Notes from an ugly campaign for North Cowichan municipal council
It’s been an ugly political campaign these last several weeks in the race for a seat on North Cowichan council — with the future direction of the municipality at stake.
Here are a key points for those who haven’t kept pace:
— Tek Manhas has bounced from one social-media site to another, making misleading and unsupported statements. This week, Manhas took exception to the notion he is opposed to completing the review into the future of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve. “Total fabrication…” he writes. “I have never said I do not want to not complete the forestry review.” He added that “at the last council meeting every member of current council agreed to finish this review.” Fact is, at the Oct. 4 council meeting, Manhas alone opposed the final vote on the motion as amended to send the public consultation on the forests to its next phase. (Manhas objected to an amendment to spend up to $10,000 on an in-person public meeting — even though he was the one who suggested such a meeting would be a great idea.) Manhas has also tossed out questionable figures on the forest consultation — offering guesswork on lost “revenue” while ignoring both “expenses” and how his own actions have helped to delay the forest consultation. (https://bit.ly/3TiCrBI ). Manhas is also the only member of council to vote in favour of continued logging of the forest reserve before the public has had a chance to weigh in on whether they even want more logging. Note that a UBC team says the future is bright for council to receive carbon-credit cash for letting the forest stand: https://bit.ly/3g5BEFZ ) If you look back at Manhas’ four years in office, he’s no stranger to questionable actions. Manhas had his knuckles rapped by the Municipality in 2021 after an investigation into a sexist post on his Facebook page. The meme depicted an elderly man holding a cigarette and can of beer and commenting: “When your woman is acting up just tell her ‘less bitchen’ more kitchen.’ Women love it when you rhyme.” The Municipality concluded: “Councillor Manhas has apologized and removed the post from his Facebook page and recognizes that a post of this nature does not meet the standard Council is aspiring to, related to its workplace.” Another Manhas meme depicted a bottle of whiskey with a spray top and the words: “Spray throat 3 times a day for anti coronavirus.” The coronavirus has killed thousands of British Columbians. Manhas has strongly supported developers during his first term. He was the only member of council, who, after two public hearings, endorsed expanding the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit in 2019 — an operation that has caused hardship for local residents.
— Manhas is running on an unofficial ticket with developer Bruce Findlay for council and John Koury for mayor. While Manhas has been making one inflammatory comment after another, Findlay — often an abrasive figure on social media— has adopted a relatively quiet persona during the election. He says on his campaign platform he’s “been involved in the purchase, development, conversion & sale of over $600,000,000 worth of multi-family real estate.” He seeks friendlier development policies on council. Like Manhas, Findlay and Koury support a return to logging of the Six Mountains — part of the most at-risk forest type in B.C., the coastal-Douglas fir forest. A report for the municipality estimates 141 species at risk. Koury lives in Lake Cowichan; however, at an all-candidates meeting, he raised his hand when candidates were asked if they lived in North Cowichan. For some voters that might make a difference. Asked by sixmountains.ca to explain, Koury says he didn’t have an opportunity at the meeting to “correct” himself. He lost during a council bid in 2018 in North Cowichan.
— Facebook sites like to set ground rules urging people to be respectful in their comments, but the reality is often far different. Some of the worst excesses have occurred on Let’s Talk Politics in the Cowichan Valley — a Facebook page linked to Sierra Acton, the vice-chair of Cowichan Valley Regional District who is seeking re-election in Shawnigan Lake. Let’s Talk Politics lists three administrators/moderators: Sierra Acton, Alex Acton, and JL McLean, all of whom “joined about six years ago.” However, Sierra Acton takes no responsibility for the wild-west Facebook page — which has become a haven for derogatory comments, often from the right-of-centre spectrum. “I just started the page,” she told six mountains.ca. “JL runs it. Sorry.” Ah yes, JL. Some time ago, sixmountains.ca protested the fact that individuals with false names were being allowed to make posts — not in keeping with Facebook rules — and questioned the administrator’s true identity: “I believe that the members of your Facebook site deserve to know who the administrator is. So, will you tell us? Clearly, it is not (JL) Naelcm, although the reverse, McLean, might be closer to reality.” Sixmountains.ca was removed from the group, and, guess what, the administrator now goes by JL McLean. Incredibly, McLean recently posted that the reason for removing sixmountains.ca was for not following rules, when, in fact, it was based on a complaint related to false names.
— Al Siebring has used his mayor’s pulpit in recent weeks in hopes of influencing the election. He is former president of the BC Conservative Party and is headed to Alberta — a province more in keeping with his politics. Siebring won by 10 votes in 2018, which should temper any influence he has during this election. Since 2018, he has been at odds with some of the more ‘progressive’ decisions by council. His choice for mayor is Rosalie Sawrie, who voted for the new Official Community Plan only weeks ago, but has promised to reopen talks with developers and impacted landowners if elected. Siebring has expressed concerns about so-called freedom candidates, saying they are another reason supporting his decision to get out of local politics.
Here’s where the candidates stand on environmental issues: https://bit.ly/3VkqI7v .