COMOX: Candidates (most of them) respond to our questions
Decafnation asked this year’s candidates for public office to respond to three questions. We are publishing their responses by the jurisdictions in which they are a candidate.
Comox Candidates in 2022
One mayor and six councillors to be elected
Incumbent – None
Challenger – Nicole Minions (acclaimed)
Incumbents – Dr. Jonathan Kerr, Ken Grant, Maureen Swift
Challengers – Don Davies, Chris Haslett, Ruby Sidhu, Steve Blacklock, Peter Gibson, Kealy Donaldson, Jenn Meilleur
Chris Haslett, Steve Blacklock, Ken Grant and Peter Gibson did not respond.
1. In the event that a new dangerous variant of the COVID virus emerges or if a new pandemic arises would you use your position as a civic leader to support federal and provincial public health orders and encourage others to do likewise?
YES. I put faith and trust in our medical system both provincially and federally. I see this as protecting our vulnerable population and being part of the community as a whole. When it is public safety, I see that as a part of civic leadership.
As a family doctor in Comox, the health of Comox residents and our community is extremely important to me. I would fully support any federal or provincial public health orders that aim to protect Comox residents, especially those that are most vulnerable. At the same time, if new public health orders are put in place, I would also look for ways that we can continue to support our local businesses and restaurants, to ensure our downtown and business community is able to survive and thrive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyone and we all wish that it was over for good. Comox is an amazing place to live, with caring neighbours looking out for each other. Following public health orders together allows us to continue to work, go to school, shop at a local store, eat at a restaurant, and participate in recreational activities while ensuring we remain healthy as individuals and as a community.
Yes. I would support Federal and Provincial health orders.
Yes. I believe in the science, expertise, and rigorous process that goes into making federal and provincial public health orders. I also believe that science should guide our leadership and policy decisions.
COVID also taught many of us the importance of connecting and building relationships with neighbours and the community to help us navigate challenging times. When disasters happen, the most immediate help will come from those around us. Our Comox Valley Emergency Program has created a Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program (NEPP) and Guide. This program and guide will provide important tools to people in our neighbourhoods to prepare in case of an emergency.
Yes, it is our duty to support public health orders as representatives of the municipality and Town Council, by oath. Covid set new precedents in health care and although there are many opinions as to how to follow health and pandemic protocols, it is important that communities, collectively, respect and observe any health orders that are issued.
Of course, I will work towards the best health for all of us. I will urge local government and businesses to let their employees work from home. I will work towards taking a decision to help all our community as one and tackle their needs in the pandemic. Public health officials are there for a reason, which is to worry about everybody around them. I would appeal neighbouring municipalities to do the same.
Yes. I have every confidence in the Health authorities.
2. Do you support the Regional Growth Strategy as it’s currently written? In particular, do you support its theme of funneling new growth into already defined urban boundaries, leaving the rural areas as rural as possible? And, do you support not adding any settlement nodes until the Union Bay Estates and K’omoks First Nations developments in the Union Bay area are well underway?
I think these documents are a balance between being the roadmap for planning & development, but also the need to be a living document. I support aspects like density within the current drawn boundaries. Rural areas maintaining the benefit of rural living and encouraging the best use of land (ALR for farming etc). I would need to review what future nodes would be discussed but a general theme of reasonable and balanced density in downtown areas where transportation, infrastructure and services are readily available. It makes economic sense and environmental sense.
Yes. I support the RGS as it is a guideline for services and transit. I also believe these types of documents should be considered “living documents” and as such might be altered when circumstances and opportunities arise. I believe it is important to have an open mind.
I support funneling new growth into already-defined urban boundaries, leaving the rural areas as rural as possible. Whether we call it “Smart Growth” or “Green Settlement,” this land use planning approach is a critical part of climate mitigation and committing to building a healthy and resilient community for future generations.
Some settlement areas will need to be reconsidered to account for inevitable sea level rise, and growth within urban boundaries should focus on infill on already developed lands, rather than cutting down trees to make new developments.
The major issues identified in the Regional Growth Strategy have increased in severity beyond what was anticipated nearly a decade ago. This speaks to the need for an update (which is already planned), as well as the need to be asking some important questions about what we’re going to do differently over the next decade to turn towards regeneration.
I also support not adding any settlement nodes until the Union Bay Estates and K’omoks First Nations developments in the Union Bay area are well underway. Local governments have a very important role to play in supporting the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Calls to Justice from the Final Report and Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
I support the Regional Growth Strategy for 3 reasons:
1. Focusing on truly affordable housing: The last census showed that 67 percent of dwellings in Comox were single-family homes, which is way above the national average of 53%. Every single day, I hear from Comox residents that they are struggling to find a place to live, or that they are worried about being able to afford another place if they are forced to move. Comox desperately needs the right mix of housing options, including more affordable living choices such as rental units and townhomes.
2. Keeping taxes low: Comox residents want low taxes. It can take decades for tax revenues to eventually pay for the services (road, water, sewer) supporting a new subdivision. To keep our taxes as low as possible, we should focus on increasing density within our current municipal boundaries.
