Where do I stand on issues like amalgamation, sewage, the railway, speed limits, secondary suites, CRD water restrictions, and the deer cull? Check out my answers below to the C-FAX candidate questionnaire:
This year C-FAX asked all local election candidates to fill out a questionnaire that they could post on their website’s Candidate Guide. The questionnaire required a Yes/No answer to all questions and allowed for no more than 50 words to elaborate on your position. This immediately drew some criticism from candidates and elected officials throughout the CRD who knew that the issues were not black or white, and a nuanced response requires more than 50 words. Local politico and avid blogger, Bernard von Schulmann covered this controversy here.
Personally, I found the format was indeed quite simplistic and restrictive, but was not going to go as far as some in boycotting the survey. After taking a good look at all of the questions, I was sure that I could get my general point across in less than 50 words. I’m content with these responses:
•Would you commit to holding municipal property tax increases to no greater than the prevailing rate of inflation?
Yes, Victoria’s problem is spending, not a lack of funds. We must grow the tax base instead of increasing the burden. With taxes nearly 19% higher than in Saanich, we lack competitiveness and many people are now choosing to live and shop elsewhere. Revitalization requires innovative thinking, not increased taxation.
•Would you vote to limit union and exempt staff pay increases to no greater than the prevailing rate of inflation?
No, public wages should be dependent on other wages in the region. Victoria must remain competitive, and if we commit to only paying at a certain rate, we risk losing much-needed talent and expertise to businesses and other municipalities. However, some management salaries must be brought back into reality.
•Would you vote to keep infrastructure projects down to the most basic (cheapest) designs?
No, I respect taxpayer’s dollars, and the cheapest designs are not always the most responsible to build. The city’s ~$500 million infrastructure deficit is a bill that my generation will be saddled with. Projects today should be done responsibly so they’ll not have to be revisited again in my lifetime.
•Do you think the Trans-Canada Highway-McKenzie intersection is the most important transportation issue facing the Capital region?
No, the most important transportation issues revolve around keeping our infrastructure well-maintained and expanding the public transit network by increasing operating hours, capacity, and bringing it into the 21st century.
•Do you favour a formal study of municipal amalgamation options in the Capital Region?
Yes, I served on the board of Amalgamation Yes and have worked hard at getting us to this point. I’m proud that citizens in over half of the CRD municipalities will have a chance to voice their opinions on the amalgamation issue on the ballots this November 15th.
•(if applicable) Should your municipality pursue a small scale, go-it-alone approach to sewage treatment?
No, I am hopeful that following the November 15th elections, a new CRD board will be able to finally come together to discuss the controversial issue of sewage treatment in a reasonable, responsible, and accountable way. Right now it is far too politicized and that has resulted in bureaucratic deadlock.
•Would you vote to for a sewage plant in your municipality?
Yes, but only if the project was supported by scientific data and if its longevity could be guaranteed to justify the heavy cost to Victoria’s taxpayers.
•Will you vote for policies and spending that would resurrect rail service on the E&N line?
Yes, provided a clear benefit for Victoria is demonstrated, and that other municipalities in the region are willing to cooperate and contribute funding for the greater good of the region.
•Is it necessary to increase the size of sidewalks in your municipality?
Yes, I have spoken with many individuals with mobility issues and disabilities, and it is clear to me that certain areas of Victoria require serious maintenance or upgrades to their pedestrian infrastructure. We must also always keep in mind the mobility needs of an aging population.
•Does your municipality need separated bike lanes?
No, they are not a current need when weighed against the far more serious needs in our city. The approximately $500 million infrastructure deficit is a far more pressing issue. Investment in fixing and replacing our 100 year old sewer pipes and upgrading Fire Hall No.1 must take precedence.
•Should the default speed limit be lowered in your municipality on some streets?
No. City staff concluded there is “no technical data to support the reduction in speed limits.” This conclusion was also supported by the Victoria Police Department. City council should not have ignored the evidence, experts, and common sense in favour of pandering to a niche group of rabble-rousers.
•Should personal mobility scooters be regulated?
Yes, but only for safety concerns and not to an extent where those in real need are faced with bureaucratic hurdles to overcome in order to simply have the right to be mobile about town.
•Is a deer cull necessary in your municipality?
Yes, as long as Oak Bay & Saanich will cooperate. Deer do not respect municipal borders. I’ve spoken on the doorsteps with many people who’ve had pets attacked, property destroyed, and gardens trampled. Unfortunately, if you cannot afford fencing, you can no longer grow your own food in many neighbourhoods.
•Should secondary suites be legal in your municipality?
Yes. A homeowner should be able to divide and rent their home as they wish. Suites are invaluable to many household incomes. Thankfully suites are legal in Victoria, and they provide many students and lower income individuals & families with more affordable options than those in Oak Bay for example.
•Does your municipality need more stringent noise regulations?
Yes, while I have never experienced an issue with this, I have heard from numerous people that it is indeed an issue in some local neighbourhoods. However, I believe that tougher enforcement of the existing bylaws might put an end to most of the complaints.
•Do you believe the Capital Region’s mandatory summer time water use restrictions are necessary?
Yes, conservation is key. However, the CRD has recently decided to punish us for our effective conservation efforts. Due to the decreased demand, the CRD has raised the price of water. That is the real issue here, and one that I find deeply concerning.
•Should mayors be required to be a delegate to, and serve on committees of, the Capital Regional District Board?
Yes. When you have mayors who lack a regional perspective, we end up with municipalities that focus inwards only, and very little gets done that benefits all. We may have an excessive total of 13 municipalities, but we’re all in this together. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
What are your thoughts on the questionnaire and these issues?