Town of Comox Municipal Candidates: Election 2018

On Oct. 20, Comox voters will choose a Mayor and six Town Council members from the two mayoralty candidates and six council candidates. Only two council incumbents are seeking re-election. Decafnation asked the candidates to respond to 10 questions that might help voters decide how to cast their ballots. Here are their responses, sorted by the questions and alphabetically by candidates’ last names. Decafnation did not edit the responses, except for length. Not all candidates chose to respond.

?Given that Comox’s taxation rate has risen faster than the cost of living over the last two years, what is your position on tax increases going forward?

Candidates for Mayor

Tom Diamond and Russ Arnott

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Recently Comox has shown a downward trend on taxation.  It is my desire to have Comox continue keeping taxation low and to have Town operations run as efficiently as possible.

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

I would like to lower taxes dramatically as part of a larger systemic effort to make life more affordable for middle and lower income earners, for seniors, families and singles in Comox. Lower taxes are an important start, but I encourage us to think outside the “Comox box”. We can raise our standard of living substantially by combining lower taxes with better services, more amenities, more affordable housing and other solutions that address the complex problem of making life more affordable and fulfilling. Affordable middle and lower income living is rapidly disappearing across Canada and other countries. Towns who are turning the affordability tide apply very creative whole systems thinking, which is essential. 

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

Going forward I would want to ensure that taxes aren’t increasing any faster than the cost of living. Comox is in good shape in terms of core services and infrastructure, and with proper asset management we can ensure that taxes don’t need to and won’t increase at a faster rate.

Don Davis

Don Davis

I have always been sensitive to taxes being needlessly increased. While on Council I asked “ if we have more properties with higher assessments why are taxes going up and not down “ We have to balance expenditures with an acceptable raise in income. This can be done by spreading major projects over a longer time. Another problem is when the debt for projects is eliminated there is no related tax decrees. And money that is budgeted in one year and not used to rolled into surplus and not returned to decrease taxes.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

I think that a good look at where the money is going is a good first step. If the people of the town could see clearly what their dollars are going towards it would go a long way. Should there be room to save money then by all means we should look to do so but you can’t just cut taxes without that money coming from somewhere.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

I would recommend taking a very close look at where that money is being used. Local government is closest to homeand we have to come up with creative solutions. Partnering with other levels of government to make solutions affordable, can ease the burden on local taxpayers. I appreciate that Comox is debt free and I will do my best to ensure Comox’s taxes remain affordable for our citizens.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

The current Council has just completed investment in a five-year financial plan that includes increases in commercial property taxes and residential property taxes in the amounts of 1.4% and 2.43% respectively.  The anticipated increases, between 2-3% annually are meant to pay for infrastructure costs such as road work and other cumulative projects.  In reviewing the 5 year plan, there is considerable focus on road surfacing, parks and recreation and core services.  Until I am able to fully analyze the trend information I probably can’t take a firm position but I have trust and belief that council has done their due diligence in enacting a plan that is fair.  Simply retiring the operational and capital debt is a worthy accomplishment and being able to put $300,000.00 per year towards infrastructure rather than interest is commendable.  Considering that assessed values of properties have risen astronomically in comparison to the increase in taxation I would say the larger problem in Comox is affordability of housing for young families.

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

This is one of the biggest concerns for Comox residents that I am hearing. As a council we need to review the items that we have control over at a municipal level. I believe that maintaining a budget that matches inflation and cost of living with minimal annual increases is the best approach. An increased impact can be made on what we are receiving in return for the dollars spent. Social procurement is something where municipalities can ask and expect vendors to contribute back to our community. If we can get a good or service that we have got in the past, with an added value to our residents; that’s a great thing.

?What steps would you take or support to achieve greater transparency and open government at Comox Town Hall?

Candidates for Council

Alex Bissinger,  Don Davis, Ron Freeman, Ken Grant, Chris Haslett, Stephanie McGowan, Patrick McKenna, Nicole Minions, Maureen Swift

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Greater civic participation in town affairs are an important step in strengthening our community. I would advocate a continued openness and engagement with our residents to ensure public participation for issues important to the betterment of our community.

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

This issue is very important to me and it is a major problem with status quo politics in Comox. We should have far more active systems that engage a much higher percentage of the town populace and their wishes regarding council decisions. Currently, the loudest voice spoken by people who show up to Council meetings wins the day on many town decisions. But this method almost totally neglects the voice of working people, families and youth who have very little time to spare in their busy lives.  Towns with better public input make much greater use of online polls, informal weekly get-togethers with Council, phone surveys, and other creative ways to actively reach out and accurately sample citizen opinion.  For example, the PlaceSpeak app used in Cowichan Region makes public input as easy as the touch of a button on your phone. By greasing the wheels of public discourse we open the doors of democracy and true representation.  It is not good enough to limit public input to Council meetings, where public concerns are sometimes forced into the last 5 minutes, when only a few hardy souls remain to have their abbreviated say.  We also need Council meetings to be completely open and transparent, and avoid in-camera meetings as much as possible.  As a candidate, I am currently providing public coffee chats, open to everyone, every Thursday morning for drop-in from 9 am to 10 am. If elected I plan to continue this practice and encourage other officials to do likewise.

