What’s dire: the lack of Comox subdivisions or climate change and gradual deforestation?

What’s dire: the lack of Comox subdivisions or climate change and gradual deforestation?

“This land is an ecosystem, with worth just because it exists.”

What’s dire: the lack of Comox subdivisions or climate change and gradual deforestation?



Look, I’m not into otherizing and demonizing people. Call me naïve, but I think most people are trying to do the right thing in life, based on their own particular way of looking at the world.

It’s human nature to assume, “The way I see things is the way things really are.” But it’s all a question of perspective.

Take a simplistic example: 18 acres of forest. One set of people will see it as “undeveloped.” To them, it’s an opportunity waiting to be grabbed: some empty, unused land that they can turn into a nice neighbourhood with nice homes where a bunch of nice people will live. In the process, they’ll provide income for themselves, their employees, and many different tradespeople, retailers, and other people in the business of real estate.

Seen through the lens of a developer, we should waste no time developing this valuable asset.

Another set of people sees these 18 acres as a critical part of the fight against climate change. Intact forests and mature trees improve air quality, reduce energy costs, sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve water cleanliness, and increase property values. This land is an ecosystem, with worth just because it exists. It’s home to many species of animals, plants and other organisms. It belongs to the community.

Seen through the lens of the climate crisis, we should make every effort to safeguard this valuable asset



On December 7, Comox Council heard from developer Shawn Vincent of Simba Investments and his associate Russ Tibbles. They’re wondering what the holdup is with Simba’s most recent PLR subdivision application for an 18-acre parcel of land on Pritchard Road near Cambridge Road in Comox.

Tibbles said, “The situation is dire.” He said Simba has put in three applications so far and has been waiting for a reply since February 2022 on the third one. The developer is now taking the town to court.

Vincent explained that he was “not here to create friction; we’re trying to follow all the rules, and it’s not happening.” He mentioned several others who have also waited a very long time to replace portions of the woods in Northeast Comox with roads and buildings: Rob Leighton, Bill Toews, Chris Gage and Brian McLean. Vincent said, “We just want to do business.”

It was presented as a simple enough request. But development in 2022 should not be business as usual. When Tibbles said, “The situation is dire,” he was talking about the lack of response to Simba’s application. He seems unaware that the truly dire situation is climate change. We can’t avoid it: we’re in a climate emergency. And it literally gets worse with every new subdivision that goes in where a forest or other natural area used to be.

A particular concern of Russ Tibbles’ was the access trail through the development. Apparently, the town has asked for a 20-metre right-of-way for the trail, and this is a major sticking point. This, said Tibbles, would make the right-of-way the same width as Noel Avenue.

I’ve got to be honest here: that seems a pitifully small green space, compared to the amount of forest that Simba is planning to knock down. Again, perspective. Another way to look at it: 18 acres is 72,843.4 square metres, so a 20-metre strip of greenery doesn’t seem like a terribly huge amount to ask for.

But from Tibbles’ perspective: “It serves no purpose! It wastes valuable residential land…increases the cost of housing, decreases affordability…” and, by forcing Simba to drop another two lots, it adds another $700,000 to the cost of the remaining lots.

Wait, what? Just how much are these properties going to cost, when the lots are that expensive?! We’re clearly not talking about housing that’s affordable in any sense of the word.

So now we’re taking down a forest to build single-family homes that only a tiny percentage of people will be able to afford? And how many homes are we talking about? Forty-eight homes, at last count (the first PLR was for 64 homes). But I digress.



At the end of the council meeting, Joanne McKechnie of Save Our Forests Team Comox Valley presented Council with almost 400 signatures from citizens asking for stronger protections for Comox’s trees.

Her comment: “The 2011 OCP was approved at a time when the global climate crisis was not quite as dire as it is today. The zoning for development of forested parcels of land in the 2011 OCP no longer reflects what is best to preserve the environment in our community, nor does it reflect the best interests of the community.”

Shawn Vincent wrapped up his pitch by saying, “The conversation tonight is about 20 metres, but it’s not just about that… It’s about how we do business together and right now, it’s not great.”

Interestingly, I agree with him on this point. Just for completely different reasons.

