The Week: Strong CV women in charge.  What did 3L pay? Plus, CVEDS bungles, Comox raises

The Week: Strong CV women in charge. What did 3L pay? Plus, CVEDS bungles, Comox raises

“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.” — Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Strong CV women in charge. What did 3L pay? Plus, CVEDS bungles, Comox raises

By George Le Masurier

This week we’re all about 3L Developments (again), more head-shaking activity from the CV Economic Development Society (again) and ditto (again) for the Comox Town Council.

But first, let’s congratulate Jesse Ketler and Arzeena Hamir on their re-election as chair and co-chair of the Comox Valley Regional District board. Two strong women at the helm. We’re in good hands.

And kudos to another strong woman who joined the CVRD board this week. Courtenay Councillor Melanie McCollum replaced David Frisch as one of the city’s four regional directors.

 

Decafnation has received information that back in 2007, 3L Developments Inc. might have paid somewhere around $1.5 million to purchase the four parcels of land totalling nearly 500 acres in what’s being called the Puntledge Triangle.

We have not verified that number, nor have we seen any official documents that list the 2007 sale price.

But for the last 13 years, the company has tried to persuade the regional district to abandon its Regional Growth Strategy and rezone the properties for a dense urban-style subdivision.

Those four parcels today have an assessed value of $4.222 million. We got those numbers directly from the BC Assessment website.

If the sale price is even close to accurate, then 3L has enjoyed a significant increase in value. Of course, it’s nothing near the profit the company would have realized if the regional district had approved a rezoning.

Did 3L ever really plan to develop the property itself? Or, was its end-plan only to get the parcels rezoned, which would have made the land much more valuable, and then flip the parcels to some other developer?

We’ll never know.

Instead, the debate now shifts to whether the regional district should attempt to purchase the property from 3L Developments. Buying the property for parkland and securing public access to Stotan Falls would certainly win popularity points with the general public. But taking on more parkland is expensive.

There’s no indication yet that regional directors have any interest in negotiating a purchase.

And who knows how they feel after hearing company spokesperson Rob Buchan’s sales pitch to them this week. Buchan said 3L prefers to sell the land to the regional district. But, if you don’t buy the property, he intimated the company would clear-cut the trees and turn the site into a gravel pit. We’ll turn your jewel into a blight.

Not exactly a feel-good proposition.

But the company is certainly entitled to do those things. And if their only interest is self-interest, then that’s probably what will happen.

 

Does the CV Economic Development Society need to fold its tent? Representatives of the three electoral areas, Courtenay, Comox and the regional district will start seeking an answer to that question on Jan. 19.

Regional directors had planned for the full board to assess the future of CVEDS over the next year. But the Comox Town Council decided unanimously to derail that plan and trigger a quicker statutory service review.

What’s the difference? First, a smaller group will negotiate whether there’s any common ground to save the 32-year-old society; and, second, if Comox doesn’t like the outcome of the review, then they can officially withdraw from the service.

Given the Economic Development Society’s recent missteps, the outcome may already be a foregone conclusion. The directors from Courtenay and Electoral Areas A and B are not happy. While the directors from Comox and Area C would preserve the society in its present form if they could. That’s a 3-2 straight-up vote.

And CVEDS has not helped its chances for survival recently. Consider that:

1) CVEDS staff planned a three-day seafood festival during the second pandemic wave in November without the knowledge of its own board of directors or the CVRD or the Comox Valley Regional District. The North Island Public Health department had to step in and when hoteliers got uncomfortable, the event was shut down.

Bringing in guests and featured chefs from the Lower Mainland and Ontario had the potential to create a COVID super-spreader event.

2) The society’s board of directors have not seen or approved any financial statements for 11 months. This not only contravenes the Societies Act, but it’s also an affront to Comox Valley taxpayers who fund the organization.

3) The society has not held an Annual General Meeting for 17 months. Again, in conflict with the Societies Act.

4) CVEDS signed a new two-year contract with the regional district in late July, and then quickly forgot most of it. The society is already in contravention of the agreement and has missed several contractual deadlines.

And then there’s this:

5) On March 12, the local hotels and assorted other accommodation facilities that voluntarily contribute funds to the Municipal and Regional District Tax program (MRDT) — often called the “hotel tax” — decided at their annual budget meeting to help fund mountain biking in Cumberland.

