All Candidates Meeting - Follow-Up Q&A from Incumbent Candidate for Councillor, Anne Marie Baron
Port McNeill, B.C. October 4th, 2022 - Not all questions submitted by the public were heard at the September 28th All Candidates Meeting (recording here.) 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 Incumbent Candidate for Councillor, Ann Marie Baron
Municipal and SD85 All Candidates Meeting
Summary of Submitted Questions
- What is your stance on the Old School, tear down, re-purpose, tear down and rebuild or other-wise?
An idea that has been floated is to repurpose the building. My interpretation of the reports provided to Council do not clearly state that it is a tear down. I would like to see Council have a dedicated discussion regarding the old school and not in isolation. Could we change (expand) the downtown if the building was given new life?
- 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?
The Harbour Advisory Group (HAG) has a very knowledgeable group of volunteers. I would like to see this developed in the next term with a mind to long term planning. I am hopeful that this question includes residents as commercial users.
- Will you lobby to accommodate and attract live aboard boaters? Why, why not?
My understanding is that live aboard boaters ceased in the Harbour because there was not an effective way to manage the results of noncompliance (sewage in the water). This topic has been brought up at the HAG however the actual space we have to work with is confining, not to say with imagination it may be possible, but the risks would need to be mitigated prior to implementation.
- 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?
That would be great – but I’m not sure where we could/would get the landscape to do so.
- The Community Forest Reserve has been saved. How do you envision community forest funds being used now and into the future?
I do believe that this money should be used in a measurable way. I did not want to see it become operational funds nor did it feel right to have piece meal spending. Personally, I am hopeful that the new council can have discussions at the table around - how we can give back to the community with this spending
- What is your experience in understanding and/or managing public finances?
Finances I don’t believe are my strong suit – I work at trying to understand at a practical level. This council has actively been working on reporting with staff so that we receive information that enables us to make decisions with future demands in mind.
- 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?
My hope is that a significant change could be funded through various streams (reserves, Community Forest Monies, Grants) before becoming a substantial tax increase. If Council were to propose a substantial increase it better be for something fabulous.
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?
This land is very tricky for me. I don’t have a true on the ground understanding of what we own and how it lines up with private landowners. I have a huge issue with building a parking lot on our waterfront to service a park, and I don’t believe you can have a park without proper access including parking.
o What are your thoughts about recognizing Indigenous Rights and Title where it overlaps with vacant municipal land?
Processes/requirements are established for consultation between our Town Government and First Nations Governments. Any development will be required to go through the established channels. Respect and trust need to be the basis for a relationship and the relationship has to develop within timelines.
- 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.
Short term Rentals are a big bite to chew at once. Our current bylaw allows for residents to make use of their properties without creating a component of non-compliance or legally nonconforming uses. I would like to understand what has worked in other communities and more importantly what didn’t. For me this issue was to big to not be allowed a proper digestion of inputs before making such a large decision.
- Do you view short-term rentals as a business? To what extent or end can people participate in commerce out of their own home?
Short term rentals are a way for people to earn money, therefore I suppose I would consider it a business, although I believe as passive income it does not need to be run through a business. I believe impact dictates the extent of participation in commerce out of their own homes; the impacts on safety, the neighborhood, and desirability in our community.
- What is your perception of the status of the resource sector, and how do you think that relates to community planning?
My perception of the status of the resource sector is that our community planning is based on resource sector jobs and taxes. I believe that as a Council we need to voice our support for the resource sector at every opportunity we can. Financially as a Town I think we need to be mindful of what could happen if these sectors were crippled.
- 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? For the others, what is your position on urban chickens in Port McNeill.
I believe that before urban chickens can be allowed there needs to be a permit system in place. If your property doesn’t meet the specifications, then you will not be allowed to have chickens. I believe that this would give us a ‘test fishery’ of sorts. The Town would be able to proactively ensure that homeowners were appropriate in their acquisition of chickens. I also believe that that a permit system would give enforcement an ability to deal with infractions.
- Please explain what you think went wrong in the conversation around re-zoning this year?
The process set out in the Community Charter maybe didn’t make sense to those of us that wanted to see results. Council’s decision was to present what they thought was a near perfect document prior to seeking public input. This delayed the process and revealed that the re-zoning wasn’t what the community wanted. Perhaps if Council had released a broader document, received feedback and then reworked there may have been a different perception.
