Let’s put one of the craziest Comox Valley elections into the history book, and then close it

Let’s put one of the craziest Comox Valley elections into the history book, and then close it

Let’s put one of the craziest Comox Valley elections into the history book, and then close it


Well, that was fun. Or was it? On the surface, the 2022 local government election should go down as one of the most unusual, maybe even the craziest campaign in Comox Valley history.

We had gun-toting Trumpers, Freedom Convoy Truckers and climate change deniers. We had women claiming our schools were grooming children for sexual exploitation. We had long-winded rants on social media over racism and sexual health education. We had groups of wannabe players that were afraid to show their faces.

We had candidates running for office in places where they don’t live because they think they know better than the people who live there. We had two secret political action groups pretending they represented the views of the average Valleyite when they really represented no more than their little clubs.

We had signs that violated city bylaws by a candidate who displayed them recklessly. And we had candidates, mostly of the conservative, pro-development persuasion, that boycotted public debates.

It was weird.

But when the sun rose on Sunday, Oct. 16, Comox Valley voters had made it clear they liked the direction charted by our local governments over the last four years. In the municipalities, they elected all but two incumbents. In most races, the vote was a definite pat on the back for a job well done.

The rest of it was just meaningless noise.

But there was something new and disturbing this year. It was the idea that telling a lie or otherwise intentionally spreading misinformation should be considered an acceptable campaign tactic. And those advancing this idea justified it because, they said, the underlying purpose of telling lies is to start public conversations about legitimate issues.

When Take Back Comox Valley (TBCV) ran social media ads and stated on its website that some unidentified local council members are trying to defund the police and had taken money from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation via the Dogwood citizen action network, they were telling a lie. They have no proof of either claim.

In fact, a founding member of TBCV told Decafnation that he knew the defunding the police claim wasn’t true and had disagreed with the majority of the group about telling that lie. But he went along with it because, you know, the mob rules.

And they rationalized telling the lie because it’s just a big joke. Nobody actually expects it to be true. It’s just part of the game. Just like Trump claiming he won the US election. Just like Freedom truckers creating a fake letter from Prime Minister Trudeau or spreading the lie that Ottawa police officers were exempt from vaccine mandates.

It’s a reckless game that degrades public discourse. It turns voters off and diminishes the integrity of democratic elections. Those who play it sacrifice all claim to principle.

There were no meaningful community conversations created by TBCV. They encouraged no consequential dialogue and proposed no resolutions to the issues they raised. A quick look at their Facebook page shows a lot of angry and vitriolic invective thrown back and forth.

Most of the TBCV’s contempt was directed at the Courtenay council, which was wholeheartedly vindicated by voters and given a strong mandate to continue its work.

So what was achieved by telling the lies other than to have a laugh?

Fortunately, the people who cared enough to vote didn’t get the joke.



Has the mainstream of Comox Valley politics turned slightly left?

New Democratic Party candidates have won the last two provincial elections and the last three federal elections in our ridings. Progressive candidates won majorities on municipal councils in Courtenay and Cumberland in the last two elections and in Comox and the rural electoral areas in 2018.

In terms of which political parties voters have supported, a shift has definitely occurred. But why?

One reason might be found in this story. A Courtenay incumbent told Decafnation that they had knocked on 3,000 doors over the last four weeks and had spoken with many new Valley residents. The general consensus among those new residents was that they love it here and see comparatively fewer problems than where they previously lived.

The newcomers laugh at our traffic issues. They’ve already accepted the introduction of bike lanes. They’ve seen real traffic congestion, more serious crime and the problems associated with unsheltered people. They know these things exist everywhere.

So, maybe it’s not an ideological change that has occurred, but growth in the number of people who have had broader and more diverse life experiences. Maybe our issues don’t seem as problematic to them as they might to people who haven’t lived anywhere else.

Maybe what we’ve been labeling “progressive” is now the mainstream perspective of Comox Valley voters.



It’s too bad more people don’t appreciate the difference a mayor and council can make in their lives. Voter turnout for local government elections has always been low, but this year it was really low.

We don’t know why, but the turnout was lower across the board. Perhaps it was because of an uninspiring race for mayor of Courtenay – Bob Wells didn’t have any serious competition. Or maybe because there was no mayor’s race in Comox – Nicole Minions was acclaimed.

Maybe it was because there weren’t many all-candidates debates and something like half the candidates refused to show up anyway. If the candidates don’t give a damn about the process, then why should voters?

Maybe a few of the candidates disgusted people about local politics. The Comox Valley Mainstream and Take Back Comox Valley groups might have turned people off.

Maybe it was just the nice October weather.

But you know something’s in the air when the number of eligible voters in Cumberland more than doubles from 2018 but fewer than half as many voters turn out in 2022. Voter engagement dropped by 50.9 percent in the Village, according to data from Civic Info BC.

Twenty-one percent fewer voters turned out in Courtenay. Twenty-two percent fewer in Comox. Slightly lower in the rural areas.

Having fewer candidates on the ballot might help. Too many candidates seem to overwhelm voters. It looks like too much work to find out about each candidate and what they stand for.

We could start to pare down the ballot by requiring a candidate’s residency in the jurisdiction where they seek public office.

It’s a double standard, as one Capital City voter put it. “I have to prove that I reside in Victoria to vote for a candidate who doesn’t. Huh?”

On the other hand, interest in the School District 71 Board of Education quadrupled. In 2018, only 4,392 ballots were cast, partly because four of the seven trustee seats were filled by acclamation. But this year, 11,472 ballots were cast, and only two seats went by acclamation.

Why such a huge and sudden interest? Maybe because several incumbents retired and more seats were up for grabs.

More likely, though, it was the age-old debate over sexual health education. Several candidates strongly opposed sexual health education in our schools and made wild claims about teachers encouraging kids to become gay males or lesbians and to engage in ‘deviant behavior.’

Yeah, that campaign platform might have brought out a large backlash of voters from the bulk of people who support LGBTQ rights and policies.

Daniel Arbour received 80.2 percent of the vote (1,807 votes) in Electoral Area A. That was the largest percentage of support for a regional district director in all of BC. Well, except for incumbent Gerald Whalley who received 96 percent of the vote (215 votes) to represent Kyuquot/Nootka-Sayward in the Strathcona Regional District.

“I attribute this to being thorough and proactive on all the issues facing Area A’s five communities,” he told Decafnation. “People also appreciate my positive engagement at the provincial and federal levels on municipal-related issues, and bringing forward authentic policy proposals for our region and beyond.”

The loss of Arzeena Hamir in Area B will be deeply felt in the Valley, especially in her leadership relating to environmental, food, and social policy issues. She lost by 23 votes to Richard Hardy, who will be the first K’omoks First Nation member of the Comox Valley Regional District board.





