Decafnation makes it’s recommendations today for our preferred candidates in this year’s municipal elections. Please respect and thank all the candidates who offered their time and energy this year to serve in public office. It takes courage and a commitment to the community to run for office, and by doing so every candidate has kept the spirit of democracy alive. You can find details of our endorsement process here.
For Mayor: Bob Wells
Bob Wells has emerged as the clear leader in this four-way race for mayor of Courtenay. He hasn’t always been the favorite, but earned this recommendation by his steady growth through the election campaign. Wells has honed his message and given the most thoughtful answers to questions on this website and in public forums. He has acquired the depth of knowledge on big issues facing the town like water and sewer. He showed statesmanship at the Comox Valley Regional District board meeting that dealt with the 3L Developments issue. We hope he continues on this growth path by forgoing goofy costumes at public events and assumes an appropriate, if casual, mayoral persona.
For Council: Melanie McCollum
Melanie McCollum is one of the young, bright stars in this year’s local elections. She is perfectly equipped to guide Courtenay’s transition from a small city into a much larger urban center. Her budgetary and finance background, which must be respected by even the most fiscally conservative voters, will be invaluable as the city grows and the complexity of its financial structure increases. She’s smart and sensibly focused on the right issues. And, not insignificantly, this City Council needs a better balance of female voices.
For Council: Deana Simpkin
Deana Simpkin levels the generational and philosophical balance on a mostly younger council. While Simpkin shares an interest in housing and downtown density with her potential colleagues, she will bring a special focus on the city’s spending and its tax increases. Simpkin also owns a downtown business and, with her economic development board experience, will represent that important sector of the city. She’s a relative newcomer to the city and to political office, so the council will benefit from her fresh perspective.
For Council: Will Cole-Hamilton
Will Cole-Hamilton would bring an unprecedented level of expertise to City Council. He’s a lawyer and community volunteer, who has studied climate change with former US Vice-President Al Gore. He’s a small downtown business owner and is heavily involved with nonprofits that address homelessness, schools and affordable housing. He would challenge other councillors and city staff with innovative solutions to old problems, but with an awareness rooted in fiscal realities.
For Council: Doug Hillian
The next Courtenay City Council needs incumbent and long-time resident Doug Hillian. Just retired from a stellar career in a variety of roles around community justice, for which he has twice been awarded the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal, he will have even more time to focus on council business. Hillian has been a steady influence on his council colleagues, always finding a balanced approach that appeals to all but those on the fringes. This quality is essential for the next term with so many first-time councillors to mentor.
For Council: David Frisch
We thought David Frisch would have made an excellent mayor. Nevertheless, voters would be remiss not to reward him with a second term on council. With Hillian, Frisch will provide continuity and experience for the many first-time council members, and for the important decisions confronting the city over the next four years. Frisch isn’t afraid to champion causes, such as more accessible and safer transportation options for all residents, that look byond the status quo to the city’s future needs.
For Council: Wendy Morin
Every municipal council needs a strong social conscious. Newcomer Wendy Morin would provide that and press the city toward city-wide, professional social planning, which transcends multiple issues like housing and health care access. Morin, who founded the Comox Valley Girls Group that helps young women navigate social pressures on their journey to adulthood, can add that valuable perspective into nearly every deliberation at the council table.
For Mayor: Tom Diamond
Town of Comox voters have a difficult choice for mayor in this election: a candidate with no council experience and a grand vision, or a two-term council member who offers the status quo. We see good qualities in both candidates. Russ Arnott is a community volunteer and he has been a supportive council colleague. He thinks all’s well in the town and is pushing no major initiatives. Tom Diamond has little community and political experience, but he would bring fresh thinking to the town. Diamond is smart and ambitious, which causes him to often over-reach, as he did on promising large tax cuts that he’s unlikely to deliver. With a new, younger council, Arnott’s experience could be a steady hand on the tiller, although both candidates have the management and organizational experience to coalesce a new group. Our scales tip slightly toward Diamond because he recognizes the town has serious issues to address, such as housing affordability, especially for young families and lower-income seniors, and he won’t be timid about considering bold solutions. Both candidates talk about creating a more vibrant town, and we think that’s something Diamond can deliver.
For Council: Alex Bissinger
Alex Bissinger is by far the most qualified candidate on the Town Council ballot this year, and the person most likely to affect housing issues and contribute to positive change for the full spectrum of Comox residents. Bissinger is an engineer who will understand complex reports and studies, and intelligently question staff recommendations. She envisions a town that attracts and houses young families by providing incentives and benefits for all age groups. Bissinger says she “lives off adrenaline,” and that’s a spark recent councils have lacked.
For Council: Nicole Minions
Comox has a housing affordability crisis, and Nicole Minions has the experience and knowledge to address it effectively. She would make the town’s development process less challenging and more transparent. She believes a proactive council can steer developments toward an affordable mix of housing types — as other communities are doing. She would champion sustainability initiatives. Minions is another bright star that voters should wholeheartedly support.
For Council: Patrick McKenna
There’s a large arts community in the Comox Valley, so it’s surprising that more candidates don’t proclaim support for it. First-time council candidate Patrick McKenna does so unabashedly, and we’re glad. Municipalities often shortchange arts funding and infrequently seize opportunities to consider arts, culture and heritage into its decisions. And McKenna offers more: number-crunching skills from his corporate retail career and the fiscal and social sensibilities from his position with Habitat for Humanity.
