The Week: Ken Grant fined by Elections BC and Parksville confronted by development, water issues

Dec 6, 2022 | Commentary, Government, Latest Feature

By George Le Masurier

This week, we learned that another candidate for the Comox Town Council was fined for misdeeds under the Election Act and Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, that Alberta wants to give the finger to Ottawa and Ontario wants to neuter municipal governments and that some people in Parksville are worried about an 800-unit housing development along the Englishman River. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started.

Elections BC, the provincial election watchdog, has fined Comox Councillor Ken Grant for using lawn signs that lacked a complete authorization statement. While the violation would not have likely misled readers of the sign and stickers were used to correct the omissions, Director of Investigations Adam Barnes nevertheless spanked Grant for being a careless numbskull.

He didn’t actually say it like that. Here’s what Barnes said, “You have participated in 6 local government elections as a candidate, and should be aware of the election advertising requirements.”

New Councillor Steve Blacklock was fined earlier this year for a violation of the Campaign Financing Act during his unsuccessful run in the town’s byelection last year.

Neither councillor committed a major crime, but the public expects their council members to pay attention to the rules and details. A similar approach to council business could result in woefully wrong decision-making or expose taxpayers to unnecessary financial liabilities.

After reading our comment about record low water levels in the Puntledge River, a representative of the Greig Greenway Society in Parksville contacted us about similar concerns for the Englishman River.

Waterfront Properties, a bare trustee for the PCI Group, a Vancouver developer, wants to build an 800-unit subdivision on 140 acres of forested land along the river and within a fragile ecosystem. The land at 1465 Greig Road is part of the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem and borders on the salmon-bearing Englishman River.

At first glance, this sounds a lot like the subdivision proposed by 3L Developments for the triangle of land between the Puntledge and Browns rivers in the Comox Valley. And, in fact, urban sprawl is one similar concern of the Parksville society because grocery stores, schools and other services are more than three kilometers away from where the housing would be built.

But the preponderance of issues in Parksville are different and mostly relate to the city’s low water supply in Arrowsmith Lake and its inability even now to meet the provincial requirements for water levels in the river necessary to sustain salmon habitat.

A retired Nanaimo Regional District engineer has told the Parksville council that the city hasn’t been able to meet the provincial water flow target during the summer months since the Arrowsmith Lake dam opened in 1999.

The society worries that the additional 56 million liters of water necessary to serve 800 new households during the dry months of June through October would stress the city’s drinking water supply and the river’s marine life to unsustainable levels. Further, because the trees, shrubs and grasses that cover the Greig property now capture rainwater and filter it through the soil to the Englishman River aquifer, clearing the land and replacing nature with concrete curbs and gutters would rob even more water for household use.

The society has also pointed out to the city council that the development is proposed for a floodplain, fragments a wildlife corridor and, while the development is primarily a mixture of multi-family housing, it does not include affordable housing below market rates.

A key question for the Parksville council is that if the city’s water supply isn’t sufficient to meet current provincial regulations, how will it provide water for such a large development? Will they need to dam additional lakes? Impose California-style water restrictions during the summer months?

We don’t usually report on issues outside the Comox Valley, but water supply problems are on a non-stop train headed toward every BC community – indeed, everywhere around the world.

BOO – Alberta Premier Danielle Smith wants to unfriend the rest of Canada but retain the benefits. The province’s new sovereignty legislation would allow Smith and her cabinet to choose what federal rules and regulations to follow and ignore the rest. Oh, she still wants Alberta’s share of every Canadian’s federal income taxes, but when Ottawa slows her party’s imposition of the conservative agenda, she will instruct provincial entities, like Crown Corporations, to break those federal laws. Sounds like a dictatorship. Sounds unconstitutional.

BOO – Ontario Premier Doug Ford has implemented his own coup to overthrow democratically elected local governments. The province plans to dictate permitted land uses, densities and building heights to municipal governments, in effect taking over local zoning and removing municipal authority over its planning process. Imagine if Victoria issued permits for 14-story condo buildings in the Comox Valley and disregarded the wishes of local residents. Couldn’t happen in BC … could it?

YAY — At least we don’t live in Indonesia where the government has adopted a new criminal code banning sexual relations except within marriage and prohibitions against insulting the president or the national identity. All the new crimes carry mandatory prison sentences. You might want to cancel that trip to Bali. 

Thought du jour
“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.”
– Henrik Ibsen






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