Rosalie Sawrie - Candidate for Mayor

Rosalie Sawrie - Candidate for Mayor – North Cowichan                                            

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

I live in Westholme and have 15 years of community building and engagement experience on issues around environment, housing, and poverty. I was elected onto North Cowichan Council in 2018. I ran with the goal to balance our housing needs with environmental protection and community engagement. This still applies today. I strongly believe that we need to work together, from all backgrounds, in government and in community to find solutions to the complex challenges we are facing. I have the skills and experience to set the stage for collaborative leadership through respectful dialogue, sound governance and clear decision making.

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?

North Cowichan completed its Climate Action and Energy Plan remodeling in early 2022 with the goal of reducing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050. Staff and the Environmental Advisory Committee have identified priority actions to implement from that plan. Moving to renewable energy generated electricity is a priority. We are also offering rebates for energy efficiency retrofits through the CleanBC "Better Homes" rebate program and incentives for reaching Step Code 3 or higher with new builds which I will continue to support. See below for transportation answers as well.

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?

With the prioritization of increasing density within our urban cores, this will provide closer access to employment, amenities, and services, and improve walkability and uptake of more active and public transportation options. NC is also actively working on revising its Master Transportation Plan which will identify ways to reduce vehicle travel and improve active and public transportation. It is also expected that with the continuing increase in uptake of electric vehicles, especially with the provincial goal of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2040, this will help in reducing emissions.

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?

All of these challenges require housing.  We cannot expect people to take climate action without safe and secure housing. An Affordable Housing Strategy is in the works. Densification of our urban core centers, outside of the floodplain, needs to be a priority. This requires full engagement and participation by the development community. By understanding the challenges with the municipality's development approval processes we will be able to build housing more efficiently with environmental protections. Working with all governments, First Nations and Island Health will also be key to building housing and ensuring services people need are accessible.

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?

It's important to work with all governments/First Nations on conservation and water storage. We need to seek input from the agricultural community on how we can support them with water during drought periods so they do not lose crops. Our Strategic Agricultural Plan is outdated and needs revision, especially with how drastic conditions have changed over recent years. Advocating to higher levels of government for mental and physical health services for farmers is a high priority as well as ensuring access to feed and supplies, especially during severe storm events that have previously cut off transportation from other areas.

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?

With the provincial government continuing to subsidize LNG rather than investing into alternative energy and encouraging LNG in new buildings, it makes it challenging for local governments to have much influence when it remains more cost effective. I would continue to advocate to higher levels of government to transition those funds to more renewable energies, making it easier for local governments to meet their emission reduction targets. I will also build better relationships with our development community and encourage them to explore alternative energy solutions in new buildings as we complete our District Energy Feasibility Study.

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?

Next steps following the adoption of the Official Community Plan is to develop implementation steps through departmental business and budget planning. Local area plans will need to be developed so neighbourhoods understand the changes that will result from the OCP. I also believe that Council should review any development applications from land owners who have been negatively affected by the urban containment boundary land-use changes for consideration, on a case by case basis, to bridge the gap before reviewing the zoning bylaw.   

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 of all kinds is urgently needed – please see above. Climate adaptation is critical to ensuring safe and resilient neighbourhoods and protecting existing investments, assets and infrastructure. The municipality is currently working on a natural asset management plan and biodiversity strategy to ensure environmental preservation and restoration. Supporting local economic stability by creating housing and working with Economic Development Cowichan to encourage new, innovative industry and service opportunities that create jobs that pay a livable wage and improve affordability. 

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?

Building and maintaining relationships is key with all partners and has always been a top priority for me, as demonstrated recently when I attended the UBCM conference prior to this campaign. I will continue to focus on regular communication and updates of municipal business and engaging as soon as possible when challenges or new circumstances arise. As mayor, I would continue North Cowichan's participation with the Cowichan Leadership Team made up of all four mayors, the CVRD chair, Local First Nation Chiefs, local MLAs, RCMP, Island Health and others to update and work with senior levels of government on our housing, health and other challenges.