COURTENAY, B.C- A Comox Valley farmer has been asked to pay up in order to see what led to a controversial bottling operation being approved by the province.
Arzeena Hamir, who operates Amara Farms, had submitted a freedom of information request to the B.C government after hearing about the bottling operation being proposed in the Merville area.
She wrote to the province asking about why a public consultation process for the project didn’t need to occur, how staff in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development (FLNRO) determined that the aquifer didn’t need to be studied, and the ministry’s response to the project’s opposition from K’ómoks First Nation.
She asked for records between Jun. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2017, and received an email back on Tuesday.
The email told her the cost of the records would be $435, due to the size and scope of her request.
However, the data underpinning the ministry’s decision was already promised to be shared during the visit of Minister Doug Donaldson, who oversees FLNRO. Hamir believes that the email in response to her request may be a case of miscommunication.
“The minister was saying something, and staff are saying something else, so I did forward the email that I got, with the amount, to our local MLA Ronna Rae Leonard,” said Hamir.
“She informed me she was going to dig in and try to get this report herself.”
Hamir said Leonard told her “not to worry” about paying the money, and is hopeful she can help as the MLA for Courtenay-Comox.
“The minister was in Comox on Monday, and made the statement that he would be sharing this info with the public. So, you know it’s quite possible that that comment hadn’t filtered down,” said Hamir.
“I think the public wants to know how these decisions got made. In this area of Merville, we all use the same aquifer, so it’s everybody’s business. That’s why everybody is quite concerned, so I’d like that information shared with anyone who’s concerned.”
Leonard’s office has confirmed that they are working on the issue.