The Week: Valley councils begin new terms, but will Comox ignore voters?

Nov 1, 2022 | Commentary, Government, Latest Feature

By George Le Masurier

The Comox Valley’s new municipal councils will begin their four-year terms this week after swearing-in ceremonies and approving each mayor’s annual committee assignments and board appointments.

While it’s one of the prerogatives of a mayor to appoint council members where a councillor may be best suited or where a councillor can best represent the public’s interests, the appointments are not automatic. The council must vote to approve the mayor’s selections.

Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells told Decafnation recently that councillors have always approved his appointments, which he makes after one-on-one conversations with council members to elicit their interests.

And, if you are geeky enough about local politics to find last year’s first meeting of the Comox Council, you can listen to Ken Grant and Maureen Swift speak eloquently and passionately about supporting then-mayor Russ Arnott’s appointments. More specifically, you can hear Grant and Swift point out that going into the fourth and final year of a council’s term wasn’t the right time to change the town’s two seats on the Comox Valley Regional District board.

The best time to change, they argued, would be at the start of a new term.

Well, here we are, at the start of a new term.

So what, dear readers, do you think will happen at tomorrow night’s first meeting of the Comox Town Council? We’ll tell you what we think should happen.

First-time Mayor Nicole Minions should respect both the continuity of service and voters’ clearly expressed wishes. And so, she should therefore appoint Maureen Swift and Jonathan Kerr as the town’s representatives on the CVRD board.

That combination offers a mix of experience and fresh perspective.

Swift, who has served multiple terms as one of the town’s regional representatives provides the continuity. Kerr, who was by leaps and bounds the top choice of Comox voters in the election, has the support and confidence of the council’s constituency.

Kerr received 76.4 percent of the popular vote last month. Swift received 51.7 percent and, in fifth place, Ken Grant lagged at 50.3 percent. Kerr got 152 percent more of the vote than Grant.

The people prefer Kerr far more than Grant.

And there is a good reason for that. Grant has not done a good job on the regional board of representing the majority of the voting public or even the majority view of Comox councillors. He’s been obstructive, and non-collaborative and has taken positions based on an agenda not in sync with the best interests of the public or other council members.

He is, in fact, an outlier of the majority view of Comox voters. Recognizing this, Councillor Swift should break with the “good ole boys” and vote her conscience to approve Kerr’s appointment to the CVRD.

So, that’s what should happen.

Here’s what will probably happen.

Mayor Minions will appoint Councillor Kerr as a CVRD representative along with either Swift or Grant. New councillors Chris Haslett and Steve Blacklock will take direction from Councillor Grant and vote to oppose the mayor’s wishes and then vote to approve Grant and Swift to the CVRD. Swift won’t have the courage to break rank. The vote will take place outside of the public’s view.

And that, friends, will set the council up for four years of ignoring voters’ wishes as expressed in the last election. Because Blacklock and Haslett will offer up their shiny brown noses to Grant, who will become the de facto backroom mayor.

Is Comox reverting to the old days of backroom politics, of deals made out of sight of the public, of personal gain trumping the common good? Tomorrow night’s first meeting of the new council will tell you all you need to know.

If you were anywhere even close to Comox town boundaries last night, Halloween night, you would have heard lots of fireworks. It started after dark and by 10 pm there was a full-on fireworks display happening.

It’s curious, of course, because no jurisdiction granted permits for the possession and sale of fireworks this year. That’s because the BC Wildfire Service banned fireworks this fall due to extremely dry conditions.

We’ve had a little bit of rain recently and burning bans have been relaxed, although the forests are still dry and, more importantly, no fireworks permits have been issued.

So the explosion of fireworks last night ignored the common good, including potential fire risks, for a few people’s personal enjoyments.








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