In Oak Bay, incumbent Nils Jensen is challenged by mayoral candidate Kevin Murdoch while 10 candidates are running for six councillor positions. We asked each candidate how they would make the municipality a better place and to outline their top three key initiatives. Here are their responses.
1. Continuing infrastructure upgrades of sewers, water, roads and sidewalks.
2. Protecting Oak Bay’s quality of life: its neighbourhoods and heritage, its natural features and urban forest, controlling deer and guarding against overdevelopment
3. Providing affordable living options for seniors and families.
Over the last four years council has made good solid progress that needs to continue. I am fully committed to working constructively with the community to sustain our quality of life over the next four years with:
• An affordable twenty-year infrastructure renewal plan for water and sewage – adding to millions already invested;
• Safer sidewalks and roads;
• A Heritage Conservation Area – a model for heritage protection;
• Secondary suites regulation;
• A range of housing options;
• Enhancing the arts;
• A humane deer reduction program;
• Rigorous urban forest protection;
• Expanded daycare and youth engagement.
Oak Bay has much to love and celebrate, but many issues need urgent attention. Continuing to ignore, defer, or apply Band-Aid fixes to our challenges is unsustainable, particularly with a shrinking population.
My detailed policies (murdoch4mayor.com/policies) address the challenges and opportunities facing us, and how we can move our community forward. While short-term action items like reducing the deer population and restoring elder care to Oak Bay Lodge are obviously important, the following are my cornerstone policy priorities:
• Plan: Replace current spot zoning with regulated, guided development for needed (OCP-identified) housing and commercial upgrades.
• FUND: Control taxes and water bills through better budgeting, alternate revenue sources, and assured funding for infrastructure.
• BUILD: Repair the roads, sidewalks, and pipes, starting now.
• FOSTER: Align council and staff to focus on results.
We need leadership that guides, rather than reacts. Please join me in my plan for community stewardship and positive change.
1. Implementing clear, modernized standards for development to support a better, smarter approach.
2. Building a better connection to municipal government: Providing more information on the things you need to know about and more opportunities to engage.
3. Supporting sustainability: Protecting our natural values through stronger standards and taking action on better infrastructure for active transportation.
We can keep what makes Oak Bay great while planning for a future that’s even better. I want to take action to provide a range of housing options so that our long-term residents can stay in our community and new families can join us. I will push hard for substantive action to update our infrastructure so that residents can have confidence both in the pipes they can’t see and the crosswalks they use every day. I want to see citizens better connected with their government and will encourage a culture of accessibility and communication.
1. Avoiding unnecessary taxes – failing to repair infrastructure means huge costs later and much higher taxes down the road.
2. Community character and housing strategy – preserving heritage and embracing thoughtful change requires a housing strategy that is developed and consistently applied by council. Currently, too many ad hoc decisions are occurring.
3. Fixing the deer problem – pets have been killed and homeowners have been hurt by deer, we need to act now.
My answer is not sexy. I would borrow the funds to fix our aging infrastructure. This is something that to me makes fiscal sense as we can borrow the money at a relatively low rate right now which will save us huge amounts of money in the future and then we could also take advantage of matching grants. I would also look at widening some of our sidewalks along the avenue for better accessibility for pedestrians.
1. Support the development of more affordable housing in Oak Bay.
2. Work with other municipalities in the CRD to expand public transportation options.
3. Repair and improve our municipality’s infrastructure, particularly our water and sewer systems and our streets and sidewalks.
I will work to promote bold, compassionate, progressive solutions to the issues facing our municipality; to consult with the public in an open, honest, and transparent manner on all issues; to promote diversity of all kinds in our municipality and to build a community in which everyone feels welcome regardless of their identity or income; and particularly to improve public transportation, upgrade and maintain our decaying infrastructure, and encouraging the development of more quality affordable housing in Oak Bay so that anyone who wants to live in this municipality can afford to do so, while taking care to preserve our natural environment, plant life, and wildlife.
1. More accountability, timely information-sharing and transparent decision-making coupled with regular community engagement.
2. Fully implement the Official Community Plan for better land use planning to support sound development practices, housing options and meaningful neighbourhood consultation.
3. Protect Oak Bay’s natural environments by reinstating an environmental advisory body for environmental oversight of re-development and development projects.
Oak Bay is a wonderful community but improvements for better, more responsive and more inclusive local government are needed, including consistent public engagement so council decisions are informed, transparent and supported by residents; timely information-sharing through town hall meetings, public forums, neighbourhood meetings and a council newsletter; and, designating two council members as accountable community liaisons for each of the three main areas in Oak Bay – North, Central and South. Experience has taught me that local government works best when residents and council regularly engage and communicate with one another.
Oak Bay is an incredible community, that I’m lucky to be part of. I have been an active community member, from advocating for composting at Willows, to being a Girl Guide leader now.
I began attending council meetings, and I noticed I was not hearing many concerns that my friends and family were always talking about. That is why I decided to run, because I am not willing to wait any longer to have our priorities discussed at council.
I would hope to contribute to the infrastructure conversation and ensuring the projects are completed. As I have a deep connection with parks, I would opt to bring to council a fresh perspective on how to handle deteriorating parks. I also would like to see more housing options that fit within our community, like regulating secondary suites. Above all, I hope to be fully representative of the people of Oak Bay.
1. Expand housing options while respecting our neighborhoods.
2. Reduce the deer herd.
3. Create a robust public engagement infrastructure.
My approach builds on our shared values that ensures how we govern reflects the interests of the community.
This means continuing what we already do so well: promoting social inclusion; protecting our natural environment; creating spaces for culture and recreation; and, being fiscally responsible. It also means adapting to the affordability crisis. Land development policies shape who can live in Oak Bay. In consultation with our community, we need to rapidly increase housing options through low densification strategies (e.g., secondary suites, duplexes, townhouses) that will complement our single family housing stock but preserve our neighborhoods. Allowing seniors to continue to live in Oak Bay and, at the same time, addressing a range of housing needs will ensure a healthy social fabric for our changing demographic. This will make Oak Bay better.
1. Financial Sustainability
2. Coherent Community Development
3. Transparent Government
Many of our financial policies need to be updated. Basic services of water, sanitary and storm sewers, roads and sidewalks are in ‘poor to very poor condition,’ municipal buildings need renovations. I support planned infrastructure investment instead of costly temporary fixes. Our OCP is out of date; council has not used it to create a comprehensive housing strategy nor practical bylaws. We all win when rules and requirements are clearly communicated to everyone so councillors can lead, not deal with constant exceptions. Staff can’t perform well unless policies are empowering, clear and financially effective. Financial sustainability gives us the ability to thrive. Oak Bay needs a strategy that allows us to keep evolving as a community while keeping us from losing our way.
We need transparent government. Our annual report must tell us what is working, and what isn’t – we can only improve what we can measure.
1. Legalize secondary suites to help make Oak Bay more affordable.
2. Fix the infrastructure deficit while fairly distributing costs.
3. Protect our built heritage and natural environment.
Oak Bay needs people from different backgrounds and life experiences, as our community is stronger through our diversity. Housing should be obtainable and not out of reach for those that give our community its vibrancy. That is why I believe we need to legalize and regulate secondary suites and explore other infill options. It is vital to properly fund our infrastructure, and fairly distribute the cost between current and future residents. We must protect our built heritage by providing incentives to retain significant heritage properties and facilitating the designation of homes. I’ve worked on the Heritage Conservation Area Working Group to help create Oak Bay’s first HCA. Finally, we need to build a sustainable community by working towards mitigating and adapting to climate change.
My constituency is all elderly, retired seniors, apartment renters and veterans of the CAF. Any programs that come before me will be reviewed in the light of their impact on this constituency.
The provincial government has released a new programme called “Age friendly B.C.,” it is my intention to sponsor an application for funding to create a position at City Hall, the “Age Friendly Service Rep” to meet and take care of all elderly, retired seniors and veterans of the CAF who are stonewalled by the present veil of secrecy that covers City Hall, not authorized by any by-law.
Elect an entire new slate of councillors, abstain from mayoralty voting and send a message to the two prospects.
3. Good policy for the public interest informed by you
As a councillor, I’m a pragmatist. I believe in an intelligent, thoughtful, genuine, inclusive approach to cautious change. But, in the process of community building, unlike the mayor, I don’t see myself as a passive actor – I helped remove derelict boats on Cadboro-Gyro beach, and I helped renovate the refugee housing on Hampshire. I like getting my hands dirty as it makes the job real.
I want to work on affordable housing. BC Assessments data shows 475 legal non-conforming secondary suites in Oak Bay. Excellent. Any new ones, however, will cost $50,000 plus to add a new kitchen with stove to minimal code standards for fire/safety. No matter what the mayor is saying, the province will not pay you to add a second kitchen. But, he is actively upsetting the province’s “30 Point Plan for Housing Affordability.” If just the vacant houses were pressed into service throughout the built-up areas, the “housing crisis” would end immediately. We can’t just build ourselves out of this problem.