If Municipalities Are Big Ships, Councillors Must Become Big Tugboats (UPDATED)

UPDATE FROM NORTH COWICHAN WEBSITE (feb 20): Council discussed a Notice of Motion proposing enhanced environmental protection. The basis for this is outlined in the OCP, in Council’s Strategic Plan which prioritizes stewarding healthy forests, rivers, and lakes, and in Council acknowledging the climate emergency. The intent of the motion is to direct staff to prepare an inventory of North Cowichan’s current approach to environmental protection, and a recommended process to achieve a ‘state of the art’ approach to strong and effective environmental protection. While this motion is meant to work in synergy with the OCP Update Project, preparing an inventory of current environmental protection could expose current gaps and the limitations of local government’s authority to regulate environmental protection, which could be useful as we undertake the OCP Project. After some discussion, the Motion passed unanimously.

If Municipalities Are Large Ships, Councillors Must Become Large Tugboats

Last Wednesday, February 12, Council voted to pause all new logging to allow for the first stage of public consultation and the UBC Forestry Review (Read Larry Pynn's article on 2020 logging plans). Fifteen hundred people asked for change; Council listened.

But we have only just begun.

Now on the agenda for Council’s Feb 19 meeting is Councillor Douglas’s Environmental Protection Bylaws motion, the next logical step, without which, to speak of protecting our forests and water reserves would be absurd. It would be like putting a fence around a garden, with a herd of deer waiting on the outside, then neglecting to hang the gates. The motion is not just about the forests, it’s about the whole valley, including public and private land, invasive weeds, pesticide and herbicide use, wildlife habitat, unauthorized land clearing, erosion prevention, and other essential matters. It asks Staff to provide Council with an inventory and evaluation of what is working well, missing, or requires strengthening, and to prepare a report.

In response, an email sent by Ted Swabey, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of North Cowichan (MNC) to Council, Dec 13, 2019, is attached to the agenda. In it, Swabey more or less says what he said in the Citizen, Jan 8. “North Cowichan Losing Managers to Claims Of Being Overworked.” The title basically sums it all up and I, for one, don’t doubt it. Everyone you speak with these days is overworked and overwrought. Being too busy is practically an epidemic.

On the other hand, so are invasive species spreading through the valley, (Broom top of the list), also erosion waits for no man; in short, all the environmental issues outlined in Douglas’s motion are critical.

“Council’s desire to have an environmental lens on everything we do,” says Swabey, is a “cultural shift.” He calls the MNC a “large ship” and implies there will be consequences and stresses when trying to turn it in a new direction.

Several Councillors were elected on promises to chart a new course with environmental issues top of the list. Still the ship lumbers on. It’s not the ship’s fault—the vessel is a reflection of our community, what we have asked for, the direction we have given, or not given.

In the beginning of a new course there is inertia, but where there are determined tugboats at work, the ship can turn. As we evolve, imagination and reason take the helm. Without the ability to imagine the greatest possibilities, there would be no wheel of invention to propel us forward. It’s why our Valley elected Councillors with vision.

On the other hand, no one should be overworked. So why not hire more staff? We are in an “acknowledged” state of emergency. If Douglas’s motion is not passed, if we don’t begin immediately to understand what we need to do to get on top of environmental issues growing exponentially more expensive, growing beyond our control as we wait, someone is going to have to pay the cost eventually—if not us, then our children and grandchildren.

Councillor Douglas’s Environmental Protection Bylaws motion deserves our support.

View Notice of Motion

Icel Dobell


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