FAQs

Please feel free to e-mail me at Gwen@gwendonaldson.ca if you have questions you would like to see answered or if you have feedback on my responses. My answers may change, if I am presented with new information.
Building a Campbell River for Everyone

Q. How do you feel about the large slate of candidates running in this election?

In this municipal election, there seems to be a large slate being promoted as a good way to govern our city. As such, it seems fitting to talk about why I don’t support slate politics, like this.

I am not a slate candidate, but I would be happy to work with any of them, should we be elected. I even think that there are a few candidates in the slate group, who would be stronger as independents.

I don’t like slate politics, because, I don’t think anyone should ever TELL you who to vote for. Candidates should ASK you for your vote. They should show you why they deserve your vote. They should give you information about their approaches, and how they would work on local issues so you can make an informed decision.

I put a lot of policy information on this page, so that you can see my process, and how I work through problems, and find solutions.

I think a candidate should be confident enough in their abilities to be able to work with anyone that the voters choose and to openly share their ideas and methods. and not just reshare what others in their group post.

Candidates shouldn’t be telling you who to vote for, under the premise that it is what they need, to do their job. A candidate should be able to figure it out. That’s democracy – Differences make us stronger.

We’re all adults here, and fundamentally, we all want what’s best for our community. But we need to do this together, with whoever the voters choose.

So, please, don’t let anyone tell you who to vote for. Make them earn it.

If you have any questions about me or my campaign, feel free to reach out to me.

Q.Should “like minded” people be on council? Will this help us “Get Things Done”?

No.

Right now, some people are saying that we need to have like-minded people on city council, in order to “get things done” and that because “some” people were not in total control of City Council over the past 4 years, nothing got done.

This is wrong. – Nothing got done because Council was not working well together. That is not the voter’s fault. That is the fault of the individuals who were on council. As a city councilor, it’s your job to figure out how to work together with whoever else the voters choose. That’s democracy.

Elected officials should be able to put their egos aside, their self-interests aside, and their personal feelings aside, and work together to do what is in the best interests of our community.

Elected officials should look at the available evidence, the information from other communities, the information from staff, the information from the public, and the information from professionals. Then, they should use this information to work together to deliberate in public meetings and make the best collective decision for our community.

Elected officials should represent the diversity in our community. They should honour the different perspectives that we all bring to the table. They should have open and honest dialogue so that we can see the process that goes into making decisions for our community.

City Council should not be an echo chamber. City Council should not agree on every single thing.

We need to work together, to make things better for all of us. We need to have differences at the table, and we need to work through them, cooperatively, consciously, and constructively. Municipal politics is not black and white, it’s not left or right, and it’s not us vs. them.

It’s grey and it’s for every single one of us.

We are all in this community together. So, let’s do better, together, Campbell River.

Q. You are someone in your 30’s, how can I know that, as a city councillor, you will also be able to represent and meet the needs of older adults or people who are in retirement?

A. I want to build a Campbell River that will work better for all of us, by respecting our past, and preparing for our future. Many of the policies that I advocate for: secondary suites, recreation opportunities, affordable housing, downtown activation, and accessible health services, are important for everyone, and are especially important for older adults.

Safe roadways, active transit paths, and good transit are important for those of us who are unable to drive, or who may use mobility aids. Secondary suites and affordable housing are important for people who are on a fixed income; while, diverse housing, and greater density in certain areas will be very important to allow people to age safely, in place, in homes that they are comfortable in, while also being manageable to maintain. Many single family homes are not suitable for folks who want to downsize to a smaller space as they move into retirement. So, townhouses, carriage houses, and accessible strata developments will be most important for people who want maintain an independent life, close to necessary amenities like, grocery stores, medical services, and recreation opportunities.

Recreation opportunities are also incredibly important for people moving into retirement, to stay healthy, active and connected to the community; So, having good racquet courts, parks, green spaces, a safe and active downtown, and public facilities, are essential for creating a liveable community for people of all ages- from the babies to their grandparents.

So, yes, while I am a “younger candidate”, a big part of my platform is about listening to, and actually hearing, people who know more about a given topic than I do.

I am especially committed to listening to, respecting, learning from, and honouring the generations of people who came before me and paved the way for all of us to live in this beautiful community. I was fortunate enough to grow up with my great grandparents in my life. And my kids have great grandparents, still. Our kids are so fortunate to grow up, here in Campbell River, with their grandparents, in town. I would not want to be on this journey without the help and support of my extended family. I am commited to building a Campbell River that works better for ALL of us.

If you do have questions, comments or advice for me, I would love to hear it, so please feel free to reach out!

Financial Efficiency

Q. How could we be more efficient in how we manage our policies, operations, and community assets?

A. In my campaign platform, I talk about working to be more efficient, as a city, and I think there are a lot of ways to do this.

Council could avoid unnecessary staff turnover, by creating a positive and cooperative work environment. Council could ensure our community is appropriately staffed, so that critical upgrades, policies, and permitting don’t fall through the cracks, and create more expensive problems down the line.

Council could invest and plan appropriately for the future, to ensure we are doing work once, not over and over again. Council could use our geographic space efficiently, encourage development, and create more density in certain areas to increase our tax base.

Council could also be more efficient with staff time. Council could avoid requesting redundant reports or engaging in disorganized bylaw, signage, and policy processes. Council could try to avoid irrelevant questions or hypotheticals, and council could be prepared and concise, throughout discussions and debates. We need to have public, open, deliberative, and transparent meetings; but, we also need to have efficient meetings that respect everyone’s time.

So, if we are going to talk about efficiencies, Council should ensure that they are using Council meetings, COW meetings, and staff time, efficiently. They should make sure that bylaw and policy processes are directed and deliberate, and they should make sure staff reports are necessary for the operations of the city.

💸 Time is money.

Q. What is going on with City Staff turn over?

There is some really interesting stuff in the City of Campbell River’s 2021 annual report. You can find it here: https://www.campbellriver.ca/your…/financial-plans-reports. A lot of it is pretty good- we live in an incredible place. We have so much going for our community, but, there are areas for improvement too. Personally, I think that there is always room for improvement and innovation in everything we do.

At first glance, one thing that stuck out for me, was on page 85, in the human resources section. It notes that in 2021, there were 80(!) staff vacancies up from 43 in 2020. The City of Campbell River employs about 250 people, so that is about a 32% vacancy rate.

There are a few ways to calculate the cost of staff turnover, but some estimates are that it can cost about 6 months of an employee’s annual wage to replace them. It is more expensive, the more specialized the employee, and less expensive for entry-level employees. So staff turnover is incredibly inefficient, no matter how you look at it.

Now, sure, not having employees in positions saves money; but, it also creates more stress in the workplace for those that do stay, and things fall through the cracks because of the constant transition, training, and lack of project continuity.

There are a lot of reasons why people leave their jobs, and staffing is a major economic concern right now across the board. So, I am sure there is no simple answer or explanation for this. But, 80 vacancies is, as they say in the report, pretty unprecedented. At the very least, this will be an issue for city operations through the next 4 years, and one that probably requires some new approaches and innovation to work through.

I think we need to work together better, be more respectful, and create a happier and healthier working environment so that we can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our city. We need to cooperate, lift each other up, and trust each other. At this rate, we also probably need some places for new employees to live too…..

Secondary Suites & Housing Development

Q. We have a housing crisis in Campbell River. What are some of the ways we could encourage diverse housing development in our community? and how could we make our development processes more efficient and streamlined?

I also think there is space for multi-family and single-family developments. Although, the root cause of our affordability crisis, is not a shortage of lots, so much as a shortage of housing. We do have a significant amount of lots currently slated for development and are held up at various points along the development process – we have 98 Active files, ranging in age from 241 weeks to 1 week old.

So, (1) I think we need to streamline the development application process to make the system more efficient. Council just received a report from Dillion Consulting, detailing 19 actions that could be taken to streamline this process, ranging from instituting engineering development checklists to managing and investigating staff turnover. I support using these interventions that are provided by people who know more than I do, So this report is where I would start with implementing changes to the process.

(2) we can broadly allow secondary suites across the community to increase housing stock.

