Jonathan Kerr focused on housing, doctor shortage, creating a healthy community

Jonathan Kerr focused on housing, doctor shortage, creating a healthy community

Dr. Jonathan Kerr wants everyone in Comox to have a family doctor. He personally recruited four new doctors to the Valley this year  |  George Le Masurier photo

Jonathan Kerr focused on housing, doctor shortage, creating a healthy community


How does a Comox family doctor and former president of the 12,000-member Ontario College of Family Physicians diagnose the issues that matter most to the people of his community? With a scientific approach, of course.

And what is the prescription from Dr. Jonathan Kerr, a candidate for the open seat on Comox Town Council? He is proposing a variety of measures that connect the health of individuals with the health of the community and the health of the environment.

Comox will hold a by-election on Saturday, Nov. 27 to fill the seat vacated by Partick McKenna, who recently relocated to Nova Scotia.

McKenna has endorsed Kerr, as have three sitting council members Nicole Minions, Stephanie McGowan and Alex Bissinger.

Kerr publicly announced his candidacy in August, but he began preparing for the job 10 months ago. In January, he launched an intensive community self-education program that balanced attending every council meeting with a multi-faceted “listening campaign” that engaged a cross-section of town residents throughout the spring, summer and fall.

“My favorite style of leadership is servant leadership. That means listening to people and discovering what they need and empowering them to achieve it,” he told Decafnation this week.

To hear what’s on the minds of Comox residents, Kerr has attended neighborhood coffee parties and, of course, he’s been knocking on doors.

But he also had one of the busiest booths at the downtown Comox Sidewalk Sale where people could place stickers on a board to “vote” for the town’s most important or pressing issues. He ran a similar survey online and mailed out cards to town residents with a send-in survey form.

He organized a Community Listening Event in September that was attended by more than 100 people plus representatives from 25 Comox Valley nonprofit organizations.

“Everyone there, including me, learned a lot about the needs of our citizens and how each nonprofit is trying to address them,” Kerr said. “It was enlightening.”

Kerr also admits to being “a bit of a policy nerd,” so he has attended every open council meeting over the past 12 months to understand the multitude of issues that come before the council.

“I want to be as prepared as possible to hit the ground running if I’m elected,” he said.



All of that listening and voter feedback has helped him identify the top issues on people’s minds.

Topping that list were a variety of concerns related to the health of our environment, such as protecting our parks, forests, shorelines and wildlife, air quality, preserving our town’s tree canopy, promoting local healthy food and taking action on climate change.

“Comox could be a leader in addressing climate change, for example, by converting the town’s fleet to 100 percent electric vehicles,” he said.

Kerr uses the creation of bike lanes as an example of how the town could create healthier people (more exercise) and a healthier environment (fewer cars on the road). He pointed to countries like the Netherlands where bike transit is the norm and, as a result, people connect with each other and their community.

Affordable housing was next on the list of people’s concerns, which is not surprising in a community where real estate prices have reached or surpassed most other BC cities and towns.

It has, unfortunately, become common that people are “couch surfing” and that the volume of applications for Habitat for Humanity houses has skyrocketed.

Kerr believes that the town must redefine “affordable housing.”

He notes that the average rent in BC has increased 7.2 percent over the previous quarter, and rent prices in BC are now the highest in the country.

“For a Comox resident who hasn’t seen a change in their wages in the past year, a place to live that was once affordable a couple of years ago is no longer attainable,” he said.

Even though there are currently two multi-unit housing developments underway in the town, Comox will still have a high percentage of single-family houses.

“We need to do more to increase housing density close to downtown Comox and encourage more duplex and triplex housing and more mixed-use commercial buildings with residential units above,” he said. “And all new development projects should include affordable units.”

Kerr praised the Aspen apartment development near the Quality Foods store because it includes dedicated affordable units. And he gave kudos to the redevelopment of high-quality seniors housing on Balmoral (Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society).

“We need to do more of that,” he said.

The number three issue on people’s minds was finding a family doctor. It’s an issue affecting many BC communities.

Kerr says there are about 14,000 Comox Valley residents that do not have a dedicated family doctor. One of his goals is that everyone in Comox will have a family physician.

The Sea Cove Medical Clinic on Beaufort Avenue next to the Blackfin Pub where Kerr is the lead physician and has personally recruited four new doctors since January, doubling the clinic’s number of family physicians to eight. He hopes to recruit four more family doctors to Comox next year.

