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General News · 20th March 2019
Noba Anderson
Hello Cortes Island and Happy Spring!

Needless to say it is a strange time politically in our community. I am heartened by the level of engagement, love and participation in the democratic process shown by many. The RCMP has found there to be NO truth to the voter fraud allegation filed by a citizen alleging, without any specific reason, that 43 Cortes residents voted illegally in the October election for Cortes Regional Director. This is the first piece of real public clarity in this multi-layered story of wrong-doing. A letter from the RCMP and associated SRD staff report on the matter can be found here.

There are many issues, legal and otherwise, that are still being held in closed session by the Regional District which I am not at liberty to discuss. I must trust that, in the fulsomeness of time, this morass will be somewhat sorted out. In the interim, it is not yet clear what matters of Cortes regular business may yet be held up, nor for how long. I will continue to bring items forward and it will be up to my elected colleagues how they choose to proceed.

May light be shown on the truth all around.

Included below:
• Change of work email address
• Adoption of 3 budgets
• Advisory Planning Commission
• Grants in Aid
• Gas Tax $$
• First Responder Service
• Community Hall Service

Change of Work Email Address
The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) has moved toward corporate email addresses for many reasons, most notably the legal requirement to keep records within Canada (which many director’s gmail accounts do not) and the need to be able to better retain and access records to meet Freedom of Information requests. I have been in support of this move for a long time and am one of the first directors to start using my new account. For work purposes, please write to me at as over time I will be discontinuing my account. For matters that are not directly SRD related, you can use my personal email address which you can get by writing or calling if you do not already have it.

SRD, Hospital & Solid Waste Budgets
At the Strathcona Regional District, we recently passed our 2019 budget, the bylaw for which can be found by following the first link below and the more detailed and reader-friendly full financial plan can be read at the second link.

Page 153 of that approved Financial Plan outlines the budget details for Cortes. We have collected $35,000 more overall than last year to cover increased costs mostly in the areas Cortes fire protection, parks, planning and the new SRD-wide broadband connectivity project. However, because Cortes assessments are up this year over last, the tax rate is stable at $2.22 per $1,000 assessed value from 2018 to 2019. The pie chart attached shows that for a typical Cortes home 34% of taxes collected go to ‘protective services’ (which is mostly fire protection) 31% to ‘recreation & culture’ (which is mostly Cortes parks), 17% for ‘general government services’ (which includes general administration, my pay, the library and grant-in-aid), 10% for ‘development’ (which is mostly land-use planning and bylaw enforcement) and 8% to ‘environmental health’ (which is mostly garbage disposal).

The debt incurred in purchasing the Whaletown Commons will be paid off this year and a conversation needs to be had about future parks priorities. In the 1029 budget, we have included funds to hire a region-wide First Nations Relations Coordinator as well as the addition of the Regional Broadband service, which begins with the $33 million federally and provincially funded Connected Coast broadband infrastructure project slated for construction from 2019 to 2021.

Just a brief note of clarification – it is often said by anti-tax advocates that Cortes has the second highest tax rate in the Region. A fulsome response could be a whole stand-alone article, but let it be said that this claim only takes into account taxes paid at the Regional District, however most taxes paid in the Region are indeed through municipal tax bills. That leaves only the four rural areas as comparables. Area A (Kyuquot-Nootka/Sayward) have no parks service and their fire department has a mere 1/3 of our fire department’s budget. Area C (Discovery Islands & Mainland Inlets – including Quadra) does not have a fire department through the Regional District, which is a huge tax difference. And yes, we pay less taxes that Area D (Oyster Bay-Buttle Lake) which provides water, sewer and transit services to many of their residents.

At the Hospital Board, who was a 40% contributor of funds required to build our two new hospitals in Campbell River and Courtenay, we have finalized our 2019 Budget. The 2019 property tax requisition of $17,000,000 continues to be unchanged from prior years translating to a 2019 residential rate per $1,000 taxable value of $0.5769. At the $17 million requisition level, contributions to our reserve will average $4.5 million per year for the next 10 years and will approximate $61 million by 2028. At that time, the debt incurred to build the two new hospitals will be retired with an additional $10.7 million per year available annually. Click on the first link below to read a short staff report and on the second for the full budget detail.