The MRDT group voted to donate $10,000 per year for three years to support the United Riders of Cumberland (UROC) that maintains the biking trails in the Cumberland Forest and organizes events.

The hoteliers also agreed to donate an additional $5,000 per year for three years as prize money for those events to increase participation and potential overnight stays in the Valley.

But several months later, UROC hadn’t received any money. After Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird phoned some of the hoteliers about the funds it was discovered that CVEDS staff had apparently and unilaterally decided to withdraw the donations.

This infuriated the hoteliers because, well, it’s their money and they get to decide how to spend it.

Does this sound like a well-run organization, one that deserves to continue receiving more than a million dollars a year of local taxpayers’ money?

If you have strong feelings about that one way or the other, you might want to let your representative in Comox, Courtenay or the three electoral areas know before Jan. 19.

 

Finally, this week, the Comox town councillors think they might be underpaid.

At its Nov. 18 meeting, the council voted to undertake a review of remuneration for the mayor and council. Keep in mind that one of the first things this council did after taking office in 2018 was to vote themselves a 14 percent pay increase.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic. People have lost jobs. Businesses have closed or lost significant profitability. If this second wave of COVID infections continues to surge, the province might impose even more negative economic impacts.

It’s possible this council might be tone-deaf.

But it is true that Comox council salaries are a little below the average of comparable municipalities. Of course, chasing the average just raises the average. You never get there. It’s like a dog chasing its tail.

That said, however, we have no argument with compensating elected officials fairly. The good ones put in long hours.

Maybe it’s just the optics that feel wrong about this. Comox councillors obviously want to raise their salaries early next year because municipal elections loom the following year. And from a political perspective, it’s better if voters forget about two wage hikes during one term in office before the polls open in 2022.

The citizens advisory group that will study and recommend whether Comox councillors deserve a second raise will comprise just three people, including one former councillor. We think a larger, more representative group of Comox taxpayers might be more objective.

And who will choose and appoint this (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) neutral group? Why the town’s chief administrative officer, of course, who is employed at the pleasure of the mayor and council.

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Commentary | Latest Feature
The Week: COVID in the Valley, future of 3L property and a possible Grieve connection

The Week: COVID in the Valley, future of 3L property and a possible Grieve connection

George Le Masurier photo

The Week: COVID in the Valley, future of 3L property and a possible Grieve connection

By George Le Masurier

This week we’re thinking about COVID in the Comox Valley, vaccines and an Island bubble. But we haven’t forgotten about 3L Developments and the Economic Development Society or how Area C Director Edwin Grieve weaves a common thread between those two controversial issues. Plus we’re having a random thought about religious zealots

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry delivered a sobering report yesterday along with new orders restricting travel and social gatherings and making it mandatory to wear masks in all public and retail indoor spaces.

Henry was reacting to the sharp rise in new COVID infections across the province, which has occurred primarily because people have let down their guard. It’s evident right here in the Comox Valley.

Before these news orders, if you walked into any local store, big or small, you could have been surrounded by people without masks. If you had peeked inside any gym or recreation centre, you might have seen people huffing and puffing without masks, sometimes where spin bikes were located in common areas.

And, good heavens, what was Comox Valley Economic Development Officer John Watson thinking when he planned a three-day Seafood Festival for last weekend? Bringing in chefs from the Lower Mainland and Ontario?

Thank goodness the North Island medical health officer stepped in and the saner minds of local hoteliers helped kill that reckless plan.

 

Now that the Comox Valley Regional District has rejected the idea of amending the Regional Growth Strategy — for a third time* — what will become of the 500 acres in the Puntledge Triangle that encompasses Stotan Falls? There are many possibilities.

The first option is, of course, the possibility that 3L could develop the property according to its current RU-20 zoning, which it is free to do. But a 50-acre minimum lot size won’t have wide market appeal.

Another option, one that many people fear, is that 3L will log the property and turn it into a gravel pit.

Owner Dave Dutcyvich has threatened to do this if the CVRD refuses to amend the Regional Growth Strategy to permit a high density subdivision. And he would presumably continue to deny public access to Stotan Falls and withdraw his offer of parkland.

