New Merchant Group formed in Cobble Hill

A new merchants group has formed in Cobble Hill, CHUMS (Cobble Hill United Merchants Society).

They are holding their first social mixer at the Cobblestone pub SEPTEMBER 27th from 7-9pm. It is open to CHUMS members and all local business people interested in networking and learning more about CHUMS are welcome: home-based, retail, commercial, industrial, non-profit.

Anita Willis, one of the owners of two hoots gallery, has been spearheading the group.

With the collapse of the South Cowichan Chamber of commerce, CHUMS is seeking to fill some of the void left by The Chamber’s departure. CHUMS is not looking to become “the next chamber” but rather a way for upcoming and existing business owners to connect, find information and work together to better the business community in Cobble Hill and South Cowichan.

Here is a write up from the upcoming website:

Cobble Hill United Merchants Society

What is CHUMS?

Early in 2017, a group of Cobble Hill business owners began meeting to see how they might work together to support each other and the community we serve. In July 2017, the group registered the Cobble Hill United Merchants Society (CHUMS) as an official B.C. society.


What is the mandate of CHUMS?

The society’s two stated purposes are:

  • To build connections among Cobble Hill business owners, residents, and like-minded local and regional organizations to broaden local and regional awareness of Cobble Hill as a vibrant and welcoming community in which to live, work, and play.
  • To foster initiatives and events to enhance the beauty, heritage, livability, and social connectivity of Cobble Hill.


Who is on the board of CHUMS?

The following business owners have volunteered to serve on the first CHUMS board:

President:                     Phil Newns, Minstrels Music School

Vice-President:             Nick Yaremchuk, Island Computers

Treasurer:                     Kim Newns, Paint Nite

Secretary:                     Anita Willis, Two Hoots Gift Gallery

Director-at-Large:        Dave Kral, Cobblestone Pub

Director-at-Large:        Candice Johnsson, Union 22 Antique and Vintage

Director-at-Large:        Susan Dumas-Ryan, The Second Hanger


Who can join?

Membership in CHUMS is open to businesses, organizations, and individuals both within and outside of the boundaries of Cobble Hill Regional District. Anyone who supports the society’s stated purposes, above, is welcome, including business people and organizations from neighbouring South Cowichan communities who see a benefit in networking with the business people of Cobble Hill.


What are the benefits of a $10 annual membership in CHUMS?

* Network with local business owners at fun “Meet and Greet” evenings.

* Join CHUMS group marketing initiatives to get more for your ad dollars.

* Participate in CHUMS community-building events and initiatives.

* Get listed in CHUMS’ growing member directory and a future CHUMS website.

* Advocate for village improvements (like a “Visit Cobble Hill Village” sign on the highway, pedestrian safety issues in the business core, etc.) as a collective group of business owners.

* Stay “in-the-loop” with newsy updates about changes, improvements, etc. in the Cobble Hill business community.

* Get CHUMS member discounts at participating local businesses.

Consulting Cobble Hill Businesses

survey hi res

Last month I met with roughly a dozen businesses from the Cobble Hill village. 40 invites were sent out and I hope to have ongoing meetings with the business community.

I started with the village core for a few reasons (I will be reaching out to other Cobble Hill Businesses in the new year)
1. Their close proximity to each other would share a lot of common goals and problems.
2. The village employs roughly 200 people.
3. The Official community plan states that there is a desire to have development/densification happen in the village.

The meeting was great. You can see the newsletter I handed out today, recapping the issues we spoke about. I also went back today to hand out surveys to those who were unable to attend. Questions I asked were:


  1. what’s something you need right now that one of your fellow business owners might be able to help you with?


  1. What would you like to see in the village?
  1. what DON’T you want to see in the village?

4. on a scale of 1-10, how do you feel your business is doing overall? ________ many people do you employ? _______________ has your past experiences with the CVRD been? What did you like? What was bad?

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the village?