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Here’s the latest Comox Valley local government election results

Mayor Bob Wells and all Courtenay incumbent councillors have been re-elected. Evan Jolicoeur has also been elected. Manno Theos has lost his seat.

Jonathan Kerr, Jenn Meilleur, Steve Blacklock, Chris Haslett, Ken Grant and Maureen Swift have been elected in Comox.

Vickey Brown has been elected mayor in Cumberland, defeating long-time mayor and councillor Leslie Baird.

Voting down -20.6% in Courtenay, -22.3% in Comox and -50.9% in Cumberland.

Full results with Electoral Areas A, B and C, school board and Islands Trust results in the morning.

Daniel Arbour in Area A and Edwin Grieve in Area C won by wide margins. Richard Hardy defeated Arzeena Hamir by 23 votes.

Shannon Aldinger topped the polls in races for SD71 school trustees.

Click the headline on this page for complete results and voter turnout.

Our recommendations in the 2022 Comox Valley local government elections

Decafnation announces its list of preferred candidates in this year’s local government elections and for the first time we identify candidates that we think show promise and provide our reasons for not endorsing the other candidates. Our endorsements fall on the first day of voting at advance polls

COURTENAY: 2022 candidates (most of them) answer our election questions

COURTENAY: 2022 candidates (most of them) answer our election questions

COURTENAY: 2022 candidates (most of them) answer our election questions

Decafnation asked this year’s candidates for public office to respond to three questions. We are publishing their responses by the jurisdictions in which they are a candidate.


City of Courtenay

Candidates in 2022

One mayor and six councillors to be elected


Incumbent — Bob Wells
Challengers — Erik Eriksson, Aaron Dowker


Incumbents — Doug Hillian, David Frisch, Melanie McCollum, Will Cole-Hamilton, Wendy Morin, Mano Theos

Challengers — Phil Adams, Steffan Chmuryk, Brennan Day, Michael Gilbert, Evan Jolicoeur, Jin Lin, Lyndsey Northcott, Deana Simkin, Starr Winchester

Mayor candidate Aaron Dowker and council candidates Phil Adams, Michael Gilbert, Jin Lin and Deana Simkin did not respond


1. In the event that a new dangerous variant of the COVID virus emerges or if a new pandemic arises would you use your position as a civic leader to support federal and provincial public health orders and encourage others to do likewise?


Bob Wells
In early February 2020 I reached out to our Medical Health Officer and learned that the COVID-19 Global Pandemic was nearly a certainty.  I worked with City Staff to ensure we were as prepared as possible.  When the Public Health Orders were issued, I had to make the difficult decision to cancel the Volunteer Fire Department Annual Dinner as I did not want our First Responders being exposed to undue harm. I made the call to close playgrounds until we knew what the risks were of children being exposed to COVID-19 on surfaces. 

I used my social media reach to encourage people to stay home if possible, to wash their hands frequently, to wear masks when out in public and to call the hotline if they were experiencing symptoms.  I encouraged people to get vaccinated when vaccines were available. My message was picked up by local and provincial media.  I kept the message upbeat and positive, making sure people know the risks but trying to inspire them to make the right decision rather than force them.

I would do it again as I believe as Mayor the health and safety of our citizens is a top priority. 

Erik Eriksson


Melanie McCollum
Yes. It’s our duty as Civic leaders to uphold the law and follow the advice of experts. 

Will Cole-Hamilton
I would do the same thing that I did when COVID emerged

  • Listen to the guidelines and mandates issued by Dr. Teresa Tam,  Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer of BC, who speak for the governments of  BC and for Canada, and work to ensure that City staff stay safe and that all guidelines and mandates are followed in all city operations
  • Follow suggested guidelines and mandates myself and encourage others to do so 
  • Ensure that the City works with vulnerable populations, nonprofits, and local businesses to support their efforts to follow guidelines and mandates
  • Make use of social media to share information on public health and safety, post my own vaccinations and encourage others to follow suit

Wendy Morin
The COVID pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge to all of us, in our daily lives and in governance as well. There is no handbook for best practices in dealing with a global pandemic. Under the circumstances, I believe higher governments have utilized the expertise of scientists, physicians, and infectious disease specialists in the best way possible.

In the event of another pandemic, I would support the views and orders of those with the expertise and would encourage others to do the same. I would also continue to use my role to provide feedback to higher government. As an example, during COVID, food security was not acknowledged as part of emergency management. No resources were allotted and no organized plan was made regarding food supply change interruptions. I and other local government folks pushed for this to be recognized and included in future planning and resources.

Doug Hillian
Yes. During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, local leaders received regular briefings from Island Health officials and served as conduits to their community networks. We had the opportunity to ask questions and clarify expectations, and to satisfy ourselves in the veracity of information coming from hard-working and dedicated public health personnel.

Decisions were made related to maintaining City services, staff and citizen safety, facility closures and a multitude of issues that arose as we strived to cope with the uncertainty and risk impacting us in our own families and as a community.

It was vital that, as community leaders, we listened to expert advice and both modelled and messaged appropriate practices to keep people safe. This was done in the face of a barrage of misinformation from some in the community who contested public health orders. I felt it important to respond to all who contacted me with dissenting views, respectfully disagreeing with their conspiracy theories and emphasizing the city’s duty to follow the advice of our health experts and obey the law.

While it is important to employ critical thinking to new challenges that arise, I would take a similar approach to a new pandemic.

David Frisch
Yes I would support provincial and federal public health orders.

Mano Theos
Rather than focus on what if’s and hypothetical situations. I’m investing my energy on rebuilding now that COVID is behind us. Offering people and businesses my support to ensure opportunities to live well, stay fit enjoy the success of their small businesses and thrive. When any issues arise I weigh the merits and best approach needed for a optimal outcomes.

Evan Jolicoeur
Although the likelihood of a newer more harmful variant of COVID is unlikely, we are living in a world that will increasingly experience other new health pandemics. With worsening impacts of climate change, bio habitat loss, globalization and population growth there is an important role in preparing our communities for the resulting health impacts, including communicable diseases.

As a Registered Nurse, mental health clinician, health researcher, government administrator and health care service provider and having worked in public health, I believe there is an important role for leaders to build trust, role model healthy inclusive behavior, bring community members together, and ensure that everyone is heard and supported.

I would support government policies, including public health measures, that protect and safeguard the health and well-being (physical, mental, emotional) of our seniors, medically vulnerable, children and others while ensuring that we mitigate harms to marginalized communities.

Lyndsey Northcott
In the event that a new dangerous variant of the COVID virus emerges or if a new pandemic arises I would use my position as a civic leader to support federal and provincial public health orders and encourage others to do likewise.

Steffan Chmuryk
I think we’re through the worst of the pandemic. That said, the impacts that we have all experienced personally, and professionally, shouldn’t be ignored. People are obviously struggling, and many people are angry about the rules that were imposed.