Jen Groundwater is a professional editor and writer and a Comox resident.






Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

Will Cole-Hamilton: Progressives can be strong financial managers

Will Cole-Hamilton: Progressives can be strong financial managers

Will Cole-Hamilton is an advocate for climate action, fiscal responsibility and wide-ranging collaborations who sometimes does stand-up comedy

Will Cole-Hamilton: Progressives can be strong financial managers


Will-Cole-Hamilton is seeking a second term on the Courtenay City Council. The graduate of Dalhousie Law School moved to Courtenay in 2012 with his wife and two children from Vancouver. He manages his wife’s family law office and does legal research.

He has 14 years of experience in owning small businesses — a video store and a small grocery that he sold in 2012. He has coached youth sports teams and ran a chess club at Puntledge Elementary. He is a director of the Comox Valley Regional District, chairs the Sewage Commission and sits on other committees.

He currently is on the board of the Comox Valley International Film Festival and as council’s representative to the Downtown Business Improvement Association and from time to time performs stand-up comedy. He says he’s still trying to find the humor in climate change.


Why should voters re-elect you?

My background in law and business is sometimes relevant to council work in a very direct way, such as reviewing contracts and other legal documents that come before council.

“For example, I put forward the motion that climate change needed to be considered at every stage of the development of the Official Community Plan update. And it was my motion that Courtenay adopt the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People as its framework for reconciliation and that UNDRIP is a lens that is applied to the development of our OCP,” he told Decafnation.

Cole-Hamilton says his first motion before the council was to adopt an asset management bylaw, which requires the council to consider the full lifecycle of asset costs in its decision-making. Courtenay was the first in BC, and second in Canada to do this.

“It’s a common stereotype that progressives aren’t strong financial managers and I wanted to put that myth to rest right away and this bylaw was a strong way of starting out,” he said.

Cole-Hamilton says the track record confirms that this council has been a wise steward of city finances. At the end of this four-year term, Courtenay has had the lowest average tax increases of any municipality in the Comox Valley (average increase 2019-2022: Comox 3.72%; Courtenay 3.2%; Cumberland 5.42%)

Reflecting back, Cole-Hamilton says it was through his second council resolution that he learned the power of collaboration, working with people outside the community to deliver results for people inside the community

“By nature, I’m a collaborator,” he says. “Early in my first term, I was at my first conference and I heard about a collective of municipalities in Northern BC working together to apply to the province for grants for EV chargers. I called some of the councillors from our region who I had just met and suggested we put together a similar application. Then, I brought a resolution to Council which passed unanimously.”

As a result, nine municipalities and four regional districts and the Wei Wei Kum First Nations collectively applied for grants and the Vancouver Island and Mid-Island EV Charger Network was born.

“I realized the value of working with colleagues outside our community to deliver results for people inside our community,” he said.

Cole-Hamilton is a member of the BC Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. That allows him to bring the needs and priorities of communities like Courtenay to the table at a national level and provides the opportunity to lobby the federal government directly.

He serves as the chair of both the national Climate Caucus — which has 500-plus mayors and councillors from every province and territory as members — and the province-wide advocacy group called Help Cities Lead. He is also a founder of the national PACE funding program.

“I find that municipalities can benefit from constantly cross-pollinating with ideas for best practices,” he said.

And he says it’s his automatic tendency to collaborate with others that makes him an effective council member.

“I have collaborated with colleagues outside the Valley and also with colleagues around the council table. I co-wrote resolutions with Melanie McCollum and another with Wendy Morin and McCollum on low-income eBike subsidies.


What are some of your key accomplishments?

Cole-Hamilton sees his work with council colleagues to support a climate focus in revising the city’s Official Community Plan as a major accomplishment. And he says his work to create the Island-wide Electric Vehicle Charger Network was another key victory.

“I have been influential in the regional district’s pivot from the demolition of buildings to deconstruction, which reduces the amount of construction debris in our landfill for long-term savings and makes reusing good materials possible,” he says.

Deconstructing structures reduces the amount of material going into the regional landfills and provides a second life for the many reusable components of a building. For example, many pre-1960 buildings can yield excellent old-growth lumber.