But it’s dubious whether there is enough gravel in the ground to make such an endeavour feasible. And it wouldn’t be the first time the property has been logged.

Supporters of the company’s plan argue that maintaining access to a swimming hole used a few months of the year and the acquisition of another regional park are worth the price of giving in to 3L.

3L’s opponents and others disagree. They believe that undermining the crux of the Regional Growth Strategy would open up the floodgates for a line-up of developers just waiting for the precedent that might return us to the good old days of uncontrolled growth on less expensive rural land.

They think it’s more important to save the principle of urban containment that is embodied in the RGS.

However, 3L has more options. After a one-year waiting period, the company could try to find another local jurisdiction willing to support the idea of amending the Regional Growth Strategy. The Town of Comox, perhaps. Or the City of Courtenay.

3L could also try to convince the City of Courtenay to annex the portion of the property south of the Puntledge River. This area is closer to the city’s current boundaries and was identified by 3L — in an after-the-fact revision of their latest application — as a potential site for its Riverwood development.

But that option faces its own difficulties. While the property is identified as a future settlement expansion area, the city could not annex any piece of it without providing satisfactory servicing. Convincing the Courtenay Council to take on more long-term infrastructure debt to extend water and sewer lines seems like a long-shot.

3L probably made a mistake by not putting their revised version on the table first. It might have gotten a better reception, though not necessarily a favourable one. But flaunting essentially the same old plan that regional directors had previously rejected wasn’t a winning strategy.

 

In an interesting twist to this story, it was Area C Director Edwin Grieve who split with his two colleagues on the Electoral Areas Services Commission and opposed the rejection of 3L’s application.

Grieve previously opposed the company’s original application two years ago, so why would he support the application now? Especially after 3L made trouble for him over an incident they could never prove?

Grieve says it’s because he, like many others, wants the CVRD to acquire more parkland, which 3L tantalizingly dangles as a possibility, and that he want the public to always have access to Stotan Falls.

But it is curious that the company’s last-minute-but-too-late development plan revision included space for an “agriplex.” Grieve has been a champion of the original “agriplex” idea — Read: convention centre — on ALR land at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds.

The non-profit entity that manages the exhibition grounds had proposed a small facility that would actually benefit the local agricultural industry. But then, a few people with special interests jumped on (stomped on?) that plan and repackaged it as a big arena for monster truck shows and country music concerts.

Given the current CVRD board, building an arena on ALR land in a flood plain probably wasn’t going anywhere. So, was 3L throwing out an enticement for Grieve to argue for consideration of the company’s revised plan? Or, was it just a coincidence?

 

But why would an “agriplex” appeal to Grieve? It could be tied to Grieve’s staunch support of the CV Economic Development Society even though Area C receives few if any direct benefits from the society’s activities.

Before Grieve was elected, Area C was represented on the regional board by Barry Minaker. And Minaker had the radical thought nearly a decade ago that his constituents — Area C taxpayers — weren’t getting their money’s worth from the Economic Development Society.

So Minaker floated the idea of withdrawing Area C from the service, as Hornby and Denman islands and Cumberland have done. But some other local interests didn’t want to see this happen and they helped Grieve challenge Minaker at the ballot box.

As it turns out, some of those same interests are also behind the push for an “agriplex.” There’s nothing nefarious about that. But it is an interesting connection.

— When do you know that a person has really cracked up? Just wondering, because this week American televangelist Pat Robertson prayed publicly for Satan to stop making people believe Joe Biden won the election. On the other hand, maybe this is just the average intelligence level of people who voted for Trump.

 

* The CVRD rejected 3L Development’ first application to amend the RGS, but were told by the courts to reconsider. They did and rejected it again. Now, the regional district has rejected the company’s application for a third time.

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Commentary | News
The Week: Local virus super-spreader event avoided! Comox doc wants Island bubble

The Week: Local virus super-spreader event avoided! Comox doc wants Island bubble

Coronavirus or holiday lights? Upcoming holidays will test our resolve  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Local virus super-spreader event avoided! Comox doc wants Island bubble

By George Le Masurier

Just when you thought the COVID virus pandemic couldn’t consume more of your life, this week happened. Infections surged around the world. Metro Vancouver became a Canadian hotspot along with Quebec and Ontario.