I respect individual rights, but I am not going to express my concerns about public health policy while waiting to see a nurse or in line at the pub. Business owners/employees and medical staff are victims as well, and they have been subject to entirely too much vitriol for following rules that were imposed on them.

If there is any advice I could offer, it is to live in the moment, right now, and to be grateful that life is back to normal. I hope this continues, and I hope we can work together to ensure the stability of our healthcare system.

Brennan Day
Yes, as should all elected officials. Encouragement rather than division should be the mantra.

Starr Winchester
I would not use my position as a civic leader to either encourage or discourage anyone from getting a vaccine. I feel this is a personal decision.


2. Do you support the Regional Growth Strategy as it’s currently written? In particular, do you support its theme to funnel new growth into already defined urban boundaries, leaving the rural areas as rural as possible. And, do you support not adding any settlement nodes until the Union Bay Estates and K’omoks First Nations developments in the Union Bay area are well underway?


Bob Wells
I fully support the Regional Growth Strategy as a win-win-win:
1. It supports K’ómoks First Nation to realize their own economic opportunities in their Treaty Settlement Lands
2. It is better for the environment by reducing urban sprawl, deforestation and traffic
3. It makes the most sense economically as it costs so much more to build water and sewer pipes to remote areas, and the lifetime costs are also more for operations and maintenance. This helps keep taxes and the cost per unit lower.

Erik Eriksson
I think it is time for a review of the Regional Growth Strategy to see if people fell it is still applicable. I would like to bridge the rural-urban divide. You are asking urban people whether they want to keep rural as rural as possible. And you are asking rural people if all new growth should be crammed into the City.

At this time, I am of the opinion that the node structure needs to be redrawn. I look forward to a review to see how the people of the Valley feel about the Regional Growth Strategy in light of the changes that have occurred in the Valley over the last 10 years.


Melanie McCollum
Yes, I support the RGS in its current form. New growth should occur within the municipalities and the growth nodes identified in the RSG. I do not see a need to add any new growth nodes.

Will Cole-Hamilton
I do support the Regional Growth Strategy and its theme of managing urban development. While the RGS encompasses many diverse regional needs from water filtration to flood mapping to parks, it also provides a coherent blueprint for growth in our beautiful valley. Keeping growth within the existing urban boundaries is a policy of our Official Community Plan, and it is a policy I fully support.

With significant development planned in the Union Bay area, I do not favour adding any further settlement nodes until those developments are established. We treasure this valley because of its mountains, forests, rivers, and the rich farmland which feeds many families in our communities. The RGS seeks to find a balance between the need for more housing, and preserving the beauty, bounty and biodiversity that surrounds us.

Lyndsey Northcott
Some aspects of the Regional Growth Strategy I do support. Making sure housing is supporting the community and all demographics is important. I do support its theme of funneling new growth into already defined urban areas. I believe we should also be building homes in the rural areas. We are in such housing crisis and it’s critical for our community to have a safe place to live.

Wendy Morin
My approach to the RGS has three main goals: to protect taxpayers, to ensure we have a sustainable community, and to support changing demographics.

I support funneling new growth into defined boundaries, and not adding settlement nodes until the south lands development is underway. Creation and maintenance of infrastructure is costly. This cost increases the further out we develop. Climate change is creating additional challenges. GHG emissions in transportation are rising faster than in any other sector.

I think it’s important to note that although currently we have a larger percentage of seniors, millennials are the fastest growing generation and will surpass numbers of boomers by 2029. The RGS needs to reflect this shifting demographic. This age group (25 to 40) are more likely to utilize multi-modal transportation.

The food systems chapter also needs updating. The impacts of climate change and the pandemic have demonstrated the importance of food security and local food production. Over this term, much work has gone into the housing needs assessment and poverty reduction strategy, and this data will prove useful in the housing section. In conclusion,

I want to ensure that our community grows in a way that is fiscally responsible, equitable, and sustainable.

Doug Hillian
The Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) settled the long-simmering contentious issue of how the Comox Valley should develop, and whether our rural areas would be swallowed up by urban sprawl. I supported the Strategy and advocated infill development to both preserve the rural nature of the Valley and to address our need to upgrade aging infrastructure and avoid the costs of extending that infrastructure beyond established urban areas and the identified settlement nodes.

The next Regional District Board will need to decide if the RGS requires revision or not. It is important to have that debate, but my current approach remains in support of the existing strategy.

As stated in Courtenay’s newly adopted Official Community Plan, “Courtenay’s strategy for managing future growth is to strengthen several existing neighbourhood nodes and corridors across the city through intensification of a variety of land uses, increasing investment in active and transit modes of transportation and creation of vibrant urban spaces. This in turn will reduce development pressure outside of Courtenay’s boundary or the need to annex lands from the electoral areas into Courtenay jurisdiction”.

David Frisch
Yes, I support the Regional Growth Strategy as it’s currently written. The work I’ve supported to have done on Courtenay’s Official Community Plan directly supports smart growth principles and keeping our rural areas rural.

Mano Theos
The regional growth plan is open for discussion. Housing solutions for affordability require larger pieces of land than municipalities have to offer. For instance a tiny home village or manufactured home park. The region district has land mass to accommodate such projects.

Evan Jolicoeur
I am in support of the key themes – environmental stewardship, sustainable economy, food systems, health & wellness, complete & affordable communities, growth management, multi-modal transportation, and climate change – in the RGS to support addressing growth and community impacts.

I am supportive of preventing urban sprawl, while supporting increased community infrastructure (eg. services, roads, schools, etc.) in key settlement nodes. To meet our food security needs we need to protect what little left we have of our rural and agricultural lands. As the impacts of climate change become more extreme, we will need to continue to nurture and grow our protected ecosystems and natural habitats.

The current RGS was adopted in 2011 and as a government administrator and policy advisor, I know the importance of ensuring that plans and strategies are updated and revisited regularly. I would welcome an update to address ongoing and new challenges to our growing community.

Many development projects are underway in Courtenay and the CVRD and prior to adding further settlement nodes beyond the extensive development areas identified in the RGS or the Courtenay Official Community Plan, I am supportive of ensuring our community understands the impacts of the two southern CVRD (Area A) developments that are nearing completion.

Steffan Chmuryk
I think that Courtenay can accommodate growth and I agree with the intent of the regional growth strategy. However, I believe that we should be honest about the consequences moving forward, because our existing road infrastructure is at its limits. In the near term, I believe that some of the traffic challenges that we are experiencing can be addressed with traffic pattern changes, but the reality is that traffic in the core will become unmanageable if we do not begin to develop a coherent and aggressive strategy.

As for the greater question of regional growth, I am of two minds. I believe that multi-modal regional planning is ideal for livability, and most closely corresponds to the current Cumberland-Courtenay-Comox model that we know so well. However, if we rely on cars exclusively, then our infrastructure will choke as a result. I want to see more housing constructed, particularly for first time home buyers and renters, but at this time there are no easy answers to the consequences that will arise.