“And it’s the right thing to do. Ask any parent or grandparent who lived through the Great Depression,” he said.

He is a former director and currently the council’s representative to the Courtenay Business Improvement Area board. In that capacity, he says he has brought resolutions to the council to support a downtown social media campaign during the Fifth Street bridge rehabilitation, and another to improve lighting in downtown alleys. It was his resolution to include locations of private security cameras on the city’s electronic mapping system — to assist in efficient use of the RCMP when conducting investigations — and helped them fastrack a patio program during the challenging couple of pandemic years.

For about 17 years, the Courtenay Community Drug Strategy Committee had been unable to develop a drug strategy. So Cole-Hamilton talked to members about revamping the committee as a regional group with the goal of producing a Substance Use Strategy that addresses the entire region. Now, with new grants, the group has enlarged its scope and just completed an analysis of the situation on the streets.

Cole-Hamilton helped ensure there is an emissions management plan for GHGs from our landfill. He says a report has shown that landfill emissions are roughly 15 times greater than all of the CVRD’s other corporate emissions combined. 

“Given the scale of the methane emissions from our landfill, this is a really significant step forward,” he said. “As I noted, they are enormous — roughly 30,000 tons of GHG equivalent. According to the EPA’s emissions calculator that is equal to 6,464 passenger vehicles driven for a full year — or driving to the moon every 28 hours. A week or so ago, there was no plan to address this, now there is.”


Goals for the next four years

The number one goal for the next term is to implement the revised OCP. For example, creating the McPhee Meadows plan for a 4.6-hectare (11-acre) green space along the Puntledge River open to the public, while preserving and restoring its riparian and wildlife habitat features.

“Increased urban density requires larger public spaces and this is a good start,” he said.

He will focus on the many actionable items in the OCP on economic development, land use, food security and housing. 

“This (the OCP) is the largest piece of work for the next council,” he said.

He will support work toward a potential Courtenay Housing Authority that would manage and create more below-market-rate housing units. This would give the city’s affordable housing efforts a champion and a home base, he says.

Cole-Hamilton says it will take a team effort by the council to push the BC provincial government hard for complex-care housing developments to address those now living on our streets. “This is not something the city can do alone,” he says.

He also wants to work on greater collaboration with SD71 during the next term.

“They (the school district) are the single largest landowners in the city and have the single greatest impact on daily traffic flows. Both bridges experience the most congestion before and after the school day. Additionally, new housing projects have a direct impact on school board facility planning.”


The most misunderstood thing about Courtenay Council

Cole-Hamilton thinks people believe the city and council have a greater capacity and more resources than they really do. For example, the issues around unhoused people on the street overlap many provincial jurisdictions and “the BC government’s insufficient response means it’s left to the municipality to do what we can to fill the gap.”

“Less than 10 cents of every tax dollar in Canada goes to municipal governments to provide infrastructure, water, sewer, garbage, policing and more, and that leaves nothing for us to build large-scale affordable housing projects,” he said.

The federal CMHC program for building low-cost housing stopped in the mid-1980s and nothing has filled that empty space. The provincial government has not filled the need for housing, mental health or addiction issues and the burden has cascaded onto local governments.

“And, yet, I love this work and wouldn’t spend this much time otherwise. And I have put in so many unpaid hours collaborating with other elected officials across the province and the country to share solutions to the challenges that face us,” he said.













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

Comox Valley Regional District

General Voting Day (Saturday, Oct. 15) and advance voting (Wednesday Oct. 5 and Wednesday Oct. 12) 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.





Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.


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

Jonathan Kerr focused on housing, doctor shortage, creating a healthy community

Jonathan Kerr focused on housing, doctor shortage, creating a healthy community

Dr. Jonathan Kerr wants everyone in Comox to have a family doctor. He personally recruited four new doctors to the Valley this year  |  George Le Masurier photo

Jonathan Kerr focused on housing, doctor shortage, creating a healthy community


How does a Comox family doctor and former president of the 12,000-member Ontario College of Family Physicians diagnose the issues that matter most to the people of his community? With a scientific approach, of course.