For Council: Maureen Swift
We wish municipalities elected half their councils every two years, instead of the whole council every four years, because continuity has value. Of the two incumbents seeking re-election, Maureen Swift is best suited for this task. She’s more likely to relate to the new councillors and embrace a younger perspective as the town evolves. Swift can be a stabilizing presence on a new council.
For Council: Stephanie McGowan
A municipality’s Official Community Plan creates an opportunity for town council members to listen to their constituents and for the public to make their voices heard. Stephanie McGowan sees the upcoming OCP review as the vehicle to shape the agenda of her first term, a wise insight for a political newcomer. McGowan offers a unique focus on housing issues. She’s one of four candidates under 40 that can help Comox break through the status quo barrier.
For Council: Chris Haslett
Chris Haslett sees council decisions as black or white, yes or no, without any grey areas. That’s not uncommon among those without political experience. In reality, there’s a lot of grey, and new councillors quickly discover the technical and political complexity of decision-making within a diverse constituency. Haslett is a third generation Comox resident whose heart is in the right place. He will advance the sustainability issues taken as common knowledge among his Gen X generation. And he has the confidence to ask tough questions, and learn from them.
For Mayor: Leslie Baird
The Cumberland Village Council is, arguably, the most functional and progressive local government in the Comox Valley. It’s also the smallest council with five members. The village has moved forward on issues like social procurement, public engagement and air quality when others have not. Incumbent Leslie Baird can share in the credit for that. She helps her councillors succeed in achieving their goals, and she is the most accessible mayor in the Valley. Baird has an opponent this year, which she has not had for her previous two terms as mayor. But Eduardo Uranga has run a negative campaign, focused on criticisms of Baird and with promises he can’t keep. Voters should reward Baird’s 28 years of continuous public service with four more.
For Council: Gwyn Sproule
After 40 years in Cumberland, Gwyn Sproule knows her community. She started the Community Forest Society and served on the original Comox Valley Land Conservancy board. She’s passionate about keeping the village’s industrial history alive. And Sproule’s activism has evolved as the community has grown. She’s now focused on creating jobs and fostering growth in the commercial and light industry sectors so young people can continue to live in the village. She’s earned a sixth term.
For Council: Jesse Ketler
Incumbent Jesse Ketler has not yet logged the length of council experience to match Baird or Sproule, but she’s one of the Comox Valley’s bright rising stars. With a masters degree in bioresource engineering, Ketler can decipher technical reports and advocate wisely for sustainability practices. She’s an out-of-the-box thinker who’s not afraid to stand alone on positions when she can see the longer term benefits. Ketler is a gem the village is lucky to have.
For Council: Roger Kishi
Few elected officials have more knowledge about the Comox Valley’s affordable housing crisis than incumbent Roger Kishi, the director of Homeless and Housing Programs for the Wachiay Friendship Centre. That knowledge benefits council as it navigates its own dramatic housing shift. The two-term councillor initiated the Valley’s first off-leash dog park, he championed the installation of water meters that has resulted in water savings and positioned the village for economic growth. Kishi’s thoughtful approach earns him another term.
For Council: Sean Sullivan
Sean Sullivan may not stand out like his three council mates, but he has contributed to the overall excellent functionality of the Village Council. Vickey Brown, a former school trustee, and Ian McLean make a good cases to unseat Sullivan, who has sometimes lost focus in his first term. But we think Sullivan deserves another chance to prove he can stay fully engaged and keep this high-performing council together.
For Area A: Daniel Arbour
With incumbent Bruce Joliffe stepping down, Area A voters will choose between two new candidates. Jim Elliott is a former Comox Valley Regional District staff member and is primarily responsible for shepherding the water agreement between the Union Bay Improvement District and Kensington/Union Bay Properties. He’s clearly on one side of the UB water debate, which is a polarizing issue in the community. Daniel Arbour has impressive credentials working with complex situations, currently as the economic development administrator on Hornby Island. Arbour would need to quickly understand the contentious politics of Union Bay, and come in as a neutral party. Kensington is one of the CVRD’s settlement nodes in the Regional Growth Strategy, so making it work is a top priority for the Area A director. For these reasons, we think Arbour is the best choice.
For Area B: Arzeena Hamir
Unless an incumbent fails his constituency in a significant way, Decafnation doesn’t usually recommend a challenger. Unfortunately for him, incumbent Rod Nichol faces a stellar candidate that cannot be overlooked. Arzeena Hamir’s background in agriculture and her skills in organizing and leading community groups make her ideally suited for the challenging task of representing Area B’s diverse interests. Hamir would also add a strong female perspective to the Electoral Services Commission, which has been too long dominated by male voices.
For Area C: Edwin Grieve
This endorsement was updated Oct. 30
Community emotions about the proposed 3L development in the Puntledge triangle have spilled over into the election. Incumbent Edwin Grieve entered into a settlement agreement of a Human Rights Tribunal complaint against him by a 3L executive that included a ban on his participation in the CVRD board’s deliberations on the issue. That has drawn him a pro-development opponent. But the board, without Grieve, denied the 3L application, and there are other important issues on the horizon for which he is the better prepared candidate. Grieve has represented Area C well. He deserves another term.