The developments in Union Bay will create traffic challenges for years to come, particularly if each person who lives there will commute to/from Courtenay each day. For this form of development to continue, there needs to be an element of self-sufficiency in these areas, so that transportation does not suffer from major bottlenecks.

Brennan Day
No, it is important to revisit this document to ensure it is reflecting the current reality of the Comox Valley. It was written at a time that did not put much consideration on KFN land claims or the burgeoning population and current housing shortage. It is obviously important to balance both growth and keeping things rural, but that means updating this document to reflect today.

Starr Winchester
I think the time has come to review our Regional Growth Strategy with significant involvement from the other municipalities and the CVRD. So much has changed in the past 30 years. We have an affordable housing crisis that we are grappling with and we need land to provide more housing. Mt. Washington and Union Bay Estates do not have the infrastructure at this time to support adding housing to the level that we need. Furthermore, these communities are not easily accessible to those without cars.


3. Do you believe it is the responsibility of local governments to take climate change-focused actions and to consider how to minimize carbon emissions from municipal operations and facilities in all of the council deliberations?


Bob Wells
I believe it is the responsibility of local government to take action to mitigate climate change and to always be looking for opportunities to lower GHG emissions from municipal operations.

I believe I have had the most impact by getting our Comox Strathcona Organics program approved which will eliminate the methane created by our solid waste. As Chair of the Comox Valley Regional District I was proud to have solar panels installed and further for the CVRD to host information sessions with Hakai Energy to get people using solar power and saving money through a bulk purchase.

The new regional district office has solar panels installed and all efforts were made to make the building energy efficient from dimmable LEDs to motion sensors that automagically turn off lights. Even the new Zamboni is electric at the Sports Centre.

The City of Courtenay has a purchasing policy to buy electric vehicles whenever possible as well as replacing gas powered equipment (leaf blowers etc.) with electric and has been upgrading the HVAC system and lights at the aging City Hall. There is discussion of upgrading our Transit Buses to electric as a pilot program which would be great to see.

Erik Eriksson


Melanie McCollum
Yes. All levels of government must act to address the climate crisis within the confines of what they control. At the local government level, the primary tools to address GHG emissions are land use policy, building codes and municipal operations and facilities.

Will Cole-Hamilton
I do believe that it is the responsibility of local governments to consider climate change in their decision making. Back in 2019 I brought forward the motion which stated that “climate change must be considered at every stage of the development of our new Official Community Plan.” Planning with climate change in mind is just common sense in local government today, which is why that resolution received a positive response from our Director of Planning, and passed unanimously.

Our OCP sets a course to reduce our emissions as a community by 45 percent. This goal is similar to the 50 percent goal of the CVRD and the 40 percent targets set by the governments of BC and Canada. This will help Courtenay keep in step with other levels of government and the programs and grants they are supporting.

To meet those targets we will need to make mitigation a factor in decision-making at a corporate and a community level. And we will continue in our planning to consider how best to adapt to the changing conditions that climate change will bring.

Lyndsey Northcott
I do you believe it is the responsibility of local governments to take climate change-focused actions and to consider how to minimize carbon emissions from municipal operations and facilities in all of the council’s or board’s deliberations.

Wendy Morin
Yes, I believe it the responsibility of local governments to take action on climate change, and it should be a lens for decision-making. The City of Courtenay was an early adopter of the BC Climate Action Charter, signing on in 2007. Currently 187 of 190 local governments have adopted the Charter.

Local policies can have the most direct impact on reducing GHG emissions. Local citizens understand the urgency of climate action and have voiced support for this direction, particularly through the recent Official Community Plan (OCP) consultation process. The updated OCP is the first in Canada to have climate action as one of four core directions. Whether it’s a decision on a new piece of equipment, a rezoning application, or a city building reno, reducing emissions is a priority for deliberations.

With the often devastating effects of climate change we’ve experienced such as flooding, wildfires, heat domes, atmospheric rivers, and excessive snowfall, the time is now to do all we can to protect our community and citizens.

Doug Hillian
Action to address climate change is not only the city’s responsibility, it is our obligation as a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter since 2007. It is also, in my view, a moral obligation to our future generations.

The Climate Charter stipulates our agreement to take action to reduce emissions within municipal operations and community-wide, including the commitment to a compact and more energy efficient community.

The city adopted a Corporate Climate Action Strategy in 2009, identifying actions to reduce GHG emissions. More recently, Council has declared a climate emergency, renewed the Official Community Plan (OCP) with a focus on climate, initiated policy on divestment from fossil fuels, adopted a Flood Management Strategy, implemented bylaws on urban agriculture, stream protection and tree retention, taken action on air quality, worked regionally to implement organics composting and supported climate action as a strategic driver at the Regional District.

As we implement the OCP, climate change needs to inform all decisions, working towards the declared goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

David Frisch
Yes. It is all of our responsibility to strive to make changes that support climate change mitigation (reducing ghg’s) and adaptation (preparing for sea level rise). That is why I supported the use of a climate change lens while updating our Official Community Plan. As it happens, much climate change action improves people’s quality of life.

Mano Theos
We as individuals can be good stewards and do our parts to lesson climate impacts. Also encourage others in a respectful manner.

Evan Jolicoeur
Absolutely. Municipalities are responsible for over 50 percent of carbon emissions. We have a moral and ethical duty to act decisively to reduce the impacts of climate change. Local climate action is quicker and is responsive to our unique community needs. By managing climate risks now, we can protect the well-being, economic prosperity and lower the costs for all future generations.

As a young person, addressing runaway climate change is foundational to a liveable future. I will center the climate change crisis and its resulting impacts, on the economy, social fabric, and natural environment, in our local government planning and decision-making.

There are many areas where municipalities can address climate change, from transportation and renewable energy, to buildings, community infrastructure, to land use planning and waste management. Committing our corporate activities, programs and services to carbon neutrality would position our community as a climate leader.

I am committed to protecting our ecological assets, increasing green spaces and parks, expanding our climate emergency planning, supporting climate adaptation and mitigation, increasing food security, and bolstering watershed protection. We need a future-proof community that prioritizes the interconnectedness of a healthy environment, healthy economy and healthy people.

Steffan Chmuryk
I do not believe we are in a position to tackle everything all at once. I want all city activities to be as close to zero carbon as possible, but I would not present this as an obstacle to performing necessary city tasks. If we can reduce methane emissions from the landfill or wastewater treatment, and if we can adopt electric vehicles for city work, then by all means we should.

But we cannot prevent ourselves from performing necessary work by overcomplicating each problem with new criteria. To me this method of addressing important problems creates a disincentive for addressing other critical challenges, such as housing or necessary infrastructure improvements.

