By Guy Dauncey
Published in Take 5 Magazine, April 2022
Let’s start with a test: what does OCP stand for? Old Cobbler Pudding? Off-duty Celibates Party? No, it stands for Official Community Plan, the draft of which concerns everyone who lives in the Cowichan Valley outside of North Cowichan, Duncan, Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith.
A good OCP is an inspiring vision of a community’s future. A bad OCP is a book of waffle that make your brain weary and includes no commitments to act. We want the good one, not the other kind.
The CVRD planners have written the first draft of CVRD Bylaw 4373, which you can print and read. During April they are offering 14 opportunities to participate in on-line workshops, two for each of seven of the OCP’s eight Goals. You can sign in and register for a workshop here.
It opens with a Vision Statement: “Surrounded by thriving natural environments and farmlands, the Cowichan Valley is a collective of vibrant and distinct communities.” That’s pretty good. It continues: “Our connection to nature is at the heart of our identity … growth is incremental and managed … resilience to emerging trends will define our community’s future.”
So let’s dive in! Goal #1 is ‘Mitigate and Adapt to the Climate Crisis’, and the workshops are on Wednesdays April 13th and 27th, 6pm-7:30pm. Are the actions and policies proposed sufficient to reduce our climate pollution from transportation and natural gas by 40% by 2030, within 8 years? What more is needed? That’s for you to decide.
Goal #2 is ‘Manage Infrastructure Responsibly’, and the workshops are on Tuesdays April 5th and 19th, 6pm-7:30pm. This is about solid waste, recycling, sewage, energy, drinking water, and stormwater. It’s also about our aquifers and watersheds, and ecologically destructive logging practices that cause flooding, harm fish habitat, and wash forest topsoil into the ocean. Go to Cowichan Bay after a massive rainstorm and you’ll see what I mean, as the topsoil from forest clearcuts is washed down the Koksilah River, driving the sealions away and turning the ocean brown.
Goal #3 is ‘Make Distinct, Complete Communities’, which addresses – among other things – the affordable housing crisis. The text reads “Compared to the rest of BC, housing is generally more affordable for owners, but somewhat worse for renters,” which might be true if this was the 1980s. Are the policies sufficient to end the crisis? The workshops are on Wednesdays April 6th and 20th, 6pm-7:30pm
Goal #4 is Expand Mobility Options. This addresses the reality that 90% of our trips are by private vehicle, producing 79% of our dangerous greenhouse gases; that transit is minimal; that safe separated bike paths are few and far between; and that the CVRD has almost no jurisdiction in this area. The OCP also includes measures the CVRD can advocate for, however. How can we make it easier for people travel by bus and bike? The workshops are on Thursdays April 7th and 21st, 6pm-7:30pm.
Goal #5 is Protect and Restore Natural Assets – our forests and rivers, creeks and wetlands. What must we do to protect our watersheds, and the ecological integrity of the forest? How can we protect the frogs, the bees, and the native plants the birds depend on? The workshops are on Saturdays April 9th and 23rd, 10am–11:30am.
Goal #6 is Strengthen Local Food and Agricultural Systems. We all love our farmers, yet we import 95% of our food. What changes are needed so that they can grow much more local food? What would it take for farm workers to be able to live on the farms where they work? The workshops are on Saturdays April 9th and 23rd, 1pm-2:30pm.
Goal #7 is Enhance Regional Prosperity, which is about business, and the supposed need for more industrial land to build warehouses to store all the things we buy from Amazon. How can we make our economy green and circular, with zero waste? The workshops are on Tuesdays April 12th and 26th, 6pm-7:30pm.
Goal #8 is Improve Governance and Implementation, which is how the goals and policies will be implemented and progress will be measured. There are no workshops for this.
If you read the draft OCP you’ll be better equipped to participate. If you have ideas for change, bring them with you. The OCP lays the foundation for our region’s zoning bylaws, local area plans, and development permit areas, so it matters. Ideally, it stands for Obtainable Community Progress. Let’s make it so! See www.planyourcowichan.ca .