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

I agree that it is important that the Council and Mayor be accessible to the residents, and I would like the newly elected Council to host drop-in times for residents to talk to Council and bring up issues and concerns, in a more casual format (coffee shop, park?), and at a frequency to be determined (monthly, bi-weekly?)   I also believe that requests for public records could be posted online, identifying the person or organization that made the request, the date of the request and a description of the document and a link to the information. This could lower costs by reducing the amount of staff time spent answering multiple requests for the same information.  In addition, it would be useful for the Town to have an online Geographic Information Systems database that would be accessible to the public, outlining different features such as zoning, floodplains, parks, trails, and any other data or stats that could be shared publicly, instead of having individual requests.  Balances scorecards and reporting is also an important aspect of open government. We need to be accountable for the decisions we make, and report back to citizens on the progress we have made, whether it is on the goals of the OCP, targets of the CV Sustainability Strategy or new initiatives started. The Town currently shares on their website the Annual Municipal Report, which provides transparency in strategic planning and financial statements and summarizes progress of various strategic objectives with status update (in progress, completed, etc.).  If there are more items residents want reporting on, that should be considered.

Don Davis

Don Davis

I can only speak for myself and I have always responded to requests for information or questions from the public, and I encourage all of Council to do the same.  I believe that when someone asks for information it should be provided. There should be no need to apply the Freedom of Information Act ( other than In-Camera Issues ) in order for citizens to become informed.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

I would encourage more people to come to the council meetings as well as read up online. A good overview of what happened at the last meeting and previous meetings could be posted on social media and I think more people would keep up as they are more likely to head to Facebook than the Town of Comox site.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

I appreciate the newsletter that the Town mails out. I also like the process by which the developer has to seek public input prior to submitting a development application. The more the community can be informed and engaged and feel that his or her input is valued, the better the end result is. The up coming review of Comox’s Official Community Plan is a great place to engage the community. Local government impacts our life in so many ways and I would like to bring a fresh approach. I would be very interested to look into alternative ways of reaching the public and getting them engaged.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

I believe current Council provided very clear and transparent guidance and I believe strongly that open government is critical to good guidance.  Encouraging participation in critical issues through open houses, creating consistent times so residents can ask questions of their government are just a couple of things we could do to form a transparent council. All of the candidates running will support transparency.  The incumbents Ken Grant and Maureen Swift have shown leadership in the past and I have had conversations with Russ Arnott, Alex Bissinger and Ron Freeman in regards to demonstrating an open and visible council.  I am all about collaboration and working together to solve the issues of the Comox Valley.  Comox must maintain its uniqueness in government but we must work together with the other municipalities for the greater good of the whole area. 

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

I am committed to being honest and transparent in my four-year term on Council. We can increase the engagement of the public through use of video media, events and newsprint. I see a Mayor and Council that has an open door policy and engages with the community not primarily in the campaign time but throughout their time in office.

?How should the town start adapting to a changing climate?

Comox had 10,509 eligible voters in the 2014 municipal election

 

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Education and increasing awareness;  Providing practical solutions for the future – via public engagement, professionals etc.;  Consultation with similar coastal communities. As an example what have others done to make their planning dept. and building codes more effective?

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Even small towns must face issues that are big enough to impact the entire world. The shrinking middle class, declining education, overwhelmed health systems and climate change all weigh heavily on our tiny little corner of seaside beauty. But I believe municipal governments can respond meaningfully to climate change and other mega issues if we educate ourselves and apply innovative, creative and committed action. For example, we need to encourage more walk-ability, more public transport and less vehicle exhaust. We need to evaluate and plan for rising ocean levels. And we need to restore our local environment where possible. Let’s uncover our buried creeks, revive non-fish bearing streams, and remove pesticides and other toxins from our waterways that flow down to the beach and make our shellfish crop unsafe to harvest. I have much to learn about climate change and, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, I will do whatever research is needed, recruit whichever experts are required, and take the proper time to make sure Comox gets the environment right.

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

As we are a coastal town, we need to start looking at impacts of sea-level rise and storm surge and frequent king tides. The town should commission a coastal engineering study to look at risks, as well as mitigation measures that could be put in place in order to make Comox more resilient. We need to protect our coastline and our infrastructure, and look at alternative routes for utilities such as sanitary sewer lines that are along the foreshore.  Comox should also start adopting the BC Energy Step Code for all future development, and educate homeowners and builders alike on the ways to achieve the different ‘steps’. The BC Energy Step Code is currently an optional compliance path in the BC building code that local governments may use to incentivize or require a level of energy efficiency in new construction that goes above and beyond the requirements of the BC Building Code. I would like to make it mandatory in Comox from this point forward. It would put us on a path to meet the province’s targets that all new buildings be “net-zero energy ready” by 2032 and would make Comox a leader in energy efficient construction. This would result in healthier residents by having better managed temperatures in their homes, less greenhouse gas emissions from inefficient heat sources (i.e. wood), and open up new opportunities for energy efficiency education, technology and services. More efficient homes and buildings would result in lower energy bills.  Stormwater management and protection of ecosystems is important in our town, as well as the risk of floods due to more intense and frequent rainfalls. In parallel, water conservation measures need to be considered in order to reduce consumption especially during summer months when demands increase significantly. There is tremendous opportunity for the Town and homeowners to balance both excess rainwater flows and scarcity of water, by encouraging water capture systems such as rain barrels, rain- and grey- water capture re-use for non-potable applications underground storage, and retention systems with slow release, as well as engineered landscapes that double as stormwater retention and conveyance systems.  The Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy (2010) outlines many ambitious targets in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions (80% by 2050), waste diversion (90% diversion of waste from landfills by 2050) , energy consumption (50% per capita by 2050), water conservation (50% reduction per capita by 2050), and reductions to sanitary and stormwater systems (all new development and 50% of existing development in the CV will capture rainwater runoff through source control methods), and if the Town of Comox wants a chance of achieving those targets, we need to start implementing as many of the recommended actions and strategies as possible.

