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Summer Is Over

Summer is over and its time to get serious about the upcoming municipal elections. In the past mayor and council served for three year terms. On Bowen this meant that they almost had time to do something, but not quite. This time the term will be four years and a council with four likeminded individuals could do a lot to change the face of our island, for better or for worse. To make an informed decision about who to ultimately vote for we should remind ourselves about how politics work on this island. The nuances of who supports what and why they do it needs to be explored.

The two groups that most quickly come to mind are the Eco Alliance and the Improvement Association. A newcomer to the island once observed that he thought both groups had some good ideas and considered joining both of them. He soon realized that was something akin to joining both the NAACP and the KKK. So lets start by looking at the worldviews these groups represent.

I think its fair to say that the Eco Alliance is dedicated to preserving things as they are for as long as possible. I believe their worldview goes something like this. People don’t move to Bowen to get rich. Those seeking financial opportunity move to large cities or places like Fort McMurray. Those who choose Bowen are choosing a natural environment and slower pace of life. They accept that services are lacking because our population is small. We will never have significant natural resource extraction or manufacturing or large institutions because of transportation, infrastructure and population constraints. And we don’t want those things. Bowen needs to be protected, not exploited.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the Improvement Association. Their members are builders; people who want to improve things. I think it is fair to say their worldview includes the desirability of property development, population increase, infrastructure improvements and economic growth in general. While they agree that Bowen is a very pleasant place to live they see a lot of room for improvement and seek to promote for public office those who share their concerns for the island’s economic stagnation.

Between these two groups are the rest of us. Our concerns are pretty straightforward but by no means universal. Retirees on fixed incomes and long time owners of summer homes are usually concerned about tax increases. Many commuters are opposed to land development schemes that would increase the population and put more pressure on ferry capacity. Families with young children worry about more traffic on the roads. Those who love hiking and exploring the island value our open forests while owners of larger properties fear for the erosion of respect for private property. Local business people remember the hard times and many support those who will work for economic growth. But the reality is that we’re basically happy campers.

Our greatest concern at election time is the fear that we’re going to elect a Council that will do something stupid. And that’s why this next election is so important. Four years is enough time to actually do something. In the last election Duntz, Jennings and Rhodes ran as a slate and all got elected. Eventually two of the three had to resign due to conflicts of interest but not before they demonstrated just how much power a unified block could wield.

This time around we need seven individuals with their own ideas. At its best Council represents the people of the community, not one portion of the community who managed to elect a majority of Councillors. Those elected who are determined to follow their group’s agenda in spite of the wishes of the majority of the community create considerable unnecessary discord. Seven councillors with unique points of view would go a long way to actually representing all of the different groups on Bowen. The question is how do we get strong independent thinkers to actually run?

Our municipal councils have made their jobs far too difficult. They have spent endless hours in meetings discussing great long term plans that have been discussed a dozen times before and will probably never happen, anguished hours trying to figure out how to extricate themselves from a council decision that the public hates and a frustrating amount of time trying to muster support for the one or two things they personally believe would have a positive impact on the island. At the end of the day they don’t appear to have had very much fun.

But it really doesn’t have to be like that. The trick is to get councillors who have opinions of their own, who will discuss them openly and honestly. If they are truly representative of the many perspectives held by islanders the majority of them won’t do stupid things like requiring development permits to cut down trees on residential lots or at the other extreme throw out a bylaw that prohibits private docks across public beaches.

Let’s hope that this time around we can move our game up a notch and elect some sharp people who effectively represent those of us who don’t have axes to grind. Nominations open September 30 and end October 10. Let the games begin.

(OK, I might have one or two little axes, but that is for another column.)

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This Side of the Moat

Have you ever wondered where we’re going? Is Bowen going to grow, are property values going to rise or fall, is BC Ferries going to drive us into the ground? There are a few factors that exert enormous control over our demographics but there are also some macroeconomic trends that may skew things a bit.

Imagine what Bowen would be like if we had unlimited free ferry service with runs every fifteen minutes. Instead of a 3,500 population it would be 35,000 and the character of the island would be completely different. We have a small population precisely because access is so difficult and expensive. In business we talk about the width of a company’s economic moat; those things that prevent competitors from destabilizing its position. On Bowen our moat isn’t just figurative, Continue reading ›

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Elder Abuse

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was developed & launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Abuse and neglect of older adults is not limited to any one country or part of the world. So, WEAAD involves activities to bring greater recognition of mistreatment of older adults wherever they live throughout the world, and to highlight the need for appropriate action. It is intended to give abuse and neglect of older adults a global relevance that will sustain and move prevention efforts forward throughout the year and for years to come.

On Bowen Island, Snug Cove House Society is dedicated to supporting independent seniors to stay well.  We are, therefore, concerned about the issues of elder abuse and neglect, whether caused by the self or others.  There are resources available here and Continue reading ›

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Island Notes

Be careful what you wish for.

Our Municipal Council is putting the final touches on a bylaw to rezone six acres of municipal land between the school and Seniors Lane. The area is divided into three pieces. Along the road it envisions four-storey mixed commercial/apartment buildings. Behind that would be buildings, again up to four stories high, with 33,000 square feet of municipal administration and community assembly space and more apartments. Behind that, closer to Bowen Court, would be townhouses with secondary suites. In total, between the townhouses, suites and apartments, up to 80 living units could be built. When you consider that our population grew by 40 people in five years (2006-2011) it again seems a bit optimistic.

Normally it would be hard to get excited about grandiose plans but this one is a bit more serious. Continue reading ›

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Mucking Around with the OCP

The B.C. Local Government Act lays out requirements and provides guidelines in the drafting of Official Community Plans. Bowen has an additional obligation to include OCP policies that specifically implement directives of the Islands Trust. Any changes to the OCP require approval from their Executive Committee.

While the OCP is a living document, any changes must be done for good, compelling reasons. There are two ways of doing this. The first is periodic review and update, something done with wide community involvement on Bowen in 1984, 1996, 2011. The second involves ‘spot changes’, necessary to achieve desired outcomes for specific properties or issues.The golden rule is to ensure that any change does not contradict the hundreds of other elements of the OCP. That is why extensive community and professional input is so paramount- to ensure that amendments are proper and well supported.

Bowen Council is now forwarding two OCP amendments, one to allow for rezoning and development of Lot 2 of our community lands (between the school and Seniors’ Lane-Bylaws #352/353), and the other to remove perceived barriers to economic development (Bylaw #357). Each is well intentioned, but fraught with problems and inconsistencies. Both compromise the OCP and fail the golden rule litmus test. Continue reading ›

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Election Platform

Politicians ask the electorate what they want. A wish list emerges. The politicians pick from the list and build a campaign around it, in hopes of getting elected. That’s how it works in most places but Bowen is a bit different. The wish list is so long and diverse that those running for council have found it best to avoid specific issues and speak in broad generalities.

A typical speech is something like “My wife and I have lived here since the dawn of time, we raised our children here, helped to lift into place the roof beam of the fire hall. You know me and I know you, I share your dreams, hopes and desires for our island. I feel the same pain as you when BC Ferries raises our fares and cuts our service. Continue reading ›

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Municipal elections will be upon us again this fall.  When our current Council took office three years ago, they were quite vocal about the lack of progress made by the outgoing Council on outstanding pressing matters. The new crew had a Strategic Plan for their mandate. Now the time has come to revisit that plan and see how they’ve fared.

On top of the list was implementation of a ferry marshalling solution. First came “Plan Z”. When that proved unworkable they spent a goodly sum of money on a “Plan Q”. When that proved unworkable they blamed our problems on the herons nesting in Snug Cove and dropped the whole thing.

Another top priority was the completion of a new Community Centre. Continue reading ›

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submitted by the board of the Bowen Island Conservancy

Our mayor has publicly pondered the value of the Islands Trust to Bowen Island and whether we might opt out of the Trust.

First of all, the Islands Trust and the islands within it can only be changed by provincial legislation, not by a locally elected municipal council.  There is a reason for this.  The Province created this Trust Area not just for those of us who are fortunate enough to live here, but also for all British Columbians who benefit from exploring the natural beauty of the islands.

The provincial government enacted the Islands Trust Act (“IT Act”) in 1974 as a reaction to growing concerns that development was endangering “the very features that made the Trust Area so attractive to residents and visitors.”  This raison d’etre for the Islands Trust continues today.  Continue reading ›

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Muddying the Water

I’m far from Bowen right now but I really want to comment on a letter recently sent to Cove Bay Water homeowners. It makes the case for building a $7.5 million water treatment plant to serve our 615 users and urges us to support taking out a $1.5 million loan. The problem isn’t so much with the capital cost; it’s the operating costs they’re glossing over that make the deal hard to swallow – but I’ll get back to that. The reason I’m writing is because the first thought that went through my mind was “So that’s why they raised the lake.” Continue reading ›

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Not Only on Bowen

by Maureen Nicholson for Bowen Islanders for Ferry Fairness

“Only on Bowen.” That phrase is used sometimes as a compliment and sometimes with resignation. But the recent BC Ferry Corporation “engagement process” and later events have driven home that Bowen is not unique. We live in one of many communities that depend on BC Ferries, communities that will be harmed by this latest round of service cuts and rate hikes.

It can be difficult to know how to respond to this kind of change, especially after enduring a discouraging community engagement process.

Out of frustration, Continue reading ›

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