Profiles of party candidates for Nanaimo-North Cowichan

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder News

Tuesday, April 25 2017

With only two weeks to go until the 41st B.C. general election, the Sounder spoke to the candidates vying to represent the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding. The Liberal, NDP and Green candidates were asked about B.C. Ferries, their views on Kinder Morgan, how they would address housing availability and affordability on Gabriola, and what they propose for Gabriola’s roads, given the budget for the next 10 years only includes basic maintenance.

Alana DeLong, Liberal

Previously an MLA in Alberta for the Calgary-Bow riding for four terms, Alana DeLong is originally from B.C. and is currently retired. She re-entered politics because she felt that in Nanaimo-North Cowichan “there wasn’t the support that I used to provide [as an MLA],” citing she had a busy constituency office.

She said she hasn’t come across much NDP support while campaigning and believes Liberal voters are not going to the polls, which is why she thinks the riding has gone orange for the last three terms.

DeLong said the Nanaimo area’s ‘high-tech’ sector should be a focus for jobs and wants to support plans to establish a foot passenger ferry between downtown Nanaimo and Vancouver so people could take advantage of a lower cost of living on the islands while working in Vancouver.

The Liberal party’s Vancouver Island platform - the first time they’ve had a unique platform for the Island and surrounding community - includes a loyalty program for residents of ferry-dependent communities, beginning in 2020. 

“I pushed really hard to make sure that was part of our platform,” DeLong said.

Until then residents would be able to deduct 25% of their ferry fares from their taxes, a maximum savings of $250. DeLong said the three-year delay is a result of BC Ferries’ databases not being equipped to implement a loyalty program immediately. The Liberals have also proposed $1 million in upgrades to Wi-Fi on the ferries and in terminals.

DeLong said she is not aware of any requests for road improvements on Gabriola, but would be open to working on expanding the transportation budget, if a need was established. 

Regarding alleviating rental availability and housing options on Gabriola, DeLong said, “I can’t say that I have a good solution for that. Generally when it comes to housing, one of the things I’ve alway been in favour of is making secondary suites widely available.”

DeLong said she supports the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and said the province “had no standing” to deny the project after it received federal approval. 

“We [B.C.] are essentially a port for Canada,” she said. “We’re part of a value chain for the resource industry.”

Doug Routley, NDP

Three-term incumbent Doug Routley notes accomplishments such as installing more traffic lights, but says most efforts have gone toward “resisting public policy that has been bad for the community,” citing Colliery Dam Park and efforts to keep an incinerator burning Metro Vancouver’s garbage out of Duke Point.

He said the NDP ferry plan - to reduce fares by 15 per cent for ferry dependent communities - is better than the Liberal plan because it applies to all users, not just residents, and would encourage tourism to the islands. “When we looked at the work that was done by [Union of BC Municipalities], that showed these ferry fares had cost coastal communities $2.2 billion per year in GDP,” Routley said.

The NDP have also proposed a fare freeze on the major routes and reintroducing free tickets for seniors on weekdays.

On the housing front, Routley highlighted the NDP wants to help build more co-operative housing units in smaller communities, which after 10 years would convert to market housing.

Routley noted food security as an issue for islanders and said the NDP would require large food purchasers such as Island Health to purchase some of their agricultural products from the province.

Routley said the roads budget for Gabriola is “wholly inadequate” and said improvements should be made for cyclists and said he wants to encourage eco-tourism and cycling vacations.

The NDP are opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and would adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and would require projects obtain consent from First Nations. “There’s never been a federal government project as significant as this that’s been pushed through against the objections of the province,” Routley said.

Back in February, Routley read a brief statement in the Legislature to encourage people to visit the island in celebration of Gabriola Arts Council’s 20th anniversary.

In the 2013 provincial election, the Green Party candidate finished third in most of the riding, but came in second on Gabriola Island. Asked if he feels any pressure about losing the Gabriola vote, Routley said voters considering voting Green should vote for him because he said an NDP government would introduce a referendum for proportional representation, which would benefit the Green party in the long term. 

“A vote for the Greens right now may help the election of Christy Clark,” Routley said.

Lia Versaevel, Green

Lia Versaevel has been district director for the Lions Club International and worked in the B.C. justice system in various capacities for 27 years. “I think the playing field is very level,” she said in response to her competing against two candidates with experience as an MLA.

Versaevel said she thinks voters should vote for what they believe in rather than cast a vote in essence to block another party from being elected. “We need to put a completely different platform forward. 

“We are representing hope and a principled government that is ethically and morally beyond reproach.”

Versaevel said she would push for a ferry tax credit for island residents.

The Green Party opposes the Kinder Morgan pipeline, however, Versaevel thinks a spill response centre such as the one proposed for Nanaimo by Western Canada Marine Response Corporation should still be built even if the Kinder Morgan pipeline project is halted in order to address already existing tanker traffic.

Costs for road improvements should be built into the taxation system, Versaevel said, specifically through an increase to the cost of business licences if businesses are going to bring an increase in traffic.

She said the Green party platform for housing includes looking at zoning variances to help homeowners build legal suites and she wants adjustments made to the Tenancy Act.

“There needs to be a rethink … on the whole phenomenon that people think that they can rent out their homes … at peak tourism and evict the people who have been living there in the off-season,” she said. She added the government should expand partnerships with groups like the Lions Club to help build affordable housing as has been done on Gabriola.

The Green Party has also proposed poverty reduction strategies that would include guaranteed annual incomes and free child care.