Nicole Minions (upper left) has been acclaimed as the new mayor of Comox. Voters will still elect 6 councillors from a list of 10.

Comox candidates discuss public transit, affordable housing, reconciliation

In an effort to keep voters as informed as possible heading into the Oct. 15 municipal elections, the Comox Valley Record sent out five questions for Comox candidates to answer.

The following are their responses.

*indicates incumbent

1 – Active transportation has been a hot-button topic for a few years now, with the expansion of bike lanes, etc. Where do you see your support going in regard to active transportation infrastructure? Are you in favour of continuing to expand on such projects, or should efforts and attention be paid toward motor vehicle transportation infrastructure (I.e. an additional river crossing)?

TOWN OF COMOX MAYORAL CANDIDATE

Nicole Minions (acclaimed)*

I do not at this time support an additional (vehicle) river crossing. If you look at traffic in large cities we see that building more infrastructure just brings more traffic. Looking at transportation plans that encourage all modes of transportation including active transportation like BC Transit routes, walking, bike and e-biking and ride-sharing is a fundamental shift that we are seeing in our communities. With a fundamental understanding that one-driver vehicles are a primary mode for many residents and businesses in our community, including myself. I hope that in the next term we can look at the timing of major intersection lights and crossing in the bottleneck traffic areas of the Valley.

The important lens to wear with bike lanes, bridges and transportation considerations is that we consider all residents and visiting users from young families, to senior residents. Making options accessible for all. Always looking into the future needs of our community and the long-term cost of new and current infrastructure on the community.

TOWN OF COMOX COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Steve M Blacklock

I enjoy riding my e-bike to get to many different places around the town of Comox. Our town invests significant property tax dollars each year in replacing our aging infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, water, and sewer pipes). Infrastructure asset management is one of our core municipal government functions and it is critical we do it well.

I was pleased to see that improved cycling infrastructure was a component of our recent upgrades along the south side of Comox Avenue. If elected, I will advocate for adding bike lanes on identified bike routes, along with safety-enhanced pedestrian crosswalks. These types of future infrastructure improvements should coincide with the scheduling of future road resurfacing.

We will have an upcoming opportunity to make infrastructure enhancements in Comox during the upcoming sewer force-main replacement project.

Each trip completed by bike represents one less car on our increasingly congested roads. Many of the Comox residents I have spoken to over the last few weeks, have told me that vehicle congestion, pedestrian safety, and traffic flow issues are major concerns. Supporting strategically placed cycling infrastructure reduces cyclist-driver-pedestrian conflicts and helps Comox reach GHG emission reduction targets.

Don Davis

Both are necessary I have been advocating for years for the third crossing and it must be done in conjunction with alternative transportation such as bikes, mobility scoters etc.

Kealy R Donaldson

Comox has a limited number of main transportation corridors – Dyke Road to Comox Avenue, Anderton Road, Guthrie / Lerwick and Pritchard. With recent builds and a massive infrastructure project coming up and through Comox Hill to the downtown core in 2023, it’s a critical time for Comox to review traffic flows and create extensions and anticipations of future use and future users. I recently attended a community gathering where discussions surrounded Aitken Street and the traffic flow to and from the new residential development near Quality Foods. Multiple citizens noted the growth and speed of traffic had grown immensely and was a serious concern. There are solutions to our active transportation issues and with the OCP coming into review again next year, now is the time to plan the best future for Comox for all its citizens and user groups.

Peter Gibson

In the Comox Official Community Plan (OCP) there are plans to create alternative approaches to transportation, de-emphasizing vehicular traffic. The demographics of Comox suggest the move from private transportation is premature. Thirty per cent of the population are seniors and access to their private transportation in a lifeline, not only for their own use but to help other friends who might not be able to transport themselves. Cars, while many are still using internal combustion engines, will shift to other forms of power, but the automobile is not going away. Not everyone is able to ride a bike or wants to, when the weather turns nasty. Public transportation, cannot get you to your doorstep when you have several bags of goods to transport, especially if you have limited mobility. More balanced planning is needed! Driving down Comox Avenue recently, I witnessed a garbage truck closing down one lane because there are now two bike lanes and two side walks. The OCP states,”It is important to provide truck routes within Town of Comox to ensure safe, efficient and direct truck movements and to minimize their impact on residents.” Comox Avenue is the primary route in Comox for service and emergency vehicle access and has now been compromised.

The issue of addressing a new third crossing or enhancement of the Condensory Bridge needs to be addressed regionally including Comox input.

How many no parking signs are there in Comox? Does this help access to services and businesses the downtown area?

Ken J Grant*

The town of Comox has led the way with active transportation in the Valley and should continue to do so. We have worked hard to add needed sidewalks, bike infrastructure, and trailways. This includes bike lanes, our wayfinding project, and mapping of the Northeast Woods. We have also worked with the downtown business association on self-guided walking tours of our Town. We continue to improve our active transportation systems with things like the Lazo waterfront walkway and the soon-to-be multi-modal trail. This starts at the top of Lazo Road, which will connect with the work the province is doing on Knight Road. It will then be a continuous loop around Cape Lazo and Knight Road making this popular route safe for all users. Cars make up 75 per cent of our transportation usage according to the 2022 mobility primer, so we need to be cognizant of traffic flow and congestion as we plan for our transportation needs.

Chris T Haslett

I think that active transportation has come a long way but there is still room for improvement. It would be great to see the current bike lanes connected that are in the town of Comox so that we can connect loops and better provide safety to the community who are using them most. While promoting active use, we still need to make sure that the current infrastructure is well taken care of and expanded where needed. As Comox continues to grow, drawing more of the community to the shops and services in the downtown core and surrounding area. We should make sure that the roads can handle the traffic as well as look to increase capacity in areas that are currently being used the most.

Jonathan Kerr*

As a family doctor in Comox, I am passionate about fostering a healthy community, healthy people, and a healthy environment.

Active transportation, such as biking or walking, provide opportunities for regular exercise, which enhances cardiovascular health, improves mood, and reduces the risk of cancer. Comox residents have been telling me how happy they are with the recent addition of more bike lanes.

Active transportation also promotes more one-on-one interactions with neighbours, such as a wave or a smile. These positive connections create a stronger sense of community. Through biking and walking from home to downtown Comox, I have felt a much stronger connection to my neighbours and local businesses.

Finally, by reducing the number of cars on the road we can decrease our greenhouse gas emissions, leading to a healthier environment.

Active transportation is clearly a win-win-win scenario, and I would support efforts to enhance our active transportation networks, such as creating a waterfront walkway, improving the connectivity of bike lanes, and installing more bike racks downtown.

We are also growing as a region, and we should do our due diligence by exploring options for an additional bridge across the river.

Jenn Meilleur

Infrastructure that helps people get around safely using healthy, affordable modes of transportation (and that also reduces traffic) is a win for everyone.

I’ve been using my bike for transportation since the 1990s and bought my first e-bike back in 2010 to make a long commute doable (both in effort and amount of time). I love riding my bike – it’s great for my physical and mental health, and I interact so much more with people and my environment.

I still drive a lot, and our semi-rural region will always be reliant on private vehicles. But, I think we can do more to support safe, active transportation within the town of Comox with more dedicated bike lanes, by improving connections between neighbourhoods, and by educating drivers and cyclists about safe practices for sharing the road. Working regionally to support the Active Transportation Network Plan will improve connectivity between our communities for recreation and commuting.

Transportation also accounts for about 55 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the Comox Valley (according to the Town of Comox 2020 Transportation Master Plan Update), so reducing emissions from transportation is an important part of our climate response.

Ruby Sidhu

We will need another bridge across the river in the next 10 years for sure. We can widen the 17th street Bridge as it is smaller than the 5th Street Bridge. If we get more businesses and jobs in Comox, which I am working on, we can decrease the traffic across the bridge.

Maureen Swift*

I believe it is important to provide infrastructure that supports active transportation. Walking and cycling and other multi-modal transportation options are important features of a diverse community. I also recognize that motor vehicle transportation is a critical and necessary option for many of our citizens and we need to keep our roadways well maintained and efficient.

2 – What is your view of public transport in your community? Is it sufficient, and if not, where are improvements needed?

TOWN OF COMOX MAYORAL CANDIDATE

Nicole Minions (acclaimed)*

I have had the opportunity to ride B.C. public transit on a handful of occasions in the Comox Valley. I find the connectivity between our three communities, rural area and South Vancouver Island to be improving and going in the right direction. After a recent zoom meeting with BC Transit, their strategic plan was shared with our local officials and we are seeing increased ridership in the Valley between communities and that is a positive sign.

TOWN OF COMOX COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Chris T Haslett

This is a tough situation. The current routes and times do not fit for most of the community. Riders are low because the routes are limited and the routes are limited because the riders are low. Comox council should work with the ministry of transportation, the province and the other jurisdictions in the Valley to increase the routes so that we can offer more stops with better timing to suit the needs of the community. This would help get vehicles off the road while increasing the passenger count in addition to helping reduce the environmental impact of traffic.

Jonathan Kerr*

I fully support public transportation, as it leads to improved equity, accessibility, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Comox residents have been telling me that they would like longer hours of service and shorter wait times between buses. Transportation is the second highest annual expense for households. With the recent dramatic increase in living expenses, including car and gas prices, using public transport is a more affordable option. Providing safe and affordable transportation leads to improved equity, where all people in our community can get to work, school, and places of recreation.

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the Comox Valley. Encouraging more people to use public transit leads to a healthier environment.

Digital-on-demand transit is on the rise in Canada. For example, the Zunga Bus in Powell River is a minibus that provides highly flexible shared rides, allowing for reduced wait times and more direct routes. This would be a particularly beneficial transportation option for seniors. It is encouraging to hear that this program is being evaluated for the Comox Valley.

Shared e-bike or scooter programs are also very successful in many communities, and I would also promote the exploration of these options locally.

Jenn Meilleur

Public transit has many similar benefits to active transportation – it’s good for our health, can provide an accessible option for people with mobility issues, provides social interaction, is more affordable than a personal vehicle, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and can also help to reduce traffic. A good public transit system benefits people and the planet.

Creating a viable public transit system in smaller semi-rural communities comes with big challenges. To make riding by bus a better option, we need more frequency and improved connections between routes. We also need more links to destinations such as the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market, Denman and Hornby islands, and Nanaimo.

Inter-regional transportation for commuters, more school specials, taxi-bus and rideshare options, flexible routing and schedules, and demand-responsive transit are other possible improvements that have been successful in communities like ours.

Public transit is a shared service administered by the Comox Valley Regional District in partnership with BC Transit. Kudos to all the staff who support this important and challenging work here, particularly over COVID times. There is a 2022 Transit Futures Action Plan on the CVRD website.

Ruby Sidhu

Transportation is one of our basic needs, and it can be a vehicle we need or if the system improves in a way that public transportation is used more than personal vehicles, that would solve a lot of the problems.

I would work towards getting more bus routes on some of the main roads we use, namely Guthrie Road, Comox Avenue, Anderton and Pritchard. Also, I would like to see shelters at those bus stops to save us from snow and rain while we wait for the bus. Not having a shelter is another turning-off point for our community to go and use buses.

Maureen Swift*

Public transportation is truly a “chicken and egg” issue. In other words, the more frequently you can provide service, the more likely people will consider the bus. It would be fantastic if we could consider a digital on-demand type of service that would extend transit hours into the evening or provide service into the more rural areas.

Steve M Blacklock

BC Transit has a goal of growing transit ridership to a three per cent transit mode share by the year 2038 (Source: Transit Future Action Plan, 2022). With the increased costs associated with vehicle ownership and/or private driving services, public transit is the only available means of transportation for many in our community; particularly students, seniors, and those with mobility challenges.

Comox should be encouraging transit-oriented development along our key arterial routes. More connectivity of our system with adjacent communities would also be great to see because every trip made by bus helps reduce congestion on our increasingly busy roads.

BC Transit has identified improving frequency of service on the “Route 3 – Comox” bus route as one of five current service improvement priorities. If elected to council, I look forward to receiving the results of planned future analysis around “on-demand short service options.” This style of transit service has been a success in other similarly sized communities, like Powell River, and may be a viable solution in Comox.

Don Davis

Public transport should be expanded and I would go so far as to say it should be free.

Kealy R Donaldson

Public transportation, specifically bus routes and times, have changed quite drastically in Comox, in recent years. Information has been conveyed to me that some Comox bus routes are inadequate, not meeting the needs of the current users. The #1, #3 and #4 buses are not lining up to enter or exit Comox in a timely fashion. Waits of just under an hour are occurring, between inbound and outbound connections. My personal experience in ridership was a very jumbled route from the Highland School area, across to Rodello and Aitken Streets, zagging through midtown, only to get off the bus after 30 minutes, three blocks away from my main street destination. I could have walked faster but for those who may have physical challenges, the bus is a lifeline for everyday errands. I truly appreciate all the drivers and employees who take care of daily riders but there does seem to be a slight disconnect in delivering timely and regularly scheduled transportation. If ridership is down, there has to be a better delivery of services.

Peter Gibson

I spoke with an independent senior recently who uses the Handy Dart service in Comox. This offers direct to the door pick up and delivery home. According to her, there is a backup taxi service offered at very reasonable rates. Her passes are also available on the regional transit service. She was also very complimentary of the staff operating the Handy Dart and how they always go the extra mile to help. I hear a constant call for more bus service. When I look at the current bus fleet in action, I see many empty buses. Can we get a proper cost accounting for ridership? I participated in a transit study conducted by BC Transit and I felt that the choices were, “will that be four buses or six?” There was no option to look at alternate people movement. Can we get more smarter and creative in transporting people instead of the shotgun approach? More and bigger buses do not necessarily transport more people. Of particular concern, I hear from seniors who are too proud to complain and have a lifetime of contributing, who feel left out of being consulted.

Ken J Grant*

We are about to increase our transit hours due to the upcoming sewer line replacement. According to the recently completed Mobility Primer report commissioned by the regional district in 2022, two per cent of the population are using transit. It is difficult to increase service in Comox with that little ridership.

3 – What are your ideas/solutions regarding the housing/affordable housing crisis in the town?

TOWN OF COMOX MAYORAL CANDIDATE

Nicole Minions (acclaimed)*

As a local government, I see our role in the affordable housing solution being through our OCP updating, land use planning and support of the Coalition to End Homelessness, which has opened up hundreds of new bed spaces across a spectrum of housing solutions. Adding the ability for Comox homes to have carriage houses and suites is one example of how this can be done at a municipal level. The addition of rental stock into the Comox Valley rental supply as well as partnering/supporting established organizations like Dawn to Dawn and M’akola Housing Society, has worked successfully in recent years. The Comox Valley Regional Housing Needs Assessment that came out in 2020 is such a valuable tool in understanding the current situation and what the needs of our community look like moving forward. Education, collective action in the Valley and advocacy for purpose-built housing options are key as we continue forward in looking to improve this national challenge.

TOWN OF COMOX COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Maureen Swift*

We need to encourage the development of more housing options. With the rise in interest rates and the inflated housing market, it is unrealistic to think everyone can own a single-family home these days. Development of smaller lots on infill properties, secondary suites, coach houses, and denser rental developments have all been options that Comox has worked towards providing for people seeking affordable housing.

Jonathan Kerr*

The two most common concerns that I am hearing from Comox residents is the lack of truly affordable housing, and the need for more family doctors.

I am proud to have championed Comox’s new Affordable Housing Contribution Policy focused on providing more affordable places to live for Comox residents. I voted ‘yes’ to this hybrid approach to affordable housing, allowing for both the long-term acquisition of units by the town, and the creation of partnerships with local non-profits. Units acquired over time will be used to provide affordable housing for Comox residents.

Transparency and accountability are extremely important to me. You can see my voting record on this issue, and video clips of my comments during Council meetings, at www.healthycomox.ca.

Increasing housing density, particularly closer to downtown, including duplexes, townhomes, and mixed-use buildings (residential and commercial) would allow for more affordable homes to rent and to buy.

Comox must be a leader to ensure that seniors on a fixed income, families, single-income parents, employees in our downtown shops, and everyone else, has a place to call home. We must seek out innovative housing solutions so that Comox is an affordable town for our children and grandchildren.

Ken J Grant*

The lack of housing supply is one of the biggest issues facing the town of Comox. We are currently at our boundaries. This means that any development will have to be infill. We are in the final stages of reviewing our planning and building departments to find ways to free up the backlog of applications without taking the teeth out of our land use policies. I believe we need a review of our official community plan to ensure that we build the right type of housing in the appropriate places.

Jenn Meilleur

Housing affordability is the number-one issue that I’m hearing about from people. People who have crucial skills and talents are leaving Comox, or turning down job offers, because there aren’t enough safe, suitable places to live. People of all ages are struggling, and vulnerable groups more so. When we lose good people, we lose not only valuable and much-needed workers, but also the vibrancy of our community.

While I’m a homeowner now, I was a renter for much of my adult life. I remember well the challenges of finding safe and affordable places in a tight rental market, and the uncertainty that goes along with it. Housing affordability and availability are even more challenging now.

I would like to see a Comox-specific working group that includes a wide spectrum of stakeholders to consider options like co-housing, co-ops, and non-market housing, and to explore options for accelerating known solutions.

We should also look at more creative zoning and a simpler, more streamlined approval process for projects that include accessory dwelling units like secondary suites or tiny homes on existing properties, especially when they are in infill (already developed) areas. This would be contingent on these projects also addressing the climate emergency with robust protection for urban forests, large trees on proposed development sites, and other sustainability measures.

Ruby Sidhu

I will work closely with the staff and developers so we can relax some restrictions and approve five extra units in each project, and can keep three out of those units for subsidy housing. If the town undertakes three to four projects a year, we can have close to 100 units available in the next 10 years.

I have heard that it’s easier to construct in Courtenay than Comox, and I will work toward changing that perception.

Peter Gibson

We need affordable housing! Sure sounds good! In today’s climate of environmental building codes and land use legislation, is affordable housing a viable concept in Comox? Demand far exceeds inventory and pricing of new development and re-sales keeps escalating. (The demand for housing is a national problem and as the positive growth of Canada through immigration, the problem only grows). The Comox OCP, has a policy of infilling larger properties. If this continues, will the “friendly small-town character with its natural beauty and water setting” be in jeopardy? I see infilling of larger pieces of property that could someday be mini parks in Comox. With development balance, it should not be all high-density. One issue with high density is stormwater runoff versus the ability for stormwater to be absorbed into the soil for cleansing. This will also impact natural streams already highly impacted. All water ends up in the ocean. Trees are important but space to grow trees in is more important. Single lot development should be encouraged in West and North Comox to increase inventory, but will further development be hindered by the existing Development Permit rules (18,) provincial regulations and our desire to be more environmentally friendly. Secondary suites and creative room renting (not overnight) in existing single-family homes need further discussion.

Chris T Haslett

There is a large shortage of housing in town. For those who rent, the cost is quite high and makes it difficult to save for a home due to the ever-rising cost increases that are happening through all facets of life. The addition of multi-family developments is good for the community as it is offering more rental units for those looking more short-term as well as helping get more homes into the town by adding condo and townhouse units. I believe that all families want to own their own home and by increasing the rental market, this will help bring down the cost of living for those renting and increase their chances of owning a home as they are able to save more for a down payment.

Steve M Blacklock

As a property valuation professional, I understand the myriad of complex issues associated with development and land use planning.

The Comox Valley needs to add supply of all types of housing, including both market and non-market units. Partnering with or assisting our existing, well-established, non-profit housing organizations in building more affordable social housing and senior housing is required throughout the Comox Valley. I support the idea of density within our municipal boundary as opposed to sprawling out into the neighbouring CVRD areas. I do not support the establishment of a municipal housing authority.

New supply must include what is known as the ‘missing middle:’ higher density townhouse, apartment, and patio home-type projects, along with in-fill addition of rental suites and carriage houses within established neighbourhoods.

New proposed developments in Comox will need a careful examination of existing infrastructure capacity with respect to parking, traffic flows, and tree retention.

If elected, I will work with town council, staff, and the development sector, to make sure affordable units are a necessary component for new proposed multi-family projects in Comox.

Don Davis

More pressure has to be put onto higher levels of government to supply social subsidized housing, anything less is just putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.

Kealy R Donaldson

Across Canada, we are seeing a major housing crisis and Comox is no different! The issue can be addressed here with some immediacy using current bylaws and an expedited permitting policy. Comox has carriage home bylaws, allowing property owners to place a secondary residence on their land. Infrastructure services are already in place in most cases, so minimal upgrades are required. Yes, there is a cost to development, even with smaller projects, but with the potential of adding a planning staffer to accommodate and expedite permitting, using the direct revenue from the permit application fee, there is an opportunity here to add neighbourhood density in a timely fashion. In some cases, with our aging population, homes with multiple bedrooms and two stories could be renovated into legal suites, again with permitting expedition – meeting specific criteria, and a small surge of one-, two- and three-bedroom units would and could come into existence – without large impacts on the current residential infrastructure.

4 – Crime, particularly crime against properties (theft/vandalism) is on the rise. How can this be addressed?

TOWN OF COMOX MAYORAL CANDIDATE

Nicole Minions (acclaimed)*

Comox meets regularly with the RCMP detachment to share primary concerns including areas and crimes that seem to be more relevant to our community. Open communication between residents, elected officials and the RCMP is important.

As individuals, we can keep our eyes and ears open for our neighbours’ homes and businesses, and report through the online RCMP tracking tool if we do see theft happening and have any information. If residents see theft, graffiti vandalism or speeding in Comox, we ask residents to consider reporting it as their role in keeping our community safe together.

TOWN OF COMOX COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Kealy R Donaldson

Comox is in a unique situation being ranked third in B.C. this year, not only for ‘Best Community’ but also for ‘Safest Community,’ by BC Business Magazine. Now saying that, there is definitely theft and vandalism happening on a regular basis. Take for example the current graffiti tagging that is happening on downtown buildings, local trails and signage. With the regular presence of police enforcement and potentially ‘community policing groups’ like Neighbourhood Watch coming back into existence, there would be an immediate deterrent from these activities. Video cameras and alarm systems have become a popular way to monitor your property and belongings and citizens really must take into consideration whether they are leaving personal property accessible for theft or have they protected themselves, their loved ones and more by ensuring limited access to their property and belongings. I recognize that these are deterrents and not perfect solutions but by taking these actions, citizens are creating protection barriers for potential theft.

Jenn Meilleur

To address crime in our region, we need to address the interrelated systemic issues that are contributing to this issue that affects all of us. This includes addressing poverty and the growing income gap between rich and poor, housing affordability, systemic racism, food insecurity, and access to mental health and health services.

As with all complex issues, the roots of crime cannot be addressed by one group alone. In addition to the RCMP, organizations like the Community Justice Centre, the Coalition to End Homelessness, business improvement associations, mental health providers, anti-racism groups, local government representatives, other stakeholders, and of course people with lived and living experience must work together on local solutions. Councillors have an important role to play by becoming involved with these efforts, as well as advocating for support on local issues to other levels of government.

I would love to see the Town of Comox (currently the only local community without a formal grant-in-aid program) develop a more formal program to support the many non-profit and non-government organizations that are such important collaborative partners in addressing complex issues like this one.

To be a vibrant and welcoming community, it will be important for us to continue to work together to ensure that everyone feels included and respected regardless of income, mental health, substance use challenges, or homelessness.

Ruby Sidhu

I will work closely with the RCMP and our bylaws department staff and will try to increase the patrol in the neighbourhoods. The community has to put in a joint effort too at the same time.

If neighbours befriend each other and have block watches, that will definitely help. I will appeal to our community to get surveillance systems and will try to get the town to do the same on public properties owned by the town. Also, we need to talk about it with our kids and youth who are at high risk.

I am easily approachable and accessible to anybody who would like to have a chat in our community. Kids and youth are our future, and I plan to introduce a kids’ council where participating schools can send their kids once a month to watch closely how the local government works.

Jonathan Kerr*

We are fortunate to live in a relatively low-crime part of the world. However, we can still do more to ensure that people feel safe and secure in their homes and in the community.

As a parent, I see the need for even more recreational activities for our youth. Our town’s recreation department and the Comox Community Centre run amazing programs for youth and teens, and I would support the further expansion of these activities.

The town could also provide mentorship opportunities for students who are curious about a potential career path, while advocating for more local mental health services, especially for children and teenagers.

Comox and our local RCMP detachment have a strong working relationship, and I would like to see an increased RCMP presence in town, especially in the evenings and on weekends.

We should also celebrate our local community heroes, such as Mike Hall in Comox, who spends his free time removing graffiti in his neighbourhood. The town should continue to partner with local non-profits and other municipalities to improve the social conditions that are feeding the opioid crisis. As a family doctor, I will also continue to advocate for more rehabilitation and treatment options.

Don Davis

It is my understanding that our RCMP detachment is vastly understaffed. Those numbers with a review of how the service is provided to each of the local jurisdictions must be addressed.

Ken J Grant*

I have met with the RCMP, the downtown business association, and property owners to find a solution to the recent vandalism problems in Comox. We have established new programs to assist the RCMP in cracking down on the issue. We have also increased the police patrols in Comox. The presence of law enforcement will help to stem the problem. I have also been in touch with citizens on patrol to assist in this endeavour.

Steve M Blacklock

The RCMP are limited in their ability to effectively deal with prolific offenders who commit a large majority of property crimes in our community, especially if the individual is suffering from addiction and/or mental health issues. My sister and her husband are both RCMP members and my parents were both family doctors. I’ve learned from them that compassion is required to help people living with mental health and/or addiction.

I am supportive of the efforts of health care professionals and existing non-profit organizations currently operating in the Comox Valley. I am proud to support these ongoing efforts through my volunteer work with the Rotary Club of the Comox Valley.

Comox also experiences some property vandalism committed by youth. Town council has sought to engage Comox’s youth with respect to improved or new recreation opportunities. I support the existing council initiative to apply for grant funding to construct a new skate park and pump track in Comox. I think new outdoor recreation opportunities for youth are worthy of Comox council’s attention and resources.

Maureen Swift*

Fortunately, Comox ranks as one of the safest communities in the province. Having said that, we have recently experienced incidences of vandalism in our community. In order to understand the magnitude of the problem, we need our citizens to report incidences when they occur. If we all have our eyes on the activities occurring in our areas and report them, we will have a better understanding of how to proceed.

Peter Gibson

Public safety is an issue throughout British Columbia in this fall’s election and Comox while not experiencing the visible level of downtown homelessness, addiction and crime, it is there and growing. I hear from citizens that police response is slow and sometimes non-existent. Does Comox get its fair share of RCMP response for the contribution that Comox pays to the region as a whole? In my former career, we used to have a designated constable for the winter season and a backup who was familiar with our culture, issues, and conditions. In the summer season when things slowed down, this constable was relocated to Denman and Hornby islands. That policy changed and we ended up with the next available member who very often was unfamiliar with our circumstances. Could we find a way to get back to knowing who your policeman is? Community policing needs to be better defined. The other issue is enforcement and follow-up but I do not have enough space allocated to me.

Chris T Haslett

Increased police presence throughout the Valley is needed. There is simply not enough time in the day for the officers to be everywhere at all times. I believe that they are spread too thin for the large area that they work in. Funding should be looked at by all councils to help add more officers to curb the rise in crime. Councils should also work with the provincial and federal governments for funding for mental health resources so that we can help those who need it most before they end up on the street.

5 – Reconciliation is an ongoing process. Where is your community lacking in that regard and how can we improve relations?

TOWN OF COMOX MAYORAL CANDIDATE

Nicole Minions (acclaimed)*

I see reconciliation and a strong relationship with K’omoks First Nation as being a pillar in our community.

There’s relationship-building work we can do with Chief Rempel and the council on how we show up as a good neighbour, consult regularly and acknowledge our history. There are a lot of partnerships happening around the CVRD and I think we can listen, learn and engage as we move forward.

TOWN OF COMOX COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Maureen Swift*

Reconciliation is a process that will be ongoing for many years. I like to think that Comox has a positive relationship with our neighbours the K’omox First Nation. As a member of the CVRD, there have been recent collaborations with the water treatment plant and the soon-to-be-constructed sewer conveyance project. We are also working towards a sewer project that will allow the treaty lands south of Courtenay to be developed once the treaty process is completed. Comox has recently adopted the Cultural Heritage Investigation Program that recognizes the importance of consultation with the KFN prior to developing land within our boundaries.

Ruby Sidhu

Since I have worked with the town, I have a trusting relationship built with all the staff. Out of 130 or so employees, you can talk to any member about me. I will try to bring that trust in our community too and work towards bringing the two together. We exist because of the community, and together we stand.

Jenn Meilleur

I believe that to move closer to true reconciliation, every community in Canada, including Comox, can and must do better in terms of its relationships with Indigenous people.

Reaching out to build connections and relationships; respectful and deep listening; sitting in conversation and community; committing to ongoing learning and unlearning; and finding ways to engage in shared decision-making are all crucial to improving the relationship between the K’ómoks First Nation and councillors, administration, and people in the town/Town of Comox.

The treaty negotiations between the K’ómoks First Nation and Canada are coming to a close; a signed treaty will mean many new opportunities for the band to chart a new course. I believe this is an excellent time to strengthen the ties between these communities, and Comox councillors should be an important part of this process.

Reconciliation happens at an individual level as well as at a local government level. There is an important role for non-Indigenous folks in addressing ongoing systemic discrimination that is still present in most of our systems. Bob Joseph’s book 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is a great place to start.

Jonathan Kerr*

Reconciliation is a journey that we need to take as a community, and as individuals.

I support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), and full implementation of the calls for justice in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

I support initiatives like the land transfer agreement between the Town of Comox and the K’ómoks First Nation (KFN) for the area known as the Northeast Woods.

I am encouraged by the proposed treaty between KFN, B.C. and Canada, as treaties represent a huge step towards reconciliation, focusing on healthy, thriving communities. Supporting reconciliation and Indigenous sovereignty are core to climate action efforts and to resilient and healthy communities.

As a family doctor, I will continue to advocate for culturally appropriate care for my patients and for all First Nations and Métis peoples in the Valley.

As a lifelong learner, I am open to continuous education and humility. My own learning journey has included participating in a Blanket Exercise with KFN, the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training program, and the Culturally Informed Team-Based Care Elders Opening Circle.

Chris T Haslett

The Town of Comox has made great strides in working with the KFN. I would hope that the newly elected officials will continue to work with the band to create a strong dialogue moving forward. We need to listen to the concerns to make changes and collectively celebrate the successes so that as time progresses we are able to have a strong and growing relationship.

Ken J Grant*

The town enjoys a good working relationship with K’ómoks First Nation. In fact, Comox was the first council to acknowledge KFN on our agendas. On most of the big issues, we have a good relationship. We, as KFN, run a tight ship when it comes to staffing levels. This means that capacity to meet and discuss issues is a challenge. Pre-COVID, we tried to meet with the KFN council, but the pandemic got in the way. We need to get together with KFN to discuss plans and issues going forward.

Peter Gibson

The ratification of the K’omoks First Nation (KFN) Treaty is nearing completion. The impact of the treaty, for the entire Comox Valley, will make the KFN the largest landholder in the region. This land transfer will be an opportunity to create partnerships for the entire Comox Valley. Reconciliation goes hand in hand with a combined community vision, in which Comox will need to participate. We need to all understand that the existing Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) and municipal plans will have to be amended to take into account this expanded land use. There is already an MOU between the RD and KFN concerning water and sewer services. Comox, through its membership on the RD board, can lead in the reconciliation of working together. We collaboratively need to have a firm plan and vision of where we are going to be in 10 to 20 years. Included are water use, regional primary routes of transportation and public safety. Of primary importance is the recognition that community values might be different for citizens who live in rural, urban or treaty lands. With additional inventory in the Valley from new development lands outside of the current RGS, could some of the infilling currently occurring, allow the Town of Comox to prepare for more green spaces and active transportation corridors, while still allowing for some density increases?

A symbol of Comox reconciliation and a far-reaching goal that Comox should be striving for, is to see a continuous corridor from Comox Lake to the Comox Harbour. KFN has already started with Kus-kus-sum and the reclamation of a valuable estuary. Imagine, 100 years from now, our great-grandchildren could be very proud of our “Comox Valley Park” and how we in Comox worked together with all partners, to achieve this.

Kealy R Donaldson

There are land treaty negotiations currently happening with K’omoks First Nation that involve the traditional unceded territory of K’omok, the Town of Comox and other parties. There appears to be good communication between the town and the KFN band council & administration. There will be big changes coming into view, in the next few years, via the outcome of the new land treaty. A vision of inclusion for both communities including Indigenous arts & culture being highlighted and the potential of Indigenous tourism being brought into fruition in areas like Marina Park, local beaches and special archaeological locations. Welcome totem poles on Comox Hill, Marina Park and possibly YQQ could really set the stage for strong community collaboration, sharing the rich history and current presence of K’omoks First Nation right here in Comox and on KFN traditional land. With the outcome of the land treaty yet to be disclosed, in full, more education and awareness could and should be shared through SD 71, regional libraries, art galleries and special community recognitions by the town itself.

Don Davis

I have suggested for years that the municipalities should be interacting more with all local First Nations. Communication is the key to understanding and initiating reconciliation.

Steve M Blacklock

I am the grandchild of settlers of unceded territory who came to Canada from Scotland. I have followed the full accounting of the atrocities visited upon First Nations Peoples since first contact, since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I acknowledge my personal responsibility to support the implementation of the commission’s calls to action. I have sought to educate myself through research and through discussions with the First Nations people that I know. I encourage all citizens to read Bob Joseph’s book, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, as well as Bev Sellars’ They Called Me Number One. We cannot change our shared history.

However, with understanding and knowledge, we can move forward into a brighter shared future.

As a council candidate in Comox, I completely support our local KFN government as they move into the final stages of modern treaty negotiations with British Columbia and Canada. I have worked with KFN in my professional career. I am committed to a future where Comox and KFN work in a more collaborative manner with respect to land use, environmental protection, and regional economic development.

ComoxElection 2022