Comox Valley Sustainability Forum

In British Columbia, local government decision-making shapes the community it serves, whether that community is a village, town, city or electoral area. The welfare and interests of the community’s future is promoted with a vision implemented through the adoption of policies and bylaws.

In the Comox Valley, the community and regional visions are reflected in the Official Community Plans and a Regional Growth Strategy.

To meet the challenges of climate change and sustainability, some communities’ short-term decisions are made in a reactive, chop and change manner.  In the long run, this approach often fails to protect the municipality’s assets from damage and results in local government missing out on key partnerships and funding opportunities.

On the other hand, proactive municipal decision-making implements a clear, integrated, short and long-term planning strategy, designed specifically to meet the challenges of a community thoughtfully, efficiently and effectively.

BC municipal elections take place October 20, 2018.

On Thursday, May 24, CV Global Awareness Network, the CV Council of Canadians and Imagine Comox Valley invite you to a Sustainability Forum, where voters will have an opportunity to hear more about the possibility of reaching sustainable solutions to current local issues and problems.

The evening will begin with an introduction to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, followed with an overview of the goals outlined in the Regional Growth Strategy and Official Community Plans and why these matter to the well-being of our Comox Valley communities.

Five local speakers will present information on a range of issues from valuing eco-assets, food security and air quality, to increasing energy efficiency in new construction and ending homelessness.  After each presentation, there will be an opportunity for questions.

Whether you are a voter who wants to support candidates who will take a proactive approach to enacting sustainable policies and programs or if you are considering running as a candidate in the 2018 municipal election – this Forum will address what is currently taking place in the Valley and how we can move toward sustainable solutions for our community.

Everyone is invited to attend the Comox Valley Sustainability Forum at 7 pm in the Rotary Room of the Filberg Centre, 411 Anderton Ave., Courtenay.

For free tickets, visit  Or call 778 992 0102.

The end of the car is coming …

Back in the 1890s, if you had sat down with a farrier or stable keeper, and told them that within 30 years their entire industry would mostly disappear, they would have probably reacted with a mixture of disbelief and anger. Yet, that is exactly what happened. Between 1890 and 1930, car ownership in the USA went from 0% of households to 60% of all households. Saturation of car ownership decreased as a result of the Great Depression and WW2, but between 1945 and 1960 it jumped from 47% all the way to 80%, and then slowly peaked to the current 92% of households with cars. Today, just over a century after the mainstream debut of the personal automobile, horses are a luxury hobby item, and no longer a mainstay of personal transportation.

We are currently in the midst of another paradigm shift, one which unique conditions in the Comox Valley may well accelerate faster than in other areas. The first sign is the phenomenon of car sharing companies. Car sharing started off in 1948 in Zurich. Despite some early formal car share programs in Europe in the 1970s, successful car share programs didn’t really take off until the 1980s and 1990s. Since then the whole concept has achieved exponential growth with a most recently estimated 1.7 million car share members in 27 countries. Car share member to car ratios are as high as 75 people per car.

This shift to shared car ownership, combined with the growing popularity of cycling as a primary short distance form of transportation, and an aging demographic where the share of the Comox Valley population over 80 (and mostly non-drivers) is set to grow from 4.6% to 7.4% by 2031, is all going to result in less cars on our roads. Combine this with the rise in sales of electric vehicles, which will comprise at least 35% of all cars on the road by 2040, and we are going to see a radical shift in traffic patterns and how our transportation infrastructure is used.

Now is the time to begin to plan for these inevitable changes in the fabric of our society, and to start making prudent transportation investment choices including bike lanes, charging stations, and more, much more, transit.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

Why bike infrastructure benefits us all – even drivers

One of the few concepts I remember from my traffic engineering studies is the very counter-intuitive fact that the difference between the most highly efficient state of traffic flow and a total traffic jam is very minimal.

It only takes a miniscule increase in the number of vehicles on any given road to go from well flowing traffic to complete gridlock. That’s why even a small transition of people out of cars and into other modes of transportation can make a significant impact on the flow of vehicle traffic. Only a few more people riding bikes, walking or taking the bus can dramatically increase the efficiency of travel for everyone on our roads.

This is why the construction of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure – such as the proposed bridge on 6th Street, bike lanes and better sidewalks – benefits all of us. Even a 5% increase in non-vehicle transportation can significantly improve the efficiency of roads for people who choose to remain in their vehicles, as it moves us further away from the tipping point between efficient traffic and traffic jams.

Combine this with the fact that the same number of people can be moved with non-vehicular infrastructure that costs significantly less than the equivalent vehicle infrastructure that would be required, and the cost savings begin to add up.

Removing vehicles from the road will also decrease wear and tear on existing infrastructure, extending the life of roads we’ve already built and, again, saving everyone money.

In the end, people who choose to continue to drive cars will benefit immensely from every penny spent on bike lanes, transit improvements and pedestrian infrastructure.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

The Evolution of Rainwater Management

When it rains, the water falling from the sky runs down the roofs of our houses, across our lawns and yards, across sidewalks and down streets to disappear into the little grates that dot the roads and parking lots of our towns and cities. What happens after that may be a mystery to most, but, as a civil engineer, managing that rainfall run off properly is one of the main focuses of my career.

For most of the modern age, urban and sub-urban rainwater management has consisted of capturing and channeling rainwater to catch basins to keep our homes, business, streets and sidewalks free from flooding. After the water enters the catch basins, it flows into pipes that increase in size as more areas are connected until, eventually, the rain water discharges into a natural watercourse. The pipes were sized to contain storms up to a certain size, with the water from larger storms intended to run overland to the nearest watercourse.

While the above methodology sounds reasonable, it has some inherent flaws. For example, when you take an area of land that was originally forested, and build roads, houses and sidewalks on it, you greatly reduce the amount of rainfall that was naturally absorbed by the landscape. This can lead to flooding and erosion issues at the point of discharge of the stormwater system. For comparison, a forested area will absorb 80% of all rain that falls, whereas a residential development might absorb 20% of the rainfall.

Furthermore, when rain falls on a forest, or vegetated area, it tends to stay spread out in sheet flow or small rivulets. The traditional stormwater system concentrates the flow, and the pollutants that end up on our sidewalks, parking lots and streets get washed off into the stormwater system.

Fortunately, new techniques, standards and legislation are being developed and implemented all the time to remedy this situation. For example, detention and retention of a certain amount of rainfall on a developed site has become common practice in much of North America. Oil-water separators are more or less a standard requirement, and the technology available improves all the time. While these measures can increase the up front costs to develop land, the will help ensure a more sustainable future for everyone.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

Who pays for roads?

A common theme of debate when discussing bike lane and pedestrian construction projects is the question of who pays for roads in the first place. Detractors of those who wish to walk, take transit, or ride bikes to transport themselves often claim that only those who own and drive cars pay for roads. The idea that cyclists should be licensed and insured is brought up also. So, just how are road projects funded?

One of the more common ways municipal roads are funded is via new developments. A developer building a subdivision has to construct the roads for the new lots, and has to pay “Development Cost Charges” (DCC) to the municipality they are in for future road works. The money to fund this road construction and pay the development cost charges is passed on to those who buy the new lots. Thus, homeowners are paying for these roads. If the houses are rented, or the new project is multi-family including rentals, then renters are paying for these roads. Whether any of these people have cars or ride bikes is immaterial – the cost of the infrastructure is included in the new home / apartment price.

Road expansion projects in municipalities in BC are typically funded by a combination of municipal funds (drawn from taxes and DCCs), Provincial grant funds and Federal grant funds. The largest share of Federal revenue in Canada is personal income tax at 48.1 % of all revenue. A fund that is often cited as paying for roads is the Federal Gas tax, however this makes up less than 5% of all Federal revenue, and totals only $2 billion per year of Federal Revenue. It is estimated that road maintenance costs in Canada, including expansion projects, total some $12 billion dollars per year.

Who pays for the roads? The answer is everyone pays for the roads, and if the revenue derived strictly from vehicle related taxes were to become the only source of funds used for roadworks, we would have a lot less roads and bridges to drive on.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

Climate Change Debate?

We see the debate on climate change play out at all levels of politics and government. From the federal level with a now required carbon taxation program opposed by some, to the provincial level where BC has had a carbon tax for some time now, to even our local municipal level, where it gets discussed at local council meetings with some heated debate about its reality. Despite all of the rhetoric and opinions that counter whether or not climate change is happening and how severe it may be, the debate, for what it was worth, is actually over.

As a practicing civil engineer working in BC since 2005 now, almost all projects I have worked on in all of the various municipalities that they have happened in have been governed by regulations and standards that have incorporated mitigating measures to climate change. From predicting how much potable water can be supplied from certain watersheds, to designing stormwater infrastructure to safely convey rain water away from our homes and streets, climate change has been factored in to the very basis of the calculations and data used for over a decade now.

Locally, all four municipal governments in the Comox Valley signed on to the Climate Action Charter “pledging to take action to significantly cut both corporate and community-wide greenhouse gas emissions”. The City of Courtenay amended their Engineering Design Standard and Specifications in 2002 to increase the required amount of rainfall analyzed for stormwater systems to account for climate change.

A lot of the policy and design standards that have responded to climate change have been written and championed by engineers. Across Canada, professional engineering associations have been very clear on the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and that its cause is from human produced emissions. Why, you may ask, have engineers both individually and cooperatively signed accepted and taken action on this? It’s simple: ample scientific evidence exists, and it is the duty and ethical obligation of engineers to take action that is in the best interests of society.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

Ride the Bus and Win $500 with In2Transit

In 2 Transti - get there by busRiding the bus this summer was even more rewarding than usual for many people in the Comox Valley, due to the In2Transit promotion run by the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). During July and August over 40 bus riders won prizes valued at $50 or more.

