NewsCourtenay candidates talk about third crossing, affordable housing SHARE ON: James Wood, contributor, Monday, Oct. 15th, 2018COURTENAY, B.C- We asked every candidate in Courtenay running for municipal office seven questions. While not every candidate has gotten back to us yet, their responses have been included in full in the following article.We did our best to keep the questions short and focused to the most relevant topics we’ve seen come up in the community so far.Mayoral CandidatesLarry Jangula What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? I strongly disagree with the current tax rates. I feel that taxes in Courtenay are rising at an unsustainable rate. Furthermore, council approved staffs request to use millions of dollars of taxpayer funded surpluses to reduce the apparent tax rates in 2017 and 2018.That is just wrong and in my view hides what the actual tax increases are from the public. In the past five years household taxes have increased on average by 40%, and business taxes by as much as 150%.This is placing a very heavy financial strain on individuals who make minimum wages, those on fixed incomes and pensions and those who operate small businesses.Earlier this year I brought forward a motion to hold taxes at 2017 levels until a thorough and comprehensive Core Services Review could be completed to provide guidance in reducing costs, identifying tax saving measures and improving efficiencies going forward.Unfortunately, that motion was only supported by Councillor Theos and voted down. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings?Traffic is not just the city’s problem. It’s a regional issue and therefore Courtenay cannot simply solve it without the involvement of our neighbour municipalities, the Regional District and the Provincial government.Having said that, I feel that we need to do some long term planning now regarding our traffic situation. Traffic on Ryan Road and the Dyke Road are increasing at approximately 10 % a year. We need to plan to complete a ring road around Courtenay. We have about 2/3 of it completed at this time.When a motorist comes onto 29th Street they have the option of taking Marsden Road and then linking up with the new north connector bridge then onto Veterans Parkway, and Lerwick Road, to McDonald Road. The part that is missing is a roadway which would connect to McDonald Road with a loop which would either connect with the 17th Street bridge or with a new crossing location if one were to be built in the future.We also need to be aware that the Province owns the By-Pass and that they are in the process of turning this into a four lane road. We could do some improvements to the east side of the 17th Street bridge right now which would certainly help with the traffic flow. It is important to keep in mind the fact that the Province has paid for the three bridges we already have and should the time come to install a new bridge it is the Province not the taxpayers of the City of Courtenay who should pay for it. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? I am pleased with some of the steps that the City of Courtenay has taken to address this problem.Firstly our taxpayers and the remaining taxpayers in the Comox Valley purchased the property on Braidwood. The City of Courtenay eliminated most of the charges and fees that we would normally charge and we worked with the Province to fund the construction and operation of the facility.It is expected to be completed in February of 2019 and will provide 35 units of affordable and subsidized housing. In addition, the City of Courtenay has agreed to lease a city owned one half acre site of land to B.C. Housing for twenty five years in order to facilitate the construction of 45 modular homes.This facility will also be built and operated by the Province. Last but not least, all of the taxpayers in the Comox Valley pay into a fund which is being collected and managed through the Regional District. This fund is allocated to different projects each year.Last December I brought forward a motion to address our community’s acute need for affordable housing. That motion included a comprehensive plan to increase the supply of housing, streamline our building approval process and create a special development zone to increase density and revitalize our City’s downtown core.Unfortunately, it was not adopted. I have further proposed that the City create a special zone comprised of the area from the Courtenay River, to 4th. Street, to McPhee Avenue and to 17th. Street. This zone would have their taxes frozen at the current rates to allow them to densify and rebuild. This tax freeze would be in place for between five and ten years, at which time it could be revisited.This would then also give the City the ability to encourage developers to build lower priced rental units in exchange for more density. It is very important to remember that the Municipal Government only receives 8% of the total taxes which are collected. It would be impossible to eliminate homelessness on the backs of the Municipal Taxpayers alone. At the Municipal Government level we must continue to lobby the Provincial and Federal Governments to provide more funding toward this endeavour. What are your thoughts on amalgamation?I am very much in favour of a Governance Review. At the current time we have a population of approximately 65,000 people and four local levels of Government. Each of these local Governments is in the process or planning on building a new Municipal Hall. In addition, we have 4 Administrators whose salaries total over six hundred thousand dollars.We also have departments which duplicate the same services such as Recreation and Fire Protection. If we spoke as a larger voice we would be much more inclined to get additional funding from senior levels of Government.At the current time each municipality lobbies the Provincial and Federal Governments for projects which are our own priority rather than the priority of the entire Comox Valley. Another advantage to less local Government would be that we would likely be able to get more funding for our Police Services.Finally, it would bring community planning, infrastructure needs and public amenities under one umbrella. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality?I think that the City of Courtenay has done a great deal to improve our air quality. We partnered with the other local Municipal Governments last winter and worked with the Provincial Government to bring in mobile equipment to monitor the air quality in most of the Comox Valley. The City has banned open burning since 2008.Early this year I brought forward a motion that included actions to clean up our air. That motion resulted in several positive actions being taken by the city. Courtenay Council passed a motion which: brings all wood burning appliances within the City into compliance with current Federal CSA standards within two years.The City will provide residents who demonstrate financial need an interest free loan to update their current wood burning appliance homes sold with wood burning appliances are now required to confirm that the appliance conforms to the latest Federal and Provincial Certifications and emissions standards or it must be replace with a compliant model.The City has created municipal regulations outlining the types of fuels allowed to be burned within the City. The City will advocate the Town of Comox, the Village of Cumberland and the Comox Valley Regional District to adopt similar regulations.It is important to understand that even though the city has taken positive steps to improve our air quality we can’t accomplish clean air alone.Much of the pollution we experience originates outside of our boundaries in neighbouring communities and the Regional District where the use of wood stoves, open burning, slash burning and burning for land clearing continue to be allowed. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?Yes, I believe the Regional Growth Strategy is an important overarching template for our community. Having said that, it is a guide and working document. We need to have an open mind and for those that may come forward with ideas and projects that would provide our greater community with valuable projects and amenities that were not included in the RGS vision when it was created. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I believe that I should lead the City because I have the proven skills, training, background and experience to deal with the problems which we are facing. In addition I feel very strongly that the biggest threat the City taxpayers are facing is uncontrolled spending at City Hall. I have fought against this and with the right council will bring this matter under control.Harold Long What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? The property tax rates in Courtenay have risen at an outrageous rate over the last 4 years. This year the Mayor claimed there was only a 1.5% increase, but that was only because Council choose to use reserve funds to cover their overspending. The increase of spending have been mainly caused by the large increase of Senior Staff. We have excellent staff in the city that struggle to keep up with their work load. We need a Council that will provide direction as to how we want staff to administer our city. We need to streamline our operation to improve efficiency and costs. That last thing we need is to add to the bureaucracy that has bogged down approval of projects. We can no longer throw money at the problem, the problem must be resolved. Another prime example of this spending is the 8.5 to 9.0% raise Council voted for themselves. In my opinion the first move from our new council should be a 50% decrease in the Mayor’s salary. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? A third crossing would be senseless when we are only using a fraction of the bridge capacity. We have 2 parking lots over the river at 5th. street and 17th. street. The reason is because we have traffic lights in all directions and insufficient road capacity to and from those bridges.