Courtenay council candidates answer series of questions

All but one of the candidates participated in questionnaire

The Comox Valley Record asked Courtenay’s council candidates a series of questions requiring YES/NO answers.

Candidates were offered the opportunity to expand on their answers.

Candidate Kiyoshi Kosky opted not to participate in the Q&A.

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1 – Are you in favour of a long-term lease (minimum 20-year) for the Courtenay Airpark?

Will Cole-Hamilton – YES – The Airpark is a volunteer-run facility that brings tourism, dozens of jobs and over $20 million in spin-off economic activity to our community. It also plays a vital public safety role as an alternate landing site for air ambulances. As someone who has opened and operated businesses, I fully support the Courtenay Airpark Association’s request for a longer lease term and the certainty it would provide. Given the large sums of money required to develop facilities for the aeronautics sector, the longer lease term requested by the CAA seems entirely appropriate. Acquiring bank financing for capital-intensive projects like new hangars would be almost impossible with a mere five-year lease term. As a city we should acknowledge and support the contribution the Airpark makes to our community. I support the CAA’s request for a longer-term lease.

Brennan Day – NO – The industry standard for commercial leases is 5 years with a 5 year extension period. This gives businesses the ability to invest in infrastructure improvements, and allows the landowner (in this case the City) to make changes in the future if required.

Darwin Dzuba – YES – As a member of the Airpark I can say with authority that the airpark provides a valuable service to the community. Just last week air ambulance were here to transfer a young patient to Victoria. The airpark is a full service general aviation airport that services the entire region, including Comox, Cumberland, and the R.D. The airpark is a major economic driver of the city and supports not only RCMP, air ambulance , but many local businesses as well as tourism.

David Frisch – YES

Tom Grant – YES

Doug Hillian – YES – The recent controversy regarding the Airpark was an unfortunate misunderstanding created by a reference in a Consultant’s report to a potential bridge site at 21st St. That option had never been discussed by Council, which moved quickly to rule it out and re-established support for the Airpark. The resulting dialogue confirmed for all that the Airpark is a significant economic driver, built and maintained primarily by volunteer labour and highly valued by many. The 20 year lease recently approved by the City will provide stability for the industry and commerce on the site, while the built in renewals will provide opportunity to renegotiate if required.

Jin Lin – YES – Considering the histories of First Nation, was used as dump field, sewage lagoon, the land is used also to many residents as trails, and emergency helicopter services. Based on my knowledge of the challenges faced by the Airpark, I would say yes. During recent Courtenay Council meetings, the Airpark shared their concerns about a possible new bridge crossing and the issues with not being able to provide long-term lease security to businesses. As a business person, I know that without the security of long-term leases, this business development is quite unlikely. It simply does not make sense to invest in a community that provides no stability. Banks would not be comfortable financing a business without some lease stability as well.

The Air Park is a unique feature of the Comox Valley, offering aviation, recreation, emergency services potential as well as tourism and economic benefits. Adding to the future financial stability of the Airpark will contribute to the financial health of our downtown, necessary to have some certainty to secure business financing.

Penny Marlow – NO – Not at this time. The Airpark is a community amenity and we need to determine where it fits in the transportation strategy. The transportation plan needs to be completed before this can be answered. This will involve extensive discussion with the community, along with the airport users and tenants. A decision may take a year or longer. I can support providing the park users with more stability than a month-to-month lease, by committing to an extension to 2024 or slightly longer.

Melanie McCollum – YES

Wendy Morin – YES– I am in favour of a long term lease in principle for the Courtenay Airpark, and would welcome interest for economic development such as clean, light industry in that location. As part of a long term lease arrangement, it would be imperative there would be no environmental impact, and that the lease arrangement fit into the transportation master plan. This fits in to the current OCP which I would follow unless substantial changes are made in future.

Judi Murakami – YES – The Courtenay Airpark is one of the most unique features in Courtenay, providing downtown access to visitors from all over. The Airpark is a space for businesses, flight school and cafe. It is close to hotels, bus transportation, shopping centres, and is easily one of the most beautiful air parks. Other towns may have airports for small planes, but they are usually outside of town, making it difficult and expensive for pilots to get around.

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES – The Courtenay Airpark is very well utilized by not only small aircraft, but by EMS as well. It needs the security of a long term lease so that businesses can plan for future growth and development.

Manno Theos – YES -The Airpark has provided the city with many years of economic and social benefits for many years. A long term lease will offer the Airpark with stability and ability to develop business plans in order for continued success moving forward.

Starr Winchester – YES – I have always been a supporter of our Courtenay Airpark, and if elected I will work closely with Staff and Council to ensure the new lease is prepared after thorough consultation with the members of the Air Park. Had Council communicated with the Airpark members, this confusion would not have occurred.

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2 – Are you in favour of an additional river crossing (for vehicles) south of the existing 17 Street Bridge?

Will Cole-Hamilton – NO – 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. We should select the options 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:

1 Promotion of 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. I would also meet with the shipping supervisors at all these organizations to discuss the rerouting of truck traffic.

2 Redesigning the intersections and retiming the lights leading onto the 17th Street bridge to improve traffic flow.

3 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.

Brennan Day – YES – 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.

Not talking about a bridge and transportation upgrades is no longer an option; we need action.

Darwin Dzuba – NO – An additional crossing is not needed at this time, using the assets we have more effectively and to better effect is going to reduce traffic with much less cost.

David Frisch – NO – But maybe eventually. The estuary is such a valuable natural asset and the cost of another bridge, along with the additional roads would be a massive tax burden. I think it would be wise to modify our existing infrastructure to more efficiently move around the valley.

Tom Grant – YES

Doug Hillian- NO – The financial and environmental costs are too high. We need to focus on intersection improvements and investigate the potential widening of our existing bridges while improving transit, cycling and pedestrian options to reduce congestion.

Jin Lin – YES – Funds should come from federal and provincial government. However, it is a Comox Valley community project, local municipalities (Comox, CVRD, First Nation and Cumberland) should deal with the project together. I am in favour of finding a traffic solution and a bridge may be the solution. Traffic is a complicated problem and simply adding a bridge may solve one problem and create others. There have been many studies done on proposed locations for a new bridge. I am not sure if a traffic study has been done to ensure traffic flow at the bottlenecks. If a bridge is found to be the right solution, we need to investigate every opportunity for provincial and federal funding and it needs co-operation with Comox, CVRD, Cumberland and First Nations.

Penny Marlow – YES – 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. As mentioned above, community consultation is critical in this process.

Melanie McCollum – NO – We need to look at improvements to 17th St crossing first, such as intersection improvements and additional lanes. Council should also ask the federal government remove the requirement for this bridge to lift, so that improvements going forward don’t require this expensive infrastructure requirement.

Wendy Morin – NO – I am opposed to an additional river crossing, and would commit to working on the transportation master plan to explore creative solutions to transportation challenges, that pose no environmental impact.

Judi Murakami – NO – I believe that traffic can be accommodated with the six existing lanes by improving the access and egress so that traffic flows more easily.

Murray Presley – NO

Deana Simkin – YES – Yes, but this is far into the future. The crossing should be on a main artery where provincial and federal grant dollars can be obtained. This should be a regional project, not just a City of Courtenay project. Six years ago the fire chief asked for another crossing in council chambers in case of a natural disaster and the lack of movability at that time. Responding and caring for our citizens was a concern to him and is a concern to me.

Manno Theos – YES – With a growing community it is important to look into the future and discuss how traffic patterns will flow in a fluid way.

Starr Winchester – YES – I think a third crossing will eventually become a reality. However, we now have a third crossing at Dove Creek to the North Connecter. City of Courtenay staff should now work closely with Ministry of Transportation to install appropriate signage to direct traffic, especially from the Comox area to the Piercy Road connecter. Also, a widening and re-configuration of the 17th Street Bridge needs to be an immediate priority, with costs shared with the whole Comox Valley and Ministry of Transportation.

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3 – Would you be in favour of a salary freeze for council and mayor for the duration of your term (already approved 2019 raise notwithstanding)?

Will Cole-Hamilton – YES. Residents want us to keep City expenses in line. We need to prove that we are ready to walk the talk. And it just makes sense – most residents of Courtenay will not be receiving annual raises, so we should not expect them to foot the bill for higher salaries for council and mayor.

Brennan Day – YES – The cost of our elected officials at the municipal level is one of many variables that increase the tax burden on our citizens. It is hypocritical of Town Council to look at cuts on other expense items if they are not willing to responsibly control their own salaries.

Darwin Dzuba – YES

David Frisch – YES

Tom Grant – YES

Doug Hillian – YES – The current remuneration rates are fair and I see no need for further increase in the next four years.

Jin Lin – YES – I know that the councillors and mayor put a lot of work in for the city but we need to lead by example. I would like to find every efficiency possible and new spending needs to be capped until we come up with a comprehensive plan to keep taxes from continuing to climb at the rates Courtenay citizens have seen over the last number of years.

Penny Marlow – YES – I am supportive of a freeze on council remuneration for three years. I believe council needs to lead the way. For the past few years, we have seen taxes rising faster than inflation and citizens’ ability to pay. Taxpayers are not getting good value for their tax dollar. We must identify how to provide services in a more efficient and effective manner. If we are asking staff to do more with less, then council must do the same.

Melanie McCollum – YES

Wendy Morin –YES – I am in favour of a salary freeze for the duration of my term.

Judi Murakami – YES

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES – We need to find more dollars in our budget. If freezing salaries is one way of doing that, then I am in favour.

Manno Theos – YES– With the financial challenges that many residents are facing I feel the council should lead by example.

Starr Winchester – YES – I support a salary freeze, in view of the fact that the present council unanimously voted themselves a raise just last week. I do not support this increase, especially during a year when council had to draw on reserves to balance the City budget.

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4 – Would you be in favour of a staff hiring freeze for the next two years?

Will Cole-Hamilton – YES – Given the staff increase authorized by the current Mayor and Council in 2017, it seems that the City has sufficient staff. It is my understanding that the City has not actually filled all of those positions yet – so if there is a need for greater staff capacity, it can be met by filling those positions rather than authorizing further hiring.

Brennan Day – YES – The City needs to review all staffing costs and allocations to optimize our staffing levels. We need to focus on the effectiveness and ability of our front line workers to efficiently deliver services to the public, without the need for additional layers of bureaucracy.

Darwin Dzuba – YES

David Frisch – YES

Tom Grant – NO

Doug Hillian – NO – A hiring freeze is an extreme measure that prevents the filling of vacancies and the ongoing smooth running of the City. I trust the CAO to be diligent and prudent in managing City staffing, and that he will consult with Council re any staffing requests that may increase the current complement. That gives the elected Council the option of saying yes or no, while not tying the CAO’s hands on day to day operations.

Jin Lin – YES – Much has been talked about with the hiring of 17 new staff. Hiring new staff is not as simple as just accounting for the new staff themselves. My understanding is that there is simply no room for more staff in our current city hall. As a councillor, I would like to see a core review and comprehensive plan for any proposed new positions and these must be fully costed to include the office space and infrastructure required. In government, business and life, we may want many things but we must focus on what we need. A new council brings opportunities for sharing of ideas and new insight. I do not like to spend money for the sake of spending it so there must be a necessary value attached to any staffing changes.

Penny Marlow – YES– I would support a no net FTE increase. That is, no increase in staff count. The City may require staff with different skill sets, so the sdministration needs the flexibility eliminate a position and hire new in a different department or service area. This is all about providing services in a more effective and efficient manner.

Melanie McCollum – YES

Wendy Morin – NO – I am not in favour of committing to a staff hiring freeze for the next two years. That is a decision I am unable to make until I have inside knowledge of operational needs and future project needs. To make an informed decision, I believe it is not prudent to make promises without all the information.

Judi Murakami – YES– I would recommend a Core Services Review as a large number of staff have just been hired.

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES

Manno Theos – YES– I was opposed to the recent hiring of a number of staff additions. I did not see a clear path of how the new members were going to be paid, using reserves and hoping for growth to pay into the future is irresponsible management in my opinion. We need to find efficiencies in each department and focus on core responsibilities.

Starr Winchester – YES– I think a thorough review of the City’s operations should be a priority for a new council. I’m disappointed to see staff criticized publicly by elected officials. City of Courtenay staff deserve the respect of citizens, just like every other employee in the City of Courtenay. Council is elected to make policy decisions, and ensure staff adheres to those policies. If council is not satisfied with a staff member’s performance, they should direct their comments to the CAO, not the media. Staff do not have the opportunity to defend themselves when criticized in public, and this is not fair.

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5 – Considering the hit most Courtenay homeowners have taken in the past few years, would you support a tax freeze for the 2019 budget?

Will Cole-Hamilton – YES – 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. In the long-term, the best way to actually bring taxes under control is to focus more on higher-density development (which allow City to spend less on infrastructure for each new dollar of taxes coming in).

Brennan Day – YES – The increase in 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 the key driver, after realty costs, causing our current housing affordability crisis for both homeowners and renters.

Furthermore, inefficiencies and wasteful spending in the delivery of services were not looked at in detail during the tax increase discussion, which should be alarming to all of our taxpayers. If we were a private business, we would be bankrupt.

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.

Tax increases should be the last resort of every budget discussion once all other channels for efficiency improvements have been exhausted, not an open check book paid for on the backs of the majority of taxpayers that are just trying to make ends meet.

Darwin Dzuba – YES

David Frisch – YES– If we can find efficiencies that serve Courtenay residents and that offer fair value, I would absolutely support a tax freeze.

Tom Grant – YES

Doug Hillian – YES– Yes if feasible, but conditional on a number of factors including the next set of negotiations with CUPE. 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 revenue.

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.

Jin Lin – YES – I do know that tax freezes have been proposed but voted down. I believe that we as councillors need to find ways to encourage tighter budgets. The climbing tax rates are what I hear about from most of the people I speak with. Our residents are not a blank cheque and I believe that as a council, we have to have a very good reason for any tax increases. Tax increases not only affect homeowners but renters too and increasing taxes make it more difficult for everyone to make ends meet.

Penny Marlow – YES – I would work towards 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. As mentioned above, 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.

Melanie McCollum – YES– However, it would depend what services would need to be cut to achieve this.

Wendy Morin – NO – I can not commit to a tax freeze until I have all the information required to make an informed decision. I believe it is not prudent to make promises without all the information. I recognize that tax increases create a hardship for many, and I would strive to manage the taxpayers’ money responsibly.

Judi Murakami – NO – The safety and security of citizens is paramount, and the 2nd Fire Hall needs to be built.

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES – Council needs to find more dollars in the budget to run the City. This means reading the budget and the financials and looking for ways to streamline spending. Adding yet another annual financial burden onto our citizens is not sustainable.

Manno Theos – YES– It is possible to achieve a tax freeze without decreasing services. Finding efficiencies in how we do business, attracting business and densification. Reducing the level of studies we undertake. Finding new sources of revenue such as grants and sponsorship opportunities. Many people in Courtenay are on fixed incomes and struggle to keep up with rising property tax increases. This needs to be addressed.

Starr Winchester – YES – I would support a tax freeze, if it was possible. However, I cannot be sure about this until I have thoroughly reviewed the 2019 budget, especially the expenses. To keep taxes down, the major focus should be on spending. The new Council will have to make some tough decisions on the services they wish to provide. We need to focus on the “must dos”, as opposed to the “nice to dos.” We need strong leadership to continually question how services are delivered and ensure that Staff present options on less costly alternatives.

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6 – Do you believe that the trafficking/distribution and consumption of illicit drugs (cannabis notwithstanding) is an issue in your constituency?

Will Cole-Hamilton –YES

Brennan Day – YES– The current opioid epidemic is a major concern. The associated increase in crime and burden on our health care system, is quickly driving up policing and healthcare costs at the municipal level. We need to work with the Provincial and Federal governments and neighboring municipalities to come up with workable solutions to this issue. As we have seen in the Capital Regional District and Lower Mainland we cannot solve this issue in a bubble as it just moves the problems to neighboring municipalities. We need to hold the Provincial government to task, and advocate for their leadership on this complex issue.

Darwin Dzuba – YES

David Frisch – YES – It is an issue in every community in B.C.

Tom Grant – YES

Doug Hillian – YES– As in most communities, illicit drugs are a continuing challenge in terms of the wreckage they cause in people’s lives, the associated criminal and anti-social behaviour and the related costs for policing, health care and other services. I have worked with the City’s Drug Strategy Committee to support public venues like the Library and Lewis Centre to manage behavioural issues related to drug trafficking and drug abuse. We also continue to promote public awareness and prevention, particularly among our youth. It is important to note that while illicit drugs are a major concern, our most significant substance abuse continues to be alcohol related, and the Drug Strategy committee will be focussed on that this winter.

Jin Lin – YES – I must unfortunately say yes. I have worked closely with the RCMP to ensure that my campground is not one of those locations but there are parts of Courtenay that definitely have illicit drug problems.

Penny Marlow – YES – Courtenay and the valley are not exempt from this criminal activity. Drug addiction is a root cause of many of our societal issues. I have no magic wand nor am I an expert, but we must continue to find ways to address this problem. A multi-pronged approach needs to be taken. The community and municipal governments must work together.

Melanie McCollum – YES – I believe this is an issue in most communities.

Wendy Morin – YES– I am well aware of this issue as I work as a substance use counsellor. I believe I can bring my expertise and experience to the council table on this issue, drawing on the successes of other communities to mitigate the impact of these challenges. This is a complex problem that requires collaboration between the city, RCMP, citizens, and community agencies.

Judi Murakami – YES – I believe that is the basis for many of the thefts

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES – This is not just a constituency issue, this is an issue for the whole Country.

Manno Theos – YES– Residents in certain areas of the community are expressing concern that this activity has negatively impacted their neighbourhood. I firm stance from council against the offending home owner will be a good start.

Starr Winchester – YES – We do have an issue with illicit drugs in our community and it is getting worse.

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7 – Do you believe the Comox Valley RCMP is adequately staffed to effectively combat the drug trade in Courtenay?

Will Cole-Hamilton – YES – I would like to see what impact the legalization of cannabis has on the drug trade in Courtenay before making any decisions about increasing RCMP capacity. Reducing drug crime was one of the fundamental reasons for legalizing cannabis. The legalization of cannabis should allow the RCMP to shift their existing staffing and resources away from cannabis offences and focus their resources more effectively on other drug crime. It is important to remember that drug crime is more than an RCMP issue. Like all communities in BC we are suffering from an opioid crisis – which brings the twin health issues of addiction and fentanyl into play. The RCMP need to work with Island Health, John Howard Society, the Care-a-van, CV Recovery Centre, Amethyst House and other community partners when addressing the drug problems in our community.

Brennan Day – NO – From my discussions with members of the RCMP, the recent surge in the drug trade in the Valley will require more support in order to have a meaningful impact.

Darwin Dzuba – NO

David Frisch – YES – But those who are directly affected by drug trafficking must feel that more resources are needed. I think Courtenay residents would always benefit from more investment in community policing.

Tom Grant – NO

Doug Hillian – NO – While Courtenay is relatively safe, I’m in favour of more police resources to combat the drug trade and to promote community policing, including bike and foot patrols in our downtown. The problem is how to pay for an increase, given the high proportion of local policing paid for by Courtenay taxpayers compared to other communities in our area. We have continued to advocate to the provincial government for a change in the policing cost formula to lessen the burden on our residential taxpayers. At the same time, our community housing initiatives will hopefully get more people off the streets into supportive housing where the opportunity to address an addiction will be much improved. It will continue to be important to support and collaborate with our police and social agencies to lift up those who can be helped and to pursue enforcement with those whose illegal behaviour hurts others.

Jin Lin – YES – I think so but would need to ask them that question specifically.

Penny Marlow – No answer

Melanie McCollum – YES

Wendy Morin – No answer

Judi Murakami – NO – The RCMP is stretched to deal with traffic violations/accidents, thefts, violence, lost and found, etc. I think co-operation in neighbourhoods (neighbourhood watch) makes it easier for drug houses/users to be dealt with effectively.

Murray Presley – NO

Deana Simkin – YES – The budget for RCMP was raised recently. The positions have not been filled though.

Manno Theos – No answer

Starr Winchester – NO – I do not feel our RCMP are adequately staffed to effectively combat the drug trade in Courtenay. I know this by speaking directly with RCMP members. The RCMP budget for the City of Courtenay is substantial, and I still feel that it should be shared equally by all citizens in the Comox Valley. Courtenay taxpayers have been paying an unfair share for years.

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8 – Are you in favour of initiating a single-use plastic bag ban for retailers in your community?

Will Cole-Hamilton – YES – Plastic bags cannot be recycled and often end up in our rivers and on our shoreline. It is estimated that while disposable bags cost retailers only $.01 each, they cost taxpayers $.17 each in total cleanup and disposal costs. Many communities, large and small, from Parksville, to Cumberland to Victoria, have seen an opportunity to save taxpayers money and keep bags from polluting their waterways by ending the use of disposable plastic bags. I want to work with retailers to find the most effective way to enact this policy. Retailers like Thrifty’s have been working without plastic bags for years – I think we can learn from their successful example.

Brennan Day – YES– While this initiative is a drop in the bucket of the larger issue of plastic use and over-packaging, I believe it acts as a starting point that can influence and inform the larger discussion regarding consumption and waste.

If the majority of business owners support this policy and it is revenue neutral in terms of tax dollars spent, then I am fully supportive of this and similar initiatives.

Darwin Dzuba – NO – I am in favour of anything that will net meaningful results, a bag ban will not do this, and may even be worse for the environment.

David Frisch – YES And I think it would be easy for us to adapt and learn new ways of taking our retail items home with us from the store. I know there are some creative new reusable bags we could use more often and even a throwback option of using paper bags when situations require.

Tom Grant – YES

Doug Hillian – YES– I note the Chamber of Commerce investigated a ban some years ago and the City opted for a voluntary approach. I think the community is ready to take this a step further due to growing awareness of the plastic pollution in our oceans, and I am in favour of us working on a ban.

I’ve done some research on the single use plastics bans implemented in Montreal and Victoria plus the one proposed for Parksville. Those examples provide us with workable models but we would need to engage the community and work closely with our business sector to design and implement such a ban here.

Jin Lin – YES – Single use plastic bags are only a small part of the issue though. We need a full review of our solid waste strategy.

Penny Marlow – YES – I support the banning of single use plastic bags. This is becoming a world-wide initiative and Courtenay needs to demonstrate its concern about the environment. Banning these plastic bags alone will not have a significant impact on the world’s plastic pollution problem, but it is a start. This raises awareness about this problem. It makes us think and identify other actions we can take to reduce waste, plus reuse/recycle more.

Melanie McCollum – YES

Wendy Morin – YES – Absolutely. I would include plastic straws in this ban. There are successful models to consider for implementation of this. I would encourage a gradual phasing in of the practice and partnership with the business community.

Judi Murakami – YES – It will need massive changes from industry to change the way items are packaged (Costco has a lot of items in plastic containers). When we cleaned up Simms Park, we found a lot of cigarette butts, not plastic.

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES – But before that happens, council would need more information on this and how it would impact the small business in downtown. Are there solution to lighten the financial burden on our small businesses?

Manno Theos – YES – Many groceries are already moving towards that direction voluntarily.

Starr Winchester – YES – I am in favour of this initiative and remember Murray Presley bringing this issue to the council table several years ago. Many retail merchants in Courtenay reacted to this initiative and I commend them for that, however we still have lots of work to do.

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9 – Are you in favour of increasing the number of settlement nodes within the Regional Growth Strategy, to facilitate future development in the Comox Valley?

Will Cole-Hamilton – NO – The Regional Growth Strategy 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.

New settlement nodes outside the RGS would require entirely new infrastructure – new roads, new pipes and other expensive services. If we want to keep property taxes from growing, we need to focus on building around our existing infrastructure. Smart growth keeps municipal costs and commitments under control while preparing for the future.

Brennan Day – YES – So long as they go through the proper process that is in place and the plans integrate well with our existing infrastructure and transportation grid.

Darwin Dzuba – YES

David Frisch – NO – Not until we make efficient use of our current infrastructure and get our taxes under control.

Tom Grant – NO

Doug Hillian – NO – The evidence of the number of building lots available or coming on stream, plus the population growth projections, indicates that the number of settlement nodes currently identified within the RGS is sufficient to allow further development.

Jin Lin – NO – When? This year? Within the next 5 or 10? Development of new settlement nodes should always be considered as an option with the changing needs and demands of the Comox Valley. The Regional Growth Strategy should be considered to be a living document. Just like the community evolves, so too should the Regional Growth Strategy.

Penny Marlow – NO – I do not support increasing the number of settlement nodes in the valley. I support the current Regional Growth Strategy. A new settlement node in the rural area is not needed. Instead, we should be encouraging higher density in the existing urban areas. We should stop urban sprawl and protect our green spaces.

Melanie McCollum – NO – Not at this time. The RGS has identified many areas for growth that have not yet been developed.

Wendy Morin – NO – That is a more appropriate question for the Regional District directors. Generally, I am in support of the Regional Growth Strategy and consideration of any change would require much public input.

Judi Murakami – No answer

Murray Presley – NO

Deana Simkin – YES– This is a CVRD issue. Having said that, the RGS should be a working document and should not remain stagnant from the day it was published. It needs to be updated and amended as the area grows and changes.

Manno Theos – No answer given

Starr Winchester – NO – I say no at this time, but I am in favour of a review of the Regional Growth Strategy after the election on October 20th.

***

10 – *Do you support the proposed amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy to facilitate the residential development near Stotan Falls?

(*Question was asked prior to Tuesday CVRD vote)

Will Cole-Hamilton – NO – I support the Regional Growth Strategy for the reasons listed in question 9. We need to ensure that all residents and developers can rely upon a single clear and consistent plan which is specifically designed to provide the best value for taxpayers.

Brennan Day – NO – I believe that 3L is entitled to due process as laid out in our RGS, but this development presents a challenge to our existing transportation and water/sewer infrastructure so we need to address these issues before anything moves forward.