(3) we can remove barriers in our permitting process to allow developers to more easily develop lot density and infill, and make this process more profitable. This could include reductions in the minimum parking allowance, reductions in setbacks, modifications to site coverage policies, allowing for mico-units, and reducing restrictions on suite size, and expanding density bonusing. We would also look at targeted pre-zoning (but this has serious pros and cons, so it should be looked at carefully).

We also need to better encourage mixed-use developments, so that people are living around the daily amenities that they need. Supply and demand is not just about lots, it is about allowing the developers the latitude to develop products that they can sell,- when looking at supply and demand, there are a lot of places where developers are far better at creating efficiently than we are. For example, Developers often know how much parking they need to include, in order to make a building appealing to buyers and renters, so why do we artificially interfere with that market, by using parking minimums?

Also, right now, many older adults in our community are looking to downsize out of their single-family homes, and there is little supply of diverse townhouses and retirement-suitable smaller units, so the prices in this type of housing stock, are comparable to single-family homes, and this is negatively affecting the natural cycle of retirement downsizing and family up-sizing in our community.

There are spaces to open up lots to single-family developments, and I am not against this type of development. I am just against unrestrained development, that does not appropriately consider contemporary urban planning practices, responsible community development, and our long-term infrastructure maintenance and asset planning processes.

Q. Have you ever lived-in a secondary (Basement) Suite? What are they and why do we need them?

A. Basement suites are Secondary Suites, and they are a super important part of the housing pyramid. With rising interest rates, rents, and real estate prices – secondary suites will continue to grow in importance, and we need them to be more accessible in our community (….like…. yesterday).

Basement suites benefit a lot of people…. In high school, my best friend’s Grandma lived in a basement suite in my friend’s family home. This allowed her to age in place, and I remember that she was always there after school, to make sure the teens were fed, and accounted for.

When I turned 18, I moved into a basement suite in my Uncle’s house. It gave me the freedom to move out on my own… but, not too much freedom to get into too much trouble (financial or otherwise, as it was affordable).

I continued to live in my uncle’s basement suite on and off through my early 20’s, as I traveled, worked at fishing resorts, and completed my undergrad. His place was always there when I was stuck, and couldn’t find other accommodation. In fact, all of my cousins lived in my Uncle’s secondary suite at some point in our youth.

Now, I own a house in Campbell River that could easily have a basement suite if we had contemporary secondary suites zoning. Currently, I am raising young kids; so, if we had the zoning, I probably wouldn’t even put a rental suite in. BUT, if we ever faced a family emergency, then having the option of quickly putting in a basement suite (without going through a long and expensive rezoning process), would be very helpful.

Campbell River has a very low rental vacancy rate (0.4% in 2019). So, having more affordable, accessible, and variable housing options is important for our community. Secondary suites zoning is the easiest, simplest, and most appropriate place to start. In fact, almost every jurisdiction in the province has contemporary secondary suites zoning already.

Q. Why haven’t we expanded access to secondary suites in our community, by updating our zoning policies?

Truth is, I have no idea. Some members of City Council voted the bylaw amendments down on the second reading, in January of 2020, so the bylaw never made it to the public hearing, 3rd reading, or adoption. It just seemed to die at the second reading (and I can’t find the associated webcasts online, so I can’t see exactly what happened.)

A lot of my campaign platform is around bringing contemporary public administration and governance practices to City Council. And this case is an example of a time when we needed forward-thinking policies and better governance. Logically, the secondary suites seemed like a simple bylaw update that would make diverse housing more accessible to our community, alleviate mortgage stress for some homeowners, or allow seniors to age in place more easily.

Almost every other jurisdiction in BC has updated its secondary suite zoning bylaws, to reflect contemporary practices.

The BC government issued guidelines to make it more acceptable to have secondary suites.

The city engaged in a broad public engagement process, where they found that, among those engaged, about 72% of people in Campbell River felt that the secondary suite bylaw update would be neutral or positive for the community.

When the city conducted random “pop up” grocery store engagement sessions, the number of people in support of secondary suites was closer to 90%. This is important because often people who go to engagement sessions, or do surveys self-select to participate because they have stronger feelings about an issue; so, the pop-up sessions could be considered more broadly representative of the community’s true feelings.

