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.
City of Courtenay
Candidates in 2022
One mayor and six councillors to be elected
Incumbent — Bob Wells
Challengers — Erik Eriksson, Aaron Dowker
Incumbents — Doug Hillian, David Frisch, Melanie McCollum, Will Cole-Hamilton, Wendy Morin, Mano Theos
Challengers — Phil Adams, Steffan Chmuryk, Brennan Day, Michael Gilbert, Evan Jolicoeur, Jin Lin, Lyndsey Northcott, Deana Simkin, Starr Winchester
Mayor candidate Aaron Dowker and council candidates Phil Adams, Michael Gilbert, Jin Lin and Deana Simkin 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?
In early February 2020 I reached out to our Medical Health Officer and learned that the COVID-19 Global Pandemic was nearly a certainty. I worked with City Staff to ensure we were as prepared as possible. When the Public Health Orders were issued, I had to make the difficult decision to cancel the Volunteer Fire Department Annual Dinner as I did not want our First Responders being exposed to undue harm. I made the call to close playgrounds until we knew what the risks were of children being exposed to COVID-19 on surfaces.
I used my social media reach to encourage people to stay home if possible, to wash their hands frequently, to wear masks when out in public and to call the hotline if they were experiencing symptoms. I encouraged people to get vaccinated when vaccines were available. My message was picked up by local and provincial media. I kept the message upbeat and positive, making sure people know the risks but trying to inspire them to make the right decision rather than force them.
I would do it again as I believe as Mayor the health and safety of our citizens is a top priority.
Yes. It’s our duty as Civic leaders to uphold the law and follow the advice of experts.
I would do the same thing that I did when COVID emerged
- Listen to the guidelines and mandates issued by Dr. Teresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer of BC, who speak for the governments of BC and for Canada, and work to ensure that City staff stay safe and that all guidelines and mandates are followed in all city operations
- Follow suggested guidelines and mandates myself and encourage others to do so
- Ensure that the City works with vulnerable populations, nonprofits, and local businesses to support their efforts to follow guidelines and mandates
- Make use of social media to share information on public health and safety, post my own vaccinations and encourage others to follow suit
The COVID pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge to all of us, in our daily lives and in governance as well. There is no handbook for best practices in dealing with a global pandemic. Under the circumstances, I believe higher governments have utilized the expertise of scientists, physicians, and infectious disease specialists in the best way possible.
In the event of another pandemic, I would support the views and orders of those with the expertise and would encourage others to do the same. I would also continue to use my role to provide feedback to higher government. As an example, during COVID, food security was not acknowledged as part of emergency management. No resources were allotted and no organized plan was made regarding food supply change interruptions. I and other local government folks pushed for this to be recognized and included in future planning and resources.
Yes. During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, local leaders received regular briefings from Island Health officials and served as conduits to their community networks. We had the opportunity to ask questions and clarify expectations, and to satisfy ourselves in the veracity of information coming from hard-working and dedicated public health personnel.
Decisions were made related to maintaining City services, staff and citizen safety, facility closures and a multitude of issues that arose as we strived to cope with the uncertainty and risk impacting us in our own families and as a community.
It was vital that, as community leaders, we listened to expert advice and both modelled and messaged appropriate practices to keep people safe. This was done in the face of a barrage of misinformation from some in the community who contested public health orders. I felt it important to respond to all who contacted me with dissenting views, respectfully disagreeing with their conspiracy theories and emphasizing the city’s duty to follow the advice of our health experts and obey the law.
While it is important to employ critical thinking to new challenges that arise, I would take a similar approach to a new pandemic.
Yes I would support provincial and federal public health orders.
Rather than focus on what if’s and hypothetical situations. I’m investing my energy on rebuilding now that COVID is behind us. Offering people and businesses my support to ensure opportunities to live well, stay fit enjoy the success of their small businesses and thrive. When any issues arise I weigh the merits and best approach needed for a optimal outcomes.
Although the likelihood of a newer more harmful variant of COVID is unlikely, we are living in a world that will increasingly experience other new health pandemics. With worsening impacts of climate change, bio habitat loss, globalization and population growth there is an important role in preparing our communities for the resulting health impacts, including communicable diseases.
As a Registered Nurse, mental health clinician, health researcher, government administrator and health care service provider and having worked in public health, I believe there is an important role for leaders to build trust, role model healthy inclusive behavior, bring community members together, and ensure that everyone is heard and supported.
