“We always see our own unavowed mistakes in our opponent”

– Carl Jung, CV 8, par. 507

I was having a difficult time understanding the intense asperity with which the Comox Valley Taxpayers Alliance (CVTA) is attacking most incumbent Courtenay councilors, until a friend suggested I look at all this election inspired bellicosity in terms of the psychological mechanism Carl Jung called “projection.”

According to Jung: projection is a psychological defense mechanism in which individuals unconsciously project characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves onto another person. Sometimes the projection can result in false accusations. For example, someone with adulterous feelings might honestly but falsely come to believe their partner is cheating on them.

Can individual behavior mechanisms apply to group behavior as well?

Well it certainly looks that way as the CVTA repeatedly takes out really expensive full page ads in the Comox Valley Record attacking the Dogwood Initiative for spending big money to elect progressive councilors and mayors in the Comox Valley. But the Dogwood Initiative is not taking out ads –or putting up signs. The rule of fours in projection is that, while one finger points accusingly at another, three fingers point back to the accuser revealing the real source of the angst.

The real angst the CVTA is having over the municipal election is that in the previous municipal election the Dogwood Initiative beat the CVTA at its own game. For years well beyond my 24 year tenure in this valley the Comox Valley ( esp. Courtenay) old boys’ network(CVOBN) dominated local politics almost completely because they were the only ones organizing get out the vote campaigns. I remember being told of a certain Comox Valley developer that made room in the company office space for right wing get out the vote election day efforts. In later elections certain downtown Courtenay bank offices could be seen humming with get out the vote “runners.” It worked. It worked so well that something as shady as a Courtenay mayor getting a cushy management job with a developer a couple of weeks after pushing through the developer’s massive project hardly motivated council to raise a finger of protest. Then came the 2014 municipal election! Progressives–almost enough to change the way things are done in the valley–got elected in Courtenay—they even elected a progressive young woman and an idealistic young man to council.

How could this possibly have happened in the Comox Valley?  Eventually the answer came back: the CVOBN had been beaten at their own game. The Dogwood Initiative had polled candidates on their view of municipalities acting to stop climate change. With a short list of climate friendly candidates in hand the Dogwood Initiative, under the capable tutelage of climate change activist Dave Mills, took a page out of the old boy’s own book and, on election day, called people who cared about the health of the valley we are leaving to our children and grandchildren and encouraged them to get out and vote. And they did!

Never again!—the old boys must have been fuming. And, thus the colourful, expensive full page attack ads decrying the Dogwood Initiative for having supposed millions to spend on a municipal campaign. How the CVTA thought people would miss the fact that it was the CVTA, not the Dogwood Initiative, that had a seemingly bottomless bucket of big money to spend on attack ads aimed at any organization or counselor who/that seemed the slightest bit progressive is difficult to understand outside the mechanism of projection.

The other bee in the bonnet of the CVTA is municipal spending by Courtenay Council—though, as we will look at further down in this post, the attack on municipal spending seems to be overblown –in the least.

While the CVTA runs full page ads attacking the Dogwood Initiative for scheming to “land lock” Canada’s dirty oil (for reasons the CVTA chooses not to elucidate) it is, simultaneously, attacking progressive Courtenay councilors for “out of control spending.” It seems someone should take members of the CVTA on a tour of the hurricane stricken US Carolinas or New Orleans or Houston or Puerto Rico. It would be good to include a tour of the vast acreages, homes, lives lost destroyed by fire in California. Or perhaps they could stay in our own country and visit Fort McMurray to view the devastation (and costs) of the 2016 fire that destroyed  5,895 square kilometers of Alberta or—even closer—they could look at the BC costs of dealing with the unprecedented two consecutive years of disastrous fires in our own province.

The Dogwood Initiative isn’t trying to “land lock” Alberta’s dirty oil out of ill-will or mischievousness. The CVTA and the Dogwood Initiative and all of us have an overpowering need to work together to turn down the heat that is creating costs and human suffering that none of us can afford to pay.

Why the CVTA is trying to make ”stranded assets” in Alberta an election issue in Courtenay, BC is hard to follow. Indeed if one looks up “Stranded Assets” on the internet one will quickly come to articles on how Saudi Arabia is desperately afraid of Stranded Assets, not because of the actions of the Dogwood Initiative, but because they recognize that global warming is advancing so quickly that the day is not far off when an overheated Earth will impose such extreme costs on all of us that no one will buy oil. All those billions of litres of Saudi oil will have become a vast, underground pool of unsalable, stranded assets. No one, the Saudi’s believe, will buy oil when the cost of atmospheric CO2 is a greater price than human civilization can afford to pay.

You have to wonder about this whole hysteria about taxes and municipal costs. Could this be, once again, powered by the mechanism of unconscious projection?

September 1, 2017 Murray Presley, CVTA’s anchor candidate, wrote a letter to Courtenay Council as chair of the Comox Valley Development and Construction Association (CVDC). In the letter raising concerns about Courtenay’s Tree Bylaw Presley puts the contractors’ objective squarely on the table:   “Fund this initiate(Tree Bylaw) in the very same way that other community priorities, including recreational facilities and City infrastructure are funded—through taxation.”  So according to Presley and the developers the only way we should protect our functioning environment from the moonscaping effect of clear cutting for development is for city council to purchase land and trees with tax dollars!

I bet the CVDC would be the first to complain if they were being taxed to purchase parcels of land for the sole purpose of balancing the trees CVDC members were cutting down. Where is the CVTA on this? After a long and difficult evolution BC municipalities have, universally, adopted the common sense(sic) obvious principle that costs which a city incurs in making way for development should be paid for by those who stand to profit from that development. Seems like an idea that should go well with the CVTA. If they want to keep down taxes to Courtenay residents then it would seem they would be hot on the idea of having those who profit from development pay the costs they generate for the city in making possible their developments. BUT not the CVDC and its chair. Where, the heck, is the CVTA when we need them?

The other interesting thing about projection is it is often fertile ground for irony. For instance, in the last municipal election the developers, or perhaps one of them, was running expensive full page colour ads (these guys obviously have money to burn!)about how inept Courtenay Council is because it takes so long for staff to process development permits. Now when Council attempts to respond to developers complaints, the CVTA runs vitriolic ads denouncing council for hiring more staff! With the overlap between the CVDC and the CVTA is seems to put council in a damned if you do; damned if you don’t situation!

Sometimes when a person or group desperately wants to find something—they do!—even when it is not there. For instance: all the hysteria (exaggerated emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people) about the horrendous municipal tax burden imposed on Courtenay residents seems to be just that—hysteria.  If members of the CVTA just took the time to look over the VI municipal tax research published by the CV Record under Taxing Vancouver Island it might save them and the rest of us a lot of unnecessary heart burn. According to the research published on The Record site Courtenay’s 2018 tax increases, even with the added responsibilities, is well within the moderate middle range for Vancouver Island communities at 2.83%. Courtenay’s total taxes collected on an average home is 10th among island municipalities at $3125. These figures seem to say quite loudly “responsible government” rather than the rabid tax gougers suggested by the CVTA hysteria.

If the Dogwood Initiative calls you on October 20th to get out and vote. Do it! Vote for a responsible municipal government that cares about our responsibility to leave a healthy functioning environment to our children.

Norm Reynolds