Q&A with the PQB News – Skye Donald’s Full Responses

The PQB News  sent out a list of questions to the RDN candidates in our area. Sadly, they didn’t give us a word-limit, so when I saw the one or two sentence answers in today’s paper, I was kind of disappointed (but not surprised) that they weren’t able to capture what I was trying to get across. Here are my answers in full:

 

1. What is your opinion on the issue of watershed protection?

The key to water stewardship in our region is education and communication.  The attitude that “my well never runs dry, so what has any of this got to do with me?” needs to be met with accessible, easy to understand information. Our wells aren’t closed, self-contained systems: what we do on our property affects other people – our neighbours next door and our neighboring communities. There is lots of information available, but it either isn’t filtering down to individual water users or it isn’t trusted because of the animosity between residents of Area F and the RDN. We need to explore better ways to get the message out to residents and property owners, and we need to attempt to try and repair the fractured relationship between the RDN and our community because whatever path our community decides to take, we’re still going to have to work with the RDN on regional issues like water.

 

2. What would you do to deal with solid waste in the Regional District?

Is Zero Waste enough?

The RDN is leading the country in solid waste management, but there are two specific areas that could use improvement: the cost of recycling for businesses and the disposal of dangerous recyclable materials that are not included in the residential curbside program. More needs to be done to encourage businesses to recycle. Right now, it is cost prohibitive for many businesses: a single paper-bin pick-up could cost a commercial customer as much as a resident pays for an entire year of garbage service. Anything that the RDN can do to make recycling an affordable option for business (including offering the service itself) should be considered. For residents, more needs to be done to prevent harmful items like batteries, medications and compact fluorescent light bulbs from being tossed into the garbage. Recycling needs to be easy, or people won’t do it. Neighborhood recycling stations, located as close together as post offices or mailboxes, are just one option that could make recycling these kinds of items easier for residents.

 

3. What is your input on the regional growth review?

Because our communities are so interconnected, I appreciate the need for a document like the RGS, and the goals of the plan sound attractive, but part of the draft states that “All bylaws, including OCP’s for electoral areas, adopted by a regional district board and all services undertake by the board must be consistent with an adopted RGS.” (Section 1.2 of the RGS Final Draft) continues to limit the ability of residents in Area F to direct the shape of our own community. It serves to further push Area F towards incorporation as a municipality.

The RGS review doesn’t appear to have included any public consultation events in Area F after the draft RGS was issued in April, 2011. Less than 35 residents in Area F responded to a survey on the RGS review draft document. Our community has not had sufficient input on this document for me to support it. The draft proposes a review of village centers: I do not support the redesignation of any village centre in Area F as a “local service centre” as described in the RGS. Redesignation of our local village centres in Errington, Coombs and Meadowood as “local service centres” closes the door on any future services such as transit or water service. This is a matter for our community – not the RDN – to decide. The RGS wants to limit rural access to water & sewer services as a way of preventing urban sprawl, but if we want services and are willing to pay for them, then we deserve the full support of the RDN in acquiring them.

 

4. What is your solution to the current shortage of volunteer firefighters in some of the fire departments in the district?

Improved communication is one avenue to pursue that may help address the volunteer shortage. If the volunteer fire departments in Area F were to collaborate and include their newsletters with the semi-annual RDN newsletter distribution, they could save money and reach more residents. We need to get the word out about the tangible benefits of volunteering, including the honorarium offered, first-aid certification, Class 3 driver’s license certification, and medical benefits. We also need to let people know that they don’t need to be “body builders” to volunteer. Individual departments should be able to draw on RDN resources to assist them with developing their websites and social media presence: the younger generation gets their information from the Internet, not from direct mail.

Collaboration or cooperation between departments to share resources, including volunteers, is another option that could help address volunteer shortages, but any such collaboration absolutely must be initiated by the individual departments and not imposed on them by the RDN. The RDN should be available to support departments if & when they are interested in exploring these options. Finally, anything we can do to make our region more attractive to active, young people as a place to live will increase the base from which we can draw volunteers. This means that we need encourage affordable housing and meaningful employment. Both housing and employment are directly affected by zoning, bylaws, and community services from recreation to transit – all issues that the RDN has direct control over.

 

5. Is fire protection in RDN at safe levels? 

Obviously the shortage of volunteers is a concern, but according to our fire departments, yes. The Errington VFD’s achievement of the Superior Tanker Shuttle certification in 2005 and the construction of the Meadowood Fire Hall (Dashwood #2) have significantly increased fire protection in our community. We are also fortunate to have the Coastal Fire Centre, one of six regional wildland fire centres across BC, administered from right here in our community. Of course, there are always areas that we can improve upon. We need to improve road access to some areas in our community to ensure that emergency units can respond quickly and residents can evacuate safely in the event of a wildfire or other disaster. Supporting the proposed highway interchange for Corcan Road is just one way we can improve safety for our community.

 

6. What is your input to meet our area’s increasing health care demands?

I’m disappointed with the design of the Oceanside Health Centre. I’m disappointed in the lack of emergency services and the apparent emphasis to house private businesses in the building (private doctor’s offices, pharmacy, x-ray), which puts existing health care providers in our area at a disadvantage. At this point in the process, though, I don’t know that it is reasonable or even possible to stop or significantly alter the project. The fact is that we desperately need an urgent care facility/walk-in clinic in our area NOW, and this project, flawed as it may be, is still an improvement over services currently available in our community.

Aside from the Health Centre issue, there are other things that the RDN can do to improve the long-term health of our community. Supporting healthy activity and exercise through recreation services and facilities is one way the RDN can help build a healthy community. The RDN needs to ensure that family-friendly services and zoning are in place so that younger people can afford to live in this community to meet the increasing service demands of aging population.

“In the Family”

I just received an email from my father-in-law in North Vancouver. He sent me this photo with a message wishing me good fortune and gave me this message, “[Skye] is following in the footsteps of Joseph Donald who in 1870 was elected ML A for Charlotte County, New Brunswick , a position he held for 4 years.” He even included a photo!

 

My mother ran for local office in Parksville twice, once for mayor and once for councellor in a by-election. The mayoral race happened before I was old enough to remember such things, but she tells me that she came in second. After the election, she was relieved because she didn’t know where she would find the time to do the job – something true for any young person running for office. I do remember the by-election, and while my mother had a very good showing (second or third), she did not win. As a single mom, her budget was pretty much limited to a few photocopied hand-outs. Interestingly, Brunie Brunie, now running for councellor in Nanaimo, also ran in that race!

Remembrance Day

My husband and I attended the public Remembrance Day ceremony held at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre today. It was nice to see members of the Coombs-Hilliers Volunteer Fire Department represented, and I spotted a number of friends that live in Area F, too.

 

The event was very well attended, and it was encouraging to see children present with their parents. I participated in public and church Remembrance Day ceremonies from age five until I finished high school as a member of Girl Guides of Canada, Scouts Canada and CGIT. Membership in these youth groups, as well as influence from my mother, fostered my strong feelings about the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. While I didn’t exactly like having to march about in my Brownie or Girl Guide uniform in the usually cold and rainy Remembrance Day parades in Parksville, I can now appreciate the importance of what I learned during that time. I know that through participation in events like the Remembrance Day parades, culture that has shaped my identity as a Canadian and a global citizen was being transmitted to me.

 

I hope that parents in our community will consider taking their children with them when they go to vote this week. This is another way that we can demonstrate to the next generation the importance of participating in what is both a solemn duty and a blessed privilege of citizenship. I’m happy to report that my 18-year-old niece voted for the first time on Wednesday, and I’m very proud of her for taking the time to do so. In our last civic election, just 923 people voted. I hope that the community will feel engaged, outraged and encouraged enough to spur a dramatic increase in turn-out. I hope that you will join me in honouring the sacrifices of those that fought for Canada by voting this week in our civic elections.

