NewsComox candidates touch on taxes, third crossing, and more SHARE ON: James Wood, contributor, Wednesday, Oct. 17th, 2018COMOX, B.C- We asked every candidate running for municipal office in Comox eight 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 CANDIDATESRuss Arnott did not respond to the survey, and stated he wanted to focus on in-person campaigning. Tom DiamondWhat is your position on the tax rates within the Town of Comox? Do you agree with them, or believe they should be lowered?With planned economic growth, we could have dramatic cuts in Comox property taxes –as much as 50% — in a few years. It’s all about changing our mindset about taxes and other potential revenues the Town can grow from commercial and business sources.First, taxes are not written in permanent stone. They are simply a math problem for matching income to expenses, and paying our Town bills. Comox collects about $10 million taxes every year. This pays roughly half the $17-19 million cost of running our town. The other half is paid by utility fees, service fees, licences and permits, investments, rentals and so on. When you do the math, a 50% tax cut means $5 million would have to come from somewhere else. But this is just the starting point. I want to shoot higher, and win a greater income that Comox can turn in better services for more people.For example, let’s say over the next 4 years we grow a more vibrant town with more amenities and services that cost about double, or $40 million annually. To pay for that, some of our income will grow naturally from taxes and fees paid by more people, developers and businesses. But I want to change the balance: less paid by taxpayers and more paid by developers, investments, strategic partnerships with business, commercial fees, land sales, land and building leases and other channels. This wouldn’t happen overnight. And we would have to grow new revenue sources first, before cutting taxes.But with appropriate planned growth, we can have a realistic and balanced income mix of 25/50/25. In this scenario, Comox income would include 25% property taxes, 50% other municipal fees, and 25% new sources. Generating that extra 25% — about $10 million — is my personal 4 year priority.Challenging? Yes! But definitely doable.The extra $10 million will come from economic development. I will help Comox win new business investment that will bring more high paid jobs to the Valley, and help grow amenities and services to attract new residents and increase tourism. I want to attract green and flexible companies who can easily move operations and workers to Comox, including high tech, tourism and education. I also want to encourage resorts to invest in infrastructure, recreational operators to expand water and mountain experiences, and investment partnerships that turn new business growth into more Town revenues.Blue sky thinking? You bet. Pie in the sky? Nope. The pie is here and our neighbours are enjoying it right now!Cumberland, in our own back yard, is turning new development into a vibrant downtown core, upgraded services, and social contributions from municipal vendors. On a slightly larger scale, Squamish has grown into a world class outdoor recreational mecca, boosting local businesses, amenities and jobs. With 20,000 people and a $45 million budget, Squamish provides Comox with a very realistic, proven and environmentally friendly growth model. I have spoken with key players in Squamish and will build on these relationships.Bottom-line: I am very confident that, in time, we can cut taxes and still have everything we need to turn Comox into a shining example of planned growth and small town living.We can do it!Proof: Here are six BC towns that beat our 50% property tax-based revenue mix, with some examples of their non-tax revenue sources. Math keeners will notice I haven’t listed every revenue source, which can be found on each town’s website–search for their SOFI financial statements.Cumberland2.4 M Property Tax rev (18%)7.8 M Transfers (loans and grants)13.3 M Total revNelson10.1 M Property Tax rev (21%)17.2 M Hydro rev48.7 M Total revPrince Rupert1.4 M Property Tax rev (30%)2.8 M Sales, fees, debt payments4.6 M Total revRichmond183.8 M Property Tax rev (30%)289 M Other capital funding, investments, gaming, licenses, other612.1 M Total revTofino3.8 M Property Tax rev (34%)4.8 M User fees and grants11.1 M Total revWhite Rock19.7 M Property Tax rev (39%)17.9 M Sales of services and other rev49.9 M Total revWhat is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings?We need a third crossing. Traffic is already backing up to the top of Comox Avenue–well over a mile–for the 17th street bridge. We need to our homework for a 20-30 year transportation strategy that includes a third crossing, better public transit, more walkable services, and more multimodal pathways that can turn cycling into a serious and safe commuter option.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Comox and the wider Valley?Multi-unit residential properties are the key to a more affordable future for all income levels. Not only do they provide a greater range of housing options, but they add more local services when they include first floor commercial units. They also help reduce infrastructure costs by concentrating infrastructure use and maintenance into a smaller footprint. And they reduce vehicle traffic by increasing density of population, and encourage living and working within a smaller geographic area.Progressive municipalities should provide tax and other incentives that encourage developers to build multi-unit, multi-use buildings with more affordable rental, owner and commercial spaces. But developers aren’t the only ones who deserve a tax break. Let’s also reduce taxes for citizens, as part of a broad-based, multi-pronged