Rural area candidates discuss various regional issues

Rural area candidates discuss various regional issues

The last in a series of in-depth voter information pages published today. 

dropcap]R[/dropcap]ural area candidates seeking to represent their electoral areas on the Comox Valley Regional District board answered a series of questions for a page that published today on this website. It’s the last in a series of pages giving candidates the opportunity to share their thoughts on election issues in their own words. Decafnation has previously published Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland candidate pages this week. 

Two of the electoral area candidates, Ron Nichol in Area B and Jay Oddleifson in Area C, chose not to respond.

You can jump to the Election 2018/Rural candidates’ page by clicking this link. The page is also available from the main menu: topics – politics – Cumberland Candidates Respond, or by clicking one the pages at the top of Decafnation’s home page.

Cumberland candidates talk about the issues

Cumberland mayor and council candidates competing in the Oct. 20 municipal elections discuss a variety of topics in a page published today on this website. It’s the third in a series of pages giving candidates the opportunity to share their thoughts on election issues in their own words. Decafnation has previously published Courtenay and Comox candidate pages this week. A page devoted to rural regional district directors will publish tomorrow.

Only one council candidate, Eric Krejci, chose not to respond.

You can jump to the Election 2018/Cumberland candidates’ page by clicking this link. The page is also available from the main menu: topics – politics – Cumberland Candidates Respond, or by clicking one the pages at the top of Decafnation’s home page.

Comox candidates explain their positions on a variety of issues

Candidates for Comox Town Council and mayor explain their positions about a variety of topics in a page published today on this website. It’s the second in a series of pages giving candidates the opportunity to share their thoughts on election issues in their own words. A Courtenay candidate page published yesterday.

Both mayoralty candidates, Russ Arnott and Tom Diamond, responded to the survey. But not all council candidates responded, just the new challengers. Incumbents Maureen Swift and Ken Grant declined to respond. 

You can jump to the Election 2018/Comox candidates’ page by clicking this link. The page is also available from the main menu: topics – politics – Comox Candidates Respond.

Courtenay candidates take on taxes and other issues

What do the 16 candidates for Courtenay City Council and the four candidates for mayor think about tax rates, air quality and amalgamation?

In the first in a series of four special Election 2018 pages published today on Decafnation, the candidates have shared their thoughts and positions on these and a variety of other topics in their own words.

Decafnation invited candidates to respond to nine questions and allowed them up to 500 words to answer each question. Some chose to respond in a long and detailed fashion, while others opted for brevity. Readers can easily compare the candidates as their responses are sorted by the questions and alphabetically by the candidates’ last names.

Readers will have to weigh the significance of the absence of four candidates. Two mayoralty candidates, Erik Eriksson and incumbent Larry Jangula, chose not to respond, as did council candidates Tom Grant and Jin Lin.

All other candidates graciously responded with thoughtful responses — some candidates said they spent considerable time on the project — in order to help you become a more informed voter.

You can jump to the Election 2018/Courtenay candidates’ page by clicking this link. The page is also available from the main menu: topics – politics -Courtenay Candidates Respond.

Similar pages featuring Comox, Cumberland and regional electoral area candidates will publish later this week.

And don’t forget to vote Oct. 20.


Ron Freeman sees new Comox businesses, low taxes

Ron Freeman sees new Comox businesses, low taxes

Ron Freeman, a former pastor and Habitat board member, wants to attract young families and a greater variety of new businesses to Comox, meanwhile keeping taxes as low as possible


Comox Town Council candidate Ron Freeman hopes to look back on his first term in four years and see that he accomplished his two main goals: to keep taxes low and continue revitalizing the downtown core.

“Fiscal responsibility is the key,” he told Decafnation. “People in Comox don’t complain about taxes because the service is good, especially snow removal.”

Freeman, a retired pastor who now works part-time as a commissionaire at CFB Comox, says a two-plus percent tax increase each year would be acceptable.

“But we couldn’t go lower than that and keep the services people are expecting,” he said.