Don Davis

Don Davis

The Town has instituted some very comprehensive Environmental and Sustainability practices. I will encourage Council to continue and expand on these practices, wherever possible.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

I think limiting the use of wood stoves where possible is a great start. Some homes have that as a primary heat source isn’t always possible but as homes are being built and updated they should look to phase them out and replace them with higher efficiency heating methods. This would go a long way to help the overall air quality of the town which would lead to better health as well for the people with breathing problems. Getting businesses to stop using straws and plastic bags would limit the amount of waste as well. Some businesses are already going this way and it is a great trend to get behind.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

The whole island needs to start preparing for climate change. We need to start focusing on alternative energy strategies; making cycling, walking, and transit an accessible and realistic form of transportation; while maintaining and readying our infrastructure for the more intense weather effects that we have been seeing all across Canada and the world. I am pleased that Comox is one of the 187 (out of 190) municipalities that signed on to the B.C. Climate Action Charter. The upcoming review of Comox’s Official Community Plan is a good place to strengthen climate change adaption policies

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

Climate change is real and scary.  We are experiencing greater magnitudes of storm surges, and unpredictable weather.  There are many things municipalities can do to encourage adaptation.  Educating the residents is one thing, developing policy and working hand in hand with developers to build more efficiently and to higher standards.  Lead by example when developing or building infrastructure in the Town.  Green roofs, reducing single use plastic, a strong recycling program for all residences.  Even the smallest of acts can alter the future.

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

Climate change is going to be one of the most discussed topics in politics this municipal election. The carbon footprint that we leave as individuals and a community is relevant. Whether we are talking about single use plastics, recycling, air quality or food security; they can be discussed as a community. I have heard that climate change has no place in municipal politics and I disagree. This is a topic to be discussed as a household, a town, a province and a country. Our quality of life now and in future matters in the world we continue to live in together.

?Please explain your position on banning single-use plastic bags and straws.

4,350 ballots were cast in the 2014 election

 

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

I think this is a good initiative and discussion needs to be had with our business community.

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

None yet. These ideas have clear environmental benefits and other cities have implemented them. I would like to understand the opinion of Comox citizens. I will support the majority on this and all issues.

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

Banning single-use plastic bags and straws is a first step in educating people on the negative effects of single-use plastics. While banning plastic bags and straws is one small step towards making Comox more sustainable, consumption of single-use plastics (packaging, plastic bottles, etc.) should be considered as a bigger issue that requires a lot of work and education of the public.  As a first step, we should encourage residents to look at their consumption of single-use plastics and provide them with ways and suggestions to reduce their consumption, whether it be encouraging them to use cloth bags for bagging their groceries at the till, getting them to purchase reusable bags in which you put your veggies when you’re in the produce aisle, shopping with mason jars when possible.  In parallel, we need to encourage businesses to provide alternative options to customers, such as bringing your own container when getting take-out, switching to compostable alternatives, having scales at the front of the store so customers can first weigh their mason jars and continue with filling them with consumable goods, being able to refill bottles with shampoo, detergents, soaps, sold in bulk, etc., and encouraging store owners to support products that use less or no packaging. Ottawa was the first city to recently have a zero-packaging store open its doors, to which customers bring mason jars and other types of reusable packaging when doing their groceries, and it has thrived so far.  I know that changing habits is difficult but we need to start somewhere, with education and demonstration. If we have a proper communication strategy and support it with branding and proper messaging, I am confident we can reach an end-state in which we could significantly reduce our consumption of all single-use plastics.  It will be a slow process, but over the years, people can and will adapt. This will also help the Town work towards the CV Sustainability Strategy goal to reduce waste by 90% by 2050.

