Electoral Area C Comments

These are the written comments made by Electoral Area C residents who participated in Decafnation’s Local Government Performance Review. Comments that breached our journalistic standards have been eliminated. All other comments appear as entered into the online survey platform. Click on each image to enlarge the view.

Area C Comments on CVRD

More active effort to complete the Onespot Trail from Cessford Rd to Condensory Bridge required. Huge effort required to widen road from Cessford Rd to Condensory Bridge for walkers, cyclists &school children and horses.

Some are doing a great job others need to be voted out

Rural directors have a hard time at it as they are basically newbies when elected and have a lot to get up to speed on including municipal law. Not at all the situation the bulk of municipal directors find themselves in due to their prior experience gained in municipal councils.

Stick to the RGS– Don’t cave into the would-be developers

The response on the pandemic for business and tourism has been terrible. The failure to hold CVED’s accountable in the past, and now to hold them to the terms of the existing MOU is negligent, as it was breached from the start. Permitting CVED’s to then hand off a two year contract for Tourism Marketing and Visitor services, when the Agreement/MOU states that “the obligations must not be transferred or assigned by the society without prior written consent of the CVRD” is obscene for a six-figure contract.

Only area A is a keeper. The farmer and the building supply salesman can hopefully be replaced.

I’d like to see directors be more engaged with discussions around composting and solid waste disposal issues – at the moment, about the proposal before MOE that would permit deposits of waste materials in the Hamm Road Rd. area. Just because it’s a “provincial” issue doesn’t mean they can’t take a more assertive role in discussing options – even take a stand against it.

I am quite happy about the new group that has been formed to look out for the purchase/acquisition of new parkland. Although difficult, being proactive rather than reactive is much more effective in the long run. So important to protect our green space before it’s all gone…maybe this is reactive? I.e. Stotan Falls? The wildlife corridors need to be protected.

On the whole, I am pleased with how the CVRD has handled things this past term. I’m especially happy that they are putting CVEDS through their paces and bringing them to task for the years of secretive operations and inadequate service to the area as a whole.

I think that personal relationships seem to trump community greater good when it comes to decision making for Director Edwin Grieve. Very satisfied with Daniel Arbour and Arzeema Hamir.

Edwin Grieve

Not pleased with his views on development. Stotan Falls area should not in any way be developed.

About the only thing positive since being elected is that Mainroad is doing a much better job with road maintenance.

Appears to be a puppet for the ‘old boys’ (CVEDS)

Edwin has been between a rock and a hard place for a long time, what with 3L being in his grill for so long. Director Grieve seems to be a conciliator personality type and is not his own best advocate. I think that many times what he does in not actually understood by the electorate and the press. As the most experience of the 3 rural directors he is the most cautious. We have our differences. Using the fairgrounds for an ‘Ag Complex’ for example is a non-starter for me. Many have no cognizance of the actual amount of work put in by these directors for the people they represent. Much of their hard work is stymied by regional and municipal bureaucratic undermining. Rural directors within Regional Districts do not have much power as opposed to Municipal directors and the municipalities that get to vote twice – once in the municipal process and then a second time at the RD.

Don’t give in to the 3L bandits Edwin…. and where is the wired hi-speed internet you promised to promote for those of us outside of Courtenay?

Has actively worked to prevent any accountability for CVEDs. Don’t know of any actions he may have done to serve his district, but is happy to help developers. (provided they are purely for profit – guessing he would block any affordable housing initiatives)

He is useless. Retire next election.

Grieve appears to support the visions of CVEDS and the Exhibition Grounds Committee that are not in keeping with more sustainable, grassroots, community-based values. BIG is not necessarily beautiful. Input from local growers and the community at large should be valued and respected, not minimized or criticized. Time for him to join many of the other “old boys club” members and step aside.

Don’t know enough to rate Edwin

I’m not happy that Edwin supported the old school CVEDS behaviour. Other than that I think he’s been okay.


Area C issues

These wet spells have highlighted once again that our local septics are mostly collapsed now. Last survey was done just prior to the last sewer referendum and showed a growing trend of sewage issues.

As many cannot afford an increase in taxes due to covid related unemployment, plan on a budget that keeps taxes status quo. Need to continue NECESSARY services and leaves the wants for another time.