Freeman says he wants to attract new businesses to Comox to broaden the appeal of the town’s business district. He would consider tax incentives to encourage commercial investment.

“We need to send the message that we’re open for business, and make it easy for them,” he said.

To get that ball rolling, Freeman would involve citizens and current business owners to create a strategic plan for attracting new businesses. The plan would lay out how to go about it and what types of new businesses people want in Comox.

“For example, why do I have to go to Courtenay to buy shoes?” he said.

Freeman thinks “touristy type” businesses would succeed on the waterfront, such as paddle board and small boat rentals, and electric bicycle rentals. And he would like to add a jazz festival into the town’s summer events calendar.

But Comox residents would have to support the local businesses, so the “streets don’t roll up at 6 pm.” He envisions some type of education program and council members acting as ambassadors.

The candidate also hopes to help the town attract young families. Keeping down the cost of housing would be key, he says, but he also want to provide more amenities for the younger teen age group, like a drop-in centre, such as The Link in Courtenay.

Freeman was one of the original board members of the Comox Valley Habitat for Humanity, and he’s concerned about the affordability of housing in Comox. He says allowing more secondary suites has helped, but he’d like to find other solutions.

He supports homeowner vacation rentals because it helps people afford their mortgage and brings new people to Comox and “keeps them circulating through town.” Someone he knows had vacationers from France who now hope to move here and start a business.

Freeman moved to the Valley in 1999 from Sidney. He came to pastor at the Living Hope Christian Fellowship church, that had a membership of four couples and a single person when he arrived. When he retired in 2013, the church had grown to 160 members.

He has a bachelor of theology from a seminary in Regina, Sask.

On the subject of Shakesides, the heritage home of naturalist Hamilton Mack Laing, which the town wants to take down and replace with a viewing stand, Freeman says that’s the best that can be done at this point. He has talked with current council members about the issue, but not anyone from the Mack Laing Heritage Society.

He wants voters to know he’s “approachable, and I’m open and honest.”

“We all have things we’re passionate about, but I like the idea that when all is said, something gets done,” he said. “We’re all different, we all have a place and we must respect each other.”

Freeman says he would bring “respectful dialogue” to a seat on the town council.


Candidates & Decafnation collaborate to inform voters

Candidates & Decafnation collaborate to inform voters

Your vote on Oct. 20 does more than elect someone to a municipal council. It shapes the future of your community. Our special pages this week will help you make more informed choices


Comox Valley voters will do more than choose their mayors, municipal council members and rural area representatives in a little more than two weeks. By selecting specific candidates voters will indirectly influence policy, and shape the direction of their communities for the next four years.

It’s a heavy burden on those who cast ballots. And it should not be done in haste or based on popularity, flashy signs or any criteria other than an informed choice of who best mirrors each voter’s values and vision.

But with so many new candidates running for office this year, how you know them well enough to earn that precious X on your ballot?

Candidates are knocking on doors and speaking at several all-candidates meetings closer to Election Day. But that’s not enough.

Decafnation has conducted in-depth interviews with as many candidates as possible, dating back to a year ago when the first candidate announced he would contend for the Courtenay mayor’s chair. And we have more profiles to publish this week. You can find them all on our Elections 2018 page. But that’s still no enough.

Decafnation has gone a step further. We have invited all candidates to engage in a comprehensive Question-and-Answer dialogue on a wide range of topics and given them considerable space (500 words) to discuss each question.

We framed most of our questions broadly, so candidates would could explain how they would approach issues at the policy or legislative level. We think the responses show which candidates have a strong vision and which do not, which candidates have a deep understanding of the bigger picture and which candidates have the depth and strength to lead us through the next four years.

Almost all the candidates in Cumberland, Courtenay, Comox and the regional district’s electoral areas participated. You might find it interesting to note which candidates chose not to participate.

We have prepared special pages on Decafnation that feature all the candidates’ responses sorted by the questions and alphabetically by the candidates’ last names. that makes it easy to compare your municipality’s candidates and factor their responses into your decision-making.

