Comox Q&As: Expanded answers from the councillor candidates

Town of Comox: Councillor candidates - answers

  • Nov. 3, 2014 4:00 p.m.

2014 Municipal Election

TOWN OF COMOX CANDIDATES

 

 

Each candidate was emailed a slate of questions and asked to respond with a yes or no answer. They were also offered the option of expanding on their answers, which they were informed would be posted unedited here.

Candidates were given sufficient time to respond.

We asked the public to submit questions to us that they wanted us to ask the candidates. In no way do the ones that were selected represent all the issues and may not necessarily be the most important to the reader.

Voting is important and this year we are electing candidates to a 4-year term. It’s vital that you use all resources to help you make the right voting decision whether that’s reading our publications, contacting candidates directly, attending debates or using social media.

We would like to thank the public for your input and appreciate the candidates’ candid response to this format.

Councillor Candidates

 

Are you in favour of expropriation of an easement on private waterfront properties for the creation of a public walkway?

 

 

Russ Arnott

NO. Although I have always supported waterfront walkways and continue to move this desired initiative forward I feel discussions with property owners and offers of purchasing land from them willingly or perhaps other incentives would be the better approach.

 

Kathleen Bell

No, at this time I feel that the Town of Comox needs to focus on the Marina Park redevelopment and downtown revitalization before a walkway is discussed.  The costs for compensation, building and maintenance are unknown and could great exceed usage.  It is lovely idea that the town, one day, could enjoy a waterfront walkway but I feel we have pressing issues that need to be resolved.

 

Don Davis

No. I would however support the Town taking right of first refusal, buy the property when available , sub divide the shore and resell.  This process would take longer but would be a more viable method of attaining property.  If this had of started 30 or 40 years ago we might have had the walk way by now.

 

Ken Grant

There are laws regarding expropriation that would not allow us to do so.

 

 

Marg Grant

Private property rights must be respected and in this instance the question of expropriation is legally out of the question.

 

Hugh MacKinnon

No—Much as we would all like a quick fix to building a waterfront walkway from the Marina to the Filberg and beyond, Expropriation of an easement on private waterfront properties for the creation of a public walkway could prove problematic , certainly cost wise to the Town, based on Canadian court rulings.  In Canada, land ownership is considered to be a common right for citizens.  Due to the importance of land ownership, expropriations are considered by the courts to be a severe intrusion upon the property rights of citizens. The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly made this statement in rulings.  The cost to the Town would likely be too great.   The Town of Comox long term plan to purchase properties, then change from  single family to multi-family and carve off easement portions for the public good,  like what has been done on Beaufort Ave. recently, and has been done in the past,  seems to be a safer long term financial  plan.  Not to say creative alternatives to achieving this worthy tourist and resident attraction  goal should not continued to be considered.

 

Ian Moul

No. I would like a public waterfront walkway to be a high priority in the coming years.  I believe that portions of this can be accomplished without expropriation and could involve negotiation to mutual satisfaction.  Once we have exhausted all alternatives then to fill in gaps in a public walkway there may be situations when expropriation is the only alternative.

 

Barbara Price

No. I support a waterfront walkway but not through expropriation. I respect private property rights. Expropriation is a powerful tool that should only be used in exceptional circumstances. I support negotiating a public walkway as waterfront properties come up for redevelopment.

 

Maureen Swift

While  a waterfront walkway would be a lovely asset for the community, the law does not allow for land to be expropriated for this purpose.

 

Vivienne Webster

Yes- It is part of my platform to protect the waterfront.

 

 

Would you support tax deferrals or other incentive to encourage densification via secondary suites?

 

Russ Arnott

YES

 

Kathleen Bell

No. Comox, first and foremost needs a process and a plan for densification before incentives are discussed.  Once locally appropriate levels of density are determined and key locations identified, a plan to achieve density levels can be decided.  Increased density does not belong everywhere and an investment in proper planning must be made.

 

 

Don Davis

Yes

 

Ken Grant

Comox leads the way regarding secondary suites in the valley therefore tax incentives are not necessary

 

Marg Grant

The benefits of secondary suites serve both the primary and secondary occupants.  As demand for secondary suites increases so the supply will also, thus a tax incentive would not be necessary.

 

Hugh MacKinnon

No— The Town of Comox has already passed a motion allowing secondary suites  with the intent to assist homeowners with a mortgage helper, to create some affordable housing, increase densification in concert with our OCP, and give some options for homeowners without going through the re-zoning process and costs associated with this.  It has been received favourably by many.

 

Ian Moul

No and Yes. I am resistant on the need for tax incentives, but would strongly support other incentives.

 

Barbara Price

Yes. I supported all town residential zones, being allowed secondary suites. Now, no rezoning is required, only building inspection approval plus owner occupation of the main house or suite.

 

Maureen Swift

Comox has encouraged the development of legal secondary suites by making the process at the planning department easier.  To date, the development of these suites has been modest which has allowed for neighbourhoods to adjust to slightly greater density without any significant challenges.

 

Vivienne Webster

Yes- My platform shows I am in favour of more affordable housing.

 

Are you in favour of the private redevelopment of Baybrook House as an interpretive centre?

 

Russ Arnott

NO. I am in favour of an open gazebo type of structure in memory of Mack Laing. I would like to keep the property accessible via walking trails.

 

Kathleen Bell

Yes, at this time I believe that Comox needs to invest in educational opportunities and business diversification.  The Baybrook house offers an opportunity to do just that as well as investing in our families.

 

Don Davis

Yes

 

Ken Grant

There are several issues to deal with regarding redevelopment of Baybrook park staff are looking into this and will report back to council

 

Marg Grant

Baybrook House and property are currently under study by the staff in Comox Town Hall, the Baybrook residents and the Mack Laing Heritage Society.  Therefore the answer to this question must wait until these studies are fully reviewed, including the tax implications for the Comox taxpayers.

 

Hugh MacKinnon

No.  Not if favour of PRIVATE development .  The Mac Laing Society is a non-profit society, not private business,  to my knowledge.  Town Council asked the Mac Laing Society to present a sustainable financial plan and to address neighbourhood and community concerns.  We are hopeful community engagement has and or will occur before going forward.

 

 

Ian Moul

No. I very much support the concept of conservation tourism and nature education but have heard or read nothing that convinces me that the Baybrook Property is the right location.

 

Barbara Price

No. I am not in favour of the private redevelopment of public buildings and I do not think this is the intent of the Mack Laing Society. However together with the neighbourhood, I think Mack Laing, who late in life, had no car or telephone,  would want a more simple solution; one that enhanced bird watching and nature study. Great thanks are due to the Mack Laing Society for their tremendous work to honour Mack’s will. We all need to come together to find resolution to his legacy.

 

Maureen Swift

Council is currently waiting for a staff report regarding the Baybrook site.  There are many issues that need to be addressed and at the outset the parameters of any project were to be at no cost to the taxpayer now and into the future.

 

 

Vivienne Webster

No- I believe this only dates from the 30’s, hardly antique, plus, the waterfront should be pubic property.

 

Are you in favour of tax incentives for businesses to address vitalization of the downtown core?

 

 

Russ Arnott

YES

 

 

Kathleen Bell

Yes, currently the private business owners are the ones at risk if customers continue to leave Comox to shop elsewhere.  Comox businesses pay some of the highest taxes within the valley.  If the goal and plan of the Council is to increase traffic to local business, we need to encourage more businesses to choose Comox.

 

Don Davis

Yes

 

Ken Grant

Comox is already doing this at no cost to the taxpayer

 

Marg Grant

While revitalization to our downtown is most important, placing the tax burden on residential taxpayers should not be a consideration. Support for our downtown businesses can be done in a number of ways that would serve the community as a whole.

 

Hugh MacKinnon

Yes- Regarding tax incentives for businesses to address vitalization of downtown core- Comox Council has already passed  incentives for certain properties to allow mixed use buildings (commercial on ground floor, residential above).  We are hopeful this will spark vitalization of our downtown.

 

Ian Moul

Yes. We need some very creative thought here.  I see vitalizing the downtown core as a high priority.

 

Barbara Price

Yes. I supported the Town’s piloting of a tax incentive program to encourage down town residential densification in conjunction with commercial development, to bring more life downtown. The program has been successful in other communities.

 

Maureen Swift

I spoke in favour of the recently initiated tax incentives to encourage the development of the downtown core.

 

Vivienne Webster

No- But I am in favour of reducing the cost of a business license to promote small business.

 

 

Would you be in favour of committing more of your municipality’s roadways to bike lanes?

Russ Arnott

NO. I feel Comox has made very good progress on this and now has a nice balance of bike lanes. I would like to see more pathways within our town.

 

 

Kathleen Bell

Yes, there have been many studies that demonstrate on how bike lanes increase safety and the health and wellness of the community.

 

 

Don Davis

Yes.  I have also thought that a more appropriate way of dealing with the problem would be to simply make the roads wider.  I believe that every new sidewalk in the immediate past has narrowed the road.  If we did this we would have longer distances of safer roadways.

 

 

Ken Grant

We have funded the majority of bike lanes with gas tax Dollars which are federal

 

 

Marg Grant

Biking plays a big part in my family’s lives and I recognize the value of this activity.  Safety concerns are a major issue and because the original road design was not intended to service the increasing vehicle traffic as well as the increased demand for safe cycling routes, I seriously question committing more of our roadways to bike lanes.  We must explore other, safer options.

 

 

Hugh MacKinnon

Yes regarding bike lanes but after core services are dealt with , and , utilizing partnerships with sr. Levels of government to pay for lanes.    The Town of Comox has been a leader in this regard in the valley and the bike lanes have been rated high by our citizens.   Citizens can access the Comox Transportation Study which was endorsed by Council,  on-line on the Town website.   We should continue pursuing partnerships for funding such projects as we did with the Federal government with the CFB Comox bike lanes and the Prov. Government which we did to cover costs of the green bike lane painting.

 

Ian Moul

Yes. We could commit much more road space to bike lanes without unacceptable restrictions to motor vehicle traffic.  Bike lanes used effectively help motorists to predict where to expect cyclists.  I suggest that a goal of bike lanes off of the public roads is the best alternative whenever possible.

 

Barbara Price

Yes. I am a member of the Comox Valley Cycling Task Force of which the Public Advisory Committee advises on where there are safety issues. I support making our roadways safer for all users whether through bike lanes, off road linkages or ‘share the road’ signage.  I spearheaded a Healthy Communities grant through council that brought Active School Travel Planning to Comox. The aim is to create safer, healthier travel for children and end traffic jams around schools.

 

Maureen Swift

Continued development of better connectivity for cyclists in the community is desirable as physical and economic opportunities arise.

 

Vivienne Webster

No – Not until secondary roads are widened.

 

 

Do you support amalgamation of Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland?

 

Russ Arnott

NO. Decision-making rests with local citizens through the requirement for an approved vote of electors prior to incorporation approval. I would like to try to foster dialogue and support in our communities for the purpose of petitioning the provincial government for a study to examine local governance in our area.

 

Kathleen Bell

No, not at this time.

 

 

Don Davis

No. The previous restructuring study indicated that this would raise taxes in Comox, and this from everything I have heard from those involved would be the same today.  Comox has a debt of $200 per person , the others , I have been told , are at $800 .  As to governance, no matter who you put and at whatever table, there will continue to be inter jurisdictional problems.  Comox continues to manage it’s affairs in a responsible manner and amalgamation would take away the local ability to continue to do this.

 

Ken Grant

I look forward to the Chamber of Commerce governance review. Without full information it is impossible to say

 

Marg Grant

The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Governance Review Task Force is currently encouraging community support for the purpose of petitioning the Provincial government for a study to examine local governance in our area.  The review is an important step in the process and will provide us with the necessary information to make an informed decision.

 

Hugh MacKinnon

I support the proposed study by the Provincial Government which is intended to weigh the pros and cons  of amalgamation.  Citizens and Councils should be aware of ALL  of the pros and cons FIRST, before making a decision in this regard.  For example, because Comox is below 15,000 residents our police costs are significantly less.   In the meantime, what is needed is more co-operation amongst the three municipal governments and the regional district to find more  efficient financial ways and means to operate.  There are many examples that might be applied here such as  Fire department services to Recreation services.

 

Ian Moul

Not a yes or no answer.  This is a far bigger question than a yes and no answer.  The key question is what works best for the residents and not just the local government staff and elected officials.  Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland have very different flavours, but then the same could be said for Union Bay, Royston, Merville, Saratoga Beach and many more local communities.  I think amalgamation is a good question and options should be explored.  At the same time, excessive efficiency can reduce the neighbourhood humanity in our decision making.  I have spoken with many Comox residents and the few that favor amalgamation are very passionate about it.  I have listened to the arguments in big cities over governance by Wards versus councillors spread out across large areas and am not sure what works the best for the residents.  I am very supportive of retaining neighbourhood identities.

 

Barbara Price

No. The last time this issues was raised, 78% of Comox citizens, after receiving the facts, voted no to amalgamation. Cost was a major factor. Comox has a very low debt load, good infrastructure and lower taxes.  Increased taxes and potential loss of green space were expressed concerns. Until Comox citizens come together to support an amalgamation initiative, my answer is ‘No’. As happened in the last amalgamation referendum, Comox votes need to be counted separately, so our votes count.

 

Maureen Swift

The Chamber of Commerce is currently undertaking a governance study of the Comox Valley. I am interested in hearing the results of that study.

 

 

Vivienne Webster

No

 

 

 

Should the board for the publicly-funded Comox Valley Economic Development Society be elected by the public?

 

Russ Arnott

NO. I think the position should be held accountable to the public through the elected officials.

 

Kathleen Bell

Yes, if the cost of the election can be handled in a fiscally responsible manner.

 

 

Don Davis

I don’t know yes or no, as my answer is that I was elected when I served on economic development as a councillor and it functioned quite well, creating a separate bureaucracy probably would not improve things.

 

Ken Grant

There are skill sets needed at the board which would not be obtained by electing members to the board

 

Marg Grant

The Society Act governs the Comox Valley Economic Development Society so the Town of Comox is not required to do so. A level of expertise is required to be an effective member of the CVEDS.

 

 

Hugh MacKinnon

No. Regarding requiring an elected board for the Comox Valey Economic Development Society.   As long as there are accountability measures in place I am comfortable with the present system.    A recent service review suggested that elected officials that sit on these boards NOT have voting rights. I am fine with this.

 

Ian Moul

Yes. A little more Yes than No. With low voter turnout it can be difficult to generate the interest needed to effectively get voters engaged enough to make more choices on the ballot; or maybe more choices on the ballot would generate more voter interest.  In other circles I have heard interest in an elected Regional Parks Board and also an elected Environmental Council.

 

Barbara Price

Yes. There has been a recent study of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS) which made a number of yet to be implemented recommendations including the need for more representation and reporting out. The question of an elected CVEDS board was not raised. I support exploring this idea as CVEDS controls a large budget of public funds.

 

Maureen Swift

There are currently elected officials sitting on the Board of the Economic Development Society.  As with any Board, it is important to have a certain set of skill sets that match the mandate of the Society.  As vacancies occur, I believe the remaining Board is in the best position to determine what skill sets are required.

 

Vivienne Webster

Yes

 

 

Would you support an increase in property taxes in order to assist in the homelessness situation in the Comox Valley?

 

Russ Arnott

NO. I don’t feel this is the right mechanism for dealing with this issue.

 

Kathleen Bell

Yes, there is a lack of understanding the true cost of homelessness on our society from a federal, provincial and municipal level.  Homelessness is not cheap. There needs to continue to be round tables with all concerned parties placing time, attention and funds to these groups.  The average homeless person costs tax payers through emergency healthcare and social services, housing solutions usually are far cheaper even with supportive housing services such as counselling.  I would be in support of increased taxes if we could showcase decreases of use on our essential services.

 

Don Davis

Yes. However I would want to know before hand just where the money was to be spent.  Once again just creating a highly  paid position would not solve the problem.

 

Ken Grant

I would want to know who would administer the service, and what they would do with the money before committing tax dollars to this

 

Marg Grant

Providing housing for the homeless is a very complex issue concerning the entire community. While we all have concerns for housing those in need, the proposed method of taxation, before we know exactly how these dollars would be spent, raises serious questions that need answers before we should commit to any tax.

 

Hugh MacKinnon

Regarding the homeless situation in the Comox Valley, I would only look at financially supporting a SPECIFIC PLAN agreed upon by council(s)  first.  All three municipalities and municipal, provincial and federal levels of government share responsibility here. Locally, a specific proactive plan is needed .  An example might be the shelter containers in Campbell River  for instance.   If  the Town of Comox’s specific  plan was to help financially assist Care-a-Van as our contribution I would be in favour of that.  The Comox Valley, ALONG WITH OTHER LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT,  must help  take care of all of our citizens!  To ignore homelessness and / or pretend homelessness in our community does not exist is unconscionable but we do not need another study, we need an action plan that is pro-active not reactive.

 

Ian Moul

Yes

 

 

Barbara Price

Yes. I will be voting yes in the plebiscite as I know that without local government participation, we will be unable to attract Federal and Provincial funding to deal with homelessness in our communities.  Although the plebiscite is non-binding, I would respect the outcome of this Valley wide vote.  I support a Town budget that keep pace with inflation. How we spend property taxes, can shift between different priorities and does not necessarily mean a tax increase to assist the homeless situation.

 

Maureen Swift

It is difficult to support an increase in property taxes without a specific plan in place.

 

Vivienne Webster

Yes- Homelessness is everyone’s concern.

 

 

 

Are housing solutions solely a municipal responsibility?

 

 

Russ Arnott

No.

 

Kathleen Bell

No, but any housing decisions like zoning rest with the municipal government.  Also, many working groups and agencies work within our community at a hands on level we will need to provide the leadership to move any housing projects forward.

 

Don Davis

No. I have always felt that if we could get all levels of government working together , we could build one building in a central location and house everyone from the B.C. access centre, to the Federal Government, the City, Regional District, not for profit societies and add a floor to accommodate truly affordable housing.  The way things are now all of these agencies are making land barons richer than they deserve.

 

Ken Grant

All three levels of government play a role

 

 

Marg Grant

The Federal and Provincial governments shoulder this responsibility.  Municipal governments do not have a budget for housing.

 

 

Hugh MacKinnon

NO.  In my opinion, housing solutions cross all levels of government and through creative partnerships, solutions can be found.

 

 

Ian Moul

No. As much of homelessness is linked with poverty and/ or mental health issues, we need partnership with senior governments.

 

 

Barbara Price

No. There has been too much downloading both federally and provincially.

 

 

Maureen Swift

While traditionally housing solutions have not been the responsibility of the municipal government, the gradual downloading from the Federal and Provincial levels have made housing the responsibility of all levels of government.

 

 

Vivienne Webster

Yes.

 

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