I fully support smart-growth principles. Smart growth principles have been embedded in the City of Vernon Official Community Plan (OCP) since 2008, and these principles were maintained in the 2013 OCP update. The updated (May 2020) RDNO Regional Growth Strategy is also founded on smart growth principles. These principles deliver all the benefits noted in your question. The 2013 OCP will soon be updated, and it will be very important to ensure that these principles remain foundational to the new OCP. After extensive public engagement on a proposed new OCP, Council will be presented with a renewed OCP for approval. I will examine the proposed new OCP carefully to ensure that smart growth principles remain at its core, and will advocate for improvement if I don’t think they are sufficiently well embedded. I will also advocate on Council for consistency of the new OCP with the updated RDNO Regional Growth Strategy.
As co-chair of the City of Vernon Climate Action Advisory Committee, I championed the creation of the Climate Action Plan. The plan is a good one, equivalent in vision, scope, and goals to the best plans developed by cities around the world, and won an award from the Planning Institute of B.C.
Every element of the plan is important, and every action must be implemented to achieve the goals of the plan. The approximate impact of each action on both improving resilience to the climate and on reducing GHG emissions is indicated in the plan (in Appendix 2). In addition, the plan includes an approximate implementation schedule, with each action assigned either to short, medium, or long-term action, reflecting both its likely benefit and the three time-based targets in the Plan (50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, 75% reduction by 2040, and 100% reduction by 2050, relative to 2017 levels). The actual implementation order will depend not only on this initial implementation schedule, but on other factors, such as the availability of funding for particular aspects of the plan.
We should prioritize those actions that give us the most significant cuts in emissions first. The City has already implemented a curbside organics collection program which will result in a 7% cut in emissions from the City. Transportation emissions make up 63% of the community emissions, but achieving significant cuts depends heavily on both market forces and on the policies and programs of higher levels of government. The City must do its part in the near term, but must also influence other governments to help us achieve our transportation-related goals. Retrofitting existing buildings is another challenge that should be addressed very early. This will require contractor education and training, and widespread citizen appreciation of the benefits of electrified building heating systems.
Governance and leadership are two critically important aspects of the plan. Council must provide top-down leadership to City staff to effectively implement the plan, as well as sufficient resources for this purpose. Staff and council must also embed climate awareness into every decision, and see all decisions through a climate lens. This will require a sustained effort to educate City staff throughout the organization.
It is also important that all City plans and policies are aligned, and accordingly the Climate Action Plan recommends embedding the plan into the Official Community Plan (OCP) as well as updating emergency preparedness and response plans and other City plans to ensure consistency with the Climate Action Plan.
Another activity that should be addressed very soon is developing an engagement strategy to involve the entire community in reaching the goals of the plan, and on providing the community with the necessary information, resources, and tools to contribute to achieving the goals of the plan.
Finally, Council and the Mayor must continually influence federal and provincial governments to strengthen their focus on policies that support our Climate Action Plan - recognizing that achieving the goals of the plan requires policy support at the federal and provincial levels.
To conclude, I’d like to point out that there are two key gaps in the plan:
1. The roadmap for reducing GHG emissions within the plan will get us only 2/3 of the way to the 2050 goal of zero net emissions; and
2. The plan does not explicitly address consumption-based emissions (emissions due to everything we buy, such as food, clothing, and household goods).
Both these gaps present opportunities. The first gap is an opportunity to improve uptake on existing programs offered by higher levels of government to reduce transportation and building-related emissions, and to influence these other governments to create new and more effective programs. We can also work with other governments to encourage new technological innovation to help us succeed. The second gap presents an opportunity for the City of Vernon to engage the entire community in contributing to the goals of the Climate Action Plan. Many residents don’t own homes and many do not drive cars (including virtually everyone younger than about 16, and many seniors). However, everyone eats and nearly everyone benefits from purchases made at local stores - which presents a great opportunity to engage the entire community in achieving the goals of the Climate Action Plan.
The most significant climate-related threats to Vernon are heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and flooding caused by high lake levels, high creek flows and intense rainstorms. Risk is a function of both threat and consequence, and a sample of the key risks associated with these threats includes loss of property, loss of life, loss of livelihood, damage and loss of City infrastructure (e.g. roads, culverts, and bridges), poor air quality, health impacts (including death), environmental damage, land cover loss during fires, reduced tourism benefits, higher food prices, increased taxes, reduced municipal ability to provide services during extreme events, reduced economic competitiveness, and reduced attractiveness as a destination. In addition the distribution of risks throughout the community is not equal – some areas of the city and some residents are more vulnerable than others.
To address these risks, the City should lead implementation of the Climate Action Plan. This plan is based on a thorough assessment of threats, vulnerabilities, consequences, and risks related to climate change throughout the entre community. It recommends specific actions to address those risks and provides an approximate implementation schedule. Following these actions will make the community safer and more resilient to the changing climate, and will keep costs and taxes down. Some specific actions include “fire-smarting” interface areas, addressing the impacts of wildfire smoke, upgrading creek crossings, making sure all future infrastructure upgrades have considered the impacts of a changing climate over the service life of the asset, and protecting natural spaces that contribute significantly to climate resilience.
The Climate Action Plan (which I spearheaded) thoroughly addresses this question. It includes several goals and many actions intended to make a significant difference in reducing GHG emissions from these two sectors. As noted in my responses to question 2 above, the plan also recommends an implementation order, with the highest impact actions occurring in the earlier years. The City should lead implementation of this plan, guided by the recommendations and timeline contained therein. Since I was a primary contributor to the Climate Action Plan, my response to this question does not list my favourite actions, but rather provides general advice that implementation should be guided by the Climate Action Plan. My response to question 2 above provides further thoughts on the more challenging aspects of reducing transportation and building-related emissions and on the most urgent and important actions to complete in these sectors; and lists the governance, leadership, and community engagement actions that are critically important to the success of the plan.
Within the past two years the RDNO and the City of Vernon have thoroughly examined the current housing stock and have identified gaps based on both current needs and anticipated future needs. The housing needs are described within the RDNO Housing Needs Assessment (June 2020) and the RDNO Regional Housing Strategy (December 2021). There are three key issues addressed in the Regional Housing Strategy: a shortage of supply, affordability, and a sufficient diversity of housing types.
I understand that the City of Vernon’s Affordable Housing Committee (City councillors, staff, and community members) have developed an Affordable Housing Implementation Plan specific to the City of Vernon, based on the Regional Housing Strategy. This Implementation Plan is to be presented to Council in the near future. In addition to addressing subsidized housing, I understand that this plan will provide strategies for addressing affordability issues in the market housing segment, which will help younger working families.
I understand that the City is already working closely with BC Housing and with local agencies to contribute significantly to achieving the goals of the regional Housing Strategy. This progress should continue. The next steps are to examine policies, zoning, and any current barriers preventing development of the housing needed to fill the housing gaps identified in the regional Housing Strategy and the made-in-Vernon Affordable Housing Implementation Plan. We also need to continue to collect and disseminate data on progress being made to achieve our housing goals.
I have worked with Okanagan First Nations for many years. Soon after arriving in Vernon in 1994, I worked with the Chiefs of the Penticton, Upper Similkameen, and Lower Similkameen Indian Bands on an issue at the Apex ski resort. On the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council I have worked with individual Bands and with the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA). I have completed professional water-related and environmental assignments on behalf of the ONA and individual Bands, and others in which members of the ONA have been involved (for example a 2021 report on modernizing the Okanagan Lake Regulation System (https://www.obwb.ca/newsite/wp-content/uploads/olrs_plan_of_study.pdf).
In a voluntary capacity I have provided support to the Syilx people to help them achieve their goals. For example, in 2018 I co-chaired a conference on Environmental Flow Needs in Kelowna, which was managed by Indigenous facilitators based on a modified version of a Syilx decision-making process which exposed participants to the benefits both of Syilx knowledge and of Syilx governance approaches (https://www.obwb.ca/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2018_efn_conference_legacy_report_web.pdf).