Right here at home, a Comox doctor and a Victoria newspaper called for a bubble around Vancouver Island to maintain our relatively virus-safe environment.

But, did you know that the Comox Valley narrowly avoided becoming the epicentre of a COVID virus super-spreader event? Probably not, and for that you can thank the quick action of North Island Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns and her team.

The Comox Valley Economic Development Society recently put up a public website inviting people to purchase tickets to a three-day Seafood Festival Nov. 20-22 at Crown Isle Resort in Courtenay.

And the website touted its line-up of featured chefs, many of whom would be coming from the Lower Mainland.

The website promotion was oblivious to BC Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recently imposed special restrictions on the Lower Mainland due to a surge in new infections centered in the Metro Vancouver area. Her new advisory strongly suggested against all non-essential travel in or out of the region.

Chefs coming from a high infection area to prepare food for guests — who might also be coming from off-island — should have raised red flags for somebody.

When Decafnation contacted the North Island public health office on Monday, Nov. 9, we discovered that the festival organizers had not reached out to ensure they were complying with the current public health orders.

But Dr. Enns put her team to work. Within hours we received a response from Charlene MacKinnon, Senior Environmental Health Officer.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention, our team is not aware of the event. We are currently in the process of looking into the matter,” MacKinnon wrote to Decafnation. “As Dr. Enns mentioned we will make sure that the event meets the current orders and health recommendations.”

By late Tuesday, the Economic Development Society had changed their website. It now promises to feature only Vancouver Island chefs, although it makes no mention of refusing attendance to off-Island people.

However, the website continues to promote the appearance of Patrick McMurray, a world champion oyster shucker from Toronto, Ontario, where new COVID cases hit 1,575 on Nov. 12, a single-day record high for the third day in a row.

Neither Deana Simpkin, chair of the society’s board of directors, or Executive Director John Watson, responded to multiple requests for comments on the festival’s planning. It usually takes place in mid-summer.

Who knows what might have happened if public health officials hadn’t stepped in. It might have been fine, or it could have been a disaster. But it shows how we all need to be vigilant in our lives and businesses because one careless moment, one irresponsible act could affect thousands of other people.

 

CITY COUNCIL SPEAKS, BUT NOT THE MAYOR

Decafnation also reached out to several Courtenay City Councillors to gauge their perspective on the potential virus-spreading event in their city.

Melanie McCollum, who sits on the Economic Development Society board of directors, said she only found out about the event from a hotel manager two weeks ago.

“I fail to see the logic of proceeding with this event, but I can assure you that input from the CVEDS board has not been part of the process of moving forward,” she told Decafnation. “I don’t know who this event is being marketed to, or how many people they are hoping will attend. I don’t understand the rationale for going ahead.”

Doug Hillian pointed out that neither the city or the regional district has been asked to support or endorse the festival.

“While I would see such an event as questionable in current circumstances and would not attend myself, it appears to have been framed as a series of dining experiences with restaurant-specific safety plans in place,” he said. “You may be aware that the Fall Fair operated this past summer with reduced numbers as per health guidelines and with regional district support.”

Wendy Morin has previously voiced disagreement about holding the Seafood Festival during the pandemic.

“I think this is the wrong time to be having the Seafood Festival, even with adaptations for smaller numbers. I have concerns generally about promoting visitors to come here this winter,” she said. “Apparently there is a campaign going on inviting snowbirds. Other communities that rely on tourism such as Ucluelet and Tofino are telling visitors to cancel accommodation reservations. It is the responsible thing to do, especially with our soaring Covid cases recently.”

Mayor Bob Wells said he wasn’t aware of the event when first contacted by Decafnation, but has not offered a comment.

 

BUILD A COVID WALL, ER, BUBBLE

Should Vancouver Island put up a COVID-wall, figuratively speaking? A Comox doctor thinks so.

Dr. Alex Nataros, with the Port Augusta Family Practice, has suggested creating a bubble around Vancouver Island to protect our low COVID infection rate. In a letter to Dr. Charmaine Enns, Nataros writes:

“In light of markedly increased rates of COVID-19 … in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, which stand in stark contrast with the low rates we have preserved in the Island Health region, as well as clear violations of Public Health guidelines including well documented Oct. 31, 2020 public celebrations in downtown Vancouver, I would respectfully ask that, as our North Island Medical Health Officer, you consider advocating for an Island Health regional COVID-19 ‘bubble.’