AS YOU CAN IMAGINE the questions I will ask of other businesses in Cobble Hill won’t be so “village core” centered but the intent is still the same… to reach out to the business community and see if there are ideas, questions or concerns that they may have. As a small business owner myself (farming & a video business) I understand the challenges that entrepreneurs face as well as established businesses but that doesn’t mean I know it all. I want to ask questions and learn about our business community.

If you have any ideas or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Nov 2015 Business Newsletter

Cobble Hill Business Improvement Area – November 2015

Newsletter Follow Up


Hello Cobble Hill Village businesses!

We just had our first meeting November 5th at the Cobble Hill Youth hall and I would like to thank all of those who attended. I learned A LOT in those two hours.
The purpose of this newsletter is to update those who were unable to attend and recap the discussion that happened.
Roughly a dozen businesses attended with a majority being “industrial” businesses. This means there was a focus on industrial issues and concerns.

Topics Covered

  1. Cobble Hill Village Revitalization – I explained the concept behind the revitalization plan as well as the reasoning for consulting the business community first. For example, Some of these upgrades could have large impact on the industrial truck traffic IE – roundabouts.
  2. Drainage & ditches – Both Cobble Hill road and fisher road have experienced drainage issues in the past. I hope I was successful in explaining to the group that drainage issues (like so many other issues for the village) are going to have to be tackled as a WHOLE rather than fixing one ditch at a time. If not, then we are just sending the water down the way to be someone elses problem. Overall, there was great frustration with the ministry of transportation.
    Thankfully,  our GM of Engineering has years of experience in roadways and drainage. I will be meeting with him in the village to seek his advice on the challenges and the best course of action.
  3. Water – The Cobble Hill improvement district provides water to the village area. They are approaching the limits of their allowed capacity but are working on a study to expand capacity. I am trying to connect the improvement district with the CVRD for resources and funding.
  4. Development process & CVRD – For those who have expanded their buildings or added new ones, there was a common theme that they felt the process was cumbersome, difficult and challenging. The number of studies required, the length of time, and the Area Planning Commission process, were all factors in what one person described as “trying to move forward with a windsail in a windstorm”.
    I was clear that I would like to help the process be easier and faster. At the same time, I expressed that this did not mean a blank cheque for the sake of development.
    I am researching “best practices” that could be used at the CVRD as well as speaking with other directors about how their APC’s operate to try and learn more.



As stated above, I have some work to do:

  1. Look at a village drainage plan/strategy
  2. Help the Cobble Hill Improvement District however I can
  3. Research and implement best practice for development permits

The holiday season is coming upon us and with it all the personal and business commitments that come with it. So I am looking to have another meeting in mid-January.
It is my hope that more of the retail businesses can attend at that time to lend some of their thoughts to the conversation.

If you were some of those unable to attend, I have attached a survey for you to fill out and mail back to me when you have some time. It would help me tremendously to have these completed surveys for future reference.

Once again, if you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me.


Matteus Clement
Cobble Hill Director

Photo Nov 11, 1 52 36 PM Photo Nov 11, 1 52 25 PM Photo Nov 11, 1 51 30 PM

The Farming Riddle

As a local politician AND a small scale farmer, I have been working for almost a year on how to boost farming potential in the valley. You can download the document I have so far here:  Agriculturetaskforce (1)

The four pillars: Training, Land, Capital, and Markets.

How do we train the next generation of farmers?
How will they know that they want to farm?
Is there a way for them to start out small?
What is the best way to train new farmers? Workshops, video library, incubator farms, homesteading fairs, mentor farmers?

We can train the best damn farmers this side of Canada but if they don’t have access to land, it’s going to be a fruitless exercise.

How can we build a landbank?
Can we help draft leases to make sure each party knows what they are entering into?
Is the lease good for produce only or can there be livestock?
What will the exchange be? Farm status, rent, barter, exchange of produce?
What’s the fair market value for farmland here in the valley?
Can we connect training and access to land for succession farming?
Do some people just need access to pasture?