At the Comox-Strathcona Waste Management Board, which manages all regional garbage and recycling programs for residential and most commercial users, including both landfills in Campbell River and the Comox Valley, we also just passed our 2019-2023 financial plan. The majority of the revenue for this service comes through tipping fees, which for Cortes are collected as part of the Strathcona Regional District’s property taxation. As Provincial landfill regulations have become more onerous and costly, so is our need to meet, and indeed pay for, them for landfill lining, capping, leachate and methane gas collection, etc. We are actively exploring advanced recycling options that would massively reduce our need for landfill space, and will soon be expanding our composting program to Courtenay and Campbell River in an attempt to divert more from our landfills. However, it is still an expensive and this year the Board has reached its long-term sustainable taxation target of $6 million per year. This is a tax rate of $0.20 per $1,000 assessed value resulting in a $60 tax bill for a $300,000 home. To read the latest staff report and budget please click here.

Advisory Planning Commission
When the normal Cortes Advisory Planning Commission (APC) appointments came due in January, the SRD Board deferred its consideration “until the implications of the legal petition filed by Cortes constituents is fully understood by the Board.” When the equally delayed ‘first responder’ and ‘community hall’ issues returned to the Board agenda but the APC appointment did not, I brought forward a request that the Board appoint a smaller APC which I hoped would meet their test for abundant caution. I have yet to receive any explanation as to why the Board believes that the APC may be substantively connected to the legal petition. I explained that Cortes Island had been without an APC now for two months and that in this time there were two significant land-use referrals that did not receive the benefit of their comment. I shared that we are also in the midst of a comprehensive Cortes zoning bylaw review which will need the APC’s involvement as well as a pending need to decide how to locally implement cannabis legalization. I shared that in these locally turbulent times it is so important for me, and indeed the Board, to have the assistance of this credible group. I asked that the Board appoint the following APC members who served last year: Frances Guthrie, Mike Manson, Carrie Saxifrage, Sam Mayer and Brittany Baxter. The Board referred the matter to closed door discussions and have not yet revealed anything about the matter to the public. My APC report can be read here.

Grants In Aid
2019 Cortes Grant in Aid applications will be due April by 13th.
Please submit them to me at or Box 394, Whaletown, V0P 1Z0. The application form is attached to this post. This date is a little later than normal, but I’m trying to allow some time to let the whole legal situation settle enough to afford the SRD Board some comfort to proceed with regular Cortes business.

I did, however, bring to the last Electoral Area Services Committee meeting the first application I have ever received from the Kalhoose First Nation thinking it would be a relatively neutral test of the Committee’s willingness to proceed with regular Cortes business. Klahoose has applied for $5,000, with a commitment to contribute the same amount, to hire a researcher to catalogue information on artefacts, burial sites, and culturally significant sites currently held in government records. This information would allow the Nation to pursue repatriation work where appropriate as they are eager to learn where the artefacts from within their territories are being held, “with hopes that their return to the Nation will connect the threads of the past to the present, weaving lasting cultural legacies that will educate and inspire future generations.” Their application goes on to state that the Klahoose Nation “is committed to the researching, locating and repatriation of our ancestors and their belongings. As Indigenous peoples we have an inherent responsibility to ensure the safety and care of our ancestors and we are anxious for them to be laid to rest in their home territory, in the lands where they belong. By honoring this sacred responsibility, we fulfill our commitment to our Nation, to each other and to our children who can soar beyond this duty knowing all was done to make things right.” Click below for full application.

At the Committee meeting, Director Leigh stated that she had received a phone call from a Cortes resident objecting to this application on a number of political, legal and funding grounds. Based on this comment, the Committee initially moved to defer this item until after the Supreme Court Case decision, and later agreed to defer the matter for only one month. If the Committee and Board are willing to move on this issue in April, I will then present my regular annual Grant in Aid recommendations in May.

