CAO: Regional District advised that it should ‘save its breath’

Area C Director Jim Abram says unsuccessful grant applications for two Quadra Island projects may not have been evaluated properly.

Abram said at last week’s Thursday Strathcona Regional District meeting that he recently met with Peter Fassbender, the B.C. minister of community, sport and cultural development, and was told to reapply for funding for seismic upgrades to the Quadra Community Centre and an extension to the Quathiaski Cove sewer system.

Both projects were denied funding under applications to the Building Canada Fund last year, but Abram said Fassbender told him to resubmit the projects this year under the second intake of the grant program.

That flew in the face of a report from regional district staff that recommended the organization not reapply.

Victoria Smith, the regional district’s special projects and sustainability manager, wrote in a report to the board that “a representative from the ministry of transportation and infrastructure has confirmed that this project (the Quadra Community Centre) is not eligible for this program and advised that we not reapply.”

Campbell River Director Charlie Cornfield questioned why the regional district board would not heed that advice from its own staff.

Abram argued, however, that new information had come to light and there would be no harm in reapplying.

“I just brought you information that’s a day and a half old from the minister himself,” Abram said.

“He said that the applications were not reviewed in the light that they should have been and that they should be re-applied for under some different criteria and that there was some certainty on their part that they would be approved.

“Why on Earth you would not apply based on the minister’s word to do that, I have no idea,” Abram added.

Cornfield said he only had Abram’s word to go on and that wasn’t enough.

“No disrespect to the director but I don’t have any confirmation of anything from the minister,” Cornfield said.

“There’s no written confirmation from the minister that the grant criteria has changed one iota. Ministers can say what they want.”

Area D Director Brenda Leigh said her understanding was the regional district applied for the community centre seismic improvements under the disaster mitigation category, when that may have been incorrect.

“I think what the director (Abram) is saying is that he met with the minister and we applied under the wrong category and that’s why it got rejected and we should apply again,” Leigh said.

“There’s other sections of the grant application that may be more appropriate to apply under.”

Tom Yates, acting chief administrative officer of the regional district, said the board could choose to reapply and rethink the category but there’s still no guarantee.

“I think we have been advised by the ministry that we should save our breath,” Yates said.

“Nevertheless, I agree if we don’t apply there is no chance of getting anything.”

The board, taking into account Abram and Yates’ accounts, agreed to resubmit applications for both the Quadra Community Centre and the Quathiaski Cove sewer extension, but not before Campbell River Director Andy Adams asked staff to go back and confirm Abram’s report.

“I think information of that nature needs to be brought forward in writing to the board so that we can have written confirmation on the record,” Adams said.

The board also voted to apply to the New Building Canada Fund for lighting upgrades at Strathcona Gardens.