You will notice in the top left hand corner of the photo that I mention start up costs. Fencing is a reality with the valleys large deer and elk population. As an example, my costs have been $2/ft for fencing. There are more costs to think about…

How can we help finance new farmers? Microloans, grants?
Can co-ops help facilitate access to equipment?
Does every farmer need to have a processing kitchen or can they be shared (or mobile)?
What is best practice for storing produce and how can each farmer build a cool room for that?
How can we capitalize on new technologies like solar to low cost for new farmers? How will they access that technology?
How much does it cost to start up a small farm? Produce only? mixed use?

Growing food is the easy part. Getting someone to buy it is the hard part. The reality is that we will need to make a huge effort to shift 60 years of car centered supermarket shopping habits. It is going to have to be both EASY and CONVENIENT for both the farmer and the consumer… that is a tall order!

What’s the threshold before a farmer has to have quota? And for what products?
Are the farmers markets in the region operating at their best? Are they in the best locations? How can we help them? Could they use park land?
What institutional purchasing could we leverage here in the valley?
Can we develop an app or website that allows consumers to easily buy produce from a farmer according to their postal code? Could that generate enough business for the farmer to then deliver? (Remember the old fashioned milk man?)
Where do bigger purchasers like restaurants come into the picture?



Let’s contract a not for profit that will build an entire video library of HOW TO FARM. Ranging from how to grow vegetables to raising and processing animals. Put it on youtube and make it free. But why would we make $100,000 worth of videos and research free? A few reasons:


  1. We need people to start somewhere as farmers. With local video production, we can recommend local sources of supplies, expertise and resources.
  2. Even if people don’t farm and just grow their own food, that is money they are saving that can be spent elsewhere in the economy. It will also be healthier for our citizens.
  3. It will show we are pioneers. We have more unused farmland that we could ever hope to fill in my lifetime with local people. We are going to need a new generation of farmers as well to come to the valley.


This leads into the next phase of the idea, workshops. Once someone has watched these videos and tried some of them, the next step may be to get some boots in the mud on a “real” farm. We could work with local farmers to host workshops (pay them an honorarium for their time) for people interested in going from Novice to Intermediate farming. Once this newbie farmer has completed the workshop and some work on the farm, the mentor farmer signs off, saying that the apprentice has attended the workshop and put in some grunt time (free labour for the farmer?)


Once this apprentice farmer has taken a series of workshops spread through out the year as well as a small piece of land they have been working on, they may want to move to the next phase of LAND and CAPITAL.


The land should be easy enough to find and procure through a comprehensive land bank. This needs to be maintained by a third party who will seek farm land that will both ALR as well as residential land that is zoned for agriculture use. A suggest model looks like an initial start up requiring 200 properties that are evenly distributed through out the CVRD then to add 50-100 pieces per year and keep the bank up to date.

An important component to land banking is assisting land owners (and farmers) with leases. A host of variables could leave either party with a sour taste in the mouth because the farmer is inviesting into the land the the land owner does not want to be inconvenienced or fleeced. The proposal is simply to assist in draft leases that would help outline terms that neither party may be aware of. (Refer back to the questions asked above in the LAND section)


As for CAPITAL, we could work with a microfinancing organization to give loans to small farmers. Small scale farmers do not require the funds that large scale industrial farms requires because they don’t use heavy machinary, meaning a ballpark of $5000 loans.

With a history of attending workshops and presenting a business plan, a new farmer could then finance their new farm infrastructure like fencing, irrigation, soil, compost or livestock.

Even if not for CAPITAL, this method of training could also assist in succession farming by vetting aspiring farmer by showing them the hard work that goes into farming.


Lastly and most importantly is ACCESS TO MARKET.

Farmers market are the not the end game to selling produce for farmers. It is ONE avenue but it is also ONE day of the week to sell. A model has to be formed to allow farmers to sell 7 days a week. This also has to be done with the greatest CONVENIENCE on both the customer and the farmer.  