The bureaucracy at the RD is, frankly speaking, a 5th column with many fiefdoms totally without a grounding in the sensibilities of the people who live in the rural areas and the directors elected to serve those electors. The rural areas of the RD have a very diverse population from the import Martini Farmers at one end of the spectrum to the subsistence pensioners living in poverty at the other. Regulation these days seems to be written by people with good-paying jobs with dental plans which I have no problem with but their sensitivities are definitely skewed towards curbing any scent of, err how shall I say it, non-CSA approved habitation. The regulation industry is on a rampage that is forcing all but the most rich off the landscape as recent zoning bylaw amendments and ever ratcheting up building code regulation demonstrate. Employees with benefits and steady paychecks certainly have their biases when it comes to regulating lower-income people who have to scratch and peck to stay afloat. Many times regulation is written to curb the excesses of the Martini Farmers who have the money to comply but greatly impact the poor among us who may own property or who are forced to ‘camp out’ in less than the perfect situations that planners, inspectors and bylaw enforcement officers regulate. There is a disconnect there that needs to be addressed. Since the leaky condo situation federal, Provincial and municipal/RD building code over-regulation coupled with Provincial Electrical Regulation overreach have exacerbated these situations to the realm of ridiculously and the RD building inspectors and enforcement personnel pretty well have cart blanch to do as they please leaving builders and occupiers very little recourse.
Support to seniors. Careful watching the new land developments—Keep an eye on Union Bay– Don’t trade off our shellfish industry for housing.

Thanks for asking

We need an industrial park. Get it zoned.

You have to pay to play. Nothing is for free. It takes private business to support the wants of the many.

I appreciate being able to access minutes, agendas of upcoming meetings, staff reports and other information that’s available online, as well as viewing “live” or taped meetings of various committees.

Let’s get our human-powered transportation completed….we also need unbroken links…the One Spot is an amazing resource and is so close to being complete.

All of these things are important, but I’ve selected the items that I think should be up higher on the list of priorities.

All the issues above are important but I feel some are a stretch for municipal government. It’s ridiculous that such a small centre as the Comox Valley has 4? governing bodies. If a large centre like Toronto can do it certainly we could too. The 4 should amalgamate, revise the OCP to designate specific growth areas/strategies and start sending a clear unified message to developers. We have everything here to be an outdoor/tourism Mecca. This disjointed/patchwork/inconsistent approach we have now is unfortunate. If we amalgamated, skimmed the fat we could attract a better quality of personnel at all levels but specifically the planning, building and engineering departments.

The Week: Take our local government survey!

The Week: Take our local government survey!

How are they doing down at the Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland, CVRD and District 71 town halls?  |  Archive photo

The Week: Take our local government survey!


Are you satisfied with the performance of your elected officials? In less than two years — 20 months and three weeks to be exact — Comox Valley voters will again elect representatives to local municipal councils, the regional district and the District 71 school board.

We have just passed the middle of our sitting elected officials’ current terms.

And if the 2018 election is any reliable indicator, some candidates will start their campaigns for the Oct. 15, 2022 election around this time next year.

So how have our elected officials performed over the last two-plus years? What have they done well and what have they not done so well? What are the issues each council and board should address in the last half of their terms?

We’re curious about how Decafnation readers would answer those questions.

This week, Decafnation is launching its first-ever Local Government Performance Review. It’s a short survey that asks readers to rank their satisfaction with the elected officials who represent them and to specify the issues they should tackle before the 2022 election.

Readers will also have the ability to make brief comments about their rating of each councillor, director or trustee. The comments are a key part of the survey because they will help explain your responses.

It is an anonymous survey. Share it widely.


On the Decafnation Facebook page a few weeks ago, we asked for help from anyone experienced in building online surveys. We got lucky when Kelly Kostuik volunteered.

Kelly is a professional engineer with an MBA degree. She moved to the Comox Valley from Calgary with his family five years ago and now works as an independent consultant. That leaves him time for mountain biking, skiing, paddling, volunteering, learning new stuff and “checking things off my bucket list.”

