Tofino byelection candidates highlight town’s key issues

Tofino byelection candidates highlight town’s key issues

Tofino will vote in a municipal byelection on Nov. 2.

Tofino will vote in a byelection on Nov. 2. Six candidates have put their names forward to fill one vacant seat on the town’s municipal council. The Westerly News will be asking each candidate three questions and their answers will be published in three consecutive editions of the Westerly. This week’s question is: ‘What do you feel is the most important issue facing Tofino’s municipal council and how do you plan to address it?’ The candidates were given a maximum word count of 300 words and the order of their answers below was selected at random.

CRAIG HEBER

Affordable ‘permanent’ housing is at a crisis level for a majority of long term residents and ought to be the issue driving Council.

For too long, Council has been preoccupied with Tourism Development, ignoring the needs of the ‘community’, creating the crisis of gentrification by successive Councils’ policies.

Tofino is at a crossroads, either Council effectively addresses the needs of its voters or it risks becoming a town of wealthy temporary residents and tourists.

One ‘affordable’ unit at Sea Otter Place in over a decade is a failure by Council.

14 ‘conventional’ units at Sharp Rd doesn’t address the crisis, nor does it satisfy the type of housing most Toficians desire in the 21st Century.

Sharp Rd could easily accommodate 20-30+ MICROHOMES which is what most residents want and more immediately address the crisis in the community.

Towns in Europe faced these gentrification issues successfully by thinking ‘outside the box’, creating a new model for living.

Applying 20th Century North American norms to Tofino’s housing shortage is guaranteed to fail for most residents.

I plan to be a vocal Educator of my fellow Councillors, mobilizing locals to be active engaged advocates for what they want in 2020+.

Presenting evidence of Dutch, Danish, Swiss, etc towns that used MICROHOMES and unique designs to solve their housing crisis saving their communities.

Utilizing Social Media to inform, coordinate and communicate the needs of locals that live precariously.

Whether by survey, petition, protest or many voters communicating to Council directly and repeatedly.

This Council and Mayor will have to listen and change course or meet the fate of the 3 incumbent directors that fell at last Coop VOTE. Green MICROHOMES are the solution to housing crisis.

DAN LAW

I think the most important issue facing Council at this time, is how to best ensure Tofino’s economically successful tourist industry is matched by an increase in the quality of life for all residents, an increase in the care and protection of the environment, and a more safe and secure future for the community as a whole. To this end, I will work very hard with fellow Councillors, drawing on all my energy, creativity, and collaborative skills, to advance affordable housing, to reduce projected tax increases by pursuing tourism related funds, to help implement Council’s Key Actions on arts and culture, recreation, government services, the environment, and emergency preparedness. In all, I will commit to helping foster a Council which is reasonable, rational, and responsible—a Council which seeks the best possible outcome for residents—a Council which ensures that a vibrant and successful tourist industry serves the community first.

RONNIE LEE

I believe the main issue that Tofino is facing at the moment is the lack of fiscal planning for the future. We moved from logging and fishing to ecotourism and missed valuable steps in between that we couldn’t forsee. This lack of planning for the future has left Tofitians carrying the burden of increased taxes, and a lack of support for families in the areas of childcare, education and affordable housing. It has forced counsel and staffs back against a wall. They are being forced to try and prioritize the many issues we as a community are facing, without a tax base to support it.

I believe that councill should address these issues by exploring tools for additional funds. I believe that outside funding can come in the form of government grants as seen in our $40 million provincial and federal government grants we received towards thewastewater treatment facility.

We can look into taxing future developments at a slightly higher tax rate, and lobbying government to expand taxation tools for municipalities as well as exploring peak season paid parking for visitors with reduced rate passes for members of the community. I believe all of these ideas will contribute to lowering these burdens and expanding possibilities for funding community projects.

STEPHEN ASHTON

Liveability, now and in the future. Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, the increasing costs of living in Tofino will affect your quality of life. Locals who live here year round are our greatest asset and all decisions that council makes should put the needs of our residents first. We are extremely lucky to be managing a successful tourism industry that has brought many positive changes to our community. However, the extra costs of servicing the tourism industry are what is making life more difficult. If I am elected to council, I would like to pressure council to look at different funding streams, like increasing the additional hotel room tax, Air B & B tax, and B & B room tax that could help to offset the financial infrastructure needs, like the waste water treatment plant, that are currently increasing local residents property taxes.

We are near the tipping point where the amount of non-resident homes surpasses homes that are occupied year round by locals. When that happens, we begin to lose our community.

We must also plan for the future. Next year, the federal government will begin uploading nearly 2,000 revised flood plain maps, Eventually, entire communities will find themselves publicly identified as at-risk. What that will do to the value of their homes and their flood insurance premiums (assuming they can get insurance), is obvious. No insurance means no mortgage. As a coastal community, council must take the lead on climate change and act. There are many different ways in which we can act to lessen our reliance on carbon. It is being done successfully in countries around the world and we need to catch up.

CATHY THICKE

Without question, I believe the most important issue facing the Council today is the affordability issue of the wastewater treatment for Tofino.

This wastewater treatment plant has been discussed at length over the last few years, but this issue has come to the fore, once the province issued a mandate for completion by 2020.

The estimate for the plant is $60 million with $44 million coming from the province and the federal government. That leaves the District of Tofino on the hook for up to 16 million. The borrowing bylaw was recently passed by the current Council so that the total sum has been covered.

However, little has been done to date, to gain a commitment for either capital or operation and maintenance costs from the National Park, the tourism sector, or the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. No MoU’s have been signed as far as I am aware, from these participating users.

The park advertises approximately 750,000 people per year. Ty-histanis has 3-400 residents, and is growing. The town comprises 2,000 people. Tourism numbers in Tofino are approx. 10,000 per day in peak season. We all have a stake in this.

So, how exactly are we going to pay the remaining capital, or pay for its use?

Number of toilets? Number of people? Number of gallons flushed? Currently in Tofino, we pay sewer rates at 90% of our water usage. But how does this capture the commercial users at a reduced bulk rate- or those that have wells on their property ?

The affordability gap widens in Tofino, and I believe there are several other opportunities incumbent upon Council, to reach the $16 million shortfall.

I will seek to be persistent and creative in discussions with the government, and proposed users, in order to achieve this.

OMAR SOLIMAN

The most pressing issue in our town is communication. It is the backbone of any successful community.

It’s not just about communicating with your local government, but about with each other.

As soon as we learn to talk about anything and discuss and debate everything, we will be able to move forward with all other issues affecting our community.

An election is a time to talk and, as soon as it’s over, it will be the time to act. Our jobs do not stop at the voting booth, both as citizens and as candidates. Democracy is a constant conversation, one that we need to work harder on and with more conviction. 250-266-6866, this is my way of meeting halfway, it’s up to you, the people of this community, to make the next step.

READ MORE: Tofino byelection candidates explain why they’re running

READ MORE: WATCH: Tofino byelection candidates respond to community concerns at forum

READ MORE: Tofino mourns sudden loss of municipal councillor and community champion

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