Don Davis

Don Davis

I am strongly in favour of all efforts to improve our environment and will vote accordingly.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

For it.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

Single use plastic bags need to be transitioned out of use over time and have alternatives available for anyone that forgets. There are also alternatives to plastic straws, ensuring that restaurants and eating out remain accessible. There will soon be more plastic in the oceans than fish, which is a frightening thought. We need to encourage individual actions to be positive and roll back the tide of plastic pollution. I want our kids to grow up in a world where the environment is protected and enhanced.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

I have always been an advocate for banning single use plastic bags.  When Store Manager of Home Depot we actually convinced the Home Depot corporation to allow us to eliminate bags in conjunction with a Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce push to reduce single use plastic bags back in the late 2000’s.   Banning straws also makes sense as the stats on throwing away straws are unbelievable.  My position on the environment is clear.  Do everything humanly possible to reduce what is going into the landfill.  I am not always perfect, as I forget my own coffee cup at home some days but I think we need to give maximum effort to reducing the amount of  waste heading to the landfill and try and turn things around for the next generation.  “To change the world starts with one step.  However small, first step is hardest of all.”  Dave Matthews said that and he is a smart person.

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

I would vote to ban single-use plastic bags and straws in Comox. The research is all very black and white on the impact we are causing by single-use plastics. Other communities have successfully seen this happen in action. This is a world wide movement that I fully support locally.

?Are there major capital projects the town should undertake during your four-year term, and why?

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Comox recorded a 41.39% voter turnout in 2014, highest in the Comox Valley

 

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Given that the Town administration, with council input, implements a thoroughly analyzed 5-year Capital plan much of our infrastructure is taken care of on a projected time frame that is in the best interests of the Town as a whole. It is reviewed yearly to ensure we capture items that may have become more urgent in nature. Our last major project done in partnership with the Federal Gov’t, ICET and services clubs such as Rotary was to install the splash park which has become very successful.  I would like to expand on marina enhancements and explore ideas to make the existing sail buildings more effective.

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Yes, downtown revitalization, some of which can be paid for by developers who invest in projects that the town chooses and guides. I would also like the town to invest in an extended and upgraded seaside boardwalk, following the tradition so beautifully set by Nanaimo, Campbell River and other coastal BC towns. And I would like to explore a Comox pool, a Granville Island type public market, a people-only downtown promenade, and other opportunities for more vibrant small town living, with more services and activities for all ages right on our doorstep, rather than having to travel beyond Comox for shopping, dining and recreation.  I see a number of service and infrastructure improvements — including more public transit routes — that we could implement as public support and town revenues grow over time. I plan to asses these factors in a new Official Community Planning process to begin first thing after the election. The new OCP will help us more accurately gauge the type and degree of growth desired by citizens, and map out funding and other resource requirements along a practical timeline. It will also be an educational process that helps our community envision the next 30-50 years of town development, and shape the legacy we want to leave our children and grandchildren.   I present my ideas for potential development projects on my website in the form of a poll because, as with any idea for Comox — including my personal hopes and dreams for my family and for future generations — I will always honour the majority opinion of Comox citizens. I hope to encourage growth that complements our small town lifestyle, in a way that lowers taxes, reduces total cost of living, and improves our waterways and environmental health.

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

While this is not an actual major capital project, it will require funds and investment in staffing to set up: I would like the Town to follow in the steps of the City of Campbell River and create a Sustainability and Long Range Planning Manager position, or team, within the Planning Department. Campbell River has seen significant success in the past years, and has demonstrated that there is opportunity for partnerships and lots of external funding available for a broad spectrum of projects related to sustainability. The Sustainability and Long Range Planning team spearheads and facilitates all sorts of innovative projects in energy management, home and municipal building retrofits, climate adaptations, preservation and management of streams and riparian habitats promotion of agricultural lands, waste reduction measures, to name a few. I think this will be key in ensuring Comox is on the path to reaching sustainability targets.  I would also like to see the implementation of some of the key findings of the 2011 Comox Transportation Study, which reviews and identifies the necessity of road and intersection improvements, as well as focuses on alternative transportation by identifying pedestrian, cycling and transit improvements. Of the projects identified on the 2017-2022 Capital Plan, I would like the Town to review and prioritize major road upgrades, minor road upgrades, road widenings, bike lanes, sidewalks, intersection upgrades, and bus stop upgrades.  It is also important that the Town continue working on its Asset Management Plan such that it can be determined and planned ahead when a horizontal or vertical asset needs to be recapitalized or replaced.  Also any development of Northeast Comox along Pritchard road will require careful planning and design due to historical issues related to the Queen’s Ditch, Hilton Springs, and farming of the low lying lands, so this will be a great opportunity to implement sustainable engineering measures, such as source control of stormwater runoff, as an example. 

Don Davis

Don Davis

The facilities for the Administration of our town are in dire need of upgrading.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

I think that the town is going in the right direction at the moment. If there is a major project that comes forward, I would want to look at both the money and the final outcome of what it would do for the residents. As the town develops, I would most be interested in making sure that the roads and sewer systems are sufficient to handle everything that the infrastructure is in place to react proactively.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

I look forward to working with my fellow councillors to come up with a four year strategic plan – a road map for our term ahead. I know that review of our Official Community Plan will be a major part of this. I would also like to see a traffic plan done to make our neighbourhoods safer and good asset management.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

