Is it "bureaucratic bullying" or "operational necessity"? Faced with being overruled, the Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission’s Ian Morrison is looking for answers this week.
What is becoming an uncomfortable situation began with a simple vote on May 12 at the Rec Commission meeting in which the eight representatives unanimously agreed not to participate in a regional activity guide but urge its own staff to continue with four more issues of the Playbook, which lists only programs run at the variety of Cowichan Lake area facilities managed by the commission.
It was also decided to re-visit that idea with the commission in a year’s time.
But the fallout from that motion was surprising, Morrison reported in an email.
"I have the great displeasure to inform you that someone at the CVRD feels they have the authority to overrule and overturn a resolution passed by the three elected representatives of the sole funding jurisdictions (Areas F, I, Town of Lake Cowichan), and the five present citizen members of Cowichan Lake Recreation Commission," said Morrison, who is also director for Area F (Cowichan Lake South).
"We don’t need ivory tower bureaucrats in Duncan telling us what’s good for us and how to spend our own tax dollars. But just you watch. The backroom gang will cook up what sounds like a semireasonable explanation why Cowichan Lake Recreation must participate in the Regional Recreation activity guide. They may claim it’s cheaper or more convenient or an operational necessity to ensure efficiency."
Morrison said he consulted a number of CVRD board members, as well as former long-serving Area F Director Joe Allan for their opinions.
"Each and every one’s reaction to this overreaching of authority has been ‘This just can’t happen!’ Only the CVRD board can force a service like Cowichan Lake Recreation to spend its taxpayers’ money on something we don’t want."
Area I director Pat Weaver said she, too, was concerned that she knew nothing more about the reversal of the commission’s decision and had not seen the subject discussed by board directors.
"If it had been, I would have been there fighting for us," she said.
In reply to questions about the situation, Island Savings Centre manager John Elzinga read a prepared statement.
"Staff at the regional district take the operational responsibility for creating program marketing materials and the format is not usually an advisory commission decision."
Asked why the commission would even be voting on it, Elzinga would only add, "that’s an interesting question."
He then said the regional district has been proceeding for more than a year towards a listing of all its programs together with an eye to launching program registration online in the fall.
This big list would include programs for Kerry Park, Shawnigan Lake, Cowichan Lake Recreation and the Island Savings Centre.
"This makes it easier and potentially cheaper to provide information for a combined printed activity guide. The major benefit is to have increased choice for Cowichan residents to have an active lifestyle," he concluded.
Morrison said Tuesday that he was not sure how he would proceed with his concerns about local autonomy, adding he was taking another careful look at the situation.