The Courtenay page will roll out first, later today (Oct. 2), followed by Comox on Wednesday, rural regional directors on Thursday and Cumberland on Friday.

The candidates have graciously collaborated with Decafnation to help you become a more informed voter. We hope you find the pages useful.

And then, vote.

Advance polls open on Oct. 10 and Oct. 17, but also on other dates in selected places. Check the home page of Decafnation for a complete listing of where and when to vote early, and beat the rush (we hope) on Election Day.


Alex Bissinger campaigns with no strings attached

Alex Bissinger campaigns with no strings attached

CFB Comox Engineering Officer Alex Bissinger would focus on better planning, maintaining infrastructure and create more activity opportunities for young people in a town that has usually catered to seniors. She would add a voice for sustainability and not be fooled by consultant’s reports


Complex technical reports from staff and consultants often make municipal councillors eyes glaze over, but not Comox Council candidate Alex Bissinger. Her eyes light up.

Bissinger, 31, has a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Ottawa and heads up the engineering department at CFB Comox. She’s responsible for planning and maintaining the 19 Wing’s infrastructure, and directs a staff of 14 project managers, drafters, GIS technologists and procurement employees.

She took the civilian post as CFB’s Engineering Officer a year ago, a post the base had left vacant for 10 years. Since moving to the Valley seven years ago, Bissinger worked for the crown corporation Defence Construction Canada before taking her new job.

Bissinger recently purchased a house in Comox, where she hopes to raise children someday. She volunteers as an English tutor (she’s fluent in French having lived in Montreal) and recently joined the Valley’s newest Rotary club, “the young one.”

“I live off adrenaline. I enjoy being busy,” she told Decafnation.

Bissinger describes herself as approachable, but pragmatic. As an engineer, she’s trained as a problem solver.

“I’ll know what I’m reading in the studies and reports,” she said. “Nobody will pull the wool over my eyes.”

FURTHER READING: For more interviews with candidates, go to our Elections 2018 page

She’s attracted to elected office because she can make a contribution to small community decisions.

For example, Bissinger wonders why the town didn’t include bike lanes in the recent redevelopment of Robb Avenue or along Lazo Road at Point Holmes.

“There could have been a more engineered solution, something was missed or forgotten,” she said. “There’s a few extra things like that we could do to make the community better.”

While Bissinger would focus on planning and maintaining the town’s infrastructure for core services, she would also add a voice for considering sustainability.

She was impressed that Campbell River employs a Sustainability and Long Range Planning Manager, who spoke at the recent Sustainability Forum, and thinks that could be a good idea for Comox.

Bissinger is going on a wheelchair tour of the town next week to experience first-hand the challenges faced by people with mobility issues. She hopes to formulate some ideas that she can take to council.

Bissinger would also like to create more activities for teenagers in Comox.

“The town has kind of catered to seniors,” she said. “There’s not much for the teen group.”

She would like to see a skate park and a pump or jump park.

Bissinger would try to address the affordable housing issue in Comox in a variety of ways.

She would make the process of creating a coach house less technical and more straight forward. She would launch an education program for homeowners to create basement suites: a step-by-step guide and a Landlord 101 workshop.

But she would also make Comox more attractive to builders and investors by eliminating unreasonable demands in the permitting process, such as “changing the goal posts,” requiring extra studies after plans have been approved and other delays.

At the same time, Bissinger wants to protect what ALR land exists within the town’s boundaries, and encourage more local food production.

“We should have community gardens, especially somewhere downtown,” she said. “Gardening is good therapy for seniors and recreation for people living in condos; it can bring young and old people together.”

Bissinger would also like the council to start monthly public access sessions, where council members can just chat with people.

“I love to talk with people,” she said.

Bissinger said voters will get what they see with her.

“I come with no influences. No strings attached,” she said.

