Rob Douglas – Candidate for Mayor, North Cowichan
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what made you decide to run in this election?
We are facing a number of growing challenges in North Cowichan, from a lack of affordable housing and homelessness, to environmental degradation and the effects of climate change, to a loss of high-paying jobs and a rising cost of living. Local government can’t solve all these problems on its own, but we do have the tools to make a difference. As a life-long resident with a strong track record as a municipal Councillor and community volunteer, I can provide the strong leadership and new ideas to work with the next Council to tackle the big issues facing the community.
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?
Continue implementing actions in North Cowichan’s updated Climate Action & Energy Plan, with a target of reducing local emissions by 80% over the next 30 years. These include but are not limited to:
Coordinate land-use development through the Official Community Plan to direct land-use development in achieving compact, complete communities.
Develop a municipally-led deep energy efficiency and heating systems retrofits program.
Develop a prioritized list of municipal buildings to retrofit and perform energy audits, payback analyzes, and retrofits starting with the highest priority buildings.
Dedicate and deploy annual capital budget to new active transportation infrastructure for cycling and walking.
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?
Implement the following strategies, as outlined in the updated North Cowichan Climate Action & Energy Plan, including but not limited to:
Work in partnership with BC Transit to enhance transit service through expanded routes and frequency; right-sizing the transit fleet with smaller vehicles serving short and/or low passenger count routes; and developing an employer and institution transit incentive program that can be offered to employees and students.
Increase the active transportation mode share by identifying and developing cycling and walking infrastructure and networks; and dedicating and deploying annual capital budget to new active transportation infrastructure.
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?
The solutions to these overlapping crises all require significant support from the senior levels of government. As Mayor I would concentrate on working closely with other local governments leaders and First Nations in the Cowichan region to aggressively lobby the federal and provincial governments to help us address these crises – whether that involves providing funding through BC Housing to move forward with North Cowichan’s proposed co-op housing project, working with local farmers in the Lower Chemainus River Watershed to address issues related to flooding, or having Island Health expand substance use treatment facilities.
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?
As outlined in the new Official Community Plan, North Cowichan can protect, connect, and regenerate ecosystems and mitigate threats to biodiversity by:
Prohibiting the disturbance of environmentally sensitive areas and protecting areas with high biodiversity and ecosystem value.
Creating a biodiversity protection policy to preserve environmentally sensitive areas, supporting green infrastructure networks and regeneration of degraded sensitive areas.
To increase local food production and food security, North Cowichan can:
Connect potential farmers to agricultural land, including farmable land owned by the municipality.
Support local food initiatives and strive to reduce regulatory barriers to increase local agricultural activity and food production.
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 North Cowichan’s updated Climate Action & Energy Plan, which includes tangible actions to shift away from gas and oil to renewable energy sources, including:
Periodically increase the energy efficiency of new buildings using Step Code mechanics until all new buildings in 2030 onward are net-zero emissions.
Develop a municipally led deep energy efficiency and heating systems retrofits program.
Develop a prioritized list of municipal buildings to retrofit and perform energy audits, payback analyzes, and retrofits starting with the highest priority buildings. Carry out retrofits starting as soon as possible to meet the 2030 timeline.
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?
The recent completion of North Cowichan’s new Official Community Plan (OCP) was a major achievement, creating a long-term vision to guide growth and development in the municipality, with an emphasis on discouraging sprawl and accommodating new housing developments closer to our existing cores. This will allow the municipality to build walkable communities, protect greenspace, and make more efficient use of existing infrastructure. I am committed to working with the next Council to implement the vision as outlined in this document. As a first step, this will require updating North Cowichan’s outdated Zoning Bylaw so that it matches the new OCP.
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?
Lack of affordable housing: introduce affordable housing strategy with concrete actions (e.g., require all major housing developments to include a minimum percentage of units affordable for low and moderate income households).
Effects of climate change: Develop climate change adaptation strategy that recognizes the increased risks of extreme weather events (floods, wildfires, heat waves), and identifies actions North Cowichan can undertake in response (e.g., wildfire mitigation activities).
Homelessness and the opioid crisis: lobby senior levels of government to build more supportive housing with on-site supports, expand capacity of addictions treatment facilities, and provide funding to tackle issues related to street disorder.
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 Mayor I would work with local First Nations to schedule regular Council-to-Council meetings, to better understand one another and explore opportunities for collaboration. With regards to the federal and provincial governments, I would regularly meet with the local MP and MLAs to discuss how we can work together. In addition, I would aggressively lobby the senior levels of government for funding, resources, and other support to address major challenges in the community, and where appropriate, would do this in collaboration with the Chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and the Mayors for Duncan, Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan.