Q&A with View Royal's mayoral candidates
Sid Tobias challenges David Screech
David Screech faces newcomer Sid Tobias for View Royal's mayoral seat.
Why do you want to be mayor of View Royal?
Because I think the community deserves a mayor that's going to listen, who's going to open engagement and make people feel welcome to be heard. The decision making process as a mayor I would make very transparent. That's what I've been hearing from the neighbourhoods that I've visited. That seems to be a main theme, people don't feel like they've heard, particularly around the Official Community Plan (OCP) that's in draft form.
What are some concrete ideas that you have for improving people's sense of engagement with View Royal and making that process more transparent?
I think of the 2011 OCP, when they reached out to neighbours to get together and workshop what that community plan would evolve into. I think everybody felt like they were engaged. Folks came away from it, feeling empowered that they were heard in the decision making process, kind of, too. So the current OCP, we had only 4% of View Royal invited to participate. And out of those 4% of whom I've talked to, they really didn't feel heard for investing that much time in the process. I don't think it's impossible to do, it's just that willingness and opportunity to beheard. Granted it was during COVID, but I don't think there was also a big rush for it either. It's not like I'm suggesting we do everything brand new. As a matter of fact, what I'm proposing is we go back to that process that people did feel heard.
I would probably also open up a project page for each thing that we're asking for input on, for a set duration. And I’d add to that opportunities for council meetings that were focused on that item. And maybe a lessons learned running narrative on that project, if we made some mistakes along the way, or improvements that we could do that that would be part of a process of continuous improvement.
What would you say are some of View Royal’s biggest issues?
Infrastructure. We've had massive amount of development, mainly apartments and multi-level residential apartments that have been put up, particularly in my neighbourhood on Erskine Lane and around Helmcken. I don't think that the infrastructure has kept up with even our current state, let alone adding on significant density. What I'm hearing from the neighbourhoods is that they're okay with development as long as it can be done at a pace that is integrated into the communities. So they can start to welcome those new residents to those neighbourhoods. What I'm hearing is it's too much too quick. They don't have a say in it. They want the type of growth that would be sustainable with their infrastructure.
Roads that are inadequate now for the flow through of traffic, sidewalks, bike lanes that are not connected. So it gets paved on the sidewalk around the development, but it's not connected with anything else. Thetis Heights has a significant problem with that right now, and because that was not included in the plan it's up to the town to fix. So now you have baby strollers on a very busy highway, or very busy road, particularly in the summer with everybody going to Thetis Lake, with no sidewalk or a bike lane. We haven't done a good job of integrating those those development sites the with the infrastructure that we need to support them.
What have you learned about View Royal during this campaign period since you decided to run?
Folks are very welcoming to a scale of development, they're welcoming to distributed social housing. They're interested in things like five minute neighbourhood where you can get most of the stuff you need within five minutes of your house so you don't have to hop in your car. I think that's key to getting some cars off the road. But if we don't have those places in our community, plan to offer those services, whether it's daycare or a grocery store, then people will go hop in their car, right?
They're also feeling pain of wanting to take the bus downtown. I've had several people call me saying, “Sid, I don't have 10 extra hours in my week to spend on public transportation.” We need to work with our partners, BC Transit in the province, to up our game. If you just look at the schedule of frequency of buses flying by, you would say there's lots of capacity here. But as the seventh bus is full and it's January with horizontal rain. You're crushed into the eighth bus, only to be told to push back to make more room for more folks that are getting on. It doesn't make it an enjoyable thing. We're only going to see behavioral change when taking the bus is an experience that's faster and better than a car.
Mayor David Screech has been a vocal supporter of the E&N trail being restarted. How do you feel about that train option?
Yeah, I'm not a fan to be honest with you. We've got so many other big things on our plate right now. I see it as a bit of a red herring. I mean, if it was going to take cars off the road, that would be great. But we're talking about a line that traditionally went up Island at eight o'clock in the morning and came back at four o'clock in the afternoon. That's not going to help your commuter out. It went out of service for a reason. Getting people a safe place to live would be on my priority list for spending taxpayer money further than a railway going up north that that was closed for for good reason. If you were talking about a high speed light rail transport to the Westshore, that could solve some of our issues and I would look at that with a completely different lens.
What will differentiate you from David Screech if you're elected?
I think my experience both in the military and the public service has been building exceptionally tight teams, and ones that are highly effective at what they're doing. I think there's been significant discord with leadership that is felt by public participation in open opening meetings for the forum. Having that cohesive team built around a focus of improving the lives of folks that live in View Royal, I think is going to be key for me I think there's lots of lots of improvements that can be made.
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 would work to attract new doctors and nurse practitioners by looking at ways that I could advocate to council to give them a break on on the rental of those of those spaces, or reach out to developers to look at opportunities. We do have a clinic in View Royal right now in Eagle Creek and it has had to downsize because of lack of staff and costs associated with it. So I think we need to get back to their roots where Medicare was kind of started in Saskatchewan when the community actually rallied around getting a doctor in, getting them a house and paying the bills, so everybody could benefit. I think every layer of government has something that they can do to assist in both attracting and maintaining medical services in our community. I would like look at all options in order to make View Royal an attractive place for nurse practitioners and GPs to do business.
David Screech was not available for an interview before our deadline. This article will be updated with a full Q&A when he is.