As a member of the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice recruitment committee, he believes the community will be best served by a Valley-wide coordinated approach to bringing more doctors to town, rather than relying on individual physician groups.

He says recruiting a physician requires an appeal to the spouse and their entire family and introducing them to the Comox Valley’s amenities, nature parks and beaches.

And Kerr is eager to dispel a myth about the Comox Valley’s particular doctor shortage. It is not caused by a declining number of family physicians, he says, although a number of doctors have recently retired. There are more doctors serving the community than ever before, but the Valley’s population has grown even faster.



Kerr has been endorsed by a local group of Comox residents known as “Comox Greens,” which he says is different from the BC Green Party, and not a political party.

“It’s a group with whom I share values, such as sustainability, social justice, respect for diversity, nonviolence, participatory democracy and ecological wisdom. These are known as “green values” and they transcend politics,” he said.

Comox Town Councillor Nicole Minions told Decafnation that “In early 2021 we formed Comox Greens, which is a new electoral organization with shared views for the Town of Comox. We support long-term sustainability, social justice and respect for diversity.”

Kerr has received some criticism for aligning himself with the group, even though all municipal government candidates receive support from people or groups of people who share the same values.

“I’m just being 100 percent transparent. If you vote for me, you know my values and what I stand for. That doesn’t mean block voting. I support independent voting by every council member and I will also vote in the best interests of my constituency,” he said.

“I’m just being clear about what I’m about.”



Kerr believes the Mack Laing trust agreement controversy needs a resolution soon in order to heal the wounds that have divided the community.

And he thinks the debate could be defused if the parties sat down and talked to each other.

“I’ve talked to all the parties to this problem and they agree on about 98 percent of the details,” he said. “I would offer to mediate a resolution if there was an opportunity.”

As a family physician, Kerr often counsels patients on difficult matters. He has found that most often people with marriage problems, for example, need to restart communications.

“Polarization occurs when dialogue stops,” he said. “A healthy community benefits from increased transparency by their local government.”



Kerr earned his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Toronto in 2006 and did Post-Graduate Family Medicine training at Queen’s University. He practiced family medicine in Belleville, Ont. prior to moving to the Comox Valley.

He served as president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians and served on its board for nine years, including one year as chair. He has also served on the board of directors for the College of Family Physicians Canada and currently sits on the Advisory Committee for the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice.

He and his wife Christy and their two children vacationed on Vancouver Island in 2014 and moved to the Valley later that year. He joined the Sea Cove Medical Clinic in 2015, where he is currently the lead physician.

Kerr actively competes in the sport of Biathlon and coaches youth eight to 18 in rifle marksmanship and cross-country skiing with the Vancouver Island Biathlon Club.

He’s also a volunteer with the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society, and previously served on the Coalition to End Homelessness, Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society and is treasurer of the Navigate School Parent Advisory Council.








Age 41. Came to the Comox Valley in 2014.

B.Sc. Queen’s University, Doctor of Medicine, University of Toronto, Post-Graduate Family Medicine training, Queen’s University

Family practice in Belleville, Ont. and joined the Sea Cove Medical Clinic in 2015, assuming lead physician role in 2020. A past president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians and past board member of the Canada-wide college, and currently serves on the Advisory Committee for the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice


“I have known Dr. Kerr for many years and he is the perfect person to fill my seat on Council. Jonathan is dedicated to the health and well-being of the residents of Comox and I know he has the listening skills, passion, intelligence, and decision-making ability needed for the role. I endorse Dr. Kerr for Comox Council 100%.” — Pat McKenna, outgoing Councillor, Town of Comox

“I wholeheartedly endorse Dr. Jonathan Kerr for our Town of Comox Council in this by-election. His dedication to his work, family, and community shows up in everything he does. He is knowledgeable, hard-working, and holds a unique moral and ethical code that our community and world needs more of. I have known Jonathan for the past couple of years through his active volunteerism in the Valley. I and those around me have seen how community-minded, thoughtful, intelligent and balanced Jonathan has been in his approach to all things he endeavours.” — Nicole Minions, Councillor, Town of Comox

“Jonathan is one of the brightest people I know. He is passionate, energetic, and gets things done. As a councillor for the Town of Comox, I would see him contributing valuable input to our decision-making, especially with mitigating climate change and tackling the shortages of affordable housing.” — Alex Bissinger, Councillor, Town of Comox

“Dr. Kerr would contribute a compassionate, logical, caring, and science-based voice to the Council table. I believe he has a genuine commitment to the health and well-being of Comox residents and I would be excited to work with him. We have had many conversations and I feel like his intelligence, his experience and his understanding of the social determinants of health will be a positive addition to the table. I believe we have a lot of values in common and think he would have a positive impact on the Valley.” — Stephanie McGowan, Councillor, Town of Comox



Election day is Saturday, Nov. 27 at Comox Recreation Centre

Advance voting will take place on Nov. 17, 20 and 24 at the Genoa Sail building in Marina Park

Mail-in ballots are available here




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Judy Johnson: an advocate for common sense, human power in government

Judy Johnson: an advocate for common sense, human power in government

Judy Johnson wants to make downtown Comox more lively, invest in more activities for youth  |  George Le Masurier photo

Judy Johnson: an advocate for common sense, human power in government


Judy Johnson wants to build more human power into the Town of Comox.

The North Island College English instructor is running for the open council seat vacated by Partick McKenna, who recently relocated to Nova Scotia, because she would bring a different way of thinking to the table. An approach she characterizes as common sense and pragmatism.

Comox is holding a by-election to fill the seat on Saturday, Nov. 27.

“For example, not cutting down all the trees when making a dog park at the former Comox Elementary School site,” she told Decafnation.

Or, spending roughly $80,000 on a new traffic calming project.

“Speeding in Comox? Nobody I know is concerned about speeding. Rather see that money go elsewhere,” she said. “It’s not an accurate reflection of citizens’ concerns.”

Instead, Johnson would focus on mobilizing real people to do paid or volunteer jobs that create interactions with other people and save taxpayer dollars to spend on more important things.

“We can use the time and the brains and the talents and the interest of our citizens — not to mention their hands and bodies –to build and maintain parts of the town,” she told Decafnation.



Johnson says there is no single issue driving her candidacy and she hesitates to identify any top priorities she would champion as a council member because “I won’t make promises I can’t keep.”

She is not actively campaigning for the by-election. No door knocking or soliciting concerns from citizens. She doesn’t want to have to answer questions about matters that she hasn’t been fully briefed on or that she will have no influence on if elected to council.

“I would be at the table to offer a different perspective, not just to make decisions based on budget and infrastructure,” she said. “I’m an efficient and intelligent woman who can take information and analyze it quickly to come up with creative solutions.”

She believes the town needs to find a unique identity and a purpose.

“We’ve always been known as a bedroom community to Courtenay, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said.

She admires the Village of Cumberland’s Community Forest project and sees it as a good example of what the Town of Comox needs. She sees the village’s mountain biking, trail building and fundraising as something for all ages of people to get involved with.

“It engages them and gives them a purpose. It creates a healthy community,” she said.

Johnson wonders if the community project plan created by Gordon Olson of the Mack Laing Heritage Society to restore Shakesides could be that project in Comox or at least a model for future community projects utilizing volunteers.

“Building human power means treating people differently and thinking differently, and getting people into places that create an environment where people work together,” she said.

She’s wondered why the town doesn’t use real people, paid or volunteers, to sweep the streets rather than a mechanical sweeper. People would chat with their neighbors and create connections. Schools have volunteerism programs that the town could draw on, or it could be a summer youth job creator.

Johnson has also noticed the town repaints road lines and fire hydrants annually.

So, she asks, why not have a contest or approach a painter to decorate the fire hydrants for that year in exchange for the glory and the free publicity?

“Add some more cost-saving projects that are fun for the doers and the spectators and there’s the money to spend on the less fun but necessary infrastructure,” she said.

Johnson recognizes the tension created by competing interests in council decisions.

The town has signaled that it will spend more in the next five years to repair or replace aging infrastructure to prevent disasters like the recent spill of raw sewage into Brooklyn Creek.

“But I hate to think that all of our hopes and dreams are going into fixing the sewers,” she said.



Johnson would like the town to spend more on programs and amenities for young people.

She is concerned that Comox youth have “nothing to do that is fun or purposeful.” She points out that the town doesn’t have a youth centre with youth programs, a skate park or anywhere they can just hang out.

“They’re bored to death,” she said. “Kids are looking for something to do. They are looking for excitement. Without any, some will fill that vacuum with drugs.”

Her daughter, Gala, died of fentanyl poisoning in the fall of 2018 at the age of 23. And sadly that isn’t an uncommon occurrence. She says six of her daughter’s Highland High School classmates have also died from drug-related causes.



Johnson questions why the Comox Town Council has so many in-camera meetings. Secrecy is patronizing, she says, because it sends the message that only the councillors know best so there’s no reason to let the public engage.