Although he hadn’t used the Survey Monkey platform before, Kelly quickly became a whiz. He built the survey and the analytics behind it in just a few days.


The deep disagreements over the future of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (EDS) will be aired starting today, Jan. 19. But not publicly.

The mayors of Courtenay and Comox, regional electoral area directors and their chief administrative officers are scheduled to begin the process of formally reviewing the regional economic development function. The review was requested by the Town of Comox.

The regional district board had already decided after last fall’s two-day special session to plot a new course for the EDS over the next year. But the Town of Comox couldn’t wait, so they triggered this formalized session allowed for under the Local Government Act.

Why did they do that? We might never know because none of the review meetings will be held in open session.

That means the public will be barred from hearing why Comox initiated the review, what their grievances are and what our public officials discuss behind these closed doors.

However, the small review group cannot make any final decisions. Whatever courses of action emerge from the review will ultimately have to be approved by individual councils. And that will be public.

Among the multiple possible outcomes from the review, the Town of Comox could serve notice of its intention to withdraw from the function as Cumberland did about five years ago. If that happens the EDS will likely collapse, leaving Courtenay and the three rural electoral areas to figure out what might rise from the ashes.


The Comox Youth Climate Council held their first-ever annual general meeting Saturday via Zoom. About 30 people participated, including some observers from over the maximum membership age of 25.

The CYCC is a group of dedicated Comox Valley high school, college and university students, “persistent in striving for climate action.”

The group formed last October “as a result of our feeling of responsibility and dedication to do our part fighting the climate crisis to safeguard the future of our planet and its inhabitants. Our vision is to create a space for youth aged from 13 to 25 years old from a diversity of backgrounds to come together to work for social and climate justice in the Comox Valley.”

Kalea Richardson was elected the group’s new chair after a spirited campaign speech. Although her opponent, Will Hatch, scored points for his willingness to collaborate and his praise for Richardson — “She would make a great chair…” — he fell a few votes short. Hatch will serve as treasurer of the group.











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Relationship issues still plague Economic Development Society in some Comox Valley sectors

Relationship issues still plague Economic Development Society in some Comox Valley sectors

Grierson Stage at the Vancouver Island Music Festival  /  Photo by Brent Reid, 20-year VIMF volunteer photographer

Relationship issues still plague Economic Development Society in some Comox Valley sectors


Fourth in a series about the Comox Valley Economic Development Society

In 2014, the regional district commissioned an extensive performance review of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society. Among its central findings: the society needed to improve how it communicates with governments and the public and that it must rebuild relationships within the community.

The reviewers, Urbanic Consultants, emphasized those points among a total of 30 recommendations for improvement and then underscored their importance and urgency.

“CVEDS must address these matters forthwith if it expects to remain entrusted with delivering the economic development service function in the long run,” they said. “Otherwise, if no changes are evident, the public may begin to demand more drastic actions, including pressuring government to not renew the service delivery agreement,” Urbanic Consultants wrote.

But a Decafnation investigation has revealed that many issues still exist five years later. If relationships have improved, sources told us, it’s because they are resigned to working with CVEDS. They control most of the community’s marketing money, and elected officials “don’t want to open that can of worms.”

Our investigation encountered a litany of complaints from multiple community sectors, organizations and businesses, including:

The society is often slow to pay its bills, at least once not paying at all. It doesn’t always engage local partners in a collaborative manner. It often goes out of town for services available locally. It ignores important community sectors. It has promoted unwanted developments, showing themselves out of touch with community values. It has a reputation for being difficult to work with.

Some of those interviewed, who have operated businesses in the CV for a long period of time, said the society has “a lot of baggage,” and that some relationships with CVEDS were irreparably fractured because “the animosity is ingrained now.”

Area B Director Arzeena Hamir, who has a background in economic development for the agriculture sector, believes success comes from creating relationships and connecting people.

“It’s about building on what’s already here and helping it grow or making it better,” she told Decafnation. “To do that requires trust and strong relationships. If there’s no trust, if you’ve burned bridges, how can you do economic development effectively?”


Slow to pay

Several business owners and managers have had trouble collecting payment from the Economic Development Society. One key Comox Valley nonprofit organization says it never got paid at all.

