FEBRUARY 26 2019
To: Director Claire Moglove, SRD
CC: Strathcona Regional District Chair and Board of Directors
Re: Cortes Island issues

Dear Director Moglove:

I write to thank you for your compassionate comment at the Feb 13 SRD meeting, about the degree to which Cortes Island is being "torn apart" by recent painful events. It was kind of you to respond to the feelings, as well as the facts and controversies, referenced in correspondence received; your comment was widely noted and appreciated.

I would also like to clarify a point which I personally feel is important. While our community includes people of widely diverging opinions -- and we do argue and contend vigorously over policy and direction for our island -- the real "tearing apart" is not coming from within our community. The most destructive force here (in my view and after lengthy consideration) is inconsistent process and delay imposed by SRD, which prevents democratic resolution of at least one controversial issue.

If our community had been permitted to vote in a real referendum and settle the question of the hall tax service once and for all, I believe there would be far less ugliness and tension going on right now. The best way to resolve differences of opinion in any community is a fair and open vote. Once the matter is resolved, most people can move on and think about other things. We have had years of public process and debate on this matter; everyone understands what the issues are. Yet SRD seems strangely unwilling to take that last step and present us with bylaw language we can vote on.

While this issue remains unresolved it's like an open sore, and the longer it remains open the more the risk of inflammation -- the more frustration builds, the more time there is for partisanship to intensify, the more friendships are strained, etc. This suspension of democratic process is painful and damaging: it does, indeed, tear our community apart. Chair Babchuck recently confirmed, in a radio interview, that though she hoped the situation could be resolved "relatively quickly," she could not provide any date by which our agenda items would be lifted. We remain stuck in a painful place with no opportunity for resolution and closure, no end in sight.

Unfortunately this is not the only responsibility which I feel should be owned by SRD. Wittingly or not, SRD has rewarded a small but strident minority of Cortes Islanders by e.g. peculiar delaying tactics and reversals of Board decisions. I refer here to the (as far as I know unprecedented) "referendum on whether to have a referendum", and to the surprise November SRD vote that rescinded the summer's resolve to expedite both referenda should the "non-binding" vote be positive. Director Leigh openly admitted that her own vote on that rescinding motion was influenced by private (i.e. secret) lobbying email -- one can only assume, from the minority of Cortes Islanders who staunchly oppose taxes in general and this service in particular. It is a matter of public record that Director Leigh is not alone in this practise.

I feel -- and I am not alone in this opinion -- that SRD has actually contributed to the recent startling eruption of circum-electoral tactics, by its long history of tolerance and even encouragement of such secretive lobbying. SRD has contributed to the empowerment and encouragement of a small but determined faction of Cortes Islanders, who apparently seek to sideline their elected Director and influence SRD votes on Cortes issues against the majority will of their fellow islanders; they have learned that this works. This encouragement may in turn have been a factor in the escalation of these partisan tactics into litigation, as of early January 2019. SRD's response to the weak allegations made by the litigants against R/D Anderson seems to me to provide yet more dangerous encouragement -- to disgruntled minority factions in any community in our District.

Has it not occurred to the Directors of the SRD Board that any one of them could be vulnerable to exactly the same tactics? I feel sure you (as a lawyer) must be conscious of the weakness of the January petition. Would current business of Campbell River, for example, be summarily tabled if a mere 14 Campbell River residents filed an equally slipshod petition to litigate against yourself or another C.R. Director? Would that not be a very easy thing for a small group of people to do, supposing they wished -- for whatever reasons -- to neutralise a particular Director or sabotage the machinery of governance?

Is this a precedent that the SRD Board really wants to set -- that governance of any Regional District Area can be brought to a standstill by the relatively cheap and easy expedient of a handful of people filing a frivolous petition to litigate? Is it wise to advertise the efficacy of such a convenient tool for disruption of democratic process?

I appreciate very much your empathy with the distress that many Cortes Islanders are currently feeling, a distress expressed with varying proportions of heat to light in correspondence received. The aspect of the situation that I hope I may have clarified for you is the degree to which many of us -- myself included -- feel that our distress is a product not merely of differences of opinion within our community, but even more of the way in which SRD has exacerbated the situation by over-accommodating an oppositional minority and rewarding irregular political tactics.

Although I do not write to you in secret -- I believe in open and transparent governance, and personally consider covert lobbying to be dishonest and undemocratic -- I do write to you personally, to ask you to consider whether the treatment of Cortes Island issues by SRD over the last year (and more) has been consistent, transparent, or democratic, and what portion of the unhappiness you have correctly perceived in our correspondence has been generated by specific issues of procedure and conduct at SRD which (in my view) have amplified a Difficult Moment into an Impossible Situation.

I thank you for your time and attention to these matters.

Yours sincerely & with respect

De Clarke
Property owner, rate payer, full time resident
Cortes Island BC

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De Clarke
Cortes Island BC