Deborah Toporowski

Deborah Toporowski – Candidate for Re-election to North Cowichan Council  

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what made you decide to run in this election?

I was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley.

I am passionate about fighting for the protection of our local water, land and air but also understand the need for balance between our environment and a strong economy. We can truly have both; it does not have to be one or the other. I am an inclusive person who knows how to lead and will bring your voice to the table on social and economic issues.  
I will push forward at the table for the right balance of economic, environmental and social issues that we all care about.

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?

Transforming our communities and regions towards a low-carbon, resilient future requires thinking about climate action from all angles. Efforts at the local level to mitigate and adapt to climate change offer substantial benefits, including healthier and more livable communities, now and for the future. Continue to support the Climate Action and Energy Plan (CAEP).

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?

Ensuring that communities are walkable and well-connected no matter people’s preferred choice of transportation means that growth and development must be managed thoughtfully.  The Master Transportation Plan will help respond to the various challenges related to establishing an integrated transportation system for the Municipality.

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?

COVID had magnified these issues, but also brought people together in different ways to step up through these difficult times.

My vision is that we can all work together to come up with practical solutions to the issues. Not only do we need to form short term solutions for the issues we face today, but also find long term solutions for these issues into the future. We need to value the diverse voices in our community, by creating safe spaces to express open dialogue, and work cooperatively to create an inclusive & healthy community.

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?

North Cowichan has Climate action commitments and is a participant in the provincial Climate Action Charter and a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Partners for Climate Protection Program.

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?

Transforming our communities and regions towards a low-carbon, resilient future requires thinking about climate action from all angles. 

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?

I support this moving forward, including the bylaws needed. 

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?

Affordable housing: Encouraging and enable a diverse mix of housing types. New housing units approved and built will be a mix of 30% detached 70% attached.

Community Safety: A healthy safe and resilient community is one where access to community social services, affordable housing, parks, trails and open space, clean air and water, locally grown food promotes positive interaction and healthy outcomes among all residents.

Food Security: In North Cowichan we need to encourage local food production and protect farmable land.

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?

I have entered Municipal politics at a very interesting time with the Federal and Provincial Governments looking at implementing (UNDRIP) United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I served four terms as an elected Cowichan Tribes Councillor from 2013 to 2022. I have gained experience working with all levels of government through my 12 years of work in the MLA’S office as Constituency Assistant. Over the years I have received a lot of guidance and knowledge from our Elders.  I would like to continue to improve connection with all levels of government.