Thank-you SRD, But There Is Currently No One To Negotiate With You

The opinions expressed in this report are my own and not necessarily shared by any organization, or committee, I belong to.

It has been more than a year since 14 disgruntled Cortes residents attempted to change the outcome of the 2018 election with a lawsuit that the Supreme Court of British Columbia eventually dismissed as having “no basis.” Now at least one of the former plaintiffs has joined a group of anonymous Cortes residents who informed the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Board of an alleged secession plot. Twenty minutes of the board’s Feb 26, 2020, meeting was consumed with this nonsense. Kudos to Chair Michele Babchuk and the other Directors who recognized it as such. However the suggestion that SRD receive a delegation, or have staff look into ways to help Cortes find a more democratic form of local government, is premature. There is currently no one to negotiate with them.

A Sample Complaint

Most of the complaints about Cortes Island’s alleged secession attempt have been kept out of the public view, but (former plaintiff) Rick Boas submitted the letter which follows as correspondence:

“I have attached a copy of Noba Anderson’s proposal for a new government process on Cortes Island. It appears that she is advocating to take Cortes out of the Strathcona Regional District authority and form an autonomous function that would self govern and self tax.” 

“I am very concerned about a self-selected, volunteer governing group assuming it acts in my best interests and life on this island. I am concerned about Noba Anderson delegating Regional Director authority to an unelected group and its implications for the future. How would this group be held accountable? Noba Anderson has not demonstrated good, fair governance over the majority but rather chosen winners and losers in the bills she has passed.” 

“My reason for bringing this to your attention is to ask that you and staff put some quick figures to this proposal. I would like to know the future property tax and property value implications. It would be important to know the path to redress in case of disputes. Would we on Cortes have an Ombudsman to intervene in these disputes?” 

“Cortes Island is no longer an isolated rural community. There are substantial personal and business investments that need to be protected and served. Gone are the days where “it is the Cortes Way”. This is serious business and needs serious people to handle it.” 

The entire Cortes community was invited to a public meeting where some of the ideas Mr Boas misrepresents were discussed. He chose to stay away.

Why Do They Keep Doing This?

His anonymous colleagues chose to work through a couple of directors who have once again shown themselves to be willing tools.

“I do not support any motion that does not … represent all Cortes Islanders and not just the director’s insiders. That’s the feedback that I’m getting, that there is a small group that are driving the bus and they are not elected and they are not accountable,” said Regional Director Brenda Leigh.

“All of the communication I’ve had is with residents from Cortes Island are opposed. I’ve had no contact with anyone in favour of it,” said Regional Director Gerald Whalley.

Why would any Cortes Islander contact either of you? You are not the directors for our area. Who would contact you? And why do you keep doing this kind of stunt?

Feb 15, 2020, Local Governance Meeting

Cortes Island’s Regional Director called a meeting to discuss local governance models on Feb 15, 2020. Between 40 and 50 people showed up. My colleague on the Cortes Currents website, De Clarke, reported on the meeting. This account has an unedited recording of what transpired. As any of you who listen to the two hour long audio will soon discover, there was no talk of seceding from the SRD. You can also hear Director Anderson say that should we choose to go forward with the idea of finding a more democratic form of local government, she cannot be directly involved.

A research committee was set up at the end of that meeting. I am one of the people who volunteered to be on it. We have no leader or spokesperson. Our collective mandate is simply to look at models of local governance and set up a meeting to discuss them with the larger community. We do not speak for Cortes Island as a whole and our mandate, limited as it is, does not extend beyond this meeting. 

Does Cortes Island Intend To Secede?

Regional Director Jim Abram declared, “I have to say that I have seen some comments online that alluded to [Cortes Island] leaving the Regional District.”

I interviewed Director Anderson when she first unveiled her vision for a more democratic form of government last December. She clearly stated it would be too difficult for Cortes to go it alone: 

“So I’m interested in building something here that is complementary to the Regional District structure and certainly in no way would supersede or replace it.”

I cannot remember anyone at the Feb 15 meeting saying otherwise and neither has anyone in the research group, so I think it is safe to say we are not planning to secede either. 

No One To Negotiate … Yet

I applaud the Directors who suggest that the SRD should wait until Cortes Island sends a delegation, before they start looking for ways to assist us.

We may eventually do this, but it will not come from the research committee. As I mentioned earlier, we have no authority to speak for the island.

Before a Cortes delegation is formed, the community has to decide: 

  1. Do we want a more democratic form of local government? 
  2. What does this mean? (The Research Committee is looking at several models and should Cortes Island decide to proceed, it could adopt totally different model from what we propose.)
  3. What will this local expression of government do anyway?