Ronald St. Pierre, owner and BC Hall of Fame chef of Locals Restaurant, had a slow pay problem with CVEDS, which he says has been cleared up now.

David Rooper, general manager of The Old House Hotel and Spa, had the same problem, but to a larger degree, and now will only book blocks of rooms for the society on credit cards.

“Until there is different financial accounting that allows a shorter time frame for reimbursement, we cannot offer credit for CVEDS,” Rooper told Decafnation.

CVEDS Executive Director John Watson told Decafnation that he wasn’t aware of any slow pay problems. He said the timing of payments is simply a factor of how funding flows from governments.

But Rooper and others believe the society could better manage its financials because government and grant funding is scheduled and predictable.


Where did the money go?

Although the CVEDS performance review recommended rebuilding relationships with complementary organizations, in 2015 the society burned the Comox Valley’s single largest tourism event: Vancouver Island Music Fest.

CVEDS contracted Music Fest to hire musicians who would perform at various locations around Courtenay for the first-ever Winterfest, an invention of CVEDS to boost tourism during the winter months. The first year was a success, but from Music Fest’s perspective, year two turned into a disaster.

Executive Producer and Artistic Director Doug Cox said he was getting nervous close to the event because communications with CVEDS had suddenly stopped. He says the CVEDS office wouldn’t answer his calls. He was repeatedly told that Executive Director John Watson wasn’t in the office and they didn’t know where he went.

Cox finally went to the CVEDS office with plans to stay there until someone talked to him. He was eventually told there was no money to pay the musicians.

But Cox says neither Watson or anyone from the board of directors has ever explained what happened to the musicians’ money.

Music Fest had to pay the musicians itself, about $40,000, which Cox said was a burden for his organization. Music Fest also paid some of the Sid Williams Theatre rental obligations where Winterfest musicians had been booked to perform.

And the rift goes deeper. Music Fest organizers say CVEDS does little to help market the festival.

“Music Fest is the biggest tourism event in the Valley. We have 10,000 people daily, 1,400 volunteers, 400 musicians and sell out the area’s 800 hotel beds, plus fill campgrounds and B&Bs.” he told Decafnation. “It’s just frustrating not to get any help from them. They only market their own events.”

When Decafnation asked Watson what happened to the musicians money, he said CVEDS was “moving on.”

“This was some time ago and we are focused on the future in regards to the festival, which will form part of the discussions that are occurring with the long-term tourism sector planning work underway within the strategy process this fall,” he told Decafnation in an email.


Collaborating with partners

Seven years ago, Courtenay hotels voluntarily agreed to support a City of Courtenay application that sought provincial approval to implement a two percent tax on room rates and use that money for destination marketing.

It’s widely assumed that all Comox Valley hotels and motels collect the tax, which is handed over to the Economic Development Society. But, in fact, it only applies to hotels, motels and some Bed and Breakfast businesses within the city.

The Port Augusta motel in Comox does not participate. Neither do any resorts outside Courtenay city limits, including Union Bay’s Kingfisher Inn, the single largest destination resort in the region.

Rick Browning owner of the Best Western Westerly Hotel “vehemently disagrees” about the structure of the hotel tax.

“If we’re serious about tourism, we should apply a consumption tax for the entire hospitality industry — including restaurants, boat charters, the ski resort and so on,” he told Decafnation. “Why are hotels the only people who have to increase the cost of their product?”

There are about 300 listings online for AirB&Bs and VRBOs in the Comox Valley. That’s the equivalent of four Bayview hotels (formerly called the Holiday Inn Express), Browning said.

“Where the (CVEDS) board fails miserably is they don’t engage hotels to discuss whether their model works or not. If would be more productive if they did and we would get the best solution — whether that’s CVEDS or not,” he said.

The Old House Hotel and Spa

Browning has tried to get on the CVEDS board several times but has been rebuffed. He believes they are reticent to have hospitality industry representation.

David Rooper at The Old House Hotel agrees that CVEDS could improve communications with Courtenay hotels. Some members of the Destination Marketing Advisory Committee — created by CVEDS after taking over the former Comox Valley Tourism organization  and includes B&Bs and the downtown Business Improvement District — say they don’t receive agendas in a timely fashion and the minutes don’t detail actual conversations.

