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Councillor votes to disallow his own environmental committee to review draft biodiversity report

North Cowichan Councillor Mike Caljouw showed his hand this week.

And it raises questions about the political rookie’s judgment in chairing the municipality’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC).

After discussion Wednesday on a draft Biodiversity Assessment Report from Diamond Head Consulting Ltd., council considered a motion directing staff to conduct a workshop with the EAC to review the report and provide comments and suggestions.

That seemed perfectly reasonable. The newly appointed EAC has impressive credentials, and no doubt can contribute immeasurably to a biodiversity report.

Councillor Bruce Findlay had different ideas, suggesting the majority of EAC members “have already made comments through the public engagement process of the Diamond Head report…”

Fact is, EAC members will be offering a critique and making suggestions on the draft report, quite different from early public engagement process.

Findlay said it would be “more advantageous and speedy” if staff directly worked with Diamond Head to finalize the report.

Caljouw offered not a word, but during the vote joined Councillor Tek Manhas in supporting Findlay’s motion.

It wasn’t to be. Council voted 4-3 vote to give the EAC a chance to consider the biodiversity report.

The first phase of developing a biodiversity policy for North Cowichan involves identifying and quantifying existing biodiversity. The second phase will deal with strategies to protect, restore, and enhance biodiversity.

While it’s still early in council's four-year mandate, citizens are already accustomed to finding Findlay and Manhas out in left field.

As for Caljouw, his support for a motion to remove something as important as the draft biodiversity report from review by the very EAC he chairs is troubling.

Asked to explain, Caljouw provided the following statement: “As chair of the committee, I felt that the report needs to go to its finality. Then I would make a recommendation to bring it to the EAC. I see my role as Chair as keeping meetings and ideas flowing for the excellent people who volunteered for the EAC. There is lots of work to be done by the Committee for our future. I feel that the knowledge the Committee members have will be seen in a positive movement from them to council. Also ideas from Council to the EAC.”

Council made the right decision, ensuring engagement of the EAC during the process of creating a biodiversity policy, not after its conclusion.

(Photo: vote by councillors Findlay, Caljouw and Manhas).

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— Larry Pynn, June 17, 2023


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