Top photo credit: Looking Across Sutil Channel to Marina & Cortes Islands by Dale Simonson via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

6 thoughts on “Thank-you SRD, But There Is Currently No One To Negotiate With You”

  1. Governing by consensus? Good luck with that idea! Meanwhile. Noba and her band of cronies will be in the background, pulling strings and attempting to run the show!(as always) So, if this is the concept you are actually envisioning, where does this leave everyone else? You did say that you have to be there in attendance to have a say?
    And how would this scenario work as it relates to the SRD and the rest of the directors?

    1. Is that how you would describe your relationship with Jim Abram? Are you one of his ‘cronies’? I know your relationship goes back for many years.

      It is obvious you don’t actually read the articles you comment on, but I am going to pretend your questions are legitimate.

      We do not know what form the proposed community assembly will take, if it goes forward. I’ve looked at models that center around community meetings, where anyone in the community can participate and vote. In practise, the three models I looked at all send out notices and everyone who is in what is being talked about interested shows up. They all insist that only people who show up can vote because they need to listen and be involved in the conversation. Someone else is looking at a web model, which I cannot comment on because he has not yet shown us the details.

      It is obvious we would have to work within the SRD and, after attending a number of board meetings over the past year, I have come to respect that body. EASC is different. If it wasn’t totally dysfunctional, at least in regard to Cortes matters, I would agree with Mayor Adams that all Regional District matters should go through EASC. Instead, we watch an ongoing display of political shenanigans meeting after meeting.

      Part of the problem is that a small number Cortesians are using Leigh, Whalley (& Abram?) to delay or control matters here on Cortes. This appears to have been going on for years and has to stop.

      Some form of community government would seem to address the root problem. At the moment we have the same system as Quadra, everything flows through the Regional Director. To put it in your terms, everything on Quadra is controlled by ‘Jim and his band of cronies.’ (BTW – that is an incredibly ignorant description of volunteer run organizations serving their communities.) Instead of ‘King Jim’ on Quadra, or ‘Queen Noba’ on Cortes, we are proposing a forum where everyone on Cortes has an opportunity to speak their concerns and vote.

      The fact we are looking at working models, which are quite successful, would seem to address any legitimate concerns about whether it would work.

      The question is what does Cortes want?

      First we have to have a conversation.

      1. Do you not have an advisory committee already? Do you actually think that the SRD is going to change their governance system to suit the desires of a group on Cortes that wants to be governed by consensus? Do you not think that the attitude of the EASC might have something to do with Noba’s actions, comments and general attitude towards them? I would suggest that she has brought this on herself. If she acts even remotely like she acted as a member of the FAC when I was chair, I can tell you what the answer is

        1. I had to think about this one. If you are expecting subservience – which I suspect may be at the root of her problem with Jim – I do not think you are going to get it with Noba. She is incredibly honest, and appears to regard speaking the truth as she sees it as a duty. Noba does this in a quiet, respectful manner, but she will speak up regardless of the prevailing opinion in the room.

          Over the course of the meetings I observed during the past year, I saw her get testy once and that amounted to something like “Really, is this where we are going.” I believe this was the time two of the other EASC directors, obviously acting in collusion, voted down the Friends of Cortes Island application for funding to hire a transportation coordinator without discussing the matter. Later, when the application was reviewed by the entire board (which, as Mr Leitch explained, is basic procedure) Director Whalley revealed the fact he did not know what he was voting against. As he put it, “In essence this is a business undertaking, paying a person to drive a bus … I don’t think it is appropriate.” In reality, FOCI wanted to hire a coordinator to oversee research on a number of different transportation initiatives.

          1. So how has Noba acted when I expressed concerns about something she was doing? That occurred during Cortes Island’s 2018 all candidates meeting. As everyone on Cortes knows, Noba supports a project called “Rainbow Ridge” as a partial remedy for the island’s rental housing shortage. I came with a list of concerns about the possible negative impact the Rainbow Ridge project could have on Hague Lake. The MC said these had to be phrased as a question, which I did. I remember her being very respectful and asking if she could have a copy of the list.

            I’ve observed her display the same quiet respectful manner, even when verbally attacked, on a number occasions here on Cortes.

            As for my questions about Rainbow Ridge, I later brought David Rousseau, one of the people behind the development, and Rex Weyler, one of the principal monitors of the lake, together to discuss the issues. They agreed that the development could be done in an environmentally friendly manner

  2. It’s funny but I dont remember Jim Abram, Gerald Walley, or Brenda Leigh surveying me or anyone else on Cortes for our opinion on this, and yet here they claim to know what this island wants and needs. Sounds like Rick Boas wasn’t at this public meeting, and so neither does he appear to have any more credibility than these other people on this topic. I look forward to following the discussion on improving democracy on Cortes Island and hopefully attending the next one in person. How about YOU, Rick…?

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