North Cowichan postpones decision on reinstating environmental committee

Issue to be discussed at meeting scheduled for Oct. 21

An effort to reinstate the environmental advisory committee in North Cowichan has been postponed until later this month.

Coun. Kate Marsh had made a notice of motion at a council meeting in August to have the issue as an agenda item for last week’s meeting, and for the committee to begin holding meetings this month.

She said the municipality has officially acknowledged that a climate emergency is underway, and reestablishing the environmental advisory committee is necessary to deal with the related issues.

“A lot of things have happened since then, but we have no environment committee in place to help deal with them,” Marsh said.

“Along with the fact that we’re in the process of hiring an environmental consultant, it makes sense to bring the committee back. It’s not a good time not to have it in place.”

Council disbanded the majority of its standing committees, including the environmental advisory committee, following last year’s municipal election to allow the newly elected council time to establish its priorities and determine where it would benefit from committee support.

At the time, council decided to wait until one year into its term, which is this month, to re-evaluate the municipality’s volunteer advisory committees.

Mayor Al Siebring said he’s not opposed to the motion to reinstate the committee, but he has some concerns.

He said that to just quickly appoint a new committee without a “fulsome debate” on the issue would make an assumption that council and the committee would know its role within North Cowichan’s broad committee structure.

“I think that would be unwise,” Siebring said.

Coun. Rob Douglas said North Cowichan’s committee structure is scheduled to be discussed at a meeting on Oct. 21, and he would prefer to have the issue postponed until then so council could have a “bigger discussion” on the topic.

“We need to figure out what we would want from an environmental advisory committee, and I’d like to have some time to discuss that,” he said. “Oct. 21 is coming up pretty quickly, and the two weeks until then is a good time for us to think it over.”

Ted Swabey, North Cowichan’s CAO, said council first has to determine who it wants on the committee, and what its agenda will be.

“We don’t know who we want on the committee, and there is currently no mandate and no terms of reference so we wouldn’t even know what to set on the agenda,” he said.

“Council also has to consider the time it will take staff to get an environmental advisory committee up and running, and then manage it.”

Council unanimously decided that it will wait to make a decision until having a broader discussion on the issue.

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