One idea was to create an APP (for smartphones) that would act a direct conduit from customer to farmer. The app would allow the customer to search farms based on their postal code and to pay the farmer directly. This would then allow the farmer to make deliveries that are close to their farm and hopefully have enough deliveries to “make it worth while”. Imagine the old days of the milk man… the customer could put a cooler on their front porch and have the farmers deliver.

In essence, this could be a “Craiglist for Farmers”, requiring the farmer to update their own profile. The app would allow farmers to collect contact information of their customers as well for more marketing follow up and allow the customer to get to know their farmers.

Compared to other proposed models, this one would remove the need for a middleman or halfway storage points. It would be direct A to B allowing the freshest produce to get to the customer.


Economic Development – what can we do?

I was recently asked what the state of our economic development commission is. The short is: It’s still on standby.

Some have expressed to me that it’s a waste of time and money. Other have expressed that we HAVE TO try something.

I am with the later camp. We have to work with local industries and businesses to build the valley’s economic future. Notice how I said VALLEY and not Cobble Hill?

There is no way any electoral area can forge its own path to economic prosperity. The Local government limits out powers and we are geographically spread too thin to have the critical mass needed for economic independence. In short… we are stronger together. Each area presents its own strengths: Cobble Hill with it’s farmland, Cowichan Lake region with its forests and lake, Duncan with its commercial infrastructure.. the list goes on.

Over the last few months, I have met with various businesses, land use planners, economists and interested parties to come up with a strategy that could be one way of pointing us in the right way. You can download the document here: EDCRebootversion2

The short version of the document is:
– we need to know if we are in surplus or deficit of commercial/industrial land
– we need to know what TYPES of those lands we have IE – retail commercial vs office space commercial
– we need to move towards a climate that supports and builds small, local businesses. Gone are the days of BIG corporations saving us.
– we need to work on the strengths of each area not try to be everything to everyone.

If you have any comments or concerns, please email me at For those unable to download the PDF, below is the document in text format.


EDC Reboot ideas

Assuming we restore funding to previous 2014 levels, we have $550,000 to work with minus 55k for sports tourism and $25k in film= $470,000

From a land use perspective, we have some fundamental issues that we haven’t resolved as a region that is making economic development impossible. More of that later.

With a renewing pot of funds, we could reach out to organizations “with skin in the game” to leverage funds. Groups like the BC Real estate foundation prefer to match up funds on land use projects and we know the province and the Feds like matching dollars too. Then we also have organizations like the Coastal Economic Trust to work with.

Commission structures work well when there is a communal interest involved but this structure has been terribly flawed from the start. How can one person possibly represent an entire industry? How can they be knowledgeable in a dozen other fields? And when money is on the table, how can we expect one business interest to concede to another?

Also, having spoke with past directors and volunteers on the commission and we have lost some INCREDIBLE talent at the table with such a flawed system.

Yes, I do have an alternative.

Here are some of the areas that we first need to address as a REGION in YEAR ONE…

Land Inventory & Land Economist – $100,000

Before we can really attract new business or grow existing business, we need to know how much land we have of each type AND what we are lacking.

A Land Economist is someone who deals in this type of work. They will not just “inventory” the land but also assess where certain kinds of business can thrive. For example, for every 100 houses, you require: a park, grocery store, and small commercial space.

This would help both our electoral areas and municipalities manage their space more effectively knowing where to allow development. It will also encourage investors and give them piece of mind knowing that they are developing in an area that studies have shown will succeed.

They also look at possibilities of a region.

COULD Lake Cowichan could become a world class fly fishing lake? IF SO, what infrastructure will it require? Hotels, commercial space, docks? How can we work with the province and the private forestry lands to ensure the visual landscape stays beautiful while respecting a companies need to turn a profit?

