The upcoming municipal election: it’s not a game and it’s not about gamesmanship.
It’s about opportunities for informed dialogue with the electorate and between candidates to help us select the seven citizens who will dedicate the next 4 years to Bowen Island and the social, environmental and economic challenges we face.
Community health services
Our need for basic community services, especially those related to young families and on-island and in-home health care for seniors, becomes more pressing with every passing year. If one has to choose, providing the ability to comfortably age-in-place and giving young families – and the rest of us – the comfort of knowing that appropriate care is available and expedient in emergency situations may be the most important issue facing our island today.
Transportation and parking
Negotiations with BC Ferries and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to address service and fare structures is and will be an ongoing issue. Exploring options to lessen our dependence on BC Ferries by working with TransLink and private operators to provide stable alternative commuting choices has to be part of our strategy.
On-island transportation is challenging for those without vehicles or with mobility issues – we are at the point now where some of our seniors have difficulty accessing health services because of limited access to transportation (which circles back to the need for on-island and in-home health care).
Drop-off and pick-up of walk-on passengers for the ferry and other transportation alternatives needs a safer and more efficient solution.
Parking for both local businesses and commuters needs to be addressed in conjunction with ferry marshaling with pragmatic solutions that can be phased-in. For too long unaffordable ferry marshaling plans have prevented us from addressing this problem in a grassroots manner we can afford and accomplish.
Diversity of housing
Housing continues to be an issue for the island: diversity of housing including rental accommodation, attached housing and smaller homes on smaller lots are all important to the economic viability of Bowen Island and to attracting the young families critical to the long-term health of any community.
While this council has taken the important first step of rezoning some of the community lands so that they can be sold and/or developed to begin retiring a decade-old debt and so that a community centre can be built, issues around disposition of the lands and funding of capital projects have yet to be resolved.
Bowen Island needs a new fire-hall which comes with a significant price tag but can no longer be delayed. Our current fire-hall is not seismically sound.
The Cove Bay Water System needs to be expanded to allow the municipality to get the best return on the disposition of its property and to allow the Snug Cove House project to proceed after almost two decades of planning. The expansion of the system requires that a plan and schedule for construction of a new water treatment facility mandated by Vancouver Coastal Health be in-place before license for the service area expansion can be granted (but not necessarily before the plant is built).
Long story short – the municipality needs to find creative, pragmatic, affordable ways to finance these projects, which will undoubtedly require assistance from senior governments and further re-zoning of community lands for disposition to the private sector.
Growth, economic viability and environmental stewardship
While it may seem odd to combine these into a single heading, they must go hand-in-hand if we are to continue to work toward a healthy and sustainable community. I believe that most of us on Bowen Island share the same values – the same reasons for cherishing our way of life here – and do not want to see what we cherish sacrificed for short-term gain or irresponsible growth.
Growth is a given. It is how we manage this growth that will preserve and protect what we cherish: living in nature, not just beside it, and maintaining the spirit of a small caring community.
If we can articulate these values and use them to guide and temper our growth, I believe we can move without fear towards a future of prosperity that respects everything we cherish.
The stakes are too high to turn it into a game.