I will be advocating for more funding to culture and the arts in general.  A smaller scale Community Theatre and concert stage would be an amazing thing for Comox.  A smaller capacity than the Sid Williams Theatre but one that all residents can enjoy.  I am uncertain as to the cost of a venue this size in the Town of Comox but in 2007 The Comox Valley was the Cultural Capital of Canada and with our beautiful landscape and amazing restaurant scene, we could emulate something like Chemainus to attract more revenue and vibrancy to the Town.  At present there are no performance spaces adequately modeled for Theatre in our town and that to me is a sad state of affairs.  There would have to be an opportunity for private investors or a combination of Arts-minded organizations to partner together as an expense of that magnitude could not solely be born by the town of Comox.  The other capital project(s) I would advocate for is a continued focus on the development of the marina.  It is the jewel of Comox.  It is where the original settlers arrived and it truly the focal point of the town.  The two new buildings on the Comox Marina waterfront are currently underutilized, therefore I would like to see take a consultative approach with the community to foster some ideas around what could be done to increase the usage in that area.  A farmer’s market or a concert series?  Something to generate a space for young and old to gather, to sing and to dance.

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

 Not at this time.

?What can the town do to improve air quality, given that we rate as one of the worst in Canada?

Hugh McKinnon topped the 2014 polls in Comox with 2,782 votes

 

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

While Courtenay’s monitoring station does indicate poor air quality there are various factors that come into play.  In the last few years more discussion has been had on this issue so continuing awareness of the problem is making us think differently on it.  Initiatives such as a rebate program to remove old wood burners is currently used. I believe a phase out period is worth considering and something to engage our residents in.   

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Less burning of wood and more non-gas powered transport. I would like to incentivize both, and pace change at a level approved by Comox voters.

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

During the winter months, a large contributor to air quality issues is wood smoke. As I understand it, there are three main sources of wood smoke in Comox, including residential wood heat, backyard burning and open burning.  As the entire Comox Valley breathes the same air,  it’s important we work with Courtenay, Cumberland and the regional district to address the problem. Going forward I would encourage the Town and surrounding municipalities to team up and first and foremost educate residents on the proper use of wood burning stoves, and how to ensure they are burning in a clean matter.  As a homeowner with an efficient wood burning stove, I understand how replacing a wood stove for another heating source could be cost prohibitive (I’ve gotten quotes for an electric heat pump, averaging $6,500), it is therefore of utmost importance to educate people who currently burn wood to help understand how to improve how they burn, and to burn more cleanly. The Town could partner with local organizations in order to host information sessions, create poster boards and increase communications strategies.  In parallel with education, the Town needs to ensure better incentives are provided to homeowners to replace old wood burning stoves with more efficient ones, and ultimately convert their main source of heat in the home from wood to electric or natural gas.  Secondly, regulations could be implemented to ensure better air quality, and it was recommended by Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley that the following be developed:  •Requiring woodstoves and fireplaces to be removed upon sale of a house  •Gradual phasing and decommissioning of all old wood stoves  •Disallowing the installation of new wood stoves or fireplaces in new homes or homes that do not currently have wood heat  •Banning all burning on poor air quality days (unless it is the only source of heat in a home)  •Stop the burning of yard waste throughout the region.  I would like to explore the feasibility and practically of the above recommendations and implement as many as realistically possible. There’s no straightforward solution that provides immediate results, but with education and some reasonable regulations, we could considerably improve air quality in the Comox Valley.

Don Davis

Don Davis

Sustainability and environmental practices have been adopted by the Town and these should be continued and expanded on wherever practical. As well bylaws to control all types of pollution could be considered.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

Again, phasing out wood stoves and limit burning. I respect that people with bigger properties burn yard waste as an effective way for them to keep their property clean. Close attention should be paid to the weather forecast though so we don’t have a bunch of wood smoke sitting stagnant. Permits are an effective way not only keep track of where the burns are happening but also can be limited if there is a poor air quality index.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

Council needs to look at what we can do to encourage those who use wood stoves to make sure they are as clean burning as possible, and through incentives and information, to update their stoves to either the newest and cleanest kind available, or to move to a different, cleaner mode of warming a home. People also need to know how to burn a clean fire with dry wood. This is a financial issue for many. We can, for example consider implementing bylaws banning wood stoves in all new constructions and requiring the upgrading or removal of old wood stoves, when a property is sold. We can also work with the Comox Valley Regional District to cut down on the burning of yard wast, as well as find alternatives.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

I believe that Comox should be leading in promoting transit, emobility and bicycles to deter as many vehicles as possible.  I would also be in support of reducing the speed limits in certain areas of Comox.  I know this sounds like small things but every little bit counts towards finding solutions.  Open burning is a constant conversation as is wood burning fireplaces.  I am certain that the Town of Comox is not the leading wood burner in The Comox Valley but an element of education goes a long way in helping people understand how to make a positive impact on our air quality.

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

I would want to see local statistics on use of wood burning stoves and yard burning is in our Town and the CVRD. Having poor air quality is a concern and something that we can address through future home building, energy rebates to upgrade wood burning stoves and bylaws. It’s important for me to hear both sides of the story and see where we can set goal posts to improve our air quality over a specific timeline. It won’t be a quick snap your fingers solution but a movement towards research-based action and implantation.

?What are your views about amalgamating Courtenay and Comox to take advantage of shared resources?

The last elected council member in 2014 received 1,896 votes. There were 10 council candidates that year

 

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

A full amalgamation at this point is not something I favour.  Shared services is worth further discussion to cost out the benefits.