approach that tackles affordability for middle and lower income earners. We can make life more affordable for everyone with more housing options, more multi-use buildings, lower property taxes, better public transit, more well paid jobs by attracting more employers, and a more vibrant economy that spreads infrastructure costs, while providing more services and amenities for small town living. There is so much more we can do in Comox. Time to think big!What are your thoughts on amalgamation in the Valley, including the question of Courtenay and Comox merging?Amalgamation may be inevitable, but not anytime soon. Courtenay would benefit for sure, but Comox would lose through certain higher taxes and a likely, if unintended, decrease in service quality. Even the question to study amalgamation was rejected by Comox and Cumberland for this election’s ballot.So for now, what we can do is keep an open dialogue between all three towns and work through the existing regional structure to tackle Valley wide issues together. Furthermore, if elected I would like to help Comox better stand on its own two feet, and lighten some of the service and traffic burdens we contribute to Courtenay.If Comox can develop a stronger more independent economy, then we can keep more shoppers and diners from traveling over the bridges, better local jobs would reduce bridge line ups during rush hour, more and safer multi-modal pathways would also reduce the traffic load, and a larger population could contribute more healthcare, law enforcement and social services that Comox citizens now rely on from Courtenay.So by making Comox more economically independent, we could reduce Comox’s footprint on Courtenay infrastructure and services. This could help Courtenay better tackle its debt and upgrade its services, and grow into a more attractive partner for amalgamation.What are your thoughts on the infrastructure plans in the Valley, such as the proposed Agri-plex? Are there any projects you agree or disagree with pursuing?Instead of the Agri-plex, let’s develop a conference center in downtown Courtenay. For example, if the Florence Filberg Centre were expanded, then we could build on less expensive infrastructure, revitalize the Courtenay downtown core, and increase economic activity for local business.I would also like to see improved public transit, downtown revitalization of Comox and other new Comox services: seaside boardwalk, off-road pathways, people only downtown street, public market, pool, youth centre, bmx/skate park, theatre venue and more Comox shopping and dining opportunities.We can pay for infrastructure upgrades with new Town revenues from economic growth, planned by a new Official Community Plan, to begin first thing after the election and completed within 5 months. I am very experienced in fast-tracking strategic plans like this, while including widespread public input. We need to accurately gauge the type and degree of growth desired by citizens, and map out funding and other resource requirements along a practical timeline. It will also be an educational process that helps our community envision the next 30-50 years of town development, and shape the legacy we want to leave our children and grandchildren.Do you think the current system of appointed directors to the CVRD from the three municipalities should change?Not at this time, but I am always open to good ideas and potential improvements.Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?Mixed. It has a lot of good ideas but very few teeth; to enforce and protect the plan. So it’s vulnerable to one-off variances. It also doesn’t adequately address current growth pressures. If it did, 90% of development projects could be handled within current zoning requirements. But instead, it seems like most development projects have to request zoning changes, which cause expensive, lengthy and acrimonious fights that chase good developers to other more developer-friendly towns like Campbell River, Cumberland and Nanaimo.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I am very excited and passionate about the potential of Comox, and I am grateful for the opportunity to explain what I can offer as Comox Mayor. I am a 10 year resident, a husband, a father, and small business owner on Comox Avenue. I speak with many citizens every day and I am in touch with Comox. As a counsellor I help people improve sleep, anxiety and brain fitness. With a PhD in industrial psychology, I have built teams and trained leaders in over 100 organizations across Canada and the US, both public and private. I ran small businesses, led university programs and built a 30 year career of leadership experience. I have never been a politician, and that is a good thing. Because I am not stuck with yesterday’s baggage. I am an independent thinker with an open mind and fresh, new ideas.I learn quickly and hire smart people and advisors — like Brooke Finlayson – my campaign manager, who has generations of family and a long history of service in Comox. I know how to bring people together, inspire collaboration and turn ideas into results.This election is all about change. The long list of new political candidates signals that people want change in Comox. We don’t want any more red tape or status quo, we want government to keep its promises and deliver results that residents need. I want to help Comox get a much-needed upgrade.Let’s up our game in Town Hall. Let’s prevent union battles, speed up processes, and honor our duty to Mack Laing Park. We need council to be more transparent, accountable, accessible and available for public input.Let’s upgrade the marina and services at our fantastic airport, and create more activities for youth and families. Let’s clean up our streams and increase fish-bearing waterways.And let’s revitalize