecessarily, then so can governments, both federal and provincial.

I know what you’re going to say:  It ain’t as simple as that, Pat.

To my way of thinking though, the main reason it ain’t that simple is because, in Canada, we have two dominant federal parties – the Conservatives and the Liberals – each with different legislative priorities and different spending policies. Sadly, neither of these parties, when in the majority, has a strong incentive to work with the opposition in creating policies with an eye to spending tax dollars with care.

Every so often, Canadians get tired of the legislative priorities and spending policies of one party and throw those guys and gals out of office and replace them with the guys and gals of the other dominant party who often have vastly different legislative priorities and spending policies.

What this type of governance leads to are changes so significant as to make all of us suffer from legislative whiplash which is damned expensive.

And guess who shoulders the burden of that expense?  That’s right – the Canadian taxpayer. 

Now this governance whiplash doesn’t just happen federally. It also happens provincially. Think of how voters in Ontario recently had enough of Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals and decided to spank them thoroughly and send them to their political room for a time out. In doing so, the voters installed Doug Ford and the Progressive (really?) Conservatives in their place.

Get ready, Ontarians, for a severe case of governing whiplash as the PCs and Ford dismantle many of the legislative priorities and spending policies of the Liberals and replace them with their own legislative priorities and spending policies.

Not only does this put the skids on some legislative initiatives that are halfway through development in Ontario, but it’s going to cost lots of taxpayer dollars to do so. All the work and taxpayer dollars put into developing programs while the Liberals were in the majority are essentially wasted.

Let’s not just point the finger at Ontario. BC is not without sin.

For example, the renovation of Metro Vancouver’s Massey Tunnel, long in the Liberal development pipeline during Christy Clark’s reign in Victoria, is now going through an additional review process under John Horgan’s NDP to the tune of an additional 1 million taxpayer dollars. Legislative priority lurch accompanied by expensive tax dollar spending.

But does it have to be this way? Must provinces and territories as well as the federal government change legislative policies and spending priorities so dramatically and so expensively every election cycle?

I don’t think so.

Imagine, if you will, elected officials from one party cooperating with the elected officials of another party in order to develop long-lasting legislative priorities that stand the test of time.

And then imagine, if you will, how many taxpayer dollars are wisely spent if legislative priorities are developed based on the best ideas from all parties.

Wait! We actually don’t have to imagine that. In Canada, minority governments, which needed to form coalitions with other parties in order to govern, came up with quite a number of legislative policies developed with taxpayer dollars wisely spent. 

Think Universal Medicare, the Royal Military College, the Canada Pension Plan, Unemployment Insurance, and our own Supreme Court of Canada. These are social reforms and institutions that define us as Canadians and have garnered Canada great respect internationally.

Want to ensure the death of governing whiplash in BC? Want to ensure your tax dollars are wisely spent based on policies cooperatively conceived and developed in our Legislative Assembly?

Then vote for electoral reform. Vote for proportional representation in this fall’s BC referendum.

Pat Carl is a member of Fair Vote Comox Valley and contributes to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at patcarl0808@gmail.com

 

Area A candidates meet with Royston voters

Area A candidates meet with Royston voters

Area A candidates meet with Royston voters

Candidates Daniel Arbour and Jim Elliott positions seem similiar

By Norm Prince

Area A candidates Daniel Arbour and Jim Elliott are on a four stop tour of the Comox Valley Regional District’s (CVRD) Area A, with scheduled meetings in Denman Island, Royston, Hornby Island and ending up at the Union Bay Hall at 7:00 pm on Oct.15.

Saturday’s Royston meeting had over 50 citizens in attendance, giving up part of their sunny afternoon to listen to and question both candidates. There was a twist to this all candidates affair, the moderator was ill, and there was no one willing to take his place, so both candidates were running the show, alternating recognizing questions from the floor.

From the opening statements, two things became apparent, especially if you read the responses to Decafnations’ questions to Rural Directors. Elliott has been busy with research and has answers to those questions he wasn’t able to respond to in the survey, and there are very few differences in their positions on many of the issues. That was pointed out more than once from members of the audience trying to decide who to support on Election Day, Oct. 20.

While many of the questions raised were specific to Area A, there were some Regional wide issues raised for candidate’s positions.

Development in the Comox Valley was raised more than once, both candidates supported the CVRD’s decision around the development at Stotan Falls, with both calling for developers to be paying the bills on the necessary infrastructure, and not passing those costs off to the local citizens.

Elliott said that in “all his years working for the CVRD, he never saw taxes go down after a new development went ahead.” Around the same issue, both called for the protection of watersheds, though they did have different approaches, Arbour would spend the time working with Island Timberland, moving them toward no logging in regulated areas, while Elliott indicated that the CVRD should write bylaws to protect the watersheds.That seemed to be Elliott’s line in the sand, watersheds need to be protected, and if necessary, he’d stand in front of logging equipment to insure the protection of those areas.

P3 projects were raised as part of the failed referendum over a sewer system to replace the septic fields that populate all the communities in Area A. Neither of them supported the concept, but indicated that the CVRD should work with the Union Bay developers to expand their sewer service, and should continue to work with the K’ómoks First Nation in the development of their Area A properties.

Again, the positions were very similar, and both agreed that there had to be a reasonable costed solution for the sewer system. Neither one of them wanted to see the sewer outfall in Baynes Sound.

Open burning and wood stoves were also raised as problems, and while both agreed that there had to be some changes, neither one called for a ban on wood stoves. Both agreed there had to be curb side pickup of garden waste to control the yard burning, both admitted that they had to conduct further research around the issue of industrial burning.

On the issue of residential wood burning, they both supported the replacement program in place, and felt that through education and retrofitting older homes, there would be less wood stoves in use. Both referred to replacement programs, but were thin on details.

Both Elliott and Arbour wanted to see the Island Corridor protected, with options to develop as a trail system for both pedestrians and bicycles. Though Arbour didn’t rule out a rail option in the future as the Island’s population grows.

Plastic pollution in Baynes Sound was raised, and here the positions were somewhat different to get the same result. Elliott was very clear that the shellfish industry had to take responsibility for the pollution, and if they didn’t, the CVRD should bring in Bylaws forcing them to take responsibility for the clean up. Arbour looked at the problem as “a canary in a coal mine” and if we didn’t take care of the Sound, we’d lose those shellfish jobs. He’d work with the industry and First Nations through the CVRD.

Problems with the new hospital were raised, but both of them indicated that they didn’t have the expertise to come up with a solution without more research.

As the meeting wrapped up, both candidates were pushed to come up with some differences in their approaches. Both had just outlined how they’d organize at the grass roots level to listen to their constituent’s concerns.

Arbour pointed out his success on Hornby Island, and Elliott, his experience stick-handling the water agreement in Union Bay. They outlined the difference as being one of approach to the issue, with Arbour saying he always looked for ways to bring people together,” and had to “be pushed really hard” to lose that focus. Elliott’s approach was more to taking a stand, persuading the group to his position. Consensus waters down the solution to any problem.

Lasting almost 90 minutes, the meeting ended on a sour note.

Members of the audience raised the issue of negative statements being sent via emails and statements by door knocking supporters of candidates. Both candidates quickly supported each other, indicating that any messages sent out would be signed by them, and from their accounts. Both stated that they couldn’t control what others said, but anything they organized hadn’t focussed on any negative statements about the other candidate.

Norm Prince lives in Royston and a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project.

What are these guys so afraid of?

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

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.