 

I give thanks to God for the sacrifice of soldiers and volunteers that served in conflicts around the world so that I can enjoy the peace, security and freedom I know today, and I pray for the preservation of those that continue to fight or work peacefully in dangerous conditions, that their efforts may produce the same peace, security and freedoms that we enjoy in Canada.

Fantastic Day of Community Events

I’ve had an amazing day full of local activities and folks from Area F. One of my co-workers kindly took a shift for me today so that I could have more time to campaign.

 

The day started off with a visit to Errington Elementary School. I took my four-year old nephew Linden (who attends a day care based out of EES) to the Remembrance Day assembly at the school. I have three nephews that attend classes at ESS.  The children were delightful, especially the young man that came to school today in his cadet uniform. The assembly wasn’t terribly long – just half an hour, which actually brings me to a music video that was played: “A Pittance of Time” by Terry Kelly. Half an hour is nothing when you consider the sacrifice of those that have served this country in our armed forces or as overseas volunteers working in nations of conflict. If my four-year old nephew can sit still and be quiet (with no fussing at all!) for half an hour, surely we all can. It’s important for children to know why they have a day off school tomorrow, so I am glad that the school held this assembly, and I’m impressed with the number of parents & community folks that showed up to support them. Oh, and the kids sang a patriotic song, too!

 

 

After the assembly, I took Linden home and headed off to St. Stephen’s in Qualicum Beach for their Community Meals. The Community Meals program provides a free hot lunch for anyone that shows up (donations are accepted if you can afford it). Today there was a huge turnout: at least 120 students showed up for lunch, plus a larger-than-usual number of other community members. I like to go because the food is good and because some of the people that come for lunch are just lonely and like to have a good chat. It’s neighbourly. I even ran into the author of the letter that prompted my last post on the singing of “O Canada” at more public gatherings.

 

 A lot of the folks that come out for lunch at St. Stephen’s are from Area F. Because of the inexpensive (and sometimes sub-standard) housing available in our area, we have a lot of economically disadvantaged residents in our community. I wonder how many more would be able to take advantage of community services like this one in Qualicum if we had a simple transit service that ran from Parksville to Qualicum either along Highway 4 or Grafton Avenue. It could originate in downtown Parksville or at Wembley Mall to link with the Parksville/Qualicum route. I don’t know if there is community support for a project like this, but I see the possibilities (and the drawbacks, namely the cost).

 

From St. Stephen’s, I had to run a few errands, including signing up for some glass fusing at Smashin’ Glass in Parksville. Then I headed off to our local Parksville-Qualicum SPCA, which just so happens to be located in Area F. This was a campaign stop: I wanted to chat with volunteers to see what they do and what they think we could be doing better, plus remind everyone to go out and vote. I picked up a few facts on animal control (or lack thereof) in Area F and got to play with some adorable kittens that so desperately just want someone to love them. They have LOTS of kittens and cats right now, so if you know anyone that would like a lovely pet, please consider stopping by.

 

With animal rescue on my mind, I decided to head over to the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs. I have never visited this huge complex that houses 900 birds. I had a great tour from a gracious worker, Stephanie, who did her best to fill me full of information on where the birds come from, what the organization does, and what challenges they face from the community. I’m hoping to get in touch with the property owners, too, to find out more. If elected, I would like to help our local animal refuges (we have four of them) to resolve any complaints or concerns expressed by residents.

 

From Coombs, it was back to Errington for a quick visit to a few local businesses, passing out my cards with information on where & when to vote. I had good responses. I see that the RDN election notices have been distributed, notifying residents where & when to vote. I worry, though, that they may just be tossed in the blue bin as “junk mail” from the RDN. I popped into Back Road Java for a homemade rice-cereal treat, and Sue invited me to her “Coffee with the Candidates” function on Saturday from 2-4PM. I will absolutely be there!

 

On my way out, I offered my “where & when to vote” cards to two men. One asked me two questions on RDN finances, and I very honestly said expressed that I didn’t have the answers. I didn’t have an opportunity to explain to him that I am well aware of my biggest weakness – that I don’t have “all the facts” – but that what I do have is the skills necessary to do the job. I have so much to offer this community. If you vote for me, you’re not electing a file of facts or a book of history; you’re electing a set of skills and an individual with strong values and good character.

 

Finally, my very busy day ended with a trip back to Smashin’ Glass to do some crafting. Though located in Parksville, Smashin’ Glass is owned & operated by Errington folks. I laid out a decorative square bowl with a simple geometric design. My mother made up four glass pendants, and I think she enjoyed it. I wish I had taken a photo of the projects before they went in the kiln (and still may be able to if I pop by on Saturday). My blue & purple bowl will be a gift for my mother-in-law, I think.

 

I’m finishing off my day with some Papa Gino’s Pizza. (Yummy!). What a day! On days like today, my mind goes into ‘dream’ mode, and I think of all the connections that I could facilitate for this community if I was able to devote the time to it. This gets me excited about being elected because if I’m elected, while I will need time to study the facts and time to attend meetings, I will still have more time to spend visiting people and businesses in our community than I do right now. I know that whatever happens after the election, this excitement will carry over into community service of some kind, but being able to commit myself to service without the burden of a full time job would be so rewarding. I have so much to offer – I just need to get elected!

We Need a Diplomat

I wrote this letter the day the paper came out. I know the paper gets lots of submissions, so it is quite understandable that they can’t publish them all. I decided to post it here for you to read.

 

In the Tuesday, October 25th edition of The News, with regards to the race for Electoral District Director for Area F, Mr. Clarke Lacey of Coombs wrote: “I see that someone who will stick up for us and not be shut up by the city slickers, has jumped into the ring.” One can only guess as to which candidate he is referring.

 

We in Area F – Coombs, Errington, Hilliers, Meadowood and Whiskey Creek – needs someone that can advocate for us at the RDN table. Absolutely, we need to elect a strong individual that can stand up for the area’s concerns, but we also need to elect someone that can do so in a diplomatic manner. Regardless of how accurate the title may be, referring to the RDN as the “Regional Dictatorship of Nanaimo” is inflammatory, and someone that calls the RDN names is likely to be dismissed, or worse: his concerns and issues could even end up being intentionally frustrated by other board members and civil servants.

 

This is, in fact, one of the reasons I am running for the position of Director: at one of the information sessions for the “soon-to-be imposed” building inspection bylaws, another area resident was yelling and even went so far as to call the RDN staff “Nazis” for forcing the by-law on us. I was sympathetic to his concerns: I didn’t want the by-law any more than anyone else, but it became clear to me that it was easy for the RDN to ignoring our concerns because of the way we presented ourselves. Also abundantly clear to me at that same session was that our elected official was completely unable (or unwilling) to speak up for us.

 

If we want the “city slickers” to listen to us, we need to elect someone that can represent us as the intelligent and informed community that we are. If we want our community’s values to be respected, we need to elect someone that doesn’t come with the baggage of an unfavourable reputation with the RDN. I’m ready, willing, and able to speak my mind at the RDN table, but I’m smart enough to know that and tact is going to get us farther ahead than is name-calling.

More About Value-Based Decision Making

I have heard comments from some knowledgeable individuals involved in our OCP consultation process that of the 20 community values listed in our Official Community Plan for Area F, numbers 7 through 20 were imposed on the community by the RDN.

 

Looking over the list of values, imposed or not, I can’t help but wonder if they aren’t still representative of the community. Having attended the RDN agricultural plan open house, there is certainly support in this community for sustainable farming (#7). There is a demand for development of a trail system (#9, #13, & #19). I highly doubt that there is considerable community support for aggregate or mineral extraction in Area F (#10, #11). The values relating to water stewardship (#12, #13, & #14) are hard to argue against because water is essential: we all need clean, safe water. Most of these “imposed” values describe a general desire for sound environmental stewardship – something I know most residents here agree we need.

 

By suggesting that we use these values as a basis for decision making in our community, I do not mean to diminish the frustration community members have over how the OCP was created. I appreciate that the hostility expressed by our community towards the RDN is founded in very legitimate complaints. Clearly, the RDN has quite a history of ignoring the wishes of our community. When I read this list of values, wherever it may have come from, these values resonate with me (some a great deal more than others, mind you). If specific points don’t represent the community as it exisist today, then let’s pick them apart: target the specific values listed rather than the source document. The fact is, we need some kind of common ground to guide our decision making, and I believe these values represent our community as it stands today.

 

 

Heckled!

A very full, very interesting day. I started off at the Coombs Emporium for “Social Networking: Coombs Style”, which literally was standing on a box and barking into a megaphone at a small crowd. Since I arrived before the crowd, though, I popped into Grace United’s Christmas Bazaar for tea before heading back to the ORCA event.

Despite a warning from my husband that my anti-rant wouldn’t be well received, I decided to go ahead and say what I had come to say: that yelling, interruptions, and insults aren’t going to get the RDN to take us seriously. Before I could even get started, though, I was heckled by past RDN board member Jack McLean today. I’ll wear that as a badge of honour. Apparently Area F isn’t part of “Oceanside” (a term coined by our local tourism association to describe the local area previously called “District 69”). I suppose being born at the nearest hospital, raised in Parksville, a resident of Errington for the past 6 years and a property owner for the past 3 years just doesn’t me qualified enough to run for RDN in Area F. This is why young people don’t run for office. There was a second interruption, as well, by another person. I am actually glad that I elicited a response from the crowd because it gave me an opportunity to demonstrate that I am feisty, unflappable and reasonable.

When the event wrapped up, I headed back to Grace for another cup of tea (it was very cold standing around outside). I then headed off to the Arrowsmith Agricultural Association’s Fall Supper at Arrowsmith Hall. It was great. This is my second time volunteering with the turkey dinner, and it was good fun. I often feel like a bit of a bumbling idiot because I don’t know how they do everything, but I think I managed to help a wee bit, and the food was fantastic. I can’t pay the cooks a better compliment than saying that the stuffing was better than my mom’s (and my mother is a very, very fine cook).

I ducked out of the hall while the second sitting was still being served and dashed home to get changed for the Errington Hall Coffee House. What a night! We have some phenominal talent in our community. We also have some very brave young women that took to the stage to perform music they composed themselves. The Coffee House is a welcoming, encouraging venue that will lift these young women and empower them to sing for many years to come. The music that was shared tonight is not what I listen to at home, but it was so good, it was all enjoyable. I especially liked the trio of 2 guitars and electric mini-guitar (? not sure what instrument it was). It was nice to hear “Fat-Ass Apple Bread” again, too (which describes a yummy product available at the Errington Farmer’s Market). Oh, and Denise’s cake was delicious, too!

 

After attending a few community events – meals at the Bradley Centre and Grace United, plus the Errington Hall Coffee House – I’m struck by the number of people from other areas that come to Coombs & Errington to participate in community events. Most of the folks I spoke with were from Area G, Area H, Qualicum Beach or Parksville (in that order). We really must be doing some very special things here to draw in folks from (*cough*) the rest of the Oceanside community.

 

I’m home now. I’ve been blogging and tweeting for over two hours. Tomorrow, I have to do some work on my choral projects, and hopefully I’ll get the rest of my signs up. I had intended to go out to Meadowood, but I’m debating attending Vancouver Island Opera’s production of “The Elixer of Love” instead. We’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings!