Council Matters for May 5, 2021

Council met for about 7.5 hours during our Regular meeting on May 5, 2021. Here are some of the highlights:

The meeting started with a moment of silence in recognition of the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Councillor Toporowski shared that she and Councillor Sawrie participated in an event in downtown Duncan, displaying red dresses on community trees to bring more awareness to this important day. The event has been extended to this Saturday, May 8, so that more people can participate (following COVID-19 protocols). Event details are available here: National Day of Awareness Event

Next was a delegation from Island Health representatives, sharing an update on the Wellness and Recovery Centre planned for York Road. In response to the public health emergency relating to toxic drug poisonings, and the significant increase in overdoses and deaths, we heard that the centre (which will be run by Island Health and Lookout Housing & Health Society) will offer a diverse support team, and a holistic approach to mental health and substance use through prevention, treatment, and recovery services. They are committed to being good neighbours and have a plan for ongoing community conversations, beginning with 3 sessions on May 19 (11:30am-12:30pm and 5:30-6:30pm) and May 20 (5:30-6:30pm), as well as establishing a community advisory committee that will be made up of a cross-section of the community. It is anticipated that the centre will open mid-fall 2021, and you can look for updates and more information on their website.

The second delegation, a representative from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), provided information to Council on their 'Delivering Community Power' initiative, which “reimagines” Canada Post with services to support every community across the country by utilizing their existing infrastructure and daily human interactions to offer more. The pillars of the program include ideas around postal banking, check-ins on seniors, community hubs, and renewable energy. You can read more about their campaign, here: Delivering Community Power

We gave first three readings to the Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaw, which proposes to establish a bylaw adjudication system for the Municipality as an alternative to the provincial court for resolving minor bylaw contraventions. This system would enable North Cowichan to implement a more cost-efficient administrative system for enforcing minor bylaw infractions. We can expect this bylaw will be back before Council for adoption in the coming weeks.

Council also gave first three readings to a Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Bylaw, which would enable the Municipality to borrow up to $24 million for a short term, only if needed, to continue municipal operations while waiting for anticipated revenue (e.g. property taxes) to be received. While funds are not typically needed, having the bylaw in place ensures the authority to temporarily borrow is available in case there is a need. We did this same process last year in case our tax collections fell short due to COVID-19, but we didn’t have to borrow any funds.

Council awarded the Electrical Contract for the electrical portion of new RCMP facility to Houle Electric Ltd., in the amount of $4,370,808, coming in slightly under the estimated budget. We also awarded the tender for the Fuller Lake Arena roofing project in the amount of $1,295,335 plus GST, which unfortunately came in over the estimated budget. We heard that the industry is experiencing a surge in this type of work, causing an increase in overall costs across the board. With the roof being 30 years old, it’s not a project that can be delayed to another year, as the scope (and cost) of the project could very well increase if we wait. Council agreed to proceed, funding the project with $150,000 from General Revenue, $720,000 from the Infrastructure Reserve Fund, and $507,637 from Appropriated Surplus. 

Council received a report for information from staff on the revised Official Community Plan (OCP) work plan and project schedule. After much discussion, Council agreed to proceed with the plan and schedule as presented. Residents can expect to hear very soon about upcoming opportunities to provide input. The next phase of the project will be looking for feedback around potential growth scenarios and posing the question: how do you envision North Cowichan growing over the next 20 years?

Councillor Justice moved the motion he gave notice on at our last meeting regarding policy advice regarding sustainable economic development that would have Council seek the advice and recommendations from key stakeholders representing existing business, agricultural, industrial, labour and other relevant 'think tanks' on aspects of economic development on the following questions:

  • What can local government do to develop and retain the necessary talent to foster local socially and environmentally sustainable jobs and businesses?,
  • How can conditions be created to help existing businesses and industries prosper while increasingly contributing to the community’s resiliency and sustainability goals?, and
  • What types of sustainable businesses and green industries might be particularly suited to North Cowichan (e.g. given our location, resources, supporting businesses, and likely social licence)?

In order to have a more fulsome discussion on the topic, Council agreed to defer the motion to a future Committee of the Whole meeting so that we can dive into the topic further.

Next, we considered a second motion, this one from Councillor Marsh, on the topic of Communication Towers and Antenna Systems Approval. A draft policy (see pages 214-221 of the agenda), written by Councillor Marsh, guided our conversations around establishing formal guidelines that Council could rely on to make decisions on this topic. Council requested that staff bring back a formal staff report on the topic, for further consideration at a future meeting.

Our next Regular Council meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at 1:30 p.m.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117