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

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

No vicious circles or circular reasoning here. Just a set of points on a place all equal distance from its core, the centre. Photo by George Le Masurier

BY GEORGE LE MASURIER

This article has been updated to correct information about School District 71 school buses

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

Back in 2015, City Council decided to save money by recoating the bridge rather than undertake more costly renovations. At that time, the recoating and some deck repairs were estimated to cost $2.2 million. But council discovered this week that price had ballooned to $6.3 million and is still not underway.

The nearly 60-year-old bridge could be nearing the end of its life span. Although structural engineers say lifestimes of 100 years are achievable with appropriate maintenance planning and if durable materials were used in construction.

This crossing of the Courtenay River is the only bridge for which the city is responsible. The 17th Street and North Connector bridges fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Don’t expect seat belts in Comox Valley school buses in the near future. In a statement to a local media query, School District 71 said it was aware of a CBC series on school bus safety that found seat belts could have prevented thousands of injuries and many deaths.

Transport Canada, however, doesn’t think seat belts are necessary in school buses. “Transport Canada has declared school buses are already designed to protect children in a crash,” according to the SD71 statement reported by The GOAT.

The CBC reported that Transport Canada’s position against seat belts is “based largely on a 1984 study.” And the CBC investigation shows that “government officials have known for years that seat belts save lives and prevent injuries on school buses — information the department has kept hidden from the public.”

Let’s hope there’s no reason to question Transport Canada while they pull their heads out of the sand.

If voters decide against proportional representation in the electoral reform referendum that concludes at 4.30 p.m. today, some fingers might get pointed at the mainstream media, including the Comox Valley Record.

An analysis of major media coverage of the referendum by Fair Vote Canada, an organization the supports proportional representation, found most newspapers tilted coverage against reform, if they covered it at all.

The Comox Valley Record, one of many newspaper owned by Black Press, refused to print any pro-PR columns written by Pat Carl, the publicist for Fair Vote Comox Valley, although it printed anti-PR material sent by the Black Press head office.

And, The Record also found itself in violation of campaign advertising regulations by printing a full-page advertorial written by Kevin Anderson without a proper authorization statement on file. After Megan Ardyche, Fair Vote’s volunteer coordinator, complained to Elections BC, Anderson was registered retroactively as a third-party advertiser.

In a letter to Fair Vote supports, Ardyche wondered why the newspaper didn’t know the legalities of election advertising. Good question.

Decafnation received a kind note from Gwyn Sproule this week in which she praised women newly elected to local governments.

“It certainly is a joy to sit at the regional district board table and see so many young professional women entering local politics. I applaud them. It’s tough to be in politics as well as manage a family.” Well said.

While we have been enjoying some unseasonably warm and dry late-fall weather in the Comox Valley, some of us are a little worried about the upcoming ski season. Mt. Washington has delayed its originally opening date — today! — because there just isn’t any snow on the mountain.

Temperatures have dropped this week, however, and the mountain has made snow on the lower runs. But the ski hill says it needs a good three-foot base to open, and that may take awhile.

Why has Island Health delayed announcing contract awards to build the promised 151 new long-term care beds in the Comox Valley. Long-term care patients take up acute care beds in the Comox Valley Hospital, one of the factors in its ongoing overcapacity problems. And exhausted caregivers at home need help.

Island Health says it will still meet the 2020 deadline for having the beds open, but that’s looking like an overly-optimistic statement with every passing day.

Despite our enquiries, Island Health won’t say specifically why they’ve missed the Aug. 31 date to get the project underway. Do any insiders out there have a better read on the situation?

Hanukkah: celebrating the promise of hope in dark times

Hanukkah: celebrating the promise of hope in dark times

BY RABBI SETH GOLDSTEIN

Tonight marks the beginning of Hanukkah, that eight-day celebration when we bring light into the darkness by lighting the menorah each night.

The story of Hanukkah is retold and well known—the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) lead a revolt against the assimilationist forces of Antiochus and the Syrian-Greeks and emerge victorious. When they go to rededicate the ancient Temple—the most sacred site of the Jewish community—they find a small vial of sacred oil to light the Temple lamp (menorah), a light that was meant to burn continuously. As the story goes, there was enough to last for one day only, when lit however it burned for eight days. That provided enough time for new sacred olive oil to be produced.

There are a lot of complications with the story. The sides of the conflict were not clear cut, and it was in many ways an intra-Jewish battle between religious zealots and Greek sympathizers. The story of the oil and the story of the battle appear in different sources and are brought together later. The length of the holiday has as much to do with the 8-day Festival of Sukkot as much as the story of the oil. But told as it is, it provides a powerful narrative of the confluence of divine light and the light of the human spirit.

A question that ran through my mind recently is, what would have happened if they didn’t find any consecrated oil at all? If as tradition teaches, it took eight days to make consecrated oil, then would the Hasmoneans simply had to wait eight days before they could finish dedicating the Temple?

Presumably so. And yet, they did find the small vial, and then rather than wait until more oil was made, a condition in which they could have been assured of a constant flame, they decided to go ahead and light it anyway.

As I have shared in the past, perhaps the miracle of Hanukkah is not that a day’s worth of oil actually burned for eight days, but that the Hasmoneans recognized that they did not have enough, but decided to light it anyway. They knew in that moment that they could not do it all, but they decided to do what they could, hoping that it would be enough.

And that is another way to think about this holiday. The Hasmoneans knew they needed to move beyond the recent past of destruction and desecration. At the same time, they did not know what the future would hold. Thus the lighting of the small vial of oil is an act of being in the present, of doing what one can do right now, with the resources one has in the situation one finds themselves, without certainty about what comes next.

One can imagine each day watching this flame, not knowing whether that day was the day it would finally burn out. A precarious situation that reminds us that each day was a victory, each day a success, each day a step to celebrate.

Presumably on the ninth day, everything would have been back to normal. The lamp in the Temple would have been continuously lit, enough oil would be in store to keep it going, and the community would press on as it had before. The eight days of Hanukkah therefore celebrate the “in between”–the days between destruction and return to normalcy.

And by celebrating these days of “in between,” our tradition teaches that ultimately, they are not the “in between,” but simply, what is. Hanukkah teaches us to celebrate the here and now, the small victories won each day. We hope for a better future, but we also live each day as best we can, nurturing the flame that we have.

In these dark times, it sometimes feels that we can not generate enough light to sustain us. But we know we are never in complete darkness, there is always a small vial of oil, of promise, of hope, even if we don’t see it at first. And no matter what, when we find it, we light it, doing what we can in this moment, on this day, to bring about a new reality.

Rabbi Seth Goldstein serves Temple Beth Hatfiloh and may be reached via his website, Rabbi360.com

 

 

 

About Hanukkah

Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple. Also spelled Hanukkah (or variations of that spelling), the Hebrew word is actually pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-new-kah. — From Chabad.org

Back in 139 BCE, the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. In the Temple, they built a new altar and made a new menorah. When they wanted to light it, they found they only had enough oil to light it for one day. But that lamp kept burning for eight nights and was considered a miracle. Since then a festival of lights has been celebrated every year to remember the occasion. Candles are lit for eight nights, and families eat foods cooked with oil and exchange presents. — From CBC


 

Read more or contact the Central Vancouver Island Jewish Community Society in Parksville here

 

 

The week in review: new councils make their own first meeting statements

The week in review: new councils make their own first meeting statements

It’s a long and lonely road to the top. George Le Masurier photo

BY GEORGE LE MASURIER

Voters meted out the biggest changes to local government this fall in Courtenay and Comox with a sharp shift toward younger and more progressive councillors. But it’s still the Cumberland Village Council that, so far, has delivered on the progressive agenda.

Mayor Leslie Baird’s crew needed just a couple of meetings to approve two marijuana dispensaries, agree to a prohibition on water bottling and start the ball rolling on a village-wide plastic bag ban.

Of course, Cumberland already had the most functionally progressive council in the Valley, and had only one change after the election — Vickey Brown for Roger Kishi. Courtenay has three new councillors and Comox has four.

— Kudos to Comox Councillor Patrick McKenna for casting the lone vote against awarding council members what many will see as a pay increase. It’s not, of course. The increase merely covers the loss of tax-exempt status on council expenses. And the remuneration for elected officials wasn’t overly generous to begin with.

