The Alberni Valley Social Planning Council sent these questions out to candidates last week. With their permission, I’ve reproduced them here with the answers I provided. Our poor, and mentally and physically challenged, and especially our disadvantaged children need support.
1. What ideas do you have about how to increase food security for low income people? What about for the general population in times of emergency?
Local food has been a growing trend in the past decade and I think this will only keep growing in future. I am hopeful that as this trend grows that we see more and more of this local food making its way to the local food banks and into the homes of low income families and people. The Gleaning project run by Heather Shobe through the Alberni Valley Transition Town Society Food Group has been doing this for a number of years. I’d love to see more partnerships formed between our two very successful farmers market and the social services in our town as well.
As for times of emergency, again, the local food movement is providing some momentum that I believe we can latch onto. While it is a Regional rather than specifically City issue, the ACRD agricultural committee and the City and ACRD in general need to make development of our agricultural sector in the Valley a top priority. The best way to be prepared is to have as much food production as we can right here in the Valley. We have significant amounts of protein being produced by local beef, and pig operations.
We have significant amounts of year-round vegetables as well. Perhaps there could be a registry made whereby farmers and home growers could sign up with the Emergency Planning department of the City/ACRD and be registered as possible sources of food in the event of a disaster that cut us off from the rest of the Island for a significant amount of time. These issues will also come to a head as we deal with climate change as well.
2. Would you support the development of policy on mental health issues in conjunction with the regional government? What would that look like?
Yes. While I am not directly involved with people with mental health issues in our community, I do have some experience with policies that deal with people with all manner of disabilities at my workplace at Vancouver Island University. These policies not only provide direction to me as staff but also provide excellent support for the students.
I honestly do not know what such a policy or framework might look like for people with disabilities, or specifically mental health issues, in the City or Regional District but I would be very supportive of exploring that, learning about it and making it happen so that all of our residents have an equal opportunity to participate in our society.
3. Do you have any plans for policies on ending child poverty in the valley?
I would approach child poverty from the direction of trying to create enough employment in the Valley to ensure that the families of those children can live on a reasonable income. We need to provide families with resources so that they can get back into school or other training without going into debt. We also need as a city to encourage a much wider range of businesses to setup shop in our valley so that once their schooling is done there are options for jobs here in the Valley.
I see great opportunity to bring in small businesses like tech sector, consulting, and other professional services. Healthcare and education remain huge employers and we need to increase the number of facilities in our community in order to satisfy the demand and to create those jobs that will lift people out of poverty. Finally, for the children directly I would advocate strongly for the city to keep supporting local daycares and literacy programs and to lobby the provincial and federal governments to bring funding back into those critical areas.
4. In what ways are you committed to creating social housing on City owned land in partnership with provincial agencies and/or local agencies? What other incentives would you like the City to offer developers willing to build affordable housing units?
I believe there are many locations around the city that could be used for social housing. The new alberni shelter on the VIHA property also needs to finally break ground. I will continue to advocate for the government to provide the funds to do that. The City needs to redevelop its waterfront and its uptown and downtown areas.
These could be very attractive areas to develop if the stranglehold on our waterfront from industry was loosened. If and when they are redeveloped, the City could offer tax breaks to developers that included affordable housing units in their new developments.
5. Do you believe the City should employ a social planner?
I would be wiling to investigate the hiring of a social planner. In general, the City needs to do a better job of taking into account all aspects of its decision making, from economic, to environmental, to social impacts. This needs to happen in all departments in the City as well as at the Board level on Council.