Q&A with Langford's mayoral candidates
Scott Goodmanson takes on 30-year mayor Stew Young
Scott Goodmanson and Stew Young, candidates for Langford mayor.
What would you say Langford’s biggest issues are right now?
Well, the biggest issue that we’ve got going on, I think, isn't really a Langford issue. It's a lack of doctors for our residents of Langford; like 50% of the people in Langford don't have doctors. And so, we've got a two-tiered system whether we like it or not, and that is people who have a doctor, and people who don’t. The system is broken and there's not much I can do about it. We're trying to work with the doctors and work with the government on that. I hope that there's a plan coming forward to be more of a fair system where everybody has an opportunity for a doctor.
I've watched it over the last 10, 15 years get worse and worse. So, I guess, if it's the doctors aren't doing it as GPs because they're not making enough money at it, and they're being told they're business owners, then it's probably fairly difficult to solve the problem unless there's money thrown at it—and that's probably where it's going to end up is new contracts with the doctors.
We've tried to assist a little bit by helping pay doctors to move to Langford—to help pay for their move, and their moving expenses—and we did that for one doctor. And then they said that, “Oh, doctors are a business so you can't provide assistance,” but to me, it makes sense. So we ended up with three doctors coming to Langford.
Then the other one is the economy, obviously. I've been around 30 years and there's been two or three downturns. [With] inflation rising right now at seven, eight percent, cost of living is up, and the interest rates are going up. They're gonna go up again, apparently, in October, probably another three quarters of a percent. So I'm looking at what happened in ’08, ’09, is gonna happen again. So we got to make sure that we're prepared in Langford for that, because there was a lot of job losses.
What will Langford do, if you’re re-elected, to deal with that?
We'll continue to do what we're doing—it's supply and demand on housing. If you don't have any supply, the housing rates go up. The rich can buy a house, and not worry about a five or six percent [interest rate] but the people in Langford are blue-collar workers. They're working hard. They're working in the trades. So we have to keep the housing going. We're doing—we've done—a fabulous job.
The provincial government uses Langford as a example of what to do, and they are going to put legislation in, and rightfully so, so if somebody wants to do a rezoning and have four or five lot subdivision or even a bigger subdivision, that least the government can say, “Well, you got three to six months to make your decision or we're going to make it for you.” That makes a lot of sense because there's too much Not In My Backyard. We see it in Langford with the Langford Now people; they don't understand that we're in a housing crisis, and they want to stop businesses and stop development, and that's going to kill jobs.
We need to have more rentals, and more homeownership. And there's no point stopping that supply. And I know people in Langford, who say, “Well, I've got my house in Langford and I don't want to have any more people coming, it’s too busy.” But we're building a modern city and we're building the density in the core. We don't want to go out to the outskirts, and the edges of municipality, and we're working on that. We want to make it walkable. We want to have our parks and our trails all linking up our neighbourhoods and making sure that we have a downtown core with parks and trees and livability and walkability, so you don't have to have a car. That's really the big push that you want in your downtown core. And that's what we're doing.
We haven't got enough government jobs. We got a university coming, which is great. We got the one government building that they built, we've got Plexxis coming, we've got some high tech towers being built. But we don't have enough jobs. [And] most of the jobs we have are blue collar jobs. So we really have to fight to protect those jobs and keep those people working, because they're buying houses, they're putting their families in our schools and and it's not getting easier for us to manage it. Everybody wants to move to Langford.
We've built more supply than any other municipality because a we have the land, we have the resources. So If we slow down 20%, there goes 2,000 jobs in Langford.
I've noticed people saying is that there hasn't been good consultation in Langford about the change. People seem to say, “We like the development, we like the growth, it's just too much too fast.” So I'm curious what you make of those comments.
Well, we have the best public consultation of any municipality. And this is where people are just listening to the Langford Now [slate]; all they said is, “Oh, there's no transparency. There's no this, there’s no that.”
We have regulations under the municipal act. And the type of meetings that we're supposed to have—how many meetings we’re supposed to have—Langford goes above and beyond that. We have committee meetings on planning and zoning, public works, parks and recreation. And on those committees, we actually have Langford residents on them. And so I don't know if you were aware of that or public isn't aware of that, that no other municipality has committees that are made up of the residents with only two councillors on it.
The bottom line is, if you aren't supportive of something, you're gonna say, “It’s not transparent.” If you're not supportive of, you know, zoning, you're gonna say “It’s not transparent, there's not enough public consultation.” But when you're for something, I never hear it.
You've had a council that has been mostly people that you agree with, it seems, for a long time. You've not made it a secret what you think of Langford Now—how do you envision working with newcomers in the event that you have a mixed council?