downtown Comox so it stays open for shopping, dining and fun after 5pm!!Let’s make life more affordable with better public transit, lower taxes, and better paid jobs that close the huge gap between our $61K median household income vs our $540K average Comox home! You don’t need to be a psychologist to know that’s crazy!We have to fix this!We will fix affordability with economic growth. Comox needs more job-creating, sustainable businesses like aviation maintenance, high tech, education and tourism, and better support for small business and local entrepreneurs. Help me turn NO-Mox into GO-Mox and learn from Cumberland and other towns who grow their economies and lower their taxes. People ask how I will cut taxes. Well I won’t cut anything until we grow our economy and shift our revenues from property taxes to commercial revenues, that keep taxes low for both residents and businesses. It may take a few years before we can afford major tax cuts—it’s a long term process. In the meantime, I promise to vote against any cuts to jobs or services.We can do better with new leadership, fresh ideas and open minds. If I’m elected, I want to see people lining up outside Town Hall, demanding a better future! And I want to see you for morning coffee meetings, which I have been hosting for the past few months on Thursdays from 9am-10am at Milano’s coffee — thanks for the great coffee Robin and Vickie! I promise to keep doing this as mayor, to honor my commitment to a more open and accessible local government.It would be might great honor to serve Comox citizens as their new Mayor. Please connect with me at www.mayortom.ca. Take the poll on future ideas for Comox. Send your questions and hopes. Join me for coffee on Thursday morning. Call, email and connect on Facebook @forcomoxmayor. I will listen with an open mind and heart. If you like what you see, please endorse my website at www.mayortom.ca/endorsements.My platform in brief: Taxes: cut property taxes in half. Economy: double town revenues with planned growth and strategic partnerships. Jobs: attract new industries to create hundreds of new jobs. Affordability: improve walk-ability with multi-use buildings for living, working andshopping. Local business: create new small business incentives and developmentresources . Village promenade: open a pedestrian-only street with bustling shops andrestaurants. Public market: start a Granville Island style farmers' market. Seaside boardwalk: provide more public access to walking, biking and scootersby the sea.Council Candidates Patrick Mckenna What is your position on the tax rates within the Town of Comox? Do you agree with them, or believe they should be lowered?The current Council has just completed investment in a five-year financial plan that includes increases in commercial property taxes and residential property taxes in the amounts of 1.4% and 2.43% respectively. The anticipated increases, between 2-3% annually are meant to pay for infrastructure costs such as road work and other cumulative projects. In reviewing the 5 year plan, there is considerable focus on road surfacing, parks and recreation and core services.Until I am able to fully analyze the trend information I probably can’t take a firm position but I have trust and belief that council has done their due diligence in enacting a plan that is fair. Simply retiring the operational and capital debt is a worthy accomplishment and being able to put $300,000.00 per year towards infrastructure rather than interest is commendable. Considering that assessed values of properties have risen astronomically in comparison to the increase in taxation I would say the larger problem in Comox is affordability of housing for young families. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings?We just completed a third crossing through to Dove Creek and on to the Island Highway.Properly promoted and utilized it will alleviate congestion in many of the other arteries. I do not see congestion as a particularly bad problem. If I am waiting at the 17th street bridge I generally look around and marvel at the beauty of the Comox Valley and think about how lucky I am to live here.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Comox and the wider Valley?I am the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North. I have been immersed in the development of affordable housing for 4 years. Habitat is one of the agencies signed on to The Comox Valley Homelessness Coalition and we have assisted in the creation of multiple housing units, including home ownerships, Habitat’s model, as well as supportive and transitional units through collaboration with agencies such as The United Way and Comox Valley transition society. There are many things including bonus densification, affordable housing covenants, DCC waivers that will assist housing agencies and developers in creating more housing that is affordable for all residents in the Comox Valley. What are your thoughts on amalgamation in the Valley, including the question of Courtenay and Comox merging?I am not in favour of amalgamation at this time. I am in favour of potentially amalgamating some services. Shared services may result in cost savings in some areas such as planning and development where it would make sense to have one set of “Rules” for all developers. The planning departments of all the municipalities that I deal with at Habitat are all understaffed in one form or another. Difficulty in finding trained planners has given rise to departments wearing multiple hats and ultimately slowing down or bogging down the process of development applications. I am in favour of a study that would detail what services could be shared and again, I am all about collaboration as long it makes sense and it is fair to all concerned. What are your thoughts on the infrastructure plans in the Valley, such as the proposed Agri-plex? Are there any projects you agree or disagree with pursuing?Not in favour at this time. A purpose-built facility that will serve more people closer to downtown would be something I am interested in. Not a single use facility built in a floodplain Do you think the current system of appointed directors to the CVRD from the three municipalities should change?I think the current system is a work in progress and that if there is an opportunity to have better representation from each municipality it should be explored Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?Amendments and proposals should be encouraged but the settlement nodes have been defined and the regional growth strategy should be adhered to as it was an incredibly complex document built through multiple collaborations. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I have a proven track record in both for profit and not for profit. I am an advocate for the arts, culture and heritage of the Comox Valley and I am confident that my leadership skills and diverse background would be a valuable asset on Comox Council.Ron Freeman What is your position on the tax rates within the Town of Comox? Do you agree with them, or believe they should be loweredPeople desire certain services and those services cost. I think our previous council has been fiscally responsible and kept taxes as low as possible while providing the services people expect. I am all in favour of finding ways to lower taxes without disrupting the existing services but with increasing costs for services and increasing contract payments it may be difficult.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? Eventually we are going to need another crossing but I am not sure now is the time. Yes, there is congestion but a ten-minute wait to get across is not unreasonable. You just need to plan accordingly. I am not sure if we could add another lane to the 17th street bridge thus giving it five lanes and make the middle one a counter-flow lane during peak times.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Comox and the wider Valley? Incentives to contractors to build homes with secondary suites or. Incentives to developers to designate one or more lots to affordable housing or $ in lieu of. In the case of condo or apartment blocks to designate one or more units as supportive housing units. Continue to promote and work with Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing through streamlined approval process and grants.What are your thoughts on amalgamation in the Valley, including the question of Courtenay and Comox merging? I am not in favour of amalgamation at this time as these are two unique communities. I am in favour of shared resources and infrastructure that reduces the cost to homeowners. What are your thoughts on the infrastructure plans in the Valley, such as the proposed Agri-plex? Are there any projects you agree or disagree with pursuing?The Agri-plex at this point is a non-starter and needs to go back to the drawing board as other changes have taken place that make it redundant.Do you think the current system of appointed directors to the CVRD from the three municipalities should change?(I am leaving this unanswered as I am not sure of the current process)Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I agree with the RGS in that it sets out a good blueprint for the future. Like any document however, revisions will be made as time progresses. I believe there is a good structure in place for it being reviewed every five years.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I believe I hold a good balance between development growth and the need to care for environmental issues. My background has instilled in me the ability to listen to all sides and to work collaboratively with people of diverse opinion.Chris Haslett What is your position on the tax rates within the Town of Comox? Do you agree with them, or believe they should be lowered?I think that we are getting a fair value at this time for our services. If elected, I would be a fresh set of eyes to look at where and how the money is being spent and make sure that we are getting the best use of our money.What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? At this time I am not sure that a 3rd crossing is needed. As with everything, I would like to review both sides before I came to a final decision.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Comox and the wider Valley? Affordable housing is very important to Comox and the rest of the Valley. I believe that more development is needed residentially. By increasing the amount of homes available and increasing the supply, we can lower the cost and allow more people to get into a home.What are your thoughts on amalgamation in the Valley, including the question of Courtenay and Comox merging? I don’t agree at this time with amalgamation but I am for Shared Services. Comox is debt free right now and I would want to make sure that it continues to be. From the majority of the people that I have spoken to, this isn’t something that they want either. What are your thoughts on the infrastructure plans in the Valley, such as the proposed Agri-plex? Are there any projects you agree or disagree with pursuing?At this time I don’t agree with the proposed Agri-plex. There is at this time no major project that I want to see go through. At the end of the day, I want to just make sure that we are representing what the community wants and needs while continuing to be fiscally responsible.Do you think the current system of appointed directors to the CVRD from the three municipalities should change?I think that there is a good representation of the community with the current system of appointed directors.Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I do like the RGS right now. I believe that it represents what the community is looking for long term. I would like it to act as a living document that can be adjusted and amended as the view of the area grows and changes though. What is best today may not be suitable 10 years down the road.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I think that I should help lead this community because I love it here. As a 3rd generation Comox resident with a new family, I feel that I can represent a part of the community that is expanding and looking to thrive. I want to make sure that there is a safe place for them to live, a strong community to grow up in and enough residential and economic development to ensure that they are able to stay and build a family as I have.Stephanie McGowan What is your position on the tax rates within the Town of Comox? Do you agree with them, or believe they should be lowered?We in Comox are lucky to be debt free currently debt free. Taxes are an imperative part of living in and supporting a community, and my promise is to ensure that we are using those dollars to the optimum benefit of our town, the people who make up our town, our infrastructure, and our culture.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 we need to look at transit and alternative traveling supports. A third crossing would be disturbing a protected and crucial area, while encouraging more cars on the road. In this time of necessary action to combat climate change, we need to discourage the use of single drivers and push for effective, affordable, and viable transit systems, as well as walkways and bike lanes.What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Comox and the wider Valley?I learned a lot of realistic initiatives that we can take on the municipal level while attending the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness and from Affordable Housing B.C. Beyond densification and suite promotion, we need to look at and promote multi-family buildings, apartments, townhouses, and alternative living situations. We need to create incentives and make sure that new builds are not all single family units.What are your thoughts on amalgamation in the Valley, including the question of Courtenay and Comox merging? I think that amalgamation is not advantageous to Comox residents at the moment, as we are debt free. I would not like to see Comox taking on the debts and monetary responsibility of decisions made by other communities. I am very interested in expanding on our shared services and working together to make sure that we all have access to the great recreational possibilities in the valley.What are your thoughts on the infrastructure plans in the Valley, such as the proposed Agri-plex? Are there any projects you agree or disagree with pursuing?My concern with the Agri-plex is if ALR land is used, which very well could have a much more important use in the future. With the current housing crisis and environmental issues challenging our food security, I would think that it would not be the best use of the land at this point.Do you think the current system of appointed directors to the CVRD from the three municipalities should change?I am currently learning more about the integral relationship between municipal government and the regional district.I understand Cumberland had 1 seat, Comox has 2 seats, and Courtenay has 4 seats.No matter what, I want to make sure that the voice of Comox is heard loud and clear.Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?I am excited to approach the Regional Growth Strategy with the rest of the council to see if we can incorporate more initiatives for affordable housing and green building.Overall, why do you think you should lead this community?I believe that I would bring a balance to the council as well as some fresh ideas. I am a great listener and make my decisions after weighing all information and options. I have a logical brain with a big heart and I want to make sure that all of our citizens are represented, heard, and taken care of. I will work hard to continue growing the town of Comox.Nicole Minions What is your position on the tax rates within the Town of Comox? Do you agree with them, or believe they should be lowered?I agree with the taxes currently but would like to look at ways of adding value through the process of social procurement. Where we ask vendors and suppliers to give back to the community through our purchasing process. If we can keep our tax rate below or at the cost of living for our community, that is important to our constituents. Getting more value for our tax dollars and scrutinizing the budget on an ongoing basis is key. I think there is a great foundation for this currently that we can go grow on. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? At this time, I do no believe a third crossing is the answer. Better signage to use alternative routes like the route Vanier should be encouraged. We can look at the effectiveness of the stop lights at each of those bridges during peak times, a review could be done there. I know when I am on the road anytime but peak hours, traffic is quite manageable. Let’s use the roads we have and look at our infrastructure and public transit before bridges that need long-term maintenance. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Comox and the wider Valley? I see a huge need for affordable housing in the Comox Valley, with all-time low vacancy rates for residents and home prices averaging over $525,000. Action can be taken from municipal governments as well as the non-profit and community agencies we work with in our communities. Collaboration is key. As a Councillor I would bring discussions to the table on review of bylaws, strategic planning on vacant land sites and review the development process. If a developer is looking at building rental housing or willing to put a portion of new housing aside of rentals or land, the process should be expediated. I would like to see more control at a municipal level at the type of housing that is being built. More townhomes in Comox for young individuals, families, militaries and seniors!What are your thoughts on amalgamation in the Valley, including the question of Courtenay and Comox merging? As this is a complex issue, I am still reviewing the information that is currently available. I like to see financial projections for the amalgamation study itself as well as what it would look like term. What the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats look like. So far, I have not seen enough of this information to have a Yes or No on amalgamation. Open and listening. What are your thoughts on the infrastructure plans in the Valley, such as the proposed Agri-plex? Are there any projects you agree or disagree with pursuing?At this time the Agri-plex to me does not benefit enough of the CVRD residents as a whole for the cost. However, like the amalgamation this is another “CVRD” topic and not Comox specific that I look to learn more about to fully understand.Do you think the current system of appointed directors to the CVRD from the three municipalities should change?No, not at this time. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not?Yes, the current Regional Growth Strategy was developed over years with vigorous community input. I support the RGS and the independent community plans that have come from it. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? I am an educated, community-minded business women in the Town of Comox. My experience is diverse from ten years in the financial industry to running a non-profit and being an entrepreneur. The common link in positions I have held has been housing and community.The Town of Comox is the most beautiful community to live, work and raise a family. I see a vibrancy starting in our town that I would like to continue to champion into the next four years. My commitment stands to advocate for sustainable practices, affordable housing, new business, social procurement / fiscal responsibility and balanced growth.So, on October 20th, 2018 I ask for you to vote Nicole Minions on your Comox council.Alex Bissenger What is your position on the tax rates within the Town of Comox? Do you agree with them, or believe they should be lowered?Going forward I would want to ensure that taxes aren’t increasing any faster than the cost of living. Comox is in good shape in terms of core services and infrastructure, and with proper asset management we can ensure that taxes don’t need to and won’t increase at a faster rate. What is your stance on the idea of a third crossing in the Valley? What is your solution for congestion at river crossings? Congestion at the river crossings can be alleviated by providing and encouraging alternate methods of transportation. But for that to make sense to residents, we need to ensure we have better bus routes and schedules, and safer bike lanes. This would be a first step to encourage residents to leave their car at home and try something else. We have a third crossing at Dove Creek to North Connector, we just need to train people to use it. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Comox and the wider Valley? The Town of Comox has recently made changes to the Zoning Bylaw 1850 to allow for secondary suites in most single-family detached homes. We should ensure the process is simple enough and straightforward for the average homeowner. Courtenay should also move in the same direction with an amendment to the zoning bylaw.What are your thoughts on amalgamation in the Valley, including the question of Courtenay and Comox merging? Amalgamation is a complex but interesting proposal. As I understand, it was voted down in 1999- Courtenay was in favour while Comox was against. I believe it’s worth looking into, refreshing some studies, and getting a business case analysis completed to demonstrate advantages and disadvantages, and determine from a social, financial, environmental, and political standpoint if it has merit. A business case is necessary, as the perception is that amalgamation would create issues for Comox such as increased policing costs, but I would want to see the numbers behind it before supporting it or not. The public also needs to be consulted and participate in the decision, buy into it, and have access to the results of the business case. My commitment and loyalty is first and foremost to the residents and taxpayers of the Town of Comox. What are your thoughts on the infrastructure plans in the Valley, such as the proposed Agri-plex? Are there any projects you agree or disagree with pursuing? The Agri-plex seems like a great project in the long-term, but I don’t think we are ready for that yet. There are other initiatives that would be money better spent on. Before building a centre showcasing farming and agriculture, let’s start with building up our farming and agricultural community and ensuring we have food security. We need to ensure we are properly managing our assets and infrastructure, first and foremost. Also, let’s focus on environmental sustainability. If your house had a leaking roof, you wouldn’t start a kitchen renovation, would you?Do you think the current system of appointed directors to the CVRD from the three municipalities should change? I’d have to do a bit more homework on this one to see what’s working or not, and what are suggested ways forward. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? I believe growth should be constricted to the settlement nodes outlined in the regional growth strategy. This will ensure we keep taxes low as we aren’t putting a strain on our current infrastructure and services (water/sewer, bus service, waste collection, etc.) by expanding into far locations which would require significant capital. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? I am Passionate about our Town, Caring about our community, Determined and Equipped to serve both with Energy and Commitment. With my training as a civil engineer, I understand infrastructure, and can understand and question consultant reports and recommendations.Maureen Swift Swift declined to answer the majority of the questions. The following is the entirety of her response.I am going to answer the 8th question.The questions you have posed are complex and require a good deal of research, hard evidence and thoughtful consideration of options before making decisions. I believe I would be a good leader as I am thorough in my approach to issues, I make evidence and information-based decisions and I have an open mind. I am proud of my record at the Council table for the last two terms. I believe I have learned a lot from the citizens of Comox and have an appreciation of the diversity of opinion and priority within the community. I have gained knowledge and experience at the Council table as well as at the Regional level in my role on the Sewage Commission, the Solid Waste Management and the Hospital Boards. A vote for me is for balance and experience.When asked she declined the other questions, Swift replied with the following:Many of the questions are written in such a way as to have assumptions embedded in them. Without careful, in-depth research and input, it is likely I would be giving an opinion rather than an informed and considered response.Don Davis What is your position on the tax rates within the Town of Comox? Do you agree with them, or believe they should be lowered?I would make every effort to keep tax increases to a minimum. First, we have to know if we are in line with other communities of similar size and service levels. Then we have to take a close look at the budget and the five-year plan, and determine if everything that is proposed is actually needed. 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 have to determine if there is in fact a problem. People from larger cities say what’s all the fuss about. Having said that, in order to look to the future, the site for the third crossing should be identified now. I personally feel that it should be 29th St., to Scott Rd. What steps would you want to take to address the need for affordable housing in Comox and the wider Valley? This problem is a combination of a number of issues. First the Federal and Provincial Governments must properly address the drug and alcohol and mental health issues. There has to be proper facilities for people in need of help to be referred to and properly taken care of. For years I have been saying that all levels of government, in the Valley, should be housed in one building with space for any non-profit that cares to be included, and extra space for subsidized social housing.They are presently building a new building for the Regional District that could have been enlarged to accommodate that. All we are doing now is making commercial building owners rich at taxpayers expense. Next there should be incentives to get developers to create truly affordable housing. A good example is they just built a new building at the Comox Mall, with a great void attic, this space should have been apartments. A place for the low income people working in the shops to live.What are your thoughts on amalgamation in the Valley, including the question of Courtenay and Comox merging? Amalgamation would only lead to higher costs and taxes for the citizens of the Town of Comox. This question has risen every so often since who knows when. Any time it has been subjected to a vote, in Comox, it has failed. At this point in time from what I hear during my travels in Comox there is no appetite for change in Comox. This issue is driven by those who want the raw land between us for development. What are your thoughts on the infrastructure plans in the Valley, such as the proposed Agri-plex? Are there any projects you agree or disagree with pursuing? I think that the Comox Valley sorely needs a convention centre. I am not fully aware of the complexities of the Agri-plex. It may not fit for the overall needs. I would like to see all options explored and come up with the best solution for the whole valley. Do you think the current system of appointed directors to the CVRD from the three municipalities should change? Yes, I feel that they should be elected by the community just like the School Trustee. In the past I have seen the Mayor’s suggestion automatically endorsed by Council. This demeans the true intent of the Legislation that says appointed at the pleasure of Council. Do you agree with the current Regional Growth Strategy? Why or why not? I have spent the last 15 years since being on Council trying to stay conversant with issues in the Town of Comox. I admit that I may have been remiss in not keeping knowledgeable with this issue, but when one considers that amount of information involved with managing Comox, I hope that the voters will understand my lack of a position on this matter. Overall, why do you think you should lead this community? I believe that each Councillor and the Mayor are members of a team that makes decisions regarding the running of our community. I have dedicated the last 15 years to attending meetings and trying to stay current with the issues that influence those decisions. I feel that from the length of time and effort that I have put into this gives me a background of valuable knowledge that will be of help to anyone who is honoured to become a member of that team.