The Week: North Island health care privatization marches on

The Week: North Island health care privatization marches on

What would Mr. Ed have to say about these things?  |  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

Good Morning. Whether you woke up in one of the worst cities for business and dangerous for crime … supposedly (Courtenay), one of the worst for recognizing heritage (Comox, for sure) or the only community that has banned plastic bags (Cumberland), it’s looks like another great day to live in the Comox Valley.

But first, let’s praise the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board for finally standing up to Island Health’s steady march toward privatization of health care.

Stop health care privatization

Decafnation has documented the folly of public private partnerships (known as P3s) in health care by the problems that policy has caused at the Comox Valley Hospital. But Island Health loves to hand over essential health care services to private contractors, and this time they’re aiming at the North Island’s last remaining pathology laboratory.

Island Health wants to close down clinical pathology services at the Campbell River Hospital and outsource them to a private corporation in Victoria. Clinical pathology services at the Comox Valley Hospital will continue into next year, but only as part of an agreement when St. Joe’s Hospital closed. There is no guarantee Island Health won’t try to close them when the agreement terminates.

The real story goes back to the formation of the Victoria pathologists’ corporation (VICPCC). Prior to that, all Island Health pathologists were employees (a few may have incorporated as separate individuals).

Some Victoria-based pathologists own this corporation together, and many of the rest of the island pathologists (except Campbell River, for now) are partially or fully employed or contracted by the corporation.

Information about the corporation and details of its contract with Island Health are not readily available. A Campbell River reporter tried to get this information, but Island Health abruptly cancelled a scheduled interview and has stonewalled him ever since.

Our sources estimate that VICPCC’s contract with Island Health would probably be worth nearly $10 million per year.

It isn’t right that such a huge amount of public health care money is going to such an opaque entity that apparently decides where and how to deliver services to north Island residents.

When it comes to health care services, non-Victoria areas always seem to lose out in favour of centralization to the capital city. Island Health usually claims this provides “higher quality” services, but they never share any evidence to support that assertion.

Courtenay business woes?

The politically conservative Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses looked through some data at its Toronto headquarters and decided the City of Courtenay is bad for business.

No one visited Courtenay, talked to any business owners or elected officials or business organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce. They used data.

This is not unlike how Maclean’s magazine decided last year that Courtenay was one of the most dangerous places to live in Canada.

These data-based surveys are baloney. They’re designed as marketing devices to boost subscriptions or memberships in an organization. Naive local media pick them up because it’s a spoon-fed story.

People should stop reading them, writing about them and giving them any attention.

Heritage interference by AG?

Has there been some hanky-panky going on at the BC Attorney General’s office about the Mack Laing Trust?

When some Shakesides supporters started investigating a pathway to heritage designation that doesn’t require any input from the local government, apparently alarms bells went off at the BC Attorney General’s office. The AG has supported the town’s petition to demolish the house.

And that caused a high-ranking Heritage Branch official to say he could not give information to the local citizens because the AG’s office had allegedly told the branch not to discuss Mack Laing with anybody. In other words, a gag order.

This sounds clearly like a backdoor attempt to thwart a legitimate citizen initiative. Obviously, the AG doesn’t want Shakesides to get a heritage designation because that could help sink their leaky argument to tear the building down.

But how is it ethical for the Attorney General’s office, which is supposed to defend public trusts, to pressure another BC government branch into deny a citizen’s access to information?

Earth Day v. Plastic Bags

We’re celebrating Earth Day on April 22 this year, which would be a great time for Courtenay and Comox to announce that they are following Cumberland’s lead and ban single-use plastic bags.

 

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The Week: bizarre backstory; great news on sewage planning

Good morning. We’re writing about the tragic backstory of a water valve, the state of happiness in Comox, new (and thankfully) long-term sewerage plans and the strength of women like Jody Wilson-Raybould speaking truth to power

The Week: bizarre backstory; great news on sewage planning

The Week: bizarre backstory; great news on sewage planning

You can ride this wave in either direction  /  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

Good morning. Decafnation took a hiatus over the winter. Here are some of the news stories from this week and the last two-and-a-half-months that caught our returning eye.

Bizarre story about the regional water line break

If you get your water through the Comox Valley Water System, you’ve already gotten the bad news. Several holes in the concrete-encased main transmission line running under the Puntledge River means that for 11 days, starting April 12, you can’t use water for anything but drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene.