3. Mitigating climate change: At this critical point in our planet’s history, it doesn’t make much sense to cut down mature forests to allow for more urban sprawl or settlement nodes. Existing forests sequester carbon, provide a protective tree canopy during heat waves, and give us green spaces where we can enjoy nature, reduce stress, and connect with others.
The Regional Growth Strategy is a solid document produced in the late 2000s. There could be some important amendments adopted to modernize the overall strategy.
Urban Density is a key issue for most communities, Comox and the Valley included. It is critical to focus on improved density within urban areas for easy access to services, health and business, and amenities like shopping, recreation and public spaces. Comox has bylaws in place regarding Carriage homes and this offers a unique opportunity for residential property owners to expand their neighbourhood density and housing capacity.
In regards to the UBE + KFN developments, the overall need for housing continues to grow and if there is an opportunity to grow housing capacity, both parties will hopefully be able to support the right decisions for the best outcome for the citizens of Union Bay and K’omoks First Nation.
I do support the strategy with a few exceptions. No doubt we need more accommodation and that can only happen with more construction or uniting families. Any boundaries within Comox like land on Guthrie between Pritchard and Anderton can be developed for high-density dwelling.
We need to recognize that the land we are on is the unceded territory of K’omoks First nations and we should work towards a mutual understanding. At the same time, we should check the effects on the environment and the land in question before we jump into any decision, and make sure we are not disturbing any landfill or K’omoks territory.
Yes regional growth is fine for now and I look forward to participating in helping it to evolve for future needs.
3. Do you believe it is the responsibility of local governments to take climate change-focused actions and to consider how to minimize carbon emissions from municipal operations and facilities in all of the council’s or board’s deliberations?
YES. It is a “lens” that should be applied at every level of government in every decision. Similar to how we consider economic factors, our local government actions on climate initiatives impact the bottom line of the change we need to see immediately.
I 100 percent believe it is the responsibility of local governments to take urgent action on both corporate and community-wide climate mitigation and adaptation. It’s essential that every council or board consider how to minimize carbon emissions from operations and facilities in all deliberations.
Every core service and every purchase made should be considering climate change, social wellness, and its impact on future generations, along with creating local economic vitality. To do this work well, the Town of Comox will need to develop its first climate action plan and strategy.
As we grapple with understanding the local impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, every job is a climate job. And as Yvonne Chouinard, the billionaire who recently gave away all of the shares in Patagonia, the company he founded, to a trust that will use future profits to help fight the climate crisis, says, “the earth is now our only shareholder.”
Of course, Comox Council doesn’t have this kind of money to work with, but I would like local governments – and all levels of government – to operate with Chouinard’s innovative spirit and commitment to the wellbeing of the planet. Wise and creative use of our local resources will pay off in the short term and for future generations.
Yes. Climate change is on the minds of everyone. A few of the initiatives I have supported during my terms are the installation of EV chargers, the early adoption of the Step Code, the piloting of organics in Comox beginning in 2014, the purchase of an electric Zamboni and the adoption of the Corporate Energy Emissions Program at the CVRD.
Up to half of Canada’s carbon pollution is influenced by local policy decisions. (Source: Federation of Canadian Municipalities). According to the BC Charter, one of the four core priorities of a municipality is “fostering the economic, social and environmental well-being of its community.” Anyone suggesting that municipalities shouldn’t be focussing on our environment is just plain wrong.
We are a coastal community, facing real threats from rising sea levels, heat domes, and smoke-filled skies. Last year, 619 people in BC died due to the extreme heat. As a town, we have a choice. Doing nothing would not save us money or taxes. In fact, it would do the opposite as we try and repair and keep pace with the impacts of a changing environment. Comox could, and should, be a leader in climate change and adaptation solutions. Our safety and security as a community depend on it.
We could reduce our local carbon emissions by:
— Educating and incenting residents to select more energy-efficient home systems.
— Increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations.
— Promoting urban agriculture and community gardens.
— Championing active transportation, such as walking and cycling.
— Transitioning the Town’s vehicles, lawnmowers, and leaf-blowers to electric.
It is important to take the action required to tackle climate change and lead by example. The Town of Comox is progressively-minded when it comes to adopting policy on minimizing impacts for internal carbon emissions on an operations basis and for its facilities. Further implementations regarding paper waste, grey water upcycling, living walls and solar and battery-powered equipment are also being reviewed and adopted.
Yes, it is for sure. It’s not even a question. One of the options to contribute to minimizing carbon emissions is moving toward electric vehicles in the town. Since the town changes its fleet every five to seven years, we will be a fully electric fleet in the next 10 years.
The building facilities and energy needs should also be looked at to change it for greener resources. I would try to set up one day a year where we try to minimize the use of cars and celebrate a National Green Day.
Yes. Everything that can be done at the local level toward reversing climate change must be instituted.
This article was updated Monday afternoon to include comments from candidate Don Davis.
WHERE AND WHEN TO VOTE
General Voting Day is Saturday, Oct. 15 for all local government positions.
Comox Valley Regional District
General Voting Day and advance voting 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
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It was weird. But when the sun rose on Oct. 16, Comox Valley voters had made it clear they liked the direction charted by our local governments. In the municipalities, they elected all but two incumbents. In most races, the vote was a definite pat on the back for a job well done.
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.
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