All Candidates Meeting - Follow-Up Q&A from Candidate for Councillor, Incumbent Shelley Downey
Port McNeill, B.C. September 30, 2022 - Not all questions submitted by the public for the All Candidates Meeting were heard at the event! The candidates have the opportunity to reply to the submitted questions in writing, and it's our pleasure to share those replies with you as they become available!
Here are the replies to the suite of questions from
Councillor Candidate, incumbent Shelley Downey
What is your stance on the Old School, tear down, re-purpose, tear down and rebuild or other-wise?
Port McNeill has a variety of reports that identify what is necessary to bring the Old School up to current standards. The outgoing council requested these reports be pulled and the data compiled and updated to determine the feasibility and costs if the old school is to continue being used. A cost-benefit analysis will determine the best course of action for the Old School, either refurbish or replace. If the analysis warrants upgrading the Old School, I see two potential uses, either a community center or/and Town Administration Office. Port McNeill needs a gathering place that is readily available where groups can meet and activities can be held.
o Port McNeill Harbour serves a vast area of this island, the Islands and the mainland. What is your plan to make our harbour better for all commercial users?
We have a Harbour Advisory Group (HAG) that meets regularly to discuss and explore our harbour’s current use and how it can be improved for both commercial and recreational boaters.
o Will you lobby to accommodate and attract live aboard boaters? Why, why not?
Live aboard’s were stopped in our harbour a number of years ago chiefly due to sewage in our harbour. Is this or would this be a problem today? I don’t know. This topic comes up periodically at our Tourism Advisory Commission meetings. I need speak with our HAG and do some research to ascertain what would be appropriate and necessary for our harbour conditions and situation today for this to move forward.
o Are there plans to extend the harbour? If so, which portion, municipal or small craft, and how do you see this being managed or financed?
I am unaware of any plans to extend our harbour.
The Community Forest Reserve has been saved. How do you envision community forest funds being used now and into the future?
The Community Forest Funds are like a gift. They allow us to consider a major project for the benefit of the community as a whole. They should be used for that purpose and leveraged if necessary.
I have not and will not support using these funds for general operating.
What is your experience in understanding and/or managing public finances?
Municipal governments must adopt a five year financial plan by May 15th each year. Municipal governments cannot budget for a deficit. The Town of Port McNeill begins this work in the fall of the prior year. There is a significant amount of work that goes into setting the budget. We now have a full-time Corporate Financial Officer who is doing a fantastic job for us. I believe we will see many benefits as a result.
New councils often come with new ideas. Demonstrating your knowledge of Town Finance, how would you go about funding the most significant change you are suggesting?
We have the community forest funds that can be leveraged for the benefit of our town whether it is a revamp of the Old School into a public gathering space or creating a Seniors Village.
Our staff are continually watching for grant funding that may fit with a proposed project in our five year plan.
LAND USE & DEVELOPMENT
The Town of Port McNeill owns waterfront land at the end of Beach Drive, known locally as Hoy Bay, what is your vision for this land, what should be done with it?
I would like to see this land developed for housing and a park. This would allow the town to increase its tax revenue and have a park in Hoy Bay.
Housing should continue along Beach Drive with the park located at the edge of our land that butts up against Mosaic’s property. A creek runs between our two properties and I believe it makes sense to incorporate a park around the creek and have Mosaic contribute land here too.
What are your thoughts about recognizing Indigenous Rights and Title where it overlaps with vacant municipal land?
On the day council makes a plan for this 12 acre parcel of land, it is highly probable that an archeological study of the area will be done. The results of the study may influence its development. That may be the best time to have a conversation around rights and title.
Reconciliation and relationships with our First Nation Neighbours has to be based on trust and respect. I believe the incoming council will continue on this path.
The issue of vacation rentals (Air BnB, for instance) was deferred during the rezoning process, in favor of maintaining the current Bed and Breakfast bylaw. What is your position on vacation rentals in Port McNeill?
