Squeezing Today for Tomorrow’s Green: The Cowichan Valley Conundrum
In the latest episode of “How to Squeeze a Stone,” the CVRD directors took to the stage with a performance that left many of us in the audience scratching our heads. After a heartfelt soliloquy acknowledging the financial hardships faced by residents—times are tough, they intoned with furrowed brows—they proceeded to hike taxes anyway. It’s a bit like a doctor saying, “This is going to hurt,” before whacking you with the hammer. And so, CVRD pushes a 5% increase all the way to 19%, a move that promises a verdant future for our children down the road, assuming, of course, they can still afford to live here.
I can’t help but marvel at the audacity. It’s one thing to recognize the plight of your constituents; it’s another entirely to acknowledge it and then pile on anyway. It’s like being told the boat’s leaking but deciding it’s the perfect time to add a few more passengers.
The directors’ vote—26 to 22 in favour of the tax hike—was a scene straight out of a suspense thriller, with the balance of financial sanity teetering on the edge of a knife. A weighted vote, no less, giving it all the drama of a courtroom climax. Yet, despite the close call, the decision to inflate taxes sailed through, leaving many to wonder if their voices, weighed or not, matter at all.
Some directors floated the idea of a progressive system, easing the burden by phasing in the increase. A sensible suggestion, akin to easing into cold water rather than diving headfirst into an ice bath. But, as the curtain fell on this act, the immediate leap to 15% was the chosen path—a bold step forward on a bridge some are worried could collapse under the weight of collective financial strain.
Let me be clear: Investing in the future, protecting our green spaces, and ensuring a vibrant, livable community for our children and their children is a goal worth pursuing. But the road to utopia shouldn’t be paved with the financial well-being of current residents. It’s akin to promising a feast tomorrow while taking away today’s bread.
The directors who supported the hike did so with a nod to future generations, an investment in a greener, more sustainable valley. Noble, yes, but it’s hard not to feel a sting when that investment is drawn from pockets already threadbare. The promise of a great future is compelling, but it rings hollow if the ladder to reach it is pulled up, leaving many unable to grasp the lowest rung.
As I mull over this latest act in the municipal theatre, I can’t help but feel a blend of admiration and frustration. Admirable are the intentions, but frustrating is the execution. It’s a classic tale of sacrifice and hope, but one can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way—a path that secures our green legacy without casting shadows over the present.
Mayor Rob Douglas threw his hat into the ring for the folks of North Cowichan with a tidbit that caught my ear. “When we had the referendum on the Parks and Acquisition fund in 2008 there was overwhelming support and if anything that support has continued to be strong since 2008.” Then he tosses in, “We did a big citizen satisfaction survey for the Cowichan Valley Regional District which indicated there was very strong support for expanding park land.” Now, this got me scratching my head a bit. Did that survey just ask if folks were keen on parks, or were they asked about being all in for a 10% tax hike to fund this green dream? I should also mention he was quick to jump on referencing the 30 by 30 agenda, as he works hard to continue steering the Municipality as hard left as he can take it.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen Mayor Rob Douglas pull a fast one with a bit of survey sleight of hand, speaking for the good people of North Cowichan as if he’s reading tea leaves. With these crafty maneuvers, you’ve got to wonder if the citizens might be pondering just how their feedback is getting twisted into a pretzel by this mayor when the next election rolls around.
On the other side of the coin, Area Director McGonigle stated: “I will find it difficult to mention to my community who has a median income of $35,000 – $41,600 of the decisions that we did make.” Tim McGonigle highlighted that he would support the board’s decision, but his thoughts on the matter would be widely available on YouTube.
The CVRD’s decision is a reminder of the delicate balance between progress and preservation, between tomorrow’s dreams and today’s realities. As for the residents of the Cowichan Valley, they’re left to navigate this new landscape, hoping the promised future is bright enough to illuminate the burdens of today. And for folks like me, well, we keep hoping for a bit more pragmatism in our politics, a bit more consideration for the here and now. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not just about the world we leave for our children; it’s also about the world we share with them today.
Watch the whole meeting here: (The vote is around the 2:29:00 hour mark)