In 2021, I provided coaching and mentoring to an Indigenous-owned environmental consulting business similar to the one I led for many years. I have recently made a financial contribution to an ONA signage project to be installed along the Okanagan Rail Trail. I have taken part in several workshops on the process of reconciliation. In my role as chair of the Policy Committee of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council I led development of a set of recommendations for advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples on issues related to water. In that work I reviewed several documents containing examples of actions that municipalities can take to advance the process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
On Vernon council I will be guided by my personal commitment to acknowledging the harms done to Indigenous peoples, and to the process of reconciliation. Specifically, in 2017 the City of Vernon and the Okanagan Indian Band initiated a process to build a stronger relationship. The City of Vernon must continue to build on this process, based on mutual respect, understanding, and a common vision, which will provide benefits both to the Band and to the City.
I support the anti-racism policy referred to in your question. This policy aligns well with the new provincial Anti-Racism Data Act (June 2022). This Act is intended to help remove systemic racism faced by Indigenous, black, and racialized communities, and to advance racial equity in the province. It enables the collection of information from individuals to identify systemic racism and improve government services to better meet the needs of these communities.
Data obtained through this Act will help Vernon identify racism issues in our community, and give us the information we need to develop and support programs to address gaps, and break down the barriers faced by some members of the community.
A strong, vibrant, and diverse cultural environment is a critical foundation of a sustainable community. The 2016 Greater Vernon Cultural Plan outlines many ways the municipality can grow our art, culture, and heritage sector. I support implementation of this plan, including construction of the proposed Cultural Centre in downtown Vernon, which was approved by Greater Vernon voters in a 2018 referendum.
The plan provides a good description of the existing cultural environment, including specific facilities and programs. It also addresses the significant economic benefit to the region provided by arts and culture and of the potential to provide additional jobs and contribute further to tourism and the economic prosperity of the region. The plan provides strategies and actions for achieving 16 objectives under three major cultural development areas: headings: cultural leadership, cultural capacity, and cultural places and spaces.
However, the plan makes only a weak reference to future collaboration with Okanagan First Nations in delivering the plan. There appears to have been no involvement of the Okanagan Indian Band in preparing the plan. I believe that a modern Cultural Plan should reflect the influence of the Indigenous people on whose land we reside, providing these people wish to have their voices heard. I believe those voices would broaden, deepen, and richly improve the current plan. Considering that this plan was developed using information from 2014 and 2015, and the Indigenous perspective does not appear to be included, I wonder if it is now time for a refresh.
I engage both in a volunteer role, and as a member of the public in supporting arts, culture, and heritage. I served on the Board of the Okanagan Science Centre, including a period as Board Chair. I visit local art galleries and support local artists. I attend events at the Performing Arts Centre and plays at the Powerhouse Theatre. I attend music events at the Vernon Jazz Club and the Mackie Lake House, and many years ago my children received music instruction at the Vernon community music school. I attend showings sponsored by the Vernon Film Society and occasionally make use of the Vernon public library.
Business retention and expansion is one of the key functions of the City’s Economic Development and Tourism department. The department provides a variety of services to existing businesses, for example assistance in meeting labour needs, providing advice on community programs and services, and assistance in finding new operating locations. In addition, it is important that the City is predictable and consistent in terms of business taxes, downtown safety, and attractiveness. The City must also work towards achieving the needed supply of housing and the amenities needed to serve the population, including a sufficient number of parks, recreation, and arts and cultural facilities.
If elected, I will work with my Council colleagues to ensure the City’s Economic Development and Tourism department is sufficiently funded and supported, and that the City provides the supportive environment needed to retain businesses and their staff.
As noted above, the City can help businesses attract people to the City. The City can also work to provide the housing needed by current and new workers by working to fill gaps in the current supply and diversity of housing, and by working to make housing affordable. As well, the City can provide high quality amenities that residents want and need.
The City can also participate in federal and provincial programs to facilitate immigration. For example the City of Vernon is currently participating in the federal Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program, one of only 11 communities in the country. It is expected that this program will result in new immigration of roughly 250 workers each year for the next two or three years. The City can also advocate for more child-care spaces to support workers.