And what is the prescription from Dr. Jonathan Kerr, a candidate for the open seat on Comox Town Council? He is proposing a variety of measures that connect the health of individuals with the health of the community and the health of the environment.

Comox will hold a by-election on Saturday, Nov. 27 to fill the seat vacated by Partick McKenna, who recently relocated to Nova Scotia.

McKenna has endorsed Kerr, as have three sitting council members Nicole Minions, Stephanie McGowan and Alex Bissinger.

Kerr publicly announced his candidacy in August, but he began preparing for the job 10 months ago. In January, he launched an intensive community self-education program that balanced attending every council meeting with a multi-faceted “listening campaign” that engaged a cross-section of town residents throughout the spring, summer and fall.

“My favorite style of leadership is servant leadership. That means listening to people and discovering what they need and empowering them to achieve it,” he told Decafnation this week.

To hear what’s on the minds of Comox residents, Kerr has attended neighborhood coffee parties and, of course, he’s been knocking on doors.

But he also had one of the busiest booths at the downtown Comox Sidewalk Sale where people could place stickers on a board to “vote” for the town’s most important or pressing issues. He ran a similar survey online and mailed out cards to town residents with a send-in survey form.

He organized a Community Listening Event in September that was attended by more than 100 people plus representatives from 25 Comox Valley nonprofit organizations.

“Everyone there, including me, learned a lot about the needs of our citizens and how each nonprofit is trying to address them,” Kerr said. “It was enlightening.”

Kerr also admits to being “a bit of a policy nerd,” so he has attended every open council meeting over the past 12 months to understand the multitude of issues that come before the council.

“I want to be as prepared as possible to hit the ground running if I’m elected,” he said.



All of that listening and voter feedback has helped him identify the top issues on people’s minds.

Topping that list were a variety of concerns related to the health of our environment, such as protecting our parks, forests, shorelines and wildlife, air quality, preserving our town’s tree canopy, promoting local healthy food and taking action on climate change.

“Comox could be a leader in addressing climate change, for example, by converting the town’s fleet to 100 percent electric vehicles,” he said.

Kerr uses the creation of bike lanes as an example of how the town could create healthier people (more exercise) and a healthier environment (fewer cars on the road). He pointed to countries like the Netherlands where bike transit is the norm and, as a result, people connect with each other and their community.

Affordable housing was next on the list of people’s concerns, which is not surprising in a community where real estate prices have reached or surpassed most other BC cities and towns.

It has, unfortunately, become common that people are “couch surfing” and that the volume of applications for Habitat for Humanity houses has skyrocketed.

Kerr believes that the town must redefine “affordable housing.”

He notes that the average rent in BC has increased 7.2 percent over the previous quarter, and rent prices in BC are now the highest in the country.

“For a Comox resident who hasn’t seen a change in their wages in the past year, a place to live that was once affordable a couple of years ago is no longer attainable,” he said.

Even though there are currently two multi-unit housing developments underway in the town, Comox will still have a high percentage of single-family houses.

“We need to do more to increase housing density close to downtown Comox and encourage more duplex and triplex housing and more mixed-use commercial buildings with residential units above,” he said. “And all new development projects should include affordable units.”

Kerr praised the Aspen apartment development near the Quality Foods store because it includes dedicated affordable units. And he gave kudos to the redevelopment of high-quality seniors housing on Balmoral (Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society).

“We need to do more of that,” he said.

The number three issue on people’s minds was finding a family doctor. It’s an issue affecting many BC communities.

Kerr says there are about 14,000 Comox Valley residents that do not have a dedicated family doctor. One of his goals is that everyone in Comox will have a family physician.

The Sea Cove Medical Clinic on Beaufort Avenue next to the Blackfin Pub where Kerr is the lead physician and has personally recruited four new doctors since January, doubling the clinic’s number of family physicians to eight. He hopes to recruit four more family doctors to Comox next year.

As a member of the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice recruitment committee, he believes the community will be best served by a Valley-wide coordinated approach to bringing more doctors to town, rather than relying on individual physician groups.

He says recruiting a physician requires an appeal to the spouse and their entire family and introducing them to the Comox Valley’s amenities, nature parks and beaches.