I am not in favour of airbnb’s in the Town of Port McNeill. We have a shortage of rentals in town and airbnb’s would further reduce the availability of rentals as evidenced by their impact in other communities.
Our engineering firm did bring forward some information for council’s consideration that would allow for owner occupied homes to rent out suites within the home. There is work to be done on our bylaws around this issue to determine its feasibility. I would support that.
Do you view short-term rentals as a business? To what extent or end can people participate in commerce out of their own home?
I view short-term rentals, defined as a stay of a minimum of 30 days, as a business.
People have been participating in commerce out of their home long before I arrived here in 1995. To what degree this should be allowed, I would say it is okay up to the point where the nature of the business is detracting from their neighbour’s ability to enjoy their property.
What is your perception of the status of the resource sector and how do you think that relates to community planning?
The resource sector has been challenged by a variety of groups that do not fully understand its importance and impact to the workers and businesses in communities like ours or to our provincial and federal economy. How does this relate to our community planning? Council does not have a crystal ball and it seems that in every decision we always have to ask the following: is the project necessary, beneficial, and can we pay not only for the installation but also its annual operating costs if our town finances were to drastically change. The majority of our taxes do come from residential properties so we are shielded from what Campbell River experienced when they lost their pulp mill in 2009.
Council must continue to advocate for our resource sectors.
For the incumbents, Re: urban chickens, can you explain the position you took during the bylaw rezoning process and your position on urban chickens if re-elected?
I recently voted against urban chickens. Until we have the regulations in place and a designated bylaw officer, I cannot support this. Our bylaw enforcement is complaint driven. Neighbours should not have to report on each other.
Please explain what you think went wrong in the conversation around re-zoning this year?
The zoning bylaw was handled exactly as it should have according to the Community Charter. Some of the proposed changes caught some landowners unaware. After the initial public hearing, council held an informal public meeting to allow residents to dialogue and discuss their concerns. Revisions were made and another public hearing was held before passing the bylaw. Given that we are a small town, I wish I had called the landowners personally to notify them of the zoning change implications. It wasn’t required but would have been thoughtful.
What are your ideas to increase recreation opportunities in Port McNeill? Specifically, are you in favor of increasing staff resources dedicated to recreation, like has recently been done in Port Hardy, and what is your vision for affordable development of recreational infrastructure?
I am always willing to explore new ideas. I would also like to let residents to know that we have made a small step in this direction recently.
Port McNeill hired Chris Woo to manage our museum and visitor information center. He returned to Port McNeill after 20+ years in Jasper. To date he has scheduled regular open hours for our museum and is actively looking to find ways that the museum can be utilized to host activities as it has meeting rooms available.
My vision for affordable development of recreational infrastructure will be based upon the result of our decision regarding the Old School. We need a recreational/gathering place that works for all.
What are your thoughts on having a waterfront park and gathering place geared to children and families?
We need a gathering place that is geared for all demographics. I like the idea of a waterfront park. It provides a place for children to play and for others to sit and watch the activity in the harbour. I believe it is the potential scale of the park that has some residents concerned as our harbour is very active. This can be worked out.
HR, ADMINISTRATION, GOVERNANCE
Do you think the Town of Port McNeill's communication strategy with its residents is adequate? If not what kind of changes would you like to see occur?
We made a few changes over this past term. Meetings are available online for viewing in real time or YouTube and our Staff is working hard to ensure the data on our Town website is current.
Is there room for improvement? Yes. Not everyone does social media and word of mouth and posters can’t always be relied upon. The Regional District’s sign at the arena is an excellent tool and I hope we can utilize it to improve our communications.
Not all ideas and priorities move forward. How well would you work with Council to get 1 or 2 ideas moved forward that aren’t your favourite? How would you personally determine which idea gets precedence over all the other worthy ideas?
As a member of council or any other board, I do my best to be fully informed about the issues or ideas that are brought forward. I go into meetings with an open mind and listen to the information and perspectives of others before make my final decision on a motion. After the vote, I will support council’s decision regardless of how I voted.