Brennan Day
Yes, so long as they are measurable and cost effective. Courtenay’s current emissions are far below the provincial average, so it is important we are getting a good return on any climate change focussed initiatives.

Starr Winchester
Local councils and the Comox Valley Regional District have already been taking these actions. If elected, I would support the option of providing greener, cleaner initiatives if they are feasible, according to our budget.















General Voting Day is Saturday, Oct. 15 for all local government positions.

Comox Valley Regional District

General Voting Day and advance voting take place at the CVRD building in Courtenay from 8 am to 8 pm.

Go to this link for General Voting Day locations in the three Electoral Areas.

Additional voting takes place on Oct. 6 from 9 am to 12 pm on Denman Island and on Oct. 6 from 2 pm to 5 pm on Hornby Island


Advance Voting begins on Wednesday October 5, 2022, 8 am to 8 pm at the Native Sons Hall, and again on Wednesday October 12, 2022, 8 am to 8 pm at the Florence Filberg Centre.

General Voting Day, Saturday, October 15, 2022, 8 am to 8 pm at the Queneesh Elementary School, and at the Florence Filberg Centre.


Advance voting begins Wednesday, October 5 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Comox Community Centre, and on Saturday, October 8 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Genoa Sail Building at Comox Marina, and again on Monday, October 10 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Genoa Sail Building at Comox Marina, and on Wednesday, October 12 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Comox Community Centre.

General Voting Day runs from 8 am to 8 pm on Oct. 15 at the Comox Community Centre.


All voting in the Village of Cumberland takes place from 8 am to 8 pm at the Cumberland Cultural Centre. Advance voting takes place on Oct. 5 and Oct. 12.





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Here’s the latest Comox Valley local government election results

Mayor Bob Wells and all Courtenay incumbent councillors have been re-elected. Evan Jolicoeur has also been elected. Manno Theos has lost his seat.

Jonathan Kerr, Jenn Meilleur, Steve Blacklock, Chris Haslett, Ken Grant and Maureen Swift have been elected in Comox.

Vickey Brown has been elected mayor in Cumberland, defeating long-time mayor and councillor Leslie Baird.

Voting down -20.6% in Courtenay, -22.3% in Comox and -50.9% in Cumberland.

Full results with Electoral Areas A, B and C, school board and Islands Trust results in the morning.

Daniel Arbour in Area A and Edwin Grieve in Area C won by wide margins. Richard Hardy defeated Arzeena Hamir by 23 votes.

Shannon Aldinger topped the polls in races for SD71 school trustees.

Click the headline on this page for complete results and voter turnout.

Our recommendations in the 2022 Comox Valley local government elections

Decafnation announces its list of preferred candidates in this year’s local government elections and for the first time we identify candidates that we think show promise and provide our reasons for not endorsing the other candidates. Our endorsements fall on the first day of voting at advance polls

Blowing smoke: Campaign to overturn wood stove bylaws called misleading, ineffective

Blowing smoke: Campaign to overturn wood stove bylaws called misleading, ineffective

Burning wood has a romantic aura about it for some, but for others, the smoke causes multiple, serious health hazards  |  George Le Masurier photo

Blowing smoke: Campaign to overturn wood stove bylaws called misleading, ineffective


This article has been updated.

The days when Comox Valley people burned wood for cooking and heating out of necessity have long gone. But the romantic notion of chopping and stacking firewood to burn in fireplaces and woodstoves over damp West Coast winters has lingered on in the Comox Valley. The Village of Cumberland even celebrates woodstove culture with an annual festival.

But what was once a means of survival is now regarded as a health hazard.

Smoke from wood stoves and fireplaces is the largest driver of the Comox Valley’s air pollution, creating winter air quality that is at times some of the worst in the province. Temperature inversions, the shape of the Comox Valley and periods of calm air in winter all contribute to the problem, according to the regional district.

And it is this resulting haze that is linked to a litany of health problems.

Ultrafine particles – called PM 2.5 – penetrate deep into lung tissue and can trigger heart attacks, strokes, worsen asthma, and diminish lung function. Long-term exposure to wood smoke can cause emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis, and heighten the risk of dementia and cancer.

“We are not going backwards” — Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird

Children are particularly affected. The ultrafine particulates in wood smoke have been shown to lower birth weights, increase infant mortality and stunt lung development and function.

To cap this harmful pollution, Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland have all passed bylaws since 2018 banning wood stove installations in new homes. Courtenay and Comox bylaws go further, prohibiting wood stoves in renovations as well.

That’s raised the hackles of the Hearth Patio & Barbeque Association of Canada (HPBAC). The Ontario-based trade group, with members in the Comox Valley, recently launched a media campaign to have Comox Valley’s wood stove bans overturned.

On a new website and in radio and print advertising, the HPBAC says the bans unfairly prohibit residents from installing new “clean burning” wood stoves certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The “Overturn the Ban” campaign website also stresses the economy of wood heat, claims local wood stove businesses will “suffer unnecessarily” under a ban, and declares that “Burning wood is a way of life.”

The HPBAC did not respond to an interview request by the publication deadline.

Smoke from woodstoves is the top cause of poor air quality during Comox Valley winters | Ravi Pinisetti photo, Unsplash



Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells has called the woodstove industry’s campaign misleading.

“The majority of emails I’ve received from the public on this topic are from people who assume the City of Courtenay is banning all wood stoves, based on the ad campaign that’s been running in the Comox Valley,” Wells told Decafnation.

But in fact, Courtenay City Council has updated its Building Bylaw to prohibit the installation of wood stoves in new construction and requires a building permit to fix or replace an existing wood-burning appliance to ensure that the new appliance meets CSA standards.

“Council will not revisit this decision,” Wells said.

And he has requested the industry association to alter their campaign to remove the claim that local governments do not allow upgrades.

Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird said the industry campaign to overturn the local bans on wood stoves in new construction “is not sending the right message to residents.”

“Each council (Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland) did their due diligence in making their decision,” she told Decafnation. “I am not reconsidering my position and I will not ask Council to reconsider our decision.”

Baird said Cumberland councillors listened to Public Health Officials about the adverse effects of woodsmoke, including the latest reports and studies on the cost to the BC healthcare system.

“How many years did it take for citizens to realize the effects of cigarettes on our health?” she said. “This is the same issue.”

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott refused to comment for this story.

Comox Valley Regional District Chair Jesse Ketler said that regional directors reviewed scientific studies and local air quality testing results before making their decision to offer rebates for replacing five-year-old or more woodstoves used for home heating with a cleaner fuel source, such as gas, pellet, propane or electric heat pump devices.

“As local government, we care about our airshed and have taken steps to reduce local air pollution. These are science-based decisions that are not likely to be reversed but could be improved with further input from our regional Airshed Roundtable,” Ketler said.



“Newer wood stoves meet stringent EPA emission standards,” said the industry’s Overturn The Ban website, that fall “well within or below acceptable particulate emissions standards per hour.”

But that’s not so, according to a landmark report published in March by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), a coalition of eight U.S. state air quality regulators.

After auditing the EPA’s testing and certification regime and re-testing over 250 EPA-certified stoves, the Boston-based organization found a “systemic failure of the entire certification process, including EPA’s oversight and enforcement of its requirements.”

That failure means there is “no confidence” that new EPA-certified stoves spew fewer particulates than the old appliances they are replacing, the report said.

“The unavoidable conclusion of this report is that EPA’s certification program to ensure new wood heaters meet clean air requirements is dysfunctional,” the report reads. “It is easily manipulated by manufacturers and testing laboratories. EPA has done little to no oversight and enforcement.”

“It’s bigger than just paperwork issues,” said Lisa Rector, a policy and program director at NESCAUM and lead author of the report. “There were many things done during the testing to reduce emissions, some of it allowed but not as intended, and other things not allowed.”

To achieve EPA certification, wood-burning appliances move through a Byzantine process involving multiple third parties and potential conflicts of interest. Since instituting emissions standards, the EPA hasn’t conducted a single audit to verify certification results, the report said, in a period of over 30 years.

Now, Rector said states under NESCAUM’s guidance have to figure out how to adapt the policy to accommodate the EPA’s failings until the EPA fixes the problem, which could take years.

The report has direct implications for the Comox Valley: “At its core, EPA’s program as currently run allows the continued sale and installation of high-emitting devices… Once installed, these units will remain in use, emitting pollution for decades to come.”

CVRD is one of two in the province to exclude woodstoves from the BC exchange program | George Le Masurier photo



Jennell Ellis, the spokesperson for the non-profit advocacy group Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley, considers the NESCAUM report’s findings significant enough to refer to as “Woodstovegate,” but said other claims by the HPBAC don’t stand up to scrutiny either.

Namely, that it is unfair to restrict wood stoves because they are an inexpensive source of heat for lower-income residents.

Ellis said that although wood heat is cheap for those getting free wood, in reality, the heat source exacts a dear price from neighbours, communities, and society at large.

“In lower-income neighbourhoods, everyone is breathing the air, while only those who get free wood benefit,” she said.

Health Canada estimates air pollution causes 1,900 premature deaths in BC every year, while total health costs in Canada are pegged at $120 billion annually.

Education campaigns on wood seasoning and best burning practices are no panacea either, Ellis said, because some people refuse to change behaviours and because enforcement is difficult and shouldn’t fall on municipalities anyway.

“In order to get a clean-burning wood device, there are four things you need,” said Rector. “Good technology, good fuel, good installation, good operating practices. Modify any one of those – bad fuel, poor operation, bad technology, bad installation – will turn a device into a high emitting device.”



Finally, the NESCAUM study adds to a body of evidence calling into question the wisdom of subsidizing the change-out of old wood stoves for new ones.

In BC, an exchange program funded by the province and municipalities, and administered by the BC Lung Association, offers rebates for households upgrading from an old wood stove to a pellet stove, natural gas, propane, or electric heat pump. In most jurisdictions, the cost of new, EPA-certified wood stoves is also subsidized by $250-$500.

The Comox Valley Regional District and Sunshine Coast Regional District are the first in BC to exclude replacement wood stoves from the program.

“[The BC Lung Association] think it’s a form of harm reduction,” Ellis said. “We’re lobbying them and trying to convince them that it’s like telling people to smoke light cigarettes.”

A 2015 evaluation of BC’s Woodstove Exchange Program, covering 2008-2014 and commissioned by the Ministry of Environment, found, “there has not yet been a clear reduction in fine particulate matter pollution coming from residential wood stoves in BC.”

The evaluation speculates part of the lingering pollution could be due to a simultaneous increase in the number of households adopting wood heat but concedes poor wood-burning practices persisted despite a “significant effort” in education and outreach to teach clean-burning practices.

Another case study comes from Libby, Montana. The city of nearly 2,800 had over 1,200 non-EPA-certified wood stoves changed out for new units from 2005 to 2008. This was expected to lower the particulate emissions from wood stoves in the town by over three-quarters, but studies later showed an emissions drop of less than a third.



The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association appears to be fighting a losing battle. Local government leaders say the industry’s Overturn the Ban campaign hasn’t changed their minds.

Cumberland Mayor Baird said she has “no idea why they have chosen the Comox Valley to launch their campaign. We joined with the Comox Valley Regional District as did Courtenay and Comox to improve the air quality in our areas.”

“We are not going backwards,” she said.

CVRD Chair Ketler and Courtenay Mayor Wells both think the industry has targeted the Comox Valley because all three municipalities have created new bylaws that limit the use of wood stoves in new construction and they fear the precedent this sets for other BC municipalities.

This article was a journalistic collaboration between the Watershed Sentinel and Decafnation





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Courtenay respondents’ comments

These are the written comments made by Courtenay residents who participated in Decafnation’s Local Government Performance Review. Comments that breached our journalistic standards, such as ad hominem attacks, have been eliminated. All other comments appear as entered into the online survey platform. Click each image to view that councillor’s satisfaction rating.


Some good initiatives and some lame ones.

I’d love to see them put more resources behind city planning specifically towards living spaces for young people, tourism and cultural tourism. We are turning into a generic-looking place!

Too much interest in providing cyclists with anything they want, there should be more interests paid to motorists and pedestrians. e.g. we need another bridge for motorists.

Main issue for me is the number of condo/apartment/senior living accommodation buildings that received planning approval, have been built with scant consideration to the lack of parking space to accommodate all the owners/renters/occupants and workers who use these places. Good example, I live on 31st Street, now fully built out, Crystal Shores 70 + condos, Harbour View 27 homes, both these stratas ensured owners parked on their own properties. Along comes Azalea Court, 34 rental units, supposedly 50 parking spots but the garbage compound takes up some space and visitors supposedly have 8 spots, the 34 apartments are home to couples and sometimes larger groups of people who share accommodation to be able to afford the high rents. There is never enough parking so 31st street has become a parking lot, day and night, used by all the good citizens who come to the area to walk the Airpark/river walkway and all the overflow cars from Azalea Court. All the No Parking areas and two fire hydrant areas are constantly violated. Appeals to By-Law enforcement are met with disinterest, besides the enforcement officer works 8 – 4pm four days a week, fat chance of getting violators ticketed, or heaven forbid, towed, when they block the fire hydrants. I shudder to think of what will happen when the fire department has to provide services for fire or earthquake disaster. Now let’s move on to the traffic density where Mansfield Drive joins Cliffe Ave at the northern end. Density of housing along Mansfield is already high, now add into the mix the new construction planned for the WhistleStop, four floors of condos. Move on to the trailer park on Mansfield that has been sold and will be the next target for development. It is already difficult for cars to exit on to Cliffe now but consider the plight of pedestrians. They have to walk south to 26th Street or north to 21st street to be able to cross from the east side of Cliffe where most of the condos/homes are to get to the services that are on the west side of Cliffe. Playing chicken to try and cross Cliffe is out of the question except for those who do not fear for their lives, yet I have seen numerous individuals just trying to do that very thing. Will the good city of Courtenay install a pedestrian crosswalk at Mansfield (north end) and Cliffe? Is it even in their long term planning? Oh, no, yet we can have bike lanes, ornamentation and foolishness at great cost on 5th street! The planners and councillors who support this short sightedness have their collective heads up their backsides.