Roger Kishi adds a different view to local government

Roger Kishi adds a different view to local government

Roger Kishi, a Japanese-Canadian directing housing programs for urban Aboriginal people in the Comox Valley, hopes to continue his passion for affordable housing in Cumberland and across the region. And he wants to finish the village’s several major infrastructure projects


Roger Kishi has a passion for affordable housing. It’s his day job as the director of Homeless & Housing Programs for the Wachiay Friendship Centre, and one of his main areas of focus for a third term on the Cumberland Village Council.

Since moving to the Comox Valley in 2000 from North Vancouver, Kishi has worked at Wachiay, which provides supports and services to the urban Aboriginal population.

Kishi himself is a fourth generation Japanese-Canadian, and currently the only non-caucasian elected official in the Comox Valley. He hopes voters will elect other candidates of diverse ethnicity this year.

“We bring a different perspective to local government,” he told Decafnation.

Kishi enjoys the complexity of issues that a council member must understand and handle, and making an overall contribution to how the community functions.

He’s proud of initiating the Comox Valley’s only off-leash dog park in his first term. It’s not only well used by people from around the Valley, but it’s now home to pet-related events.

And the village has added nearby skate and jump parks, all part of the parks master plan.

FURTHER READING: For more interviews with candidates, go to our Elections 2018 page

He points to other accomplishments with his council colleagues like the redevelopment of six blocks of Dunsmuir Avenue, part of a larger project to separate the village’s stormwater and sewer systems.

He notes the village’s gateway improvements that include roadside landscaping and treed medians. It was funded by the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste committee because Cumberland hosts the region’s main landfill and recycling location, which impacts roads and other infrastructure.

Kishi is particularly pleased with the successful outcomes of a village initiative to install water meters at every household, and at no cost. It was paid for by provincial grants.

He said the meters were not a money grab, but a conservation measure. They have pinpointed leaks in the system that were wasting immense quantities of water in some cases and simply made people aware of their consumption.

“Since the meters have been installed, our water consumption has gone down 40 percent,” he said. “That’s a success for our long-range water plans; we now have the capacity to expand.”

The village has recently added UV treatment to its drinking water, twinned pipes from its dams and drilled an auxiliary well to supplement its water security.

Kishi said villagers like the independence of having their own water system.

“It’s part of our historical nature: We look after our own,” he said.

The village also faces another large infrastructure project over the next four years: it’s wastewater treatment plant. The Ministry of the Environment has ordered the village to provide a higher level of treatment or face potentially large fines.

Kishi said council hopes to fund a large portion of the $9 million project with grants, but also needs voter approval from a referendum on the Cumberland ballot this fall to borrow $4.4 million to get construction underway.

“We have no choice,” he said. “The treatment plant has to be upgraded and we will have to borrow money.”

Kishi said the village has an affordable housing plan, they just have to implement it now.

Council can control how a development is done by using zoning and through housing agreements. In the latter case, for example, the village may trade variances for parking or setbacks the developer wants for a greater number of units priced at, say, 20 percent below market value.

“With housing agreements, we can make sure there is a mix of housing, that it’s not all single family houses,” he said.

Kishi said the Stoneleigh Estates development, currently underway in Coal Valley Estates, will provide 84 units of multi-family housing, which was entirely sold out in pre-construction sales.

Kishi said the village is building capacity to deal with its growth issues.

They have recently hired a manager of development services, a new senior planner and an economic development officer on a fixed term contract. His job is develop a plan to sustain the community’s economic future, and is looking at creating industrial lands.

In his day job at Wachiay, Kishi has been doggedly working for 10 years to build Braidwood in Courtenay, which will offer 35 units, 28 of which are bachelor suites that will rent either at the income assistance level of $375 per month or at 10 percent below market rate. The other six are one-bedroom units.

Wachiay and its partner M’akola Development Services, of which Kishi is also a board member, were the only responders to a Courtenay RFP willing to take a risk on building Braidwood.

“I’m sticking it out to make sure we get people into Braidwood,” he said.