Originally published on the ECOreport (now Cortes Currents)

At the Strathcona Regional District’s Feb 13 Board Meeting, I had an opportunity to see how the Directors function as individuals. I suspect that all of the Cortes residents observing that meeting were impressed by the professionalism and integrity that some board members exhibited and have questions about others. One of the directors that I would give high marks to occupies a key position. Michele Babchuk and I have talked over skype for a few minutes, but this is not the same as sitting down to a face to face interview. Last week I caught the ferry to Quadra Island for an in-depth interview with the Strathcona Regional District Chair.

We had a business lunch in one of the basement rooms. 

In her summary of the political situation on Cortes Island, Ms Babchuk says:

“There are some processes right now that are making it very difficult for the board to do its business over there and I am hoping that relatively quickly we will be able to make sure, from my perspective as the Chair of the Board – as the Chair of the Board my job is to make sure that the board as a whole is not at any risk. Through legal advice I am hoping that we can start moving with key Cortes initiatives relatively quickly.”

Photos of Chair Michele Babchuk (in podcast) and Strathcona Regional district Board (above) both courtesy of the Strathcona regional District website.

“Who” Is As Important As “What”

We go into some of the details and related incidents in the interview that follows, but I wanted more than a political summary. The central issue in this controversy is as much about trust as any specific incident. The “who” is just as important as the “what.” As Chair, Ms Babchuk is also the spokesperson for the Strathcona Regional District Board. 

One of the surprises to come out of that interview, is that Ms Babchuk began her political career as an activist fighting against the closure of one of Campbell River’s schools. I asked her to tell more of her story, starting at the very the beginning.

BC Ferry Approaching Campbell River by Ben McGrath via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

In-Depth Interview With The SRD Chair

In the podcast above, she talks about: 

  • How Michele Babchuk came to Campbell River
  • Her +9 years as a school trustee and why she left that to run in Campbell River’s 2014 municipal election.
  • The intersect between being Chair of the SRD, a Campbell River Counsellor, a wife, a mother  and a grandmother.
  • Why Cortes Island had a referendum on whether to have a referendum.
  • Two very different interpretations (hers, and mine) of the message that SRD staff sent to the Southern Cortes Community Association & spokespersons of the Open Letter, when they denied those groups an opportunity to speak at the Feb 13 Board Meeting.
  • Moving forward on Cortes Island.
  • Much more. 

Top photo credit: The BC Ferry wharf at Heriot Bay, Quadra Island, by Darren Kirby via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)