COULD Youbou develop a permanent “noise park / outdoor concert” venue that hosts world class shows with a rustic cabin camp park. If so, what amenities will be needed, how much power, where is the land to do it????

Could Cobble Hill be a rustic village with boutique and small scale farmers producing local fresh food. IF SO, What zoning is needed, what processing facilities are needed and how much land to allocate?????

Once we have the broad picture, we need to look at specialist land economists who can help further refine the scope of our land use….

Recreation and Tourism – $50,000

A specialist this area often have travelled the world and seen various kinds of recreation and tourism that can be molded to different areas.

How do we capitalize on our vast parks network to create a world renowned mountain biking circuit?

How do we attract the Canadian National Rowing team to practice year around on quamichan lake?

How do we turn lake cowichan into a fishing capital and keep the locals feeling happy?


Once we have a detailed analysis for possibilities in the valley, we can coax entrepreneurs to open shops, offer tours, and start the industries from the ground up.


Hotel economist – $50,000

We have heard it time and time again, our lodgings here in the valley are a serious bottleneck to holding larger, high calibre events.

Or even simply look at the BC Summer Games… will we have ENOUGH lodging?

When people lodge in Victoria, they spend dollars there that could have been spent LOCALLY.

We could hold conferences here in the valley where organizations would LOVE to hold their events and then offer wine tours, trail tours and recreation activities


What TYPE of hotels do we need? 5star? 4 star?

Do they need conference space?

Should they be by the river?


Once we have this report, we can seed the document to investors groups who will see that by doing the previous work of assessing our land inventory and recreation/tourism profiles, we are serious about economic development.


Agricultural land economist – $100,000

This would entail a full land analysis of the valley. This means that we would know the optimal growing places for vineyards, orchard, grazing and small scale farming. Our land would be put to the best use and farmers wouldn’t lose their shirt in the process.

These specialists can offer insight into specialty crops like mushrooms, cranberries, and blueberries.


2 x GIS staff – $120,000 (2 years?)

Almost all of this work requires mapping, zoning and data. With out the temporary GIS staff, this would drag out for 2-3 years and cripple our already overloaded GIS department. In between lulls, these extra staff could process back logged work like the lydar data that currently sits unused.



After doing this work, we could assess where we have a glut of industrial or commercial land. We will learn where we are in DEFICIT of this land and even more importantly what KIND of development is required.

For example, in South Cowichan, there is a deficit of small commercial office space for lease. The smallest space you can find is 950square feet. I know this because my wife was looking for a small space in south cowichan but this story isn’t enough. We need a report to show this to be the case. It not enough just to know that we have “lots of commercial land”.

From that point, we can discuss possible re-zonings to help build our communites to be more complete.


We would have a full map of where the best land use is, where developments will most likely succeed and new industries that will take us out of the twenty year forestry hang over. Furthermore, it is my belief that with a proper landuse plan in place, we can STRENGTHEN our values as communities. There’s no way a 14 story hotel is going into Lake Cowichan but is it more in line that a Ti-Namarah style resort go into the rustic community of Lake Cowichan? Possibly.


Once the reports are in and the data settles, investors, entrepreneurs and developers will have a road map of economic growth in the Cowichan Valley. Keep in mind, the above is a ONE TIME INVESTMENT that provides a roadmap for YEARS of our economic development.


Some other Economic Sectors that are known to us now. More will certainly arise once we have had an assessment done.


Technology sector – $15,000/yr (2-3year test pilot)

Innovation Island has experience in accelerator programs for the tech sector. This is where young tech entrepreneurs can come, pitch their ideas, seek mentorship and connect with funding.

The first step is to simply try to gauge the talent pool and tech potential of the region. Innovation island will leverage the dollars with the BC Innovation Center to host monthly gathers and guest speakers. This gathering also gathers mentors and investors in the same location. This forms the nucleus of the tech community.

If and when the group gets large enough, there can be discussions about leasing commercial space to facilitate an accelerator program.