But the backstory about why it’s taking longer than normal to repair this leak, which has been spilling small amounts of chlorinated water into the Puntledge River since December, has taken a tragic and bizarre twist.

When Comox Valley Regional District staff found the leak, they began planning how to repair it. Fixing a leak in this most difficult section of the pipe to access requires special skills — including a scuba diver doing welding from inside the pipe — and a special valve, neither of which are readily available.

The custom valve was ordered from the Henry Pratt Co., a manufacturer of industrial valves located in Aurora, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. And that’s where the story turns tragic.

In mid-February, a recently-fired 15-year employee of the Pratt Co. walked into the building and started shooting his colleagues, killing five co-workers and wounding five police officers before being shot dead.

The subsequent closure of the plant during police investigations added to production delays caused by losing so many key employees and a necessary period of mourning and counseling.

The new valve is now in hand at the CVRD and the specialized workers have been scheduled. But this is a tricky repair, fraught with myriad things that could still go wrong. Stay tuned.

Not everybody is happy

Mayor Russ Arnott campaigned in last fall’s municipal election on the theme that “people are generally happy” in the Town of Comox. But that has proven not entirely true.

Residents of 17 units at the Mariner Apartments near the former St. Joseph’s hospital site were forced out of their homes by a burst in the town’s water line in January, making many homeless. And they weren’t happy about how the town failed to help them, although a benefit concert and silent auction held in Courtenay provided some relief.

Comox’s d’Esterre Gardens recently tried to evict a woman with cerebral palsy and chronic fatigue syndrome from the low-income seniors housing complex. But an unhappy Zoe Nagler fought back and she won an arbitration case that allows her to stay in the place where she’s lived for the past six years.

And now some council members aren’t happy with the way Arnott has handled council discussions about Mack Laing’s home, called Shakesides, and over disagreements on the implications of a March 6 vote to modify the Laing Trust.

It’s been a rough first five months for the new Comox mayor and council. So the town’s excellent plan to make it easier for Comox residents to add secondary suites and coach houses on their in-town properties comes at a good time.

This new bylaw will create urban density without adding expensive infrastructure, and can help people afford housing during a period of skyrocketing real estate values.

Not everyone is happy about the new housing bylaw, but it’s a good plan.

Good news about sewerage planning

On the advice of CVRD staff, the Courtenay-Comox Sewer Commission stepped back from its formerly ill-advised and patchwork plans last year. Under the direction of CVRD engineer Kris LaRose, legitimate public and technical advisory committees have been working with the WSP engineering consulting company from North Vancouver on a long-term, bigger scope reinvention of how to convey and treat the two municipalities sewage, and reuse it’s resources and byproducts.

The working groups have short-listed a number of options — including several that involve tunneling beneath Comox Road and Lazo Road — all of which would move the main sewage transmission pipes out of the K’omoks estuary. The short-list will be presented to the sewage commission this month.

It’s refreshing to see innovative thinking and 100-year planning where it didn’t exist in the past.

The strength of Jody Wilson-Raybould

It takes courage to speak truth to power. If you’re a woman, it takes even more courage. And if you’re an indigenous woman, it is even more courageous to take on the male-dominated power structure.

But the Comox Valley’s own Jody Wilson-Raybould has that courage. She has taken on the Ottawa-Quebec Liberal Party power base, and its long connections to the Trudeau family, over a fundamental issue of prosecutorial independence.

Anybody who has paid attention knows the story about the allegations of bribes and fraud used by SNC-Lavalin to obtain global engineering contracts. Instead of owning up to what is now obvious political interference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen to launch personal attacks on his former Attorney General.

Was Wilson-Raybould really difficult to work with in caucus, or is Justin Trudeau just not comfortable with a strong woman who refuses to be bullied and bend to his will?

We think it’s the later.

 

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Comox Town Council voted 5-2 this week to continue designing a viewing platform to replace naturalist Mack Laing’s heritage home, rejecting any other proposals for the property, as it prepares to head back to the BC Supreme Court.

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Comox must apologize for breaches of Mack Laing Trust

Comox must apologize for breaches of Mack Laing Trust

Archive photo

By George Le Masurier

Thanks to four brave new councillors, there is an opportunity to draw to a close the Town of Comox’s long history of breaching the trust of Hamilton Mack Laing and misappropriating the funds the famous naturalist left in his Last Will for the community that he loved.

Comox Town Council voted against Mayor Russ Arnott this week and set aside court proceedings to modify Mack Laing’s trust “for up to three months so that council may have discussions with all interested parties.”