- 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 believe that we have some low hanging fruit and ability to align with our neighbors that haven’t been investigated yet. I was very excited when Council agreed to have the Parks and Recreation committee created as I believe this needs to be looked at as a whole and not in isolation. I also believe that in Port McNeill sometimes things just get done and I would love to see those groups have a central spot to coordinate plans.
- What are your thoughts on having a waterfront park and gathering place geared to children and families?
It sounds great and there is the landscape to accommodate a vision, but this needs to be looked at not in isolation. A definition of a park would be a good place to start. This question states geared to children and families – the context of what that means would change the answer.
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?
In my opinion COVID thrust this Council into relying on online communications – the pendulum swung way out to one side – now I think it is time to bring the pendulum back into balance and find a balance instead of being heavily weighted towards one format.
- 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?
I want to make sure I have an understanding from all perspectives. I want and believe that you should be as informed as you can be or have access to the appropriate personnel. Respectful communication and prioritization within your means will greatly help in this term.
- What does "being the face of Port McNeill" mean to you and how do you see yourself encouraging positivity and development in our town?
A young lady, a WFP engineer and my son recently went to PEI for the Stihl Canadian Championships – they took a photo of the three of them on the podium with our Port McNeill flag. Our businesses being recognized positively in TV and social media. Seeing non-residents in our town and offering a smile or a conversation out of the blue – all of these are positive examples of our town that mean a lot to me personally.
- What is your commitment to this council? Will you run for another office during your elected term?
I have 4 kids, a husband, a community of friends and acquaintances, a job with owners who see value in allowing me flexibility to ensure I can commit to the responsibilities of being a Council Member. After those commitments I wouldn’t have the time or energy to run for another office 😊
- What is your plan to address the Health Care crisis we are experiencing in Port McNeill?
We need to continue to ensure Island Health is aware that we will not accept the crisis, we will work through if there are plans in place. We need to continue to work with Island Health while ensuring our agenda is their agenda. We need to engage them and not wait for them to engage us.
- How aggressively will you compete within the region to get more health infrastructure specifically in Port McNeill, like a bathing centre?
We need to talk with our neighbors and understand what makes sense where. Does ultrasound in Port Hardy manage to successfully service the north island needs or do we need additional? Would one diabetic nurse between all ensure prompt access? What do we want, need and what can we share?
- 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?
Our zoning bylaw was a first step to enable smaller footprints, carriage houses etc to become part of our community. Not all seniors are able bodied and not all seniors are limited. I’m not sure with our landscape if you will get the ability to build many single floor houses but processes will be available for that second level to be a self contained suite – allowing density and income.
If the question is in regards to accessibility, gathering spots etc I am fully in favour and again believe the topic can’t be investigated in isolation – can an area be designed that services another demographic in the off times or season. Consideration needs to be wide.
- What do you think the number one actionable solution to Port McNeill’s housing crisis is?
Ensuring our processes can handle permits in a reasonable manner and timely. When land is available to be developed, I want to ensure that the investor isn’t bogged down in process where if we can streamline like other municipalities it will benefit everyone.
- What are your thoughts on our daycare crisis and what steps are you going to take to improve it?
Childcare needs to be one of the puzzle pieces in place when we make decisions. You can’t get workers if they don’t have housing they are responsible for, you can’t have growth or workers if their families aren’t taken care of. Council deciding the Town will operate a daycare probably isn’t in the best interests but we can ensure operators are supported and we are open to new proposals
- What are your thoughts on the current values of tax businesses are paying in our community?
No one likes taxes. Taxes need to be a balance of ensuring businesses can operate, homeownership is affordable, and that the Town can provide the infrastructure needed to allow the full circle to keep spinning.
- What is the number one thing that Port McNeill can do to attract business?
We need to be open for business. Our Town processes and policies need to be fair, reduce or eliminate risk to the community and allow for growth, new ideas while supporting current businesses. In the OCP process tax programs and benefits were touched on – this is something I would like to explore to see if it would be an advantage to our community.
- September 30th is Orange Shirt Day. What are a couple steps that Port McNeill has or can take towards reconciliation?
The Town of Port McNeill needs to be respectful of our neighbor’s government, processes and timelines. Working together on projects, advocacy and the betterment of our north island can be our baseline – together we can do great things.