I would support government policies, including public health measures, that protect and safeguard the health and well-being (physical, mental, emotional) of our seniors, medically vulnerable, children and others while ensuring that we mitigate harms to marginalized communities.
In the event that a new dangerous variant of the COVID virus emerges or if a new pandemic arises I would use my position as a civic leader to support federal and provincial public health orders and encourage others to do likewise.
I think we’re through the worst of the pandemic. That said, the impacts that we have all experienced personally, and professionally, shouldn’t be ignored. People are obviously struggling, and many people are angry about the rules that were imposed.
I respect individual rights, but I am not going to express my concerns about public health policy while waiting to see a nurse or in line at the pub. Business owners/employees and medical staff are victims as well, and they have been subject to entirely too much vitriol for following rules that were imposed on them.
If there is any advice I could offer, it is to live in the moment, right now, and to be grateful that life is back to normal. I hope this continues, and I hope we can work together to ensure the stability of our healthcare system.
Yes, as should all elected officials. Encouragement rather than division should be the mantra.
I would not use my position as a civic leader to either encourage or discourage anyone from getting a vaccine. I feel this is a personal decision.
2. Do you support the Regional Growth Strategy as it’s currently written? In particular, do you support its theme to funnel 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 fully support the Regional Growth Strategy as a win-win-win:
1. It supports K’ómoks First Nation to realize their own economic opportunities in their Treaty Settlement Lands
2. It is better for the environment by reducing urban sprawl, deforestation and traffic
3. It makes the most sense economically as it costs so much more to build water and sewer pipes to remote areas, and the lifetime costs are also more for operations and maintenance. This helps keep taxes and the cost per unit lower.
I think it is time for a review of the Regional Growth Strategy to see if people fell it is still applicable. I would like to bridge the rural-urban divide. You are asking urban people whether they want to keep rural as rural as possible. And you are asking rural people if all new growth should be crammed into the City.
At this time, I am of the opinion that the node structure needs to be redrawn. I look forward to a review to see how the people of the Valley feel about the Regional Growth Strategy in light of the changes that have occurred in the Valley over the last 10 years.
Yes, I support the RGS in its current form. New growth should occur within the municipalities and the growth nodes identified in the RSG. I do not see a need to add any new growth nodes.
I do support the Regional Growth Strategy and its theme of managing urban development. While the RGS encompasses many diverse regional needs from water filtration to flood mapping to parks, it also provides a coherent blueprint for growth in our beautiful valley. Keeping growth within the existing urban boundaries is a policy of our Official Community Plan, and it is a policy I fully support.
With significant development planned in the Union Bay area, I do not favour adding any further settlement nodes until those developments are established. We treasure this valley because of its mountains, forests, rivers, and the rich farmland which feeds many families in our communities. The RGS seeks to find a balance between the need for more housing, and preserving the beauty, bounty and biodiversity that surrounds us.
Some aspects of the Regional Growth Strategy I do support. Making sure housing is supporting the community and all demographics is important. I do support its theme of funneling new growth into already defined urban areas. I believe we should also be building homes in the rural areas. We are in such housing crisis and it’s critical for our community to have a safe place to live.
My approach to the RGS has three main goals: to protect taxpayers, to ensure we have a sustainable community, and to support changing demographics.
I support funneling new growth into defined boundaries, and not adding settlement nodes until the south lands development is underway. Creation and maintenance of infrastructure is costly. This cost increases the further out we develop. Climate change is creating additional challenges. GHG emissions in transportation are rising faster than in any other sector.
I think it’s important to note that although currently we have a larger percentage of seniors, millennials are the fastest growing generation and will surpass numbers of boomers by 2029. The RGS needs to reflect this shifting demographic. This age group (25 to 40) are more likely to utilize multi-modal transportation.
The food systems chapter also needs updating. The impacts of climate change and the pandemic have demonstrated the importance of food security and local food production. Over this term, much work has gone into the housing needs assessment and poverty reduction strategy, and this data will prove useful in the housing section. In conclusion,
I want to ensure that our community grows in a way that is fiscally responsible, equitable, and sustainable.
The Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) settled the long-simmering contentious issue of how the Comox Valley should develop, and whether our rural areas would be swallowed up by urban sprawl. I supported the Strategy and advocated infill development to both preserve the rural nature of the Valley and to address our need to upgrade aging infrastructure and avoid the costs of extending that infrastructure beyond established urban areas and the identified settlement nodes.
The next Regional District Board will need to decide if the RGS requires revision or not. It is important to have that debate, but my current approach remains in support of the existing strategy.
