Director McClinton’s First 100 Days For Area G
For the last 100+ days, I have worked diligently for Area G, and I am excited to share this update with you. It’s been a long time since I have had the experience of new responsibilities and the opportunity to serve my community. The experience is exhilarating, energizing, and humbling all at the same time. I’ve now had the chance to connect with colleagues, board members, and CVRD staff. While we disperse evenly on the political spectrum, there’s a genuine desire to find a positive way forward and, more importantly, serve. The Board is healthy as we have experienced and wide-eyed directors, which creates a healthy balance. We should accomplish a lot over the next four years.
Park Advisory Commission (PAC) and Advisory Planning Committee (APC): I’ve met with, interviewed, and vetted dozens of residents to form PACs and APCs that are representative, diverse, hardworking, and visionary. They will be appointed and revealed sometime in February.
Saltair Centennial Park Revitalization Plan: After lengthy discussions with the outgoing PAC, CVRD staff, reviewing past surveys, and residents, I decided to approve a short-term loan to speed up the seven-year plan. In 2023 you can expect construction to start for new Basketball courts, Pickleball courts, and Tennis courts resurfacing.
Stormwater Management and Slope Stability Bylaw: I’ve met with CVRD staff to discuss bylaw 4427 and an area-wide stormwater management plan. Things are still in the works, and nothing is before the board, so I can’t say much about it, but the conversation was constructive, and I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll find a positive way forward.
2023 Budgets: For most of January & February, we’ll be working through budgets. While the initial budget presentation by staff was a double-digit increase, most directors indicated that this is unacceptable, and we’ll work to get that down to a reasonable number. Please note that Regional Recreation accounts for most of Area G’s tax increase.
Public Transit: At my request, BC Transit is including Area G in its regional feasibility study, which will take 2 to 3 years to complete. There is no cost associated, and I’ll have more information to share when the time comes. Inclusion comes with no strings or commitment required.
Ideas Fair: On February 10th, CVRD staff will be coming to the Saltair Community Center to seek input from you on our new Official Community Plan (OCP). I can’t stress enough how important it is that we have a good showing, as your input will shape our (OCP), which will be used for the next 25+ years to guide the direction of our community.
Cowichan Trail Parking Lot: The new North Watts parking lot and crosswalk construction are starting. The previous board made this decision, but I’ve looked at the plans, and while there is some concern about tour bus parking spaces, the net gain for our community will be positive.
Directors Pay: Remuneration will be increased by eleven thousand dollars per director to forty-four thousand dollars per year, which is in line with other jurisdictions. The increase is offset entirely by the reduction in marketing and business expenses.
Getting My Feet Wet
I officially became your Director Elect at the inaugural board meeting on November 9th. Nevertheless, after the Oct 15th election, I immediately got to work as several community organizations and leaders wanted to bend my ear. Also, I was required to attend multiple orientation and training sessions. These meetings provided an excellent opportunity to meet other elected officials and staff throughout the Cowichan Valley.
I like to think of myself as knowledgeable regarding political goings-on, but the more I learn about CVRD governance, the less I know. Here’s a brief overview of what I was up to before being sworn in.
Just six days after the election on October 21st, we had a full-day workshop on optimal governance hosted by the former mayor of Golden. A week later, on the 28th, we had another full-day session that touched on Indigenous relations, emergency management legislative authority, meeting procedures, roles of a governing body, and freedom of information and privacy protection.
On Tuesday, November 1st, I went to the inaugural Ladysmith Council meeting, which was a great experience. I was able to catch up with old friends from high school and familiarize myself with what is involved with the Oath of Office. I’ll admit I was a little nervous about my upcoming inauguration. I take the Director’s role seriously and want to make Area G proud, so I put more pressure on myself than I should.
The following day on November 2nd, the first of three full-day orientation sessions, was a full-day session with a practicing governance lawyer, who went through all the do’s and don’ts for local officials. On the 3rd, we had another full-day session regarding board meeting procedures, legislative requirements, and our code of conduct. On the 4th, the CVRD staff organized a facility tour field trip. We visited many of the CVRD’s south-end assets, including the Malahat Fire department, Duncan Community Center and Theater, Bright Angel Park, and Kerry Park, to name a few.
Official Community Plan
Later that evening, I attended a volunteer appreciation night at the Cobble Hill Farmers Institute. The night recognized the volunteers working diligently to update our Official Community Plan. Seeing their accomplishments was refreshing, as our current plan shows its age and needs updating. But, it was also eye-opening to notice how little input has been provided by Area G. This is something I hope to rectify soon. I will discuss this more at my first community meeting on January 29th. Please note that the CVRD will be coming to the Saltair Community Center on February 10th to host an Ideas Fair from 4 pm to 8 pm. The Ideas Fair is one of your last chances to help shape our new OCP, which will be referenced for decades. Attending the Ideas Fair on February 10th is an important opportunity for residents to shape Saltair’s Official Community Plan.
