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Transparency fading to black on consultation process for Municipal Forest Reserve

The big lie just keeps getting bigger.

North Cowichan residents were promised an open and transparent consultation process into future management of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve.

What we are getting is ever more secrecy.

This story begins with the first meeting, on March 11, of the citizens’ Working Group (WG) established to guide the consultation process.

Lees and Associates consultants “recommended that meetings remain private to avoid potential disruption and increase productivity” — which one could interpret as being easier to control the message.

The majority of the WG went along with the recommendation.

Fast forward to the WG’s third meeting — an on-line event, on Monday, July 6 — when the issue arose again as to whether meetings should be recorded for the public to hear for themselves what’s going on.

Despite Erik Lees providing a biased overview of the situation — referencing the need to work in a safe environment — WG members voted 58 per cent in favour of opening up their meetings.

Good for them.

Unfortunately, the flicker of democracy was immediately extinguished.

Lees, as well as Megan Jordan, the municipality’s communications and public engagement manner, decided that pretty much 100-per-cent unanimity would be required to lift the veil of secrecy.

Tell me one level of governance in Canada that requires such a threshold.

Quebec would have broken up Canada had its 1995 independence referendum achieved a 50-per-cent-plus-one vote.

Clearly, there is no good reason for WG meetings to be conducted in secrecy.

In the words of BC’s former Ombudsperson, Kim Carter: “One of the cornerstones of open and transparent government in British Columbia is the requirement for local governments to conduct meetings that are open and accessible to the public.”

Is North Cowichan council listening?

(Photo: municipal clearcut on Mt. Prevost)

— Larry Pynn July 7, 2020


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