Sierra Acton

Sierra Acton – Candidate for Reelection CVRD Area B Shawnigan Lake                                        

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

I have lived in Shawnigan Lake for 8 years. I quickly got involved with the local community, volunteering at schools then being part of the lead organizers working to rescind the Contaminated Soil Permit issued by the Ministry of Environment in 2013.

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?

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a clear priority. At the local government level we can work to retrofit our buildings with heat that is renewable, move our vehicle fleets towards low or lower emission options, increase housing density in areas with existing infrastructure/services and provide transportation options that reduce emissions, like public transportation and more trails. At the board level I have and will continue to support these endeavors. 

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 am a big advocate of outdoor recreation and trails. I have and will continue to work hard to build up or trial infrastructure so that people can move around the area safety without walking/riding/running along the side of the road.  In addition, Area B badly needs more public transportation. There are only a couple buses a day in this area, which in not enough to support a transition away from private vehicles. I would be supportive of any initiative that increases public transportation and/or ride sharing.  

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?

Adding housing and increasing housing affordability is important in Area B. I brought a motion to CVRD Board to work with Island Health to understand the size/density restrictions on lots in the village re: can we add more suites and carriage houses in the village area, since we have public water but no sewer yet? This would allow individual homeowners to quickly build some more affordable rental units and supplement their income.   Improving affordability allows more people to live close to family and support networks, and I’m talking to Cowichan Housing re: bringing a seniors housing project to Shawnigan Lake.

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?

Protection of our drinking water and food security are very important to me. I was a very active in the fight against the Contaminated Soil Dump next to Shawnigan Creek and I have continued to advocate for controls over the movement and dumping of large quantities of soil ever since.  Controlling erosion and other forms of pollution is a top priority for me. To this end, protecting the riparian area is also very important and I have been working with the rest of the board on a Watershed and Water Protection plan that will enable better inter-agency collaboration and enforcement.

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 am a big advocate of moving our buildings towards renewable resources wherever and whenever appropriate. I support any opportunity to retrofit older buildings with solar and/or heat pumps.  Through AVICC we are able to partner with other local governments to get better pricing on this new infrastructure as well.

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 engaged our community on the Think Shawnigan Plan, to help guide development of the village based on the community’s vision - the largest community engagement effort ever undertaken in Area B. It resulted in multiple grant-ready projects - one grant already obtained. This Plan is integral to the new OCP.  I brought a motion to the board for the CVRD to work with Island Health to understanding size/density restrictions on village lots re: could we safely add more suites and carriage houses in the village area.  This would allow individual homeowners to quickly build some more affordable rental units.

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?

The top 3 issues in Area B are:

Affordability: I would encourage everyone to inform themselves on the Regional Recreation Referendum that, if approved, will significantly increase taxes in Area B.

Sustainable Development: growth will happen, but it must be on our terms, and we must have the services to support it.   Development must be thoughtful and REALISTIC.

Lake access and outdoor spaces: I continue to focus on the community’s enjoyment of our lake and outdoor recreation. Completed projects are the Rail Trail, the pickle ball courts, the enhancements to Old Mill Park and the parking at Mason's Beach. 

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?

This is the role of the Chair. I have been the vice-chair twice, but if elected to the Chair of the CVRD board, I would welcome the opportunity to work with our local First Nations and other levels of government.