“CVEDS could improve on relationships, meetings, communication,” he told Decafnation. “The organizational structure needs a review.”

Other members of the DMAC, who didn’t want to speak publicly, have told Decafnation that the committee appears to have little influence on how their hotel tax money is spent.

Rooper agrees. “I would like to see the DMAC act more like a steering committee and involve us in decisions,” he said.

During his career in hospitality, Rooper has seen other models for destination marketing organizations, and he thinks CVEDS should adopt some of their best practices.

He pointed out the City of Nanaimo as an example. They have contracted with Tourism Vancouver Island for all destination marketing activity, separating it from economic development.

“If we don’t move forward pretty quick, someone will eat our lunch,” he said.


Buy local? Not always

Even the Valley’s burgeoning technology sector is not immune to issues of communication and lack of  financial support from CVEDS.

Nik Szymanis, cofounder of Tickit, a successful Canada-wide online event ticketing company headquartered in Courtenay, says he parted ways with CVEDS this year due to different business philosophies.

Tickit, a 10-year-old company, had been the ticketing agency for CVEDS events for several years, working on projects that ranged from small conferences to the annual BC Seafood Festival.

But as a growing enterprise, Szymanis and his partner Alex Dunae, had trouble collecting payment for their services, sometimes waiting as long as eight months for a cheque. So two years ago they switched CVEDS from a credit account to an account requiring payment up front.

Then, this year, they discovered by accident through a print advertisement that CVEDS had hired one of their competitors, a ticketing agency in Alberta, for the 2019 BC Seafood Festival.

“There wasn’t any consultation, we just happened to see the ad,” Szymanis told Decafnation.

With 99 percent of their clients, Szymanis says Tickit has great open communications. With customers, they share ideas, insights and brainstorm how to improve their services.

“CVEDS didn’t have any desire to play that collaborative game,” Szymanis said, so he and Dunae decided to drop the society as a client and move on.


Public relations

Prior to the 2014 performance review, CVEDS had purchased an expensive full page advertisement in the Victoria Times-Colonist newspaper that among other things promoted the Raven Coal Mine, which local governments, K’omoks First Nation and the conservation community had opposed.

The ad also promoted the Sage Hills housing development south of Courtenay, whose principals had committed fraud and other violations according to the BC Securities Commission.

That caused Urbanic Consultants to write that “if CVEDS is unwilling to manage its message, then the dialog surrounding it will be shaped by external parties, which may ultimately diminish its ability to deliver on its mandate.”

Yet several years later, the CVEDS website featured Riverwood, the ill-fated 3L Developments proposal, as a regional development site during a period of widespread citizen protests and protracted wrangles with the regional district that included litigation over the Regional Growth Strategy.

That casued a storm of negative CVEDS comments and concerns on Facebook and other platforms.

Courtenay Councillor Wendy Morin commented at the time, “Where are other examples of ED boards promoting developments outside their RGSs that require a major amendment (that may or may not be approved), that are as contentious as this? What incredible disrespect of process this is.”

Former Comox mayor Paul Ives defended CVEDS, commenting on Facebook that the society had made “no error” and that there was “nothing shady at all.” He advised critics to “check out what CVEDS is doing for yourself rather than taking shots from the cheap seats.”

Immediately after the Riverwood issue blew up on social media, CVEDS took the reference to the 3L development off their website. The CVRD board eventually rejected the 3L application to amend the RGS and the developers later lost a subsequent lawsuit against the regional district.


Arts and culture ignored?

The Comox Valley is widely known as a community rich with resident artists and a vibrant culture of festivals, musical theatre and the nationally renowned Comox Valley Youth Music Center.

But the Economic Development Society does not recognize arts and culture as a key sector of the Comox Valley region, according to its website. In fact, the society has a stormy past with key players in the regional arts community.

Marty Douglas, a local real estate personality who has been heavily involved in Comox Valley musical theatre groups since the early 1980s, says CVEDS has done “zero cultural marketing, yet it’s a huge driver of regional tourism.”

Elevate the Arts event in Cumberland, from Facebook

Attendance figures at the Sid Williams Theatre, for example, have grown by more than five percent per year for decades, he said.

