Jenni Capps

Jenni Capps – Candidate for Reelection, Duncan Council

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

I was born and raised in this community, and have chosen to continue living, working, and raising my own child here. I've volunteered for many local groups and events such as Safe Youth Cowichan, the Community Safety Advisory Commission, the Islands Folk Festival, the Cowichan Folk Guild, and was fortunate enough to serve 3 years as Duncan's Youth Mayor. This experience taught me much about local government. I have been employed at small local businesses for 13 years in downtown Duncan, where I live. I love this city and truly can't imagine living anywhere else.

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?

I've chaired the city's Environment & Sustainability Committee for the past 4 years. The committee has prioritized the following items for completion in 2022-2026 (in no particular order):

-Facilitate the development of complete neighbourhoods
-Expand the active transportation network
-Expand the EV charging network
-Support the replacement of high-carbon heating sources with low-carbon heating sources
-Require highly energy-efficient new construction
-Enhance Local Food Systems and Urban Agriculture

I will continue to support our participation in the Clean BC Better Home Program, and advocate for a high environmental standard overall.

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?

- Improving connectivity within jurisdictions for all modes of transportation
- Improving pedestrian infrastructure, increasing safety and accessibility for a walkable community
- Expanding the EV charging network
- As a bonus one, advocating for improvements to public transit

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?

100 words to outline solutions to these complex issues is not enough. It's critical that we use the tools we have as a municipality to approve diverse housing options, and that we require meaningful affordability for a portion of new builds. We must continue to seek support from higher levels of government to help those with mental health and addiction issues. Downloading from higher levels of government onto municipalities without adequate financial support is a big issue. These issues have been a high priority in Duncan. I will continue to support projects to house citizens and help them stabilize.

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?

Having thoughtful water-use restrictions, stringent requirements for new builds, and supporting local food systems are all critical work that can be done at the local government level.

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?

Yes, I think it’s important that we have a high environmental standard for all new builds, and to provide support to allow citizens and businesses to choose lower-impact options wherever possible.

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?

We are currently waiting for next steps while we prepare to send our draft OCP back to the community for additional consultation. It was important to all of council that we listened to what we heard from the community around additional opportunities to comment, rather than rushing the OCP through. The Environment & Sustainability Committee was pleased to provide our feedback and strengthen much of the language around environmental requirements, and if elected, I look forward to having another look at what the community comes back to us with and considering at that time the best ways to provide support.

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?

Housing affordability and homelessness: Continue to support a diverse mix of housing options with an emphasis on affordability based on income, and well-thought-out density near the downtown core.

Rising costs: Strike a balance between modest tax rates and providing high-quality services. Upcoming costs (RCMP, inflation) are outside of our control, so we must prioritize carefully and be creative with what we can control.

Environmental protection: Focus on local resilience and enabling citizens to make choices for a livable, sustainable future e.g., support local food systems and expand multimodal transportation networks.

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?

With open communication, a spirit of cooperation, and respect.