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? I believe we need to increase serviced land in our city as 90% of serviced land is owned by Crown Isle who are not in the affordable housing business Zoning properties for Co-op Housing that are occupier owned would open options for lower income buyers. We must make ownership a high priority. Many people feel that home ownership will always be out of their reach. We will never resolve affordable housing until we have more of our residents building equity in their own home. What are your thoughts on amalgamation? I believe that amalgamation has a lot of merit. But we need to know if the senior levels of government will bring a large enough check to the table. The last time this question was raised, we went to the polls not knowing what the real cost would be for our community. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? Wood stoves have been identified as a major cause of poor air quality. Education will help inform people of the cause and solution of this issue, dry wood and higher flue temperatures will help. Replacement of older stoves will make a difference, and grants are available to reduce those costs. We must remember that wood is seen as a lower cost alternative for lower income homes, let’s not increase the burden on those families without serious consideration. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I do agree with the Regional Growth Strategy as it addresses many issues that will improve the sustainability of our area. My main concern is the sheer size of the report. As a lay person it is difficult to follow the meaning of many section, but I believe that is resolvable.Long did not answer question #7.Bob Wells What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? I am focused on keeping taxes as low as possible and am proud that we passed a 1.5% tax increase this year for Courtenay. However, I believe in LONG TERM fiscal responsibility. Years of keeping taxes low while our personnel and infrastructure deficit rose has resulted in crumbling infrastructure, withhundreds of millions of dollars in projects coming down the pipe in the next few years.Not having a proper asset management plan has resulted in being in reactive mode. I’m proud that we now have a paving program, flushing program and are working on our asset management plan so that we can be proactive and properly plan for the future.The water treatment project is estimated to be $110 Million and I have been working hard the past 4 years lobbying our provincial and federal Governments to ensure we get a $50 million grant towards the project. As municipalities only receive 8% of all tax revenue yet most money is spent on municipal projects through grants, I will continue to fight provincially and federally for a more sustainable funding model.As leader of Startup Comox Valley I have been working with the federal government to create policies to benefit smaller communities. As mayor I will continue to work locally developing our Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to grow local companies and will be an Ambassador for our community to attract new, green businesses.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? First, we need to work on education as most people are still not using the new North Connector bridge that opened last year which would reduce traffic from East Courtenay and Comox when traveling south of Courtenay.Second, we need to work on our transit system to reduce single person car trips. As we transition from a small town to a modern city we need to look at how other municipalities have successfully handled traffic. Transit is a proven way to reduce cars on the road.Third, we need to restrict the Courtenay Slough to small vessels so that the 17th Street Bridge no longer needs to be a drawbridge. This will significantly reduce the cost of upgrades on the bridge whether we decide to twin it, add a traffic circle, etc..These solutions must be pursued before we consider a third crossing.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? We need Courtenay at the table with the Homelessness Coalition looking for opportunities to address affordable housing. We also need to ensure developers and our neighbouring municipalities are also part of the solution. The time is now to act as the provincial and federal governments finally have housing strategies with funding programs – something that has been missing for decades. As mayor I will seek partnerships with senior governments and have proven I work well regardless of which party is in power.What are your thoughts on amalgamation? As chair of the Comox Valley Water Committee I already see how municipalities benefit from shared services. The Comox Valley Regional District has had many success and some challenges that we can learn from. Since most municipalities are not wanting to explore an open and non-binding amalgamation review at this point I think we need to look for opportunities through the Regional District on things like a common set of building codes and a single pass for all recreation facilities in the Comox Valley. As mayor I will build relationships and trust with local governments so that we can continue to increase effectiveness and efficiencies.How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? Poor air quality in the winter has been proven to be caused by older inefficient wood stoves and improper burning. The way to have an immediate impact is through targeted education of proper burning in areas we know there are issues. Requiring wood stoves to be inspected and meet current standards on every home sale as well as restricting wood stoves in new homes is a longer term strategy which I support. We must keep in mind wood stoves are an inexpensive form of heating and are part of our culture.Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I think it is time to do a review of our Regional Growth Strategy to ensure it is meeting the needs of our community. In particular our RGS is much larger than most others in BC, which can leave it open to interpretation and legal challenges. We have already started to amend it to make it simpler to understand and therefore enforce but need to do a more fulsome review with the public.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I am focused on creating a culture of collaboration and cooperation that starts at City Council and flows through City Hall. I have spent my entire life leading and supporting Entrepreneurial, Cultural, Social and Environmental causes and have the proven ability to bring people from across the spectrum together to create an effective team. I am passionate but not polarizing, I’m pragmatic and look for practical solutions. As Mayor I will lead our community as we transition from a small town into a modern city.Erik ErikssonEriksson declined to answer the survey questions, and said that voters should judge people by their community service and character, experience and ability, rather than “how clever they are at answering questionnaires”. He encouraged residents to check out his website to get more information.Council CandidatesStarr WinchesterWHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON TAXES IN COURTENAY? DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH THE CURRENT TAX RATES? WHY OR WHY NOT?Property taxes in Courtenay are rising at an unsustainable rate, in my opinion. In order to keep taxes down, we need to take a close look at spending. Council must make tough decisions. We need to focus on the “must do’s” as opposed to the “nice to do” projects. The biggest spending challenges are the day to day or annual costs of running government, such as salaries, operation of equipment and vehicles et. Capital costs, such as building a bridge or a new Fire Hall are seldom paid from this year’s taxes and must be paid from borrowed funds, with the annual cost being the cost of paying off the loan plus interest, just like a family mortgage.2.WHAT IS YOUR STANCE ON THE IDEA OF A THIRD CROSSING IN THE VALLEY? WHAT IS YOUR SOLUTION FOR CONGESTION AT RIVER CROSSINGS?Traffic congestion is a real concern to me. I am hearing this at residents’s doors over and over again in the past month since I’ve been door-knocking. We need to start by engaging with the Province to re-design and widen our 17th Street Bridge, and somehow eliminate the traffic lights to keep traffic moving. The costs of this upgrade/re-design should be shared by the whole Comox Valley, with the majority of funding coming from the Provincial government. The Dove Creek bridge is now operational so we need to work with the province to erect signage directing citizens to this crossing.3. WHAT STEPS WOULD YOU WANT TO TAKE TO ADDRESS THE NEED FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN COURTENAY AND THE WIDER VALLEY?This is a serious concern, and we must work together, with all levels of government to address this issue. We have a new committee formed called the Coalition to End Homelessness who are working very hard and having success in addressing homelessness in the Valley. I think Courtenay Council should work closely with this committee and provide support when necessary. We need to look at innovative ways to create affordable housing. Council should take a pro-active move to re-zone some land for housing which could accommodate micro-housing and tiny homes. We also need to relax regulations for secondary suites and carriage homes. We need to apply more focus on the “working poor”, young families who cannot afford the prices today.4. What are your thoughts on amalgamation?I have advocated for years that a re-structure of governance in the Comox Valley is needed. A variety of services should be brought together which would benefit the whole Comox Valley. I am not an expert when it comes to environmental issues, however I have the greatest respect for the many professional in our area, including Staff at our various municipalities and Regional District. What I would like to see is our planning departments combined into one. Our environment has no boundaries, therefore how can we effectively conserve and plan for our future working in isolation from one another. Also, funding applications to senior levels of government are looked at much more favorably when we apply as one jurisdiction, as opposed to two or three.5. HOW DO YOU THINK COURTENAY COULD IMPROVE ITS AIR QUALITY?This is a Valley wide issue, therefore should be dealt with at the Regional District. Slash burning is still allowed in the Regional District, which obviously affects the Citizens of Courtenay too. I understand that we also need to encourage residents to upgrade to cleaner primary heating systems.6. DO YOU AGREE WITH THE REGIONAL GROWTH STRATEGY. WHY OR WHY NOT?I agree with the Regional Growth Strategy. I also feel it is time for a review of this document.7. OVERALL, WHY DO YOU THINK YOU SHOULD LEAD THIS COMMUNITY?Most importantly, I am a Team Player. I feel strongly that for Council to accomplish its goals, we must work together as a team. I have the experience, a solid track record and strong leadership skills, having served on Courtenay Council for 21 years, 6 of those as Mayor. I also held Management positions in my 32- year banking career. I am a good listener, and common sense plays a major role in all my decision making. And finally, I have the time and the energy to provide the leadership the citizens of Courtenay rightfully deserve of their Councillor.Tom GrantWhat is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? The spending habits of the last four years are neither sustainable or affordable. We are funding operations out of surpluses and reserves and hiring new staff at a rate that boggles the mind. We must have a Core Review and council must rein in spending.