Meaghan Cursons, one of the driving forces behind the local event production company, Elevate, thinks CVEDS is missing a big part — arts and culture — of the Comox Valley narrative.

“They no longer have a mandate to deal with the whole picture,” she told Decafnation. “And that means the Comox Valley cultural story still isn’t being told.”

Because the Village of Cumberland pulled out of the economic development function, the society doesn’t collaborate with the village’s many festivals.

“Our character, our gifts, our colour, our relationships are all missing from the official Comox Valley narrative,” Coursons said. “Which is silly because the cultural community, producers and consumers, knows no boundaries. It’s like tearing pages out of a book. Their content makes no sense anymore and the marketing materials are losing relevance. But we’re thriving out here in spite of it.”

Cumberland’s new in-house economic development strategic plan now has a strong arts and culture focus.

In 2008, Denman and Hornby islands, the home for a large number of the region’s artists, also stopped participating with CVEDS.

Residents of the two islands individually formed the Hornby Island Community Economic Enhancement Corporation and Denman Works to address economic development from a more local perspective. Area A Director Daniel Arbour was the executive director of HICEEC from 2014 through 2018.

And, although CVEDS pursued and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Comox Valley Arts Council last December — as recommended in the 2014 performance review — their past relationship had been strained.

“Until last year, there wasn’t a lot of support,” Arts Council Executive Director Dallas Stevenson told Decafnation.

Stevenson, who’s been at the helm of the arts council for 13 years, recalls a “real struggle” in 2007 over an application for federal funding that required an arts and culture strategic plan .

However, since working out last year’s MOU, Stevenson says “the relationship has gotten better.”


Working with contractors

CVEDS initially hired Watermark Communications to produce this summer’s BC Seafood Festival. But after introducing the Whistler-based firm at several high-profile local gatherings, Watermark wasn’t heard from again. CVEDS has never explained what happened.

Sue Eckersley, president of Watermark, which produces the Whistler Cornucopia festival, told Decafnation she preferred not to comment on what happened.

When asked, Lara Greasly, the society’s marketing and communications manager, would not comment directly other than to say CVEDS decided to go a different direction with two separate contractors. They hired Impact Events, a Kelowna company, as the food and beverage director and local resident John Mang as the site and venue services director.

But another source close to the situation said there was a dispute because the working agreement shifted unexpectedly and Watermark decided to back out.


Local government

The 2014 economic development performance review recommended CVEDS improve its communications with local governments, as well as the general public.

The consultants who wrote the review suggested semi-annual presentations to local government in addition to semi-annual meetings with municipal chief administrative officers.

CVRD Chief Administrative Officer Russell Dyson told Decafnation the society had followed through on those recommendations and that the change had improved communications.

Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells agreed.

“I think they’re doing well on that,” Wells told Decafnation. He declined to comment further.

Next: What is ‘economic development,’ and how are other municipalities and regions doing it.










Reporting on CVEDS relationships within the community evolved into a difficult assignment on two fronts.

First, some of those we contacted in various economic sectors would not speak on the record. As a group, they generally feared retribution from CVEDS, such as cutting off marketing or other support for events that benefit them.

“Because CVEDS controls all the money, local and provincially … I can’t say anything. I know that’s part of the problem, not making things better,” one source told Decafnation.

Secondly, we encountered an initial unwillingness by CVEDS staff to be interviewed. Decafnation started contacting Executive Director John Watson in May to arrange an interview. We received no response. We eventually asked Board of Directors Chair Deana Simpkin for an interview in lieu of speaking with staff.

But it wasn’t until after we solicited the help of several Comox Valley elected officials that Watson finally responded and agreed to meet on Sept. 3, nearly four months after our first request.

The inteview was arranged with Watson, Board Chair Simpkin and Vice Chair Bruce Turner. When we arrived, newly elected director Paul Ives was also in the room. Later we learned that other newly elected directors had not been asked to join the interview.

In the 2014 performance review of CVEDS written by Urbanic Consultants, they wrote that in some cases “attempts to contact CVEDS would go unanswered, which contributes to (a) fairly common perception that CVEDS ignores whom they ‘do not like’.”




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