Bam! …just like that — rookie North Cowichan Councillor Christopher Justice has jeopardized the jobs and futures of thousands of Cowichan families.
Justice wants his council colleagues to approve a policy motion that would have the effect of freezing all new real estate development in the municipality while an Official Community Plan (OCP) review is undertaken, which will take two years or more. His motion will be debated at the January 15 council meeting.
The impact of that destructive policy motion is already having a chilling effect through massive uncertainty. Businesses and workers cannot prosper in an atmosphere of government uncertainty, which Justice’s motion creates — in spades.
The existing OCP is barely nine years old and is intended to guide development over 20 years or more. But, these guys want to remake North Cowichan in their own image; like yesterday, if they could.
This move to freeze all development is a major departure from how the transition from an older OCP to a newer version normally takes place. Previous councils did not want to disrupt such a major employment generator and continued to accept and consider new zoning proposals while the community was consulted on a revised OCP.
There is some doubt whether North Cowichan can implement such a policy without going through a formal bylaw procedure that would involve consulting the community. Let’s see what staff have to say about that.
The most recent Stats Canada statistics on employment in Cowichan revealed that there are more than 4,400 people working in the construction and real estate fields. Economists commonly suggest a multiplier effect of two related to construction jobs, which means that potentially almost 12,000 jobs could be impacted by the freeze on new development.
According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation there are currently almost 240 dwelling units under construction in Cowichan. That’s a lot of work for area residents getting pay cheques to support families.
Justice and his One Cowichan supported council majority seems ready to pull an “I’m alright Jack” move that cavalierly ignores the lives of thousands of people as they pursue a progressive agenda.
This isn’t about sticking it to the developer, this is about rubbing the noses of thousands of people who rely on profitable businesses providing employment.
The knock-on effect of a thriving housing market has impacts all across the economy. Service industries, hardware stores, paint outlets, interior design advisers, trades contractors, furniture and appliance stores all thrive when developers can work in a stable and welcoming political environment.
This all grinds to a halt when politicians stake out an anti-development position.
This council made a big deal of the so-called climate emergency. What we should be talking about is declaring a financial emergency. Costs will inevitably rise and taxes will have to follow, …and ordinary citizens will have been robbed of the employment they need to pay taxes.
The majority on North Cowichan’s council seems hell-bent on turning everything upside-down.
They had hardly been sworn in when they moved to disrupt and abandon decades of successful operation of the North Cowichan community forests. Long seen as a representative of excellence in community forest management, the concept is now fighting for its survival as this council majority and its One Cowichan backers seem determined to turn these valuable assets into viewscapes for the exclusive use of the mountain biking crowd.
For decades these forest lands have generated significant funds for the community, thereby keeping taxes lower, and providing employment.
But, hey, when you’ve got a progressive agenda to follow, who cares about rising taxes and falling employment. Maybe they are convinced about all the Green jobs that are supposed to materialize under their agenda.
On a side note, I can almost guarantee that by the time this One Cowichan supported council majority is finished with the OCP review, housing costs will rise substantially as they move to severely restrict any new housing development. Its hard for young people to get affordable housing now; it will be even more difficult when this crowd is done. More on that in a future column.
Patrick Hrushowy is a 45 year veteran of journalism, communications consulting, and business background, who just can’t stop writing.