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? The traffic problem over the bridges is a regional problem and must be addressed by a collaboration of all local governments as well as the province and the feds.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? First off council should look at all the cost drivers imposed by the city on developers that are driving prices up and making homes less affordable. To help with subsidized and supportive housing I think we should work with the Coalition to End Homelessness and support their efforts rather than trying to go it alone and make mistakes.What are your thoughts on amalgamation? I think the idea of amalgamation should be explored, however our neighbours don’t really have that much interest in even talking about it. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality?Courtenay could improve its air quality by convincing the Regional District to ban burning. Much of the poor air quality is blown into the city from the RD. I am not in favour of giving grants to people to convert from wood stoves and fireplaces. Our taxpayers are burdened enough without giving away more of their money. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? I think the RGS was a well though out plan that included extensive community input.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I have the business background, extensive council experience, as well as a passion and love of our community, that will guide me forward in leading this community.Mano TheosWhat is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? I have great concern with the significant rise in property tax levels over the past few years. Many residents in Courtenay are on fixed incomes or raising young families. I feel people are being stretched to there limits in order to pay for increased taxes. I voted against the last two budgets. I was opposed to the hiring of the dozen plus new employees feeling it was an excessive amount. I felt it was a more responsible approach to identify efficiencies followed by phasing in employees as required. Small businesses are also impacted with rising taxes. Tax rates influence the ability to attract new investment to Courtenay. I believe the city should dedicate 25 percent of the gaming funds to offset tax increases. I have spoken with a number of seniors while door knocking over the past few weeks. I’m being told that many seniors are at risk of losing their homes. Rising property tax levels are a contributor to this potential crisis. It is critically important to focus on the core services the city offers, rather than straying to cater to a small number of special interest groups. Attracting investment in a tech or value added manufacturing parks along with a robust home building industry would create meaningful jobs and add to our tax base. We also must incorporate densification to get maximum value out of each property. Using minimal infrastructure to achieve this approach to growth.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? The discussion with improved traffic flow should be a valley wide approach. The residents of Courtenay should not carry the financial burden of moving increasing traffic. The new connector off of headquarters could assist in relieving traffic from the 17th street bridge moving into the future. I believe before that becomes an alternative widening headquarters Rd for trucks, better lighting, signage and ensuring safety for Vanier high school all need addressing. In my opinion the addition of an extra lane on each side of the 17th street bridge would be crucial in order to relieve the bottle neck that occurs at that location.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? It’s important to think proactively rather than reactively. I feel it’s a three step approach. First is to work with the building community to ensure there is a variety of housing options and inventory. Continue to work with the excellent local associations that are tirelessly working to ensure people in need are not falling through the cracks. The second step would be to attract meaningful employment. A decent job has many benefits including raising confidence and skill sets while providing financial stability. The third approach is to provide the tools for success but encouraging people in need to contribute to their own solutions. Habitat for humanity is a perfect example of that mindset approach.What are your thoughts on amalgamation? I’m in favour of finding efficiencies. Less governments to deal with along with a reduction in red tape meanwhile working together to achieve larger funding grants and reducing the risk of failing septic tanks on our borders. I’m keeping an open mind to all options available to working more cohesively together. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality?An education strategy to inform people that burning wet wood is not ok. Proving sufficient resources to help people upgrade their wood stove or change to an alternative source of heating is also a tool. Slash burning from outside our borders is also needs addressing. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? The growth strategy is due for an update. New information will help guide our decisions moving forward with the Regional growth strategy.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I have the experience, passion and willingness to ask the hard questions in order to achieve the greatest outcome for the people of Courtenay. I look at the city operations from a business perspective and am committed to maximize value for every dollar. I will continue to work hard to ensure Courtenay is recognized as a leader in being a fabulous place to work, play and live.Kiyoshi Kosky What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? I will do my best to not support a tax increase. I will not make a promise I may not be able to keep. I understand how upsetting it is for residents when they cannot afford their home through municipal taxes. I will be collaborative and creative with budget restraints and solutions on council. I do not have enough knowledge yet to give intelligent commentary on this question directly. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? I do not support a third crossing. We do have a traffic issue. The solutions I have heard from the public are a round about on both sides of 17th street bridge, longer turning lane at Ryan RD at Back RD, a ring road and synchronised traffic lights at certain times of the day. As well, I like Courtenay candidate Will Cole-Hamilton’s traffic solution.3. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? Revitalization of the Downtown CoreCurrently, there is a passionate group of Comox Valley citizens working on advancing a bold vision for Courtenay’s downtown core. In this collaborative, long-term vision, the community would buy the old Thrifty’s site in partnership with the municipality. The site can host a local farmer’s market hub creating food security in the valley, small business can benefit from utilizing the building, and a technology hub could bring small tech businesses to the valley. The Comox Valley Arts Council could create a cultural hub in the building, and a place of learning could be connected to the tenants in the building. Renewable energy could be the main source of energy consumption, providing long term savings. The Official Community Plan fits this vision for the downtown core, which is currently being financially assessed. The potential to create an amazing space is at our doorstep. These ideas illustrate the energy and passion of a caring community, and the possibility of creating a solution dealing with multiple social issues is exciting. As well, the long-term vision would create sustainable economic benefits. Affordable rental stock housing can be created. One model currently operating is Whistler’s Housing Authority. Whistler’s model demonstrates the ability of a loan to be serviced from rental income, including property management fees, maintenance fees, and a reserve fund for future capital projects on the site. The model also demonstrates a substantial revenue stream for the municipality after the debt is fully serviced. This revenue could be reinvested back into more affordable housing projects. The Whistler model shows renters’ cost is substantially lower than market value. The goal would be to meet the true definition of affordability. There is a possibility to use the Affordable Housing Reserve fund to fund the rental housing portion of the vision. Consultation with and support from the Coalition to end Homelessness and support from them is an important piece of the puzzle. The old Thrifty’s site vision meets the Regional Growth Strategy Goals of housing, local economic development, infrastructure, food systems, and climate change, and is congruent with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.History of the Whistler Housing Authorityhttps://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1211/9038/files/the_wha_story_a_history_of_affordable_housing_in_whistler.pdf?4217136421306221965 What are your thoughts on amalgamation? I do not support amalgamation. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? Air Quality Effects Us AllThe City of Courtenay plays an integral role in facilitating and contributing to clean air in the valley. Clean air is a community issue requiring a collective, collaborative, and long-term solution. The Official Community Plan speaks to solving this issue, with its provisions for improving residents’ quality of life and combating climate change. There are many potential solutions for addressing this important issue, which affects the health and well-being of the citizens of Courtenay. One would be for the municipality to introduce a bylaw for all new builds prohibiting the installation of wood stoves. The issue of transitioning to heating alternatives would require both public consultation and an inventory assessment of wood stoves in the City. Additionally, Courtenay should lobby the Regional District and Province for a complete ban on brush burning in valley. Alternative options for farms and the forestry industry to deal with waste would need to be facilitated. The Regional District, BC government, and BC Hydro offer subsidies to switch to heat pumps. Cumberland, CVRD, and Comox should be lobbied to adopt the same policy. Finding a solution to the issue of wood smoke would align perfectly with the Regional Growth Strategy goals of public health and safety and addressing climate change at the local level. The wood stove solution is also congruent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which Canada has committed to fulfilling.Subsidieshttps://www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/services/environment/airquality/wood-stove-exchange-programFacts and Evidencebreathecleanair.ca Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I support the whole document.Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy“We stand at a critical moment in earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. – from the earth charter”Facts and Evidencehttps://www.fraserbasin.bc.ca/_Library/SPC_Documents/2_3_e_Comox_Sustainability_strategy_June_15.pdf Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I deeply care about community and the land we live on. I was raised on Cortes Island, so how we are in community and how we take care of the land we live on are important to society’s well-being. Social justice, economic justice, and environmental justice are all interrelated in community decisions. These values define us and directly relates to who we are as a society. A just community tries to leave no one behind. the Municipal purposes section of the Community Charter, chapter 26, states the legal mandate of your local government is to foster the economic, social, and environmental well-being of its community. This is my mandate and platform. Thank you for your participation and time in maintaining our healthy community. You can view my campaign website at kosky.ca and you can view my Facebook campaign page at @KiyoshiKoskyCourtenayCouncil. You will find the rest of my platform on the website.Darwin Dzuba What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? Taxes are a drain on the local economy and need to be kept as low as possible. I would want to see the next budget before commenting on the rate. I do believe taxes should go down in times of growth. Some things I would like to look into are, can city hall contract out some services at reduced cost eg. payroll, is it time to offer city employees an early retirement package to reduce staffing. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? A third crossing is not needed at this time. Congestion can be reduced by timing and linking the lights on either side of the bridge’s. In the future we will need to eliminate the lights at the bridges, this could be done by making Cliffe one way north bound and Fitzgerald on way south.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? Housing can be enhanced through zoning changes and bylaws, allowing suites, carriage houses and tinny homes. Improving the attitude and culture at city hall reducing red tape will help bring back contractors and investment. What are your thoughts on amalgamation? All for it, let’s get started. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? Start with getting the province to stop slash burning, then work with the community and provincial incentives to switch to a lower emission heat source like natural gas.Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? The strategy is just that, things change and we need to make adjustments as we go.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? As councillor I will take guidance from the majority and work with staff to shape the community as the citizens see fit. I believe in sober second thought and debate through compelling and alternate ideas in council chamber.Will Cole Hamilton What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? I support a freeze in taxes for the 2019 budget. Many Courtenay residents have told me that they are unhappy with increases in their total property tax assessment. While the City’s share of the overall tax bill is only 56% of the total, and only rose slightly last year (roughly 1.5%, a bit less than the rate of inflation in Canada), a freeze in city taxes would be welcomed by most residents. We don’t have any numbers for the 2019 budget yet.But if one assumes that the budget will grow by roughly the same amount (1.5%) in 2019, then I believe that council could work together to find savings in that range. There may be some minor cuts in service, but that is the reality of trimming a budget.I believe that we can reduce the tax burden in the long run by adopting a more balanced approach to housing development. If we build a greater proportion of new housing units within the City’s existing network of streets and services, we can ensure that the City spends as little as possible on infrastructure for each new dollar of property taxes it brings in.As any business owner will tell you, if you reduce costs you will retain more of each dollar of revenue. Greater density is proven to promote transit use and make for safer communities – thus allowing the City to reduce the amount it spends to support transit and policing.Greater density also reduces the number of vehicle trips per person, which saves wear and tear on existing roads and bridges and reduces the need for new ones.Finally, greater density is shown to support local businesses which increases the City’s revenue from property tax on businesses. Increasing density would improve our stock of affordable housing, make our streets safer and more walkable, strengthen our downtown, support transit, and, fundamentally, it’s the best deal for taxpayers. Long term, this is how we will keep property taxes in line. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? I have heard many Courtenay residents express concerns about traffic congestion – it is a real problem. I believe that we need to take a hard look at solutions. While the province did underwrite our existing bridges, that was because each had a specific objective that was under provincial jurisdiction (5th Street was part of 19A, a provincial road, when it was built, and so was 17th Street when it was built, the Dove Creek Bridge was completed as an ambulance route to the new hospital).A third bridge for the purpose of moving local traffic would not likely receive provincial funds. Given that most people feel that taxes are high enough already, the cost of a new bridge between coming off Cliffe is not a realistic option. Instead, we should choose improvements that provide the best value for each dollar spent, and that can be put into place sooner rather than later.Let’s start by making better use of the bridges we already have, especially the recently built Dove Creek Bridge. If elected, I propose the following:Better use of the brand new and little used Dove Creek bridge. The City should work with the province for signage on the inland highway routing all freight to the east side of the river (going to the Hospital, Powell River ferry, CFB Comox, YQQ, Costco, Home Depot, etc.) to take this bridge. This would require some reworking of the intersection of Headquarters and Vanier, as well as a review of speed limits to assure pedestrian safety on Vanier near the Rec Centre. I would also meet with the shipping supervisors at all these organizations to discuss the rerouting of truck traffic.Working with the province to ensure that the intersections leading onto the 17th Street bridge are redesigned, and lights retimed the lights to improve traffic flow. We need to ensure that traffic can turn right onto the bridge without being stopped by a red light.Working with the province to secure funding to widen the existing 17th Street bridge. The bridge forms part of a provincial road (19A). Because it was designed with the potential to be widened, the most cost-effective solution would be to work with the province to add lanes to this bridge.4.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? We need to increase the supply of rental units in Courtenay. This means altering our by-laws to remove barriers that prevent builders from developing this kind of housing, particularly in the areas surrounding downtown. We should: allow more finished square footage in relation to lot size; reduce parking requirements; reduce setbacks; offer a reduction in development cost charges for projects which are designated as rental only; restrict the conversion of existing rental units to strata title; remove minimum size requirements for units and simplify the process for approving secondary suites. BC Housing is making major investments in housing where the municipality makes land available. The City recently completed an inventory of its land holdings. We should review this list to identify parcels which could be developed into affordable housing units with funding from BC Housing. What are your thoughts on amalgamation? Courtenay council should work on a sector by sector basis to find efficiencies through collaboration with Comox, Cumberland and the Regional District wherever possible. As we see the results of each joint effort, we will gain a clearer idea of whether wholesale, across the board, amalgamation would be a benefit to each community. I believe that it is a discussion worth having, whether the final conclusion is amalgamation or not. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? I think that we should build selectively on the district wide CVRD Wood Stove Exchange Program which provides rebates for those replacing older stoves with higher efficiency wood stoves, pellet stove, gas stoves and heat pumps. While the CVRD program is a positive step, I believe that we need to add focussed incentives to encourage people to move beyond wood heat altogether. Even the most efficient wood stoves still produce almost 100 pounds of particulate matter per year. Compare this with 1/6 of a pound for natural gas and 0 for electric heat.The CVRD program offers a $600 rebate for those who replace low efficiency wood stoves with a gas stove and $1000 for an electric heat pump. I suggest that the City match those rebates, and only those ones. This would ensure that residents who choose to replace an old wood stove with a non-wood burning option would receive twice the incentive. In addition, I would encourage the CVRD to discontinue rebates for wood and pellet stoves and devote those funds exclusively to incentivize gas and electric upgrades.I also propose that the City implement no-burn days when air quality is at its worst. All homes in the city are required to have a thermostat operated heating system, and on those days, residents will have to use their heating systems rather than wood-based heating.Finally, I support an education program designed to teach people whose wood heating causes excessive smoke how to operate their stoves more cleanly. Opacity (the thickness of smoke) can be observed from the street and by-law officers could be empowered to contact homeowners who’s houses emit heavier, whiter smoke and provide instruction on how to burn more cleanly – by ensuring that wood is dry, that dampers are used to burn at a high temperature, etc. This could be combined with a penalty for those who, after receiving a warning and education about best practices, continue to emit excessive smoke. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I agree with the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). The RGS was created to ensure that the City grows in an orderly way that makes efficient use of taxpayer-funded infrastructure. The RGS also invested years of valuable community input to design a strategy that directs future growth into the best serviced areas and anticipates the need for new development – it assumes a 50% population increase between 2010 and 2030. So, the growth we are experiencing is exactly what the RGS was made to address. We need to ensure that all residents and developers can rely upon a single clear and consistent plan which is why I support the Regional Growth Strategy. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?With a law school education and a degree in communications I have the skills needed to analyze problems, find optimal solutions and then get the message across. I have a long track record of contributing to our community, whether as a Board Member at the Downtown Business Improvement Association, as a member of the Coalition to End Homelessness or a volunteer with Elevate the Arts. I believe that I have the skills, commitment and insight to make a lasting contribution on Courtenay City Council.Wendy Morin What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? It’s unfortunate that due to aging, crumbling infrastructure and minimal contingency funds put away in the past, that we’ve been in the position of having tax increases. Although our tax increases are in line with other local governments, residents are faced with rising costs in other areas which add to financial strain. I think there are ways we can minimize tax increases going forward through utilization of gaming funds, and provincial and federal grants. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? I am not in favour of another river crossing, for reasons of cost and environmental impact. Our estuary is identified as having one of the richest and most sensitive eco-systems in North America. I fully support the Kus kus sum project that will not only help to protect this eco-system, but also will create a legacy that residents and visitors will value for years to come. As I engage with voters on doorstops, I am hearing many folks keen on creative solutions to our transportation challenges. I think the time is right, to get away from old school thinking, with band-aid solutions such as creating another crossing. The Master Transportation Plan is ready for the new council to examine, and I look forward to hearing all the interesting ideas that have come forward. We need to explore ways to better utilize the $15 million Dove Creek Bridge, while considering the needs of local residents in that area; improve cycling and walking routes; continue to enhance our transit system; and look at innovative ways to improve existing bridges and traffic patterns. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley?I think we need to pull out all the stops on our efforts to have more affordable housing in Courtenay and the rest of the Comox Valley. The Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness has put forward numerous ideas for municipalities that we need to act on. These include the following:Support Vulnerable Populations Through Supportive and Transitional Housing • Develop relationships with provincial and federal representatives and advocate for the funding of supportive/transitional housing initiatives • Identify parcels of municipal-owned, appropriately zoned land that can be allotted for supportive/transitional housing • Be proactive and ‘shovel ready’ for provincial and federal housing funding announcements • Fast track development/zoning applications for supportive/transitional housing • Provide property tax exemptions for supportive/transitional housing • Establish land banks/trusts Increase Capacity for Affordable Rentals • Remove re-zoning requirements and other unnecessary regulations for secondary suites • Support the conversion of older hotels/motels to housing units • Advocate for provincial regulatory change on tiny homes • Remove minimum unit size requirements • Reduce parking requirements for units • Fast track any required zoning changes/development applications • Limit short term rentals/build regulation (Airbnb, vacation rentals) • Work with North Island College to build student residences • Restrict conversion of designated rental units to strata title • Develop demolition control policies on existing rentals and manufactured areas • Consistently monitor rental housing stock • Designate areas as ‘rental zones’ Work with Developers: • Ensure developers of high density developments reserve a certain percentage of units for affordable housing, or contribute a similar dollar value to an affordable housing reserve fund • Review reserve fund frequently, and create a reserve fund application process that is clear and accessible • Provide incentives to developers who focus on affordable housingThese are concrete ideas that have been successful in other areas that I would support. What are your thoughts on amalgamation? I think we should continue to work collaboratively with Cumberland, Comox and the Regional District to streamline services and infrastructure needs. We need to better research the pros and cons of amalgamation and not make assumptions that one governance is the solution to all our problems. This topic comes up frequently but is not supported by the majority of citizens – possibly due to the unique and distinct aspects of our many communities. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? I think we should provide financial incentives to switch from woodstoves to clean heat sources and to consider banning woodstoves in new builds. I also think we should minimize open burn days, with complete bans when the air quality test results are poor. We also need to work with our neighbouring communities to create consistent rules, enforcement strategies and consequences for non-compliance. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? Yes, I agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy as it is a comprehensive document created by numerous groups, individuals and planners with much thought and foresight. It was also designed to be a long-term plan. It is an important legal document that is based on sound sustainability strategies, helps prevent urban sprawl, and maintains and protects the unique character of our rural lands. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? I would bring passion, energy and commitment to the councillor position. I have served the community in numerous ways since my youth and think I would be an asset on council. I am known for skills of collaboration, advocacy, project development, and community engagement that I believe would complement the skill sets of other council members. I would represent all citizens, particularly those whose voices are often not heard or invited to the table,Brennan Day What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? The taxation rate in the City of Courtenay is quickly making the city unaffordable, especially to those on fixed incomes and new families who make up a large segment of our population. The effect of municipal taxes is a significant contributing factor behind our current housing affordability crisis for both homeowners and renters. Furthermore, inefficiencies and wasteful spending in the delivery of core city services were not looked at in detail during the tax increase discussion, which should be a concern to all of our taxpayers.The supporters of the latest tax increase claim the city was responsible for a 1.5% increase, yet the average increase was closer to 6% taking into account Regional District increases, MIL rate and other allocations. This is simply unsustainable, and would have the effect of doubling our taxes in a period of 11 short years.We need to focus on improving the efficiency of our core service delivery, and avoid discussions on initiatives that are outside of our control. It is important to have vibrant arts and culture, recreation, and beautification, but no one will be able to enjoy these amenities if they cannot afford to live here.We cannot continue to tax our way out of poor planning, or hire our way out of inefficient service delivery. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? The City of Courtenay is woefully behind on infrastructure improvements, specifically transportation, for which they bear the greatest burden regionally. Council has historically been reactionary, rather than proactive in this regard and with our recent growth, this policy is starting to show cracks.We need to build a bridge to support not just our current demand, but also the demand we can reasonably forecast 25 years in the future. If we had a crossing location decided, and had funding from the province and federal government in place, we would still be 2-3 years away from this plan becoming a reality.Improvements can be made to reduce current congestion on our existing infrastructure, but even if we could improve flow by 25% (which would be an amazing result), it would only be a band-aid solution to the long-term projected increase.Having worked on large projects, I understand the time requirements for this type of project to come to fruition, and commit to getting the ball rolling in planning for the future growth of a vibrant Valley.We need to take action regarding a new crossing and other critical transportation upgrades – it is no longer avoidable. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? As Courtenay has grown, so too have housing and rental prices. While this is a multifaceted issue, municipal governments are in the best position to address the problem.Onerous building regulations, slow building application turnaround times, and arduous rezoning processes have the net effect of driving up the cost of building, or stymying development all together. This then creates an artificial supply shortage, whether intended or not, that further restricts an already tight market and drives up the costs for consumers.Densification of the urban core, more relaxed suite and carriage house regulations, and streamlined development approval can all play a large role in bringing these costs back to reality.Twenty years ago, a starter home in the Valley was almost wholly represented by single-family detached homes, as we have grown our population has quickly outstripped that supply. We need to encourage the construction of townhouse and apartment buildings by streamlining development approvals for this type of construction, and promote suite and carriage house additions on suitable existing properties.Our planning processes need to play catch up with the realities of current demand to have any effect in applying measureable downward pressure on housing and rental prices. What are your thoughts on amalgamation? Many of the problems that continue to arise such as lack of coordinated planning and excessive red tape, can be directly tied to lack of centralized governance.The make-up of the Comox Valley has changed dramatically since the last time this issue was brought forward, and was narrowly defeated in a referendum in 1999. Since that time, the problems of inefficient and compartmentalized thinking across municipal governments has festered and grown.Combined, we are a population of 66,000 people, with our largest Municipality representing only 26,000 of the total. This weakens our ability to effectively plan infrastructure improvements, dilutes our voice at both the federal and provincial level in regard to grant funding, and increases the administrative costs for core services, resulting in costly redundancies of staff and equipment.Together, we can present a strong, unified voice when discussing the larger issues facing our Valley instead of sitting miles apart having similar discussions about the same issues in separate rooms.The City of Courtenay needs forward thinking politicians that are not afraid to take point in discussing the big and divisive issues for fear of losing at the polls; I believe I can be that united voice for change. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? This is a Valley-wide issue, and needs a Valley-wide solution. While localized residential burning is one of the major contributors to this issue, commercial/industrial burning of wood waste also needs to be regulated in the Regional District in order for any action to have a meaningful impact.Courtenay, and its regional partners, need to develop a joint plan to incentivize homeowners to switch to cleaner heating solutions and restrict backyard and industrial burning during high-risk periods. For those residents that will continue, for financial reasons or otherwise, to use wood as their primary heating source, we need to ensure that their burning devices are appropriate and meet efficiency requirements, and adopt enforceable emissions bylaws to that effect. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? The current Regional Growth Strategy is an important foundational document that can help guide our communities future planning. This document was intended to be reviewed every 5 years to capture changes in the growth realities and demands in the region; at the last opportunity for a comprehensive re-read our elected officials determined it was not required.The regular review of this document, and the annual reports, gives us a clear indication of whether we are on track to meet our committed targets, as well as an opportunity to discuss broader issues such as waste diversion rates, housing affordability, and infrastructure issues with all involved regional governments. I believe our RGS can evolve to become a central unifying document amongst our municipalities and regional areas to help track progress, and identify targets to goals that can only be achieved working together.We should take every opportunity to ensure the RGS remains as it was intended as a living document representing our shared common interests for the Comox Valley, and a road map on how to achieve them. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? Throughout my 25 years here in the Comox Valley, I have been an active observer of our local political scene. To say that things have changed in that time would be an understatement, however the fundamental elements that make the Comox Valley a great place to live have survived and flourished.I see cracks starting to show in the way we plan and manage our municipality and the public purse; we seem to be continually playing catch up, rather than getting down to business and making the difficult decisions that will positively impact our quality of life. I believe I can be a moderate voice for positive change in the City of Courtenay.My experience managing large scale energy and infrastructure projects puts me in a unique position of understanding the challenging steps that are required to get things off the ground, and follow through to ensure budgets and schedules are adhered to. I have always taken on challenges with enthusiasm and a heads down approach to getting the job done; I can bring that work ethic to Courtenay Council.But the primary reason I should lead this community, is that I desperately want to see it evolve into a progressive and sustainable place for future generations while retaining the things that make the Valley so special. I will work hard to turn the page on the next chapter of our community’s growth, work on building consensus both in Council Chambers and between Council Chambers, to make sure that the Comox Valley remains the best place to call home.David FrischWhat is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? As a councillor of the City of Courtenay it is my duty to ensure that we provide good value services for our taxes to the entire community and leave future generations with the same opportunities to thrive. This means keeping assets in good maintenance, saving money for future replacement of assets, preserving the natural ecosystem, and planning sustainable housing and transportation options. I continue to look for efficiencies and push for smart growth development that limits expensive urban sprawl and encourages lower tax infill development.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? You will be happy to know that the city is currently working with professional transportation engineers to build more efficient and cost effective options for transportation in the valley. People are particularly excited by the opportunity to travel quickly and safely around the valley using frequent transit, integrated bicycle and mobility scooter networks, and convenient walking paths. It is likely that upgrades to our river crossings will be a significant part of the plan.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? Imagine a city that has a spectrum of housing options including smaller homes, carriage houses, rentals, condominiums, co-operative housing, subsidized housing, and supportive housing. Our city will work together, with developers and citizens, to build all these types of housing. Tax incentives, new zoning policies, streamlined permitting processes, and collaborative housing projects are how we will improve housing affordability in Courtenay.What are your thoughts on amalgamation? We are fortunate here in BC to have the ability to work together as a region to provide services. We should really be focusing on how we can do more collaborative governance and coordination between municipalities. I am particularly excited about the work the Integrated Regional Transportation Select Committee is doing to bring Courtenay, K’ómoks First Nation, Comox, Cumberland and the Regional Areas together to discuss transportation needs on a regional scale. This will greatly increase our access to provincial funding.How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? One of the most effective ways to improve our quality will be to have homes upgrade to clean primary heating systems, like heat pumps and gas furnaces, upon sale.Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? I agree with the Regional Growth Strategy because it supports the development of a healthy, safe, and vibrant community that includes people of all walks of life, provides access to recreation, and economic opportunities for generations to come.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?My vision for this community allows you to have clean air, modern comforts, social and cultural amenities, access to nature, and a quality of life that is unique to the valley and unparalleled anywhere else.Doug Hillian What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? I believe we need to limit tax increases to the level necessary to maintain important City services, while looking to implement economies where we can. This may mean revising the current practice of awarding some grants from gaming revenues and applying those funds to fixed costs, such as policing, as is currently done with a portion of those revenues. We also need to keep exploring other efficiencies and building our economic base to grow revenues. Courtenay’s taxes are within the range of comparable local governments (June 23, 2018 Black Press article:https://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/news/taxing-vancouver-island/ ). Still, we must always be mindful of living within our means and maintaining services while keeping taxes affordable.