Sierra Club Comox Valley debt put into context

Dear editor,

On July 31, the Comox Valley Regional District board of directors passed the following incorrect motion:

Dear editor,

On July 31, the Comox Valley Regional District board of directors passed the following incorrect motion:

“That the Comox Valley Regional District advise the Sierra Club of Canada that it requires payment in full regarding the Sierra Club v. CVRD (Gas N Go) decision as directed by the British Columbia courts.”

We cannot understand why the board passed this motion — nor why they created a media splash by putting the announcement of the decision on their agenda for the Aug. 28 meeting.

This wording makes it sound like the board had no option but to pursue “payment in full” under the direction of the court.  But that is not what the court said.

The court did not stipulate that Sierra Club Canada was responsible for “payment in full.” It stipulated no amount. Precisely, what the BC Supreme Court determined was: “Both respondents will have an order for costs.”

SCC’s counsel at the time negotiated a settlement with the respondents regarding what it would pay in costs to the respondents.

By way of background, in the summer of 2009 Sierra Club Canada filed a suit against Gas N Go Petroleum North Ltd. and the Comox Valley Regional District in regard to the Gas N Go station on the Dyke Road.

The local Sierra Club Canada group, Sierra Club Canada – Comox Valley, agreed it would take on the management of the litigation and fundraising to cover any legal fees and possible costs awards, as SCC had and has no discretionary funding for litigation. It must all be fundraised.

With the help of West Coast Environmental Law, SCCV paid the lawyer fees for the initial court costs and the appeal. After losing the decisions, we inherited a negotiated debt of $37,000 plus related interest: $18,500 to Gas N Go Petroleum North and $18,500 to the regional district.

To this point we have been paying off Gas No Go and the regional district in monthly amounts: $500 a month to Gas N Go and $100 a month to the CVRD plus interest until Gas No Go is paid off and then $500 a month plus interest. We have $3,000 remaining on our debt to Gas N Go and $16,500 owing to CVRD plus interest.

To date, including interest, we have paid out a little over $18,000. We have no outside sources of funding. All of this money has come from the people of the Comox Valley — and for this we are very grateful.

Unfortunately, the toxic atmosphere created by the federal and provincial government in regard to environmental groups and donor fatigue, has made fundraising extremely difficult.

Faced with this changed situation, we decided to do what any business or non-profit organization would do — we tried to negotiate a revised agreement on costs payable to CVRD.

CVRD is completely free to accept or decline a new settlement on costs. We offered all we could afford — a lump sum payment of $5000 as a full and final settlement of the costs. The CVRD turned us down.

Given the position of the CVRD, we are asking the folks in the Comox Valley to continue to be generous and help us get out from under this financial burden so we can focus completely on protecting this beautiful valley from coal mines and this province from a pipeline and tankers down the coast.

Mike Bell

Editor’s note: Mike Bell is the co-chair of Sierra Club Comox Valley.

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