Arnott cast the lone vote against the motion, contradicting statements he made during the fall municipal election campaign promising to settle this matter out of court. But new councillors Alex Bissinger, Patrick McKenna, Nicole Minions and Stephanie McGowan all spoke in favor of giving out of court discussions a chance.

Once it was clear the vote for negotiation would win, councillors Ken Grant and Maureen Swift got on board, despite voting for the court action during their previous terms.

That left Arnott alone in wanting to proceed toward an expensive court trial.

The Mack Laing Heritage Society has garnered broad community support for restoring Shakesides as a unifying and heritage-based town project. Some of those supporters believe the town will lose in court, at a minimum being ordered to submit to a forensic audit of the financial matters and forced into mediation.

The vote also put Arnott at odds with the new majority of councillors, who had campaigned for a negotiated settlement out of court.

But the question facing council is how to stop bleeding money on legal expenses — estimated by one observer to have neared or topped $100,000 — with a plan that satisfies the Laing society and is financially sustainable.

Finding that way forward won’t be easy, and yet that’s the task to accomplish in the next 90 days.

But nothing good will happen if council appoints another flawed advisory committee like former mayor Paul Ives did several years ago. That group failed to follow its own terms of reference. The outcome was so incomplete that two members of the committee wrote opposing minority reports.

And that’s why Arnott’s lone vote against at least trying to negotiate a win-win resolution is disappointing. The mayor is obviously entrenched in his position. He has now stated so for the record.

How is that going to help facilitate any open-minded and meaningful conversations over the next three months? At least returning councillors Grant and Swift had the decency to support an opportunity for positive discussions.

Here’s the problem.

Laing left money and his property to the town in a trust that specified the gifts be used to create a publicly accessible natural history museum at his home, called Shakesides.


If the CVLT had existed in 1982, they would have had legal power via a covenant to compel the Town of Comox to keep up its end of the bargain. Mack Laing deserves the same respect as Father Charles Brandt


But now, 37 years after Laing’s death in February of 1982, the town has done nothing to fulfill Laing’s wishes, even though they accepted the terms of the trust when they took his money and property. Over a year ago, the town admitted that it spent Laing’s money inappropriately for years, but only because the Mack Laing Heritage Society had amassed a mountain of evidence detailing the town’s mishandling.

Undaunted, the previous Town Council applied to the BC Supreme Court to tear down Shakesides and spend Laing’s money elsewhere. But the outcome of court actions are always uncertain. And, based on the comments of two Justices so far, the court believes the Laing society has an important case to make.

To prevent further dividing the community, the town needs to make a formal and public apology of its historic wrongdoings. Why? Answer: Because this is a moral issue.

If the town had no intention of abiding the terms of Laing’s trust, it should never have accepted the money and property. But once it did, the town had a moral obligation to follow through. And if the town can behave fast and loose with Laing’s money, what reasonable person would leave the town any gift in the future?

Comox has, so far, proven itself untrustworthy.

The Comox Valley Land Trust, and other similar conservancy organizations, were created to address this exact problem. And the CVLT is currently creating security for the wishes of Father Charles Brandt, who plans to leave his house and property on the Oyster River for a regional district public park.

If the CVLT had existed in 1982, they would have had legal power via a covenant to compel the Town of Comox to keep up its end of the bargain. Mack Laing deserves the same respect as Father Charles.

Can you imagine if the Comox Valley Regional District someday tries to alter the terms of the Father Charles covenant? The public outcry would be overwhelming. There should be no less of a voice in protest against the Town of Comox, if it follows Mayor Arnott’s example and pushes this case through the courts.

Everyone in the Comox Valley who values heritage, and honorable actions by locally-elected governments, should support a negotiated settlement.

That doesn’t mean the solution is simple. But it is possible if everyone comes to the table with an open mind and good intentions.

Mayor Arnott was asked for comment for this opinion article at 3:45 pm PST, but had not responded by 8:35 PST when it was posted. 

 

 

 

 

WHO WAS HAMILTON MACK LAING?

