In January 2007, the Forests Ministry released from tree farm designation 12,137 hectares of forest land between Sooke and Port Renfrew so that Western Forest Products could sell it. In the Auditor General’s subsequent damning report, this was in blatant contravention of policies requiring public consultation and compensation. In October 2007, developer Ender Ilkay proposed to buy a sixth of this rare ocean front and recreational forest. Not being fools, the Capital Regional District tried to amend their bylaws to protect the land. This required the approval of the Minister of Community Services, Oak Bay-Saanich MLA Ida Chong. She stalled signing off final approval until shortly after April Fool’s Day, 2008 – just after WFP applied to subdivide the land. This meant their application fell under the old bylaws, which permitted extensive subdivision.
Thanks to Minister Chong’s obvious stalling tactics, April Fool’s 2009 saw Ilkay request a 60 unit tourist lodge, 160-pad RV park and 32 cabins on the Juan de Fuca Trail parcels of land he was buying.
Spring 2010 saw the CRD buy back 2,000 hectares for parkland. Laudable, but how foolish we are to put up with buying back a tiny portion of our own land.
And what of the upcoming April Fool’s 2011—the fifth anniversary of this travesty? The shameful legacy of Ida Chong and of Rich Coleman, then Minister of Forests, continues. On land adjacent to the Juan de Fuca wilderness marine trail, the developer Ilkay now proposes 257 tourist cabins, six staff homes, a lodge, restaurant, spa, store and two recreational centres.
The opportunity to refuse this application is now before the CRD. Let’s hope some modicum of protection will be imposed on this precious land. All it will take is for the CRD to comply with the Regional Sustainability Strategy and not allow Ilkay’s land to be changed from rural to tourist zoning. We are fools to tolerate the government’s short-sighted violation of its own ethics and the destruction of what little nearby wilderness land remains.
(Victoria Raging Grannies)