Are you ready to cast your vote in the upcoming provincial election? If not, you should have been one of the 50 or so residents who attended the All Candidates Meeting on May 7, at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena. The meeting was hosted by the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce, and was moderated by Elaine Eddy.
However, for those who could not attend, maybe you will find you are one step closer to deciding whose name you will check on your ballot after reading this summary of the meeting.
And just in case you are still wondering who the candidates are that are seeking your vote in this election they are: Kerry Davis of the Green Party; Steve Housser, Liberal Party; Bill Routley, NDP; Damir Wallener, Conservative; and Heather Campbell, independent.
As was to be expected, the question and answer forum was a chance for the candidates to respond to topics that concern Cowichan Lake area residents. These topics centred around, you guessed it, the logging truck dust issue in Youbou and Honeymoon Bay, local control of the Cowichan Watershed, the need to recruit physicians to the area, forestry, and school closures and education.
The questions asked of the candidates were asked by local residents who had either filled out a question form and submitted it to the CLDCC, or submitted their questions via email.
Question one, from CLDCC: If elected, would your party work with the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Coop to have a land based license over a volume based license?
Wallener: “I would work with them to understand exactly what the concern is. I’m not in the position to have an expert opinion on this, but I’m very open to anything that helps with the stewardship of our resources.”
Routley: “I’m definitely involved in community forestry and have been involved in community forestry all over BC. I do understand the Community Coop’s vision for the future and it’s definitely something that I would work towards.”
Housser: “If I’m not mistaken the Liberals have proposed moving more toward a land based and that was thought to be too quick, too fast. One of the difficulties [with land based] is you’re passing too much land into the hands of private holders. But for a community based, I think land based is excellent because you have community control. So I’d be fully in favour of working with the community to have a land based forestry practice here.”
Davis: “I am certainly for local community control of all the resources.”
Campbell: “I as well agree with the community being in control of the land base.”
Question two, from Sandy Cumming of One Cowichan: How do you plan to support the goal of local control of the water levels in the Cowichan River?
Routley: “We need to start handing over some level of community control to all our communities and getting decision making about things like fish and avoiding the kind of problems we’ve got with chemicals being dumped in the Cowichan Valley.”
Housser: “I support [the initiative] wholeheartedly, but with two quick provisos. One is, in one sense it’s downloading, which their asking for . . . I just say beware what you’re asking for because if you get it without the appropriate funding to look after what you’ve sought then you’re in some difficulty. The other thing is . . . who is local control and what does it constitute?”
Davis: “I signed on to One Cowichan’s pledge in the first week they had it. And while there are concerns about who exactly would be in control I don’t see a problem because there is the local Watershed Board who are all volunteers and they work really hard to understand these things.”
Campbell: “I’m in support of control of the water levels for the communities. The government’s not right here, the people are, and they know what the water levels are doing.”
Wallener: “I’ve added my name to a long list of people who are fully supportive of what One Cowichan is trying to accomplish. Certainly for our community we have sufficient local expertise and . . . we certainly have the motivation. We just need to sort out procedural issues such as who has control and where the funding comes from.”
Question: Does your party support keeping our kids here in Lake Cowichan and if so how do you plan on supporting the programs needed to keep the kids here? School Board by-election?
Housser: “What [kids] have to get is a good education. If that means being bussed into Duncan, possibly, but every effort being made if [reconvening the School Board] could come up with a better solution and it might be a greater consolidation of schools that would be far preferable.”
Davis: “The school is the heart of a community, and if you shut down the community then a lot of people are going to go elsewhere. As far as a by-election, I think that’s a good idea. We have had a trustee imposed on us. It would be a lot better if we had local involvement, not someone who’s been appointed by the province.
Campbell: “In Duncan they are talking about closing six schools, now if you bring the kids from here to Duncan then you’re talking about a whole lot of overcrowding in the schools. Our kids need to learn in their own hometown.”
Wallener: “People don’t leave because schools leave, schools leave because people have left. There are many problems, but the core issue here is that families have left. As far as the trustee goes, the School Board was fired because frankly, it didn’t do its job, they broke the law, it had to go.”
Routley: “In the NDP platform is 100 million for K-12 education and an additional 60 million for toddler care. One option now is to go to whoever is appointed minister of education and put back the trustees who were elected.”
Question from CLDCC: There has been a growing issue of dust coming off logging trucks passing through Youbou and Honeymoon Bay. If elected, how will you communicate with logging companies to resolve this issue and re-establish a cleaner and more health friendly environment?
Davis: “The problem is, really, that the road is owned by one group and the logging companies are separate so it’s partially an industry problem and we need to get their buy-in to try and figure this out.”
Campbell: “I think that we need to create some policy where the companies are more responsible for the problems that they’re causing.”
Wallener: “Folks should not have to endure the kind of dust problem that’s happening here. Rather than an approach that’s heavy, top down . . . have the people who are in the best position to fix the problem fix it.”
Routley: “It’s against the law in BC to be dumping debris and doing what they’re doing to the roads. We have a government that’s failed to act; they have got rid of all their compliance and enforcement people. As a result they’re not taking any action. We would enforce the law.”
Housser: “I’d first try to think about some melioration, whether it’s requiring the logging trucks to carry grey water with spray tanks behind to damp down the dust, [or]f there are infractions, going to the RCMP and saying this is a health issue and they’re breaking the law, and talk to the logging companies.”
The final, locally related question stemmed around the fact that Cowichan Lake will no longer have a physician servicing the area this fall. Candidates were asked what they would do to help solve this issue and attract a doctor to the area.
Housser: “Under the Liberals the number of seats at medical universities were doubled. I don’t think it indicates a lack of doctors across the province, it’s where they choose to locate. How you could encourage doctors to come here, I think one way is a speedier recognition of the qualifications of foreign doctors, [and] I think if you encourage doctors to come here with the promise of a certain allowance, there are incentives that can be used.”
Davis: “There are several ways [to try to keep doctors here]. The Green Party of BC has proposed community health centres so you would potentially need fewer doctors . . . and that allows them to have other nurse practitioners and nurses.”
Campbell: “There are incentives for them to come here. But I think we need to look at our own home by giving our medical students grants for their student loans and [other] incentives to keep them here.”
Wallener: “There are a number of ways we can do this. From reserving places for [local kids] in medical school if they commit to coming back to their communities, potentially grants or scholarships. Also the idea of putting types of doctors or classes of doctors on a salary basis. I suspect we’ll have to try a few pilot programs first and see what actually works.”
Routley: “I’ll definitely be aggressively pursuing a help for finding doctors. We need to improve the number of nurse practitioners, we need to work on more home support for seniors, and we need to eliminate the situation where doctors tell us there are 80 people every month who show up in the ER who just need a family doctor.”
Other questions focussed on job creation, log exports, negotiation with unions, and the state of VIHA and whether there is a need for a drastic overhaul of the organization.
Advanced voting began yesterday, so don’t forget to get out there and have your say. Advanced voting takes place May 8, 9, 10 and 11 in the multi-purpose room at the Cowichan Lake Sports arena from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. On May 14, election day, voting will take place in the Upper Centennial Hall, Honeymoon Bay Firehall, and the Youbou Hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.