“As PHO Dr. Bonnie Henry announced … you now have the scope and authority for more region-specific guidelines. I hope that you and our Public Health officers continue your excellent work to date, and move forward with the leadership our region needs.”

Thinking along those same lines, the Victoria Times-Colonist newspaper said this in a recent editorial:

“Local hospitality associations like Tourism Vancouver Island are encouraging Canadians from across the country to visit Vancouver Island this winter. The British Columbia Hotel Association likewise is inviting snowbirds to vacation here instead of heading south …

“Beyond our climate, the unspoken part of the tourist industry’s campaign is apparent: Come here to escape the epidemic. Surely this is not a message we should be comfortable with … As winter approaches, with the threat of a flu season pending, that job is only half done … Permitting an influx of holiday-makers from across Canada at this time, with no controls or protocols that would limit spread of the virus, cannot be in our best interests.”

We concur with both of those sentiments. And keep your oyster chefs in Vancouver.

 

THE BRILLIANCE OF ANTI-MASKERS

Finally, we’ll end with a COVID story you won’t believe. And we are not making this up.

New Westminster police have charged Mak Parhar, a 47-year-old BC resident, under the Quarantine Act for repeated violations; specifically, three counts of failing to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada.

Parhar, a well-known BC anti-mask proponent, was arrested when he returned from South Carolina, where he had attended a flat earth conference.

This article’s reference to Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells was updated Friday morning.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Commentary | News
The Week: Comox has a hissy over CV Economic Development Society changes

The Week: Comox has a hissy over CV Economic Development Society changes

It’s stormy weather this week down at the Comox Public Marina  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Comox has a hissy over CV Economic Development Society changes

By George Le Masurier

Well, folks, another week has passed so that must mean another new controversy has erupted over the Comox Valley Economic Development Society. And this one has pulled back the cloak — just a tiny bit — on the behind the scenes politicking at the regional district and the lockstep march of the Comox Town Council.

In the midst of what appeared to be a collaborative attempt to reach a shared vision for the future of regional economic development, Comox Town Councillors have unanimously decided to derail that process by triggering a section of the Local Government Act. That section is often used as the first step in withdrawing from a service.

It’s no secret that the CV Economic Development Society, known as CVEDS, has become a focal point that epitomizes the Comox Valley’s geopolitical polarization. And it’s a red hot point right now.

The region’s remaining old guard, epitomized by Comox Council and Electoral Area C Director Edwin Grieve, love the CVEDS status quo. The new blood of elected officials in Cumberland, Courtenay and Areas A and B do not.

So now, with changes afoot, no one is complaining more about proposed reforms to the regional district’s relationship with CVEDS than Comox councillors. There’s a reason for that.

The old guard loves CVEDS because it has historically done their bidding. A case in point: no Comox Valley jurisdiction has benefited more from CVEDS activity than the Town of Comox.

This imbalance has rankled everyone else. And it’s one reason why Cumberland and Hornby and Denman islands have withdrawn from regional economic development services.

But that’s not the only factor driving the new blood’s desire to transform CVEDS. These elected officials want economic support services that accommodate the community’s shift toward social and environmental values.

The new blood sees the old CVEDS as promoters of environmental projects like the Raven Coal Mine and bullish land developers such as 3L Developments. They see CVEDS undermining a proposal by an active Exhibition Grounds user in order to promote a convention centre on ALR land. They see a lack of accountability, a lack of interest in the social issues that affect economic vitality and a lack of attention to non-profit organizations that contribute to economic readiness.

They also see the regional district’s reprehensibly long history of a lack of meaningful oversight of an organization funded with public money.

It’s not surprising that the Town of Comox would object to any reforms of the regional economic development service that might divert staff attention and funding to other beneficiaries. Like the agriculture community. Or the arts and cultural community. Or some other physical location of the valley.

But the extent of Comox Council’s territorial protectionism is confusing and conflicted.