Hamilton Mack Laing was an important Canadian naturalist, photographer and writer. He moved to Comox in 1922, cleared his land and built his home from a “Stanhope” Aladdin Ready-Cut kit. In 1927, he married Ethel Hart of Portland and they established a successful and commercial orchard which included walnut, pecan, filbert, hazelnut, apple and plum trees. They also grew mushrooms and vegetables. After his wife, Ethel, died in 1944, he sold his original home, Baybrook, and built a new home, Shakesides, on the adjoining lot. He bequeathed the waterfront property to the Town of Comox and it became Mack Laing Nature Park

— excerpted from content on the Mack Laing Heritage Society‘s website

 

Click here for more on Hamilton Mack Laing and the issues with the Town or Comox

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The Week: housing issues, sure, but this study is nonsense

The Week: housing issues, sure, but this study is nonsense

No, the sky is not falling on the Comox Valley nor are people being attacked by birds  /  George Le Masurier photo  (undoctored, only tonal adjustments)

By George Le Masurier

So yet another ill-constructed study has maligned the poor Comox Valley. We can now add “Fifth Most Unaffordable Housing Market” to our designations as “Highest Crime Rate” and “Worst Air Quality.” Well, maybe there’s some truth to that last one.

The latest study — concocted by Wendell Cox on his website Demographia.com — compared median house prices to median household income in nine countries, and then ranked cities or regions for their housing affordability. The Comox Valley ranked fifth worst in B.C.

There’s no doubt the Comox Valley has a housing affordability problem. Prices have never been higher. Rental vacancy rates have almost never been lower. It’s a problem that affects almost every community on the BC coast.

But as Courtenay Councillor Melanie McCollum has pointed out, the study is flawed.

“There is no doubt we have serious affordability issues in our community – however that study is seriously flawed and written by a pro-greenfield expansion/urban sprawl think tank that uses some questionable methods for its data analysis,” McCollum wrote on social media.

Real Estate Wire has called the study “nonsense” for five important reasons, which you can read about here. Though we should mention that Mr. Cox is an urban planner who promotes private automobiles over public transportation.

But the Comox Valley’s housing issues are real. Prices are high and partly driven by out-of-town buyers from even more expensive markets. There’s little incentive for investors to build apartment buildings, but when they do local governments rarely use tools to require a percentage of the units to rent at below-market rates.

Courtenay has two affordable housing projects on the go. The Braidwood Housing Project (35 units) and a supportive housing project (46 units).

Election polls aren’t any more reliable than flawed housing studies.

BC pollsters predicted a Liberal Party win in the Nanaimo provincial byelection, estimated that Liberal Tony Harris had an eight-point lead over NDP candidate, Sheila Malcolmson. The NDP won by a 10-point margin.

It appears not every NDPer is willing to throw Premier John Horgan to the wolves over the Site C Dam project.

  Who was it that said there was no danger from sewage pipes and pump lift stations near or in our foreshores? No one in Sechelt would believe them after a pump station failed and 10,000 litres of raw sewage dumped into the Salish Sea.

Fortunately, the Comox Valley Regional District is in the process of taking a long look at the best options for delivering and treating sewage. That could, and should, include moving sewage pipes out of the K’omoks Estuary and taking an overland route to the Brent Road treatment plant.

  Congratulations to the Comox Valley Regional District parks department for widening trails and improving access to Nymph Falls. We’re sure this isn’t a direct response to 3L Developments’ attempts to block public access to Stotan Falls, but it couldn’t come at a better time for those wanting a river swim this summer.

  Finally, a recent budget decision by the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital Board might shed some light on why there were serious design flaws in the new Comox Valley and Campbell River hospitals. Board Chair Charlie Cornfield says the board plans to spend $100,000 on decorative water fountains.

Whaaaaaat?

If the hospitals really need some visual improvements, how about commissioning some of the north Island’s excellent sculptors for eye-catching entry features?

Better yet, forget the idea altogether — although we do support public art — because there are bigger problems at the hospitals, which the hospital board has done its best to deny and ignore.

 

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The Week: Where’s the moral leadership on Comox Council?

The Week: Where’s the moral leadership on Comox Council?

It’s hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes  /  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

he silence of Comox Town Council members for the plight of Mariner apartment dwellers is deafening.

A broken town water main flooded 17 first-floor units, displacing single parents and mostly low-income tenants who have limited alternate housing options. The town acted quickly to shut off the water, but the damage had already been done.

Now, instead of taking responsibility, Town Council has done nothing, nor intends to. Mayor Russ Arnott said as much in a statement before this week’s council meeting. The town, he said, supports other people and businesses trying to help, but won’t do anything directly to help its most vulnerable citizens.

The town is playing CYA — Cover Your Ass.

