Comox Valley local government elections ramping up for Oct. 15 vote
In just 49 days, Comox Valley voters will decide who they want to form our local governments. At stake are seats on four municipal councils, three rural electoral areas, the school board and Island Trust representation for Denman and Hornby islands.
The official “nomination period” for candidates to declare their intention to seek public office starts Tuesday, Aug. 30 and closes on Friday, Sept. 9. That leaves about five weeks for the campaign because Election Day is on Saturday, Oct. 15, although there will be advance voting days.
General election advertising rules have already come into effect on July 18 and will extend through Election Day. The regulations governing candidate and third-party spending limits start on Sept. 17.
So, in just a few weeks, the public will know who’s running for what. But why they are running, well, that’s something else. You’ll get the usual candidate statements published in the local media that are carefully crafted to hit all the right notes without revealing the authors’ true voices.
We’ve decided to revive a version of Decafnation for the next couple of months to shine a little extra light on some of the candidates so that at least readers of this website will have some deeper insight into who they’re voting for.
We won’t be doing long investigative pieces, although we will interview some candidates. In the main, we’ll provide commentary on the issues and where candidates actually stand on them and, later on, provide our endorsements.
WHO WE THINK IS RUNNING
Many incumbent candidates and a few new challengers have already announced that they will seek re-election.
For the Courtenay City Council, we believe David Frisch, Wendy Morin, Melanie McCallum, Doug Hillian, Will Cole-Hamilton and Mano Theos are running. Newcomers Evan Jolicoeur and Michael Gilbert hope to get one of the six council seats. Brennan Day is also running again, he ran unsuccessfully in 2018 and also for MLA as a BC Liberal Party candidate in the last provincial election.
Former city council member Erik Eriksson plans to make another bid for Courtenay Mayor, opposing incumbent Bob Wells.
In Comox, Nicole Minions, Alex Bissinger and Jonathan Kerr will most likely seek re-election. Incumbent Stephanie McGowan’s family has moved to a Courtenay address, although that doesn’t prohibit her from running for a Comox Council seat. We’ve heard that Jenn Meilleur may run for council.
We expect the three Electoral Area seats on the Comox Valley Regional District board to receive some extra attention this year, but all we know at the moment is that incumbents Daniel Arbour (Area A) and Arzeena Hamir (Area B) are running again and that it’s likely Edwin Grieve (Area C) will also seek another term.
And incumbent Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird says she’ll seek a fourth term leading the Village Council. At the end of the current term, she will have logged 32 years of continuous service in public office. It’s possible Baird will have a serious opponent this time if you believe the rumour that incumbent councillor Vicky Brown is leaning toward a run at the mayor’s chair.
And, finally, we’d be surprised if Jesse Ketler doesn’t run again for Cumberland Council and possibly return as chair of the CVRD, where she’s been a neutral force between the warring Comox and Courtenay representatives.
ISSUES IN THE 2022 ELECTIONS
Some of the issues most likely to emerge from the candidates during the 2022 local government campaign haven’t changed from 2018: housing affordability, access to green space, the livability of our valley and issues around local employment.
Some of the issues from 2018 have been resolved. Courtenay adopted a new Official Community Plan. The regional district won its battles with 3L Developments over violating the Regional Growth Strategy and finally, thankfully, disbanded the Economic Development Society.
But some issues still linger, chief among those would be the fate of Shakesides, the historic home of Hamilton Mack Laing. The Town of Comox has dragged its feet – and broken an ethical and fiduciary trust – on resolving this issue for the past 40 years, but never so disappointingly as during the last four.
All the incumbents pledged during the 2018 campaign to resolve the Shakesides issue (except Jonathan Kerr, who was only elected in the 2021 by-election). But they haven’t, despite Mayor Russ Arnott’s fury in 2019 to get the building torn down.
And there are big new issues waiting for the next local government officials. At the top of that list is a required review of the Regional Growth Strategy, which will be followed by an update to the Rural Comox Valley Official Community Plan. Myriad contentious issues live within those few words and we have no doubt that the 2022 election campaigns will only be the start of the debate.
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