Thetis Island Community Forum
On November 7th, I took the ferry to the Thetis Organisation Community Forum, which brought together group leaders and stakeholders to share information on how to best move forward as an Island Community. We discussed reconciliation, climate resilience, water, access and safety for walkers, their community dock, and emergency services. A few volunteer groups overlap responsibilities and are working to streamline their efforts.
Getting To Work
Your Area G alternate, Rod Smith, and I were sworn in on November 9th, as we said our affirmations and Oath of Office. The next day we had a CVRD Board and Council Orientation and a Regional District overview, where we reviewed our current strategic plan with our Chief Administration Officer (CAO), Danielle Myles Wilson. Department and division managers introduced themselves formally and gave presentations on their roles and responsibilities.
On Wednesday the 16th, at our first “real” Electoral Area Services Committee, one of the first pieces of business was a variance permit for a home on Chemainus road on the North side of Lagoon Bridge. I supported the staff recommendation, and the Board unanimously approved the variance request. This permit process was lengthy, and I’m happy the homeowners can now get on with their build.
Active Vessel Open House
The following day, I attended the Active Vessel Traffic Management open house at the Diamond Community Hall, hosted by Port Authority. The challenges facing residents, Transport Canada, and Harbour Authority are eye-opening. There are no quick fixes or easy answers regarding coastal shipping traffic and anchorage management off the coast of Area G.
The South Island facility tour (field trip) on November 18th included visits to Fuller Lake Arena, Frank Jameson Community Center, Yellow Point Fire Hall, and the Saltair Community Center. Directors were impressed with the Saltair Community Society operations and improvements made to our Community Center, especially considering a few directors attended Mount Breton Elementary School as children, making it a tour highlight.
Closing out November
On the 23rd, at our first Committee of The Whole, we discussed solid waste and tipping fees and received information on the three-stream collection. Closer to home, staff recommended setting up a capital reserve fund for the Thetis Island community dock and Saltair Community Center, which was approved unanimously by the Board. Two days later, on the 25th, at our final orientation, we reviewed Labour Law and got a high-level overview of the upcoming 2023 budget. The CVRD has over 170 unique services, each needing to be individually reviewed and approved by the Board.
Saltair District Residents Association
On the evening of December 6th, I met with the Saltair District Residents Association (SDRA). We had a great conversation about how the Director and the SDRA can better work together. The SDRA is a strong voice for Saltair, and I’m keen to see which priorities they advocate for in the coming months.
Localizing the Official Community Plan
At the Electoral Area Service committee on December 7th, we got a report from the department Strategic Planning Initiatives about our Official Community Plan and how they intend to work with each unique area to bake in individual plans for local areas. These regional plans will allow citizens from each region to work with CVRD staff to identify the things that make Saltair different and unique. The Emergency Planning Management Division reported on the CVRD volunteer fire department’s appointing process. We recommended reviewing how her department points out that the volunteers just got a report from the inspection enforcement division. We approved a study of the bylaw enforcement policy.
Slope Stability Bylaw & Stormwater
December 12th, I met with CVRD staff to discuss Saltair Slope Stability bylaw 4427. Several aspects are still under consideration, so I cannot say much more at this time, but I’m pleased with the general direction. In addition, we discussed what a region-wide stormwater management plan might entail. It was a very productive and positive conversation.
On December 14th, several delegations presented, including our community health network and The Coastal Environmental Response Team (Canadian Coast Guard). We also received reports about CVRD Telecommunication Antenna Structure Policy and from the finance division regarding the revised operating reserve fund policy, outlining the importance of keeping 2 to 4 months of operating budget in reserve funds, which is in line with the governance best practices.
Later that afternoon, at our regular board meeting, CVRD bylaw number 4458 – Regional Recreation Funding Services Capital Reserve Fund established bylaw was granted after we received a report about the progress of the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital.
We got our first taste of winter during the week leading up to Christmas, and I got a crash course in road maintenance procedures. MainRoad, our contractor from the Ministry of Transportation, needed help getting to our side roads before they turned to compacted snow and ice. The snow was followed by a lot of rain, which exposed the vulnerability of our ditches. Road and ditch maintenance and safety will be an ongoing priority of mine. By the volume of calls and emails, it’s a priority for you too.
Happy New Year, Time for Budgets
Local Area Budgets
Our next meeting on January 4th started with a detailed overview of the upcoming 2023 budget specific to Electoral Service Areas. The following day on January 5th, the Committee of the Whole met with the Finance division, and they presented draft reports for the 2023 budget. Overall the 2023 budget proposes a requisition increase of more than 15% when considering all the supplemental requests. Inflation, the rising cost of construction, increased energy costs, and the mandatory increases related to Regional Recreation are the main culprits for Area G. Most board members agreed that a double-digit increase is unacceptable. We have until March 8th to submit our final budget.
I have raised the idea of a Sponsorship Committee to help offset the increased cost of Regional Recreation, and there is general support.
Energy Resilience and Connectivity
On the morning of the 11th, we received two delegations at the Committee of the Whole. One from the concerned Cowichan Bay Residences delegation regarding a proposed Rogers cellular tower and the Ditidaht First Nation community energy plan. In the afternoon, at the Regular board meeting, the Board adopted the North Cowichan policy, requiring all cellular antennas to be placed 500 meters from residential properties.