What does "being the face of Port McNeill" mean to you and how do you see yourself encouraging positivity and development in our town?
As a councillor and a front facing business in the downtown core, I take this very seriously. I want both residents and tourists to feel welcome in our town and be treated with respect. This also holds true when the mayor and councillors are working with other levels of government and First Nations and outside agencies.
What is your commitment to this council? Will you run for another office during your elected term?
In 2018, I knew I wanted to seek the federal nomination for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) and did not intend to submit my name for Councillor. A wise person asked me, are you okay with not being on council (assuming I won) if you don’t win the nomination? I was not so I ran for councillor and then subsequently won the CPC nomination. My commitment to the residents of Port McNeill and participation in council business did not diminish even though I ran federally in 2019 and 2021.
I believe there was a benefit to Port McNeill having run federally. After calling and knocking on many doors, I gained insight and ideas which I was able to share with council.
What is your plan to address the Health Care crisis we are experiencing in Port McNeill?
At UBCM this year, I heard from many communities about their situations. We haven’t experienced their horrific stories of people dying outside the ER but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. We must continue working with and pressing Island Health for a solution. Recently a number of rural communities have joined together to press the province to make the changes necessary to improve healthcare. We cannot be silent.
How aggressively will you compete within the region to get more health infrastructure specifically in Port McNeill, like a bathing centre?
Maybe the question should be, is it time to have one facility central to all communities that can be operational 24/7? No one wins if communities fight amongst each other for resources and services.
We need to dig out the Seniors housing plan that was used – unsuccessfully – for a grant application a few years ago. Check and see if there is new funding available that could be leveraged to get it built. The plan included a bathing centre. I know we are dealing with high inflation and there is talk of a recession but it was during the great recession of 2008 that we were able to replace our water lines at fair contract prices.
More seniors are aging in place, and there is very little housing available here that is suitable for seniors to transition to (i.e. single level, small yards, etc). What will you do to support seniors housing?
Updating our Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw were two necessary steps towards getting some new construction in town. Developers and builders, local or from outside of our region want to know what the plan is and what the rules are. Our greatest need is for patio homes for seniors. I will support the action necessary to see this move forward.
What do you think about investing into the large bubble demographics of seniors?
If the question is referring to recreation and/or housing for seniors, I am in support.
What do you think the number one actionable solution to Port McNeill’s housing crisis is?
Get a plan put together for the land between Campbell Way and Pioneer Drive and act on it.
What are your thoughts on our daycare crisis and what steps are you going to take to improve it?
As a municipal government body, we must offer our support to new initiatives that come forward whether they are coming from private industry, provincial or federal government. We also need to keep talking to those on the ground and see what we can do to assist.
What are your thoughts on the current values of tax businesses are paying in our community?
Business tax rates have been moving up in line with the residential rate increases. As a ratio compared to residential, I feel they are appropriate. Full disclosure – I am a business property owner.
What is the number one thing that Port McNeill can do to attract business?
At this point in time, it is tie between housing and daycare. New businesses need employees. Employees need a home to live in and childcare if they have children. We must continue working with/assisting builders and our daycare providers.
September 30th is Orange Shirt Day. What are a couple steps that Port McNeill has or can take towards reconciliation?
Port McNeill has been working with our First Nation neighbours on a couple issues. One is healthcare and the other is the need for reliable and stable power. All of our communities are affected by the shortcomings in these areas. As a united group, our collective voice carries more weight for the benefit of us all. Reconciliation comes from relationships built on trust and respect. This has to be foundation upon which we always work together.
CANDIDATE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS: N/A
o The Mayor has the important duty of overseeing the day to day operations and working closely with the Chief Administrative Officer. If elected, how often would you be in the Town Office, how much time can dedicate to the job?
o Seamless Day Kindergarten or Before-And-After school programs offered within the school district are gaining traction around BC: will School District 85 support a Seamless Day Kindergarten program, why or why not?