Peter W. Rusland

Peter W. Rusland - Candidate for North Cowichan Council                                   

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

I am 66. As a retired 25-year Cowichan reporter, I have the time and know our local issues and governance. I am running for a North Cowichan council seat because I am passionate about preserving our municipality from sprawl using our Official Community Plan, encouraging smart growth to create jobs, affordable housing and profits/income for locals. Let's keep it rural by revitalizing farming, preserving water, and inviting new businesses that fit North Cowichan. My realistic ideas, based on citizens' issues include a tree bylaw, saving Quamichan Lake, energy pilot projects, tackling addictions and fighting homelessness.

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?  

Install solar panels to power municipal buildings; promote home solar panels through Cowichan Carbonbusters; enact a municipal policy of electric vehicles; help establish an ethanol plant to fuel municipal and private gas vehicles; urge more electric-charging units including at local gas stations; education about driving less and walking more; focus on building pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods with shops and services to curb driving; smaller local transit buses for realistic use; ban outdoor burning and new wood stoves; pass a strict tree-protection bylaw; and enact vigorous tree-planting program.

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?

I would advocate for smaller transit vehicles that are realistically used. Those can be electric or other alternative powered, perhaps some experimentally clean vehicles such as hydrogen and ethanol. 2. Support the Island Corridor Foundation's plan to resurrect our sidelined train to carry commuters from Cowichan to various workplaces then home. We would need a park-and-ride system linked to the train. I also support more trail development and encouragement to bike to work and shopping. 3. Private, and perhaps municipal, transportation options such as clean-powered shuttles so folks do not have to drive. Car pooling would be urged. 

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?

Developing local models is essential to working with senior government levels for funding. We need affordable and crisis housing — befitting neighbourhoods, and respecting residents' issues — for three complex groups: addicts; mentally challenged; and working or unemployed homeless, plus low-income people. House then help addicts with addictions counselling available. The mentally challenged can be helped with housing suiting their needs. Other residential facilities are sorely needed for them. A range of workable housing models can help homeless and low-income people: co-operatives, affordable housing based on 30% of income, and community groups' subsidized housing. Rent controls are a must.

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?

Work with Victoria, Crofton mill and our Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Service on building the Cowichan River weir to protect salmon habitat. That work can benefit Chemainus River and other North Cowichan waters. Council and the CVRD must use limits to growth and population considering limited water supplies. Promote high-tech agricultural industries that reduce water needs, yield jobs, boost farm markets and help supply the Island. Official community plans must be used to prevent sprawl that is water dependent. Eco-zones around lakes and waterways are vital. Year-round water conservation, low-flow toilets, and high-tech sewage treatment are a must. 

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. We need a consolidated commitment by Cowichan's governments for the best chance at reducing fossil-fuel use and emissions. Alternative methods of heating and cooling are crucial. Solar panels can power high-efficiency heat pumps in municipal, commercial, industrial, and residential buildings. Education of home and business owners, and developers, is needed to dissuade them from hooking to gas, much of it fracked. Mandating walkable communities to curb driving, and promoting alternative building materials — such as cob — plus green-design methods will reduce fossil use while producing character communities, maintaining personal health, and preserving property values. 

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'll use North Cowichan's new OCP as a strongly principled guideline to preventing sprawl, boosting water conservation, creating efficient building design, reducing the carbon footprint, fighting climate change, installing tree and forest protection, promoting efficient transit, creating walkable communities with amenities, and attracting businesses.  I'll back logical new zoning bylaws complementing our OCP's green-leaning tenets of smart growth. I'll support redrawn urban-containment boundaries to reduce conflicts about where, how and what to build. Builds must fit neighbourhoods. Zoning fitting development sites, and recommending projects needed for North Cowichan — such as affordable and rental housing — streamlines development approvals or rejections.

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 economic health, 2 preserving environmental health, and 3 developing social-health solutions. They are intertwined. Our long-term economy depends on leaders embracing a results-based economic-development model such as an arm's-length corporation. Attract clean, sunrise businesses — high-tech, manufacturing, and agricultural industries — needed in North Cowichan to create jobs and boost our tax base. Our environmental health pivots on employing bylaws preserving rural character, farmland, water, forests, and biodiversity, vital to our nature-based lifestyle, tourism, and farm sectors. Using our official community plan, and other bylaws, is key to tackling complex social-health needs spanning addiction crises, affordable housing, medical staffing and more.  

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?

Use continual face-to-face meetings with Duncan councillors, school trustees, CVRD directors and First Nations' leaders for collaborative answers to problems common to each body. Those meetings should be flanked by feedback from frequent public town-hall gatherings about crucial issues. Residents' fact-based feedback scrubs confusion, rumours, and misunderstandings. Public huddles must be promoted in the press, social media and elsewhere. Citizen input can be better gained by moving to evening council meetings. Elected First Nations' officials deserve seats on the CVRD. Collective ideas and solutions can then be better shared with provincial and federal governments for funding and guidance.