This was evident at a recent CVRD workshop solely focused on economic services. Comox Councillor Ken Grant objected to any funding or initiative to promote mountain biking or improve the sport’s infrastructure because it might benefit Cumberland, where the most trails and amenities exist, but who no longer participates in the service.

Other directors were quick to point out that being known Islandwide as a mountain biking mecca brings economic benefit to all kinds of businesses across the entire Comox Valley.

In fact, it was a Comox business — the former Simon’s Cycles, now known as the Comox Bike Company — that practically invented mountain biking in the Comox Valley. There are still two bike stores in Comox and residents/taxpayers/voters often go to the Cumberland Community Forest to ride.

And yet, Comox wants support for its own marina and Comox Valley Airport projects.

Here’s the problem. Everything was working fine for Comox until the new blood turned its attention to the CV Economic Development Society. Now, no longer in the majority, the town sees its influence and benefits drifting toward other areas of the community. And they don’t like it.

So, they’ve started a statutory service review of the regional district’s economic development service under the Local Government Act. But the regional district had already scheduled a complete review and reimagining of the service for next year.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. Except, the formalized service review includes a provision for Comox to withdraw from the service if it doesn’t like the outcome, which it probably won’t. This is the same process requested by Cumberland when it decided to withdraw.

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott implied in a statement to Decafnation this week that the town doesn’t intend to withdraw. But what other benefit exists for going the formal route over the already planned informal route?

Well, the public can’t discern the town’s motive or long-term goals of this action because Mayor Arnott has locked up his pack of councillors from speaking about it without his permission.

When Decafnation asked councillors for more explanation and for their personal opinion on what they hoped this action would achieve, they refused to talk.

Councillor Alex Bissinger said the council decided that only the mayor could speak on the topic to avoid “mixed messages.” In other words, any slight deviation from the company line might cause trouble.

Heaven forbid that a Comox council member might have an opinion that differs from the rest of the council or whose feelings about an issue might present a perspective that hasn’t been pre-vetted. Imagine the chaos that would ensue!

By comparison, Courtenay council members regularly disagree with each other and express their views openly for public consumption. By Comox council standards, it’s a wonder the city gets anything accomplished. But they do and their constituents usually know what they’re doing and why.

So the CV Economic Development Society drama will now play out in a formalized setting without all the voices at the table. Only one representative from Comox and Courtenay will be able to participate.

Even the recently formed Economic Development Select Committee will meet this week to fold up its tents. It had been charged to investigate efficiencies and cost savings from integrating CVEDS activities and office space with the regional district.

But that committee’s effort was probably going nowhere anyway. CV Economic Development Society Executive Director John Watson has arranged for new office space in … wait for it …

Comox Town Hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT CVEDS?

Go HERE to read all of our stories on the Comox Valley Economic Development Society

 

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Commentary | CVEDS
The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral

The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral

An orange day-lily (Latin name: hemerocallis fulva)  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Readers alarmed by reduced North Island hospital services send our stories viral

By George Le Masurier

Decafnation readers sent last week’s articles viral about the resignation of the Comox Valley Hospital’s remaining two pathologists and the troubling story of Shirley Brown, whose cancer diagnosis was delayed almost two months because of the shortage of pathologists at the Campbell River Hospital.

And it would have been even longer except that Shirley’s husband is Dr. Paul Brown, a 40-year physician who knew the system and who to call.

As Shirley’s story showed, it’s not just that long periods of uncertainty cause unnecessary anxiety and stress, although that’s bad enough, but delays can cause significant unfavourable modification in how doctors are able to treat their patients.

There is no doubt that a shortage of healthcare services available on the North Island can and will have tragic consequences.

People all over Vancouver Island are reading these stories because they realize that what happened to Shirley Brown could also happen to them. And that sad scenario becomes more likely as Island Health continues to take health care services from our hospitals and give them to private doctor corporations in Victoria.

Now that the NDP appears to have won a majority government, will our two North Island MLAs have the decency (backbone?) to intervene on behalf of their constituents?

This week’s top story reports on a recent two-day workshop where regional district directors initiated discussions about the future of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society. Although directors haven’t yet taken an official vote to start exploring other — read: better — options, this movement is long overdue.

Part of the problem is evident in the list of economic strategies that regional directors want CVEDS to consider for their 2021 work plan. The list includes topics such as child care, arts and culture, the green retrofit industry, communal workspaces and more.