The City can provide the same economic planning and development services to these specific sectors that it provides generally to existing and prospective businesses. More specifically the City can work with existing information technology companies to facilitate their retention and expansion, and with local community groups that can leverage external funding for programs to improve digital access such as internet connectivity within the city. The City can work with the Township of Spallumcheen to promote the success of their potential new agricultural products processing business park.
A successful business becomes resilient by identifying risks and taking steps to reduce and manage those risks. An obvious risk is the broad suite of risks associated with climate change. Other risks are associated with health (e.g. COVID has had a huge impact on businesses here and around the world) , availability and cost of labour, and competition in the marketplace.
The City should continue its ongoing efforts to support existing businesses (discussed in the answer to question 1, above) and to attract new businesses to Vernon. Specifically, with respect to climate risk, the City’s Climate Action Plan provides many specific recommendations targeted to businesses for reducing their climate risk. The City can encourage businesses to take these steps, and can seek funding from federal and provincial governments to assist local businesses with this work. The City can work with businesses directly or through partnerships with community organizations to help businesses address their risks related to health and labour.
Consideration of the impact of climate change on the health of the community was a major driver of the Climate Action Plan, which I championed as co-chair of the City’s Climate Action Advisory Committee. The health-related vision statement in the Climate Action Plan is “Vernon is a healthy, equitable and resilient community”. The Goal in support of that vision is “all members of the community, especially the most at risk and vulnerable, have equitable access to information, support and resources related to preparing for climate readiness”. There are two actions in support of that goal:
(1) identify populations vulnerable to climate change and develop strategies to build their adaptive capacity, and
(2) develop a program to facilitate social connection, information sharing, climate awareness, and climate response activities amongst City residents at the neighbourhood scale.
Examples of work the City has done recently include providing City facilities for use as shelters during extreme heat and poor air quality due to wildfires.
If elected to Council I will advocate for City leadership in addressing these actions, and working with community partners to complete them.
In Canada, health is a provincial responsibility. However, the City can work with Interior Health on projects they propose for the community, such as harm reduction programs (for example safe injection sites). The City can also work with the province and with local community groups such as the Turning Points Collaborative Society to build and operate supportive housing for people affected by homelessness, a proportion of whom suffer from mental illnesses and addictions, and is already doing that.
More generally, the City should continue to support the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan and the Partners in Action (a broad coalition of community organizations including the Turning Points Collaborative Society, churches, and the Salvation Army) to enable these groups to fully deliver their mandates within the community. The City can leverage its support to obtain additional financial support from higher levels of government for the programs operated by these groups to help people get off the streets and into a more supportive living environment.
Finally, Vernon, like many communities in B.C., is facing a shortage of family physicians. The City can contribute to a solution to this problem by doing its part of make the community attractive to both doctors and their spouses.
On the issue of the stigma associated with additions and homelessness – I believe that speaking openly about mental health and drug addiction, and supporting health-based initiatives are essential for removing the stigma. The City should do its part to emphasize to the community that drug addiction and homelessness are public health issues that affect us all, and are not criminal or moral issues. I support the health agencies in our community that are working to address the stigma related to mental health and addictions.
Vernon needs sufficient parks and modern, high quality recreation facilities to meet the needs of the entire community, including those with lower incomes or physical or other barriers to access. The Parks program is informed and guided by a 2015 Parks Master Plan and the Recreation program is informed by a 2018 Recreation Master Plan. In addition, on Wednesday September 21, 2022, a new Natural Areas and Trails Plan was presented to the RDNO Board.
On Council I will advocate for a robust park and recreation budget and staffing to fully deliver the facilities and programs needed to meet the needs of all residents. In addition, steps should be taken to ensure that Vernon’s public facilities and welcoming and inclusive spaces for our whole community, as Vernon becomes more diverse.
Several key projects are currently underway (including redevelopment of Polson Park, completion of the Grey Canal Trail, and upgrading the Lakeview Pool), and I will fully support the completion of these projects. The proposed new Active Living Centre will be presented to voters for approval in a referendum on October 15, and if that project is supported by the public, I will actively support it through to completion.