Rod Nichol has returned to the Comox Valley Regional District board — this time representing a different area.
In Saturday’s election, the former Area C director unseated Jim Gillis by earning 73 per cent of the vote in Area B (Lazo North). Nichol earned 1,143 votes while Gillis garnered 417. He will be sworn in at the inaugural board meeting Dec. 11.
Nichol, 63, had served a term in the late-1990s, shortly after retiring from a career in the RCMP. In 1978, when newly married to his wife Lynn, he was transferred to the Valley as an RCMP dog handler. With his dog, Lance, Nichol received specialized training to provide avalanche rescue services on the Island.
“Best partner I ever had,” he said of Lance. “He’d do anything for me. All he wanted was a pat on the head.”
During his first term in office, Nichol suffered a “brain bleed” due to a mid-brain tumour — which could not be removed because it was wrapped around heart and lung nerves.
He underwent two months of “high-density radiation,” and was given three or four years to live.
But 16 years later, he’s alive and well — playing golf and healthy enough to walk every road in Area B during the election campaign.
“I go back every year for an MRI, and my oncologist shakes his head and says, ‘You’re still defying the odds and we don’t understand why.’ I just figure the big fella doesn’t want nothing to do with me just yet.”
During the campaign, Nichol promised to be vigilant about protecting rural lands and sensitive habitat. He is also concerned about expanding budgets, high costs of planning and unequal water costs in his area.
“They (residents) realize they have to pay for water. The majority of people in Courtenay and Comox pay a flat rate. That’s all the people in Area B want is to be treated the same. It’s a reasonable request…To surcharge people in one small area and not everybody is wrong.”
Nichol also feels strongly about an “antiquated” handling of waste in the CVRD.
“The fancy term today is landfill,” he said. “It’s a garbage dump.”
He notes a plan for a rubber liner underneath the landfill to catch leachate, which will be pumped and treated.
“That’s going to leach forever. The liner is only guaranteed for 20 to 25 years. Then what happens? We are going to leave a disaster to our children and their children to deal with it, simply because we, for some reason, refuse to look at new technology, waste to energy.”
“It’s out there. I think it’s incumbent upon us to research it to its fullest and let the public know what’s out there. The public is the ones that are going to be paying the bill. It’s going to be $40-$50 million for the new dump.”
He said a Vancouver firm, Access Energy Technologies, is willing to build a demonstration plant free of charge.
“We can watch it work, and if we don’t like it, fine,” Nichol said. “I would like to learn more about it. I would like to have an informed decision made by the public. Their dumping fee will be $60-$70 a metric tonne. We’re paying $90 a metric tonne at Pidgeon Lake, and it’s going up again in January. I hate to say it, but I think it’s a turf war.”
Nichol has discussed the issue with Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, who said he will arrange a meeting with Environment Minister Mary Polak. McRae also asked for a representative from Access Energy to speak about the subject.
“It’s something that we have to explore, not just close the door on, because our garbage is not going away,” said Nichol, noting the increased difficulty of obtaining a licence for a garbage dump.
Another Area B issue concerns the plight of John Reiter, who is fighting the CVRD in court over a technicality concerning his property off Dyke Road. Reiter lives in a recreational vehicle.
His property is zoned Rural ALR, which prohibits occupation of a trailer for longer than 60 days in a year, but which Reiter says is only enforced when there is a complaint.
“I’m on his side — ethically on his side,” Nichol said. “He’s not hurting a soul. Legally it’s against the bylaw — so change the bylaw. Things change.
“This is like a miniature Maple Pool,” Nichol added, referring to the controversial Courtenay issue. “There seems to be an appearance that we are so concerned with homeless people that we’re spending all kinds of tax money on legal issues kicking people off their property, and they’ve got nowhere to go. That’s absolute stupidity.”
Nichol plans to stay in touch with the electorate through a blog. Another means is to meet with citizen advisory groups — an approach he used when first in office.
His website is rodnichol.ca.