Election 2014 - Cowichan At A Crossroads

(This piece also appears in November's Valley Voice)

When out of town friends tell me they are thinking of moving to the Cowichan Valley I have two competing reactions. First, I’m proud to live in such a great place that others want to come to. Then I worry that it’s probably not just my friends, but a lot of people, and that we’re not ready for that.

It feels like Cowichan is at a bit of a crossroads, and that who we elect for local government on November 15 will play a big part in which road we travel together.

One Cowichan is currently running a campaign to engage people in this election. We recently ran a community survey and were excited that about 700 people took the time to answer.  The dominant theme we got back was conservation – a desire to see this great place protected and our quality of life preserved.

There are also some collective challenges we face, with the survey indicating the most prominent being water and watershed management. Climate change is changing the game on water, putting municipal infrastructure, fish and wildlife, and lots of local jobs at risk.

Who we elect on November 15 will either rise to these challenges, or not. In fact, there is not much about our day to day lives that local Mayors and Councillors do not touch, from what our neighbourhoods look like, to where our kids play, to who – or what – we end up living next to.

Will local councils promote compact multi-use development or will they promote sprawl? Will they create the right conditions for the Valley’s growing local food movement? Will they convince voters that taxes are being spent wisely? Will they pursue reconciliation with one of the largest First Nations populations that we have here in Cowichan?

The second most dominant theme in our survey was about democracy and accountability. There is concern that local government could do a better job connecting with citizens not just at election time, but all the time. Many candidates promise more consultation, but what are their specific ideas to actually deliver?

In short, there’s a lot to vote for this November, and we’re working to make it easier to see which candidates share your vision. We have surveyed all local candidates and are posting the answers on our website.

In the past, our voter turnout hasn’t been great, about one third of people showing up to the polls. But it feels like there’s more energy this time out. Not only did we get great pickup on our survey, but there are also more candidates running. Our recent municipal election social event burst at the seams.

As a citizens group we are asking fellow citizens to help us build on this momentum and get friends and neighbours engaged. Studies show the single most effective way to get somebody to vote is to ask them in person. If each of us did that 25 times, we’d make those ballot boxes burst at the seams too.

Don’t forget there are three opportunities to vote this election, on November 5, 12, and 15. Check out your local government website or ours for details.


Matt Price is a Director of One Cowichan, a local citizens group