The insurance company’s agreement with the town gives the insurer absolute control in such matters. And the insurer no doubt fears financial assistance or any other form of help would amount to admitting liability. And it curtails councillors’ free speech.

It’s dangerous, and undemocratic, when an insurance company places restrictions on the rights of elected officials to communicate with their constituents.

Besides, the town is responsible. And the town has a moral obligation here.

But, so far, morality doesn’t seem to resonant at Town Hall.

The town won’t take responsibility for misappropriating Mack Laing’s money, or committing several breaches of trust. Nor will it take responsibility for stormwater flows that have caused erosion of property on Golf Creek. The town is happy to spend tens of thousands of dollars on Vancouver lawyers to fight its own citizens, but it won’t help people the town flooded out of their homes.

The town brags about its low debt ratio and builds multi-million dollar buildings at the Marina that sit empty most of the time. But when it comes to doing the right thing for its citizens, the town hides behind lawyers and insurance companies.

That has been the town’s modus operandi for years. So when Arnott made an election promise to continue the direction the town was pointed, he apparently meant its underlying moral code as well.

We’re disappointed. The town should be taking the lead.

Some Decafnation readers had suggestions about what the town should be doing.

“I have to add my view. We have HMCS Quadra at Goose Spit sitting empty. We opened it up for refugees, yet when local residents are desperate for shelter, the mayor flat out said “No.” Desperate is desperate period.”

“We have St. Joseph right next door with floors empty. This is our community … I have lived here all my life and I am extremely disappointed in our own mayor for not stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for our seniors, family and friends.”

“When floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters occur, governments have provided temporary housing for people displaced from their homes. The town could open up the Comox Rec Centre gymnasium. It could pay to put people up in area hotels and motels. It could negotiate an agreement with St. Joe’s or Providence to convert abandoned hospital rooms into temporary housing. There’s so many things the town could do. It’s shameful they don’t.”

Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells was quoted to say that during boil water advisories, small plastic water bottles are the only option or the best option for drinking water.

Really? Ignoring the fact that with the implementation of UV treatment and ultimately a $110 million water treatment plant, there shouldn’t be any more boil water advisories, isn’t the better solution contained in the name?

Rather than encouraging people to purchase more plastic that’s fouling our oceans and sickening our aquatic life, how about just boiling the water?

Given its other pressing needs — Mariner apartment residents? — why would Comox spend $20,000 to study whether the town needs an off-leash dog park? The recent bear spray incidents have provided sufficient justification.

That view was shared by another Decafnation reader, who writes:

“Al Fraser is your expert on parks and fencing. Trust his judgement. As a council you were elected to represent us. We trust you to make good decisions on our behalf. Please sit down with Al. Listen to what he has to say. Discuss it among yourselves. Decide on what is the best location. Build a fence. Make the area dog friendly. Job done! Blowing away 20 grand on consulting is a waste of my tax dollars.”

It’s too bad that Comox Mayor Russ Arnott has reneged on a hand-shake deal to keep the Shakesides issue out of court, because it means that some creative and potentially win-win compromises will never be examined.

For example, a Decafnation reader wonders if the Mack Laing Heritage Society has considered pushing the town to purchase the adjacent private property and house, which bisect Mack Laing and McDonald Woods parks, as an alternative to putting money into Shakesides?

“This would consolidate the park that is Mack Laing’s heritage and provide a waterfront building in good condition that would be much more suited to the museum task.

“I would think that some of the people who currently oppose the museum would be willing to support an approach that would consolidate the park, which is at risk as long as the the central property between Mack Laing and McDonald Wood remains in private hands. Although the current owners have been very gracious, unless it is bought into the park there is no guarantee of the intentions of future owners.

“The purchase of that property into the park would guarantee Mack Laing’s wish of a nature park as well as providing a much better maintained and situated building at virtually the same location. I imagine that the land conservancy people and Project Watershed would be on board in a heartbeat.

“I know that I would be willing to donate to such a project. The other advantage is that it offers an alternative route to the building that does not go through the local subdivision, and would not require construction in a sensitive marsh plain.

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The Week: No 29th Street bridge? Check. Only 60 ‘new’ beds? Check

The Week: No 29th Street bridge? Check. Only 60 ‘new’ beds? Check

A pair of ponies  /  George Le Masurier photo

By George Le Masurier

The City of Courtenay can cross another potential third-bridge location off its list. Golden Life Management company will build its 120-bed seniors residential home on a vacant lot at 29th Street and Cliffe Avenue, on the estuary side of the road.

