One Cowichan, the non-political political party, is trying to come to the rescue of rookie North Cowichan Councillor Christopher Justice who miscalculated how his proposed moratorium on all new development would be received.
“Right now, there is an initiative in Cowichan’s biggest local government of North Cowichan to put the brakes on sprawl, but it’s facing a lot of pushback and needs our help to get through,” reads an email to One Cowichan supporters.
The One Cowichan involvement came after Justice published a lengthy “explanation” in an attempt to correct the “misunderstanding” people had about his policy notice of motion.
The fact that Justice felt compelled to publish a detailed explanation demonstrates that he had not taken the time or effort to adequately prepare voters and taxpayers with the information he now thinks they need. His motion would have major consequences that are not clear from the motion itself, nor from the staff report prepared for Wednesday’s council meeting.
One Cowichan support for Justice is largely as a climate action issue. The organization is known for its objective of reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 100 per cent, rather than the 80 per cent called for by the current council.
“I have reviewed One Cowichan’s response to the moratorium and they suggest that Councilor Justice’s moratorium is only a start, – [that] much more needs to be done,” writes Dave Jackson, a resident businessman who has become involved in pushing back against Justice’s motion. “They (One Cowichan) suggest Council needs to get serious and call for a 100% reduction in GHG rather than the (already punishing) 80% reduction currently prescribed.”
In an email to other concerned citizens Jackson wrote: “Holy cow folks – this is a very dramatic shift for the valley and the forces behind it really don’t seem to care about jobs, taxes or families. A 100% reduction of GHG will cripple the valley.”
Justice has a history with One Cowichan but had little or no public profile prior to his election to North Cowichan Council a little more than a year ago. Justice managed to gather 43.5 per cent of the vote, placing third behind council veterans Rob Douglas and Kate Marsh.
Experienced observers suggest Justice owes his election success to support from One Cowichan.
To be clear, One Cowichan has always conducted its political affairs carefully in order not to violate BC local government election laws. But, when Justice, Rosalie Sawrie (a former One Cowichan employee) and Debra Toporowski, all with little or no public profile, get elected with modest media campaigns to North Cowichan council, there is more than a suggestion that there was an organized effort in place.
As a council candidate myself I witnessed Councillor Rob Douglas at an all-candidates meeting offer a voter the names of who was on the preferred list of candidates. I even joked with Douglas that he should add my name to the list; to no avail.
Whether One Cowichan is simply a public interest group or not, there is ample evidence that the organization has a strong influence over the majority on the current North Cowichan Council, and is one of the most organized entities in the Cowichan Valley.
Patrick Hrushowy is a 45 year veteran of journalism, communications consulting, and business background, who just can’t stop writing.