So, essentially – the community supported broader secondary suites zoning, contemporary best practices supported broader secondary suites zoning, City staff supported broader secondary suites zoning, higher levels of government supported broader secondary suites zoning, and most other communities support broader secondary suites zoning. BUT, the majority of Campbell River’s City Councillors did not support broader secondary suites zoning.

So, now, we have one of the most limited secondary suites zoning policies in the province. We also have one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the province. We are in a housing crisis, and we need to start somewhere. Broader secondary suites zoning is the easiest and most efficient place to start.

Downtown Activation, Safety, and Social Support

Q. What should the city do to deal with people living on the streets in downtown Campbell River and the associated inappropriate behaviour?

This is a very complex policy problem, that communities across our nation are facing. There is no quick, municipal fix to this community concern. But, there are a number of things that we could try that could make things better for our entire community. 

I have about 7 points that I think we could look at – but I am sure there are more as well. 

1)  We will need to work with local, provincial, and federal partners to get people better connected to the resources they need, which could include accessing existing programs, inside and outside of our community, or advocating for new ones, inside and outside of our community.  

2)    In relation, specifically to substance use, the Canadian government, and many other Nations, use a four-pillar approach to address the harms of substance use. The pillars are Prevention, Treatment, Harm Reduction, and Enforcement. We need to apply, work with partners, and advocate for programs and strategies that come from all four of these pillars.

3)    We can work with our bylaw department, RCMP, and security companies to make sure that all enforcement-oriented approaches are suitable, appropriately resourced, and meet the needs of everyone, including the officers who are doing the work, the businesses, the people who are unhoused, and the community at large. There are also interesting models of social enforcement, like the RCMP’s Car 67, the maple ridge model suggested by Larry Samson in the debate, and other social involved programs that are active in Victoria. 

4)    We could also work with the community and business partners, to re-design the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and the Downtown Façade Improvement programs. Currently, both programs are highly under-utilized, and not working as intended. We could also provide tangible support to affected businesses for clean-up. 

5)    People who are unhoused need affordable and accessible housing that meets their needs. Many of them also have other complex care concerns that need to be addressed within the medical system. We need to advocate for the right treatment, at the right time, for folks. And we need to make housing more accessible and diverse across our community, inclusive of secondary suites, carriage houses, and different types of strata and supportive developments.

6)    We have had a lot of success with work and capacity-building programs, such as “get the point”. I would love to see a more advanced space for people to go to access graduated and low-barrier work opportunities. In the lower mainland, EMBERS and Coast Mental Health have working models for this type of employment programming. People can succeed when they are given the tools, connections, and support, to do so. 

7)    We could work to better activate our downtown core, by allowing food trucks, sidewalk patios, public art, and more public events to occur and expand. Downtown Activation and creative placemaking are a big part of how local governments can make all community spaces better, safer, and more welcoming for everyone. 

This is a complex socio-economic situation, and there is no “one-size fits all” solution. It will take cooperation, creativity, optimism, and a whole lot of partners, to make our downtown better and safer for everyone. But I believe we can if we all work together. 

Q. Why didn’t we update our Sidewalk Policy? Why should we update our sidewalk use policy?

A. I talk about promoting “forward thinking” policies a lot because I think we can, I think we need to, and I think that we are currently not being innovative enough in our municipal policies. And this week, an example was provided at the Committee of the Whole, when City Council discussed updating the 20-year-old sidewalk patio permitting policy, to make it more streamlined and contemporary.

Right now, the policy is cumbersome and outdated, so the idea is to make it easier for businesses to have sidewalk patios. A lot of municipalities do this now, especially with COVID, and I personally think street activation is fantastic and essential for creating livable cities. I think staff presented a great policy starting point, that should be moved forward with enthusiasm. I love the parklets that we do have, and I love that there are a couple of patios around town now. Some work has been done, here. More could be.

Some criticisms of the policy were that a 1.5-meter buffer between pedestrians and the patio would be hard to navigate for wheelchairs and strollers. Council suggested 2 meters would be better. Now, I don’t know anything about living in a wheelchair, so consulting with people who do would be very important. But, as someone who used a double stroller for 3 years, and travels with small kids, I can say that a standard-sized doorway is about 1 meter, and according to the 2009 Adaptable housing standards, in the BC building code, 1.2-1.5m is standard for adaptable housing (depending on the situation), which is consistent with the proposed sidewalk requirements. So, in terms of strollers and small children, the 1.5m distance around the sidewalk parklet would be navigable. Also, Council noted that the status quo was fine and that it was important to preserve parking in downtown (some sidewalk patios could result in a 2 spot loss of street parking).

Now, I think we do need to update our sidewalk policies, activate our streets, increase foot traffic, and make it easier for businesses to expand their capacity and generate income. I think that updating the sidewalk patio permitting policy is a great example of a way that we COULD modernize our municipal policies, and encourage investment and economic development in our downtown core and village centers.

So, what do you think? Sidewalk Patios for the win? not the right thing for us? or another point of consideration for this issue?

Live stream here: http://video.isilive.ca/campbell/2022-07-12.mp4.html

Q.What do you think about food trucks? Why are they beneficial to our community?

This summer, downtown was a lively and event-filled place. And one thing that came up to me, in conversation, was the idea that more food trucks would have been a positive addition to the summer.

So, what about food trucks in CR? –> Food trucks are great little small businesses. They can activate spaces, move around to eliminate continual competition with brick-and-mortar restaurants, and enhance events. They can serve as a secondary revenue stream for existing restaurants, they can be used to test a concept, they are a lower barrier way for entrepreneurs to get into the food and beverage business, and they bring people to unexpected locations around town. Places all over the world support mobile food vendors in their communities.

In 2019, Campbell River did a 12-week food truck pilot project, and admittedly, participation was low on the food truck front; but, who can blame people for not wanting to start and run a business for 12 weeks, and then have the continuation of their businesses hinge on the decision of Council. That much unpredictability does not set a sector up for success.

But, some trucks did participate, and the feedback from the public and the local downtown businesses was almost unanimously positive or at least, neutral.

But, the project never moved forward. Some councilors expressed concern for brick-and-mortar businesses (despite engagement stating otherwise), some were concerned about parking not being abundant enough to support food trucks taking a few spots, and others felt it just wasn’t the right direction for our town.

I don’t agree with any of this. I think we need to support the food truck sector, and I think having broad, year-round access would activate spaces across our community, and keep some of the summer energy going through the winter months. I think we need to support people who want to start small businesses in our community, and mobile food vending is a growing sector.

You can watch the council interaction on food trucks here: http://archive.isiglobal.ca/…/archive_2019-10-07.mp4.html

What do you think about food trucks?

Q.Why is the food truck policy important? Could it represent a larger governance issue in our community?

 The food truck policy is symptomatic of a much larger municipal governance issue. When Council doesn’t utilise evidence-based policies that are proving successful in other jurisdictions, and when Council doesn’t listen to professionals or community members in their decision-making processes, it represents a real governance issue for our community. Other policies, like downtown sidewalks, certain community billboards, and secondary suite zoning, also tend to share similar governance concerns, when you look at the foundation of the decision making process that occurred in City Council Chambers.

Public, Active & Bike Transit

Q. Do you have a vision or desire to enhance bicycle infrastructure?

A. Like many policies, I would like to see us move into the future, and bike infrastructure is certainly an area we have fallen behind when we look at development in other communities. I think we need safer roadways for all active transit, and that should be a priority when we are looking at our long-term asset planning.

A few months ago, there was a public consultation for the Master Transportation plan, so hopefully, we will see some good direction for bike infrastructure come from that report. Should I be elected to the city council, I would look to ensure we are implementing the recommendations of the master transportation plan, which will hopefully include more modern active transit options.

I find a lot of the time, Council gets the reports, receives them for information, and then they don’t go anywhere (across all sorts of city operations) – so actually implementing recommendations that are sound, need to be done, bike infrastructure included. So, Yes, I want to modernize, and I am hopeful that we will see a good plan come from the updated master transportation planning process

Q. As Councillor, how will you advocate for service span & service frequency improvements for the Campbell River Transit System in City Hall, and would you commit to publicly advocating for this issue to bring it to the polls this October?