For too long, social and environmental values have been foreign to the old CVEDS mindset.

The shift in emphasis has upset many of the CVEDS own board of directors and especially because the regional directors have taken such an active role in setting CVEDS priorities. Three CVEDS directors have resigned recently — Bruce Turner, Justin Rigsby and Brian Yip.

But the CVRD has always had the contractual authority to set CVEDS’ priorities and direct its work plan. Previous regional directors just never chose to exercise it.

Perhaps if the CVRD had provided more meaningful oversight a long time ago, and if the CVEDS board had been more in tune with shifting community values, and if the staff had not soured some relationships within various business sectors, then maybe the political rancour over reforming the organization might not have needed to reach this point.

Not had enough politics? How about throwing your hat in the ring for the Comox Valley school board? There’s a position open in Electoral Area C after Ian Hargreaves recently resigned in a huff.

You have until Nov. 6 to pick up a nomination package at the school board offices in Courtenay.

Did British Columbia voters really elect an NDP majority government? The election night tally seems to indicate so, and everyone assumes the mail-in ballots will follow that trend.

But there are 11,500 uncounted mail-ballots in the Courtenay-Comox riding and the NDP leads the BC Liberals by about 3,000. That feels like an insurmountable margin. But it’s not yet guaranteed.

Decafnation asked a few people how they saw the preliminary results. We pointed out that the NDP appears to have gained an additional 10 percent of the total vote in the Courtenay-Comox riding, while the BC Liberals lost about six percent and the Greens gained about three percent.

BC Liberal Party candidate Brennan Day hinted that he would have a lot to say about the general tone of this campaign from Vancouver. But he was “going to reserve comment until the votes are counted.”

Dave Mills, the manager of organizing programs at the Dogwood Initiative, believes that COVID dominated voters’ perspectives. “It governed … the perception of what issues generally are most important – how the pandemic is managed.”

Mills thinks that the voters who had the capacity and felt confident enough to turn out at the polls on Election Day would be the same people “who appreciate Horgan’s centrist vision.”

Delores Broten, editor and publisher of The Watershed Sentinel, said she was waiting for the final count, “but overall, I think Bonnie Henry just got elected.”

And she credited the local Green Party for the scramble they went through to do as well as they did in a month. Candidate Gillian Anderson wasn’t even nominated until a week into the short campaign.

“So if I were the greens I would not be disappointed,” she said. “Maybe also ask the question the other way around: What happened to crushing the Greens so they would lose all their seats and just go away? They came second in several ridings which I don’t think has happened before.”

Speaking of Dr. Bonnie Henry, we’re thankful for the new guidelines to keep household gatherings down to a Safe Six, and that she expects people to wear masks in all public places. Henry stopped short of making mask-wearing a mandate. But based on our local experience, it might become necessary.

Every day, we see people in stores without masks. Just this week, the front door greeter at a prominent grocery store in the Comox business district offered a mask to a male shopper. He not only refused but did so emphatically.

Finally, a Decafnation reader wrote to us about the large, beautiful Brugmansia suaveolens plant displayed at the main Comox intersection.

“One reason the plant is banned (in many cities) is because, in small amounts, it’s hallucinogenic(!) – that is, people are reckless enough to eat it to try to get high. Perhaps wise not to mention that and encourage anyone!”

Holy Moly, if we let that get out, all the stoners from Eastern Canada will be camping on Comox Avenue in their VW buses. Shades of The Great Mushroom Rush of 1985 on Headquarters Road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PANDEMIC GUIDELINES

While physical distancing isn’t required within your household or your “safe six,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19:

General

Keep a safe physical distance.
Gather in well-ventilated areas.
Clean surfaces that people often touch. 
Wash hands frequently and do not touch your face.
Limit time together indoors.
Go outdoors as much as possible.
Do not serve food buffet style.
Masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry has made no recommendation about the use of masks at private gatherings. 
But she said this week that she expects people towear masks in all indoor public places.

 

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Commentary | News
The Week: Do BC Liberals retake the Courtenay-Comox riding from Greens and NDP?

The Week: Do BC Liberals retake the Courtenay-Comox riding from Greens and NDP?

