Courtenay voters will pick one of three mayoral candidates (top row) and six of 15 council candidates (bottom 2 rows).

Courtenay voters will pick one of three mayoral candidates (top row) and six of 15 council candidates (bottom 2 rows).

Courtenay candidates discuss homelessness, crime and 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 Courtenay candidates to answer.

The following are their responses.

*indicates incumbent

Despite commendable efforts from the Coalition to End Homelessness, the number of unhoused people in the Comox Valley, and particularly Courtenay, continues to rise. How do you plan on addressing the homelessness situation?

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Aaron Dowker

I sat down at the library computer with an answer and a plan, but the man I sat beside and the man upstairs had other plans indeed. The man next to me disagreed with my efforts and ideas for help. He said that with man these problems are unsolvable, but with God…

“It’s not your job to supply the miracle, it’s God’s, it’s your job to sow the seeds and God will give the increase. They must come to a place where God will help them and he does, he answers people’s prayers.”

I agree.

But in case you are wondering, some seeds I would like to sow: another Maple Pool, $300 places for those on welfare to live, every homeless person gets a lock for their stuff, a trial SMALL homeless camp a little on the outskirts of town…

But really, these plans might fail, they are blanket solutions when we need individual ones. Treating one person at a time, with solutions tailored to the individual, is our best hope.

Erik Eriksson

This is an enormous problem here and in every jurisdiction in North America. If there was a simple solution, you would think someone would have found one. The way to address the situation is first, to acknowledge that it is going to take a lot of money. Money for property, buildings and healthcare facilities. Second, get agreement that the money is worth spending. (There is a huge cost to doing nothing.) And third, find a way to raise the money in a fair way. It is an enormous problem. Resolving it is an enormous task. We will have to work hard together to get it done.

Bob Wells*

Over the past four years in the City of Courtenay, we have added 1,200 new units, over 80 units of subsidized and supportive units (Braidwood and The Junction), opened the Connect Warming Centre as a place for the unhoused to go for support, and opened the Ocean Front Village adding 126 units of publicly funded seniors housing. Yet due to the extreme escalating costs of housing, the toxic opioid epidemic, and lack of adequate mental health and addictions support – there is a perfect storm that has resulted in record homelessness in our community, across B.C. and across Canada.

The City of Courtenay has worked in partnership with members of the Coalition to End Homelessness and I attend the executive meetings whenever possible. This has led to attending housing conferences and learning best practices from around the world. It also alerted the city to the possible loss of the Strengthening Communities Grant which the coalition almost lost, but the city was able to save it so programs like the Connect Warming Centre could remain open.

We need to continue to work collaboratively with senior levels of government to assist them in achieving their mandate on homelessness.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Philip Adams

Approximately 300 to 400 people are experiencing homelessness or are in precarious housing in Courtenay. As of September, up to 30 seniors are facing homelessness in the coming months. When we measure the size of the problem it is clear that this situation is not impossible to solve. We need more housing, we need to bring down the cost of building and speed up the permitting process. Long, drawn out and overly complicated permitting increases the cost to build and therefore limits what can be built. When I am a councillor, I will revisit our bylaws and regulations so that all forms of housing are able to be created.

Steffan Chmuryk

Homelessness, mental health and addiction are issues which needed addressing 10+ years ago, and we are now suffering the consequences of a failure of leadership from the provincial level.

My view is that we need to take provincial leaders to task for allowing mental illness to get out of control. If municipal-led solutions do exist, they can only succeed with complementary support from the province, something which is desperately slow in coming. Long-term residential care needs to be a provincial priority.

Locally I would like to promote a few strategies:

• Hire/expand social worker(s) in charge of ensuring access for homeless or mentally ill persons, to financial resources through existing disability or welfare programs.

• Grant access to post office boxes for vulnerable people, who may be on the verge of homelessness due to unmanageable living situations. This is to ensure that cheques and correspondence can continue to be received.

• Storage spaces for people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.

• Create local small-scale cash jobs. These types of jobs can be centred around waste cleanup in parks or publicly accessed spaces. Jobs like these can also offer an avenue for outreach.

Will Cole-Hamilton*

As with communities across B.C. and across Canada, homelessness is a challenge for the City of Courtenay. This has many causes and will require a combination of actions by differing levels of government.

Many people are unhoused because of health challenges like addiction and mental illness. These people require support from the provincial health care system, particularly mental health and addiction services, as well as support from BC Housing. If I am re-elected I will continue to work with our MLA and government officials to ensure that the province of BC provides increased healthcare supports and treatment, as well as providing shelter space and longer-term supportive housing.

While housing, health care, and mental health are provincial responsibilities, Courtenay has been working to address the challenges on our streets by supporting the Connect Warming Centre which offers a range of services for unhoused people. The city has also opened a 24-hour washroom in the downtown core in order to ensure that safe and hygienic options are available for those who are unhoused.

Brennan Day

Any effort to tackle the unhoused situation in Courtenay requires careful planning along with the surrounding communities; we need to avoid a “Field of Dreams” situation in which Courtenay becomes attractive to a largely transient population and results in the problem getting worse, not better. A careful balance of policing resources, mental health and addictions resources, and housing options working in co-operation can have a meaningful impact, but only if there is a centralized plan that is implemented on a provincial scale. The example of Red Deer’s “Housing First” program proves that this is the best way to manage this problem, but it will take non-partisan political will at all levels of government to have any real impact.

We must take the time to educate the public on the costs of action and inaction and be mindful of the very real costs of both paths. We must build consensus as a community and a province and tackle this problem together. There is no silver bullet, but through hard work and co-operation, we can improve the social outcomes in our community, and reduce the overall costs to the taxpayer of simply downloading this onto our frontline responders.

David Frisch*

Over the last 8eight years that I’ve been on council, the city has worked with the Coalition to End Homelessness, the CVRD, and the province to build the Braidwood housing, the Junction supportive housing, and open the Connect Warming Centre. Our staff have also gone above and beyond to oversee the $1M Strengthening Communities grant to keep the warming centre open and funding supports for those living in the street. I am committed to continuing those partnerships and finding solutions and funding to get people living on the street the help and housing they need. Moreover, I’d like to acknowledge that there are homeless people who need nothing more than a home and in the next question, will address my leadership on housing supply.

Michael Gilbert

Our current economic situation, alone, will create more poverty and homelessness. We need to support, and help to fund, the groups in the Comox Valley who have boots on the ground and experience on the streets. A consultation with these groups could be illuminating and informative. We also need to communicate with the Courtenay RCMP and give them the directives they require from city hall to do anything to help with illegal encampments, plus vandalism and drug use in these areas. We must enlist the help of our RCMP regarding harassment, vandalism, theft and physical attacks caused by a small percentage of the homeless against other innocent homeless people, as well as the public and business community.

Doug Hillian*

Let’s first be clear that the pandemic and other external factors have made things worse. The city does not have either the finances or mandate to build/operate housing or run social programs, but we do have a role in collaborating with social and provincial agencies. As such, Courtenay has consistently stepped up:

• Provided land to the M’Akola Society and BC Housing to build the Braidwood apartments (35 units) and the Junction supportive housing (46 units);

• Provided grants and land to Habitat for Humanity for housing projects on Lake Trail and McPhee;

• Worked with the Coalition to End Homelessness, including grants and staff support;

• Provided the Coalition/Transition Society space to operate the Connect Centre;

• Offered city land for co-op housing;

• Lobbied the province/Island Health for more supportive and complex care housing and services;

• Negotiated affordable units in market rental housing now being constructed;

• Supported Wachiay Friendship Centre on indigenous seniors housing (35 units);

• Successfully lobbied BC Housing to build second-stage housing (40 units) for women and children who have experienced violence.

We need a council that will continue these efforts and explore further creative options, such as Whistler’s regional housing corporation.

Evan Jolicoeur

Homelessness is not a unique issue to Courtenay. The worsening crisis is an impact of inflation, worsening mental health, an increasingly potent and toxic drug supply, and overall affordability of everyday life. Municipalities aren’t responsible for these issues but are bearing the brunt of the outcomes.

Increasingly, many are one pay-cheque, accident or injury away from this reality. It is our neighbours, people who have had an injury, job loss, young people, LGBTQ2S+, people with disabilities, and people who struggle with mental health and addictions.

As a director of health, registered nurse and mental health & addictions clinician and as an active volunteer with organizations like Dawn-to-Dawn, Rotary, and the Community Action Team – I have dedicated over 10 years to addressing homelessness and mental health and addictions.

We need politicians that have empathy, compassion, and thoughtfulness to address these issues.

I will:

• Continue to advocate provincial & federal governments to step up and pay their fair share;

• Increase the number of bylaw officers & training;

• Champion a new shelter, supportive & transitional housing;

• Fight for local medical detox & treatment center;

• Collaborate with local service providers to provide housing & wrap-around supports;

• Support the Comox Valley Poverty Reduction Strategy & Substance Use Strategy.

Jin Lin

There is no single solution to the problem of homelessness, it is a complicated issue. In 2018 the mayor of Vancouver vowed to end homelessness – at the time the count was 2,095 – and by 2021 the homeless population had risen to 3,632. Sadly, this has meant that the Downtown East Side of Vancouver is not a pleasant place to visit anymore. There are many reasons why people become homeless – lack of affordable and accessible homes, addiction to drugs and alcohol, mental illness, domestic abuse, throwaway teens, relationship breakdowns, unemployment, discrimination, and foreclosure all contribute to the problem. Homelessness impacts the economy, affecting the security and safety of local businesses and deterring visitors to the downtown sector. I believe that housing comes first in providing basic security for an individual, making it easier for that person to access support and services dedicated to alleviating their situation.

Melanie McCollum*

Homelessness is a complex challenge that cannot be solved with any single solution. People experiencing homelessness are often impacted by trauma, addiction and mental health issues, in addition to extreme poverty. We must continue to take a collaborative, proactive approach to address this unsustainable and heartbreaking situation.

If re-elected, I’ll continue to engage with the Minister of Housing, BC Housing and our MLA to ensure that new shelter spaces, mental health and addiction supports, and supportive housing are provided by the province. I’ll also continue to support the creation of a health hub (through the hospital board) near downtown to deliver more Island Health (VIHA) services to our community.

Courtenay is extremely fortunate to have many dedicated community groups assisting those experiencing homelessness access to medical services, social and housing support. The City of Courtenay has supported the Comox Valley Transition Society to deliver critical services through Connect Warming Centre. The work has been funded through the provincial Strengthening Communities Grant. I’ll continue to raise the lack of ongoing funding with the province to ensure this support can continue.

Wendy Morin*

The rise in homelessness is a complex issue that every B.C. community is grappling with. In addition to high housing costs for both buyers and renters driving this crisis, root causes such as health issues and the added challenges of the pandemic have intensified the struggle. Our council has advocated strongly to the province for complex care beds for those who have barriers to getting and maintaining housing, and for a purpose-built shelter that is accessible to services, yet outside the downtown core. This year our community received a ‘Strengthening Communities’ grant to help with support for the unhoused population. We need to remember that homelessness is not just visible on the street. There are folks who are precariously housed – couch surfing, being reno-evicted, and forced to live in sub-standard shelter that is too small or unhealthy. That’s why a whole continuum of housing needs to be addressed. I’d like to see a commitment from the province to partner with the city to provide more shelter space as well as subsidized and below-market housing. I think there are opportunities to work with the development community as well to allot below-market units in multi-residential projects.

Lyndsey Northcott

The number one issue I believe is proper housing, safe homes, and support for these individuals. There are tiny home projects that have worked in other cities. That I believe would be a great solution to tackling homelessness in Courtenay. Maple Ridge created the “Tiny House Community.”

Deana Simkin

I ask you to go to the City of Courtenay website and look up “Departments.” Homelessness is not one of them, yet we spend much time and energy on it. Having said that, this is a vulnerable population of people that is growing quickly, not only in Courtenay, but throughout B.C. and Canada, and it is not going to fix itself. Courtenay does not have the expertise nor the resources to solve this complicated situation alone. The Province of British Columbia however has a ministry, a department, the resources, and the educated experts. All municipalities that share this challenge must work together, as a team, and advocate for the province to take on their share of the responsibility of homelessness including mental health and addiction issues.

Manno Theos*

Many people that are unhoused have mental health and drug addiction issues. After the closure of Riverview institution, a number of people with serious mental health challenges were left on the streets. Local governments must keep the pressure on the provincial government to open modernized mental health facilities to provide stability, support, and opportunities to access services and learn life skills, in a safe environment. Also, the provincial government needs to open effective drug treatment centres. Similar to the European model that has very high success rates. One of the most successful drug treatment facilities in our province is Edgewood in Nanaimo. Unfortunately, most people can’t afford treatment there. We can continue and expand our support of Habitat for Humanity, I value the structure of community involvement and sweat equity. Meaning that the receiver of the benefit has invested in the outcome. It’s my belief when you work hard to achieve something you will appreciate the outcome and care for it with greater attention. I’m very concerned with the ability of many seniors on fixed incomes to afford to live independently. I believe it’s vital that the federal government significantly increases the monthly pension for vulnerable folks including people receiving disability income.

Starr Winchester

The homeless population is one of the most serious and complex issues facing us today. I was mayor of Courtenay when the first “Mayors Task Force on Homelessness” was formed in 2007. This task force has evolved into the Coalition to End Homelessness, a collective of 31 Comox Valley member agencies who plan and recommend community responses. We must focus our efforts on action, providing solutions to the people of Courtenay who desperately need a home. If elected, with council’s support, I will ask staff to identify appropriately zoned land that would be suitable for multi-residential buildings. Simultaneously we would apply for the National Housing Co-Investment Fund for New Construction, which provides low-interest and forgivable loans to build new affordable housing. We would also apply for some of the $164 million just announced by the B.C. government to expand the government’s complex care housing model. We must work towards solutions that will bring our community together and not divide us. I applaud all the community agencies in Courtenay who are working hard to help those in need, but we cannot do this without the support of Senior levels of government.

***

What are your ideas/solutions regarding the housing/affordable housing crisis in the city?

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Erik Eriksson

The two components of the cost of housing are the cost of building it and the cost of the land to build it on. The price is based on what people are willing to pay for it. The reason prices go up is that there is not enough housing for everybody and there are more than enough people who are willing and able to pay the price for what is available. To bring the prices down you need a lot more housing and a lot more available land. To the end we should be looking at the Regional Growth Strategy and the Official Community Plan to see what can be done about that. What about the people who are not able to pay the price? The solution there is either to raise their income level or assist in the cost with subsidies. This is, in a way, assistance to employers who can’t afford higher wages but can’t find employees because they have no place to live.

Bob Wells*

Over 1200 units of housing were built in Courtenay over the past 4 years, faster than ever before in our City. These units include 35 subsidized and supportive units at the Braidwood Apartments and 46 units of subsidized and supportive units at the Junction. The Ocean Front Village for seniors just opened in July 2022 with 126 units of publicly funded beds and 85 units of private independent suites.

The Wachiay Friendship Centre is moving forward with 40 units of seniors housing (some units with rental assistance) and North Island College is building 215 units of student housing which will reduce pressure on the rental market in the rest of Courtenay.

The city has partnered with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Makola Housing and the John Howard Society to bring subsidized and supportive housing, but the need is too great for the city to act alone. In 2021, the city offered three more properties to BC Housing to create affordable/attainable housing opportunities but the province did not have the financial resources or capacity to make these projects happen. We need to continue to work with senior levels of government and non-profits to bring truly affordable housing to Courtenay.

Aaron Dowker

I’m familiar with low-cost housing, in fact, I would consider myself a ‘living with less’ expert. I raised my kids in a one-car garage and presently have two roommates, with a third once the drywall is done. I am no stranger to necessity being the mother of invention and our present system needs an overhaul and out-of-the-box housing solutions should be crowned king.

It’s no secret working young people need a way to move out on their own and make an equity stake, and I feel a tiny home village, much like a mobile home park would be great. Young people paying $900 a month but owning the land under their feet. Tiny homes on residences with alleys also interest me.

I also think single-family dwellings should come with open attics and unfinished basements and if possible, garages to lock up on a lane. Let us make the most of city infrastructure and combat sprawl. Even if you don’t need it, I guarantee the next generation will.

This is a housing emergency, let’s rally the public to give up their empty spaces to someone they like and trust.

Oh, and streamline planning at city hall.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Wendy Morin*

The new OCP opens up opportunities to further diversify our existing housing stock. This term we’ve added almost 1,400 new housing units and almost 200 subsidized and below-market housing units. Secondary suites are now permitted across the city, and a similar bylaw regarding carriage homes is coming early in the next term. We need to continue to find ways to provide incentives to builders for below-market and diverse housing. We’ve introduced in the Official Community Plan, the goal of ‘Housing Choices for All’, recommending partnership approaches to deliver and manage non or below-market housing. The city has available land (some offered for housing partnerships with BC Housing), and there may be opportunities to work with the school district on housing initiatives as it owns land within Courtenay. Municipal and Regional District Tax Program (MRDT) online booking revenue is approved to support affordable housing, which amounts to approximately $275,000 annually. Over this term, the Affordable Housing Amenity Reserve Fund added just under half a million in negotiated payments. I’d like to see an expansion of what we’re doing and to look at the creation of a housing authority such as other communities have done with success. I’d like us to better manage short-term vacation rentals (recognizing their importance to tourism), and explore possible incentives for ‘over-housed’ residents to create suites or carriage houses to bolster the housing stock.

