THANK YOU Area C for your support and CONGRATULATIONS to our new Regional Director Robyn Mawhinney
Readers of the Discovery Islander have been posing questions to the candidates. See the candidates’ answers side by side the last two issues:
Click to read the Sept 2nd edition, starting on page 10
Click to read the Sept 16th edition, starting on page 8
Or see Marc’s answers below.
What are your thoughts and/or plans on the immediate initiation of a process to update the OCP (Official Community Plan)?
The OCP is an important visionary document. An incredible amount of work, discussion, compromise, and forward-thinking went into its creation.
It did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Quadra Island. We are a rural community that loves its independence, natural beauty, and rural feel but understands that we need to provide targeted housing options to ensure we have a stable community.
However, our current OCP is now over a decade old. It was written in a time before property prices exploded before our workforce had declined by approximately 20%, before our rental vacancy rates fell to near zero, before many homes were removed from our housing inventory in favour of vacation properties and short-term rentals, and before we fully understood the difficulties that VIHA regulations would impose on the development ideas the OCP proposes.
The new reality that we are in, along with the original requirement written into the OCP to review it regularly, both underscore that the process to update the OCP needs to begin as soon as possible. This process should include as many people as possible in a fair and organized way, in order to ensure that the collective voice of the community is heard.
Are you committed to supporting last-mile connectivity with the Connected Coast project? Do you think Quadra Island needs more affordable, reliable telephone and internet services beyond Mascon and Twin Comm?
Yes and yes. Now more than ever, access to the internet is crucial in our digital world. In Area C, we have many students and professionals whose ability to live here is completely dependent on a reliable internet connection. Currently, many of them rely on costly satellite connections or other solutions to ensure dependable connectivity, if they can find it at all.
The Connected Coast project would enable all homes on Quadra to have access to phone and internet through fibre optic cable laid below ground. Fibre optic is both reliable AND high speed, light years ahead of what we have now. I encourage everyone to sign up as the cable to your home is currently free and gives you, as well as future owners or tenants, the option of receiving telephone and internet through fibre optic. You can sign up at https://www.citywest.ca/dropping-in
Full disclosure, our family is such a believer in the benefits of fibre optic to our community that my wife has been hired by CityWest to help get everyone signed up for the drop. (Currently ON HOLD)
What are your thoughts/concerns about a bylaw that would only allow Airbnb rentals inside a primary residence, with the secondary residence being rented out as a vacation rental and/or a long-term rental?
The proliferation of short-term rentals over the last 5 years is contributing to significant housing pressures on this island. We can all name friends, neighbours, and important community members who, due to an eroding supply of long-term rental housing solutions, have been forced to leave our community. A recent housing report completed on Area C highlights how devastating this hollowing out of our community has become. From 2016 to 2021, we lost 16% of our workforce and this number continues to increase. We are losing our youth, and every other age group, with the exception of those over 65, has seen a significant decrease. We need to reverse these trends and that means looking at the short-term rental situation, along with other affordable housing issues.
This question, however, mentions only one possible solution. There are many others. The foundation of my campaign is the creation (in the case of Quadra Island) or enhancement (in the case of the outer islands) of a democratic community organization that would, as part of its reason for being, be a venue for difficult questions such as this to be fully discussed by the community as a whole.
It would be inappropriate for one elected Director, acting either alone or with a small group of advisors, to believe that they could fully examine this issue and chart the best course. A much more fulsome discussion is required and all options should be examined.
Question for Marc: Your campaign platform is “Empower Community.” Please state the processes that you would put in place to involve the community.
To me, “empower community” means that there need to be organized and democratic community-run institutions in Area C, possibly similar to the community association that already exists in Surge Narrows. These institutions would engage as many community members and groups as possible, on a regular basis, in organized and fair discussions, about the issues affecting the community. The result would be a broad and representative community voice that could then inform, influence, and advise the Regional Director (among others) and ensure that the Director does not operate alone, or in a bubble of only a few hand-picked advisors.
These community-run institutions could also facilitate the development of a community vision and plan, and create and support community projects. I would work with the community to help build or, in the case of Surge Narrows, equip these organizations in a way that is supported by the community, properly resourced, and sustainable.
Working with others to create this type of infrastructure is what I have a long history of doing. I think it is what our community needs in order to take the next step towards planning for our future, democratizing our politics, and creating a collective voice. It is time to start planning long-term with a clear Quadra-defined vision. It is time to develop the infrastructure to support our amazing volunteer organizations in every region of Area C. It is time to be the empowered community we know we can be!
How do you view the impacts of climate change on Quadra in the near term, and what role do you see the Regional District taking to help mitigate these impacts on residents and the flora and fauna of Quadra?
Let us be clear from the start. We are in a climate crisis and we are now only beginning to feel its effects. As extreme as some of its effects have been, they will amplify over the foreseeable future. From late or non-existent springs where fruit tree pollination does not occur, to extended droughts that may affect our groundwater supplies and elevate the risk of forest fire, to excessive wind events, and cold and torrential rains, there is no longer any doubt that climate change is real and its amplifying effects are now part of our daily lives.
Identifying the problem is the first step. Mitigation, however, is much more complicated and is going to require the collective effort of all of us.
How to mitigate against wildfire, food and water security issues, drought, intense weather events, and rising sea levels are complex questions, each of which requires more attention than the 200 words allocated here.
