The Town of Comox may be looking at its options in terms of its partnership with the Comox Valley Economic Development Society following the impact of the new contract with CVEDS and the Comox Valley Regional District.
In July, the CVRD and CVEDS entered into a new service agreement. As Jordan Wall, the Town’s CAO noted at the Sept.2 Comox council meeting, economic development has been “a fairly contentious issue at the regional district level for a little while now. With COVID happening … new processes were underway on how to best serve the community in economic recovery.”
Wall added the amount of funding towards CVEDS has decreased and the regional district is trying to find a way to move forward and bridge the divisions between the different economic development visions within the board.
Last month, the CVRD board established a liaison team to investigate the potential for integrating shared services, including financial accounting with CVEDS. Comox councillor and regional district director Maureen Swift is one of three of the committee members.
Wall said what is important now is a process for the decision-making on economic development priorities within the regional district.
“What I think had happened for a long time is that the regional district had contracted to CVEDS to undertake economic development activity within the region. People were pretty happy at the type of service being delivered. That changed recently at least among some people .. so there’s been big arguments about what is going to happen, but there hasn’t been any change in the direction given, so it’s kind of like a rudderless ship.”
He told council what is important to Comox is that there is a decision to make whether or not to stay within the regional district service or to leave the service, similar to what the Village of Cumberland did in early 2016, and to bring economic development into the Town itself. Following withdrawal from CVEDS, Cumberland hired its own economic development officer.
“With where it is headed now, it appears to be a stable process – I’m hoping it will produce a result that the entire regional district can get behind and hopefully heal that divide. Comox will have an opportunity once that is done, to look and say ‘do these economic develop priorities still match what Comox wants to fund within the regional district?’ ”
Coun. Swift said the committee will be a way to look at how the services have been run and see if there are efficiencies and concerns to look through and to stabilize the relationship.
Coun. Ken Grant, who also sits as a director for the Town on the regional district board, said CVEDS’ budget has been dropped from $1.2 million to $800,000, and as a result, there has been “a pile of questions that have been brought up.”
He added there are a variety of options, including leaving things status quo, seeing the economic development society physically move into the regional board or the Town withdrawing from CVEDS and moving economic development services in-house.
“I think there’s plus and minuses to all of it; we need to work towards something that works for our community and the Valley. The timing is as bad as it can get – it’s gone on as long as it has, and now we’re in the middle of a pandemic when we really could use some strong leadership.”
At the end of the discussion, Swift told council one of the issues on the table is the Vancouver Island Visitor Centre and whether it will continue to operate.
“There’s quite diverse opinions on the board. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the task force recommendations and strategic planning.”