Their decisions are made based on recommendations from Staff, probably because of their lack of knowledge, but it allows them not to take responsibility for what is done; a perfect example is the conveyance pipeline, thas it is a disaster both economically and environmentally. Who is making the decision to do it? the CVRD

On the whole I get a sense there is dialogue on issues and its obvious compromises are required to get decisions. I am more impressed with some council members than others, of course.

It’s a positive there is no appearance of internal factions wasting time.

A fiscally responsible council that was the first to enact an asset management bylaw, has worked hard on First Nation relationships with K’omoks, has worked to get an organics program for the entire Comox Valley and has supported social and environmental goals such as housing and daycare.

Like to see more on making the downtown vibrant

They work well as a team and have some refreshingly progressive viewpoints.

Seniors in the area I live in need crosswalks and traffic slowdown and our area needs crosswalks to get across Back Road. Accidents are increasing at the corner of back road and Ryan. Even though we pay a lot of taxes also it seems we don’t get crosswalks and other traffic problems solved. This is also going to get worse with the city cramming more high density low income housing in an area that has a lot of vulnerable seniors living in it. Poor city planning seems to be this City’s worst forte for a while now. Hopefully I can sell my property before it becomes the hood.

Current council seems more progressive and they have been making good decisions

Never hear from thereabout what they are doing, what issues lie ahead or how priorities are developed. Never hear from the mayor.

I like the new people elected in 2018. I think they make a huge positive contribution in Courtenay.

I am relieved the council was not taken in by 3L development, and also that it supports the bike/pedestrian bridge to 6th St. I do wish the council would consider more green space for every new development. Everyone needs a small area of greenery, preferably a few trees and flowering bushes, a bench or two, whether for a lunch break or just to rejuvenate.

Not much seems to have happened of significance.

seem to be dialed in, and addressing the important items.

the Council seems mostly invisible

Affordable housing is improving. I am not sure some of the climate change gestures like eliminating plastic are the best things to be working on. Better cycling infrastructure would probably do as much.

I feel the terrible traffic mess on the top end of 5th St. was a disaster – accidents waiting to happen! I’m ALWAYS relieved when I get past that TIGHT roadway. SO many times I’ve been held up by bicyclists STILL using the roadway – big trucks trying to get into spaces – people just TRYING to open their car doors!!!

Much better than previous Mayor & Councillors. They listen to their constituents & they’ve made progress on affordable housing.

Need to have more accountability over their CAO and senior staff. Need to lead culture change from the old school ideologies.

I think they mean well. Their hearts are in it and genuinely believe in the decisions they make.

Some well thought out decisions….others leaning toward political expediency instead of choosing the best long term solution

There haven’t been a lot of news stories about Courtenay Council, but I have generally been in agreement with decisions that have been deemed newsworthy.

Council seems preoccupied with virtue signalling, while municipal issues go unaddressed. You don’t work for Dogwood, folks.

The Council is focused on the full ranges of issues that need our collective attention – from keeping roads clean and garbage picked up to attending to raising water levels and liveability in our community.

I attended 3 public hearings in the past year concerning the City Council always proposing to change property zoning so that more density can be permitted regardless of the current OCP – Council have approved 2 of those 1 yet unknown. Seems that more $$$ is very important to Council & concerns of tax paying current citizens go unheard & ignored

Responsive to public input.

It’s been a difficult year but overall they have held things together

Although there’s still time to see if their progressive words, changes, and future plans take flight and achieve results, I feel they’re headed in the right direction. Mayor Jangula and his supporters did not want to even entertain progressive changes and went so far as to deny that there were any problems with air quality, water, roads, etc. I believe he was also well known for his opposition to bike lanes and cycling.

Blaise, to say the least. We need better infrastructure, like widening the roads to four lanes around Superstore, syncing the intersection lights so you can go through rather than driving from one light and stopping and proceeding again and, as always a third crossing needs to be discussed and pushed forward.

This group of councillors and mayor are working very hard to move Courtenay toward a more progressive, socially inclusive, and economically viable community. The old guard were more concerned about law and order and keeping the streets paved for their big cars. This group cares about its citizens.

Councillor Doug Hillian

Responds to questions from electors.

Not strong position on the important issues at hand; climate change for example

Brought forth motion to have staff investigate strengthening riparian protection for Morrison Creek, to a minimum 30m. The Riparian Areas Regulation allows municipalities to meet or beat the RAR. Development within 30m of a creek is covered by an environmental development permit. That 30m can be reduced through a Qualified Environmental Professional QEP applying the RAR formula, 30m minimum is consistent, understandable and gives more protection.

He at least replied to a letter a few of us sent to city council

Doug is always visible at various agency and community issue meetings, whether a huge attendance or not. Doug replies to emails.

I think he has served his time on Council. Time for a new face.

Appears hard working and I appreciate his position on most issues.

Never see him do anything – no opinion

Been satisfied with Doug for years.

Elder statesman. Eloquent. Ever diplomatic. Grateful to have him.

Voice of experience

Senior Councillor who seems to see both sides of issues and is a very logical decision maker

I generally agree with his views and he seems well prepared for discussions.

Doug is accessible, informed and thoughtful

Wasn’t my first choice but I’m coming around to him

Councillor Hillian is very knowledgeable and experienced, he’s empathetic, cares about the environment and related issues, and is responsive to taxpayers. We had a problem with a local developer who would not follow through on their commitment to restore a damaged riparian area – despite their commitment to the City of Courtenay – and he followed through on this issue. It was resolved.

Doug has always done a great job for this community and continues to do so.


Melanie McCollum

What has she done?

Sharp, in a good way.

Sincere, answers emails and phone calls and returns if needed.

She is a bright light for Council

Brilliant, articulate, collaborative, fantastic!

Heart is in it and speaks her mind and conscience

Sometimes makes logical decisions but appears to be lead by other Councillors

I have heard very little reporting about her performance. Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention.


Melanie is approachable and environmentally focused

Unknown to me

Doesn’t seem to be out in front much

Councillor McCollum is a very good listener and in her early days in office she did exactly that. She also seems to give issues a lot of thought and, so far at least, she looks for ways to resolve long-standing problems such as unhealthy air quality in the Valley due to overuse of woodsmoke. I see her as promising and hope she lasts.

