Council Matters for November 2, 2022

Council met for about 45 minutes during our Inaugural Council meeting on November 2, 2022. Here are some highlights from the meeting.

The meeting began with a welcome and First Nations prayer by Cowichan Tribes Elder John George. The Chief Administrative Officer, Ted Swabey, welcomed the honoured guests and invited them to address Council-Elect. Chief Pahalicktun, Richard Thomas from Lyackson First Nation shared his thoughts on the importance of working together towards reconciliation and for future generations. Councillor Stephanie Atleo from Cowichan Tribes thanked Council-Elect for inviting them to participate in the ceremony and encouraged members to reach out and build a relationship before wishing them well.

The new Council – Mayor Rob Douglas, and Councillors Mike Caljouw, Bruce Findlay, Chris Istace, Christopher Justice, Tek Manhas, and Debra Toporowski took our oaths of office, administered by Municipal Solicitor Sukhbir Manhas.

During my Inaugural Address, I offered the following comments:

Good afternoon.

I would first like to welcome everyone to this inaugural ceremony of North Cowichan Council, and acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples.

I would also like to thank the members of the previous Council who did not return – former Mayor Al Siebring, Councillor Kate Marsh and Councillor Rosalie Sawrie. Each brought their own individual strengths to this table and worked very hard on behalf of the community.

I also offer congratulations to our three returning Councillors – Councillor Manhas, Councillor Toporowski and Councillor Justice. Your experience at this table will be a significant asset, and I will be looking to you to help provide leadership at the Council table over these next four years.

We have three new Councillors joining us – Councillor Caljouw, Councillor Findlay, and Councillor Istace. Welcome. Each of you will bring new ideas, unique skills and fresh thinking to this table, that will shape how the Municipality addresses the immediate issues facing our community and plans for the long-term. I look forward to working together.

On the surface this Council may appear, in many ways, to be less diverse than the previous Council. However, the seven folks elected to sit at this table bring a very balanced and diverse set of skills, backgrounds, expertise, and geographic distribution from across this large municipality, with representation from Chemainus, Crofton, along Quamichan Lake, the Maple Bay Corridor, and Berkey’s Corner.

As you all know, we face real challenges here in North Cowichan and the broader region, like so many other places across B.C. and Canada. These include a lack of affordable housing, growing levels of homelessness, budgetary pressures, massive infrastructure replacement costs, environmental degradation, more frequent extreme weather events, the loss of high-paying resource jobs, and a rising cost of living, to name a few.

A local government like North Cowichan does not have the powers or the resources to solve all these problems on its own. However, we can implement tools, within our jurisdiction as a municipality, that will, over time, make a difference – whether that’s adopting an affordable housing strategy, updating our land use zoning bylaw, or taking steps to adapt to climate change.

Our success in tackling the major issues in our community will depend in large part on our ability to work together as a Council, and also with the talented and hard-working staff here at the Municipality. That’s what our residents expect from us and why we were elected to sit at this table. When I was first sworn-in here as a Councillor eight years ago, Glen Ridgway, a Freeman of the Municipality, gave us wise advice. “In line with your principles, attempt to work together,” he said, “because it is together you achieve results for our Municipality.” I couldn’t agree more.

Equally important to our success will be our ability to work co-operatively with neighbouring jurisdictions, including the City of Duncan, the Town of Lake Cowichan, the Town of Ladysmith and the Cowichan Valley Regional District. It will only be by working together that we will be able to effectively advocate to the senior levels of government to provide the supports and the resources to address the big challenges facing our region – from reducing homelessness and building more affordable housing, to replacing our aging and costly infrastructure and adapting to more frequent and extreme weather events.

It will be vital for us to build on the foundation laid by previous Councils to strengthen co-operation, understanding and mutual support with local First Nations – including Cowichan Tribes, the Halalt First Nation, the Lyackson First Nation, the Stz’uminus First Nation, and the Penelakut Tribe. This will require a dedicated effort from all members of Council to continue our collective journey towards meaningful and lasting reconciliation.

I am truly excited to work with Council, municipal staff, local residents, and our neighboring jurisdictions to get to work in tackling the major issues in our community. I am confident that we will make a difference over these next four years, to not only improve the quality of life of current residents, but to create a healthier and more sustainable community for future generations.

Thank you. 

A report on the 2022 General Local Election results was received for information. The Chief Election Officer noted 8,545 electors participated in the election, a 32.04% turnout, which is consistent with turnouts in 2014 and 2018. The report also documents turnout by polling location, the use of vote counting machines, and a list of complaints, offences, and other issues encountered during the election period. The next General Local Election is in four years on October 17, 2026.

I announced appointments to boards, committees, commissions, and external bodies, and indicated these appointments will be reviewed in one year.

Councillor Toporowski was appointed Acting Mayor for the next 180 days. The acting mayor serves in the place of the mayor when they are absent or otherwise unable to act.

Appointment of Municipal Directors and Alternates to the CVRD Board:

  • Mayor Douglas, Councillor Justice, Councillor Manhas and Councillor Toporowski as Municipal Directors
  • Councillor Istace as Alternate Director #1, Councillor Caljouw as Alternate Director #2, and Councillor Findlay as Alternate Director #3

Appointments by the Mayor to Standing Committees:

  • A new committee focused on economic development will be established, with the Mayor, Councillor Findlay and Councillor Istace.

Appointments by Council to Select Committees:

  • The Mayor will be asking Council to consider a new Agricultural Advisory Committee, and appoint Councillor Justice as the representative. Mayor Douglas will continue to be the representative on the Forestry Advisory Committee, and Councillor Caljouw is appointed to the Environmental Advisory Committee.

Invitations to volunteers to serve on these committees will be open in the coming weeks.

  • Councillor Findlay and Councillor Justice were appointed to the Joint Utilities Board.
  • The City of Duncan’s Advisory Committee on Disability Issues: Councillor Findlay (Councillor Justice as the alternate).
  • The CVRD’s Cowichan Centre Commission: Councillors Istace, Findlay, and Caljouw.
  • The City of Duncan’s Tourism Advisory Committee: Councillor Caljouw (Councillor Toporowski as the alternate)
  • Vancouver Island Regional Library Board: Councillor Manhas (Councillor Justice as the alternate).
  • BC Forest Discovery Centre Board: Councillor Manhas
  • Chemainus and District Chamber of Commerce: Councillor Istace
  • Chemainus Festival of Murals Society: Councillor Istace
  • Cowichan Communities Health Network: Councillor Justice
  • Cowichan Community Policing Advisory Society: Councillor Findlay
  • Crofton Community Centre Society: Councillor Justice
  • Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce: Councillor Manhas
  • Maple Bay Community Association: Councillor Toporowski
  • Social Planning Cowichan Board: Councillor Caljouw
  • Somenos Management Committee: Councillor Caljouw
  • Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society: Councillor Toporowski

The next Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 16, at 1:30 p.m.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Rob Douglas, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117