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Setting the Stage

The countdown to our municipal election starts now. Nominations close this Friday and in five weeks we go to the polls. We don’t yet know who will be running nor do we know what the major issues will be. But it doesn’t hurt to speculate.

For me the biggest consideration will be how our existing council treated us over the last three years. They approved the construction of stupidly oversized and inappropriate private docks at Cape Roger Curtis. They did it in secret and then they pretended that they were forced to do it. It wasn’t until we saw an email from the provincial government, obtained through a freedom of information request, that their malfeasance was exposed. It looks like up to four current councillors will be running again. If you get a chance during the campaign, ask them what happened. If they tell you they had no choice, don’t vote for them because they aren’t being truthful. They may tell you they got caught trying to negotiate a rezoning scheme in exchange for community amenities. They may say they allowed the docks to show their good faith only to have the deal fall apart later. If this is their story, don’t vote for them. They were hoping the end would justify the means, they staked their reputation on it and they lost. If they tell you they personally argued against the approval but were overruled by others on Council, don’t vote for them. They don’t have the strength to represent your interests when the going gets tough.

Looking forward there are a couple of different ways that an election can shake out. There is the first-past-the-post outcome where the candidates line up on two different sides of the issues and see which side wins. In our case it is pretty much a pro or anti development dividing line. This approach lends itself to multiple candidates running as a slate. The other possibility is the representation by population approach. The idea is that each candidate has a short list of what they feel the community’s priorities should be and voters select candidates who reflect their values. For example there may be one candidate that has a solid commitment to a new community centre and if there are eight hundred voters who share theirpassion they could get in on that one issue alone. One trouble with this approach on Bowen is that it’s hard to know how sincere a candidate really is. At the public meetings they tend to all agree on almost every popular initiative.

So how will it go this time around? There is no referendum question like the national parks and no monster development scheme like the Cape Roger Curtis Neighbourhood Plan. In the absence of a compelling single issue voters tend to vote for the people they like and respect and avoid like the plague those who they know and don’t respect. Newcomers to the island tend to rely more on the candidates brochures, letters to the editor, forum posts and neighbourhood gossip to get a sense of the candidates’ relative strengths. There is no doubt that candidates who have been involved in the community for a long time have a distinct advantage while incumbents who haven’t worked out very well get brutally punished. In many respects it really is a popularity contest.

During the last few elections I conducted straw polls. I would pick random people and pester them into filling out a mock ballot. I didn’t ask them whom they were voting for but rather whom they thought would win. I kept the ballots and made sure that I asked the best prognosticators to fill out a ballot for the following election. Almost invariably they were completely off base the second time around. The main lesson from this was that it is a lot more difficult to predict the mood of theelectorate than you may think. One time you can be completely in tune and the next time way off base. But the other thing I gleaned from my conversations with my voters was that they chose candidates as if they were casting parts in a play. They almost always wanted one bean counter to keep an eye on the finances, an old timer who would resist anything that meant tax increases, an environmentalist to cry foul if some developer got too carried away and often somebody who just looked good and presented themselves well. My voters didn’t say it that way but physical appearance and carriage definitely made a difference for the last few choices.

Remember when you’re voting that you don’t have to vote for all six councillors. When you give a vote for somebody based on their smile you may be giving them the vote that takes them one past the person you really wanted to see win. And to the candidates my advice is to lay it on the line. Instead of mumbling the same old tired phrases about ferry marshalling and Snug Cove revitalization just admit that you think it’s a fool’s game and of no interest to you. Even people who don’t agree with you might throw you a vote just because you’ll speak your mind at council meetings.

Anyway, the silly season is upon us. Three disastrous years are coming to an end and we all get to select a new cast of characters to entertain, frustrate and hopefully occasionally bring us joy for the next four years. The game is afoot.

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Here we go again

It looked for a minute like our upcoming municipal election would give us a chance to elect a diverse group of councillors who would be representative of something other than pro-development or antidevelopment (or in the case of the last election pro or anti a national park). But Wolfgang Duntz would prefer that the primary issue of the next election be his most recent rezoning applications. He has asked Council to consider two large development proposals and would like them to give the necessary bylaw amendments first reading before the next election so Islanders can decide where to take it based on who they vote for in the next election. I kid you not, that is almost a direct quote.

We should probably look at the chances of our remaining council members getting sucked into this abyss as well as taking a cursory look at whether these proposed subdivisions are even worthy of discussion, let alone be the centrepiece issue of a municipal election.

Let’s start with Seymour Bay. Continue reading ›

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Summer Is Over

Summer is over and its time to get serious about the upcoming municipal elections. In the past mayor and council served for three year terms. On Bowen this meant that they almost had time to do something, but not quite. This time the term will be four years and a council with four likeminded individuals could do a lot to change the face of our island, for better or for worse. To make an informed decision about who to ultimately vote for we should remind ourselves about how politics work on this island. The nuances of who supports what and why they do it needs to be explored.

The two groups that most quickly come to mind are the Eco Alliance and the Improvement Association. Continue reading ›

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This Side of the Moat

Have you ever wondered where we’re going? Is Bowen going to grow, are property values going to rise or fall, is BC Ferries going to drive us into the ground? There are a few factors that exert enormous control over our demographics but there are also some macroeconomic trends that may skew things a bit.

Imagine what Bowen would be like if we had unlimited free ferry service with runs every fifteen minutes. Instead of a 3,500 population it would be 35,000 and the character of the island would be completely different. We have a small population precisely because access is so difficult and expensive. In business we talk about the width of a company’s economic moat; those things that prevent competitors from destabilizing its position. On Bowen our moat isn’t just figurative, Continue reading ›

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Elder Abuse

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was developed & launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Abuse and neglect of older adults is not limited to any one country or part of the world. So, WEAAD involves activities to bring greater recognition of mistreatment of older adults wherever they live throughout the world, and to highlight the need for appropriate action. It is intended to give abuse and neglect of older adults a global relevance that will sustain and move prevention efforts forward throughout the year and for years to come.

On Bowen Island, Snug Cove House Society is dedicated to supporting independent seniors to stay well.  We are, therefore, concerned about the issues of elder abuse and neglect, whether caused by the self or others.  There are resources available here and Continue reading ›

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Island Notes

Be careful what you wish for.

Our Municipal Council is putting the final touches on a bylaw to rezone six acres of municipal land between the school and Seniors Lane. The area is divided into three pieces. Along the road it envisions four-storey mixed commercial/apartment buildings. Behind that would be buildings, again up to four stories high, with 33,000 square feet of municipal administration and community assembly space and more apartments. Behind that, closer to Bowen Court, would be townhouses with secondary suites. In total, between the townhouses, suites and apartments, up to 80 living units could be built. When you consider that our population grew by 40 people in five years (2006-2011) it again seems a bit optimistic.

Normally it would be hard to get excited about grandiose plans but this one is a bit more serious. Continue reading ›

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Mucking Around with the OCP

The B.C. Local Government Act lays out requirements and provides guidelines in the drafting of Official Community Plans. Bowen has an additional obligation to include OCP policies that specifically implement directives of the Islands Trust. Any changes to the OCP require approval from their Executive Committee.

While the OCP is a living document, any changes must be done for good, compelling reasons. There are two ways of doing this. The first is periodic review and update, something done with wide community involvement on Bowen in 1984, 1996, 2011. The second involves ‘spot changes’, necessary to achieve desired outcomes for specific properties or issues.The golden rule is to ensure that any change does not contradict the hundreds of other elements of the OCP. That is why extensive community and professional input is so paramount- to ensure that amendments are proper and well supported.

Bowen Council is now forwarding two OCP amendments, one to allow for rezoning and development of Lot 2 of our community lands (between the school and Seniors’ Lane-Bylaws #352/353), and the other to remove perceived barriers to economic development (Bylaw #357). Each is well intentioned, but fraught with problems and inconsistencies. Both compromise the OCP and fail the golden rule litmus test. Continue reading ›

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Election Platform

Politicians ask the electorate what they want. A wish list emerges. The politicians pick from the list and build a campaign around it, in hopes of getting elected. That’s how it works in most places but Bowen is a bit different. The wish list is so long and diverse that those running for council have found it best to avoid specific issues and speak in broad generalities.

A typical speech is something like “My wife and I have lived here since the dawn of time, we raised our children here, helped to lift into place the roof beam of the fire hall. You know me and I know you, I share your dreams, hopes and desires for our island. I feel the same pain as you when BC Ferries raises our fares and cuts our service. Continue reading ›

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Municipal elections will be upon us again this fall.  When our current Council took office three years ago, they were quite vocal about the lack of progress made by the outgoing Council on outstanding pressing matters. The new crew had a Strategic Plan for their mandate. Now the time has come to revisit that plan and see how they’ve fared.

On top of the list was implementation of a ferry marshalling solution. First came “Plan Z”. When that proved unworkable they spent a goodly sum of money on a “Plan Q”. When that proved unworkable they blamed our problems on the herons nesting in Snug Cove and dropped the whole thing.

Another top priority was the completion of a new Community Centre. Continue reading ›

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submitted by the board of the Bowen Island Conservancy

Our mayor has publicly pondered the value of the Islands Trust to Bowen Island and whether we might opt out of the Trust.

First of all, the Islands Trust and the islands within it can only be changed by provincial legislation, not by a locally elected municipal council.  There is a reason for this.  The Province created this Trust Area not just for those of us who are fortunate enough to live here, but also for all British Columbians who benefit from exploring the natural beauty of the islands.

The provincial government enacted the Islands Trust Act (“IT Act”) in 1974 as a reaction to growing concerns that development was endangering “the very features that made the Trust Area so attractive to residents and visitors.”  This raison d’etre for the Islands Trust continues today.  Continue reading ›

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