Two candidates running for single RDN Director’s seat

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, September 5 2018

With at least two candidates declared for the position of Regional Director, there will be an election to decide who represents Gabriola, Mudge and DeCourcy islands on the Regional District of Nanaimo Board.

Howard Houle, the incumbent, announced in August that he would be seeking a third term.

This past week, Vanessa Craig announced she would be running for the director position.

Craig has lived on Gabriola for 18 years.

Both she and her husband Steve are professional biologists and nature lovers - they have two daughters they have raised on the island.

She has been involved locally with the Parent Participation Preschool as treasurer and has been active in the homeschool community, as well as giving talks on bats and environmental issues. For the last eight years she served on the Council of the College of Applied Biology, which is the regulator for professional biologists in BC (similar to the College of Physicians and Surgeons), and recently completed her second term as President and Board Chair. 

“I’ve gained extensive governance experience and know what a collaborative environment and a proactive approach can accomplish. I would like the opportunity to apply my experience to benefit our community as your representative. I feel that my collaborative, inclusive, proactive, and evidence-based approach would be effective in representing our islands at the Regional District of Nanaimo.”

Craig outlined some of the issues she thinks will be important to talk about during the campaign.

“As islanders, we have challenges that some of our neighbours in the RDN do not feel as acutely, while others are shared by communities both provincially and nationally. As islands with finite resources, our challenges include balancing our environment and our natural resources, while still maintaining and developing strong communities. 

“I intend to use my commitment to collaborative leadership to make progress in critical areas of community resilience, such as emergency preparedness, water security and housing accessibility.”

Issues she identified were:

Emergency preparedness: Disaster resilience is a priority of mine. In the event of a major forest fire, we can expect assistance from the mainland or Vancouver Island, although it’s still essential to have our own emergency response as seen on Mudge Island recently. But an event such as a major earthquake could cut our islands off from immediate outside help.

Water security: As a scientist, I am very concerned about the issue of our accessibility to fresh water. This is a complex regional issue that is being addressed at many levels of government. As RDN Director, I will work with the RDN staff, Islands Trust, and community groups to identify options to developing our water resiliency. I will also research and report on changes at the provincial level to freshwater and grey water standards that may affect our islands.

Housing accessibility: Community resilience must also address housing accessibility, a critical issue not only for our island communities, but one being grappled with by other communities across BC. While the Islands Trust governs land use, the RDN has the ability to “hold land” and has a key role in related issues such as water security, waste disposal and potential funding for projects. The RDN can be a voice at the provincial level around potable water regulations, as well as effectively communicating with and exploring solutions developed by other regional governments.

Governance: The process of governance and transparency is also an issue I want to address. The Island Trustees recently identified lack of cooperation at the RDN as a barrier to their being able to do their job effectively. I intend to reinvigorate the RDN’s relationship with the Islands Trust, and build upon the relationship with Snuneymuxw and [other] First Nations, to provide the most effective representation to our communities.

Asked why she thinks the RDN is the best place for her to take part in the direction Gabriola will head for the next term, Craig said, “The RDN has an important but largely unseen role in the life of residents in Electoral Area B. 

“Significant services such as emergency planning, liquid and solid waste management, community parks and recreation, and community development are but a few of the important responsibilities of the RDN. I see an opportunity for us to use the resources the RDN can offer, and I will work to ensure the RDN becomes more responsive to our communities’ needs through improved collaboration and communication.”

Howard Houle said he is running for a third term “because I love this community and want to see it developed in a responsible manner. There are projects that were begun when I was in office that I would like to bring to completion in a third term.

“Over the course of the last seven years I have been able to bring a variety of services to Gabriola, for example improvements to Rollo McClay Community Park: new pond liner, new pumping system, improvements to the field and backstop, updating the washrooms and adding a playground. 

“I helped GIRO with the grants for the new building, a new roof and a new used oil collection tank. There were also improvements to Rollo Senior’s Centre and the Commons, the community hall, the museum and Huxley Park just for starters.  

I assisted with the acquisition of a park for Mudge islanders and also with water accesses there. There are many more projects that have been completed and more planned for the future.    

Issues Houle identified for the RDN will be “dealing with better water access to both Gabriola Island and Mudge Island. On Gabriola some outstanding issues are cycling infrastructure, the Village Trail, P3 parkland (active recreation use parkland), and affordable housing. 

“The RDN can only do so much about affordable housing as we can only hold land for parks and trails, however, we are looking at other regional districts to see what is being done elsewhere and what could work here. 

As to why he continues to work with the RDN as his way of being involved on Gabriola, Houle said, “The Islands Trust does land use planning and land use enforcement only. 

“The RDN looks after all the other 27 services from building inspections to garbage collection, recycling and community parks and recreation. The services the RDN provides impact people’s lives directly and set a vision for the future. I want to be there to contribute to the vision and enable changes.”

Between now and Election Day on October 20, the Sounder will be asking candidates different questions each week - if anyone from the community has questions for the candidates, email them to or call 250-247-9337.