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? The financial and environmental costs of another crossing are too high, and we now have the north connector bridge in place so can encourage more use of that alternative. We need to focus on intersection improvements and investigate the potential widening of our existing in town bridges while improving transit, cycling and pedestrian options to reduce congestion. We have been meeting with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure officials to work on these issues, as well as increased pedestrian/cycling/scooter access and safety on a widened Ryan Road and widening the Hwy 19 bypass from 17th to Ryan while also culverting to improve flood mitigation. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? We have made significant progress of late with two large supportive housing projects underway (Braidwood and 8th St) and support for smaller projects and housing services via Habitat, L’Arche, Transition Society, the Salvation Army, Wachiay and Dawn to Dawn. This is a result of a lot of work in collaboration with these housing agencies and through the Homelessness Coalition, where I have represented the City, as well as engaging with the province and BC Housing to access grants. Our Downtown Development Bylaw is designed to provide incentives for affordable housing in the centre of the community close to shops and services, so will serve to add housing using existing infrastructure while also creating additional commerce downtown. We need to build on this progress and keep the momentum going while continuing to work with the development community to move forward rental housing projects. What are your thoughts on amalgamation? There are many pros and cons so I would need to see the business case. The potential benefits might include: cost savings through merging senior staff complements; better co-ordinated planning and environmental stewardship; greater convenience for business in terms of regulations, permitting, etc; possible better negotiating position and grant eligibility vis senior governments as a larger entity.The downside includes: Other municipal amalgamations have not produced the level of savings expected; The cost of studying and implementing an amalgamation would be significant, including the disruption inherent in such major re-organizations; Potential loss of local autonomy, community identity and municipal engagement present in smaller community; Comox taxes would automatically rise as residents and businesses would pay a larger share of policing costs, as Courtenay does now (Good news for Courtenay!).Of course, the primary tension in the Comox Valley is our urban rural divide, with many fearing amalgamation would increase development pressures and further threaten the qualities that make this area so very special. Others feel that our challenges would be better met through a streamlined local governance structure. I note that Courtenay has the question of a governance review on the Oct 20th ballot, while our other communities do not, so it looks like the issue will remain marginal. Our alternative is to continue promoting mutual co-operation through the CVRD and our other tables, while finding ways to minimize duplication and to encourage the sharing of our civic amenities. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? We need to work with the initiatives already underway through the Regional District and engage with the advocacy groups to explore all the possibilities to improve air quality. Steps may include: Regulating woodstoves, including investigating new chimney technology; Monitoring and enforcing against bad burning practices; Lobbying for provincial regulation of slash burning; A CVRD outdoor burning ban, as already implemented in Courtenay; Intersection improvements and improved transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to reduce vehicle congestion and excessive idling. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? I believe we must respect the principles and spirit of the Regional Growth Strategy, limiting increased density to existing settlement nodes. I support smart growth and infill development utilizing existing infrastructure in order to stop sprawl development and preserve our rural areas. I believe there are enough building lots coming on stream through the Block 71, Union Bay and KFN treaty settlement lands to maintain both housing supply and a viable construction industry. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? Serving on Council is both a privilege and an onerous responsibility that I take very seriously. I remain motivated by a commitment to public service and a deep love for this community, where I have lived and worked for 39 years and raised my family. I have strived to work constructively with council colleagues, staff and citizens on many positive initiatives while advocating to maintain services within a responsible fiscal framework. My vision for Courtenay is a safe, respectful and inclusive community with a strong and sustainable local economy where we co-operate with our neighbours to live and prosper together while caring for both our built and natural environments. In all I do, I am guided by principles including respect for the individual, compassion for the disadvantaged and a firm belief in our responsibility to work together for the common good. I remain committed to working with our citizens to continue building on our strengths as a community, and I offer my commitment to service and experienced leadership if privileged to serve again.Penny MarlowWhat is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? The City of Courtenay’s taxes have, over the past several years, risen faster than the cost of living and the taxpayers ability to pay. Many of the City’s taxpayers are on a fixed income. For those working, their incomes have been slow to rise. I do not feel that the Courtenay taxpayers are getting good value for their tax dollar and that the City can be more efficient and effective in their spending. The current Council is not being fiscally responsible.There has been discussion about a zero tax increase for the next budget year. I certainly support holding taxes down and giving the City taxpayer a chance to catch up from the recent tax increases. Council needs to review and prioritize services. Community input is important in this process. It is important to note that even with a zero tax rate increase, the City will still be getting additional taxes from the new development.2.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? I recognize the need for an additional river crossing. I am not committed to a specific location as, at this time, there are pros and cons for each proposed location, be it north or south of 17th Street. There is also the possibility of expanding 17th bridge and eliminating the lift capability. An updated transportation strategy needs to be completed before any bridge decision can be made. Community consultation is critical in this process. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? Affordable housing and homelessness has almost reached a crisis point in our society. It is a growing problem not only for youth, but our seniors as well. We have several community agencies that can provide effective leadership in this area. I am very supportive of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness and the 19 agencies that make up this coalition. Initiatives such as the Comox Valley Homeless Support Services help. In 3 yeas this tax requisition has raised $495,000 and is making a difference with the housing assist projects. We must continue to find innovative solutions such as this.The City should play a supportive role, ensuring all road blocks are removed. The City can develop zoning, provide tax exemptions/incentives, grants and have shovel ready projects. Greater densification and lower cost housing can be achieved through suites and carriage homes. What are your thoughts on amalgamation? I support local government amalgamations if there are cost savings and improvements in service delivery. The question of amalgamation has been discussed for many years. A referendum was held in1999, an was turned down by the electorate. There have been subsequent discussions involving other communities in the valley. None have been successful. In 2018, an amalgamation referendum for Duncan and North Cowichan also failed. Amalgamations and governance reviews are not connecting with the taxpayer.Even without amalgamation, our communities can still work together on projects of common interest. We already collaborate on services such as water, sewer, transportation and recreation. In order to get the best value for our taxpayers, we need to investigate and identify other projects and services that we can collaborate on. I will initiate discussions with our surrounding jurisdictions to increase our collaboration and sharing. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? Everyone needs clean air to breathe and live. Legislation is not the best way to ensure high air quality is achieved in the valley. Our air is affected by activities outside the control of our region and from activities around the world. An example is the smoke we experienced this past summer. Air quality becomes a global issue. Therefore, we must also look to education and negotiation to help solve this problem. We must begin to act locally by controlling open burning and minimizing the use of wood stoves. We should be composting rather than having open burning. Through financial incentives, we can encourage replacement of wood stoves in existing homes and eliminate them in new homes. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? Yes, I support the current Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). It has been developed with extensive community input. There have been no significant changes that require the RGS to be replaced at this time. I do not support increasing the number of Settlement Nodes in the valley, especially a new Settlement Node in the rural area. Instead, we should be encouraging higher density in the existing urban areas. We should stop urban sprawl and protect our green spaces.The Regional Growth Strategy goes hand-in-hand with the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy. These document are about maintaining our urban and rural environments so that we have a liveable space for us and future generations. We need to maintain the vision and continue the collaboration between the CVRD and the 3 urban municipalities. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? I believe in my community. Courtenay has been my home for over 50 years. This is where I have been in business for 30 years. The Community has supported me and I want to give back. I am now in a position where I am able to contribute to the vision of improving and growing our community.We are living in challenging times and there are many issues facing our country and our community. In Courtenay, we have to make important decisions concerning the environment, community development, infrastructure, and taxation. Our City Council will determine future of our community. I believe that I have the vision, knowledge and skills to help develop the plan for our future.Please vote for Penny Marlow for Courtenay City Council.Murray Presley What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not?Current taxes are too high and the increases over the last few years have exceeded cost of living increases. This is not sustainable and makes affordable housing unattainable .What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? A third crossing in the long run will eventually be required but should be in the form of reconfiguring the two existing bridges. Having said this the needs for the next few years should be handled by diverting more traffic to the north connector.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? Promote and encourage smaller living units in the downtown core. Reducing the red tape and increasing the speed for approvals for developers and buildersWhat are your thoughts on amalgamation?We have talked about amalgamation for the last 50 years and hopefully we will have the Province help us do a review to answer people’s concerns. Up until now the only information people have is what there friend next door or at work or at the coffee bar has told them.How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality?Consider phasing out wood stoves if the account for a lot of the reduction of air quality in the Valley.Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I agree with the overall concept but I believe a review is necessary at this time to reduce the difficulty to make amendments. It should be a guide to where we want to go and be flexible as needs change.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I believe I have the business background (over 50 years self employed in the Valley as a CPA) the previous experience ( 15 years on earlier City councils and several years on the CVRD) the community commitment ( United Way, Beaufort Association, Comox Valley Community Foundation, BC Small Business Roundtable. Washington Community Futures, to name a few ))and the time ( retired).Judi Murakami What is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? Our current tax rates are the highest in the Comox Valley as we have debts and are providing many of the services/amenities enjoyed/utilized by everyone in the valley (5th St. Bridge, Sid Williams Theatre, Florence Filberg Centre, Native Sons Hall to name a few). I do not know the historical rationale for the high rate, but I do know that we still need a 2nd fire hall in East Courtenay. This project was agreed upon in 2014, but only the training centre was built. Building costs only go up, so we are looking at more money to ensure the safety of our citizens. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? I believe congestion could be alleviated through better access and egress onto the bridges, reconfiguring/widening the bridges, improving the traffic lights so there is better flow, and looking at alternate routes to streamline traffic. I do not agree with the concept of a third crossing. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? I would partner with all levels of government, including First Nations, to utilize all monies and grants under the bilateral agreement between the federal and provincial governments under the National Housing Strategy. The Provincial Government has budgeted funds for housing for: women and children affected by violence, students in post-secondary institutions; and, indigenous societies.The model used by Courtenay Kiwanis village (44 independent living units with a social centre, laundry facility) could be duplicated if managed by other service organizations. I would encourage community organizations, such as the four Rotary Service Clubs to partner with BC Housing, who is willing to build more of these units for seniors. The Whistler Housing Authority model could also be used to ensure affordable housing. This development is a win win for developers who build a combination of market and restricted market accommodation, and partner with employers who want affordable housing for their staff. What are your thoughts on amalgamation? I believe that this could happen only if the province mandated amalgamation, as no other area wants to take on our debts. I would certainly be willing to look at this topic, but I don’t believe another jurisdiction would want it. How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? Every jurisdiction would need to have the same bylaws, as one side side of the street with no open burning could be faced with homes across the street who burn garbage and stumps. Consistency is important. Incentives could be provided for alternative energy producers, such as solar, wind turbine, and gas.The City of Courtenay website could post daily readings of air quality.Education and information is key for students, realtors, homeowners, wood sellers, insurance agents, etc. Bylaws could require that any house that is sold should require any and all wood burning stoves be wet-certified. All inefficient stoves would need to be upgraded. Open fireplaces should be taxed or boarded up. Insurance agents could charge extra for open fireplaces and credit homeowners with efficient stoves. Wood sellers could be certified, rather than anyone with a truck selling green wood. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? The document is outdated in some areas, i.e., Under affordable housing, the target % of households paying more than 30% of their income on housing was 35% for renters in 2015 and 30% in 2020. Given the housing shortage and prices in the valley, this has not been a viable target for many years. It should be reviewed every 4 years, as a working document. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? I have the time, commitment, energy and drive to serve the people of Courtenay. I believe I have the skills, experience and education to work as a team player, and team builder so that the council functions as effectively as possible. I’m prepared to word hard, to ask the hard questions, to research what works well, what’s new and what are the possibilities. I’m a firm believer in consulting with the community, grass roots development and developing partnerships to get the best bang for the buck. I want to help the City of Courtenay move forward into being one of the best cities in Canada.Melanie McCollumWhat is your position on taxes in Courtenay? Do you agree or disagree with the current tax rates? Why or why not? Courtenay’s taxes are comparable to similar sized communities on Vancouver Island. I do not “disagree” with the current tax rates, however I am committed to looking for efficiencies to keep our rates as low as possible. Taxes can be made more affordable by increasing in-fill and improving density. This is how Courtenay’s tax base can increase, without increasing our infrastructure burden.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? I don’t support a 3rd crossing at this time. Our tax base cannot afford a capital project of this magnitude. The way to address the bottle neck at 17th bridge is to address the poor traffic flow that results from both sets of lights. Traffic is often stopped on the bridge, this is why it seems like we do not have enough bridge capacity.The city also needs to work with the provincial government to get truck traffic re-routed to the Dove Creek bridge to reach the east side of Courtenay. There’s no need for large trucks to come all the way through Courtenay from the Inland Highway.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Courtenay and the wider Valley? City Council needs to continue to advocate for Provincial & Federal funding to build more affordable housing in our area. The City should also continue its work with our local community groups to identify suitable locations for new projects and ensure these are moved through the approval process as quickly as possible.The City also needs to look at ways to increase rental stock by making it easier for secondary suits, granny flats and carriage houses to be added to existing properties.What are your thoughts on amalgamation? Amalgamation of Courtenay & Comox would likely provide more efficient delivery of services, however I do not believe that this is a realistic possibility at this time. More specifically, Comox would likely not be in favour of this option as it would see their taxes go up. Courtenay pays a greater portion of policing services and has more municipal debt. There would have to be a mutual benefit for both municipalities for this to be a viable option.How do you think Courtenay could improve its air quality? Provide incentives to homeowners to convert to cleaner heat alternatives, specifically -grants or rebates, to convert homes from wood heated to cleaner alternatives. I would also support a ban on installing wood stoves in new homes or homes that use a different type of heat, i.e. replacement of old wood stoves the only type of install allowed. I would also like to see bylaw and enforcement of stoves that are burning with excessive smoke pollution.Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I agree with the current RGS and do not support at change to it at this time. Currently we have settlement expansion areas around all 3 municipalities, and 3 settlement nodes identified for further development.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I am not seeking to lead my community, but to represent the citizens of Courtenay the best I can with my background and experience. We need a Council of dedicated community members, that are committed to long-term planning, collaboration, community engagement and protecting the quality of life we have here.