Darwin Dzuba – YES

David Frisch – NO

Tom Grant – NO

Doug Hillian – NO – While respecting due process and cautious about pre-judging an issue I may have to vote on later, I believe we must respect the principles and spirit of the Regional Growth Strategy, limiting projects of such density to existing settlement nodes. I support smart growth and infill development utilizing existing infrastructure. I’m also wary of private utility systems and value the importance of preserving our rural areas. As such, if voting today, I would say no to this development.

Jin Lin – NO

Penny Marlow – NO – This development, as proposed, is not in the current overall plan for the valley’s growth. As noted above, we need to keep the higher density developments inside the existing urban areas. The CVRD is proceeding with the 3L development as a standard amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy and it must consider this application in a fair and unbiased manner. The elected officials hearing this application must listen with an open mind.

Melanie McCollum – NO – personally I do not agree with the proposed location for another settlement node, or the case that the CVRD requires more settlement nodes at this time. However, the process is underway and will be decided by the CVRD board with input from the public.

Wendy Morin – NO

Judi Murakami – No answer

Murray Presley – YES – /What is important here is to get the park.

Deana Simkin – No answer

Manno Theos – No answer given

Starr Winchester – NO – Not with the information I have received to date. I have a great deal of respect for our Regional Growth Strategy. I’m also concerned that the Courts agreed not once, but twice that 3L Developments Ltd. were denied due process. If this proposal does proceed to the next stage, further information would be forthcoming, and I will make an informed decision at that time.

***

11 – Are you in favour of the Comox Valley Agriplex project, as it is currently being proposed?

Will Cole-Hamilton – NO – This would be a major capital project in the range of $12-15,000,000. The City is simply not in a position to pay for the construction or the annual upkeep of a new facility. Taxpayers are telling us that the City needs to rein in its spending – this is not the way to do it.

Brennan Day – NO – I believe that more needs to be done to ensure this is a revenue neutral project for the City, and that the costs are shared among the user groups it will benefit. While we need to support the Valley’s agricultural sector, and look at appropriate space for a year round farmers market and other larger events, the funding sources for these type of projects need to be clear before I can commit my support.

Darwin Dzuba – No answer given

David Frisch – NO – I am not yet convinced that this project would provide sufficient value to our taxpayers for the tax increase that would be necessary to fund it.

Tom Grant – No answer given

Doug Hillian –NO– While there are likely merits in this proposal, I don’t yet know enough about it to give an unqualified yes.

Jin Lin – NO – I am not at this point. There has not been an adequate business case presented to date.

Penny Marlow – YES – The Agriplex, or Convention Centre, would be an asset to the Comox Valley. However, the business case is not there yet. Besides the funding, there are several other key issues, such as transportation, parking and land reserve to be addressed. These facilities, typically, do not make money. They require an annual contribution from the local taxpayers. Much more work needs to be done before a decision can be made. The Community needs to have the final say on where this fits in the priority list and what they are willing to pay for it.

Melanie McCollum – NO

Wendy Morin – NO – It is too big, too expensive and the location is controversial. I am in favour of a larger convention/gathering centre at some point when finances allow.

Judi Murakami – NO – this 54 page document starts by saying there is very little parking. Why build a huge building with soil floor? It would take away from the ambience of the area.

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES – The location needs to be studied some more, but we do need a conference space. I personally have been turned down when I asked an organization to bring their annual conference to Courtenay because we did not have the proper facilities. Visitors bring dollars to our small business, restaurants, and hotels.

Manno Theos – YES– With all large projects,plans can be refined depending on the needs and what makes the greatest financial and workable sense. There are many win, win opportunities having a large convention/meeting facility.

Starr Winchester – NO – No, although we lack a facility here in the Comox Valley that can accommodate large numbers of people. I would need to see a business plan. I do feel that a convention centre would benefit our community, but it is not a priority to me at the present time. I would prefer to see the City expand the Florence Filberg Centre for our seniors. I volunteer in the kitchen and I have seen first hand how busy and active our seniors are today.

***

12 – Are you in favour of tax concessions for downtown businesses to further enhance the downtown core?

Will Cole-Hamilton – YES – This is a temporary win-win measure which encourages downtown businesses to improve their buildings and increase the density of the greater downtown area. When the program ends, the City will receive increased taxes from each participating business. Downtown is the heart of our City, this measure aims to strengthen downtown by providing a temporary and targeted tax abatement.

Brennan Day – NO– Unfortunately we need to look at the business tax rate as a whole, and not for a specific user group. Business taxes in Courtenay are responsible for 40% of our tax revenue, and it would be foolish to not look at the broader group and ensure the taxation rate is in line across the board. I do however support downtown initiatives that will ensure we have a vibrant downtown core, but I believe that tax concessions to a selected few are not the solution to solve this issue.

