The swearing in ceremony for the Municipality of North Cowichan was a breath of fresh air in this over-heated political world we find ourselves in.
Given the daily barrage of garbage that finds its way up from south of the border and the wee bit of nastiness that surfaced in the local elections, Wednesday’s inaugural meeting was refreshing.
The six elected councillors — four of whom are brand new on the scene — wore smiles that spoke volumes about their pride and determination to do their best over the next four years.
Family members, politicians and school board trustees from neighbouring jurisdictions joined in the celebration. Also attending were defeated candidates who — with one notable exception — showed their class as they witnessed a vital part of our democratic process unfold.
Esteemed lawyer, poet and former mayor of Duncan, Michael Coleman noted in his charge to council that voters in North Cowichan had elected a very diverse council. Indeed we did.
Mayor Al Siebring, who delivered an address that earned the praise of many folks in the audience including the likes of Chemainus activist Bernie Jones and the Sahtlam Neighbourhood Association’s Isabel Rimmer, articulated what might not have been immediately obvious.
Coun. Debra Toporowski became the first female First Nations member of a North Cowichan council. Tek Manhas is the first member of the South Asian community to join council. Coun. Rosalie Sawrie is the first member from the LGBTQ community.
It is clear that Siebring, an expert on the Community Charter and a stickler for procedure, is determined to put his mark on this council.
He started shortly after election by sitting down with each of the elected councillors to determine their areas of interest in the effort to come up with committee appointments that would be most appropriate. It was apparent the process had worked well.
Also encouraging was Siebring’s announcement that two new standing committees are being created, the Regulatory Review Committee and the First Nations Relations Committee.
Siebring has decided to take a look at a handful of “legacy committees” to determine if they are necessary. At least one of those committees — the underperforming Chemainus Advisory Committee — should be eliminated and one or two others have proven to be redundant or no longer relevant.
It was an auspicious start for the rookie mayor.