Where we got off the rails with Lillian Szpak and Denise Blackwell, is we would call the vote and it would be 5-2 and then they would bring it back as a Notice of Motion next month, a month after because they'd be bitter that they wouldn't get through what their vision was. So what happens is—and I tell everybody this—make the decision, whether you like it or not, we’ll make the decision, but we move on.
Why do you want to be mayor of Langford?
That's been the million dollar question over the last four weeks. I’ve followed the politics here for years and years and years. My family has been here 90 plus years and is still on the same property. Over the years, there has been a steady process of council chambers disrespecting the people coming in there to voice their concerns. If you look at some of the latest videos you see people being shouted down, people being ignored, eyes rolled. That's not politics. That shouldn't be city politics.
What made me finally jump in, was my wife and I went away camping for the Labour Day long weekend. We were sort of out of cell range and came back home and turned on the computer and the first thing I saw was an article about the Hidden Valley Mobile Home Park at the north end of Florence Lake. The video was a woman looking out her back window and seeing an excavator up the hill, moving rock and debris…trees are coming down and that's horrible enough, but then the residents [were] saying they call City Hall and no one picks up the phone.
That made me say, that's not right. City Hall is supposed to be there to look after and defend the rights of the residents, not ignore them and hamstring them. They're supposed to be there because the residents voted them in. Any politicians, myself included if I’m elected in, we work for the residents. And I take that to heart. I'm tired of the community being ignored by the people that they voted in.
What would you say are some of Langford’s biggest issues?
I think the number one issue is getting the community engaged again in City Hall. How do we know what developments the public wants if we can't hear from the public? Once they're engaged, we can then get them into community planning—and not the once every 14 years that is going on right now, that's just ridiculous—regular, continual input on the community plans so that a region, [like] Thetis Lake, or South Langford or Luxton, when they have something that they feel they need, we can learn and jump on that and get that ready for them. Once we have, we can go to the development community and say, “Let's work together, let's build.” But based on what the public wants, not just what the mayor wants.
What have you learned about Langford during this campaign period since you decided to run?
I've had most of my life here so, physically and generally about Langford, I think I know a lot. I've learned a lot about the people that I wouldn't normally get to engage with. There's a lot of passion out there. People, myself included, have thought that the public has been apathetic about civic politics in the past, and that's not it. This is an election that Langford voters are ready for, and that's awesome.
I've found it interesting that in different areas of Langford—areas where I haven't visited all that often—I’m finding the specific issues that really mean a lot to them that I wouldn't have thought about. A lot of people in Happy Valley and the Luxton area are worried about sidewalks. That traffic is flying down Happy Valley Road and they have to walk to Happy Valley School just to have a place for their kids to walk. Thetis Heights has a different worry. There is the old Western Speedway grounds that is now being developed. The city is pushing through a road from the development onto a road which is now a quiet dead-end street with a handful of houses, and is now going to be a major exit for a huge development with no real traffic consultation done. To those people, they're not worried about sidewalks in Happy Valley, they're worried about their community being turned into a highway. I've had any number of emails from them saying, “What can we do?”
What will differentiate you from Stew Young if you're elected?
Style of leadership is probably the number one thing. The mayor has made it clear right now that it's his way or the highway. With council, with residents, he literally has said, “If you don't like it move.” I don't feel there's any room for autocratic rule in politics, especially civic politics. That is the level of government that affects people the most. I will work with whoever the public voted in—regardless if I 100% agree with their own thoughts and campaign or not.
I feel that it's the role of the mayor to foster the skills and abilities of whoever the public has voted in, and all of us work together to bring forth whatever the public has asked us to do. Right now, council makes decisions and says to the public, “This is what we're giving you, take it or leave it.” I am the other way around—the public tells us what they want. It's not our job to run the city, it's our job to give direction and leadership to City Hall to make sure that whatever the public wants, we get it done.
Lastly, I want to ask about the health care crisis. What are some things that you think you realize a municipality could do to help alleviate some pressure?
I don't want to just offload things onto the upper levels of government because every level of government can have some effect. My understanding is that the city cannot give discounted rental rates [to health care providers] becausethat would be against regulations. But I think that when we're developing areas, if we get some sustainable developments, that we have purpose-built medical facilities come in. I don't know how many doctors' offices you've been to [but] a lot of them aren't great facilities. A lot of them are older buildings that have been there for decades upon decades. If we work with a developer to say, “You're bringing in X number of hundreds of units, thousands of people in this area, this is going to need a medical facility. You need to put in a facility of some type in this development.” Then, hopefully, those medical professionals can live there, so they're not driving from Victoria or Saanich or Sidney to come out here. They can literally ride their bike or drive a short ways to get from home to that facility, and it's a new facility, not something that they have to spend a lot of time to rebuild before they can even get started.