Elizabeth Croft - Candidate, North Cowichan Council & School Board
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what made you decide to run in this election?
My family and I moved to North Cowichan 12 years ago. My earlier career was as a communication professional creating marketing, broadcast, documentary, and training programs. After being a full-time Mom, I achieved my Communications Masters. Since, I’ve worked at the Duncan Cowichan Chamber advocating for that community. In 2018, I became the Director of Grant Management at the Cowichan Intercultural Society. I love community. I adore working with people who feel the same. There is joy in being connected and getting things done. I find systems and dynamics intrinsically fascinating – especially making them work for the people they serve.
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?
Green building standards with active transportation options woven into new developments & ongoing “retrofitting” old infrastructure, adding active transportation to established areas.
New buildings have e-vehicle charging, incentivize retrofitting existing structures.
Electrify municipal fleet & heavy equipment – drawing on grants.
Include ethical/green assessment, embodied carbon & carbon sequestration in purchasing, with guidance for community to do same.
Incentivize business to electrify fleet with partner rebates.
More trees and wetlands for carbon sequestration.
Raising the weir. Monitoring wetlands and aquifer. All are critical to combatting drought which diminishes carbon sequestration & increases fire risk.
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?
Moderate densification, with walkable, vibrant, connective design. This makes walking/biking more feasible and increases viability for public transit. Ditto for electric car share programs & apartment car share.
Retail, recreational, libraries available within walkable/bikeable areas.
Encourage work-from-home, planning for smaller commercial areas, recognizing that staff needn’t be on site.
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?
Supported housing has accomplished the “housing first” strategies predicted. People are healing, returning to independence, getting jobs, care, and safety. Affordable housing (below market, rent controls …etc. etc.) will keep some people in their homes, and off the streets. It took 100 individuals & agencies to set up The Village on Trunk Road, it will take as many voices to makes the solutions and futures solutions viable.
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?
The solution to drought is water. Wise water restrictions are critical. Raising the weir will help. Also, water storage solutions for home and commercial use. With so much rain in the winter, our problem isn’t so much lack of water, it’s lack of storage to get us through the summer. Few houses have grey water systems, but they are a (fairly) easy retrofit to supplement gardens, and sizeable systems supplement commercial gardens. We have a natural permaculture swale on our property that keeps the lower field green year-round – another proven method for capturing water during drought conditions.
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 the move, but also think we’ll have to consider the (current) expense of electricity over gas and wood. My first step would be examine the many locales that have deeply encouraged and triggered the switch to electricity for HVAC to find strategies to suit our community
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 see governance as testing implementation, standards development, bylaws, etc. as to how those processes align with the OCP values & vision. The OCP should represent a collective vision that Council must honour. To ensure we do so, planned advisory group or wider consultation is critical. Because it can be complex, with competing interests, unexpected externalities, it’s helpful to have a “road map” for the process. Even though things change, a road map can remain fluid without straying too far from our goals. Implementation must consider the provincial Developmental Process Review as we develop permitting standards & consultation processes.
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?
Climate Change – operationalize the values in OCP with rigorous, evidence-based standards. Initiate carbon sequestration projects.
Marginalization: Includes the unhoused & opioid crisis.
- Supported housing with collective efforts to settle the facilities peaceably within neighbourhoods.
- Free family recreation programs that also promote access to services.
Food security/precariousness – too many families have inadequate or precarious food supply. Local food production will help, but increasing family food budgets/income is also key – a green, innovative, circular economic development.
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 a School Trustee, I’m familiar with government-to-government cooperation. I supported the negotiations with the region’s First Nations that led to the All Nations Education Council Proclamation. Early productive steps at the District included First Nations Place Names, resident Knowledge Keeper & decolonizing symbols, plaques etc. Steps that provided allyship evidence.
Provincially & federally: requires personal relationship & communication with local MLA’s & MP. I would parallel this with provincial organizations such as UBCM for a collective voice.