Brian CharltonBrian Charlton gets In2Transit

“We would like to thank everyone who got In2Transit and to congratulate our August winners: Kim Watson, Corina Grossmann and Brian Charlton,” said Michael Zbarsky, Manager of Transit and Sustainability.

The promotion doesn’t stop just because summer has. It runs until November 15, 2015. To enter, ride the bus and either take a selfie and post it to a social media channel with the tag #In2Transit, or fill out an In2Transit ticket and drop it off with your bus driver.

Three monthly winners will be chosen for September and October out of the tickets and selfies submitted during those months and then three grand prize winners will be chosen from all the submissions throughout the promotion. Details on this promotion and where to get tickets can be found online at

The monthly prizes remaining include gift certificates to businesses on the 34 C2C Express bus route - The Broken Spoke, Mudsharks Coffee Bar, Zocalo Cafe, Gladstone Brewing Co, Tim Hortons, and Caffe Amantes. The grand prizes include $500, a 16GB iPod Mini from My Tech Guys and $50 gift certificates to local restaurants along other Comox Valley bus routes (The Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa, Manvirros Indian Grill, Martine’s Bistro, Ichiban Sushi Restaurant and Locals Restaurant.)


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YMP 2015: Create to Inspire

Over twelve weeks a team of Comox Valley Youth were immersed in learning digital media-making and employability skills through the Comox Valley Art Gallery, resulting in a series of original videos created to inspire the Comox Valley. 


FILM SERIES Comox Valley Art GalleryThe Youth Media Project (YMP), sponsored by the Comox Valley Art Gallery through the Government of Canada’s Skills Link Program provided a range of new skills training for this year’s participants, some who faced real barriers to employment. This second project began mid-2015 and ended on September 6th, with a successful screening at the Stan Hagan Thaetre at NIC. It assisted youth in developing life and employability skills through group-based learning. The YMP featured workshops with guest media-makers as well as from the project partners: The Wachiay Friendship Center, Imagine Comox Valley and the Creative Employment Access Society, to name but a few.

Throughout the project youth received training in digital video production, graphic design and animation through the Comox Valley Art Gallery’s media lab, and engaged with key community leaders in discussions surrounding social justice, cultural heritage and community participation. The first part of the curriculum saw participants create individual video projects, aimed at providing inspiration to others. The second part of had participants placed with a variety of real clients, developing promotional video for them. Alongside the video production, participants developed an employment action-plan and resume/portfolio. By completing the program activities youth reportedly experienced reduced barriers to employment and increased ability to enter and participate in the labour market.

Imagine Comox Valley was delighted to play a role in this process and was deeply impressed with the quality of the productions and the ongoing development of this excellent initiative. Once again the participants raised the standards set before with a combination of community involvement, practical use for the media created, and by incorporating innovative and creative elements that reach beyond our part of the world. Have a look at the links below to view the videos on Youtube:

  1. Manos De La Comunidad by Gabriel Yordano
  2. Planting the Seeds of Knowledge by Gabriel Yordano
  3. Reasons to try Transit by Milo Bowman and Bernardo De La Torre
  4. Diversability by Kayla McDonald
  5. Cumberland Forest by Milo Bowman
  6. Sharing the Seeds of knowledge by Ashley Harris
  7. Lewis Park Totem Poles by Natasha Mary Sam
  8. Pressing Send by Atcha Burns
  9. Dogwood Initiative: Youth Voter Outreach by Alex Hallbom
  10. Tum Tum Whispers by Bernardo De La Torre
  11. Habitat for Humanity by Atcha Burns
  12. What is Love by Ashley Harris
  13. Let’s Jam! by Kayla McDonald
  14. Fecal Matters by Alex Hallbom
  15. You Are Not Alone (YANA) Outreach Video by Natasha Mary Sam


Alternatively you can show the Comox Valley Art Gallery some online love by viewing the entire playlist of videos on their Youtube Channel.



The CVAG Youth Media Project Presents: Create to Inspire


An Evening of Video Works by Comox Valley Youth


Saturday September 5
Stan Hagan Theatre, North Island College
Doors at 6pm, Films start at 7pm – Free Admission


Each year the Comox Valley Art Gallery brings together a cohort of emerging filmmakers through the Youth Media Project. Participants engage in creating independent films that express their visions for change in the Comox Valley. Current work explores themes such as managing human waste, the real meaning of diversity, the affects of cyber bullying, the story of the Lewis Park totem poles, the importance of protecting the Cumberland forest, the meaning of love, and the story of a small town in Columbia that creates something out of nothing. Students work with community organizations to create short promo videos that will be screened as well. Refreshments will be served prior to the screening at 6:00pm when doors open.


Click here to view Stan Hagan Theatre on the North Island College Campus Map
Click Here for directions to North Island College


youth media event poster 2015