Election 2015: NDP’s river promise gets local political backing

“I’m non-partisan but I do believe that this is the most critical issue that we have in the Cowichan Valley"

It is not necessarily a ringing endorsement of the NDP, said Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest, but anybody willing to fight for the health and longevity of the Cowichan River is all right with the region’s local governments.

Forrest and elected officials from the Cowichan Valley Regional District, North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes stood shoulder to shoulder with Cowichan-Malahat-Langford NDP candidate Alistair MacGregor and federal NDP House Leader Peter Julian (the New Westminster-Burnaby MP) Thursday when the latter announced their plans to make raising the Cowichan Lake weir a top priority if the party is elected come October.

“I’m non-partisan but I do believe that this is the most critical issue that we have in the Cowichan Valley and I support Alistair for this 100 per cent,” Forrest said. “My concern is the betterment of the Cowichan Valley and this is a great step,” he said.

The stakeholders met Thursday morning at the Quw’utsun’ Conference Centre to talk about the watershed before the announcement was made.

Having the support of local governments “underlines just how important this particular issue is and there’s a consensus of what needs to be done,” MacGregor said. He added that it’s clear what this summer’s drought has done to the health of the river and the resulting negative impacts are dire.

“There’s a pretty clear consensus amongst all the major stakeholders, whether it’s Catalyst, Cowichan Tribes, or the people that depend on this river for their livelihoods, that something must be done to hold back more supply,” MacGregor said. “This is a number one issue for me.”

NDP MLAs Bill Routley and Doug Routley were also present Thursday to witness the show of support for MacGregor and the weir.

“They’re non partisan. They’re willing to go anywhere, any time to try to get somebody to listen,” Bill Routley said of the local politicians. “There are a lot of folks that aren’t necessarily partisan at all in their politics but they do want to see action for water and for the watershed.”

It’s about time the Cowichan River is cared for the way it was meant to be, Julian said.

“This is an index river for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, it’s designated by the federal government as a heritage river. This is not a river that is absent from the federal government’s sphere,” he said. “So, the federal government has to take action and what we are endeavouring to do today is make that commitment. We’ll make it a priority, we’ll get the job done. It’s time that the Cowichan is a priority for the federal government.”