And Kerr is eager to dispel a myth about the Comox Valley’s particular doctor shortage. It is not caused by a declining number of family physicians, he says, although a number of doctors have recently retired. There are more doctors serving the community than ever before, but the Valley’s population has grown even faster.



Kerr has been endorsed by a local group of Comox residents known as “Comox Greens,” which he says is different from the BC Green Party, and not a political party.

“It’s a group with whom I share values, such as sustainability, social justice, respect for diversity, nonviolence, participatory democracy and ecological wisdom. These are known as “green values” and they transcend politics,” he said.

Comox Town Councillor Nicole Minions told Decafnation that “In early 2021 we formed Comox Greens, which is a new electoral organization with shared views for the Town of Comox. We support long-term sustainability, social justice and respect for diversity.”

Kerr has received some criticism for aligning himself with the group, even though all municipal government candidates receive support from people or groups of people who share the same values.

“I’m just being 100 percent transparent. If you vote for me, you know my values and what I stand for. That doesn’t mean block voting. I support independent voting by every council member and I will also vote in the best interests of my constituency,” he said.

“I’m just being clear about what I’m about.”



Kerr believes the Mack Laing trust agreement controversy needs a resolution soon in order to heal the wounds that have divided the community.

And he thinks the debate could be defused if the parties sat down and talked to each other.

“I’ve talked to all the parties to this problem and they agree on about 98 percent of the details,” he said. “I would offer to mediate a resolution if there was an opportunity.”

As a family physician, Kerr often counsels patients on difficult matters. He has found that most often people with marriage problems, for example, need to restart communications.

“Polarization occurs when dialogue stops,” he said. “A healthy community benefits from increased transparency by their local government.”



Kerr earned his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Toronto in 2006 and did Post-Graduate Family Medicine training at Queen’s University. He practiced family medicine in Belleville, Ont. prior to moving to the Comox Valley.

He served as president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians and served on its board for nine years, including one year as chair. He has also served on the board of directors for the College of Family Physicians Canada and currently sits on the Advisory Committee for the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice.

He and his wife Christy and their two children vacationed on Vancouver Island in 2014 and moved to the Valley later that year. He joined the Sea Cove Medical Clinic in 2015, where he is currently the lead physician.

Kerr actively competes in the sport of Biathlon and coaches youth eight to 18 in rifle marksmanship and cross-country skiing with the Vancouver Island Biathlon Club.

He’s also a volunteer with the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society, and previously served on the Coalition to End Homelessness, Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society and is treasurer of the Navigate School Parent Advisory Council.








Age 41. Came to the Comox Valley in 2014.

B.Sc. Queen’s University, Doctor of Medicine, University of Toronto, Post-Graduate Family Medicine training, Queen’s University

Family practice in Belleville, Ont. and joined the Sea Cove Medical Clinic in 2015, assuming lead physician role in 2020. A past president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians and past board member of the Canada-wide college, and currently serves on the Advisory Committee for the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice


“I have known Dr. Kerr for many years and he is the perfect person to fill my seat on Council. Jonathan is dedicated to the health and well-being of the residents of Comox and I know he has the listening skills, passion, intelligence, and decision-making ability needed for the role. I endorse Dr. Kerr for Comox Council 100%.” — Pat McKenna, outgoing Councillor, Town of Comox

“I wholeheartedly endorse Dr. Jonathan Kerr for our Town of Comox Council in this by-election. His dedication to his work, family, and community shows up in everything he does. He is knowledgeable, hard-working, and holds a unique moral and ethical code that our community and world needs more of. I have known Jonathan for the past couple of years through his active volunteerism in the Valley. I and those around me have seen how community-minded, thoughtful, intelligent and balanced Jonathan has been in his approach to all things he endeavours.” — Nicole Minions, Councillor, Town of Comox

“Jonathan is one of the brightest people I know. He is passionate, energetic, and gets things done. As a councillor for the Town of Comox, I would see him contributing valuable input to our decision-making, especially with mitigating climate change and tackling the shortages of affordable housing.” — Alex Bissinger, Councillor, Town of Comox