It was a tough growing season for tomatoes this year, but they look great anyway  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Do BC Liberals retake the Courtenay-Comox riding from Greens and NDP?

By George Le Masurier

Polling stations for the Oct. 24 BC provincial election in fewer than 100 hours. Election Day is officially this Saturday, but nearly half of the 2017 vote total have already been cast.

Some 800,000 people have voted early — when they were less likely to have social distancing problems — or by mail, which is by far the easiest and most convenient method to vote.

So it’s late, but never too late for a few observations.

 

The BC Liberals lost the Courtenay-Comox riding in 2017 because a Conservative candidate siphoned off more than 2,000 votes. Assuming that most of those votes would have gone to the Liberals, they would have won the riding without a whiff of a recount.

The news gets worse for the NDP.

Many loyal NDP voters have grumbled about Premier John Horgan because A) he didn’t kill Site C; B) has embraced LNG; and, C) continues to allow timber companies to mow through old-growth timber.

Based on that, do you really believe the left will split their vote this year more generously between the NDP and the BC Green Party? If so, then the Courtenay-Comox Liberals are probably already chilling their champagne.

 

Would a BC Liberal victory in the Courtenay-Comox riding be a good thing or a bad thing?

That feels like a funny question to ponder because the BC Liberal Party has a terrible and genuinely unlikable leader in Andrew Wilkinson, who wants to turn the clock back on social progress in this province. Remember Social Credit?

Plus, who can forget how the BC Liberals destroyed education and social programs when voters last gave them the keys to the provincial budget? Not many educators voting Liberal lately.

And creating a $10 billion-plus hole in the provincial budget by eliminating the PST for a year would give Awful Andrew the perfect excuse to start chopping again.

On the other hand, if your interest is narrow enough to warrant only a comeuppance for Island Health’s shameful handling of several Comox Valley Hospital and health care issues, then BC Liberal candidate Brennan Day might suit your purposes.

When Decafnation asked the Courtenay-Comox candidates how they would address the many issues surrounding Island Health’s reduction of pathologist services on the North Island, Day was the only one who promised to press for an external, independent review. His response was researched and thoughtful.

Our incumbent MLA, Ronna-Rae Leonard, rightly blamed the previous BC Liberal government for fostering an environment of privatization in health care, a sentiment we whole-heartedly endorse.

But that doesn’t excuse Leonard’s deliberate avoidance of her responsibility to represent her constituents on this issue. For the last three years, she’s done nothing, zippo, to rectify the situation. Doctors have met with her. No action. Citizen groups have lobbied and written to her. Nada.

Leonard professes support for returning full pathology services, but the lack of action during her first term in office undermines her credibility.

In her response to Decafnation, Leonard said, “That’s why we’re hiring more people now.” This is untrue, if she’s referring to general pathologists.

Island Health is trying (unsuccessfully) to hire new anatomical pathologists, but only because the two respected and well-liked pathologists serving this area for decades resigned in protest two months ago. There are no pathologists at the Comox Valley Hospital today. The jobs are open.

And then there’s the Green Party. Sadly, by her own admission, the slow decline of health care services on the North Island hasn’t made it onto the radar of Green candidate Gillian Anderson.

So where does that leave us? Voting is complicated this time. The numbers point to a BC Liberal victory in Courtenay-Comox. But, hey, don’t listen to us, we predicted Trump would lose in 2016.
Were we wrong to raise our eyebrows over this comment?

While discussing how the Comox Valley Regional District might reinvent the Comox Valley Economic Development Society, A Person Who Shall Go Unnamed lamented the time and effort being spent on the topic, and then added, “You know, this is only about a million or so dollars and that’s really just a drop in the bucket of our whole regional budget.”

It’s true, the CVRD annual budget goes north of $130 million, so this person has a point.

But, wait, the regional directors are still discussing $1 million-plus of taxpayer dollars. Imagine what a local non-profit could do with that much money? What could Lush Valley do, or the John Howard Society or a Joint Child Care Committee for the Comox Valley?

Not pocket change for these folks.

Isn’t the enduring question really about what value the whole community enjoys from any public expenditure, no matter how small, and whether our collective social values suggest the money could be put to better use somewhere else?

 

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Commentary | News