Cumberland mayor and council candidates answer questionnaire

1) Would you be in favour of a salary freeze for council and mayor for the duration of your term?

Leslie Baird – NO– Council made a motion to increase our wages, most out going councils in municipal governments make this decision before an election. Staff brought forward a report on communities in BC who are approximately the size of Cumberland. This report showed how far behind we are. Council wages will still be low after the increase. I stated at the meeting if the next Council wanted to look at a increase, they have that ability.

Eduardo Uranga – NO– The [Cumberland] mayor and council members, in proportion to the rest of the Valley, are at disadvantage. They need to be remunerated better so they can spend more time working on the issues at hand, not only in their free time or because they are retired.

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Vickey Brown – NO – I know from my experience as a trustee how much time it takes to engage fully in an elected governance role. It definitely took a tole on our family finances and without the trustee stipend our family couldn’t have done it. I believe it’s important to have a diversity of voices in government, so if we want to be represented by more than wealthy/retired folks, we have to provide reasonable financial compensation that covers all of the costs associated with the position.

Jesse Ketler – NO– Cumberland council is already one of the lowest paid. Working part-time (10 -20 hours a week) for an entire year we earn only $9,000. In my case, a lot of that money goes to childcare so that I can go to the frequent evening meetings. If people want to see diversity at the Council table it needs to be more reasonable pay for services rendered. If you are retired and on a pension, the work to pay ratio is more viable but for a working age person it is very difficult to manage financially. I understand that we are a small municipality with few resources and I am very aware of the tax burden but on the other side I would like to see more young people in politics and this issue is definitely a barrier for them.

Roger Kishi – YES– Council policy the past few years on Council salary increases has been inflation + 2%. Cumberland Council annual remuneration for 2018 is $ 17,553 for Mayor and $ 9,436 for Councillors. Changes by the federal government will remove a 1/3rd tax free designation on elected officials remuneration. That tax benefit was to help to cover expenses that elected officials spent to do their official work.

Eric Krejci – YES – Being a member of council is a privilege and I would do this work for free. It isn’t something that you do for money it’s something you do for community

Ian McLean – NO – Remuneration for council should be reviewed by an independent body every two years.

Gwyn Sproule – NO – I’m not in favour of a salary freeze for Council. We get paid really little for a lot of hours, Does not cover day care costs for councillors who have kids.

Sean Sullivan – NO

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

Eduardo Uranga – YES – I am in favour, but not only in a staff hiring freeze but also salaries. I am also in favour of a review of the duties of each one of the members of the staff against the job description to avoid overlapping and lack of purpose so people do what they are hired to do and to make sure that the residents of Cumberland receive the level of service they are paying for. it is also necessary to look into expense reduction at the Village of Cumberland in general and particularly at the expense accounts of each member of the staff, including the mayor and council, to avoid excess spending and maintain the frugality that is expected of the staff members of such a small community. It is hard to imagine that the taxes collected hardly meet the payroll demands.

Leslie Baird – NO– We have just gone thru a process of filling our positions in the Village. We have hired public works staff for the new water system and wastewater treatment. Staff takes direction from Council as to hiring contract people to fill positions, example our Economic Development Coordinator was hired from a combination of grant funding. We not want to stop special projects.

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Vickey Brown – NO – We are a quickly growing community and we need to make sure we function effectively and can meet the demands of the community. I would however, consider a review of Village services to ensure that we are covering our administrative costs, and able to provide smooth and effective processing of permits, programs etc.

Jesse Ketler – YES – But only because we have already done the hiring that we need to do for two years. I am very happy to have the planning staff that we have recently hired. There is only going to be increasing development pressure in the coming years and having the proper staff is key to seeing that the standards are enforced and vision docs like our OCP are upheld.

Roger Kishi – NO – The Village will need flexibility to respond to the increasing needs/ demands of our growing community. I have, and will continue to support a measured increase in resources to meet residents needs.

Eric Krejci – YES– In Cumberland absolutely.

Ian McLean – NO – Staffing is, and should be, determined by need. If we see growth or decline, staffing should be adjusted accordingly.

Gwyn Sproule – NO – I do not support a hiring freeze. I believe we now have a full complement of experienced staff to manage the operations of a rapidly growing community. However, I can not speak to the needs of our Village in two or three years. We need to diversify our economy to bring more taxes in rather than cut staff.

Sean Sullivan – NO

3) Do you believe that the trafficking/distribution and consumption of illicit drugs (cannabis notwithstanding) is an issue in Cumberland?

Leslie Baird – YES – It has an effect on every community in Canada.

Eduardo Uranga – YES – I believe it is a problem and needs to be looked into to see if there are measures to prevent harm to the residents that are subject to addictions.

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Vickey Brown – YES – I believe it’s a problem in all of our communities. It drives petty crime and destroys lives and I would love to work on finding preventative solutions based on harm reduction and positive youth programs.

Jesse Ketler – YES – … and no. I am sure that drugs will always be an issue to some degree in every community but our crime rate in Cumberland has been decreasing and complaints from our business community are also down. This could just mean that it is hidden and when talking about the fentanyl crisis that certainly seems to be that case; the stats tell us that it is mostly males between the ages of 30 and 40 that are dying in their homes, often alone. We are trying to promote awareness around safe use of drugs and we have had two workshops in Cumberland giving Naloxone training in the last few months. We have also installed some safe needle disposal boxes in some of our public spaces. I think there is more that we can do for harm reduction like increased access to support services in Cumberland. I see that cannabis has been included in the discussion of illicit drugs but it is no longer in this category and should be talked about in the same context as other government regulated substances like alcohol and tobacco.

Roger Kishi – YES – Cumberland is no different than any other community in the Comox Valley. We need to work on a comprehensive approach to address the issue of substance use in our communities, not maintain the status quo.

Eric Krejci – YES – Yes, and it can largely be connected to the lack of services for people who consume substances in the Village, and minimal transportation out of Cumberland for people who want to access support services. As the opioid crisis continues, we need to make sure we are taking care of all of our community members.

Ian McLean – NO – Not that I am aware of.

Gwyn Sproule – NO – I do not believe that there is any more problems with drug trafficking than there were 30 or 40 years. Cumberland was a semi lawless place when I moved here in 1978. The newcomers seem to be healthy living family people. In fact, I don’t recollect seeing the main drug dealer and his family anywhere here for quite some time. Cumberland has become wholesome without losing its character.

Sean Sullivan – NO

4) Do you believe the Comox Valley RCMP is adequately staffed to effectively combat the drug trade in Cumberland?

Eduardo Uranga – YES

Leslie Baird – NO – Historically we have been under-staffed in the Comox Valley.

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Vickey Brown – NO – I would like to see more investigation and enforcement of these types of crimes. I would also be supportive of prevention and education programs in the Village. I think we could do a lot more to provide support for drug users to help them get healthy and particularly for youth to give them other opportunities and activities and hopefully prevent them from going down this road.

Jesse Ketler – YES – I believe they are adequately staffed but I do not believe that they are adequately trained. I know that there hasn’t been enough time to train RCMP to deal with the coming legalization of cannabis especially with respect to roadside inspections. I think that this will cause a lot of issues for both RCMP and the public as there has been little to no engagement with the public on their rights with this changing legislation and human rights issues are no doubt going to fill up the courts. I feel more resources need to go toward both police training and public education around cannabis. When it comes to illicit drugs I think we need to move toward decriminalization. I have had the opportunity to listen to many experts on the issue over the last four years and their is consensus on the fact that the war on drugs has failed. Most police recognize that we are not going to arrest our way out of the drug crisis. Bringing people back into the fold, connecting them with support, friends and family is the sensible approach, not punishing and ostracizing them further. There are models of decriminalization that are working and we need to follow the lead of what works.

Roger Kishi – NO – The RCMP staffing model does not meet the needs of Cumberland. Saying that, as I said in the previous question, there needs to be a more comprehensive approach to address the issue of substance use in our communities. I proposed to Council to partner with AIDS Vancouver Island to address this, and a harm reduction/ naloxone training was held in Cumberland on September 19. I hope that more awareness sessions can be held in the future.

Eric Krejci YES/NO answer not given

Ian McLean – NO* – *I don’t believe my answer pertains to the Drug trafficking question per se, but I do believe that Cumberland needs more than just a drive-through police force. We should have an office location for RCMP to be housed or available to the public. I believe a priority infrastructure review is needed that may include a public Safety building to address our Fire Hall issue, but one that also amalgamates the needs of RCMP, Search and Rescue, ambulance and the Provincial Emergency Program. I would also like to expand the liaison between Public Safety, the Cumberland Community school, Parks and Recreation, so that education becomes a prime factor in community endeavours.

Gwyn Sproule – NO – There is no more open drug trade here in Cumberland. I think they’ve been driven out of town. They’re just not visible anyway. Its a new world here.They would not be tolerated by the newcomers. The RCMP do not have a big presence here. They’re here to look for traffic violations

Sean Sullivan – YES

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

Leslie Baird – YES – We have already started the process and staff is bring a report to Council in the near future.

Eduardo Uranga – NO – Banning single-use plastic shopping bags without a replacement is just not practical. I will offer an alternative with BioBag® that offers compostable produce bags and shopping bags for grocery stores, supermarkets, restaurants, and farmers markets. These bags are available in Canada.

A bylaw that business in Cumberland will have to provide biodegradable bags, reusable bags or no bags at all can be proposed and implemented without much resistance.

Biodegradable straws and edible cutlery are readily available; they can easily be included

We also need to address that many people use the single-use plastic bags as garbage bags, like myself. What is the point of banning single-use plastic bags if I am going to buy brand new plastic bags at the store to line my garbage can and dispose of it. The ideal scenario is to eliminate the organic waste from the garbage so there is no need to have a bag for the garbage because the garbage will be clean. This scenario will automatically increase the number of materials that can be recycled, therefore the diversion to landfill will be increased. A little more work, but the rewards are immense.

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Vickey Brown – YES – The less plastic we produce/use/dispose of the better. I don’t think it would be a stretch for our business community at all.

Jesse Ketler – YES – Most of the businesses in Cumberland are doing this anyway but Council has asked for a staff report on the banning of single-use plastics so I expect we will be doing a survey soon to get feedback from our citizens and business owners. This is likely something that will get implemented within the next term.

Roger Kishi – YES – I proposed this to Council when I brought forward a motion to support MP Gord Johns private members bill- M151, to keep plastics out of our oceans. A report will come back to Council on what and how this could be done in Cumberland. I think that the ban would involve Village operations as well as local businesses. As Cumberland’s representative to the Solid Waste Management Board, the issue of plastics is also being looked at. The concern is the amount of plastics going into the landfill, and looking at alternate technologies to process plastics.

Eric Krejci – YES– It’s working at Seeds and if they have a bag I get one, if not they put my stuff in a box.

Ian McLean – YES – and no… Let’s have a strategy on plastics and removal. We need to address all uses of plastics. Let’s for once have an alternative plan for those businesses that currently distribute plastics.

Gwyn Sproule – YES

Sean Sullivan – YES

6) Would you support tax incentives for developers to increase the number of multi-unit residential rental properties in Cumberland?

Eduardo Uranga – YES – but only if the units that are built are under contract to be maintained as affordable rent in perpetuity. Affordability should be determined using the low-income average, not the regular income average. Also the units need to be under the premise that discrimination of any kind will not be allowed.

Leslie Baird – YES – There is a need in Cumberland for Affordable housing. Our Homeless and Affordable Housing Committee has completed a report and continues to make recommendations to Council. Every development needs to be looked at separately.

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Vickey Brown – NO – I’m not sure it would be wise to provide tax incentives, as residential taxes don’t typically cover the expense of delivering services and maintenance in the long term. We can create opportunities through zoning, and I would support other incentives to encourage both multifamily and affordable housing.

Jesse Ketler – YES– This is something that the Cumberland Homelessness and Affordable Housing Committee has recommended to Council. I support this as we are in desperate need of purpose-built rental housing. However, agreements need to be in place to ensure that if a tax break is given that the units will be affordable or at least will continue to be rental units into the future.

Roger Kishi – YES– There are many tools that local governments can utilize to encourage the development of affordable housing, taxes incentives are only one. The federal and provincial have much broader tax powers that would be more effective, and have been used in the past. I am looking forward to the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing publication on local government tools for affordable housing. I was informed that it will be out this fall when I was at the recent UBCM convention.

Eric Krejci – YES – This would increase densification and slow down urban sprawl and I said this regarding the 3L project as well.

Ian McLean – YES – I believe we should be doubling our Development Cost Charges and then providing options to developers whereby they can reduce these DCC’s by meeting certain criteria, eg a reduction of 15% in costs if they add rental units, another 15% reduction if they include a People with Disabilities (PWD)-approved space. In other words, incentives that also address the issues of affordable housing, for example. I also believer we should have bylaws in place to ensure the rental units are being using for our targeted rental market.

Gwyn Sproule – NO – I do not support a tax break for developers who build multifamily here. It would come from taxpayers’ money and many current residents are struggling to keep living here because of increased taxes.

Sean Sullivan – YES

7) Are you in favour of “Wastewater Upgrade Project Loan Authorization Bylaw, No. 1084, 2018” to authorize the Village of Cumberland to borrow up to $4,400,000, including interest, over a period not exceeding 20 years in order to finance the construction of an upgraded lagoon wastewater treatment plant?

Leslie Baird – YES – We have been working to secure grant funding to keep the costs down for the resident. We will not know if the grants will be successful until June of 2019. We need to be in compliance with the Provincial regulations.

Eduardo Uranga – NO – I am not in favour of borrowing $4.4 million to upgrade the lagoon system that has not worked and has been subject to several attempt of upgrade without positive results, that lagoon system has not been in compliance for more than 19 years, an upgrade will not guarantee that it will work since lagoon systems are subject to Climate Change. We need to move the treatment of sewer to a mechanical treatment that has been proven many times and is off the shelf equipment and the cost is much lower. “We cannot expect different results if we keep doing something the same way.”

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Vickey Brown – YES – This is the cheapest and most efficient plan we have come up with and I very much appreciate the work that the committee put in to finding a Cumberland based ecologically and functionally sound solution.

Jesse Ketler – YES – ABSOLUTELY! The $4.4M is actually the maximum that might need to be borrowed, we are hoping, through grant funding, that it will be much less (~ $1.2M) of the total $9.7M. Remember, with the South Sewer Project, even after the Gas Tax Grant of $15M, it was still going to cost the Village $15.5M for our portion! Now we have an option that supports the aquatic health of the Trent River (instead of conveying water out of the watershed, across the estuary to Cape Lazo), uses green infrastructure and will treat to a level that will allow for agricultural re-use. As someone who studied water management in university, I am confident that we have found the right solution for our wastewater.

Roger Kishi – YES – Council has made a decision to move forward with our wastewater treatment system, not because the Ministry of Environment says we have to, but because it is the right thing to do. The Village has applied for grant(s) for the project, but it will still require borrowing of up to $4.4mil. If we are successful in receiving grant(s) then the amount borrowed will be reduced. At the recent UBCM convention, Council met with Minister of the Environment & Climate Change- George Heyman and discussed that Cumberland is working towards compliance with this project, and that the grants will ensure that it happens.

Eric Krejci – YES/NO answer not given

Ian McLean – YES – it needs to be done and should be built with 2038 growth predictions in place, with increased DCC costs on increased project costs.

Gwyn Sproule – YES– I support the borrowing. We have been out of compliance for a long time for our wastewater treatment. If we dont get going soon we are going to be fined by the MIn. of Environment till we do fix it.

Sean Sullivan – YES

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

Eduardo Uranga – NO – Absolutely not. Leave the Regional Growth Strategy alone and implement the changes that allow only the municipalities to apply for changes to it.

Leslie Baird – NO– I was part of the original committee to work on the Regional Growth Strategy. I supported the strategy then and continue to support its recommendations. We need to develop within the municipalities before creating development in rural areas.

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Vickey Brown – NO – I think our ‘wildlands’ and open spaces are what make our communities so great. Eroding that would not serve anyone well.

Jesse Ketler – NO– Not at this time. The currently designated settlement nodes have not been fully utilized so why cut down more forest or create more urban sprawl when we don’t need to.

Roger Kishi – NO – There already is a significant amount of developable land in the Comox Valley, and in Cumberland in particular.

Eric Krejci – YES – I believe in decreasing the risk of urban sprawl, and enhancing transportation through supporting the RGS.

Ian McLean – NO– If we start changing the numbers, we need to review and amend the whole Regional Growth Strategy.

Gwyn Sproule – NO– Most definitely not. The Regional Growth was created by the people of the Comox Valley to direct growth to the core settlements where infrastructure -sewer, water, public transportation already exist. Do we want to see the Valley plastered with housing developments from Plateau Road all the way to Point Holmes? The citizens of the Valley and the CVRD Board of directors gave a resounding “No” to this last Tuesday when the 3L development was denied their application.

Sean Sullivan – NO

9) Do you support the proposed amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy to facilitate the residential development near Stotan Falls?

Leslie Baird – NO

Eduardo Uranga – NO – Absolutely not, it goes totally against what was agreed in the Regional Growth Strategy as a basic principle.

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Vickey Brown – NO – I believe that the Regional Growth Strategy is based on smart growth principles and we should stick to it so that we are not eroding our wild spaces or rural areas. There are lots of areas that are appropriately zoned for this type of development, no need to create more.

Jesse Ketler – NO – Most of the proposed 3L development is within the “Rural Settlement Area” designation in the Regional Growth Strategy, meaning that it is not intended to have the high density residential that 3L is proposing. It is against sustainable growth principles, like those laid out in the CV Sustainability Strategy, to have such a development so far from other services. The spokesperson for the development was quoted as saying, “We believe this project will set a precedent for regional sustainable development including new technologies, water treatment, roads and above all a new park at no cost to taxpayers.” Roads, water treatment, utility infrastructure and even parks ALL cost the taxpayer money once the development is complete, how else would it be maintained? I think that the general feeling from the taxpayer is that they would like to see their tax dollars spent on maintaining existing infrastructure that they already use and that development should be concentrated around the core areas.

Roger Kishi – NO – I do not support further urban sprawl in the Comox Valley.

Eric Krejci – YES/NO answer not given

Ian McLean – NO – I don’t without a full-scale review that takes into account all of the Regional Growth Strategy including the implications for schools, recreation, traffic and transportation, environmental impacts, etc.

Gwyn Sproule – NO

Sean Sullivan – NO

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

Eduardo Uranga – NO – The Agriplex project has nothing to do with agriculture, nothing to do on ALR land, and has no signs of being financially viable for users of other activities different to agriculture. Agriculture in the Comox Valley doesn’t need such a centre.

Leslie Baird – NO – At this time I do not have enough information on the project.

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Vickey Brown – NO – I agree that we need a larger facility. Not that one necessarily and definitely not the propose scale in that location. In fact, I think a much better location for this facility would be at the Cumberland interchange lands where it would be easily accessible, not taking up valuable ALR land.

Jesse Ketler – NO – The CVRDs own analysis showed that it would not support its own operation and maintenance costs and that the space would likely be under-utilized. I think that it services too narrow a demographic and would not benefit the Valley as a whole. I have spoken to farmers about what is needed and they felt that a washing/processing area and large cold storage would be much better use of our money. This would allow farmers to grow much more produce without fear of spoilage, have more reliable, stable products, possibly allow for value added products and increase the food stability of the Comox Valley.

Roger Kishi – NO

Eric Krejci – YES/NO answer not given

Ian McLean – NO– What I am in favour of is a proper project proposal that will come to the public for referendum (not through the Alternate Approval Process (APP)). A project of this nature should show the costs and how much per $100,000 appraisal value your taxes will bear.

Gwyn Sproule – NO – It might be used once or twice a year but would likely remain unused and in need of refurbishment at the taxpayers expense. It does not belong on that site, all that agricultural land paved for a giant parking lot. I think not.

Sean Sullivan – NO

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