North Cowichan electorate faces decisive decision on issue of development
No candidates are anti-development; it’s a question of where and what type
A review of election documents by sixmountains.ca shows that pro-development mayoral candidate John Koury was nominated by two other pro-development candidates for council — Bruce Findlay and incumbent councillor Tek Manhas.
The alliance of these three is part of a push to seek a council majority that will set policies friendlier to development in North Cowichan.
However, it’s important to note that no municipal election candidates are running an anti-development campaign; rather, it becomes a relative question of the type of development, how much and where to meet community desires.
On the Where Do We Stand website ( https://www.wheredowestand.ca/election.html ), neither Koury nor Manhas has so far committed to "timely completion of the forest consultation process on the highest and best use of the Municipal Forest Reserve” and "maintaining the moratorium on harvesting the Municipal Forest Reserve” pending completion of that process. Findlay has committed to both statements, but in his campaign platform he supports harvesting the forests “at the rate determined by the 1981 forestry management plan….”
Koury — who lists his residential address as Lake Cowichan — lost in a bid for council in 2018, when Manhas was elected for the first time.
Koury also sought the Conservative Party nomination federally in 2015 in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, but dropped out of the race.
Manhas has routinely supported development applications over the past four years. “I have been accused by a blogger that I am a developer’s representative on council,” he told a recent all-candidates meeting. “I say I have to agree to some point….”
Meanwhile, at least two directors of pro-development Cowichan Works are expressing support for candidates they believe would complement their own views.
Provincial corporate records list the following seven directors of Cowichan Works: Brian Danyliw, Patrick Hrushowy, Jas Bains, John Donald Graham, Susan Pleester, Edward Williams, and Deb Wright.
On his Facebook page, realtor Danyliw says Findlay would make a “great councillor” and separately posts a photo of candidate Mike Caljouw holding an election sign.
Hrushowy has served as a lobbyist and/or communications spokesman for industry. He finished third-to-last among 14 candidates for councillor in North Cowichan in 2018 — and also failed in an attempt to amalgamate Duncan and North Cowichan.
He’s also behind a right-of-centre on-line publication, which, in an “editorial” published Oct. 1, 2022, supports Koury for mayor along with Joyce Behnsen, Caljouw, Findlay and Charles Borg as development-friendly candidates for council.
Findlay’s financial disclosure statement lists several companies among his assets along with interests in apartment buildings in Prince Rupert and Fort McMurray, Alta. There is also reference to “significant debt owed to family members and shareholders.”
Manhas also lists one or more shares in several companies, including Delta 9 Cannabis and GreenFirst Forest Products, and partnership in a Duncan pet store.
Koury, a business consultant, lists CanEcDev Business Solutions Corp. and a lot on Genoa Bay Road among his assets.
Cowichan Works asserts that North Cowichan is “in crisis,” yet a survey commissioned by the Municipality found 95 percent of citizens rated their quality of life as good or very good, while expressing concern for overdevelopment of land. https://bit.ly/3CtRaE4
In a recent interview with sixmountains.ca, the United Independents — Adrienne Richards, Chris Shaw (of Cowichan Bay) and Joseph Enslow — said they considered but rejected seeking any alignment with Cowichan Works.
In his on-line campaign platform, Findlay describes himself as a developer and publican, who’s “been involved in the purchase, development, conversion & sale of over $600,000,000 worth of multi-family real estate.”
Municipal freedom-of-information documents include a letter dated July 19 this year in which Findlay complains about the Official Community Plan and urges council to develop policies more friendly to development.
He writes that he sees “absolutely no benefit on risking my capital in what many believe is a development-unfriendly community, especially with this draft OCP and the makeup of the current council.”
One-term councillor Rosalie Sawrie is also running for the mayoralty, along with two-term councillor Rob Douglas, who topped the polls in 2018.
Douglas says he wants to “focus future growth in established centres within the Urban Containment Boundary and encourage infill development to prevent urban sprawl into rural and environmentally sensitive areas.”
Only weeks after Sawrie and Douglas approved the new OCP, Sawrie is promising to reopen discussions with developers, along with landowners impacted by the OCP. “I will strike a special mayor’s committee to hear from the development community on the challenges that they’re facing…” she says.
Sawrie’s reaching out to developers is part of a marked political turnabout for someone once considered an environmental candidate.
Council approved the OCP five-to-one last August. Mayor Al Siebring was opposed, and Manhas did not attend the vote.
Learn more about the candidates: https://bit.ly/3RCYXUu
— Larry Pynn, Oct. 4, 2022