Hamilton Mack Laing, a man who gave his house, property, many possessions and money to the Town of Comox, who took it and then snubbed him.

Mack Laing goes to court today and, have spies infiltrated local government?

Sep 6, 2022 | Commentary, Latest Feature, Politics, Top Feature

By George Le Masurier

It’s a shame the Town of Comox waited almost four years before finally taking their petition back to the BC Supreme Court today (Wednesday, Sept. 7) to vary the town’s trust agreement with Hamilton Mack Laing to tear down his heritage house and spend the money he gifted for purposes other than his original intentions.

The Town Council could have collaborated to find a win-win with the Mack Laing Heritage Society and those community members who have volunteered to preserve some form of the house, called Shakesides. Instead, the Town Council stopped listening.

And they also stopped going to court for the permissions they need.

The court dates this week fall just 37 days before the 2022 municipal election, making it unlikely the Justice hearing arguments will rule before voters go to the polls. Win or lose, we would have preferred that those incumbents seeking reelection had to account for their voting record on this issue.

As an intervenor, the Mack Laing Heritage Society has asked the court in public filings to dismiss the town’s application to vary the trust, and instead order a forensic accounting of the Trust Fund, an independent assessment of the viability of the Shakesides structure and to direct the town to include the rental income it derived from Shakesides into the trust fund or a related separate fund.

“In breaching its obligations as trustee and allowing waste and neglect of the culturally valuable and irreplaceable trust object (Shakesides), Comox has manufactured the very crisis it now claims as justification to vary the trust; Comox does not come before the court with clean hands and is the author of a delay of several decades,” the society says in its written submission.

The society goes on to assert that the town has “willfully ignored all evidence, offers of assistance and reports that do not contemplate the demolition of Shakesides, or that require a proper accounting of the Trust Fund.”

If the court agrees with the MLHS and orders an accounting and structural assessment before ruling on the town’s application, it could be another year before the matter is finally settled.

Of course, the Town of Comox has had about 40 years to atone for their neglect, so what’s another dozen months?

What’s important for this election is that only one incumbent candidate in the race for Town Council, Nicole Minions, had the ethical integrity to vote against proceeding with this petition and for continued collaboration. Stephanie McGown voted with Minions, but she is not likely to seek office in Comox this year.

Jonathan Kerr no doubt would have joined those two in doing the right thing, but he only joined the council nine months ago.

Stay tuned, as Decafnation will file additional reports on the court case later in the week.


Candidates coming out of the woodwork

Former Courtenay mayor Starr Winchester has filed again for City Council, and so has Deana Simkin. They both ran in 2018 and missed the cut by about 10 percent. Brennan Day, who failed to get elected provincially, is now trying local government again. He fell short by nearly seven percent of the vote last time. Nobody has filed for mayor except perennial candidate Erik Eriksson.

Incumbent Arzeena Hamir will have at least two challengers in Area B, Richard Hardy and Keith Stevens. And Tamara Meggitt will challenge incumbent Daniel Arbour in Area A.

Big news, Don Davis has filed again in Comox, as he has every election since, well, forever.

Bad news, Courtenay resident Peter Gibson has filed in Comox. The last time a Courtenay resident filed in Comox, to our knowledge, was when former Comox councillor Tom Grant moved to Crown Isle and tried to keep a seat in Comox. That ended badly as it should have and as it should again.


American political creep

The four or five people who are behind the vacuous website, Comox Valley Mainstream, are either rebranding themselves or they’ve gained partners.

A new anonymous website has cropped up called Take Back Comox Valley. Take back from whom, we wonder? The people who built a plant so we wouldn’t have regular boil water advisories? The people who have kept governments going during the pandemic and kept taxes reasonable while doing it?

The people who have taken the backroom dealing out of local politics and put their work transparently into formal policies to deal fairly and consistently with everyone concerned?

It seems these folks are dragging a little right-wing conspiracy tendency across the southern border. Even their name sounds a little like Make America Great Again.

Based on their website, the Taker Backers are going after some group they won’t name that wants to “to stop the expansion of our business community, disrupt our industries, and defund our police.” Holy Moly, who are those evil people?

Frankly, I haven’t heard anybody around here calling to defund the police. Anyway, wouldn’t that be the RCMP? Good luck with that.

And what industry is being disrupted? Even if we stop cutting old-growth timber, the logging industry will remain robust. The Alberta oil industry? Whether the Comox Valley allows 1,000 new gas stations or zero, it won’t send chills down anybody’s spine in Calgary.

But, these concerned citizens claim a righteous fight, “to keep American money and foreign activists out of our local politics.” That’s right, American billionaires are so concerned with issues like garbage and kitchen waste pickup in the rural areas that they are paying undocumented secret agents to infiltrate our local governments.

Sorry, Taker Backers. When you try to get QAnon-style conspiracy thinking going outside the American South, it just doesn’t roll so easily as it does in Alabama.


Heads in the sand

There is always a small element of the public that wants our municipal councillors to do nothing more than fill potholes and make the toilets flush. They may be the same people that want schools to do no more than teach students to read, write and add numbers.

The basics are important in every aspect of life but don’t people want, even demand a quality of life that goes far beyond that? Where would we be without music and art in our lives? Without hobbies? Parks and trails? Access to all the things that people are passionate about? Visionary thinking?

Those aren’t the basics, but they enrich our basic lives and in the Comox Valley it may be the single most common reason that people live here.

Councillors who only think about sewers and potholes won’t lead us toward a more vibrant, interesting and rewarding community. Such stunted thinking will do the opposite. And who wants to live in a town without any charm or soul?



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