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Amalgamation may be inevitable, but not anytime soon. Courtenay would benefit for sure, but Comox would lose through certain higher taxes and a likely, if unintended, decrease in service quality. Even the question to study amalgamation was rejected by Comox and Cumberland for this election’s ballot. So for now, what we can do is keep an open dialogue between all three towns and work through the existing regional structure to tackle Valley wide issues together. Furthermore, if elected I would like to help Comox better stand on its own two feet, and lighten some of the service and traffic burdens we contribute to Courtenay. If Comox can develop a stronger more independent economy, then we can keep more shoppers and diners from traveling over the bridges, better local jobs would reduce bridge line ups during rush hour, more and safer multi-modal pathways would also reduce the traffic load, and a larger population could contribute more healthcare, law enforcement and social services that Comox citizens now rely on from Courtenay. So by making Comox more economically independent, we could reduce Comox’s footprint on Courtenay infrastructure and services. This could help Courtenay better tackle its debt and upgrade its services, and grow into a more attractive partner for amalgamation.

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

Amalgamation is a complex but interesting proposal. As I understand, it was voted down in 1999- Courtenay was in favour while Comox was against. I believe it’s worth looking into, refreshing some studies, and getting a business case analysis completed to demonstrate advantages and disadvantages, and determine from a social, financial, environmental, and political standpoint if it has merit. A business case is necessary, as the perception is that amalgamation would create issues for Comox such as increased policing costs, but I would want to see the numbers behind it before supporting it or not. The public also needs to be consulted and participate in the decision, buy into it, and have access to the results of the business case. My commitment and loyalty is first and foremost to the residents and taxpayers of the Town of Comox.

Don Davis

Don Davis

I have never been in favour of amalgamation. It would only increase the cost of doing business for the Town of Comox. Amalgamation may very well lead to a full time, paid Fire Department. As well many other Departments would probably require more middle management. All of which would only increase the tax burden of Comox’s citizens. Many services are and even more could be
accommodated through the Regional District, if that proves to be more cost effective.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

Again, for it. I think that between the RD, Courtenay and Cumberland there should be services and equipment that we can all use. I think that this should be looked at very thoroughly as right now Comox has a great handle on our money and don’t need to look at taking on debt from other areas. We are a close knit valley and use many of the same resources so sharing where it makes sense should be at the forefront of conversation.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

I would need to look into the logistics and costs to the taxpayers of Comox of this, particularly bearing in mind that Comox is debt free. Most importantly, we would need to have a local referendum to find out what the community wants.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

I am not in favour of amalgamation at this time.  I am in favour of potentially amalgamating some services.  Shared services may result in cost savings in some areas such as planning and development where it would make sense to have one set of “Rules” for all developers.  The planning departments of all the municipalities that I deal with at Habitat are all understaffed in one form or another.  Difficulty in finding trained planners has given rise to departments wearing multiple hats and ultimately slowing down or bogging down the process of development applications.  I am in favour of a study that would detail what services could be shared and again, I am all about collaboration as long it makes sense and it is fair to all concerned.

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

I would like to do further research on this including the cost of amalgamation. Comox is currently debt free, which is a great thing for this Town and our future. The CVRD and CRVD is an amalgamated Council that works already on shared public services. So at this time I would require further information and more public input before I could vote on such an issue in future.

?What do you think of Cumberland’s nation-leading social procurement policy that leverages community benefits from planned expenditures, and should other local governments follow suit?

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

It is definitely a concept that needs to be explored further to see how it can benefit the citizens of Comox.  Anything that promotes innovation and thinking “outside the box” is worth exploring further.

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Wonderful!! Cumberland is doing it right in so many ways, and they have won a fantastically vibrant downtown core while improving social contributions from their vendors and developers in the process. I tip my hat in admiration to Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird, who serves as a role model for me and all elected officials. Go Cumberland!!

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

As I understand it, from participating in the CV Sustainability Forum a few weeks ago, the social procurement policy that is implemented in Cumberland leverages community benefits from planned expenditures. Working mostly in procurement of services (construction and consulting), here is how it was explained: If the Town had planned to redo the sewer lines or road construction, in their request for tender, they would stipulate that extra points be considered for contractors that submit a bid with a consideration for a benefit to the community, say an item in the Town’s OCP. The example given was if a contractor is excavating soil during the construction of a new road, and that the excavated soils are known to not be suitable for re-use as a sub-base for the road, then the contractor may, in their bid, outline how they would provide that soil to the Town for the construction of a future skate park, or jump track (or something else specified in their OCP or “wish list”. Such social procurement would result in achieving more betterments with less costs for the Town, stemming from services contracts.  Having worked in public procurement at 19 Wing Comox, I am truly interested in getting more information on the concept, and getting more success examples from Cumberland. Public procurement has been historically dry and rigid with lots of rules in place in order to make sure procurements are fair and transparent, and with reason- to avoid corruption. While I love the idea of “social” and green procurements, I would want to make sure the methods are tested and tried. Evaluation criteria need to be clearly defined such that all contractors and consultant bidding be on a level playing field. Also in my experience, all tenders that contain an evaluation criteria (not only lowest price as a factor), are traditionally slower processes as evaluators need to be involved, rather than just looking at hard numbers, and taking the lowest.  Bottom line, I want to make sure if we do this, we do it right. Getting the lessons learned from Cumberland, templates or examples of successfully tendered and awarded contracts, list of situations where practical or not, etc.  Also, I would want to make sure procurement staff and contractors alike are educated on any new processes.