Side thought:

With all this regional planning, we can ensure that the economic opportunities being presented align with out OCPs and community values!



Once we know what industries are open to us, we could commit a portion of EDC funding to support specific fields. IE – Agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, marketing


For example we could commit $100,000 to Agriculture for:

  • buy local advertising campaign
  • establishing a land bank system (updated every two years)
  • online video farm incubator
  • farm succession program
  • sponsor an incubator farm with MOU (lease to buy)
  • support the start up of a small scale farmers cooperative


Investment portal – $10,000

Once we have the research done, we will want to connect the investors and entrepreneurs to the opportunities being presented. Furthermore, we can connect the land area of interest to the corresponding development/zoning bylaws.


Industry Summits – $ unknown

Remember what I said about no longer having a commission?


I would argue that we can take the “one person represents the entire industry” model and turn it into a much more powerful Summit model.


Example – Could we have a “Tourism Summit” at the end of September that brings together all tourism businesses and discuss their challenges/successes of the year? Yup!

But why stop there? Through workshops and discussions, we could hear what we could do as a local government for them. Granted, we can’t fix everything but can we take some of those concerns to AVICC or UBCM? Maybe. We could at least be aware of these issues when we meet with ministers.

And in the event that some “work” needs to be done as a result of these summits, we can assemble specialized taskforces of industry experts to research, reach out and be the best they can be without having to bring others up to speed like the old commission model did.

If held yearly, the ability to report back also yields a sort of responsibility for local government and allows us to see where we are succeeding and lacking.


These summits can serve businesses beyond talking with local government. Chamber of Commerce’s, Provincial and federal officials and other partners could attend these very focused groups. And imagine what business owners outside of the region will think when they hear of such a model being implemented? “That place sounds open for business!”



We need to stop hoping for the silver bullet big company to come create jobs. The reality is that job creation is happening in small and new business. Using microloans, we can flip our whole paradigm into supporting local entrepreneurs. As a recipient of a community microloan, I can attest to the power microloans have on a starting entrepreneur.


Granted, the CVRD cannot get into the practice of loans, but we are with in our powers to work with groups like Community Futures or CALL to give a grant for them to deal with the loans. But the power of microloans is not so much with in the money but rather within the community, support and MENTORSHIP that comes with it.


I was given $5000 and a mentor to work with to help me through the start up of a small business. He helped with stuff like: how to write invoices, how to deal with difficult customers, what to look for in employees… and so on and so forth. How can we tie in the chamber of commerce’s to help build our economy?


The best part? There are dozens of models to follow that have proven track records of helping an entrepreneur and building the economy. Plus, the idea is this is a one time payment, not ongoing funding.


Tie in: The previous report to identify small office space ties directly into these entrepreneurs who may need small office space to start. There are even opportunities like “The Hive” in Vancouver, “watershed” in Victoria, which is a shared office space featuring shared printers, conference rooms and even shared accounting/secretary services. Yes, kind of like a coop.


Park and Trail mapping – $100,000

We all believe that our natural assets are one of our biggest selling points but the reality is that every community on the island has similar parks and trails… so the question becomes, how are we differentiating ours?

One big step is to map them into both physical form and into an app for mobile devices. The mapping can showcase accessibility, mode of transit (bike/walk), and within the app it can be done in different languages!

Just look at the galloping goose in Victoria and how it benefits the citizens and communities there.




How does land use planning move forward economic development?

Developers will do these kinds of studies on their own when interested in an area. We are laying the groundwork for optimal land use, highest chances of success and possible opportunities no one has picked up on yet. This saves the investors and entrepreneurs large costs.

Think of it like a garden or farm land. Instead of fencing an area and throwing some seeds down and hoping for Mother Nature takes care of it, we are mapping out the best soil for certain crops. We don’t grow the crops, biology takes care of that. We don’t make businesses, we just set the stage.


What are some other benefits to land use planning?

