My most important lesson of the last three years is how difficult it is to move any agenda forward in the partisan and divisive atmosphere that often pervades our public discourse, and how important it is to move beyond this if we are to prosper.
I believe we have common values – we cherish the same things – and we can and must build consensus on these values, because Council’s success over the next term will depend on building things we cannot see and will benefit us far into the future: the culture of positive public discourse identified in the Community Foundations Vital Conversations report.
Much of this council’s effort early in this term has gone largely unseen as we worked to build a strong foundation for this and future councils:
- A highly motivated competent and committed staff;
- Policy and procedure documents to support the work of staff, inform the process for planning applications and assist new councillors in understanding the sometimes frustrating municipal process; and
- Access to private sector expertise, like that of the finance advisory committee, to inform council’s decision-making.
A solid foundation is in place ready for the next council to build upon.
We are a small community and for our needs to be heard, we will have to build consensus among ourselves, with our neighbours and like-minded communities, and with senior and First Nations governments. We need to:
- Work with the other ferry dependent communities and the ministry on a strategy to stabilize service and fares;
- Work with the Squamish Nation and Howe Sound communities to create a marine plan and work toward a “balance of resource extraction, economy and sustainability”;
- Continue the valuable work Mayor Adelaar has initiated at Translink to address our connection to the mainland;
- Work with other island communities without rural designation to lobby government for this designation, so we can access the programs and grants specifically designed to assist rural communities in providing community services and economic vitality.
In her recent summary to council of the Vital Conversations report, Joyce Ganong spoke of the need to ‘unpack’ polarizing terminology to achieve positive discourse. If we unpack the term pro-development, what we find is pro-community: a community that needs the diversity of housing critical to our economic viability; needs independent and supportive living for our seniors; needs community-use facilities for arts, culture and recreation.
To achieve this we will want to maintain strong relationships with the private sector on Bowen. They are very likely the only ones who will take the risk to make this happen. And if we set the foundation right, the incentive will be there for the private sector to build alternative living facilities for seniors, and even ‘aging-in-place’ longer-term assisted-living facilities. And we can together, realize our collective goal to ensure, “Never again will a senior be forced to move away from their Island home.”
Perhaps our most urgent need is for improved health services on Bowen Island, especially for seniors and others at risk. Providing a clinic, whether a new or repurposed building, is just the beginning. We must attract on-island health care practitioners. Virtually every community in BC – large and small – is trying to do the same. In this extremely competitive field, attraction and retention programs can take years to be successful. This is an urgent need and has to be a municipal priority.
And we are already acting. During UBCM I met with a group promoting a funded program called Community Paramedicine as a way to fill the gaps in the provision of health services. I made a solid case, with the support of Kathy Lalonde, for Bowen to be considered as one of the communities for the initial roll-out, the municipality has invited the Community Paramedicine group to present to council and we will be making application as soon as documents are available.
At the beginning of this council’s term, the municipality surveyed our residents and asked them what they believed is important for Bowen Island. One of the top priorities is the environment. In a part of the world that is renowned for its natural beauty, Bowen Island stands out. We must do all we can to maintain that natural beauty. I know there are some who believe that maintaining our pristine environment and building our economic base are mutually exclusive. I firmly believe this is not the case. We can find a healthy and balanced approach to both protect our environment and ensure our economic viability.
During this term on council I have been the liaison to nine committees. As mayor I will continue to work diligently with council and in committees to create the consensus and identify the funding necessary to build the infrastructure and facilities that are important to the health, safety and vitality of our community.