North Cowichan council candidates weigh in on environmental issues
Biodiversity, water quality, viewscapes, climate change cited
During this election campaign, we’ve heard a lot about so-called freedom candidates who believe the United Nations is exerting undue influence on North Cowichan, and about pro-development candidates who seek municipal policies friendlier to development.
Now it’s time to see where the candidates line up on the environment. After all, during the public consultation process on the future of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve citizens have expressed overwhelmingly support for nature preservation.
The following summary by sixmountains.ca of candidates’ positions on the environment has been pulled together from various sources, including posted election platforms, on-line videos, newspaper articles, all-candidates meeting, voting records from council, and responses to questions at https://bit.ly/3SRDatL .
MAYORAL CANDIDATES, in alphabetical order:
— Rob Douglas. Supports the new Official Community Plan, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, restoration of fish and wildlife habitat, climate change adaptation, biodiversity policies to protection wildlife habitat and sensitive ecological areas, urban forest strategy. He’s concerned about a BC trend in recent decades resulting in loss of good-paying forest sector jobs, including wood manufacturing and pulp & paper. Douglas served two terms on council, topping the polls in 2018, and chaired the Forestry Advisory Committee.
— John Koury (Lake Cowichan resident). Platform reads: “Protect the environment, conserve natural resources, modernize infrastructure and manage forests from fire risk.” He has declined to elaborate on how protection and conservation squares with his pledge to log North Cowichan’s forest reserve “to manage fire risk in our neighbourhoods.” Experts say clearcutting — which the Municipality has engaged in — only worsens the wildfire risk on the urban interface: https://bit.ly/3CGN9wa . Koury is the only mayoral candidate not committed to finishing the public consultation into future management of the forest reserve ( https://bit.ly/3fMynLj ). He lost in the 2018 council election.
— Rosalie Sawrie. Considered a candidate for the environment when she first ran in 2018, Sawrie is now championing more housing and greater input from developers. “Climate disruption, mental health issues, the toxic drug crisis, economic stability, relatable health care — all require housing….” Sawrie supported the OCP, but has promised to reopen talks with developers and impacted property owners. She supports reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change.
COUNCIL CANDIDATES who support completion of the forest consultation (https://bit.ly/3fMynLj ):
— Charles Borg. Has posted a Facebook video outlining his platform. While there is no specific reference to the environment, he does rail against council climate policies that “only burden our residents.” He writes he is “proudly pro-logging” and seeks a “balance between protecting our forests and enabling us to thrive economically through our local forestry industry.”
— Mike Caljouw. Lists parks and recreation among core municipal issues. Commits to balancing progress and environment. Also writes: “Almost daily I hike and bike the forest reserve. It is where I can centre myself. At the same time I also believe that with proper practices we can use our forest reserve for all.”
— Elizabeth Croft. Platform supports balanced development, adding "the municipality should not be reviewing business plans before awarding a business license or permit. People must be free to open their business of choice.” She says she supports initiatives such as green building standards, e-vehicle charging stations in new buildings, more trees and wetlands for carbon sequestration. She is a former manager with the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce, and is also running for school board. Volunteer work includes Cowichan Pubic Art Gallery and Raptor Rescue Society.
— Joseph Enslow/ Adrienne Richards. Both are members of the unofficial slate, United Independents. In an election brochure, the group fears that North Cowichan has become a “testing ground for multiple international environmental projects, without public consultation” and believes council has "allowed North Cowichan to act as a climate hub, which subjects the area to a plan designed outside of Canada, to address issues that aren't local to our area.” Enslow told an all-candidates meeting: “We don’t need to cancel cars” and switch to “scooters to do our part for Mother Earth.”
— Bruce Findlay. Supports continued logging of the forest reserve, which is home to what the BC Forests Ministry calls the most at-risk forest type in the province — the coastal Douglas-fir forest. Findlay is opposed to the Municipality earning money by selling carbon credits and leaving the forest standing. Council recently heard from UBC that the future of carbon-credit cash is bright: https://bit.ly/3Er9P4U
— Chris Istace. Demonstrated commitment to community and the environment. He owns an outdoor clothing and shoe store, is president of the Chemainus Business Association and a board member of Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society. An outdoors enthusiast, he speaks of the ecological values of the forest reserve, and the need for people to understand their personal impact on the environment. He served as an elected city councillor in Estevan, Sask., before moving to the Cowichan Valley a decade ago.
— Christopher Justice (incumbent). Supports: the OCP and responsible growth and development that does not impact sensitive environments or connectivity between habitats; maintaining the natural beauty and rural feel of the municipality, including protecting important rural viewscapes,; integrating natural assets (e.g., wetlands) into the municipal asset management plan to ensure they are properly valued and cared for; and establishing a parkland acquisition fund.
— Kate Marsh (incumbent). Strong advocate for Indigenous people and supporter of the new OCP. She has spoken strongly in favour of environmental protection. “We’re fortunate to have so much nature, we must guard it with care,” Marsh told an all-candidates meeting, adding that “a decision on the highest and best use of the municipal forest will provide us all with a degree of certainty.” She has served 11 years on council, and finished second overall in voting in the 2018 election.
— Peter Rusland. A former community newspaper reporter in the Cowichan Valley who has been firmly engaged in municipal issues for years – not just at election time. One of his central platforms is "preserving our environmental health.” Among the specific concerns he’d like to address: “worsening water shortages, rising ecological degradation, rampant development sprawl, and our precious municipal forest reserve’s future.”
— Debra Toporowski (incumbent). When elected to North Cowichan council in 2018, Toporowski also sat as an elected councillor with Cowichan Tribes. Her profile in The Citizen (https://bit.ly/3RNKLba ) says she seeks “the right balance of economic, environmental and social issues” and considers a “healthy environment” a critical issue. She has recused herself when considered to be in conflict with issues impacting Cowichan Tribes.
COUNCIL CANDIDATES who have not committed to support completion of the forest consultation (https://bit.ly/3fMynLj :
— Dana Arthurs (Duncan resident). Position on environmental issues unknown. Has not responded to sixmountains.ca request for more information.
— Joyce Behnsen. Career in banking, real-estate sales, and construction sales and marketing. Says no to exporting garbage and to pumping sewage into Satellite Channel. Questions hiring of environmental and climate change specialists over police/planners, etc. Placed third in the electoral race in 2018.
— Tek Manhas (incumbent). The only council member who voted in favour of continued logging of the forest reserve before conclusion of the public consultation into future management of the reserve. At an all-candidates meeting, he referred to “excellent biodiversity in our forests” despite a municipal report that estimates 141 species at risk.
— Chris Shaw (Cowichan Bay resident). Strays from his other two United Independents candidates by not committing to finish the forest consultation. In a YouTube video, he talks about new OCP, transportation, community engagement, grassroots empowerment, but offers no environmental commitments. On climate change, he’s said: "The impact of human activity on the planet may well contribute to the climate issue, however, it is simplistic to assume that all of it is of human origin."
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— Larry Pynn, Oct. 10, 2022