ENVIRONMENT – We have a vast amount of land to manage within the CVRD. This leaves environmentally sensitive areas, especially in electoral areas, vulnerable to development if we don’t have a comprehensive plan in place.


BIGGER PICTURE – This kind of land use planning ties in with our regional growth strategy and our inter connected plan thingy. We will have to do these plans anyway if we wish to move ahead with these plans.


RESOURCES – We have to stop building random developments in the middle of no where only to have to service them with transit, sewer, water, garbage and recycling. Urban containment boundaries exist in some OCP’s but this planning turns them from theory to practice.


How long is this LUP good for?

The large plan is good for 40-50 years. With the overall $450,000 price tag, that works out to 9,000/yr.

the hotel plan is good for 5 years because if lots of action is taken, it needs updating to reflect a changing landscape.


What’s after this?

This is a rough idea of how we can plan ahead. This sets the stage to find out what we can be the best at in our areas. This plan also lays the ground work for working more closely with the municipalities which have been silos from the electoral areas in regards to economic development.

With the groudn work set, we can hire or contract specialists to help hone the plan further. Perhaps the low hanging fruit that we havent seen will require just a year of specialized work. Perhaps it will need a long term employee. Who knows?


Other thoughts

Film Cowichan with out a doubt has shown that the miniscule dollars we put in create HUGE economic benefits for the valley. This 10 year pilot project is LONG over due for a funding increase. With a full time position in conjunction with a land use plan, it’s possible we can establish the filming warehouse we heard about somewhere in the valley. These “soundstages” as they are called, transform communities because major film studio have a home base to operate from as well as film inside of… look at the green screen special effects that dominate movies now. That is all filmed in a soundstage that private investors build.


Sports tourism is another low investment that could yield huge possibilities with proper funding. They have laid out a plan and have shown other regions that have proven results on the return on investment. This isn’t just made up, thin air stuff. For $55,000, Nanaimo has returned MILLIONS in economic spin off. The last budget cuts took sports tourism’s funding from 55k to 25k. I believe that we need to reinstate the funding.


Thank you for your time in reading this. It has been a labour of love in the hopes that young people and young families can call the Cowichan Valley home for a long time.


Post UBCM – meeting with ministers

Sept 26th – Meeting with Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, at Union of BC Municipalities

Each year, all the civic leaders in the province meet to workshop, network and talk with various ministers in the province. Myself and other CVRD elected officials met with Ms. Bond to discuss job/training opportunities in the valley. I spoke last and tried to ephisize the potential economic benefits of a well supported and funded AG sector in the valley. Here is the document I gave to her and her staff (as well as the AG ministry). 

Report to Ministry of Agriculture
Matteus Clement – CVRD
Electoral Area C – Cobble Hill

The Cowichan Valley has:
LAND– lots of Vacant farm land (9000 hectares)
LABOUR– high youth unemployment (3-5% higher than provincial average)
LEARNING– post secondary education campus (Vancouver island university)
MARKET– situated between two urban cores (Victoria & Nanaimo)

These factors leave the Cowichan Valley in a perfect position to be ground zero on Agricultural Innovation and pilot projects. With the right policies in place, the CVRD could be a pivotal player in making the valley an Agricultural Powerhouse. Some provincial policies and ideas include:

  1. Island AG study
    What AG commodities is Vancouver island are in shortage and what’s in surplus?

In speaking with supply managed boards, all admit they are in the dark to this question. They are “taking a best guess”. From an economic standpoint, we may expose large opportunities on the island. Take for example Vancouver island’s total lack of mushroom facilities.

While I am speaking for the Cowichan Valley farms, just like a farm, we need to identify the island as a WHOLE and see where certain industries are best suited according to infrastructure and soil types.

This would allow all local governments on Vancouver island to collaborate on food security and Agricultural economic growth.

  1. Water storage
    The drought in the valley went to stage 3. The pulp mill almost shut down and fish were almost at fatal levels in the river.

