Will Cole-Hamilton is an advocate for climate action, fiscal responsibility and wide-ranging collaborations who sometimes does stand-up comedy

Will Cole-Hamilton: Progressives can be strong financial managers

Sep 23, 2022 | Elections 2022, Latest Feature, Politics

By George Le Masurier

Will-Cole-Hamilton is seeking a second term on the Courtenay City Council. The graduate of Dalhousie Law School moved to Courtenay in 2012 with his wife and two children from Vancouver. He manages his wife’s family law office and does legal research.

He has 14 years of experience in owning small businesses — a video store and a small grocery that he sold in 2012. He has coached youth sports teams and ran a chess club at Puntledge Elementary. He is a director of the Comox Valley Regional District, chairs the Sewage Commission and sits on other committees.

He currently is on the board of the Comox Valley International Film Festival and as council’s representative to the Downtown Business Improvement Association and from time to time performs stand-up comedy. He says he’s still trying to find the humor in climate change.


Why should voters re-elect you?

My background in law and business is sometimes relevant to council work in a very direct way, such as reviewing contracts and other legal documents that come before council.

“For example, I put forward the motion that climate change needed to be considered at every stage of the development of the Official Community Plan update. And it was my motion that Courtenay adopt the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People as its framework for reconciliation and that UNDRIP is a lens that is applied to the development of our OCP,” he told Decafnation.

Cole-Hamilton says his first motion before the council was to adopt an asset management bylaw, which requires the council to consider the full lifecycle of asset costs in its decision-making. Courtenay was the first in BC, and second in Canada to do this.

“It’s a common stereotype that progressives aren’t strong financial managers and I wanted to put that myth to rest right away and this bylaw was a strong way of starting out,” he said.

Cole-Hamilton says the track record confirms that this council has been a wise steward of city finances. At the end of this four-year term, Courtenay has had the lowest average tax increases of any municipality in the Comox Valley (average increase 2019-2022: Comox 3.72%; Courtenay 3.2%; Cumberland 5.42%)

Reflecting back, Cole-Hamilton says it was through his second council resolution that he learned the power of collaboration, working with people outside the community to deliver results for people inside the community

“By nature, I’m a collaborator,” he says. “Early in my first term, I was at my first conference and I heard about a collective of municipalities in Northern BC working together to apply to the province for grants for EV chargers. I called some of the councillors from our region who I had just met and suggested we put together a similar application. Then, I brought a resolution to Council which passed unanimously.”

As a result, nine municipalities and four regional districts and the Wei Wei Kum First Nations collectively applied for grants and the Vancouver Island and Mid-Island EV Charger Network was born.

“I realized the value of working with colleagues outside our community to deliver results for people inside our community,” he said.

Cole-Hamilton is a member of the BC Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. That allows him to bring the needs and priorities of communities like Courtenay to the table at a national level and provides the opportunity to lobby the federal government directly.

He serves as the chair of both the national Climate Caucus — which has 500-plus mayors and councillors from every province and territory as members — and the province-wide advocacy group called Help Cities Lead. He is also a founder of the national PACE funding program.

“I find that municipalities can benefit from constantly cross-pollinating with ideas for best practices,” he said.

And he says it’s his automatic tendency to collaborate with others that makes him an effective council member.

“I have collaborated with colleagues outside the Valley and also with colleagues around the council table. I co-wrote resolutions with Melanie McCollum and another with Wendy Morin and McCollum on low-income eBike subsidies.


What are some of your key accomplishments?

Cole-Hamilton sees his work with council colleagues to support a climate focus in revising the city’s Official Community Plan as a major accomplishment. And he says his work to create the Island-wide Electric Vehicle Charger Network was another key victory.

“I have been influential in the regional district’s pivot from the demolition of buildings to deconstruction, which reduces the amount of construction debris in our landfill for long-term savings and makes reusing good materials possible,” he says.

Deconstructing structures reduces the amount of material going into the regional landfills and provides a second life for the many reusable components of a building. For example, many pre-1960 buildings can yield excellent old-growth lumber.

“And it’s the right thing to do. Ask any parent or grandparent who lived through the Great Depression,” he said.

He is a former director and currently the council’s representative to the Courtenay Business Improvement Area board. In that capacity, he says he has brought resolutions to the council to support a downtown social media campaign during the Fifth Street bridge rehabilitation, and another to improve lighting in downtown alleys. It was his resolution to include locations of private security cameras on the city’s electronic mapping system — to assist in efficient use of the RCMP when conducting investigations — and helped them fastrack a patio program during the challenging couple of pandemic years.

For about 17 years, the Courtenay Community Drug Strategy Committee had been unable to develop a drug strategy. So Cole-Hamilton talked to members about revamping the committee as a regional group with the goal of producing a Substance Use Strategy that addresses the entire region. Now, with new grants, the group has enlarged its scope and just completed an analysis of the situation on the streets.

Cole-Hamilton helped ensure there is an emissions management plan for GHGs from our landfill. He says a report has shown that landfill emissions are roughly 15 times greater than all of the CVRD’s other corporate emissions combined. 

