Comox, Courtenay and the village of Cumberland, are all growing at an alarming rate. As a resident here for the past 40 years, I have asked the following question at various Community Planning seminars and Council public hearings: Just because more and more people want to move here to the Valley, why should our lifestyle be changed to accommodate them? Who stands to gain from an increasing population? Are we, as residents, better off financially?
As residents, how does this gobble-gobble expansion of our respective towns enhance our lives? As residents, how does an increased “property tax base” add to our own standard of living; and finally, how does this frantic land grab enhance our own initial reasons for choosing to live here in the first place?
The only pertinent answer I have ever received is that expansion means more jobs. This catchall excuse is supposedly interpreted as meaning more employment and a better standard of living for everyone. How on earth is the available employment supposed to increase if it is provided as a side benefit to the movement of more and more people to the Valley? Surely these new immigrants will require employment too? And surely these new immigrants will require an equal extension to the existing infra¬structure? They will need more schools, more health facilities and more policing. Where will the money come from for this adventure? The answer given to the public is that it will be provided from the increased tax base that their immigration will provide. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. If that were the case, then our property taxes would be diminishing as the tax base and the population increases.
So how, as residents, are we any better off from the explosive expansion of the towns within our Valley? We are not. We are giving up our natural green space (A golf course is NOT a green space except in political jargon), we are giving up our localities and we are surrendering the very values of living in a small town that attracted us here in the first place. We are suffering from higher property taxes and less and less space to enjoy our unique rurality.
Our values and the aspirations of “Living in the country” are being eroded and washed away by a politically generated, artificial rumour that expansion, growth and a growing tax base are prudent, necessary and vital to our interests. We are being bushwhacked by rhetoric, horn-swaddled by politics and misled by the revisionist hyperbole of misguided prophets.
If we as residents are no better off for this influx of people, for this expansion, this growth and growing tax base, then who is? The usual suspects bear the initial blame of course, the Real Estate Agents and Developers out to make a quick buck. Then there are the people who consider a house only as a means to make money, instead of a home to secrete memories and raise families.
But there are other villains at work here. The main culprits have to be the economists and the supposed advisers who convinced our local politicians (past and present) that growth is necessary to our future. But there are also those faceless, nameless, non-resident people who have managed to hypnotize our otherwise reasonable leaders into believing that expansion, overcrowding and golf courses are a part of our collective residential ambition. And, spawned from that same genetic mud pool, the infamous report-writing experts who explain in technically esoteric terms that cutting down hectare after hectare of trees on our urban borders will not affect the water table, septic run-off, flooding, drought etc.
Add to this mix some of the local franchise business owners, prodded by their parent-company-accountants to bolster their customer/profit ratios by promoting growth and the influx of “new money”, and a new sub-culture begins to appear. This financially motivated sub-culture has an intention for this valley’s future that is at almost complete odds to the requirements of the non-business residents. If there is more growth, then businessmen will profit. If there is more growth then our present residential environment will suffer.
Wake up! There is no viable reason to accept any more development within the narrow confines of this valley. There is no money to be made (for the residents) by broadening the tax base; no employment for the residents to be “manufactured” by the importation of more “Box Stores”; no increase in our residential standard of living to be garnered by higher density housing. And most importantly, no future for this idyllic rural region unless this artificial rumour that growth is vital to our existence is exposed, denied and discarded.