And when the council makes some wrong decisions (“and they will because they are human”), it’s best to be forthright about problems, she says. Explain what went wrong, how it will be fixed and reassure people that it won’t happen again.

“Anyone can say “I’m sorry” but in this apologist culture, the words have lost their meaning,” she says. “Full disclosure is the best form of apology.”

And finally, Johnson says that she’s blissfully ignorant about how much time it takes to fulfill council responsibilities.

“It’s like having kids,” she said. If you knew ahead how much time that takes, you’d never do it.”












Age 57. Came to the Comox Valley at age 10 with her parents in 1974

Attended Tsolum Elementary, Courtenay Jr. and St. Michael’s.

Earned a BA and MA in English and a B.Ed in Secondary Teaching from the University of British Columbia

Taught English at Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek

Joined faculty of North Island College in 1998.



Election day is Saturday, Nov. 27 at Comox Recreation Centre

Advance voting will take place on Nov. 17, 20 and 24 at the Genoa Sail building in Marina Park

Mail-in ballots are available here




Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

Steve Blacklock says Comox needs more housing, quicker to address affordability issues

Steve Blacklock says Comox needs more housing, quicker to address affordability issues

Steve Blacklock considers housing affordability the top priority for Comox Council  |  George Le Masurier photo

Steve Blacklock says Comox needs more housing, quicker to address affordability issues


Steve Blacklock says he was always going to run for council. It was just a matter of when.

“I thought about it four years ago and had my eye on next October until this by-election opportunity came up,” he told Decafnation.

Comox will hold a by-election on Saturday, Nov. 27 to fill the seat vacated by Partick McKenna, who recently relocated to Nova Scotia.

Blacklock filed nomination papers on Oct. 19 for the open council seat “to make a difference” in the community where he was born and raised.

“I’m a community person, a small-town guy with an eight-year-old daughter, so I’m invested in the next generation and beyond,” he said. “I would hope anyone who really knows me would support me. I’ve been meeting people who like what I stand for, which is simply a love of Comox.”

He envisions continued growth for the town and believes he can help manage it properly. And he says that growth is already shifting the town’s demographics toward a younger population.

“I see the future of Comox like trying to squeeze an orange through a straw. What’s on the other side without the post-war generation?” he said.



Blacklock’s prediction of the town’s growth meshes with his career in property valuations.

After earning a certificate in Real Property Valuation at UBC he worked for BC Assessments before returning to the Comox Valley in 2006 to join Jackson and Associates doing a wide range of property valuation and consulting work specializing on the Powell River and Sunshine Coast areas.

So it’s no surprise that he sees housing affordability as the top issue confronting the Town of Comox and its residents.

“This is a huge issue that stretches beyond the purview of the Comox Council,” he said. “But the solution is to create more supply and that’s something the council has the ability to affect.”

He believes the town should streamline its development application process and make clearer rules around infill and rezoning.

“We need more housing and quicker,” he said.

He would also like to see the town set clear minimums and maximums on housing density and says the developers he knows would like that, too.

“Why is every rezoning application an open-ended negotiation?” he said.

Blacklock points to the Aspen Road development where the town made a trade-off to allow the developer to add more density in exchange for including some below-market units and 26 daycare spaces.

“If I had been on council, I would have negotiated for more amenities from the developer before giving more density,” he said.

He notes that there are “zero” vacant lots for sale in the town and that it has taken 15 years to approve the development of Northeast Comox due to issues around stormwater runoff. But now, he says, the Northeast properties are zoned R1.1 that requires minimum lot sizes of 0.16 acres (between one-eighth and one-quarter acres).

“That’s too big,” Blacklock says. “Comox and other communities can no longer afford to allow large houses on large lots. We need more density than that.”

He wonders how municipalities went from post-war bungalows to 3,500 square-foot houses for two or three people. Instead, he supports the land use framework promoted by Smart Growth BC.

And while the “die is cast” for development of the Northeast Woods and the loss of some trails because it was long ago included in the town’s urban growth area — “we can’t claw that back” — he says the Town Council can still control the size of the lots and housing on them.

He says the council should increase the density in the Northeast Woods to as many units as possible and require those developing the area to include an integrated trail network and other outdoor recreation amenities.



Blacklock says his second top priority is to promote more outdoor recreational opportunities for young people.

Lamenting that so many kids today seemed locked into a digital world, he would like to encourage more outdoor opportunities, such as a skate park or bike park. He says there was a skate park proposed many years ago and never built at the corner of Aspen and Bolt.