Only communities that work together and put community first will be successful in their mitigation efforts. Together we have to identify our vulnerabilities and tap into the wealth of local knowledge and talent, all while having local representatives who are willing to pull every lever at their disposal to push for the needed changes.
In your view, do traditional industries like forestry and fishing have a future in the Quadra Island economy? What actions would you take as Regional Director regarding them?
Yes, traditional industries like forestry and fishing both have a future here. Even if the SRD decided to try and put an end to either of them, the power to do so does not lie within their scope.
There is much to learn from our island history, however. Back in the 1980’s, for example, Quadra residents met, planned, and wrote a Forest Service Plan to demand a more sustainable path forward for our forests.
This resulted in a Quadra-focused plan which was at the time the most cutting edge in the province. Since then, our knowledge of how forests and soil work, and the need for carbon sequestration, have all increased substantially, and that Plan no longer seems as cutting edge as it once did.
Instead of coming together once in awhile and pushing the envelope, or creating forward-thinking plans from time to time, we need to be proactive instead of reactive. We need to work to have a plan in hand, like we have done in the past, so that when we have an opportunity to influence what is happening on our island, we are ready.
As a long-time resident of Quadra Island, I am concerned about what I see as unchecked and unplanned growth. Are you? Why or why not?
I am very concerned with inappropriate or improperly planned growth and change. We are currently experiencing a housing crisis that is affecting the very ability of our community to function.
Between 2016 and 2021 we lost 16% of our workforce. That number has clearly grown in 2022 as many local businesses, services, and even individuals cannot find the available workers to get the needed jobs done. We simply do not have the housing, be it affordable, rental, cooperative, or other creative solutions, to house the people required to have a functioning community, while maintaining the largely rural natural beauty every one of us cherishes.
Change is inevitable but we need to come together, to plan and direct that change, not by market forces alone, but by the concept of what is good for our community, island resilience, and our environment. We need to adapt our OCP to the reality we are now in.
To do this, we need to assemble the knowledge and skills of the amazing people that call our islands home and start steering our community towards a positive, functional, resilient future and not follow the example of so many islands that lie South of us.
The Regional Director must collaborate well with other Directors, with regional staff, and at times with other levels of government. What experience do you have in such collaboration?
I have 30 years of experience on a dozen boards and committees. I have been elected to several leadership positions and have worked with politicians on everything from electoral strategy, to running their election days. I have years of experience shepherding important projects through the often complicated maze of bureaucracy, public consultation, and political processes to bring them to a successful implementation.
As the elected president of a Community Association representing over 20 thousand people, working with elected officials, both local and provincial, to accomplish community goals was an integral part of the job. Successfully securing over a million dollars in grant money, helping shepherd the creation of the cSpace King Edward Arts Hub to completion, starting a Farmers’ Market, saving an outdoor pool, funding and building a hockey rink, creating a permanent home for a child care institution, and creating an energized community hub from a rental hall, all were successfully accomplished in my time as president.
Learning the delicate art of when to push, when to pull, and when to remain silent takes years of practice and has been one I have spent years working on.
It is the experience and leadership lessons learned over those 30 years that will enable me to strongly represent and advocate for Area C on day 1.
How would you facilitate a realignment of tourism visits to Quadra Island to a level more in keeping with the key planning priorities of the 2008 Quadra Island Tourism Plan which cautioned against uncontrolled growth and its impacts on community livability?
We live in one of the most beautiful and desirable places in Canada. That comes with benefits and challenges.
The frustration I am hearing in this question is likely linked to how difficult it has been for the local population to access our ferries. With stories of increased RV traffic and proliferation of short-term rentals drawing travelers in ever greater numbers to our shores, coupled with some epically poor management from BC Ferries who had promised us a reprieve from multi-ferry waits only to crush our hopes when one of our boats floated away, our frustration grows daily.
A few simplistic, and likely politically expedient, answers could flow from my fingers in this space. I am, for the time being, going to be a terrible politician and not fill this column with the simple solutions some might be looking for here. The deeper I have dived into these questions, the more complicated they have become, and the answers no longer seem as simple to me as they did before I started talking to the hundreds of you as I have been doing over the last months.
Frankly, I don’t have simple answers because none exist. All of them require broader consultation, buy-in from the community, and much more knowledge than I currently have.
By the end of the next term for Regional Director for Area C please describe one way that your advocacy and initiatives will have directly improved the day-to-day life of a typical Quadra Island resident?
Communities that fail to organize themselves and take charge of their own future by harnessing the immense skill, passion, and community spirit of their residents are communities that end up having their future chosen for them or become subject to the power of market forces and ‘highest-best-use’ principles.
Functional communities cannot exist with a single elected voice and no organized community infrastructure. Community infrastructure that both informs and influences its politicians and harnesses the collective knowledge, skill, and passion of its residents to accomplish amazing tasks is required.
At the end of my term, I would like to see a community organization that is functioning effectively and democratically and improving the day-to-day life of Quadra, and providing better institutional support for the rest of SRD District C. Perhaps it will be a Community Association as already exists in Surge Narrows, or perhaps something else. My wife Jen, a former Community Development Officer, and I with decades of Community building experience, know the importance of this vision. We have been thrilled by how many engaged, skilled, and passionate Quadra Islanders have recently expressed their willingness to bring this vision to life. Go to www.empowercommunity.ca to find out more.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR MARC?
Ask it HERE and he will post his answer
or REQUEST A MEETING in person or by phone
He would love to hear from you!