As stated in Courtenay’s newly adopted Official Community Plan, “Courtenay’s strategy for managing future growth is to strengthen several existing neighbourhood nodes and corridors across the city through intensification of a variety of land uses, increasing investment in active and transit modes of transportation and creation of vibrant urban spaces. This in turn will reduce development pressure outside of Courtenay’s boundary or the need to annex lands from the electoral areas into Courtenay jurisdiction”.
Yes, I support the Regional Growth Strategy as it’s currently written. The work I’ve supported to have done on Courtenay’s Official Community Plan directly supports smart growth principles and keeping our rural areas rural.
The regional growth plan is open for discussion. Housing solutions for affordability require larger pieces of land than municipalities have to offer. For instance a tiny home village or manufactured home park. The region district has land mass to accommodate such projects.
I am in support of the key themes – environmental stewardship, sustainable economy, food systems, health & wellness, complete & affordable communities, growth management, multi-modal transportation, and climate change – in the RGS to support addressing growth and community impacts.
I am supportive of preventing urban sprawl, while supporting increased community infrastructure (eg. services, roads, schools, etc.) in key settlement nodes. To meet our food security needs we need to protect what little left we have of our rural and agricultural lands. As the impacts of climate change become more extreme, we will need to continue to nurture and grow our protected ecosystems and natural habitats.
The current RGS was adopted in 2011 and as a government administrator and policy advisor, I know the importance of ensuring that plans and strategies are updated and revisited regularly. I would welcome an update to address ongoing and new challenges to our growing community.
Many development projects are underway in Courtenay and the CVRD and prior to adding further settlement nodes beyond the extensive development areas identified in the RGS or the Courtenay Official Community Plan, I am supportive of ensuring our community understands the impacts of the two southern CVRD (Area A) developments that are nearing completion.
I think that Courtenay can accommodate growth and I agree with the intent of the regional growth strategy. However, I believe that we should be honest about the consequences moving forward, because our existing road infrastructure is at its limits. In the near term, I believe that some of the traffic challenges that we are experiencing can be addressed with traffic pattern changes, but the reality is that traffic in the core will become unmanageable if we do not begin to develop a coherent and aggressive strategy.
As for the greater question of regional growth, I am of two minds. I believe that multi-modal regional planning is ideal for livability, and most closely corresponds to the current Cumberland-Courtenay-Comox model that we know so well. However, if we rely on cars exclusively, then our infrastructure will choke as a result. I want to see more housing constructed, particularly for first time home buyers and renters, but at this time there are no easy answers to the consequences that will arise.
The developments in Union Bay will create traffic challenges for years to come, particularly if each person who lives there will commute to/from Courtenay each day. For this form of development to continue, there needs to be an element of self-sufficiency in these areas, so that transportation does not suffer from major bottlenecks.
No, it is important to revisit this document to ensure it is reflecting the current reality of the Comox Valley. It was written at a time that did not put much consideration on KFN land claims or the burgeoning population and current housing shortage. It is obviously important to balance both growth and keeping things rural, but that means updating this document to reflect today.
I think the time has come to review our Regional Growth Strategy with significant involvement from the other municipalities and the CVRD. So much has changed in the past 30 years. We have an affordable housing crisis that we are grappling with and we need land to provide more housing. Mt. Washington and Union Bay Estates do not have the infrastructure at this time to support adding housing to the level that we need. Furthermore, these communities are not easily accessible to those without cars.
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 deliberations?
I believe it is the responsibility of local government to take action to mitigate climate change and to always be looking for opportunities to lower GHG emissions from municipal operations.
I believe I have had the most impact by getting our Comox Strathcona Organics program approved which will eliminate the methane created by our solid waste. As Chair of the Comox Valley Regional District I was proud to have solar panels installed and further for the CVRD to host information sessions with Hakai Energy to get people using solar power and saving money through a bulk purchase.
The new regional district office has solar panels installed and all efforts were made to make the building energy efficient from dimmable LEDs to motion sensors that automagically turn off lights. Even the new Zamboni is electric at the Sports Centre.
The City of Courtenay has a purchasing policy to buy electric vehicles whenever possible as well as replacing gas powered equipment (leaf blowers etc.) with electric and has been upgrading the HVAC system and lights at the aging City Hall. There is discussion of upgrading our Transit Buses to electric as a pilot program which would be great to see.
Yes. All levels of government must act to address the climate crisis within the confines of what they control. At the local government level, the primary tools to address GHG emissions are land use policy, building codes and municipal operations and facilities.
I do believe that it is the responsibility of local governments to consider climate change in their decision making. Back in 2019 I brought forward the motion which stated that “climate change must be considered at every stage of the development of our new Official Community Plan.” Planning with climate change in mind is just common sense in local government today, which is why that resolution received a positive response from our Director of Planning, and passed unanimously.
Our OCP sets a course to reduce our emissions as a community by 45 percent. This goal is similar to the 50 percent goal of the CVRD and the 40 percent targets set by the governments of BC and Canada. This will help Courtenay keep in step with other levels of government and the programs and grants they are supporting.
To meet those targets we will need to make mitigation a factor in decision-making at a corporate and a community level. And we will continue in our planning to consider how best to adapt to the changing conditions that climate change will bring.
I 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, I believe it the responsibility of local governments to take action on climate change, and it should be a lens for decision-making. The City of Courtenay was an early adopter of the BC Climate Action Charter, signing on in 2007. Currently 187 of 190 local governments have adopted the Charter.
Local policies can have the most direct impact on reducing GHG emissions. Local citizens understand the urgency of climate action and have voiced support for this direction, particularly through the recent Official Community Plan (OCP) consultation process. The updated OCP is the first in Canada to have climate action as one of four core directions. Whether it’s a decision on a new piece of equipment, a rezoning application, or a city building reno, reducing emissions is a priority for deliberations.
With the often devastating effects of climate change we’ve experienced such as flooding, wildfires, heat domes, atmospheric rivers, and excessive snowfall, the time is now to do all we can to protect our community and citizens.
Action to address climate change is not only the city’s responsibility, it is our obligation as a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter since 2007. It is also, in my view, a moral obligation to our future generations.
The Climate Charter stipulates our agreement to take action to reduce emissions within municipal operations and community-wide, including the commitment to a compact and more energy efficient community.
The city adopted a Corporate Climate Action Strategy in 2009, identifying actions to reduce GHG emissions. More recently, Council has declared a climate emergency, renewed the Official Community Plan (OCP) with a focus on climate, initiated policy on divestment from fossil fuels, adopted a Flood Management Strategy, implemented bylaws on urban agriculture, stream protection and tree retention, taken action on air quality, worked regionally to implement organics composting and supported climate action as a strategic driver at the Regional District.
As we implement the OCP, climate change needs to inform all decisions, working towards the declared goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
Yes. It is all of our responsibility to strive to make changes that support climate change mitigation (reducing ghg’s) and adaptation (preparing for sea level rise). That is why I supported the use of a climate change lens while updating our Official Community Plan. As it happens, much climate change action improves people’s quality of life.
We as individuals can be good stewards and do our parts to lesson climate impacts. Also encourage others in a respectful manner.
Absolutely. Municipalities are responsible for over 50 percent of carbon emissions. We have a moral and ethical duty to act decisively to reduce the impacts of climate change. Local climate action is quicker and is responsive to our unique community needs. By managing climate risks now, we can protect the well-being, economic prosperity and lower the costs for all future generations.
As a young person, addressing runaway climate change is foundational to a liveable future. I will center the climate change crisis and its resulting impacts, on the economy, social fabric, and natural environment, in our local government planning and decision-making.
There are many areas where municipalities can address climate change, from transportation and renewable energy, to buildings, community infrastructure, to land use planning and waste management. Committing our corporate activities, programs and services to carbon neutrality would position our community as a climate leader.
I am committed to protecting our ecological assets, increasing green spaces and parks, expanding our climate emergency planning, supporting climate adaptation and mitigation, increasing food security, and bolstering watershed protection. We need a future-proof community that prioritizes the interconnectedness of a healthy environment, healthy economy and healthy people.
I do not believe we are in a position to tackle everything all at once. I want all city activities to be as close to zero carbon as possible, but I would not present this as an obstacle to performing necessary city tasks. If we can reduce methane emissions from the landfill or wastewater treatment, and if we can adopt electric vehicles for city work, then by all means we should.
But we cannot prevent ourselves from performing necessary work by overcomplicating each problem with new criteria. To me this method of addressing important problems creates a disincentive for addressing other critical challenges, such as housing or necessary infrastructure improvements.
Yes, so long as they are measurable and cost effective. Courtenay’s current emissions are far below the provincial average, so it is important we are getting a good return on any climate change focussed initiatives.
Local councils and the Comox Valley Regional District have already been taking these actions. If elected, I would support the option of providing greener, cleaner initiatives if they are feasible, according to our budget.