"No Action Will Be Taken Against VIMC", says North Cowichan
In a surprise decision, the Municipality of North Cowichan has decided not to take any punitive actions against the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit (VIMC). As previously reported, the private motorsports club, which is operated by Victoria's GAIN Group of auto dealerships, repeatedly ignored orders to stop using an unauthorized off-road course and then tried to deny that such activities were taking place.
The off-road course was constructed without any permits, and North Cowichan twice informed VIMC that use of the off-road facility was prohibited. Last month, we discovered that VIMC had ignored these warnings and allowed car companies to rent the off-road facility for media launch events. In response to our allegations, VIMC denied that the off-road course was being used and claimed customers were merely taking a "scenic tour" of the property.
For example, after we posted amateur video footage of cars in the off-road area, Paul Rossmo, general manager at VIMC, posted this comment on our Facebook page (October 26):
This was followed by another comment, in which VIMC stated:
"We are not operating the off-road track nor have we been"
In fact, what we filmed was part of a week-long AMG Promotional Tour for Mercedes-Benz. Photo and video evidence posted online clearly showed those same vehicles from our amateur footage navigating obstacles on the off-road course while being photographed and filmed by automotive journalists. This was clearly not a "scenic tour of the property". We also learned that VIMC had leased the off-road course to Subaru for a similar media event earlier that summer.
Could the car companies have used the off-road course without VIMC's permission? As demonstrated in the professional videos, highlighting the off-road performance of these vehicles was a key part of these promotional events. It's difficult to imagine that an experienced global automobile company such as Subaru or Mercedes would not specifically ask about an off-road facility before spending thousands of dollars to book the venue.
It is, however, easy to imagine that VIMC would not wish to embarrass themselves by having to inform these major carmakers that they built the off-road course without any permits and had been prohibited from using the course by the municipality. In addition, VIMC profited by allowing these companies to use the off-road course - not just in terms of money paid to VIMC to use the facility, but also in terms of promoting the motorsport circuit.
Regardless, evidence shows that VIMC knew the course would be used, and that such use was part of the planned events. For example, on October 22nd, a Sudbury, Ontario news website reported that they were heading to the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit for the AMG Performance Tour:
"During our time there, we will also take part in some off-roading in a closed all-terrain circuit"
This video of a Subaru event from August 15 shows a VIMC employee assisting drivers with resetting the see-saw obstacle (screen shot taken at 13:32), and other employees can be seen in the background throughout the video.
And yet, despite indisputable evidence that VIMC deliberately and repeatedly violated North Cowichan bylaws after being warned not to do so, profited from these illegal activities, and then tried to deny that any such use had occurred, North Cowichan decided not to impose any consequences. The letter we received from the municipality stated:
"we will not be taking any action against the VIMC"
It is difficult to understand this decision. Unfortunately, the matter was discussed behind closed doors, despite a request from the SNA that the situation be dealt with at a public council meeting. This request arose from a Town Hall Meeting hosted by the SNA on November 14. Residents were clear and united in their demands for a transparent process where the reactions and opinions of elected representatives could be heard and evaluated. That request was denied, and we have only the explanations offered by North Cowichan in their letter:
"VIMC has assured us that...similar activities will not be permitted to occur again"
"VIMC has voluntarily agreed not to repeat the complained of activities"
The first is an empty platitude, since the season for off-road promotions is now over, and VIMC has already gained from it. The second is simply disingenuous: shouldn't VIMC have "voluntarily agreed" to stop using the off-road course when they were informed that the facility required permits? Or after Mayor Lefebure told them to stop using the facility? Given that the immediate response from VIMC was denial and prevarication, how can their promises carry any weight?
The decision by North Cowichan to take no action against VIMC sends a disheartening message to those who value fairness and justice. It sets a dangerous precedent for other businesses who might wish to choose profit over compliance with the law. And it is disrespectful to citizens and businesses who play by the rules and expect everyone else to do so as well.
In the end, VIMC's actions will be judged in the court of public opinion. As part of a rezoning application to significantly expand their operations, VIMC is required to host community meetings and engage with residents on this issue. The company has already generated its fair share of controversy, and citizens must ask themselves if this is the type of corporate behaviour we wish to encourage in the Cowichan Valley. By choosing profits over process, VIMC has shown lack of respect for our community, our laws, and our lands. North Cowichan may be unwilling to take a stand against this kind of behaviour, but the consequences of VIMC's questionable corporate ethics will undoubtedly be felt when they go before the public with a roadshow full of promises, looking for our support.
If you would like to express your opinion about VIMC's behaviour and North Cowichan's decision, please consider writing to Mayor and Council. We have provided a convenient list of emails below that can be copied and pasted into the "To" field. Thank you for your support.
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