But the optics were bad. Whoever decided to put that decision on the table at the new councils’ first meeting, did the disservice of putting them all in a bad position.

— No one ever doubted that funding for the $125 million water-filtering plant would materialize. It’s being built as a result of government (Island Health) mandated standards and, environmental cynics would say, because of provincial policies that allowed logging practices in the Comox Lake watershed that caused most of the turbidity problems in the first place.

Still, the $63.9 million for the project announced this week was comforting. The feds threw in $34.3 and the province gave $28.6 million, $7.5 million of which goes to the K’omoks First Nations. Comox Valley taxpayers will buck up the balance of $54.9.

And for that $125 million about half of Comox Valley residents get no more boil-water advisories. The other half will continue to drink from their wells and other water sources.

— What a difference a year or so makes. The Mack Laing Heritage Society asked Comox Council to put a tarp on the roof of Shakesides, the famous naturalists last home on Comox Bay back in April of of 2017 and never got a formal reply. The issue was never even brought to council for a vote.

But the new council (four new, three incumbents) discussed and approved the request at its very first meeting. What changed? Did the three who served on the previous council suddenly get religion? Or, did they and certain staff members just realize the majority of four new council members had no interest in playing the “I can’t hear you game” with Shakesides supporters?

Whatever the reason, the council did the right thing. Until the court rules on the town’s petition to alter a generous man’s gift to his community or some other way forward is adopted, the building in Mack Laing Park must be protected.

— Who doesn’t want to live in a community where the City Council bikes to its meetings? Well maybe the Comox Valley Taxpayer’s Alliance. But many of us do.

Yeah, we know, it was nothing more than a PR stunt hastily arranged when Courtenay council members gathered at a downtown bike shop and rode together to their first council meeting. And, yet, it meant something important. It represented an attitude and a vision for how this council will address transportation and related issues. 

City councillors aren’t all going to bike to every council meeting. They just took an opportunity to make a simple, positive statement. Now they need to back up that message with policy.

— Overheard at the Comox public input session regarding the Comox Valley Sewer System redesign, which primarily serves Courtenay and Comox residents …

“Know why Courtenay should pay the full cost of odour control measures at the treatment plant? Because in Comox, our s–t doesn’t stink.”

Fentanyl is a provincial public health crisis

Fentanyl is a provincial public health crisis

 BY JOHN AND JENNIFER, MEGAN AND KYLE HEDICAN

Our family lost a loved son and brother at the age of 26 to a Fentanyl poisoning on April 24, 2017. Ryan was one of 124 people last April in British Colombia to lose their life and 1 of 1,400 British Columbians in 2017 due to fentanyl poisoning. Ryan was not sick – he was a healthy young man who was working as an electrician and had finished eight months of recovery.

It is now 17 months later, and we are on pace for another 1,400 British Colombians to lose their lives to the same preventable cause in 2018. More than four people every day in BC are continuing to die from a fentanyl poisoning. This crisis is affecting everyone, as it’s non-discriminatory in who is dying, affecting everyone from business people, health care providers, construction workers, teenagers to seniors.

Premier John Horgan needs to declare this Fentanyl crisis a Provincial State of Emergency and then call on the other Provincial Premiers to do the same.

In July 2017, our Liberal Government declared a Provincial State of Emergency to combat wildfires extended by our new NDP govererment in August 2017. This Provincial Emergency act was declared again in 2018 due to wildfires. Not a single life was lost to wild fires in either year, yet a contaminated source will kill 3,000 British Colombians and over 8,000 Canadians across Canada in 2017 and 2018. We understand because of the size and amount of fires that it was necessary to declare the Provincial Emergency; we don’t understand how so many healthy people across our province have died and continue to die every day and it is not a Provincial State of Emergency?

Our premiers need to call upon our prime minister and his Liberal government to declare this crisis a National Public Health Emergency now, so real changes can occur to save lives now. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Tam, stated that “tragically in 2016, there were more deaths from opioid related deaths than from the HIV epidemic in 1995. This is a major public health crisis in Canada.”

Our governments are responsible for the safety of its citizens and it has the responsibility to do all it can to stop preventable deaths, tragically the fear of losing votes and optics are preventing this.

