11 Questions for the Candidates

Nanaimo and Area Land TrustThe Nanaimo and Area Land Trust (NALT) is hosting an all candidates forum in the ballroom of the Coast Bastion Hotel, 11 Bastion Street, at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 29, 2008. The focus will be on on issues related to the environmental sustainability of the region. In June NALT put out a call to residents to send them, by mid-September, questions that they would most like to ask all candidates around sustainability issues. NALT has now completed the work of reviewing and condensing a large volume of excellent questions submitted by the community over the past several months. A list of "Top 11" questions to be put to all candidates at the Nanaimo forum appears below. Verbal replies will be limited to 30 seconds each.

Over-riding Question About Environmental Sustainability

1) Preamble: There seem to be many views on what is meant by “sustainability”.

QUESTION: Define your understanding of the phrase “living more sustainably”. As a decision-maker, what will you do to make Nanaimo, other RDN communities and rural areas of the RDN more environmentally sustainable to live in?

Questions about Environmental Quality

2) Preamble: In view of air quality concerns and global climate change, some cities have taken steps to ban drive-in windows for fast food restaurants and reduce the length of time that cars can “idle” their engines. Other cities have enacted bans or heavy user-fees on the use of plastic bags, disposable plastic utensils and dishes to reduce landfills and reduce the production of petroleum-based plastics.

QUESTION: If elected, will you work to initiate bans and/ or user-fees that would promote better air and water quality, and reduce landfills? If not, why not?

3) Preamble: A bylaw to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides currently proposed for the City of Nanaimo applies to residential property owners only, while government-owned and Municipal and Regional properties would be exempt from such a bylaw.

QUESTION: Will you, as an elected representative, commit to implementing a universal ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides (including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) in the Municipalities and the rural areas of the RDN? If not, why not?

Questions about Planning/Development/Growth Policies

4) PREAMBLE: The first goal of Nanaimo's new Official Community Plan is to manage urban growth and reduce urban sprawl by guiding development to areas that already have urban services. Plan Nanaimo states that under existing zoning for single family and multi-family residential uses, there are sufficient lands already available to accommodate future growth in Nanaimo for the next 20 to 25 years without using lands designated as “urban reserves”.

QUESTION: What steps will you take to ensure that lands available under existing development zoning are utilized first before allowing any “urban reserve” lands to be rezoned for development?

5) PREAMBLE: The Regional Growth Strategy is a good document, yet we are failing to meet most of its goals.

QUESTION : If elected, what specific steps will you take to ensure that the targeted goals of the RGS are met?

6) PREAMBLE: The City of Nanaimo and many areas of the RDN are known for extraordinary views of the Strait of Georgia and offshore islands. An objective in Nanaimo's 2008 OCP is to protect the character and extent of existing views of the inner harbour and Newcastle Channel; yet the bylaw limiting the height of buildings along the waterfront has been eliminated.

QUESTION: If elected to Nanaimo City Council, will you introduce and support a bylaw that would restrict the height of future residential and commercial buildings to three to four stories in areas where existing views of seascapes would be affected, and also limit building heights in other areas of the according to neighbourhood plans? If not, why not?

Question about Transportation

7) PREAMBLE: Chief Judith Sayers, Co-Chair of the Island Corridor Foundation, has stated that “By working together to support development of the Corridor to its full potential, Islanders have the power to: preserve our environment; develop our economy; create safe, efficient transportation for our families; and to build a gateway to the world for our businesses for the next 100 years.”

QUESTION: Now that the Municipalities and the RDN each own a portion of the Island Rail Corridor, what steps will you, as an elected official, take to actively support the re-development and funding of our Island rail system?

Questions about Food Security

8) PREAMBLE: Historically, Vancouver Island provided 80 percent of the food consumed on the island; we now produce only six percent of what we consume.

QUESTION: Considering the growing threats to food supply, such as climate changes and increased transportation costs, if elected, in what ways will you work to increase local food security and encourage innovative sustainable food production within the Regional District of Nanaimo (both urban and rural)?

9) PREAMBLE: In the mid 1970's, the BC Government established the BC Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to protect agricultural lands from being chopped up into small parcels and developed; yet lands continue to be removed from the ALR and/or misused as small acreage holdings that have absolutely nothing to do with agricultural use – while our agricultural land base erodes steadily. Local government bylaws and the ALC Act regulate the use of ALR lands.

QUESTION: If elected, what will you do to ensure that remaining ALR lands are preserved?

Questions About Stewardship of Natural Land, Parks and Green Spaces

10) PREAMBLE: Even if a park is designated as such, under current zoning it may still be re-designated or sold by a Municipality or the Regional District for development or other purposes in the future. Conservation Covenants are strong and binding legal instruments which protect the natural state of the subject property even if the property is sold or changes ownership. In recent years, the use of Conservation Covenants, set up and monitored by an independent third party stewardship organization such as a land trust, has become a more common land protection tool in BC.

QUESTION: If elected, will you commit to having Conservation Covenants placed on all Municipal and Regional District natural parks in order to prevent the possibility of future compromises to their integrity as designated natural parkland? If not, why not?

11) PREAMBLE: Some years ago, a previous City Council ordered a joint Planning and Parks, Recreation & Culture project to re-zone all existing city parks. Neck Point Park and similar natural parks would become zone one parks. This project has been progressing very slowly and the proposed bylaw has not yet been passed.

QUESTION: If elected, will you support the park re-zoning bylaw and insist that city staff complete this project in short order? If not, why not?

These are all important questions, and on October 29th I'll be there to hear what the candidates have to say. After the meeting, I'll post some personal endorsements on this blog.

UPDATE: I attended this forum and was most impressed by the answers provided by the following city council candidates: Jack Arnold, Ron Bolin, Bill Forbes, Gordon Fuller, Bill Holdom, Jim Kipp, Fred Pattje, and Simon Schachner.

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