Lyndsey Northcott

I believe as the city of Courtenay we should start building actual affordable homes. Affordable homes for the young, singles, families, elderly, and people with disabilities. Inside the city and in rural areas. Right now there is no law on what is actually affordable. Taking 30 per cent of people’s income to cover their housing expenses is what is affordable.

Deana Simkin

Housing costs and availability in Courtenay have certainly been a challenge over the past few years and finding a solution will not be an easy one. The population increase, now as well as in the future, is weighing heavily on supply and demand, which ultimately affects pricing. The time it takes to approve building permits and the regulations put upon builders are certainly affecting supply as well as the cost of housing in Courtenay. All housing types should be available in the future to support the growing population. Densification should be encouraged in the city’s core. Land should be made available for single-family homes. Regulations and extra costs to builders (which only drive up the cost for buyers and renters) should be relaxed. The city should advocate to the province to increase the supply of social housing.

Manno Theos*

I believe we need a new strategy in order to address affordable housing. I have come up with a five-point plan.

1. Add inventory faster. Provide development permit approvals in under a month from the time a proposal first reaches the city planning department. Langford achieves that goal, saving builders significant time and money that can be passed to residents. Also the city saves money from less staff time invested, freeing the planning department to move on to other priorities.

2. Lobby the provincial government to raise the level of the homeowners’ grant. Prices of homes and rent have had a sharp increase without the homeowners’ grant keeping pace.

3. Create a tax frozen zone. An area with high density in which the builders sign a contract of charging no more than 30 per cent of people’s incomes for rental developments.

4. Work with the provincial government to contribute 20 per cent of revenues received from the property transfer tax towards affordable housing.

5. Working with large parcels of land to establish more flexible zoning that can accommodate a tiny home modular park that offers green space and community living.

Starr Winchester

I propose more affordable single-family housing options in Courtenay. I recently visited a modular project being built in Courtenay at Mission Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway. I was told that this local company could also build self-contained studios, as well as one- and two-bedroom units to suit a variety of housing needs. These modular homes could be grouped together, similar to homes in a mobile home park. Young families and seniors want a backyard, they don’t want to live in apartments. Unfortunately, we have limited land available for housing, and our present Official Community plan does not support single-family housing. If elected, I will determine what Courtenay properties are zoned to accommodate residential housing and will advocate having more modular housing built on these available properties. Tiny homes could provide a possible solution, especially for those people living alone. Also, I would like to work with staff to streamline zoning, development, and building permit applications from the private sector that want to build market housing. If elected, you have my word that I will bring these issues to the council table.

Philip Adams

The solution is more houses. We have over-regulated our permitting and building processes to the point that we now have builders saying they will avoid working in Courtenay and are relocating their skills to more building-friendly communities. We need to overhaul our permitting, regulation and zoning bylaws and processes to take out the uncertainty and delays of starting a reno or home. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel; building a home or even an apartment building used to be simple and straightforward. Another way to make housing affordable is to empower people to age in place by allowing them to make modifications to their houses for safety and mobility needs without the delay of the current permitting backlog.

Steffan Chmuryk

Courtenay does not have the capacity to tackle these issues without strong provincial leadership. My approach would be to increase the volume and quantity of outreach towards provincial and federal leaders; they need to create funding now.

Second to this, I would reach out to developers and landholders. Affordable, non-market housing cannot be realized without access to the labour and property that they currently control. I am sympathetic to those who wish to build more housing, but future development across the region needs to include non-market solutions.

The creation of a local housing authority must also be a priority. I grew up in subsidized housing, and I am intimately familiar with the various approaches that are available. I hope that my experiences can help inform the creation of this authority.

Finally, I wish to tackle the systemic challenges that we are creating in the engineering and permitting of affordable housing projects. If they are to become a reality, we should not encumber them with regulatory overreach. Design has become tremendously overcomplicated, contributing to the skyrocketing costs already associated with labour and materials. I have worked in the design-build industry for many years, and believe that I can help identify solutions.

Will Cole-Hamilton*

I will continue to support the development of new market housing projects. Since the last election over 1,400 units of new housing have been built in Courtenay. We have also added almost 200 units of below-market and subsidized housing, as well as 40 units of housing for women and children leaving violence.

Specifically, if I am re-elected I’ll focus on:

• Continuing to work with developers to ensure that below-market housing, or a contribution to our Affordable Housing Fund, is provided whenever land is rezoned. Rezoning allows for more units of housing on a piece of land, increasing the land’s value. The inclusion of below-market housing is a recognition that a portion of this increase in value should be shared back with the community;

• Ensuring that our new Official Community Plan, which allows for more housing options in more locations, is put into action;

• Establishing a housing authority, which has allowed for increases in affordable housing units in communities like Tofino and Whistler;

• Continuing to collaborate with BC Housing by making city land available for the development of affordable housing projects;

• Continuing to provide City land for dedicated affordable housing projects by non-profits like Habitat for Humanity.

Brennan Day

First off, the City of Courtenay needs to implement the NDP’s affordable housing reports recommendations and work towards addressing the following: creating a planning framework that proactively encourages housing, reforming fees on property development, expanding the supply of community and affordable housing, improving co-ordination among and within all orders of government, and ensuring more equitable treatment of renters and homeowners. Given the rapidly escalating property prices, there is a void of both affordable rental housing, which I will acknowledge the current council has taken steps to address, as well as entry-level medium-density townhouses and condos to encourage first-time home ownership. The Official Community Plan, recently approved by this council, seems to focus only on densification, which will drive up single-family home prices and lot values further, by artificially constricting the supply of land. We need to take a far more balanced approach, encouraging larger carriage house/secondary suite options that are more suitable to families, and removing barriers to housing construction of all types. We must be mindful that given the pressures on healthcare, education, and city resources, population growth must be managed so as not to further exacerbate shortages.

The costs of slow development, permitting, and rezoning are adding tens of thousands of extra dollars to every unit that is built. Further, the additional regulations laid out in the OCP of adopting Step Code 5 building standards will add nearly $40,000 to the cost of a new single-family home. We must be far more considerate of the competing interests of building more efficient homes, the pace of permit turnarounds, and housing affordability; they are intricately linked and there is a point where you see dramatically diminishing returns. We need a balanced, predictable, and forward-looking investment environment to attract construction, while being acutely aware of the upward pressures on our insufficient infrastructure, healthcare, schools, and recreation facilities.

David Frisch*

I believe that there are a number of actions that the city should take or continue to take.

Firstly, the city should continue to support and implement the new Official Community Plan which allows more housing to be built in core areas like downtown, along Cliffe Avenue, and near Ryan Road.

Secondly, we should follow through with the plan to review our zoning bylaws and amend them to allow carriage houses and granny flats.

Thirdly, we should continue to seek funding and partnerships with BC Housing to provide sub-market housing with not-for-profits such as the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC.

Lastly, we should continue to support smaller units that are typically less expensive to buy and rent.

Michael Gilbert

Affordable housing is also a provincial and federal government issue, which cannot be ignored. Any possible provincial or federal grants, funding help and support for low-cost housing should be pursued. The City of Courtenay owns properties that could be used to create inexpensive housing projects for those who need low-cost housing. Using older hotels and motels can continue to provide clean, safe housing and should also continue to be explored. Large new developments should provide a negotiated percentage of units at a cost low-income earners can afford. A negotiated period of time these units are available – at prices decided by need, not developers, should also occur.

Doug Hillian*

The current council has worked proactively on housing initiatives including:

• Approved over 1,400 units of market housing that are in varying stages of development, almost 200 of which will be either below market or subsidized. Includes micro units with reduced parking to support service industry workers in the downtown and adjacent areas.

• Implemented new affordable housing contribution targets, revised hotel tax so online booking revenue supports affordable housing (approximately $275,000/year), and built up the Affordable Housing Amenity Reserve Fund to just under half a million.

• New Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning bylaw will streamline secondary dwelling construction (suites, carriage houses), with approval built into the zoning.

• OCP also facilitates the redevelopment of small older houses into larger multifamily buildings.

These measures will increase our housing stock and hopefully impact cost stabilization. There is still room for infill development of single-family housing, but much of our new housing will be multi-family with increased density. In the longer term, we anticipate new development will occur in the settlement expansion areas, such as the K’omoks First Nation Treaty lands.

Evan Jolicoeur

A diversity of solutions are needed to address this crisis. An economically thriving, culturally vibrant, socially diverse community needs to have housing options for everyone across their lifespan. This includes people of all income levels: young people, seniors, retail and restaurant workers, healthcare providers, single-parent families, those living with disabilities and new immigrants.

I have been involved in the success of many housing projects – co-housing, supportive housing, and below-market housing initiatives both in municipalities and in First Nations.

Housing is a human right: everyone should have the dignity of a roof over their head. I will:

• Support market, below market, affordable, supportive and community-led housing units;

• Ensure community infrastructure is built alongside housing. Use smart growth principles that prioritize building safe roads, parks, art, retail stores, grocery, medical services and schools.;

• Reduce red tape and backlog at city hall to move projects along in a timely, predictable and consistent way;

• Advocate provincial & federal funders to leverage municipal assets to build supportive and affordable housing;

• Champion a municipal or regional housing corporation to facilitate the development of below-market housing. I have been a proponent of, and have learned from communities & leaders who have successfully done this work in B.C.

Jin Lin

(no answer)

Melanie McCollum*

Affordability is an issue that impacts every member of our community. Our region is growing at a pace not seen in many decades. It’s an attractive place to be, but we need to make sure that growth is in line with our community values, and that affordable housing is part of new development. If re-elected, I’ll support these actions to ensure that happens:

• Require affordable housing with rezoning applications for new development, or an equivalent contribution amount to Courtenay’s affordable housing fund;

• Establish a housing authority to manage and develop non-market housing to address the affordability crisis; and

• Partner with the province to obtain BC Housing-funded non-market housing developed on suitable city-owned vacant land.

***

Active transportation has been a hot-button topic for a few years now, with the city continuing to expand its network 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 the bike lane project, or should efforts and attention be paid toward motor vehicle transportation infrastructure (I.e. an additional river crossing, improving public transit)?

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Bob Wells*

The City of Courtenay has been successful in getting grants for active transportation projects like the 5th Street Complete Street and 17th St Corridor Improvement Project which have improved safety for students travelling to school as well as active seniors (the largest demographic purchasing e-bikes), while not costing the city taxpayer. Expanding our active transportation corridor and linking East and West Courtenay, Cumberland and Comox will make travelling safer as well as attract tourists.

Most of the traffic congestion is on BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure roads (29th St. to 17th St. to Ryan Rd up to Anderton). The city has been working with the province for decades for corridor improvements, but our projects compete with projects in other communities with significantly more traffic congestion issues.

A third crossing has been discussed for decades and the last estimate in 2018 was at least $35 million, far more than the City of Courtenay can afford on its own. A third crossing would need to be a regional infrastructure project or be funded by grants so city taxpayers do not carry the entire burden of cost.

Improving our transit system and car share programs have the quickest and least expensive impacts.

Aaron Dowker

I support a third bridge but let’s plan for it, save for it, and beg Comox for help with it. The next four years can be spent investigating more inexpensive options such as one-way streets and a dedicated right turn lane onto Cliffe from the 17th Street bridge. Also widening the connector between Superstore and 17th should be discussed if they raise that dyke due to climate change mitigation. I also stand for the idea of leaving our main traffic arteries open, and encouraging our bike thoroughfares on side streets (i.e. 6th Street) or on one side of the street (i.e. 17th Street) or better yet, not near cars at all. What really excites me is paths in locations that make a bike trip geographically shorter than a car trip. But the only bike lane, road widening on my radar right now is also the most difficult to get people to work together on, the stretch between the Condensary Bridge and the One Spot Trail leading to Cessford Road; that is the most dangerous spot to ride a bicycle, I think. Traffic’s like water, it’s gotta flow.

Erik Eriksson

If people are ever going to ride their bikes to work or shopping in a significant way, they’re going to be riding their electric bikes. That’s not active transportation. We should certainly encourage cycling as an activity and we should do what we can to make it safe, but what the current council is doing is over the top. I think fixing the city streets that are crumbling should be a high priority. I don’t think an additional river crossing is a realistic expectation. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to put it. The big lineup that occurs once or twice a day at the 17th Street Bridge only happens in one direction. The bottleneck is caused by the lights on Cliffe. We should adjust the timing of the lights in such a way as to move that traffic expeditiously.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Doug Hillian*

Some criticize the city’s promotion of active transportation, particularly the work on 17th, but bike lanes are not a radical idea. Cities everywhere are adding them because it makes roadways safer, and traffic safety is a priority, the issue we most hear about from residents. Narrower lanes with separated bikes slow cars down and make routes safer for everyone, including pedestrians at crosswalks, kids going to school and car drivers too. Traffic changes may be confusing at first, but it’s a nationwide trend to promote multi-modal transportation, address climate change and make streets safer for all users.

Expanding the bike network does not come at the expense of motor vehicle infrastructure, as the funding comes from separate streams. We know the majority will still drive cars and we are working with the ministry of transportation to widen the bypass and improve Ryan and the 17th Street bridge intersection, their roads and our main pinch points.

A new bridge would incur huge financial and environmental costs, funnel traffic into the same grid and in a few short years fill up with cars at peak periods. Our regional transit system is improving with more frequent service, and more of us should use it.

Evan Jolicoeur

Living in a beautiful community with a river and estuary means we are bridge people. Much of our traffic woes occur during morning and afternoon commute times.

The world is changing fast, and so is Courtenay! Listening, educating and supporting everyone with the changes needs to be a priority for government. We need to plan for a future-proof community that supports families, neighbourhoods, and businesses.

We need to ensure we plan for a future where there are multi-modal options for safe transportation – including vehicles, buses, bikes, legs, and mobility supports.

I will:

• Address safety issues including potholes, high accident intersections and crosswalks;

• Advocate for federal funding to successfully build our active transportation infrastructure as planned in the Regional Active Transportation Plan & Growth Strategy;

• Support expanded public transit network, free fares for seniors (+55), students, and youth (24 and under), and income-based transit fares for adults;

• Collaborate with community organizations to offer training on how to safely share our roads, paths and trails;

• Educate – understanding of the why, what and how of any transportation infrastructure change;

• Incentivize low-impact transportation such as scooters, bikes, e-bikes and other forms;

• Include everyone – infrastructure planning to involve citizens’ input from the beginning to the end.

Jin Lin

The reality of population growth means that more motor vehicles will be using our roads. The bottleneck problem has been an ongoing issue even before the election of 2018. The waiting line on the hill of Ryan Road, Old Island Highway to the 5th Street Road Bridge, and the 17th Street Bridge are all problems requiring a solution.

It is good to set up bike lanes to protect cyclists, but is it necessary to spend money building the bump turf on the corner or some section in the middle of the road? We need to work out the best way to solve these problems and use our budget wisely. The traffic problem is not caused by the residents of Courtenay alone. We need to consult with other local government bodies – K’omoks First Nation, CVRD, Comox and Cumberland – along with assistance from upper levels of government to find the best way to provide ease of transportation in serving all the people of the Comox Valley.

Melanie McCollum*

For me, it’s not an either/or question. Sound planning and fiscal management take into consideration a variety of transportation options to meet the needs of the entire community.

Courtenay must support all forms of transportation to address the growing demands on our road infrastructure. This includes intersection improvements to improve vehicle flow, safe travel routes to encourage cycling, and pedestrian improvements to meet the needs of the community.

The provincial and federal governments have many grant opportunities to support active travel, public transit, and green infrastructure – Courtenay should continue to seek out those funding opportunities to ensure we continue to develop future-focused transportation.

Wendy Morin*

Active transportation needs to be prioritized for several reasons. We are in a climate crisis and need to reduce GHG emissions, and our community is growing, putting more pressure on our transportation system. Millennials (ages 25 to 40) are the fastest growing generation, expected to surpass numbers of baby boomers by 2029. This age group is more likely to utilize multi-modal transportation, particularly if the infrastructure is safe and convenient. Many newcomers to our area are in this age range, and have come from places where using transit and other modes of transportation is normalized. And of course Ebike ridership is soaring, with many seniors households downsizing to one vehicle and running short errands by Ebike. Councillors Cole-Hamilton, McCollum, and I jointly drafted a resolution at the CVRD which was adopted, to explore Ebike rebates for those with lower incomes and an Ebike share program. Bolstering the active transportation network allows those who prefer or need cars to benefit from less cars on the road. Having all the secondary schools on one side of the river exacerbates the traffic congestion in the morning and late afternoon. We need to continue to expand transit services during these pinch points. Although transit passes are reasonably priced and kids 12 and under fares are free, I am advocating for free fares for all youth. Extensive research has been done regarding an additional river crossing, with no justification at this time. We need to utilize the third bridge more, and continue to push the province to make improvements in their jurisdiction around the 17th Street bridge, as we have done in meetings with the transportation ministry within the last couple of weeks.

Lyndsey Northcott

I still believe the homelessness and affordable housing issue is the number one issue. We should address these issues first. I’m not in favour of continuing to expand on the bike lane project. I still believe we need to stay focused on the number one problem which is we need homes for the people.

Deana Simkin

The Official Community Plan (OCP) that was adopted by Courtenay council in June 2022 is a living document that tells us what Courtenay is at present and what Courtenay will be like in the future. The OCP states that 85 per cent of citizens move throughout Courtenay via private vehicle and 15 per cent via other modes (seven per cent walking, four per cent cycling, four per cent transit), yet it speaks little of private vehicles and promotes cycling, walking and transit. Traffic congestion has been a hot topic for years and with an aging population and the city expecting to be home to approximately 4,500 new residents by 2031 (page 10 of the OCP), we can only expect more traffic on the roads. Transportation infrastructure should be maintained and upgraded to support the 75-85 per cent of citizens using it in the future, whether it be a motorized vehicle or a battery-operated vehicle.

Manno Theos*

The vast majority of people I speak with would like a plan in place for a third vehicle bridge in South Courtenay. As for cycling infrastructure common sense thinking that heavy rain, significant hills and an aging population in Courtenay make it difficult to achieve more than two per cent of road share. I consider other projects, such as the Filberg Seniors’ Centre and the East Courtenay fire hall more urgent infrastructure to address. I believe there is a need for educating drivers and cyclists to share the road respectfully and safely for both road users. I believe in dedicating appropriate levels of funds and accessing grants when possible. I would like to see more cycling investment in trails rather than narrowing roads. With this in mind, in June of 2019 I voted against the 5th street bridge cantilevers, was also concerned for the viability of downtown businesses while the work was being completed. Also, in June 2019 voted against the over $4 million cycling/pedestrian bridge at 6th street and in March 2020 I voted against 17th street cycling lane work. Smaller buses and direct routes between critical locations would be a start.

Starr Winchester

According to the 2016 census, over 40 per cent of our population is over 55 years old. The majority of this age group requires either public transportation or a vehicle to go grocery shopping, go to appointments and tend to their day-to-day life. Younger families take their kids to school and do many other activities that require a car, especially in the winter.

I have always supported bike lanes for safety reasons, however it is my opinion that the next council must focus more attention on vehicle transportation infrastructure. For example, do we really need to spend millions of dollars on a pedestrian bridge beside our existing 5th Street Bridge? In my opinion, the answer is no. What we really need is a solution to the growing problem of traffic congestion on the 17th Street Bridge. I believe that costs should be shared on finding a solution from both levels of government as well as the Comox Valley Regional District to improve the traffic flow in and out of Courtenay. For many reasons, vehicles, which include buses, are going to be the choice of most of our citizens due to the geography of our city. Vehicles are here to stay and that’s not going to change.

Philip Adams

I think that we should spend our transportation funding and energy on projects that are going to help the greatest number of people in Courtenay. At present, only two per cent of residents bike as a form of transportation and the current council is heavily focused on this group. I want to represent seniors at city council who make up 30 per cent of the city’s population. Right now there is only one taxi in the Valley that can accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Handy Dart doesn’t run after 5 p.m., on weekends or on holidays. When I’m elected to council I will spend our taxes revenue and energy on more Handy Darts and ride-sharing shuttle services for seniors and people unable to drive to be able to get to their appointments.

Steffan Chmuryk

I have travelled extensively through Europe, and have come to appreciate the improvements to the quality of life that comes from walkable cities. I also drive a truck for work, and need to be able to drive through town regularly.

Our current problem is that we are already heavily invested in car-dependent infrastructure. We are at a stage of growth where further increases in automobile use will render our infrastructure obsolete. To address car dependancy, we must move away from the development of big-box commercial centres, and towards more community-centred models of available shops and markets. We need people to live their lives within their communities, and not feel the need to drive across town for simple provisions.

Biking infrastructure is necessary in any future planning, but this should not force expensive projects in the short term. I prefer a long-term approach, where we recognize the necessary cultural shift, and learn to accommodate other road users, as they will dramatically increase in number. The era of large vehicles is coming to an end, and geopolitical instability will increase fuel price volatility. A shift towards walking, cycling, and transit infrastructure can help ensure our resiliency through such events.

Will Cole-Hamilton*

I believe it is important for the city to ensure that all residents have safe options for getting around our community.

While many people chose to drive, many other residents are too young to drive, unable to drive due to a disability, only have a single vehicle for a household, or cannot afford a vehicle at all. There are others who do have access to a vehicle and would like to have a choice about how they get from A to B. Providing safe ways for these residents to get around, by walking, public transit, or cycling ensures that we meet the needs of all members of our community.

The city continues to invest in each of these modes of transportation, including vehicle traffic. In recent years the federal and provincial governments have chosen to fund a variety of transportation options. As a city, we have taken advantage of those grant opportunities to provide a range of safe options for our community. The 17th Street project was paid for by one of those grants – a $1,720,000 grant that could only be put towards walking, transit or cycling.

If re-elected I will continue to support a balanced approach to investments in transportation.

Brennan Day

The current “bike lane project” would better be referred to as a bike lane patchwork. In their excitement to “improve” bike lanes, council has ignored the majority of road users, increased the likelihood of car/bike interactions through frankly poor engineering and design, moved bike users from quiet side streets into arterial traffic, pushed cars and trucks from arterial roads onto quiet side roads, and choked off major north/south arteries; these are not improvements for nearly any user group. The council has lacked balance for the past four years, and the decisions that have been made show what can happen when there is no discussion or debate required at the council table. If we are going to apply for grant funding, let’s ensure it is spent on actual improvements, not a patchwork of paint and curbs. Let’s think bigger and work towards a multi-use path between Courtenay, KFN, the RD, and Comox that would have a real impact on all road users alike; let’s get the traffic and lights on the 17th Street bridge sorted out. We are growing; let’s try and keep up and plan for an uncongested future for bikes, pedestrians, and vehicle traffic.

If elected, I will prioritize the following:

• Debottleneck the 17th Street Bridge Crossing

• Creating a Valley-wide transportation plan along with our neighbouring municipalities; Courtenay is not alone in a bubble, let’s stop planning as if we are.

• Look at cycling routes that avoid traffic interactions

• Improve pedestrian safety with better lighting, sidewalks, and crosswalks.

• Work with the KFN, RD, and Comox on a Courtenay-Comox multi-use pathway to encourage tourism, alternative transit, and user safety.

• Strike a balance between pedestrian, cycling, transit, and the current reality of vehicle transportation and parking requirements.

Let’s ensure smart designs that acknowledge the need for alternative transportation methods to be encouraged, but not ignore the reality of our aging demographic, geographic size, and inclement weather.

David Frisch*

Firstly, our transit service has seen a wise and substantial increase in funding (through the 50/50 share program with BC Transit) over the last eight years. Because of this, we actually have a useful, functioning transit service, which I support and will continue to support increases to.

Secondly, the provincial active transportation grants and the Canada infrastructure grants for the 5th Street Complete Street, Hobson bike way, and 17th street pedestrian and cycling projects are not funds that could be applied to car-centric projects.

Looking ahead at the needs of the people in the Comox Valley for the future, we must build safe, effective transportation alternatives like a cycling network, multi-use paths (like the River Walkway, Rail Trail, and soon to be Laketrail Road pathway), crosswalks, sidewalks, bus stops, and transit priority lanes. No city has ever solved car congestion and preserved their natural ecosystems by building more roads and bridges for cars alone. Our approach must be wholistic and lead to healthy lifestyles and sustainable infrastructure cost.

Michael Gilbert

I support the 75 per cent of people who drive. Our current council has focused on a small percentage of transportation users, we need a more balanced approach. The time, money and resources used for two per cent of our population, although important, is a small part of this issue. We do not have a climate conducive to year-round cycling. We do not have enough weather-safe, covered areas for people to wait for public transportation. Bike lanes need to be refocused on roads that are truly unsafe for cyclists – not redesigned European city-inspired costly changes in our wider boulevards which will be needed as the population grows.

Our roadways need to be kept in good condition. The number of kilometres we need to repair and maintain our streets yearly is 270 km divided by 25 years = 10.8 km per year, to keep our streets in good condition. People can’t and won’t give up their cars. We can replace all city vehicles with electric where possible. The 5th Street bridge should be a three-lane bridge, to decrease congestion in this bottleneck. A definitive no to a 6th Street pedestrian/bicycle bridge. Priorities must start with congestion and bottlenecks at both the 5th Street and 17th Street bridges.

***

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

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Aaron Dowker

Sometimes love looks different than nice. As a parent, the best thing I can give my children is discipline and firm boundaries.

$10 million – 20 per cent of our budget – goes to policing. We could lower it to $9 million and hire 15 full-time front-line workers, to get tools and support services to the population that causes crimes. Safety for our kids is more important than compassion if I had to choose. And we do, just like parents the right way is usually the hardest and jail, with options for treatment and sober housing should be exercised.

I met a man on a park bench and we talked crime for a while. He mentioned ankle bracelets for repeat criminals and I shuddered, although he has a point. I volleyed back with a larger bicycle police presence, stopping in on camps and drug houses multiple times a day.

I know, it is a harsh stance, locking people up and a “police state,” but sometimes you must stop the bleeding before you can start the healing.

Erik Eriksson

The recently released report for the ministry of public safety has a long list of recommendations as to how to address the issue of prolific offenders and we should support the objectives.

Bob Wells*

It must be pointed out that RCMP calls for service have actually been declining in Courtenay.

However, there has been an increase in the toxic drug supply, homelessness, as well as mental health and addictions issues. These have all been exacerbated by the pandemic resulting in more visible homelessness and social disorder.

We have just modernized our nuisance bylaws which have already closed down a nuisance home that had impacted its neighbourhood for decades, while the city was able to recoup over $20,000 in fines. We have also increased our bylaw enforcement team which works co-operatively and collaboratively with the RCMP and Homelessness Coalition members to provide faster and more appropriate responses in our community.

If you see or experience any criminal offence, remember to report it immediately, which helps the RCMP to build case files that lead to arrests. The province has just announced it will improve the justice system to deal with repeat offenders with mental health and addictions issues.

The RCMP non-emergency line is 250-338-1321 or you can report online at https://ocre-sielc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ComoxValley/

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Manno Theos*

I would like the city to establish a community policing station in the downtown core. Raising police presence in the downtown area. Improved lighting in areas where people congregate. Expanding the levels of security guards to monitor strategic areas of Courtenay could bring some relief and allow to police to deal with other priorities. One of the most troubling areas that public safety needs to address are prolific offenders. A handful of people committing a large percentage of the city’s crimes. In my opinion more significant penalties are required to get these prolific offenders off the streets. Education towards locking your doors and windows and ensuring to call the police when a crime has been committed. I believe the funding formula for police services set by the province lacks equity and needs addressing. In my opinion, if communities across the province paid an equal share for policing, each community would have higher levels of safety.

Melanie McCollum*

There are no simple solutions to reducing crime. Policing is the most expensive service that people living in Canadian cities pay for, Courtenay included. We cannot afford to police our way out of crime, and we know there are complex societal problems that contribute to criminal activity. There are measures Courtenay is taking and should continue to do:

• Courtenay began providing security patrols in the downtown area at night to help deter vandalism and theft earlier this year. I support continuing to provide this service to our downtown core.

• Courtenay supports RCMP through bylaw services, and we’ve doubled bylaw staff in the last four years. The addition of more bylaw staff and the increase to policing costs accounted for the majority of the budget increase in 2022.

• The above actions may have contributed to the significant decrease in thefts and “calls for service” reported by the RCMP in the last three months.

• Courtenay must work with the province to develop an informed medical response to mental health emergency calls rather than sending the RCMP. These calls take time away from addressing criminal matters and are not an ideal response for people experiencing mental health emergencies.

Will Cole-Hamilton*

The city has been working to support community safety in a number of different ways:

• Ensuring that RCMP coverage is a top priority for the city – it continues to be the largest single item in our annual budget;

• Increasing our bylaw services staffing, by doubling the number of positions and increasing total hours of service from 1,900 to 3,400 hours/year;

As council’s representative to the Downtown Business Improvement Association, I meet each month with their safety and security committee, this has allowed me to represent the needs of our downtown at council. As a result, the city is:

– Increasing lighting in downtown alleys;

– Mapping private security cameras so that RCMP may access them efficiently for investigations;

– Providing security patrols which monitor downtown four times every night.

• Introducing a Nuisance Abatement and Cost Recovery bylaw that allows the city to fine the owner of a nuisance property to recover the costs of policing and bylaw services.

These actions have resulted in a 28 per cent decrease in property crimes between 2019 and 2022 and an overall decrease in RCMP calls for service according to our most recent quarterly report from the RCMP.

Wendy Morin*

Although there was an increase in property and other crimes during COVID, stats from recent RCMP quarterly reports show incidents are steadily declining. Courtenay currently allocates 13 per cent of the Operating Budget ($10 million overall) on RCMP, fire, and bylaw services. Crime reduction needs to include addressing the root causes, and we need higher government to help with resources. It’s interesting that some candidates are presenting ideas on this topic that we are already doing or already have in the works. This term we’ve doubled bylaw staff, and adopted a Nuisance Abatement Bylaw that rectified a multi-year issue with a problem house (and also created a mechanism to recover costs, which has been successful). We continue to work collaboratively with downtown businesses, and have implemented a safety committee. This committee advocated for an increase of security patrols and RCMP presence, better lighting and security cameras, all of which have been delivered. We’ve implemented more crime response than previous councils. And there is much more to do as social problems become more complex and visible on our streets. Next term I would advocate for a comprehensive review of what we’re doing, and an examination of successful initiatives in other communities.

Jin Lin

Crime, theft and vandalism are all detrimental to businesses and residents, and tourists won’t be visiting our beautiful Valley and adding to the local economy if they don’t feel safe here. There are deterrents such as more street lighting, ensuring darker areas are well lit, and installing security cameras in unsafe areas. Our campground office is open 24/7 and the installation of security cameras has successfully deterred vandalism there.

David Frisch*

I believe that a strong community, with connected caring people is the best solution to property crime. Initiatives that I would support include getting to know your neighbours, creating neighbourhood watch groups (Citizens on Patrol), community policing, encouraging people to report crime, neighbourhood cleanup parties and block parties, and getting street people the supports they need.

Doug Hillian*

We currently spend close to $7 million per year on policing, representing 13 per cent of the Ooperating budget, and $10 million overall on protective services (police, fire, bylaw). If crime prevention was just about spending more on policing, we would have to raise taxes and double our existing efforts for more equitable police funding from the province.

We all want a safe community, where people feel comfortable on our streets and trails, and people struggling with poverty or addiction get the help they need. We’ve worked with the province to provide more housing and supports, and we must push them to do more. But we’ve also increased bylaw staff, beefed up bylaws to close nuisance houses, worked with the RCMP to increase patrols, enhanced lighting and security patrols downtown, lobbied the attorney-general to address street disorder, and provided the Urbaloo and Connect Centre to take pressure off the library and downtown business.

We need to continue such measures, working with police and bylaw to ensure public safety, while still treating all citizens with dignity and respect. Continued engagement with agencies like the Justice Centre, collaboration with community partners and citizen vigilance to look out for each other will also help.

Michael Gilbert

As our municipality struggles with rapid growth, public safety issues and homelessness, our crime rates increase. “The homeless have rights too” seems to be the go-to answer from city hall when we question the lack of action or planning regarding this issue. Of course, they do, and so does everyone else. When it comes to public property, our RCMP require direction from city hall to deal with criminal activity. Safety is a big issue in Courtenay – generally, people express feeling less safe in public, especially at night, and in our downtown core. If we endorsed a program of involuntary support – it could help.

Increasing our bicycle patrol downtown would help those living and working in that area – especially women. Promotion and support for local community watch groups can help. Our community has grown substantially, has the number of police officers grown in proportion?

Again – it comes to priorities. Do we spend over $1 million per year for one engineering firm to plan European-style bike lanes everywhere, or increase the boots on the ground in our city police force? The safety of the citizens of Courtenay should always be the first priority.

Evan Jolicoeur

A vibrant community is one where everyone feels safe and included. As more people in our community struggle – financially, emotionally, and relationally – some choose to engage in criminal activity, while others are experiencing chronic vigilance of potential crime in their neighbourhoods. Across Canada, we are seeing the impacts of addiction such as drug-related crime, theft, nuisance homes, and extreme social behaviours that can be frightening and unsafe. Although the crime index for Courtenay has increased over the last four years, fortunately, the most recent Courtenay RCMP quarterly report for 2022 has shown a decrease in police calls, and various other crime indexes compared to the same time in 2021.

Building on my past five years working with the RCMP on various mental health, social and justice issues, I would support exploring a community safety office in west Courtenay, increasing the amount of city bylaw officers, and collaborating on shared training for officers. I would also continue to advocate and collaborate with the Community Action Team, Island Health and the RCMP for a collaborative first responder team made up of social workers, crisis workers, bylaw, and RCMP to respond to the increasing amount of non-criminal substance use, poverty and mental health crises.

Lyndsey Northcott

If we build more affordable homes for the people we would not, I believe, have such a high crime rate. Build safe homes and support systems for individuals will help better our community and I believe lower crime. If we build safe homes and or affordable homes in rural areas, then provide these individuals with transportation to get to the city for things they need.

Deana Simkin

As a Downtown Courtenay business owner, I deal with safety and security on a daily bases. Staff leaving work at night to walk to their cars do not feel safe. Extra security cameras at the entrances of my establishment are a must. We have a big city problem where we used to enjoy our small city life and what I see from my perspective as a small business owner, some of this behaviour stems from mental health and addiction. We must advocate to the provincial and federal governments for community addiction and mental health support. RCMP staffing should increase. Street lighting and cameras should be installed in high crime zones. Better bylaw enforcement should be put into place to take some pressure off of the police. With this, I look forward to feeling safe again as the crime rate falls.

Starr Winchester

Public safety is a very complex and crucial topic, and a serious issue facing us today. Crime has increased at an alarming rate, and I propose Courtenay take a lead role to work collaboratively with other municipalities to lobby senior levels of government to acquire more funding for our RCMP. They deserve to have the staff and sufficient tools to do their jobs. The other issue that is frustrating to me is our criminal justice system is becoming less and less effective. We see this almost every day as criminals with multiple offences are not held accountable. We need to meet with our MLA and MP to ensure they understand how critical this issue to us and will in turn lobby for their community’s safety. We cannot afford to ignore the substance abuse in our community any longer. The province has published a 36-page step by step Community Crime Prevention Action Plan which has many strategies. With council’s support I will ask for a task force comprised of professionals from our community, business owners, and members of the public to come together to implement our own Action Plan for the City of Courtenay. Our citizens deserve to live in a safe community!

Philip Adams

I see drug addiction and mental health as the root causes of crime in Courtenay. When I am councillor I will pressure the provincial and federal governments to provide our residents with the support they need to overcome these challenges. At the municipal level, we can increase policing and public safety by hiring more RCMP officers and using the unspent public safety budget on tried and true crime prevention programs. For those that struggle with drug addiction and mental health problems, housing security and a place to be safe at night take away the desperation that drives many to commit non-violent crimes. Programs like the warming shelter and services that catch people who are falling through the cracks are necessary and something I will champion. However, the city and the residents of Courtenay can not take on this burden alone and we have to come together to create the political will for change at the provincial level, where things are moving far too slowly.

Steffan Chmuryk

As with homelessness and housing, I think that the volume and quantity of outreach towards provincial leaders need to be increased. This problem needed to be addressed 10-20 years ago, and we will continue to struggle under the weight of poor leadership in the past.

In this environment of economic growth, it is concerning that people have turned towards criminal activity. From experience in certain circles of people, I can say that the temptation to generate money through theft or drug dealing is very real. When you see the world through a paradigm of victims or victimizers, you will take advantage of other people as you see fit, or yourself be taken advantage of. Vandalism is another outlet of the same paradigm, where you lack any personal reflection of yourself in the surrounding environment, and so you seek to impose it.

Locally, prevention is key. We must increase the support of programs offering free job training to young people who are vulnerable. Given access to such resources, through the school system, and through current post-secondary programs, we can assist youth in their transition to adulthood. This is the most critical stage for these interventions to take place.

Brennan Day

We cannot keep pretending that safety, security, and policing demand, driven largely by a mental health and addictions crisis, are not the most pressing issues facing the City of Courtenay.

We need to talk about it openly and honestly, and be realistic with what Courtenay, with a limited budget and mandate, can do about it.

Here is what I propose we do:

• We have the second highest police caseload in the province, and are nearly double the provincial average (source: https://bit.ly/3r5ZUdg). We need to work with the RCMP to increase staff numbers, and push for the reinstatement of the auxiliary constable program. When police are overwhelmed, traffic enforcement, check stops, and other programs suffer.

• The Comox Valley needs to start a “Car 87” program to pair up policing resources with mental health services.

• Bylaw enforcement needs to be improved to tackle nuisance properties that impact the surrounding property owners’ safety, security, and enjoyment of their properties.

• Engineering safer streets with a focus on deterrents like better lighting, cameras in high crime locations and increasing community-led Crime Watch initiatives.

• Support for community-based mental health and addictions NGOs and non-profits through increased advocacy at the provincial and federal levels.

Less talk, more action.

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

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Erik Eriksson

As part of my vision of building partnerships, I would have city council meet with K’omoks First Nation council to see how we can work together to further the objectives of reconciliation. Specifically, I would like to promote an economic development partnership between our two Councils to further common interests.

Bob Wells*

I’m proud that over the past eight years I have been able to work towards reconciliation with tangible results. As chair of the Comox Valley Water Committee, I met with the K’ómoks First Nation, setting up monthly meetings that continue to this day as well as getting a KFN representative on the water committee. I wanted to ensure that KFN had early, ongoing and meaningful involvement in the process – including the chief being part of our team that met with provincial ministers in Victoria. The Water Treatment Project had a benefit agreement with KFN to ensure that nearly 100,000 hours went to Indigenous and under-represented populations.

The City of Courtenay has been working on the Kus-kus-sum project for several years with KFN and we can see the project taking shape – restoring the old Field Sawmill to its natural state. There have been several pole raisings over the past few years throughout our community. The city also works with the Métis and other indigenous groups in Courtenay and will continue to look for opportunities to work together for reconciliation.

The city is leading the Island Coastal Economic Trust in reforming into a permanent trust, co-governed by First Nations.

Aaron Dowker

Imagine a bridge that would contain deep shaded pools underneath to keep salmon cool (and alive, safe from seals) while they wait for the river waters to rise. A bike path and mini retail market controlled by Komox first Nation would run on the structure below the bridge, the walk and bike path continuing onto Comox along the ocean, making a symbolic start into Komox territory.

We would need a private enterprise to buy the slough of course, but Victoria has a float house dock,us too?

This idea would take time, and take partnership between the three communities. I also propose the municipality leases a sea walk space on Komox First Nation land while in turn leasing them attractive commercial city property, more dyke property, or the like. Both leases being for a dollar.

We could investigate this idea over the next four years, putting away money and sourcing funding, then have a referendum on the next ballot, in all three communities to make sure everyone was on board.

This is where reconciliation needs to go, into working table partnerships with the Komox First Nation that enhance our way of life for everyone who calls this valley home.

We’d call it, ‘Reconciliation Bridge.’

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Brennan Day

The imminent signing of the K’omoks First Nations treaty presents an amazing opportunity in the Comox Valley to address historical wrongs, recognize, educate, and better understand our complicated shared history, and work together to build a more prosperous, healthy, and diverse Comox Valley. With the KFN soon to become the largest landowner in the Valley, it is more important now than ever to foster an environment of mutual respect and cooperation; what is good for the KFN should be good for us all.

The array of economic opportunities laid out before the KFN is nearly limitless, and we need to encourage their autonomy and self-determination in whatever they choose to pursue, while remaining a supportive and understanding municipal partner.

We can all work towards the betterment of the Comox Valley as a whole, with KFN and our urban indigenous partners alike. We are a far stronger Community together than apart. Please take some time on Truth and Reconciliation Day, Friday, Sept. 30 at the Comox Valley Spirit Walk to educate yourself and get engaged, I hope to see you there.

Manno Theos*

We have worked very cooperatively towards reconciliation. In my view, the keys to success moving forward are harm reduction and active listening. Followed by meaningful actions. I can be reached at mtheos@shaw.ca if anyone would like to discuss the issues further.

Deana Simkin

As stated in the OCP, the City of Courtenay and KFN have “been working together and are committed to building on successes of the past while supporting the conditions to continue a strong and productive respectful relationship.” With that, I believe that collaboration and education will be a positive move forward. The Kus-kus-sum habitat restoration project is an excellent example of collaboration. Projects like this one grow the relationship between city and KFN and make that relationship stronger. Educating the residents of Courtenay on the past, present and future relationships with KFN will extend that relationship to all of Courtenay and not just the city itself. Collaboration and education will help to bring us all together.

Starr Winchester

We respectfully acknowledge that we work, play and live on the unceded traditional territory of the K’omoks First Nation, the traditional keepers of this land. Reconciliation is an ongoing process and it is a journey that will take a collective effort to move forward. Promoting meaningful relationships through values-based dialogue is a priority, especially at the municipal level. Let’s move forward together with K’omoks First Nation to honour their people, lands, waters, cultures and languages and to ensure the well-being and self-sufficiency in all aspects of their Nation. This is the vision of the K’omoks First Nation.

Doug Hillian*

Courtenay has made significant progress on reconciliation, along with our entire region, and our relationship with the K’omoks First Nation is acknowledged as better than ever. As tangible actions, we have:

• Adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

• Incorporated reconciliation and Indigenous rights into the framework of the Official Community Plan;

• Implemented development requirements to adhere to KFN’s Cultural Heritage Policy to respect archaeological sites;

• Instituted regular leadership meetings (city, regional district and KFN) to build relationships and collaborate on common projects;

• Continued to work together to restore the Kus-kus-sum lands;

• Supported the KFN Treaty process;

• Incorporated Indigenous art and ceremony into major projects and events;

• Committed to ongoing cultural awareness and cultural safety training for elected officials and staff;

• Worked with the Wachiay Centre on Indigenous housing.

We need to do more to promote Indigenous awareness in the wider community. One example is the presentation I’ve advocated for on the archaeological history of the Comox Valley to demonstrate the extent of Indigenous settlement that has been lost due to colonization. We also must be mindful of the off-reserve population of Metis and Indigenous peoples, continuing the work of community engagement.

David Frisch*

I believe that continuing to learn about our First Nation partners, taking the time to understand each other’s perspectives and histories, and finding common goals and interests, like Kus-kus-sum, and infrastructure projects, like water and sewer, are important ways to work on reconciliation. Our new Official Community Plan highlights the city’s responsibility to learn from and consult with Our First Nations and I look forward to continuing to apply UNDRIP in all our work over next term and beyond.

Michael Gilbert

The K’omox First Nation has a 51 per cent interest in our Kus-kus-sum project at the old Fields’ Sawmill location. The City of Courtenay has a 49 per cent interest in this project. The K’omox First Nation has requested “Help unpave paradise and put reconciliation into action.” They have declared that this project is a real and achievable way to put the idea of reconciliation into motion. We need to listen and respect this message as a community.

The City of Courtenay should continue to support the K’omox Treaty – and help to find ongoing funding for this project at all levels of government.

Treaties are among the highest form of reconciliation. They support strong, healthy, thriving communities – benefit Indigenous Peoples and set partners on a clear path to reconciliation. We could also acknowledge the treaties of less fortunate bands – who still do not have safe drinking water – and urge that their treaties be honoured.

Evan Jolicoeur

As a First Nation government administrator, I know first-hand the demands of committing to a path of personal, professional and institutional reconciliation. Governments at all levels, including Courtenay, are learning how to walk the talk when it comes to decolonizing practices, policies and protocols. It requires a humble understanding, reflection and awareness of the position of power and privilege one has in the world. I hope to bring my relationships and long-standing professional experience working with and alongside First Nations to support improved collaboration.

Specifically, the traditional keepers of these lands, known today as K’ómoks First Nation are at a pivotal point of their journey of self-governance and sovereignty through the treaty process.

I will be an ally to reconciliation by:

• Advocating for K’ómoks people’s goals and objectives, including supporting the treaty process;

• Ensuring equal opportunity for decision-making in regional and local projects;

• Decolonizing our municipal government processes, language, and behaviours – the ‘how’ we do our work;

• Using my voice and privilege to lift up the stories of Indigenous peoples;

• Supporting community education on the historical and current impacts of colonization, racism and discrimination;

• Celebrating and expanding local Indigenous art and culture across Courtenay.

Melanie McCollum*

I feel strongly that reconciliation isn’t a task that can be added to any politician’s list of priorities – rather, it’s an ongoing practice that involves a shift in the way decision-making occurs.

We’ve come a long way over the past few years, but we’ve got a long way to go. Courtenay’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was an important first step, but now we need to continue to work on putting it into practice. For example, each time a new project or initiative is considered, K’ómoks First Nation needs to be consulted at the beginning so there’s an understanding of shared goals and challenges. This consultation must include the incorporation of feedback into the process, and a willingness to adjust and make changes. I’m honoured to be part of the process and, if re-elected, will endeavour to continue steps toward reconciliation – not as an ideal, but as an ongoing practice.

Wendy Morin*

Council has been intentional in having reconciliation reflected in all we do, and are the first municipality in Canada to embed reconciliation into its Official Community Plan. We have adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework. Reconciliation begins with understanding and relationship building. Local governments are rooted in colonial processes. We need to acknowledge the harms created by the system we operate within, and work to decolonize processes. On a practical level we have been working on servicing to IR 2, on the Kus-kus-sum project restoring the old Field Sawmill site to a pre-colonial state, and integrating First Nations arts and culture into infrastructure projects and community spaces. Going forward, I’d like us to develop a reconciliation framework, and to publicly display acknowledgement of the harms of colonialism and residential schools, with a commitment to do what we can to repair these harms. This term I brought forward a resolution, adopted by council, ‘Moving from Inclusive to Anti-Racist – A Path Forward.’ This sets out that anti-racism is to be part of the next strategic planning session, and that decolonization, anti-stigma, and anti-racist training will be included in the 2022 new council orientation.

Lyndsey Northcott

We as a community need to reach out more to the neighbouring First Nation communities. We need to build relationships with local elders and the chief in council. Create better relationships and allow events for everyone to gather. This I believe will build stronger relationships with all communities.

Philip Adams

As a government, and as a society, we are responsible for being open to reconciliation with the first people and the first families of this land. It is vital to recognize and remember the legacy of residential schools and the destruction of cultural heritage that the first people endured at the hands of the colonial governments on all levels. As a young Canadian stepping into a role of responsibility to the community, I don’t want to repeat the faults of my fathers and grandfathers. I will work with the first people up and down the Island and along the coast when I am invited to do so but will respect their autonomy when I am not.

Steffan Chmuryk

This is possibly the most difficult topic that is raised here. However difficult the challenges I have faced, my sense of community has not been systemically dismantled over several generations, my historical language is not under threat, and my historical sources of food have not been destroyed.

I think that much is being accomplished to address historic wrongs in an environmental sense, with the recovery of the Courtenay River estuary. Also, FN-led development in Union Bay promises to bring some financial security. However, much more can be accomplished.

I would like to see First Nations realize a privileged position in society. One way that this is possible is through their increased involvement in parks and protected areas planning. Whether it is by participating in traditional harvesting practices, or by the adoption of First Nations naming conventions, I think there is much we can do to increase the presence of First Nations in our surrounding regions.

I have a half-sister in Vancouver who is Status First Nation, and her experiences have informed my views on this challenging topic. Unfortunately, it is far more than can be covered in 200 words.

Will Cole-Hamilton*

Reconciliation is a practice, a way of approaching our relationships, and one which our council has taken very seriously. Building a strong relationship with the K’omoks First Nation is a crucial part of this process. We also recognize that there are many Indigenous people living off-reserve and within our community, including a substantial Metis population. I believe reconciliation is an ongoing journey, a journey of many steps. Some of the steps we have taken include:

• Adopting the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People;

• Making reconciliation a focus of our new Official Community Plan;

• Working with Waichay Friendship Centre to fast-track affordable housing for Indigenous seniors;

• Working with the K’omoks First Nation to support the raising of totems in our downtown, and along the Riverway trail.

Jin Lin

I am proud to be one of the directors of CV Multicultural Society, and it is always an honour to meet with people of different cultural backgrounds. In Taiwan we have 16 tribes of Indigenous people – two of my own aunts belonged to different tribes. I have a good relationship with the First People of Taiwan, and several times I have had the pleasure of witnessing cultural exchanges between their representatives and the beautiful Kumugwe Dancers. I cannot deny that racism still exists, even though under the skin we are all the same. Show respect to each other, demonstrate acceptance, and practice inclusivity. I believe that by working together we can create a harmonious community here in the Valley. I have faith in people.

CourtenayElection 2022