Larger dairy operations growing forage were watering around the clock at the same time.

Is there a way for local government, provincial government and the Agropour dairy coop to invest in water storage as a shared venture or as grants? IE- ponds

  1. Abattoirs

Class A processors are sparse and overbooked. The single CLASS A poultry processing facility has to be booked months in advance. The existing lower class processors have been asked by the province and farmers to “upgrade” to class A but have declined citing other facilities that “upgraded” only to go bankrupt. The costs, the inspections and requirements were too much.

It seems that policy is based on 1980’s science. With new technology online, processing of livestock and milk can be done safely with checks and balances.

New “micro pasteurization” units can be on a truck trailer and pasteurize 10,000 gallons of milk a day. Bacterial tests could be conducted at abattoirs that are automatically uploaded to the ministry of health for records and follow up.

  1. Specified Risk material Disposal

Currently all waste product from processing animals has to be shipped to Alberta. This cost hits the farmer as a processing fee. We need either composting (OMRR), incinerating or other disposal options if we wish to raise more livestock in an economically feasible way.

Composting seems to be the most feasible but the Cowichan Valley is experiencing serious odour issues with the existing composting facilities that currently exist. We need higher standards for odour control with in OMRR as well as a clearer role in what local government can do when approving expansions of these facilities.

  1. Farm Project/Training Grants

The CVRD is fortunate to have a strong nonprofit sector that we can leverage funds with to help initiate farm projects and farmer training.

Grants/Funds from the province can be leveraged with other existing federal grants and CVRD funds giving extra mileage to provinces dollars.

Projects could include:

  1. Incubator farms
  2. Farmer workshops & job shadowing
  3. Video training library
  4. Land purchase to lease to new farmers
  5. New farmer microfinance programs (Loans of $5000 or less)


The Cowichan Valley Regional District and the non profit sector have conducted enough studies, research groups and consultations. Farmers are feeling “consultation fatigue”. We KNOW what needs to be done.

With some reasonable funding and policy changes from the province, we can train farmers, source processing facilities and make Agriculture a cornerstone of the valley’s economy.


PS- I also meet with the Opposition Standing Committee on Agriculture and Food. The committee, chaired by Lana Popham, is also looking for solutions to the problems that BC farmers are facing. You can visit their site here:

Rogers Cell phone tower

You may have read in the Citizen Paper about the recent decision on the proposed Rogers Cell phone tower that would have gone into the Fisher Road industrial park. If not, you can read it HERE. To be clear, our decision is simply to not endorse the site which then goes to Industry Canada. This is not an absolute decision. It may or may not move forward.

From people in favor of the tower, some concerns were raised around wireless coverage in the area for emergency calls and businesses.

I agree with these concerns. If Rogers was not to build their tower, they can still lease space off the existing Telus tower which would give them coverage along the highway but not additional coverage in the village core. So there is still an option for Rogers.

From my viewpoint there are some larger issues that need to be addressed  with our wireless infrastructure. Two things are undeniable at this point: there are gaps in cell coverage AND wireless communications is only going to GROW.

So with that in mind:
– how can the CVRD perhaps play a more proactive roll in our regional wireless infrastructure?
– how can we work with the carriers to create a wireless grid that is complete?
– what information do we need to make more informed decisions? Could we use some workshops? Could we use tools to measure electromagnetic waves?
– what locations do we NOT want these towers? School, hospitals, etc?

With 9 electoral areas and 5 municipalities, we HAVE to take a more coordinated approach to this critical infrastructure. Instead of each electoral area planning commission approaching this on a case by case business, could we perhaps have a plan in place that respects the community while building the region?

I don’t see why not.

It certainly would save both sides a lot of time and money knowing where they can and cannot build.
It would ensure that we have coverage through out the valley.
It would ensure that tourists are connected… hopefully aiding our economy.

I’ll be investigating this further and will report back.