“Given the scale of the methane emissions from our landfill, this is a really significant step forward,” he said. “As I noted, they are enormous — roughly 30,000 tons of GHG equivalent. According to the EPA’s emissions calculator that is equal to 6,464 passenger vehicles driven for a full year — or driving to the moon every 28 hours. A week or so ago, there was no plan to address this, now there is.”


Goals for the next four years

The number one goal for the next term is to implement the revised OCP. For example, creating the McPhee Meadows plan for a 4.6-hectare (11-acre) green space along the Puntledge River open to the public, while preserving and restoring its riparian and wildlife habitat features.

“Increased urban density requires larger public spaces and this is a good start,” he said.

He will focus on the many actionable items in the OCP on economic development, land use, food security and housing. 

“This (the OCP) is the largest piece of work for the next council,” he said.

He will support work toward a potential Courtenay Housing Authority that would manage and create more below-market-rate housing units. This would give the city’s affordable housing efforts a champion and a home base, he says.

Cole-Hamilton says it will take a team effort by the council to push the BC provincial government hard for complex-care housing developments to address those now living on our streets. “This is not something the city can do alone,” he says.

He also wants to work on greater collaboration with SD71 during the next term.

“They (the school district) are the single largest landowners in the city and have the single greatest impact on daily traffic flows. Both bridges experience the most congestion before and after the school day. Additionally, new housing projects have a direct impact on school board facility planning.”


The most misunderstood thing about Courtenay Council

Cole-Hamilton thinks people believe the city and council have a greater capacity and more resources than they really do. For example, the issues around unhoused people on the street overlap many provincial jurisdictions and “the BC government’s insufficient response means it’s left to the municipality to do what we can to fill the gap.”

“Less than 10 cents of every tax dollar in Canada goes to municipal governments to provide infrastructure, water, sewer, garbage, policing and more, and that leaves nothing for us to build large-scale affordable housing projects,” he said.

The federal CMHC program for building low-cost housing stopped in the mid-1980s and nothing has filled that empty space. The provincial government has not filled the need for housing, mental health or addiction issues and the burden has cascaded onto local governments.

“And, yet, I love this work and wouldn’t spend this much time otherwise. And I have put in so many unpaid hours collaborating with other elected officials across the province and the country to share solutions to the challenges that face us,” he said.













General Voting Day is Saturday, Oct. 15 for all local government positions.

Comox Valley Regional District

General Voting Day (Saturday, Oct. 15) and advance voting (Wednesday Oct. 5 and Wednesday Oct. 12) take place at the CVRD building in Courtenay from 8 am to 8 pm.

Go to this link for General Voting Day locations in the three Electoral Areas.

Additional voting takes place on Oct. 6 from 9 am to 12 pm on Denman Island and on Oct. 6 from 2 pm to 5 pm on Hornby Island


Advance Voting begins on Wednesday October 5, 2022, 8 am to 8 pm at the Native Sons Hall, and again on Wednesday October 12, 2022, 8 am to 8 pm at the Florence Filberg Centre.

General Voting Day, Saturday, October 15, 2022, 8 am to 8 pm at the Queneesh Elementary School, and at the Florence Filberg Centre.


Advance voting begins Wednesday, October 5 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Comox Community Centre, and on Saturday, October 8 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Genoa Sail Building at Comox Marina, and again on Monday, October 10 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Genoa Sail Building at Comox Marina, and on Wednesday, October 12 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Comox Community Centre.

General Voting Day runs from 8 am to 8 pm on Oct. 15 at the Comox Community Centre.


All voting in the Village of Cumberland takes place from 8 am to 8 pm at the Cumberland Cultural Centre. Advance voting takes place on Oct. 5 and Oct. 12.





Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Elections 2022 | Latest Feature | Politics

Here’s the latest Comox Valley local government election results

Mayor Bob Wells and all Courtenay incumbent councillors have been re-elected. Evan Jolicoeur has also been elected. Manno Theos has lost his seat.

Jonathan Kerr, Jenn Meilleur, Steve Blacklock, Chris Haslett, Ken Grant and Maureen Swift have been elected in Comox.

Vickey Brown has been elected mayor in Cumberland, defeating long-time mayor and councillor Leslie Baird.

Voting down -20.6% in Courtenay, -22.3% in Comox and -50.9% in Cumberland.

Full results with Electoral Areas A, B and C, school board and Islands Trust results in the morning.

Daniel Arbour in Area A and Edwin Grieve in Area C won by wide margins. Richard Hardy defeated Arzeena Hamir by 23 votes.

Shannon Aldinger topped the polls in races for SD71 school trustees.

Click the headline on this page for complete results and voter turnout.

Our recommendations in the 2022 Comox Valley local government elections

Decafnation announces its list of preferred candidates in this year’s local government elections and for the first time we identify candidates that we think show promise and provide our reasons for not endorsing the other candidates. Our endorsements fall on the first day of voting at advance polls

Share This