“Dr. Kerr would contribute a compassionate, logical, caring, and science-based voice to the Council table. I believe he has a genuine commitment to the health and well-being of Comox residents and I would be excited to work with him. We have had many conversations and I feel like his intelligence, his experience and his understanding of the social determinants of health will be a positive addition to the table. I believe we have a lot of values in common and think he would have a positive impact on the Valley.” — Stephanie McGowan, Councillor, Town of Comox



Election day is Saturday, Nov. 27 at Comox Recreation Centre

Advance voting will take place on Nov. 17, 20 and 24 at the Genoa Sail building in Marina Park

Mail-in ballots are available here




Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

Greens Gillian Anderson: stop fossil fuel subsidies, only public long-term care beds

Greens Gillian Anderson: stop fossil fuel subsidies, only public long-term care beds

BC Green candidate Gillian Anderson waving signs at the Comox Valley Farmers Market  |  George Le Masurier photo

Greens Gillian Anderson: stop fossil fuel subsidies, only public long-term care beds


BC Green Party candidate Gillian Anderson used to be a life-long supporter of the New Democratic Party. She sought this riding’s NDP nomination in 2017 and, after losing to Ronna-Rae Leonard, campaigned for her.

But Anderson says there were no sour grapes about her move to the Greens.

“I left the NDP because John Horgan broke all of his environmental promises,” she told Decafnation in a telephone interview last week. “To stay and support the NDP would be endorsing those lies and destructive acts, which are increasing, not decreasing BC’s carbon emissions.”

She says the NDP lied to British Columbians when they promised to shut down the costly Site C dam project, when they reversed their position and became a “cheerleader” for liquid natural gas (LNG) and when they allowed private companies to log more than a million acres of the province’s old-growth forest.

“If you tell lies to get elected, how can people believe anything you say?” she said.

Anderson was no less blunt about the Oct. 24 election call.

“I have to smile when the NDP talks about the province needing a stable government,” she said. “Horgan had a perfectly solid agreement with the Greens. He didn’t need to unethically cancel that agreement and call an election.”

The 2017 election cost British Columbians about $40 million, but because of necessary safety protocols during the COVID pandemic, the 2020 election will cost even more.

“Plus, with more than 430,000 mail-in ballots, we won’t know the results of the election until maybe late November. That effectively freezes everything,” she said.

She said the Greens would be more responsible than the NDP or BC Liberals about how they spend the province’s money.

The Greens would end the “billions and billions wasted on Site C” and the millions of taxpayers money given as subsidies to the fossil fuel industries, she said.

“If we keep wasting it propping up the dying, sunset fossil fuel industry or on unneeded dams, then there’s not enough for the things that are really important to people,” she said. “We (the Greens) would take a holistic view and reallocate money away from ridiculous mega-projects and use it to create a sustainable community where everyone has a home and is safe.”



Anderson said the Greens have a clear position on long-term care facilities and the growing demand for more capacity: They would stop public funding of beds in privately owned facilities, and divert that money to more effective strategies for improving the quality of long-term care.

The Greens are the only party to distance itself from private care homes, which have come under increased scrutiny for poor working conditions, insufficient care hours and low wages paid to health care staff.

“The fact the COVID virus is frequent in our long-term care homes comes in part because employees have to work multiple jobs, because wages in private homes are so low. That shows that we are not funding long-term care properly,” she said.

She said all of the new beds promised for the Comox Valley are already spoken for. “Capacity has been outstretched by demand,” she said.

The Green platform includes funding a national dementia strategy and using money saved from mega-projects to fund even more new beds.

Anderson said her party would put additional funding into home care support programs, including rent subsidies. She said it’s less expensive to support people to stay at home and it’s also better for seniors’ mental and emotional health.

And the Greens would “recognize long-term care workers as the professionals they are and pay them the wages they deserve.”

She scoffed at the NDPs sudden “grand pronouncements” about long-term care since the election was called.

“The NDP had 40 months to tackle this problem,” she said. “But where were they when the Comox Valley Seniors Village had a major lapse of care and standards that resulted in a high-risk rating from Island Health? Where were they when there were 22 contraventions of regulations since 2018, filthy conditions and falsified records, key positions left vacant and a staff strike over poor wages?”



