Following my Oct. 20 Tidechange.ca post Report Card For Courtenay Council At Half Way Mark Is Out ,which gave our Courtenay Council an overall C- for their performance up to the half way point in their mandate, several people commented that they felt I had underestimated council’s efforts.
Comments are great as it is the only way that ideas grow and mature into a meaningful exchange. The comments, two from city councilors and two from Courtenay citizens, felt that Council deserved much better marks for its accomplishments over the past two years.
One comment felt Council should get an A+ because they are such great people noting that one councilor even talks with young people about issues surrounding climate change. Indeed there are some wonderful people on city council. As I noted in my post the new council is populated with great people who have substantially improved the behavior of councilors and generally the geniality of council. Given the issues raised in the comments, I agree that I have underestimated council and should have given them a solid B based on the conviviality they have brought to council after decades of what could be called belligerence at best. However, being great people does not necessarily translate into doing a great job as community leaders.
To me the failings of Courtenay Council are the failings of most municipal councils: they are not elected based on a platform so new councilors, show up at council with little sense of direction other than doing the best they can—which translates into voting yes or no to housekeeping proposals brought forward by staff.
What distresses me about Courtenay is the nearly complete ignorance of the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy (CVSS). This 2010 document was developed as a consensus by a large team of volunteers, by community vetting of all of its proposals, by councilors and staff from all the Comox Valley municipalities and the regional district, by a highly skilled team of professionals with expertise in planning for sustainable communities. No Comox Valley municipal direction document has ever been so visionary nor so widely vetted and agreed on.
After the municipal election in 2018 I spoke to one councilor who had advocated for CVSS before the election, he told me, quite bluntly, that CVSS would not, now, be a priority him. On the other hand, I recently spoke to a Courtenay Councillor who has been an environmental advocate who agreed that council would benefit from reviewing the CVSS and its implications for bringing the Community together around creating a healthy, sustainable Comox Valley.
Given the silence coming from Courtenay council on the CVSS I am left to wonder if the majority of them have even read the CVSS—readily available at https://www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/projects-initiatives/strategies/sustainability-strategy.
Nowhere is the lack of understanding of the CVSS more obvious than in Courtenay’s Official Community Plan(OCP) development which points to some sustainability measures but ignores the kind of community sustainability strategy that was envisioned by the CVSS. Quite pointedly the Courtenay OCP begins with the statement that “At its heart, an OCP is about land use and growth management.” Nowhere does it consider the obvious truth that every Grade 9 math student learns as inexorable math: exponential growth is not sustainable. As every grade 9 biology student learns– exponential growth of a species rapidly leads to a devastating encounter with the carrying capacity of its environment. Nowhere does Courtenay’s OCP get around to anything like the vision of Comox Valley municipalities working together to implement the so widely consulted/agreed on principles/values envisioned by the CVSS.
What is most heartbreaking for me is Courtenay Council’s lack of understanding of the CVSS’s visionary concept of bringing the whole the Comox Valley together to work/envision together the path forward—to a truly sustainable/sustaining Comox Valley.
Yes, Courtenay is represented on the Comox Valley Regional District(CVRD) and the CVRD is working on some aspects of creating a sustainable Comox Valley. It isn’t nearly enough though it is more than just going through the motions. However, the CVSS is not about some municipalities doing somethings toward a sustainable Comox Valley. In my view the truly revolutionary vision of CVSS is it calls on municipal leaders to engage the whole of the community in elaborating and enacting a sustainable Comox Valley. It recognizes on a very fundamental level sustainability is not something that a council/s can do to citizens. A sustainability strategy, to be successful, must engage citizens in actively planning and enacting the steps to a truly sustaining and sustainable community. That is why the most profound recommendation of the CVSS is the following graphic representation of the implementation strategy.
The key goal of the Strategy is that it becomes an avenue for collaboration and learning between all citizens, organizations and governments that are currently active in the Comox Valley and inspires new programs, policies, partnerships and technologies that will ultimately contribute to a sustainable region. –from the introduction to the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy