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.