Cumberland voters will choose between incumbent Leslie Baird and incumbent Cuncillor Vickey Brown for mayor. Sean Sullivan (i), Troy Therrien, Jesse Ketler (i) and Neil Borecky are challenging for four council seats, along with Tanis Frame, who did not participate in this Q&A.

Cumberland voters will choose between incumbent Leslie Baird and incumbent Cuncillor Vickey Brown for mayor. Sean Sullivan (i), Troy Therrien, Jesse Ketler (i) and Neil Borecky are challenging for four council seats, along with Tanis Frame, who did not participate in this Q&A.

Cumberland candidates discuss active transportation, preserving village heritage

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 Cumberland candidates to answer.

The following are their responses. Council candidate Tanis Frame did not respond to the questionnaire.

*Indicates incumbent

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

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Leslie Baird*

I will continue to support the expansion of all transportation infrastructure, including active transportation, within the village and between Cumberland and other communities.

Cumberland completed an active transportation backgrounder that includes a policy review, and active transportation facilities inventory of the community survey last fall. We received 448 responses. The survey aimed to understand how community members travel through the village of Cumberland, and what are barriers, opportunities, and priorities for transportation and mobility in the community. Improving road safety for all users was the most important outcome identified by survey respondents, followed by improving environmental outcomes, and improving public health.

Vickey Brown (incumbent councillor)

I believe we have adequate motor vehicle transportation infrastructure in the Valley. Urban planners and engineers have been trying to fix the problem of ‘traffic’ for decades with more lanes and wider roads and the result has been – more traffic. Urban planners and engineers are now turning to better street design, active travel lanes and improved transit to reduce congestion and keep people moving efficiently. There are many, many examples of communities who have made this transition work very well and now bikes/scooters etc. and cars share the road safely.

I’m also in favour of finding an off-road/family-safe route in and out of the village as suggested by the CV Cycling Coalition and many others as well as continuing to expand bike lanes throughout the village. I am also in favour of a 30 km/h zone within the village along with introducing traffic calming where needed and requiring better-designed streets in any future development.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Neil Borecky

Cumberland is known worldwide as a biking community and yet there is no direct route to the other communities of the Comox Valley. I would advocate for a greenway that connects Cumberland safely without the need to use the shoulder of the connector to reach Courtenay and beyond. With the growing popularity of electric bikes, mobility scooters, and regular cycling commuters, the time is ripe to explore this opportunity. That being said, I’d also like to point out that Cumberland has avoided costly motor vehicle traffic calming measures by simply increasing the size of our potholes. Sometimes you need outside-the-box thinking.

Jesse Ketler*

Roads are very expensive to install and maintain. That is one of the reasons I support densified, walkable communities. Yes, we need to maintain the roads we have but we should avoid new road infrastructure where possible and focus on multi-modal pathways and trails. During my last term on Cumberland council, we put bike lanes in during both the Dunsmuir Avenue and the Cumberland Road upgrade projects. With our small tax base, it is difficult to fund bike lanes but we were fortunate to get a BC Bike Grant to help with the cost. We want to connect Cumberland to the rest of the Comox Valley through active transportation routes. We currently have a separated multi-modal path planned for Bevan Road, which will connect to Lake Trail Road when our industrial lands are built out. We would also like to connect on the other side, down to Royston, and have a requirement for connectivity for any development around the interchange lands. At the regional district we just created a Regional Parks Service and one of the main goals is to purchase and develop greenways between our communities so that we can have safe, active transportation for the entire Valley.

Sean Sullivan*

I am heavily in favour of continuing to improve the active transportation corridors in the Comox Valley. We need to move away from car-centric and fossil fuel-burning modes of transportation and creating more safe routes throughout the Valley is a key component.

Troy Therrien

I’m 100 per cent in favour of expanding our active transportation networks. Ebikes are increasingly popular – and that’s something that we should support with better cycling infrastructure. As a Cumberland resident, I would like to look at improving the Cumberland-Courtenay links.

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

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Vickey Brown (incumbent councillor)

Cumberland is sparsely served by transit within the village and is mostly used for getting into and out of the community. Buses are not frequent enough and service to Comox and other areas (the Farmers’ Market for instance) is very slow and sometimes not practical at all.

I am very much in favour of improved transit to and from the village. I would love to see on-demand transit options in the village to make transit more efficient. A bus out to Comox Lake in the summer would also be a great way to reduce congestion and create a safe travel option for the season. As a former school trustee, I am also aware of other districts that partner with public transit to get kids to school – this could encourage more riders and create efficiencies.

Leslie Baird*

I believe that public transport could better serve Cumberland. Residents feel that the system does not meet their needs in the amount of time it takes to reach destinations because of connections, wait times and service frequency. I will continue to work with the Comox Valley Regional District to look at ways to make it easier for people to take the bus.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Troy Therrien

We can definitely do better – we need more frequent service with better links from Cumberland to downtown Courtenay and Comox. I’d also like to see a car-sharing co-op (like Modo) in the Valley.

Neil Borecky

Cumberland is currently served by BC transit, however, those with mobility issues still face issues around scheduling at awkward times. It is important to liaise with BC transit to address these shortcomings where possible.

Jesse Ketler*

I think public transportation is very important both in terms of GHG reduction and in terms of fair access for all to services and employment. There is a conundrum that we face with buses however; if you don’t have an expansive bus system with frequent buses then you have low ridership because it is not reliable or functional enough for most people. However, if you have low ridership, you don’t have the money to invest in a far-reaching, high-frequency system. One of the ways I see to break through this is digital on-demand transit, similar to an Uber system but for small buses. This has shown to be successful in small municipalities and rural areas in many other provinces. Unfortunately, BC Transit seems to be behind in this technology but I am going to continue to advocate for this in the next term.

Sean Sullivan*

There are always improvements that can be made with public transportation. Powell River is running a pilot program with an on-demand public transit bus called the “Zunga Bus.” We could increase efficiencies and possibly expand ridership by looking into alternative delivery options and schedule improvements.

3 – How do you accommodate growth without compromising the heritage of the village?

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Leslie Baird*

This can be a challenge. We are fortunate many of the commercial buildings on the main street have been saved and many buyers restore the character and charm of heritage homes. Council and staff look at new buildings very carefully in the context of our OCP and existing alteration permit system. We have an active heritage commission that also provides guidance to council. We will explore our processes further as a community through the new OCP process.

Vickey Brown (incumbent councillor)

It is vital that we create predictable, evenly applied, clear guidelines and bylaws to guide development in the village. The village’s heritage committee is working on a stronger toolkit for council so that we have consistent and strong guidelines for new builds in the village, along with renovations/additions to existing buildings. We need to find ways to incentivize heritage scale and character while allowing for increased density in the core. We can also create nodes of higher density in areas outside of the core so that we are not incentivizing the demolition of heritage buildings with higher density bylaws. This could include middle-density housing like duplexes, 4-6-plexes and row housing. It is a balancing act and requires both incentives and strong guidelines so that the village core remains lively, pedestrian-scaled full of local businesses.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Sean Sullivan*

One way we accommodate growth in the village without compromising heritage is by way of our Heritage Alteration Permit.

This allows for very specific form and character specifications to be met. The village has a heritage committee comprising appointed community members, who are referred heritage alteration permits for comment and recommendations. This allows for another level of input and very recently this committee played a significant role in changes to a new development to retain more heritage values.

Troy Therrien

Losing an iconic building like the Cumberland Hotel to development really struck a nerve in the community. It’s important to me that growth be sensible and sustainable while maintaining the unique character of Cumberland. I do think, however, that the real character of our village is found in the hearts and minds of the incredibly diverse population that call Cumberland home – artists, musicians, long-time residents, bikers and more. I’d like to focus on how we can continue to support this diverse population as our community grows.

Neil Borecky

This is a complex issue as it involves both private property, and multiple jurisdictions where aspects like building code and safety play a role in form and character. What characterizes heritage is open to interpretation in a village like Cumberland with so many architectural styles. First, we need to identify what our heritage entails; specific buildings, styles, and streetscapes. Next, we need to identify what levers of governance are available to us to protect sites and buildings that are of importance to the community. These may entail form and character guidelines such as those enacted by other communities, or they may offer incentives to developers to build or retain existing buildings within our village core.

Jesse Ketler*

Heritage is not just buildings but also culture, so preserving traditions in Cumberland like the May Day celebrations, the Miners Memorial and heritage walks are key to preserving our history. As far as the protection of our heritage builds go, we are quite limited in the requirements we can put on private property owners. We have some iconic buildings including the Ilo Ilo, the King George, and the Patch (aka Big Store) which have all sat empty for many years and are in desperate need of repair. Unfortunately, it is rare to have someone step up to restore these buildings because the work is so expensive and the business case for their use after restoration isn’t there. Cumberland has a Heritage Committee and they have done a good job of coming up with a heritage list and statements of significance on key buildings and places in the village so that council and developers know the importance of these sites to the people of Cumberland. With these tools, we are better able to negotiate with land owners around issues of form and character even though if it came to an issue of demolition we could only stop them temporarily. That is why it is important to have community input into our heritage committee and into our upcoming OCP around what we value in our community.

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

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Vickey Brown (incumbent councillor)

I am a board member with the Community Justice Centre, which delivers restorative justice services in the Valley. Unfortunately, repeat offenders are not eligible for this service. So instead, police are wasting enormous amounts of time on a catch-and-release loop which is not addressing the problem and taking valuable resources away from more serious issues.

I was appointed to the Local Government Police Modernization Roundtable, which is providing feedback on the Police Act Modernization process through the Union of BC Municipalities and hope that this will help address this issue along with others.

I also believe that we need to address the underlying causes of petty crime. I have been participating in the Community Health Network’s substance use strategy committee to develop a strategy to address substance use in the Valley as substance dependency can contributing factor to this as well.

Leslie Baird*

The village now has an office in the former fire department building for the RCMP. We have asked the RCMP for community policing to work with residents and the business community to address the issues that happen in the village. We ask residents to report all incidents of suspicious activity to the RCMP. I also support working with community organizations to tackle some of the root causes of property crime.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Jesse Ketler*

Cumberland had actually had a decreasing crime rate for many years leading up to COVID. The spike in crime, in particular domestic violence in our community, is more of a mental health issue than anything. There is both a drug toxicity crisis and a mental health crisis occurring in all of our communities and access to mental health services is more difficult than ever. If you don’t have a family doctor, which I don’t, you don’t have the opportunity to take care of your physical health let alone your mental health. Compounding the problem is the isolation that many experienced, and are still experiencing, because of COVID restrictions and fears. We need drastic intervention into our healthcare system. A huge public investment is needed and mental health services, instead of being marginalized, need to be put at the top of the list.

Sean Sullivan*

Crime and vandalism are difficult problems that require multi-layered solutions. Keeping our youth engaged in the community by providing assets like the bike and skate parks is important. The village has always stressed a desire for more “community policing.” Whereas officers would have a presence in the village by walking the streets and meeting business owners and community members, not necessarily just setting up speed traps and seat belt checks and handing out tickets.

Troy Therrien

As a local councillor, I would like to focus on the factors that we can control. This means working on strengthening our community and helping those who need it. Crime – especially property crime – is a result of many factors and there’s no simple solution.

Neil Borecky

As a village, it is important to have systems in place to support our most vulnerable. If we are able to care for individuals with addiction issues, who suffer from homelessness, mental illness, or are generally down on their luck, we stand a much better chance when we tackle these issues early with compassion. I am an advocate for harm reduction organizations that provide this kind of support. There is still the problem of prolific offenders. Although that is not necessarily a popular term, a small number of individuals cause a disproportionate amount of crime.

Those that prey upon the vulnerable are also stuck in a catch-and-release system where there is little chance of serious change in behaviour. Our police forces have mentioned that this is a major obstacle in addressing crime. Citizens have a right to a peaceful existence, and seeing people stuck in a cycle of angst, or abuse towards themselves and others does little to foster good relations within a community or promote faith in the justice system when there is little sign of improvement.

Changes to this will involve placing pressure at a provincial and federal level that will address the issue of a revolving-door justice system.

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

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Leslie Baird*

As in many communities, reconciliation is a high priority. We need to develop a relationship by getting to know each other and understanding our concerns and the way we approach our discussion. We are taking that by consulting on important issues like drinking water protection, environment, fisheries, logging practices and lobbying the federal and provincial governments. Cumberland staff are also working on projects in Cumberland and sharing and receiving comments from K’omoks staff. We will be updating our OCP and will invite K’omoks to be part of that process. We understand that K’omoks engages with many governments, which is a big commitment, so we are exploring ways to value their work.

Vickey Brown (incumbent councillor)

I feel we may be a bit late to the game but are now making a more concerted effort to build a relationship with our neighbour Nation. We have integrated reconciliation into our strategic priorities and are actively building relationships through community-to-community events as well as fulsome consultation on projects such as our wastewater system. We actively listened to K’omoks leadership on their concerns about the project and now have a project which will increase flows to the Trent in low flow times along with offering superb filtration and removal of pharmaceuticals and other pollutants not normally removed with mechanical treatment alone.

I have recently been accepted into a climate caucus program on first steps toward collaborative relations with First Nations Communities and am looking forward to learning more there. I would like to encourage more education for staff and council on reconciliation and continue to support relationship building and collaboration.

I would like to do more partnering with K’omoks on economic development and community and environmental health projects as well as recognizing archeological sites and ensuring they are protected. I appreciate the work of the guardian program in the Comox Lake watershed and am happy to support that work as well.

COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES

Jesse Ketler*

I love that reconciliation is top of mind for so many now. For too long it was a taboo topic for people. I want to say straight out that there is systematic racism. It is at the very heart of the Indian Act which First Nations have been living under for over 140 years and it is built into all of our colonial institutions. We are not going to resolve this overnight but we can start by acknowledging the injustices and working from that shared understanding toward a more equitable future. It is a privilege to work in local government during this time of healing. At the beginning of 2021, the CVRD made a Statement of Reconciliation that committed to the principles of

1) Self-determination

2) Shared prosperity

3) Protecting cultural heritage, and

4) Relationship with land and water.

These have led to momentous agreements and inspiring projects and these principles will continue to guide us as we walk the path of reconciliation together into the future.

Sean Sullivan*

Cumberland and K’omoks First Nation have had multiple meetings over the years with our series of “Community to Community” (C2C) meetings. We have nurtured a respectful relationship and open dialogue between our councils and staff. Council direction requires First Nations consultation and inclusion, and our staff work looking through a reconciliatory lens.

Troy Therrien

We can all do more when it comes to the work of reconciliation. The Weird Church in Cumberland has been hosting community-wide conversations on the matter and I think we can all learn more and educate ourselves on the matter – myself included.

Neil Borecky

Reconciliation is a bit of an abstract thought for a lot of people who haven’t been directly affected by our current system, or who have benefited from it. I attended a workshop on the K’omoks First Nation recently called “The Village Workshop.”

It was incredibly valuable and I came away with a different point of view. I think it’s important to understand the history and result of what has transpired right from initial contact until now, and how it shaped the lives of so many.

Perspective is incredibly important and it starts not necessarily with accepting blame, as this workshop explained, but with the understanding of how we collectively got to the place we are in.

Things have improved significantly since I started working in local government with a more collaborative approach emerging rather than living apart in dichotomous communities. It will be an iterative process. I would say that Cumberland has an opportunity to learn a great deal more and invite a sense of place for our neighbours who represent the K’omoks community.

CumberlandElection 2022

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