He has also heard from senior citizens about a need for more daytime activities, such as a larger seniors center.

He’s also concerned about the status of garbage removal and recycling within the town.

“Why can’t our waste removal contractor stick to a regular schedule with on-time pick up on the same day each week?, He told Decafnation. “It’s clear our residents need a new purpose-built recycling center to bring their recycling and organic waste to.”

When asked about the Mack Laing trust agreement controversy, Blacklock says he was told not to comment on the issue. When asked who told him that, he said he believed it was Comox Chief Administrative Officer Jordan Wall.

He pointed out he has not been privy to in-camera council discussions or discussions with town staff on this long-running controversy.



Blacklock says the next term for Comox elected officials is particularly important because it will include updating the town’s Official Community Plan and participating in a similar update of the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).

“I want to help reach people who don’t normally engage in these kinds of policy processes,” he said. “Otherwise the agenda gets driven by a small number of the most passionate people. We are all in this together. We need to hear from every citizen.”

He points to conflicts that exist within the RGS between current zoning and the kind of smart growth we need in the future. An example of that type of conflict was highlighted over 3L Developments unsuccessful Riverwood subdivision proposal.

“3L could develop their land according to existing zoning (10-acre residential lots), but that isn’t the kind of housing we want,” he said. “But we denied their greater density proposal because it wasn’t identified as one of the three future settlement expansion areas.”

And while Blacklock favors protecting the Stotan Falls river area, he acknowledges that sprawl is not efficient growth.



Blacklock says he finally decided to run in the Nov. 27 by-election after hearing about the Oct. 12 rally by a local group calling itself the Comox Greens, where BC Green Party leader Sonia Fustenneau spoke on behalf of candidate Jonathan Kerr.

“I fundamentally oppose party politics at the municipal council table,” he told Decafnation. “The Comox Greens is a registered elector organization and has sponsored their star candidate. I think our town deserves better.”

Asked about his own endorsements, Blacklock said there is no organized group supporting him. He said former mayor Paul Ives and current councillor Ken Grant are supporting him and that former council member Patti Fletcher has endorsed him.

“But I believe I would have their support anyway just because I’m a native son, a community person, not some doctor from Ontario,” he said.

Blacklock said he “would like to think or at least hope” that some of the current council members would have endorsed him if they had known he was running before endorsing Jonathan Kerr.



Blacklock was born and raised in the Comox Valley and graduated from Highland High School. He is married and has an eight-year-old daughter.

He’s a charter member and current fundraising director of the Rotary Club of the Comox Valley, and an active volunteer with the We Can Shelter Society, Kidsport and Habitat4Humanity. And he’s a member of the Comox Valley Road (and Trail) Runners, Comox Valley Run to Beer Club, CV Rapids Junior Rugby and the Glacier Greens Golf Club.

In his professional life, Blacklock is a national board member of the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) and a past president of the BC Association of the AIC.










Age 46. Born and raised in the Comox Valley. Attended Highland High School, class of 1993

BA in Administration and Urban Geography from Simon Fraser University. Certificate in Real Property Valuation from University of British Columbia

Previously worked for Deloitte and Touche and BC Assessment. Currently employed at Jackson and Associates in Courtenay.


“Steve Blacklock would bring a dynamic voice to Comox town council. Steve thinks for himself, and with measured thought and consideration is not afraid to speak his mind. Steve has what it takes.” — former Comox council member Patti Fletcher”

“Sometimes the right person comes around just at the right time, and I’m confident Steve would be an outstanding Councillor for the Town of Comox. I don’t know anyone else in the valley who is more plugged into the community, gives his time generously, and knows what makes it tick. Comox is changing in front of our eyes, and I believe Steve has the dedication, passion and unique ability to make everyone’s voice heard at the table.” Chris Morrison, co-owner, Church St. Taphouse

“I have known Steve Blacklock for over 30 years in the Comox Valley and strongly endorse his candidacy as a councillor for the Comox town council. Steve has a deep understanding of the issue and challenges facing this community. What he brings to the table is a high level of integrity, a devotion to community service and good honest down-to-earth common sense. I cannot think of a more ideal candidate for this position.” — Dr. Chris Bellamy, physician



Election day is Saturday, Nov. 27 at Comox Recreation Centre

Advance voting will take place on Nov. 17, 20 and 24 at the Genoa Sail building in Marina Park

Mail-in ballots are available here




Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.