Stocking Lake Dam, Water Filtration, Pipes
In the afternoon on January 11th, at a special Electoral Area Service Committee meeting, we reviewed the functions for local service areas and what it means for the 2023 budget. Some good news: Construction on the Stalking Lake Dam replacement will likely start in 2024 as we’re in the final stages of securing a multi-million dollar grant from the federal government. Unfortunately, Area G is facing one of the more significant tax increases (approximately $150 per million dollar household). As mentioned, Region Recreation plays a significant role, but so do the rising costs associated with the mandatory installation of our water treatment plant and ongoing water pipe replacement, which has about nine years of work left to go. Construction costs have increased dramatically over the past 18 months, so I’ve asked the staff to look into alternative solutions. I’m hopeful I’ll present an alternative plan that could save Saltair millions of dollars.
On January 12th, there were two critical pieces of business. Despite having a committee to discuss (in February) the Directors’ pay, a motion was brought forward to increase it by eleven thousand dollars from thirty-three thousand per year to forty-four thousand dollars per year. This increase was planned for 2020 but was put on hold when Covid hit. It was brought forward again before the recent election, but several directors wanted to wait. Initially, my position was not to support this increase. It was only after considerable data was presented that I changed my position, which included a Comparison of CVRD Directors’ Compensation with other municipalities, the last approved raise in 2008, and most importantly, the commitment required since the start of this new Board, our hourly rate would be approximately $21 per hour. The current job description needs to be updated as the Director’s role is full-time. Many of my colleagues have areas that are more like cities (e.g., Shawnigan Lake is the same size as Ladysmith). If we want viable candidates that don’t need a pension or a second income to consider running, then remuneration needs to be compensated. I want to encourage intelligent, competent, engaged residents throughout the CVRD to run and sit at the board table. Millions of dollars are at stake, and each area deserves strong advocates. Competitive compensation will help broaden the prospect pool. It’s important to note that the Director’s pay increase was entirely offset by reducing the Director’s travel expenses and marketing budgets.
Saltair Centennial Revitalization Plan
I approved a one-time, short-term loan (five years) at the same meeting to accelerate the Saltair Centennial Park Revitalization plan. This year, in 2023, you can expect upgraded basketball courts, resurfaced tennis courts, and two new pickleball courts. As well as speaking to many residents, I talked to both the outgoing and incoming Parks Advisory Committee, and here are a few reasons why we thought this was a good idea.
- Reduce total construction time from 7 years to less than 18 months
- The cost of borrowing is on par with inflation
- Construction costs continue to outpace inflation
- Multiple Saltair surveys have shown that this is what Saltair residents want
- As I campaigned and talked to people on their doorsteps, this is what they asked for
- There are significant efficiencies and cost savings by completing all the work simultaneously
- When I was a young teen, we had nowhere to play roller hockey, and then magically, one day, a rollerblade court appeared, and we could not have been happier – I am in a unique position to return the favor
- Retired and retiring residents should be able to enjoy Saltair Centennial Park while they still have good years ahead of them
I’m learning that there’s a specific way of doing things at the CVRD. I’m feeling more and more comfortable every day; there’s still a lot I need to learn. I’m focused on the things that you voted for:
- Advocating for responsible tax allocation
- Preserving and enhancing our community assets, natural spaces, community centers, and parks
- Upholding development bylaws to support the needs of you and your family
- Working to ensure critical infrastructure management
- Being active in our community and hosting community meetings
- Working to obtain provincial government grants
- Supporting volunteer organizations to enhance our community and our well-being
A quick overview of the Cowichan Valley Regional District: The CVRD is governed by 15 board members, comprising six appointed directors from four municipalities (e.g., North Cowichan has three appointees) and one elected Director from each of the nine electoral areas.
The CVRD provides over 170 unique services, but the province mandates a small number of those services (i.e., solid waste management, emergency planning, and electoral area planning), and the Board determines the remaining services.
- Fire protection
- water waste-water systems
- community parks
- community centers
- critical street lights
- Land Use Planning,
- bylaw enforcement
- building inspection
- recreation centers
- animal control
- Solid waste management
- 911 emergency
- economic development
- environmental services
- regional parks
- capital financing for hospitals
- drinking water and watershed protections
The funding required to operate these services comes from property, taxes, fees, and charges. Regional districts, by law, must match the cost of services to the residents who benefit from them; in other words, residents only pay for the services they receive.
I welcome feedback and input. Please let me know what you think.
Why Am I Running?
I am a husband, father of two, and a successful business owner with 20+ employees. I have lived in Area G for most of my life, first on Thetis Island as a child and now in Saltair on South Oyster School Road. Area G is home to my parents and my young family.
I asked my 10-year-old son, “what do you like about living here?” He replied, “the beaches, living close to Nana, and playing at the park with my best friend.” We have so much to be grateful for and I feel a deep sense of duty to give back.