Mayor Bob Wells

He knows how to chair a meeting, and keep it on track.

He is the captain of a motley crew.

I just have not seen any progress on the issues that have been there for many years; change in Mayor didn’t seem to make any difference.

It’s a difficult job trying to lead the way and find common priorities to address civic issues and sustain a vision of an inclusive community that values people of all income groups/ages. He hears what people say! He seems to work at building consensus when possible.

A pleasant surprise. I supported Erik Erickson.

Never hear from the guy!

The Mayor needs to develop some regular communication with constituents. An example: A Climate Crisis was declared for Courtenay and the CVRD. What has been done to ‘Walk the walk”?

He doesn’t seem to care about our problems and That was one reason I voted for him and I thought by a letter he wrote to the city as a council member about the Back road and Tunner traffic problem. So I won’t again. Will hopefully be able to sell my place before the hood makes it worth zero.

Never here from him except when he is at a public function with a high attendance

I have sent him a few emails and have yet to receive a reply! Not even an acknowledgement.

He seems overpaid to me. He seems an affable person, but I have no idea of his values or what he does. Other council members are much better known.

So neutral he’s barely noticeable (except for signature sunglasses on head)

Seems to be constantly screwing up – not paying attention to citizens’ concerns

Best one so far!

Good centrist.

Nice guy, easy to talk to. Not always clear he understands the issues.

I think he is a big improvement over the previous mayor.

More to the job than perching the Ray-Bans at a jaunty angle and trotting off to the next photo op.

Buddy buddy system within the council and guess who the leader of the pack is

I think he is a leader who takes an even handed approach to city issues and the opinions of City Councillors.

Seems to be in the thick of it and show pretty good leadership

Mayor Wells still has much to prove, but I support his direction on a number of issues and definitely his approach to communication (more collaborative, responsive and transparent) and technology at City Hall. Things have improved.

Bob is way more personable than the previous mayor and he is more tuned to his community running a local business.

Manno Theos

Works hard to stay in contact.

He talks a long streak about being the people’s representative but is truly not connected.

Ineffective and full of commitments to vested interests to the old boys club

He wobbles a bit, sometimes the nonpartisan ship is good, sometimes mystifying, but sometimes predictable.

Far too much emphasis on business interests and less taxation when more public funds are needed to address community issues.

Always involved……respected!

I have always felt that of all councilors, Mano is the least invested in helping the little guy and the most invested in watching out for larger money sources. It is good to have a counter voice to balance the primarily progressive council, but I feel him to be less invested in meetings and he often sounds distracted behind the zoom camera and has less in depth comments..

His ability to understand and perform the job is questionable

Bit of a loose cannon at times

Only hear from him when he is being critical. Looks after the Jangula interests at council meetings.

He has served his time on Council. I like that he votes in the negative every so often and is either the only councillor to do so, or has Doug Hillian with him. He is not afraid to give his opinion.

He has gotten along with several councils of different mayors, seems to be thoughtful and a team player.

I don’t agree with his stance on 3L

Someone has to try to reduce spending

Gentile nice man, no longer representative of Courtenay’s residents.

I don’t understand the admiration for him. I’m not sold he understands the issues.

Way too fiscally conservative. If it was up to him the only thing we would spend money on would be more roads!

I generally disagree with his views and find him rigid in his opinions.

Concerned about cost and practicality – now there’s a radical perspective.

Still stands out in the crowd – listens to what we have questions on and explains as much as he can

Always been impressed by Mr Theos seems to find the middle ground, his concern for the people here and costs.

Councillor Theos, in my opinion, is the only remaining relic of “the Jangula years”. And no matter what the issue or challenge, his mantra is to reduce taxes and protect the poor taxpayer. Forget about progress – it all costs too much for poor valley folk. My sense has always been that he is, unfortunately, under-qualified for his role.

He’s always been an advocate for change for the better and sensible.

Mano will go with the way the majority go. He has a mind of his own and could easily be manipulated by the old guard when they were on council and, perhaps, even now. How he gets the votes he does is strange.

Wendy Morin

She keeps her head down and is trying to do a good job

What has she done?

A lot of heart and insight which has at times been sorely lacking on council.

She hears the community.

She has shown real leadership around food security issues

I appreciate Wendy’s empathy and more humanitarian viewpoints on issues.

She knows her community and can talk our language.

She engages the public & has the best interest of many.

Brilliant, articulate, collaborative, fantastic! Often under-estimated. She’s wonderful.

Don’t get it. I think her background is in social issues. Although I believe it’s important, I question how much impact a city councillor can have on these issues.

Good thinker. Sees all sides of an issue

I have heard very little reporting about her performance. Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention.


Wendy is thoughtful and focused on the people issues.

Unknown to me

I don’t know enough about Councillor Morin and must pay closer attention to her voting record and actions.

She tends to talk too much, her heart is in the right place.

David Frisch

More interested in his own personal agenda than representing constituents.

I have no way of determining how the city counsellors perform, hence any answers I give are not a fair way to answer any of these questions!

He is a pretender, he has not really done much, and sits on commissions he is not qualified for

Supports cycling without being unrealistic.

Support his interest in the outdoors

I think he has some good ideas. He is definitely a positive for the cycling people in Courtenay.

Satisfied with some aspects of his work to date and dissatisfied with other aspects.

While I applaud the recent co-op housing scheme and the use of land trust; is David Frisch in a conflict of interest?

A mixed bag of decisions.

Needs to respect the process more. Well intentioned. Needs to be more strategic and not in the weeds.

Well thought out. You know what you’re getting voting for him

Will Cole-Hamilton

He started, like all of them, promising so much, yet has lost his way

Lack of a firm position on any of the issues that he says are important to him

Engaged, responsive.

Cares about community voices and the environment.

Super smart guy! He could be our next mayor if Bob WElls decides not to run

Busy and involved, but don’t know what his priorities are.

His initiatives involving climate change action and UNDRIP are very welcome.

Best of the bunch. True leader. Could be more influential and “not as nice” when driving the necessary culture changes at City Hall.

Very good. Smart. Well spoken. Honest. Decisive.

Well spoken but does not always see the whole issue.

I met him at PAC meetings for the sewer system and he appears knowledgeable and willing to listen to others.

Dogwood puppet.

Will keeps himself informed.

How much time is spent on city work or does he pass the buck too much

Doing an okay job so far

So far so good . . . Councillor Cole-Hamilton is very tuned in to the issues that matter to me. He’s very active in the community re: those environmental issues. He goes to school on issues; he’s collaborative, and has devoted a fair bit of time honing his skills.

Will have been on the leading edge of many progressive initiatives and goes about doing his job in his quiet and unassuming manner

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


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.



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.



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.



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.


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