Secrecy undermines public consultation into the municipal forest reserve

Secrecy undermines public consultation into the municipal forest reserve

I have filed 6 freedom-of-information requests to get the most basic information

Secrecy undermines public consultation into the municipal forest reserve

The Secrecy Train came to town the other day, with a virtual stop in the Municipality of North Cowichan.

The 16-member citizens’ Working Group guiding the public consultation process into management of the 5,000-hectare municipal forest reserve held its second meeting, this time using the online conference platform, Zoom.

I consider the process secret because unlike meetings of council, Forestry Advisory Committee and Official Community Plan volunteer committee meetings, the Working Group operates strictly behind closed doors — even as the municipality and Lees and Associates consultants profess to be conducting an open and transparent engagement.

Working Group meetings are also not live-streamed, and there are no posted verbatim recordings of proceedings. Moreover, group members are under strict orders from the municipality and Lees not to share information with the public.

I know there are good people on the Working Group.

But in a vacuum of information, how can the public be assured of a fair balance, especially since the membership continues to evolve?

The culture of secrecy in North Cowichan doesn’t end with the Working Group.

In the midst of a public review of the forest reserve you’d think that the 2019 forestry report would contain highly relevant information — and would be released to the public at the earliest convenience.

Not so, it turns out. The municipality told me that the report is considered a draft until the Forestry Advisory Committee looks at it, then council.

That’s unreasonable, given that the report is basically a bunch of statistics on amounts of timber cut, revenues, costs etc. Nothing confidential there.

I have now filed six freedom-of-information requests to get the most basic information from the municipality.

That has to change. But change must come from the top. I urge the mayor and council to establish a much-needed culture of openness at municipal hall.

Until then, don’t expect an “all aboard” announcement as the Secrecy Train leaves the station. The current passenger list — as evidenced by the closed Working Group — is a short and exclusive one.

Larry Pynn

Maple Bay


Just Posted

Vetch cover crop beginning to flower. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Vetch and crimson clover to the rescue of soil fertility

I add dry organic fertilizer as plants use up what is in the soil.

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson column: A shift in perspective can sometimes change everything

Have you even been forced to wake up at 5:30 on a Saturday

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

North Cowichan’s committee of the whole have rejected staff’s recommendation to limit the use of fireworks to Halloween. (File photo)
North Cowichan rejects limiting fireworks to Halloween

Municipality decides staff recommendation would be unpopular

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

Most Read