Darwin Dzuba – NO

David Frisch – NO – I am in favour of the tax concessions offered through the Downtown Revitalization tax incentive Bylaw to encourage housing and commercial development, and I would also focus on investing in infrastructure projects, like place making and walkability, to further enhance our downtown core.

Tom Grant – YES

Doug Hillian – YES – Council has implemented a downtown development bylaw with tax incentives intended to promote affordable housing in our core area. The bylaw is the result of significant public consultation over the past several years and concerted work by staff. The intent is to increase population density in downtown Courtenay by encouraging development and redevelopment of buildings for residential purposes, thereby both providing housing and creating a vibrant downtown that attracts new investment and supports increased residential viability.

Jin Lin – YES– However, the tax concession should have a time frame and should encourage businesses to locate in areas that are vacant or underdeveloped. Short-term “tax holidays” can help attract start-up businesses with some help during their most vulnerable time.

Penny Marlow – NO – Although the downtown core is the heart of the City, council should not be providing tax breaks to this area beyond what is available to businesses in other areas within the city. Community support is the best way to ensure the viability of the downtown area. The City can help with programs that attract valley residents and tourists to the area.

Melanie McCollum – YES– A vibrant downtown has many community benefits and helps keep our local economy diverse and stable.

Wendy Morin – no answer

Judi Murakami – YES

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES – The downtown is the heart of our community. Downtown is a great employer as well as a great tax base for the City to draw from. Incentives for builders and developers to work in the downtown to provide densification and vibrancy is a win for the entire community.

Manno Theos – YES– I find value in starting with downtown to stimulate activity. After reviewing the outcomes, other areas could be in line for a similar focus.

Starr Winchester – YES – I am in favour of development incentives which would provide more mixed use development in Downtown core.

***

13 – Are you in favour of conducting a study, in partnership with the Province of BC, to review the governance structures and policies of the City of Courtenay and other local governments within the Comox Valley to consider the feasibility and implications of restructure?

Will Cole-Hamilton – YES– I believe that there are more efficient ways to deliver services in the Comox Valley. This sort of study would allow the City to identify ways to save taxpayer dollars by eliminating duplication and reducing costs by pooling resources with other government

Brennan Day – YES– Many of the problems that continue to arise such as lack of coordinated future planning and excessive red tape, can be directly tied to lack of centralized governance. Many pundits and fellow candidates that I consulted prior to announcing warned me that the issue of amalgamation was an election losing issue.

I disagreed.

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 66000 people, with our largest Municipality representing only 26000 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, and results in costly redundancies of staff and equipment.

Together, we can present a strong, united voice when discussing the larger issues facing our Valley instead of sitting miles apart having similar discussions about the same issues in separate rooms. Since I rolled out my platform, I am encouraged to see that even long-time Courtenay politicians, the very same ones that warned me to avoid the issue, have adopted amalgamation into their own platforms. 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.

Darwin Dzuba – YES

David Frisch – YES

Tom Grant – YES

Doug Hillian – YES_ The issue won’t go away so I think it useful to ask the question and to see the economic, environmental and social case for and against restructuring. 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 might include:

• 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 a smaller community;

• Comox and Cumberland 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 managing growth 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 share our civic amenities.

Jin Lin – YES – Of course we will need to make sure our neighbouring communities want to participate.If there is the possibility or likelihood of savings for our taxpayers, why not? But we do not need to do a study for the sake of doing a study. We need to all be seeking efficiencies.

Penny Marlow – YES – This question is really about 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 in 1999, 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. As your Councillor, I will initiate discussions with our surrounding jurisdictions to increase our collaboration and sharing.

Melanie McCollum – YES

Wendy Morin –YES– I would support a study if the voters want one.

Judi Murakami – YES – Although I would like to see a Core Services Review to determine how we can work smarter not harder, and if we are doing things as efficiently as possible

Murray Presley – YES

Deana Simkin – YES

Manno Theos – YES – I feel there are many efficiencies and cost savings we could find in working with our neighbours.

Starr Winchester – YES– I am very much in favour of conducting a study. Many people agree that the structure of government in the Comox Valley is not working very well. At present, the broadest range of services exist in Courtenay and Comox, however efficiencies are not as high as would be possible if these services were consolidated and the costs spread over a larger population and tax base. Furthermore, many of the services offered in the two communities are used by the residents from other parts of the Valley, at little or no cost. I agree that more information is required to make an informed decision and this study would accomplish that.

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