Anderson said the Greens would not support the Liberals proposals to eliminate the PST tax for a year and reduce it after that. She said that would take $10.8 billion out of provincial revenue and would benefit wealthy people who make most of the big-ticket purchases.

“The last time Liberals cut taxes, they froze social service spending for years, from which we haven’t fully recovered and that partly laid the groundwork for today’s issues of homelessness, addiction and mental health suffering,” she said.

That nearly $11 billion could be spent on long-term care, child care and other services such as public transit and after school programs for at-risk kids.

She said the money could be used to help support stressed families. It costs more to remove a child from a stressed family than giving them direct financial support, and it also creates happier and more loving families.



The Green Party’s focus on clean energy, eliminating fossil fuels and other climate actions will help today’s youth who are “deeply troubled” by the long-term impacts of climate change, Anderson says.

“There’s a certain hopeless dream affecting many young people today,” she said. “It’s an overwhelming slow-moving trainwreck coming their way and they feel that adults aren’t doing anything to stop it.”

The NDP’s record is fueling that worry, she says, and young people feel betrayed by their government.

“They read that the permafrost is thawing and will release methane into the atmosphere and they’re wondering what kind of world they’ll have when they reach their 40s and 50s,” she said.

Electing more Greens to public office would help reduce that stress, she said, because they know we’re going to address their issues.



Like other Green Party policies, its proposed restructuring of municipal financing is designed to create more livable communities for people. At present, local governments rely mostly on property tax, which limits the funds available for projects to create walkable neighbourhoods and better public transit.

Anderson says the Greens would bring in free child care for children under three and fund early childhood education for three- and four-year-olds. The party would also provide $350 a month for stay-at-home parents and start exploring the feasibility of a general four-day workweek.




Decafnation encourages comments and a free exchange of ideas about our articles. Please limit your comments to fewer than 200 words. Longer comments will be removed. If you wish to submit an article for our commentary section, please send it to george@decafnation.net.







The 2020 provincial election takes place on Oct. 24.

Advance voting begins at various locations on Thursday, Oct. 15 and continues every day through Wednesday, Oct. 21. A schedule and list of polling stations are posted on the Elections BC website.

Candidates in the Courtenay-Comox riding are incumbent Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP), Gillian Anderson (BC Greens) and Brennan Day (BC Liberals).

In the last election (2017), 66.89 percent of the riding’s 43,671 registered voters cast a ballot. The results were:

NDP Ronna-Rae Leonard received 10,886 votes or 37.36%

BC Liberal Jim Benninger — 10,697 votes or 36.72%

Green Ernie Sellentin — 5,351 votes or 18.37%

Leah McCulloch — 2,201 votes or 7.55%


Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

Ocean farming: more food, less land, reduced GHG emissions

Ocean farming: more food, less land, reduced GHG emissions

Image of ocean farming from the Greenwave.org website

Ocean farming: more food, less land, reduced GHG emissions


The climate crisis will force a shift in where and how we get our calories. Farms in the future will need to produce more food on less land, all while cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

For Bren Smith, director of the non-profit group Greenwave, this transition means expanding our definition of farming to include the ocean. Smith is the driving force behind the zero-input aquaculture system known as vertical or 3D ocean farming.

The 3D part may sound techy, but Smith says the concept is simple. A grid of ropes extend from anchors on the seafloor to buoys on the ocean surface. A horizontal rope scaffold is fixed off the vertical lines.

Supported by the horizontal ropes, seaweeds grow interspersed with cages for shellfish such as scallops and mussels. Oyster and clams grow in cages below on the seafloor. The resulting symbiosis produces high yields of diverse species on a small ocean footprint.

The farms are thriving ecosystems, Smith says, which create habitat for other marine life, offer coastal protection from storm surges, locally buffer against ocean acidification, and filter nitrogen from fertilizer runoff.

“Fresh water, fertilizer, feed, land, all those things, those inputs, the cost is going to go up in the climate era…. Zero-input food’s going to be the most affordable food on the planet. It’s going to move us to the centre of the plate.”

