Alison Nicholson – Candidate for Re-election, CVRD Area E Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora www.alisonnicholson.net
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what made you decide to run in this election?
I fell in love with the Valley over 30 years ago and settled with my family in Cowichan Station to be on the land growing food. I studied ecology and spent my career working to understand and soften our environmental footprint. My passion is volunteering on projects like creating the HUB at Cowichan Station and caring for the Koksilah Watershed. People coming together to tackle a community problem is incredibly inspiring. My work with the Cowichan Station Area Association, and the friendships that grew from that work, led me to put my skills and energy into working for the larger region.
The climate science is clear - we need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 45% from 2005 levels by 2030 to address the devastating climate impacts (heat waves, fires, floods, droughts) we face. What priority actions to reduce GHG emissions locally will you advocate to get local government on course to meet that 45% reduction by 2030, less than 7 ½ years from now?
I’ll continue advocating for:
Faster implementation of the step code for buildings
Electric charging infrastructure in all new builds and major renovations.
Investment in rural roads to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
CVRD green fleet plan with multi-jurisdictional bulk buying to reduce costs.
Carbon sequestration targets for forests.
Ability for regional districts to regulate tree cutting on lands in addition to hazard areas.
Investment in our recreational and other building infrastructure to maximize energy efficiency.
Transportation, mostly in private cars and trucks, is reported to be responsible for 72% of GHG emissions in the Cowichan Valley. What three strategies to reduce emissions from transportation, while also supporting local people getting where they need to go, would you work to implement?
I’ll advocate for:
Modernized official community plan regulations that focus growth in compact communities where there are complete services to minimize travel and electric charging infrastructure in all new builds and major renovations.
Active Transportation investment e.g., greater MOTI investment in rural roads to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists, greater electoral area investment in roadside pathways, etc.
Transit – focus on building new ridership in core areas as well as inter-community commuter service.
We’re not only in a climate crisis, we’re in multiple overlapping crises, including affordable housing, homelessness, and the opioid overdose crises. If elected to local government, what interconnected solutions would you advocate to address these social and environmental crises in the Cowichan Valley?
We do not have enough affordable housing so new builds are required. It will be critical to use this opportunity to focus that growth into compact complete neighbourhoods while protecting the rural green spaces that surround our more urban communities. Rural green spaces are critical for maintaining a healthy ecological foundation, water supply, food production, recreation, and spiritual solace etc.
The Cowichan Valley is experiencing increasing climate-related cycles of drought and flooding in our watersheds, as well as other damage to natural ecosystems and farmland caused by development pressures. These trends threaten our salmon and our food security. What actions must local government take to better protect our watersheds and drinking water, as well as increase local food production and food security? What protections should local government put in place?
We need to be planning from a whole of watershed perspective. Everything is connected. I always think that if we focus on protecting water many other ecological values like biodiversity will also be protected. We also need to be acquiring parkland in areas where protection will be a key contributor to watershed restoration and protection. This can be accomplished if we work together across jurisdictions and particularly with First Nations. The Cowichan Watershed Board is a testament to that.
Emissions from buildings are second only to transportation emissions here in the Cowichan Valley. Local groups working together on climate change solutions have asked all five of our local governments to commit to getting fossil fuel emissions - gas and oil - out of our built environment. Do you support this move, and what next steps would you advocate local government take to achieve this?
Yes – I will advocate at the Board table for accelerating the implementation of the step code and requirements for electric charging infrastructure in all new builds and major renos.
Most of our local governments have either, like North Cowichan, recently approved a new Official Community Plan (OCP) or are in the process of updating or harmonizing their OCP (CVRD) with stronger social and environmental directions for our Cowichan communities. How would you support the OCP approved for your community in moving forward, including implementing the bylaws needed?
The CVRD has a draft modernized OCP and at this point the most important thing is to receive community feedback, adjust it and put it into bylaws as soon as possible. At the same time, and even more critically, it is important that regulations are written and passed that accurately reflect the intent of the OCP policies. This is a big task but must be done asap.
What do you consider the three most pressing issues facing local government and the one most important thing local government should do on each one?
Housing – work collaboratively with community organizations to develop new builds as well as providing services and supports for the homeless and precariously housed.
Climate Adaptation – we need to make significant investments to ensure our infrastructure is adequate for the rapidly changing climate e.g., in some rural areas, stormwater management is entirely inadequate and must be addressed.
Climate Mitigation – ecosystems in the region are under stress yet they are also significant carbon stores. We need a ecosystem-based plan for protection and management that will protect and grow the carbon storage potential and ensure ecological resilience into the future.
How do you plan to work with other governments within our region, including working with Local First Nations, as well as the provincial and federal governments?
As an electoral area director, I will be well positioned to work regionally with the other local governments. I have been a member and advocate for the Cowichan Watershed Board which has helped start the CVRD on its way to respecting and building relationships with First Nations. I am fully committed to listening deeply, setting aside my differences, gathering and sharing information and speaking from the heart which is the only way to work effectively and move things forward.