A. I believe that we need more transit options in Campbell River because I think that communities thrive when we have more diverse ways to get around.

I think public transit forces people to walk short distances, which increases foot traffic and has the potential to increase economic activity in village centres. Transit is also an essential component of a community’s night life scene, and can be important for tourism providers. It creates a healthier community that is more engaged and connected to its surroundings. It cuts down on carbon emissions and is better for the environment.  It has many tangible benefits for a community.

 I do think that we currently have a bit of a chicken and an egg situation, where the current leadership relies on the idea that transit and other modes of transportation are not heavily used, so we don’t need to invest in them; alternatively, if we don’t invest in other modes of transportation first, they will never be heavily used. So, I think we need to be proactive in trying new things when it comes to transportation, and we need to let go of some old ideas.

Urban Containment Boundary and Green Spaces

Q. I would very much like to hear and understand your views on green spaces and the great loss of such as development has recently exploded.

I greatly value green spaces, and do feel strongly that we need to protect them – Personally I would like to have a world for my children and  (hopefully one day) grand-children to enjoy. Environmental protection and the preservation of ecological diversity are foundational to our collective future. I think that, from an economic perspective, we do not appropriately value the negative externalities of the environmental impacts of what we do; so, we do need to start assessing environmental impact better, and this probably comes into your desire to see our environmental protection policies enter the 21st century, and I do agree with you here, we definitely need to have more contemporary policies in our community, especially as we move into a future that may be quite unstable. 

I do see that there is the need for a balance between development, and the preservation of greenspace. I feel that Campbell River could innovate a lot in how we densify our existing residential areas, and there are a number of policies that we could put into place that could densify existing neighbourhoods, with little impact on the existing green spaces. I have heard that the subdivision around Haig-Brown/ Kingfisher Creek is quite diverse and is a more socially responsive development than we usually see proposed in Campbell River. That being said, unlike yourself, I am not a professional forester.  My masters degree is in Public Administration, so, from that perspective, I would be inclined to assess different development proposals based on what professional groups/staff, experienced foresters, such as yourself,  and the local citizens say. So, I would be interested in your perspective on the ecological damage that would transpire from these developments? or ways that we could adjust our policies or our developments to better preserve our environment. One of the reasons I am running is because I do want to see more of an informed and evidence-based approach to our policies in Campbell River, and I would like to see more diverse perspectives heard in the consideration, development, and implementation of our policies. I want to see us move into the 21st century, too. 

From a governance perspective, I think we need to find a balance here, between creating a community that people CAN live in – from an affordability and accessibility perspective, and creating a community that people WANT to live in, from an environmental and recreation perspective. So, I think this can involve preserving green spaces, by creating density in already developed areas, implementing zoning that allows for more diverse housing on existing lots, and taking on responsible developments that appropriately meet the diverse needs of our community. So, I think this is a fine balance, and it is important to take into account an evidence-based approach to deciding how to move forward with developments. I don’t believe that all of our current developments are responsible, or the most suitable developments for our community. So, we probably should ask more of our developers, and ask more of our leaders in terms of preserving existing greenspaces, and also investigating alternatives for development, within existing areas, that don’t involve plowing down all of our green spaces. 

Q. Do you support expanding the Urban Containment Boundary, in the near future?

Personally, I do not support shifting the urban containment boundary, because we have not fully developed the area within the boundary – and I was chatting to a planner this week, who mentioned that without doing anymore re-zoning at all,  we still have about 10 years left of development, within the containment boundary. So I am definitely on the side of preserving our green spaces, and make more efficient use of the land that is already within, the urban containment boundary.

I don’t believe in development policies that promote urban sprawl, because it is not an efficient use of land or capital resources.  It will lead to significant infrastructure costs, and would likely result in higher taxes, to maintain the infrastructure for the area. It also infringes on Area D, so that engagement process would likely result in a long, and labour intensive project. From a financial and operational perspective, at this time and knowing what I know, right now, I don’t think that expanding the urban containment boundary would be efficient, necessary, or cost effective for our community.

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Authorized by Gwendolyn Donaldson, Financial Agent

gwen@gwendonaldson.ca