We’ll always remember 2020 as the year COVID-19 burst into our world. While much that happened around the Chemainus Valley pertained to COVID, there were many other significant developments that occurred during 2020.
Following is the first in a two-part reverse countdown of the top stories that made headlines:
10. The provincial election
Remember back in September when Premier John Horgan made the surprise election call amid the pandemic for October?
Many questioned the point of having an election, but it was obvious why it happened. Polls strongly suggested Horgan would win a majority for his NDP government and, COVID be damned, he didn’t want to wait for a time when the numbers might not suggest such an overwhelming advantage for him.
The results turned out exactly as predicted so Horgan got what he sought, even though people were put at risk in order to cast their ballots. There was a mail-in option, of course, that a large number of B.C. residents opted for as an alternative to in-person voting.
In the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding, the NDP stronghold continued with the re-election of Doug Routley, who’s now been the MLA of the region for 15 years and counting since 2005. Despite that, Horgan overlooked Routley a second time for a cabinet position. Questions directed to Horgan’s office about whether there was a reason for overlooking Routley’s experience were not answered.
Chemainus businessman ChrisIstace ran for the Green Party and generated some decent support that has him enthusiastic about taking another run at it in four years.
9. The Baby Bear theft
The dislodging of a Baby Bear statue at Baby Bears Ice Cream Shoppe in Chemainus required a great deal of effort on the part of the culprit and business owners Kathy and Ward Yeager caught it all on surveillance video.
The theft generated huge media attention and the perpetrator eventually gave it up on the haul road with a note attached reading, “I’m so sorry for taking the bear.” A trucker found it.
The Baby Bear had its feet ripped out from a cemented stand and was left a little worse for wear but taken for repairs to be restored to former glory.
The Yeagers have been strong advocates of surveillance to identify suspects and combat theft in the community.
A night after the theft, the suspect was arrested in the front yard of a home on Chemainus Road.
8. Freighter anchorages
Residents opposed to freighter anchorages around the region’s waters for extended periods continued to voice their concerns about noise, pollution and the effects on the environment.
Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor introduced a Private Member’s Bill in Ottawa to amend the Canada Shipping Act to prohibit the anchoring of freighter vessels using coastal waters along the Salish Sea, a long-standing issue particularly for residents of Saltair, Chemainus, Thetis and Penelakut Islands, other Gulf Islands, Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith and Nanaimo.
MacGregor cited years of frustration in trying to address the issue with Transport Canada and Transport Minister Marc Garneau. In the absence of leadership from the federal government, MacGregor decided it was time to put forward the bill to try and resolve the issue by legislative means.
At the same time, those in favour of the freighters for the economic benefits that have long been provided through their presence and operation became more vocal. One letter-writer questioned how freighters could be singled out among all the marine traffic in our waters as being the only culprit of any potential environmental damage.
7. Old Crofton Elementary School torn down
The plan of action to finally demolish the building started in late 2019 and finally happened in 2020.
It had been 10 years since the last students finished their time at the old Crofton Elementary in March of 2009 when the new Crofton Elementary on York Avenue opened.
It had become a haven for arson, graffiti and a hangout for drug users.
“The old school here is unusable and has become a safety hazard for many people in the community,” MLA Doug Routley said.
After such a long process to get rid of the eyesore, there was little fanfare when the building was finally leveled. The site remains empty and there are no immediate plans for what might eventually occupy the space.
6. Bill Robinson death
The Chemainus basketball great, who spearheaded Canada’s team in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, died following the affects of a stroke.
Robinson wasn’t tall in a sport of giants, but had a magician’s shooting touch that carried him a long way. He crafted his skills at Chemainus Secondary School and went on to greatness at the university and international levels.
“He was one of those rare people who came along and had a God-given ability in any sport he tried,” noted longtime friend and high school teammate Ron Waller.
Unfortunately, due to the start of COVID restrictions, a planned public service that surely would have generated a huge community turnout could not be held.