The cost of entry for 3D ocean farming is low relative to land-based agriculture (US$20-50,000 can bankroll a typical farm). Smith envisions 3D ocean farming as a vibrant new industry displacing extractive industrial fishing and creating jobs on small-scale ocean farms around the world.



In an earlier life, Smith’s livelihood as a commercial fisher ended with the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland in the 1990s. After a stint at a Northern Canadian fish farm, Smith transitioned to oyster farming off the coast of New York.

Some years later, hurricanes Irene and Sandy left his oyster crop in ruin. At the same time, rising ocean acidification was killing oyster seeds, while warming waters drove lobsters further north. Determined to find a model of aquaculture more resilient to climate change, Smith teamed up with Charles Yarish, a seaweed expert from the University of Connecticut, to develop the 3D ocean farming system.

The result was so successful, Smith co-founded Greenwave to spread the word.

Greenwave’s training program has been inundated, Smith says. “Right now the demand’s too high. We have requests to start farms in 20 countries around the world. It’s just insane, we have a waiting list of 10,000 farmers.”

Despite Greenwave’s success, ocean farming hasn’t yet telegraphed to Vancouver Island – at least under the 3D banner.

But what Vancouver Island does have is a burgeoning interest in kelp farming.



“We’re in a region that has the richest kelp biodiversity in the world.” says Allison Byrne, a kelp researcher at North Island College’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation in Campbell River. “We have lots of coastline and lots of capacity in small coastal communities in terms of marine and boating experience that could be applied to the industry. And beyond that there’s a lot of interest, specifically in kelp farming.”

At a seaweed commercialization workshop in Courtenay in June, Byrne says the room was “absolutely packed” with entrepreneurs as well as established fish and shellfish operations looking to diversify.

“There are a lot of companies and individuals that want to push this ahead and are working to do so,” says Byrne. “I think it will look a lot different five years from now, there’ll be a lot more startup farms.”

Another promising ocean farming concept called Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) was pioneered on Vancouver Island by Byrne’s former academic supervisor, eminent aquaculture researcher Stephen Cross.

In this arrangement, the waste from a fed species such as a fish or shrimp becomes inputs for other species such as shellfish or seaweeds. Though not yet pursued commercially on Vancouver Island, IMTA and 3D ocean farming share the goal of remediating ocean ecosystems and creating high yields on small footprints.

For ocean farming, and kelp farming in particular, to grow on Vancouver Island, seed and processing facilities are needed, says Byrne.

“We need to reach that critical mass of having enough biomass from multiple different growers to create a demand for processing facilities.”

“I would love to see young entrepreneurs and First Nation-owned businesses take on the industry,” says Byrne, “and I would love to see small and medium sized farms working together, at least at this point, to create a demand for processing.”



And while forward-thinking chefs have created a boutique culinary demand for seaweeds, there is plenty more market potential for kelp at the grocery store.

Kelp salad greens, chips, sauerkraut, pickles, smoothie cubes, tea, beer, gin, and more could be on the menu.

The largest food market, Smith says, is as a healthy additive to replace the soy ubiquitous in many foods.

Other opportunities for seaweed are for use as animal feed, fertilizers, and for high value compounds extracted for use in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Byrne says the industry needs to continue educating the public on the environmental benefits and economic opportunities of seaweed agriculture. “I think it’s an unfamiliar sector, but once people learn about it, they love it,” she says.

“They’ve done such a good job marketing the concept in New England and on the east coast. But I think we can catch up in the grand scheme of things.”

Gavin MacRae is the assistant editor of The Watershed Sentinel, a publishing partner of Decafnation. Readers can reach him at gavin@watershedsentinel.ca








Bren Smith, GreenWave executive director and owner of Thimble Island Ocean Farm, pioneered the development of restorative 3D Ocean Farming. A lifelong commercial fisherman, he was named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “25 People Shaping the Future” and featured in TIME magazine’s “Best Inventions of 2017”. He is the winner of the Buckminster Fuller Prize and been profiled by CNN, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and elsewhere. He is an Ashoka and Echoing Green Climate Fellow and author of Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer. 

From the Greenwave.org website


Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.