Don Davis

Don Davis

I attended the Sustainability forum at which this was explained. From my understanding this is a very worthwhile program.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

I haven’t had a chance to do enough research on this yet. I am actively looking into it though so that I can have a good understanding of the policy and how it could best work for our community.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

Seeking additional benefits for the community from local government funded projects, is a win/win situation. I would like to learn more about this and see how it can be applied in Comox.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

I think that anytime you are entrusted to spend someone else’s money you better evaluate not only the bottom line but what is the best benefit to your society.  Coming from the corporate world to the not for profit world has given me a particular set of skills.  One of those skills or “New ways of thinking,” is putting myself in the shoes of the “funder.”   The funder, or taxpayer in this case wants a return on their investment.  A better, safer community.  A vibrant downtown core.  A transit system that gets them from A to B in a reasonable amount of time.   I like what Cumberland has done.  I think that it probably takes a little bit longer to ensure that your procurement is meeting what your intentions are, but it is mutually satisfying in the end when you know you are getting value for your patience.

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

I think it’s a great policy and great foundation for other communities to follow. Social procurement is a way we balance spending and the expectations of tax payers. Getting more value and community impact for the same dollar.

?What parts of the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy do you agree with or disagree with?

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

This is a good regional document that drills down to what would make the Comox Valley more sustainable.  I would like to see a check of some sorts performed to see if it is still keeping up with the needs of the Valley given that much has changed since its publication in 2010 i.e. increased cost of housing and how it impacts us all.

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

I am especially interested in solving homelessness, as the town of Medicine Hat has achieved, and exploring the intersections of mental health, addiction, poverty and other intricately related social challenges. I am excited by world leaders in systemic broad-based solutions, such as the Netherlands. And I am equally excited by local programs, like Habitat for Humanity, who are making inroads to better social safety nets and improved health outcomes. Although I have seen presentations and read materials provided by the local non-profits involved, I want to learn much more about the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy.

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

I support all the goals and targets set out in the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy, as they are utopic. By that, I mean they are very ambitious (I have listed some of the targets in Question 3 above) and our Town and Valley would be an (even more) amazing place to live in if we were able to achieve all the targets by 2050. In reviewing the goals and recommended actions, it is clear that of the short-term (2015) and medium-term (2020) goals, we have significant work to do to even begin implementing them-  so we need to roll up our sleeves and take the bull by the horns. Some of the actions in the strategy can only be achieved by increasing resources, from a financial and staffing perspective, which I believe is a first point to the business case of getting a Sustainability Planning Manager.  Creating a position for a Sustainability and Long Range Planning Manager would be a great use of a small fraction our taxes contingency. And don’t be alarmed, when speaking with the Sustainability Manager in Campbell River, she mentioned the bulk of her $2M annual operating budget comes from partnerships and grants, therefore not costing the City a whole lot more than her own salary, benefits, and initial operating budget to get the program rolling. Investing in sustainability initiatives today will result in fiscal savings tomorrow.  The long-term positive impacts for the Town in terms of energy savings, sustainability, healthy residents and ecosystems, and savings in operations and maintenance of utility systems is evident.

Don Davis

Don Davis

 All of it.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

This is still a very new document to me. As it reads as a guide for the area for the immediate and long term future, I think that we should follow the overall guidelines but update accordingly. As targets are met and new goals are set both economically and environmentally, changes will need to be made to ensure that we are trending in the right direction.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

This is a large topic and I would like to study the document in much greater depth. I think it is very important to find ways to successfully implement action.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

I wish I was able to attend the sustainability forum that was recently put on but alas I was doing my job that night.  The sustainability strategy is something that I will need to research further but I can give some of my thoughts.  The document serves as a framework from which to work but what I don’t see is how the document has lived and breathed.  Like many strategic plans from many organizations they are only as good as the follow up measures put to them.  I have also learned that they are only as good as the communication given back to the developers of the strategy.  Many groups collaborated on these strategies but it seems most of the work and follow up has been entrusted to one agency.  Maybe the work is too much for Comox Valley Economic Development to report back on or to keep the public informed on the failures and successes?  There are clear targets set in many areas.  Will we achieve 40% of locally sourced fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat shellfish and fish in retail stores? Is that even achievable?  Honestly I will have to do a lot more reading to understand the strategy and to truly give more comments on it.

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

I agree with the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy. There is a balance of time that can be spent between increasing our sustainable living processes while also looking at business and housing growth. We want to live in a vibrant and growing community while addressing “best case” sustainable living practices.

?Given that the town is relying on an advisory committee recommendation in its bid to alter a Mack Laing trust and demolish Shakesides, which was made when the committee thought there was $70,000 in the trust but there is actually about $260,000 now, how should the town move forward on this issue?

