Candidate for North Cowichan Councillor: Christopher Justice

Christopher Justice



  • 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 several generations. After earning a doctorate degree, I taught at McMaster University. Ten years ago, my wife Patricia and I moved back to the Valley to raise our two children. I care deeply about this community. I am currently a member of the North Cowichan Environmental Advisory Committee, a director of the Social Planning Cowichan society, and a director of the Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society. I am running in this election because I believe I can make a positive contribution to our community.

  • Do you support the Drinking Water & Watersheds Protections Service bylaw referendum?  

YES. We are facing many water challenges related to population growth and climate change. Aquifers are getting low and increased drought and irregular snow pack are challenging the viability of the Cowichan river as a salmon habitat. My own work has been related to mitigation of the cyanobacteria blooms in Quamichan lake caused excess phosphorus and increasingly long hot summers. The proposed service may not be as well worked out as some would like, and there is an additional tax cost, but it must be seen as an absolutely necessary first step in the right direction.

  • Do you support the Cowichan Housing Association Service Establishment bylaw? 

YES. There is a well-documented need for inexpensive, subsidized and below market social housing in our community. Thought there is some community concerns about yet more bureaucracy and tax, my experience as a board member of Social Planning Cowichan has led me to have faith in the proposed model of funding the CHA, which will then be able to 1) work toward fully understanding the local need and 2) attract federal money to incentivize construction. There is tremendous risk in inaction both to the people immediately affected and the well-being of the community generally. This is a critical first step. 

  • How do you plan to work with other governments within the region, including local First Nations as well as provincial and federal governments?

Water issues are a good example of need for collaboration and coordination between levels of government. An example from my experience working on water quality issues in Quamichan lake is that the feds, multiple branches of provincial government, Cowichan Tribes, the municipality, and the CVRD all have an interest and role in a solution. ENGOs like the Cowichan Watershed Board, co-chaired by Tribes and CVRD with a broad representation of other governance seems an effective mode of working on these complex problems.     

  • One Cowichan supporters have expressed concerns about climate change, especially local impacts on our water resources. What local climate change mitigation and/or adaptation strategies would you support if elected?  

As a member of the NC Environmental Advisory Committee I am involved enacting our municipal climate plan, and would work to see it become a core principle of a new Official Community Plan. GHG reduction strategies which I strongly support include: preserving farmland and encouraging local agriculture, concentrating growth in areas walkable to the commercial core, and site-adaptive conservation development that leaves green corridors. I am supportive of efforts to protect our watershed and our municipal forest reserve. As a director of Social Planning Cowichan, I have been supportive of their work on neighbourhood level adaptations to climate change.

  • How do you propose managing growth sustainably in the Cowichan Region (e.g. transportation, environmental/agricultural protection, land-use, housing, cost of living)?

Residents of North Cowichan highly value the rural feel and natural beauty of our communities. To sustain these qualities while accommodating growth and change requires a plan - a long term growth plan that realistically considers the carrying capacities of both the natural and built environments. I would work toward encouraging collaborative regional growth strategy as a basis for our North Cowichan OCP revision. We need to ensure that the community develops in a manner that reflects the impacts of climate and toward more compact and greenspace-preserving forms of development such as conservation subdivisions and in-fill development.

  • 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?

1) Climate change. Summer droughts and sporadic snowpacks are challenging our lakes and rivers. Local government must take this as core to all of their decision making.

2) Our economy is changing. As housing becomes more expensive, there are fewerjobs that pay a living wage. Local government must find creative solutions to housing and encourage new types of economic development .

3) We need long-term thinking, solving the problems we are facing with solutions that preserve the environment, our rural nature, and the character of our diverse neighbourhoods for future generations.

  • Our citizen surveys indicate a desire for more consultation and accountability between elected officials and their constituents. If elected, what would your approach be to those issues?

At its core, the municipality is about serving the residents of the community and local government must see the value in working closely with citizens to achieve this. We should capitalise on local knowledge through such means as expansion of select citizen advisory committees and task forces, and deeper involvement of neighbourhood groups and other community non-profits in the decisions that will affect their specific communities. I would work to ensure meaningful citizen involvement in the crafting of our new Official Community Plan (OCP). I would support an early notification system for all development proposals and major policy decision making.