Archive photo from the 2019 BC Seafood Festival

BC Seafood Festival cancelled at last minute, two more CVEDS directors quit

Nov 13, 2020 | CVEDS, News

By George Le Masurier

Organizers have cancelled the BC Seafood Festival, which was scheduled to take place next weekend. Comox Valley Economic Development Society Executive Director John Watson informed his board of directors of the decision at a meeting this morning, during which two more directors resigned.

Watson gave little information about why he cancelled the event, mentioning it only as a footnote to a broader discussion about the appropriateness of tourism marketing to bring snowbirds to the Comox Valley this winter, according to sources who attended the meeting.

Decafnation has since learned that local hoteliers expressed concern about the event during a time when COVID virus cases are surging and when health authorities are recommending against unnecessary travel.

David Rooper, general manager of The Old House Hotel and Spa, told Decafnation that he had pulled his participation in the festival yesterday. He had been already advising guests who had reserved rooms for the three-day event.

Bill Kelly, general manager of Crown Isle Resort, said he had recommended that Watson cancel the event.

Earlier this week, the North Island Medical Health office had contacted the CV Economic Development Society to ensure that it was following all the public health orders and guidelines. At the time, The festival’s website was promoting ticket sales broadly and its line-up of featured chefs, many of whom were from the Lower Mainland, where travel in and out had been restricted.

That resulted in changes to the website to advertise only Vancouver Island chefs and to restate pandemic protocol such as physical distancing and mask-wearing. But it continued to promote an appearance by a world champion oyster shucker from Ontario.

The festival website was still up and offering tickets this morning. It was taken down shortly before noon today.

Watson and Board Chair Deana Simkin have not replied to requests for information and comment about the cancellation.

Courtenay Councillor Melanie McCollum said Watson’s communication concerning the event was not clear. He gave no details about the cancellation except that the hotels had recommended it. But earlier in the meeting, she said, Watson explained that the festival was scheduled because the hotels wanted it.

There was no discussion by board members about the cancellation, according to McCollum and Area B Director Arzeena Hamir. But neither were surprised.

“The board was never informed the festival was being planned, we never talked about it happening,” McCollum told Decafnation. “It was a surprise when I learned a couple of weeks ago that it was going ahead.”

Hamir said the board might have figured out it was happening by the society’s financial reports that used to be distributed at meetings. But Watson hasn’t presented any financial reports to the board in 11 months, since last February.



During the meeting, Diane Naugler, the Dean of the Faculty of Business and Applied Studies, announced her resignation from the board. Mike Obal has also resigned via email, although his resignation wasn’t recognized during the meeting.

Five directors have resigned in recent months: Naugler, Obal, Brian Yip, Bruce Turner and Justin Rigsby. That leaves Simkin, Tony Hayes, Paul Ives, Spender Serin, Jasmin Badrin and Melinda Knox as the remaining public board members.

Five elected officials also attend board meetings in a non-voting capacity: Hamir, McCollum, Area C Director Edwin Grieve, Area A Director Daniel Arbour and Comox Mayor Russ Arnott.



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