Gas Tax $$
Following on the success of the SRD gas tax funded heat pumps in both Manson’s and the Gorge Halls, I received a similar application from Linnaea Farm Society to install a heat pump system in the Linnaea Education Centre. This application was supported by the Cortes gas tax committee and myself and received by the SRD’s Electoral Area committee who requested staff’s review of the proposal. To review the full application click here.

First Responder Service
The SRD Board moved ahead with the First Responder Service Bylaw, amending it as requested by the Fire Department to allow for normal inflation, giving it 3rd reading, and allowing it to proceed to a regular referendum vote. For the SRD staff report and bylaw, click here.

Community Hall Service
At the last Board meeting, it was abundantly clear that the CAO, Chair and indeed the Board as a whole were not going to proceed with the Community Hall Service without another round of community consultation; so that is where we are headed. I have asked that staff come to you with clear information, requests and questions so that our time together can be civil and productive. I have asked that this SRD staff-led consultation be held in a timely manner and also impressed upon the Board, in the strongest of respectful terms, that this matter needs to be put to a binding referendum vote and that the Board really must follow the will of Cortes as expressed through that vote! To read the SRD staff report and bylaw that has received 2 of 4 readings, click here.

I shared with the Board that the community has been engaged on the community hall tax service for 10 years and the Board has received more correspondence on this issue than possibly all other Cortes issues combined for the past decade. I stated that there would not be any new substantive information acquired by the Board through another round of consultation on this matter and that my fear was that it would only serve to further divide and aggravate the Cortes community, especially in this time of heightened citizen concern with a number of matters currently before the SRD Board. May I be wrong! May Cortes rise, once again, in mass civility so that we can have a vote and move on!

For 9 years, I have been asking the SRD Board to allow you to decide if you want to fund your own community halls through property taxation. All I have been asking for is an opportunity for you to vote.

The SRD 2009 Board Orientation manual’s section on the creation of Regional District Legislation in 1965 states:
‘This new governance model allowed for the consensus of the people and uniqueness of each area to be reflected in that region and could evolve function by function to suite that particular region.’
It goes on to say that in 1971 the Ministry of Municipal Affairs issued a bulletin that gave (in part) the following explanation behind the concept of regional districts.
‘It would be up to the people in the region, with the consent of the municipalities and electoral areas, to decide what functions the regional district would perform.’

This is all I am asking - that it be the ‘people in the region’ who decide so that Cortes can continue to ‘evolve function by function.’ This is the very foundation of what Regional District’s do – provide functions to their constituents as requested. If, in 9 years, we cannot give our people the opportunity to vote on this foundational principle, we are eroding the very core functioning of our government.

In 2009-2010 there were public meetings about the hall service in various forms. There were petitions, many letters, delegations to the Board, two bylaws and much general discussion.

In 2017, we again received petitions (signed by 67% of the Island population), delegations, and many letters, so the Board directed that staff consult the community. Staff examined all the letters and petitions received, reviewed the historical context and determined that, given the extensive and expansive information on this topic, there was not value in a broad public consultation process. Instead, they met with the Board’s of both community halls as well as the anti-tax delegation people and provided for the Board a staff report in June 2018 which contained a detailed analysis of all the input received, many appendices, and a recommended community hall service establishment bylaw for the Board’s consideration. The June 2018 staff report reads: “As is evident from the comments received... that residents are deeply divided on whether community halls should receive a contribution raised through taxation. While there is no accord, there is a desire by both sides that the issue be resolved.”

Indeed, this divisiveness must compel the board to offer the Cortes community some swift resolution to this decade-long debate. To further withhold and delay a referendum is simply inappropriate. We need finality.

May your attention increasingly turn to the beautiful things in your life.

Warmly, Noba Anderson
Director from Cortes to the Strathcona Regional District, 250-935-0320