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

Russ Arnott -- Mayor

The issue is before the courts and the judge will determine the next steps.

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Tom Diamond - Mayor

Last night I met with the board of the Mack Laing Heritage Society. I was saddened to learn about a decades-long story of blatant disregard by the Town of Comox for Mac Laing’s last wishes, despite his final and generous public gift of all his assets, including the beautiful houses, pristine forest and waterfront lands in what is now known as Mac Laing Park.   The town has since made good on funds squandered by previous administrations. But a tragedy remains. This humble man, who was a world renowned ornithologist, author of over 600 naturalist articles stored alongside his diaries and other correspondence occupying 26 feet of shelf space in the BC archives, collector of thousands of animal specimens on display in museums and scientific institutions throughout Canada, intrepid world explorer after whom 5 bird species have been named, remains all but forgotten in Comox, the town he called home from 1922 until his death in 1982.   In my view, Mac Laing is a national treasure who should be richly celebrated by Comox. The very least we can do is honour his trust and provide the public space that he asked for, by converting his Shakesides home into the nature house he hoped to give future generations. As I understand it, some paperwork submitted by the town would make the park eligible for grants that could open and operate a modest museum at almost no cost to taxpayers.   But there is more we can do. I feel this is one of many unique and wonderful opportunities we have to attract more tourism to Comox. I would like to see a Mac Laing statue, information boards and bird blinds that attract a growing number of birding tourists. I would also like to see educational resources and tours that invite children to learn about the wonders of nature and science. I even see an exciting canopy walk that lifts people into the high reaches of our vibrant forest, to learn how ecosystems adapt and thrive in giant trees, hundreds of feet above the forest floor, where infinite views reach across the ocean, toward distant lands that beckon the adventurer in all of us.   Let’s honor one of our most gifted ancestors by proudly celebrating Mac Laing and his spectacular legacy of nature, beauty, knowledge and eternal wonder.

Alex Bissinger

Alex Bissinger

It is unfortunate Mack Laing’s trust was improperly managed in the past, but if the information wasn’t properly communicated to the advisory committee, and that key facts were missing at the time that decisions were made, then I believe it merits a second consideration.   I would like to see an option analysis carried out, which speaks to the numbers and what could be achieved with $260,000. I assume the option of the viewing platform was recommended and selected due to the original thought that only $70,000 was available. I would look into getting some more information from the advisory committee and current Councillors as I may not see the whole picture- only what I’ve read online and discussed with a handful of concerned homeowners. Restoring the property might not be the most feasible option considering it has been neglected for years and may have significant structural issues (I have not seen it, so cannot comment further than simple speculation on its condition), but perhaps there is a happy medium that considers both the funds available from the trust and Mack Laing’s wishes and expectations when he donated his land and property to the Town of Comox (his home as a natural history museum and land as a nature park). As I understand it, it’s in the courts at the moment and at the end of October a decision will be made to either allow or deny alteration of his trust, which would either allow for or deny the demolition of the Shakesides house for construction and maintenance of a viewing platform.  As a side note, construction of that waterfront walkway from the marina to Goose Spit that mayoral candidate Russ is promoting (which I absolutely am in favour of) would significantly increase visibility and accessibility of the Mack Laing property for all to enjoy, locals, tourists, and bird-watchers alike, so I hope both projects can mutually benefit each other and add to the vibrancy of the Town.

Don Davis

Don Davis

I have always felt that the way to accommodate local issues is for Council and interested parties to work together and find solutions that do not require legal action on either part. While I was on Council we created a separate fund for the Trust, and the house was rented out and maintained. I am not aware of what went wrong or why the house was allowed to fall into disrepair. The new Council should be brought up to speed on how the situation has evolved, what legal action has taken place, and come to a agreement on what next steps should be taken. I would hope that that would be to drop the court action and meet with all of the stake holders and find a way to live up to the wishes of Mack Laing’s Will.

Chris Haslett

Chris Haslett

I believe that this is still with the court and a decision will be coming soon. That being said I would want to make sure that any money spent is going to be used effectively and efficiently. As I understand the building is in bad shape structurally and would hate to see it become a draw on town resources trying to maintain it if that is the case. A potential solution could be to build a “shell” and erect signs around to provide information on the building and history of Mack Laing while he was there.

Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan

I understand that the matter is with the courts at the moment. Heritage is important to me, I am willing to explore options for saving the house through securing grants with little or no cost to the taxpayers of Comox.

Patrick McKenna

Patrick McKenna

I think the town needs to listen to the residents on this one.  On one of our regular walks, my wife and I walk past the old Mack Laing park and it is simply beautiful.  I will be honest, in that I do not know all the ins and out of the previous conversations with the committee but logic tells me that something should be done to preserve the history of Shakesides and we should evaluate everything in detail before making a hasty decision.  Maybe ask yourself, What would Mack do?

Nicole Minions

Nicole Minions

The next step would be to see if the court system gives standing to the Town or to Mack Laing Trust. This is a topic I am currently educating myself on further. It matters as a precedent for those who may donate to the Town of Comox in future. I believe in the work of committees and the benefit of mediated solutions where possible.