During this summer’s 21st Street bridge proposal — which turned out to be a bogus plan by an ignorant consultant because it cut a swath through the Courtenay Airpark and a critical appendage off the Kus-kus-sum restoration — some people suggested 29th Street made a better bridge site. It could funnel Comox traffic straight off the Inland Highway connector.

Believe it: no bridge will cross the K’omoks Estuary in our lifetime. But now, with a seniors facility in the way, you can bet your life it won’t happen on 29th Street.

  Health Minister Adrian Dix might have expected his announcement this week of 151 long-term care beds to send the Comox Valley into a jubilant frenzy. We’ll welcome any amount of new beds, even though we’re sore that it took so long.

But some people aren’t dancing in the streets.

Core NDP supporters wanted the beds, or a majority of them, to be publicly operated, not put into the hands of a private operator. The family-owned Golden Life Management company promises a well-run, quality home for seniors — what else would they say? — and we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

But Comox Valley skeptics can be forgiven because we’ve had a bad experience with private operators. Retirement Concepts made similar promises before they sold to a Chinese company, which has since been taken over by the Chinese government. Workers have struck. Horror stories rumored. Quality has suffered.

But the big elephants in this room are whether we really got 151 “new” beds, and whether they solve the Comox Valley’s problem.

Let’s do the math: 21 of the 151 beds are already in use at the old acute care hospital — so these aren’t new. We’re down to 130 “new” beds.

There are also about 70 admitted patients parked in acute care beds at the Comox Valley Hospital who really need long-term care beds. So these beds are already spoken for. Does that mean the province is adding only 60 “new” beds?

There are at least that many people (60) receiving care at home from family members, while they wait for long-term beds to open up. By the time these new facilities open their doors in 2020 (we hope), the Valley’s population growth and aging baby boomers will have added scores of people to that wait list. And we predict this announcement will not completely solve our hospital’s overcapacity problem.

Still, it is something. And the BC Government has similar needs all over the province. They also have a budget to balance.

 The two best parts of the health minister’s announcement were: 1) four new respite beds at the new Providence facility. Caregivers deserve a break; and, 2) Island Health committed to a redevelopment of The Views at St. Joseph’s, including a dementia village concept.

Everything St. Joe’s has planned, since they learned several years ago that the acute care hospital would move, will go into the redevelopment of the Comox site. And there’s little doubt they could have pulled this off without Providence. In fact, we suspect the Health Ministry was waiting for the new Providence Residential Community Care Society to form and acquire St. Joe’s before awarding the long-term care bed contracts.

What the dickens is former CVRD director Rod Nichol up to?

Arzeena Hamir defeated Nichol for the Area B seat in the fall election. Now, Nichol, who chaired a select committee investigating potential waste-to-energy technologies, is working behind the scenes to push his pet project forward. That’s fair enough. He’s passionate about the cause and fully invested in it.

But his actions are raising more questions than providing answers.

For instance, in a letter to Decafnation (an exact copy of a comment he posted on our website), Nichol says our story “needs clarification.” But he doesn’t clarify anything. Nothing needed clarification. What he’s really doing is lobbying for a company called Sustane Technologies.

Hamir and other directors have questioned the work of Nichol’s advisory committee. They ask whether Sustane’s technology will actually reduce the north Island’s carbon footprint, as claimed, and want the committee’s terms of reference updated to examine that aspect more closely.

That seems reasonable, especially because Sustane doesn’t have a proven track record yet. It’s first Canadian operation is just coming online.

Now that’s he’s no longer an elected official, Nichol can promote whatever business he wants. But by doing so, is Nichol attempting to preserve the legacy of a committee he chaired? Or is he out-and-out lobbying for Sustane? This line seems blurred. Especially because Nichol is only a couple of months out of office. And, in Nichol’s letter to Decafnation, he copied in a Sustane corporate executive. Why would he do that?

And Hamir alleged at a recent solid waste management board meeting that a director met privately with Sustane. She did not name names, and we’re not suggesting it was Nichol. It could have been any of the committee’s directors. Charlie Cornfield, of Campbell River, for example. We don’t know. But if someone did, in fact, meet privately with Sustane, they are ethically bound to declare it.

¶  Finally, congrats to Comox Council for getting started on an off-leash dog park. It’s obviously needed. And Courtenay should have one, too. We hope these off-leash parks also come with enforcement of keeping dogs leashed in other parks.

 

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