The Hedicans are Comox Valley residents 

More Commentary

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

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

Hanukkah: celebrating the promise of hope in dark times

BY RABBI SETH GOLDSTEIN onight marks the beginning of Hanukkah, that eight-day celebration when we bring light into the darkness by lighting the menorah each night.The story of Hanukkah is retold and well known—the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) lead a...

Fentanyl is a provincial public health crisis

Our family lost a loved son and brother at the age of 26 to a Fentanyl poisoning on April 24, 2017. Ryan was one of 124 people last April in British Colombia to lose their life and 1 of 1,400 British Columbians in 2017 due to fentanyl poisoning. 

Help! Recruiters Needed for Pro Rep Vote

Chris Hilliar writes about ‘relational voting,’ which he learns is a simple concept – friends talking to friends. And without the individual’s participation democracy unravels.

The Lows and Highs of Grassroots Initiatives

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.

The Death of Governing Whiplash

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.

Town’s Mack Laing “hub” aims to influence court

The timing of the Tow of Como’x new information hub about Mack Laing seems to indicate that it will function mostly to justify the town’s controversial decision to have the terms of the Mack Laing Trust altered by the B.C. Supreme Court and to report on the outcome of the case.

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?

Challenging a colonial Inheritance

In New Zealand, proportional representation enabled the Maori Party to achieve important reforms for the country’s indigenous people. British Columbia’s First Nations also deserve a stronger legislative voice, and electoral reform can make it happen

More Commentary
Help! Recruiters Needed for Pro Rep Vote

Help! Recruiters Needed for Pro Rep Vote

Relational voting takes democracy back to the citizen level

 

By CHRIS HILLIAR

Two weeks ago I signed up as a recruiter with Dogwood to help get out the Yes vote to support proportional representation in the BC referendum. The strategy being used by Dogwood is intriguing and I wanted to know more about it and about the local person driving it.

I sat down to speak with Dave Mills. He’s the Deputy Director of Organizing at Dogwood. He has a degree in Science from the University of Victoria, and a 25-year career in resource management and public services. “Dogwood”, he said, “first became well known in BC when they created the “no tanker” loonie sticker – a simple statement of resistance you could paste on the back of our dollar. It was a simple tactic that got under the government’s skin, rallied supporters and put the public on notice. The group continues to be creative and their work promoting Pro Rep is a good example.

I asked Dave to describe the new tactic Dogwood is using to encourage support for Pro Rep. “It’s called Relational Voting” he said, “a simple concept – friends talking to friends. Our networks contain the people most like ourselves. If you’re a ‘Yes’ voter chances are your friends and family are as well.”

As a get-out-the-vote strategy Relational Voting has been used in select US district and congressional races over the past two years. “So in one sense it’s quite a new strategy” he said, “but in the truest sense, it’s as old as the bedrock of democracy itself – conversations between people who share values.”

Relational Voting is ideally suited to the current political climate of mistrust because it bypasses the untrusted messengers of today such as corporate media and government institutions. Even large organizations like Dogwood are not immune to mistrust but Relational Voting means you, personally, deliver a message to your friends and family. “It’s twice as likely to result in action”, he said.

I asked Dave why someone reading this article should take the time to get involved with Dogwood to support pro rep. His response came without thinking so I know it came from his heart. “Because without the individual’s participation democracy unravels” he said. “If we opt out of participating, then democracy goes on death watch.”

“And”, he said, “participation at the citizen level rather than at the party level is the best medicine for what ails our political system.” “Conversation around kitchen tables is how democracy started. Relational Voting gets those conversations started and gives you tools to amplify them.”

If you want to get involved with helping to get the vote out to support Pro Rep, click on this link: https://organize.votebc.ca/recruiter

By the way, if you are worried about how to answer question #2 on the ballot because you don’t feel confident about the different types of proportional representation Dogwood encourages you to just vote Yes to proportional representation on question #1 and leave question #2 blank.

If you want to take a seven minute questionnaire to determine which voting system is the best fit for your values please check out this link: www.referendumguide.ca

Chris Hilliar is a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. He can be reached at hilliar1@telus.net

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.