Christopher Justice – Candidate for Re-election to North Cowichan Council https://www.christopherjustice.ca/
1) Please tell us a bit about yourself and what made you decide to run in this election?
My family has lived in the Cowichan Valley for a couple of generations. I have a doctorate in health social sciences. I was elected to Council in 2018. Before that I was on the North Cowichan Environmental Advisory Committee and the Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society. With the completion of a new progressive Official Community Plan, the next Council will have to make important implementation decisions that will affect the future of the Valley– decisions that will directly affect such things as housing affordability, the environment, and our response to climate change that I’d like to continue to contribute to.
2) 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?
Over the past four years on Council, I have been an enthusiastic part of the remodeling the Municipality’s Climate Action and Energy Plan which resulted in the January 22 document “North Cowichan Climate Action and Energy Update”. This document contains a chapter, “Goals and Actions for a Low Carbon Future” containing a prioritized list of climate actions including but not limited to Shifting personal and commercial vehicles to electric vehicles; Retrofitting homes for energy efficiency and switching to heat pumps, Improving industrial/commercial energy efficiency, and Replacing natural gas with hydrogen and renewable natural gas.
3) 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?
Three ideas I would work to implement: Shifting personal and commercial vehicles to electric vehicles; Installation of Civic Charging Infrastructure; Providing infrastructure and Incentives to increase active transportation options.
4) 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?
Ensuring thoughtful and responsible planning that guarantees that the right kinds of development and change occur in the right places, as outlined in our new Official Community Plan which directs future growth toward existing centers. Doing so will help ensure development of a more affordable, diverse and accessible range of housing types for both residents and newcomers alike, creation of communities that are vibrant and safe, lead to protection of our natural environment and sensitive ecosystems such as the remnant Garry Oak meadows, lakes, Coastal Douglas Fir forests, and result in reduced emissions and resilience to climate changes
5) 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?
I am committed to continuing the municipality’s efforts to improve the water quality and health of aquatic habitats and working toward completion of a management plan for municipal forests. I am committed to integrating natural assets (e.g., wetlands) into the municipal asset management plan to ensure they are properly valued and cared for and restoring the natural values of our rivers and estuaries (e.g., Chemainus River estuary, Cowichan/Koksilah River estuary), I strongly support protecting all farmable land for future food security and I support taking actions to support the expansion of small scale, food and aquaculture production and processing
6) 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?
I support North Cowichan’s new Climate Action and Energy Plan’s prioritized list of climate actions including replacing natural gas with hydrogen and renewable natural gas and decreasing building emissions. The Step Code establishes a path to fossil fuel free buildings including ensuring by 2030 that new buildings are constructed to net-zero GHG emissions standards, have at least 10% of their electricity produced on-site by solar PV systems and have efficient fixtures and irrigation to achieve a reduction in water use. New construction will have to avoid connecting to natural gas systems to achieve North Cowichan’s emissions reduction targets.
7) 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?
After a 3-year-long, community driven planning process, North Cowichan recently adopted a new OCP that provides a framework for addressing the social, economic, and environmental challenges we will be facing over the next decade or more. Steps to realize this vision are underway, including an affordable housing policy, a biodiversity protection policy, the Municipal Forest Reserve planning process, the Climate Action and Energy Plan update and more. One critical priority for next term is getting the land use zoning bylaw process underway as this is central to realizing our new growth management, social, economic, and environmental policies.
8) 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?
I believe I reflect community values in my top three issues: 1) affordable housing in thriving and safe communities; 2) climate change and protection and restoration of our natural environments; and 3) creating a strong and diverse regenerative local economy with fiscally responsible government spending and taxation. Making progress on these issues requires commitment and creativity from the community, council, and staff, and, most importantly, a collaborative spirit for working together and with other levels of government. Solutions must reflect the things we value: the environment, our rural nature, and the character and resiliency of our diverse neighbourhoods.
9) 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?
While we already do work closely with other levels of government and governments like the Cowichan Nation and the CVRD with interests in our shared land base, we must move to a more regional, and integrated approach to everything we do, including housing policy, environmental protection/ regeneration, economic development. This would start with more active communication and collaboration at all levels of government. We've already laid the groundwork for closer government to government relations and decision making with Cowichan Nation through the forestry planning process and I would continue to build on these early steps.