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:
- Do we want a more democratic form of local government?
- 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.)
- 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)