Westward Independent

CVRD’s Immigration Discussion Shines Light on Mayor Douglas’s Leadership

by Joseph Enslow
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During a recent Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) meeting, on February 14th, the spotlight was not only on Amanda Vance’s compelling presentation from the Cowichan Intercultural Society but also on Mayor Rob Douglas’s swift move to support a proposal that begged for a deeper discussion on housing and affordability concerning immigration.

Amanda Vance, representing the Cowichan Intercultural Society, took the floor to emphasize the critical role of immigration in addressing labour shortages and supporting community growth in the Cowichan Valley. “We’ve seen a huge increase in immigrants and refugees, with 127 displaced Ukrainians and a significant uptick in temporary foreign workers — 90 in the past nine months, up from the usual 30,” Vance highlighted, underlining the urgent need for a strategic approach to manage this growth.

Her request was simple yet profound: a letter of support for a funding application to establish a roundtable to discuss immigration strategies comprehensively. “Immigration’s really important,” Vance noted, “It’s not about attracting newcomers, it’s more about managing the growth as it arrives.”

While Mayor Douglas was quick to back the motion without hesitation, Director Ian Morrison’s intervention brought a necessary pause, injecting a critical perspective into the discussion. “We’re in a housing crisis,” Morrison pointed out, asking Vance about the plan’s considerations for housing, an essential factor for sustainable community growth.

“We have great opportunities for an immigrant population coming to this area. But where do they live?”
Morrison questioned, highlighting the housing crisis engulfing the region and its impact on future growth and integration efforts.

Vance responded, acknowledging the gravity of the housing issue for their clients. “It’s definitely one of the top issues… And it is a reason that some people leave for sure,” she said, adding that a local immigration partnership could focus on housing, among other priorities, to support the immigrant population effectively.

Mayor Douglas’s immediate support for the motion, though in line with his environmental and social advocacy, sparked conversations about his leadership’s focus. Known for his strong emphasis on climate change as part of the OCP, Douglas’s action at the meeting was seen by some as a missed opportunity to delve into the intersecting challenges of housing affordability and immigration.

The narrative surrounding Douglas’s leadership — often criticized for sidelining pressing local issues in favour of a climate agenda — found reinforcement in this instance. Yet, the dialogue initiated by Morrison, and Vance’s insights, served as a reminder of the complex realities Cowichan Valley faces. These include not just environmental concerns but also the critical need for balanced policies that address housing, labour shortages, and the welcoming and integration of immigrants into the community fabric.

In a community battling for affordable living and businesses in dire need of workers, every decision by our elected leaders counts. Conversations like Amanda Vance’s, which cast light on pressing issues, merit deep consideration, not just a nod of agreement. When officials like Mayor Douglas quickly back proposals aligned with their key themes, it risks sidelining crucial community dialogues. Our leaders need to look beyond the buzzwords and genuinely weigh the broader impacts of their decisions on all residents.

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