Skip to content

An interview with the mayor.

How is your health? Fine.

How is your health?

Fine. As compared to last year, I had just been diagnosed and gone through one or two treatments, and I was skinny as a rake and I had to stand outside and it was bitterly cold, a typical Remembrance Day, and I didn't think I could make it through. I was really cold.
I think the treatment actually shrinks the tumors and it seems like everything is pretty well dormant but I have to continue with the treatment. But, I'm fine with that.

Has the illness and treatments over the past year affected your job?

No. I think this job is keeping me alive. I'm having fun, if I wasn't having fun I wouldn't be doing this, I would've quit. And its a project - bringing Bowen Island into the 21st Century.

You mentioned at Council a few weeks ago that you recently took a trip to Sweden, can you tell me a bit about that?

We took a cruise around the Baltic Sea, we started in Stockholm, we had five days there. It was interesting because I'm on the mayor's council for transportation and we've studied their transportation system which has a card similar to the Compass Card where you can move from the subway to the bus-system to the ferries with one card. Plus it's a beautiful city, and the weather was great.

You mentioned at council, that there were many docks along the shoreline in Sweden

There are more docks in the archipelago [on the way to the Baltic Sea from Stockholm], there are more docks I swear than people.

What do you take from that?

I see this Stop the Docks Campaign as a political campaign. Its got nothing to do with the people on this island. If you look at the Bowenian, there's an article about diving off Cape Roger Curtis. They found things like bags of dog poo, tin cans - that's what people think about the foreshore. Sure there are people who want to see pristine waters and so on and so forth, but there's lots of pristine waters around. I see this as a total political campaign. If you look at everything that's been written to us or said over the past five or six months they don't talk about the environment, they talk about aesthetics. And I'm not interested in what 10 or 20 people with a political campaign talking about aesthetics say when my aesthetic is this island. You look outside you see green. Its quiet. Its neighborly. I'm just not interested in getting into fights about aesthetics. Our place on the South Side of the island its very natural, we've hardly planted anything. I care about the environment but I won't have someone tell me how to care about the environment. Its a personal thing.

Tomorrow night there will be a public meeting on the Land Use Bylaw that to regulate dock construction. Some people would say that you and your council has failed to listen to public concerns about this so far. What's your response to that?

Nonsense. I don't know how else to respond. We listen but I am quite annoyed about the way the Campaign [Stop the Docks] has gone. A lot of letters were written to the Provincial Government, the Islands Trusts, and I assume to the Federal Government, Department of Fisheries. And we were never copied in on any of those letters. Which is correct. Because we have no jurisdiction. The ground under the water is governed by the provincial government. The water is governed by the federal government. The only thing we have control over is construction, but we really can't control construction beyond the foreshore and the first piece of the dock. And when people say 'Oh no no no!', it's nonsense. When you read the letter written by the provincial minister back to the Stop the Docks people, it explains that all the environmental concerns have been dealt with and passed and agreed to. It's all about aesthetics. Certain people don't like the docks. But beyond that they don't like the owners of Cape Roger Curtis because the original developer spent $2.5 million doing an official plan and it turns out that the previous council thought they could control the building, the density on the Cape, and they could. They were too stupid to recognize that (with all due respect to the previous council). So they shot it down, and then after spending that money drawing a plan that was approved by everybody, these people turned around and said we don't care. The mayor withdrew his vote. So now we don't have a 300 acre park, and we don't have control of the foreshore, we don't have 5 - 7 million dollars in amenity money that we could use for things like developing a community centre. We need cash, and there is not enough tax money coming in.

If the Land-Use Bylaw were to be passed as is, what would the impact of it be in your opinion?

I don't think it would have any impact.

We amended the bylaw to bring it up to date. But bringing it up to date and doing what the Stop the Docks people want are two different things.

Jurisdiction is questionable. The way we've defined some of the terms that's difficult. The way we've tried to define the length of docks that's really difficult because when you build a dock you want it to go out to the deep water, and for most people on this island that means 40, 50, 60 feet, but for other areas that means 200 feet. And if the province is prepared to give you a water lease who are we to stop it?

How do you feel about how you've handled this controversy?

I feel fine. I have to listen to everybody on the island, not just one group.

When you got this job two years ago you mentioned a number of issues that needed to be addressed on the island what can you point to in terms of progress?

I think we've brought finances under control. We only have limited resources to get taxes to carry on with our programs. We have a terrific set of volunteers on the finance committee who have helped our previous and present director of finance and they've made us aware of what we can do and what we can't do. This has allowed me to go off island and talk to other levels of government about financing projects we're looking forward to doing. Everything is tied to money.

I want to talk about water and sewer. I have an infrastructure committee, and they've dealt with projects between 200 million and a billion dollars. Our water system we've brought it under control, we never had a right of way from Grafton Lake which supplies the Cove, now we do. We've increased the height of the dam so that we have more storage capability. We've got enough water to maybe supply between 50 and 100 more dwellings, but we need more than that if we do more development down in the Cove. And if we increase the development, we will be in the position to build a water treatment plant. Not that we don't have one, but we would need to increase that. And I think that's been costed out somewhere between 4.5 to 5 million bucks. Where's that coming from? I can't ask the Snug Cove people to pay 10 thousand dollars a drop to pay for it.

What have you done for this island economically beyond development, for the local businesses for example?

As you probably know we have an economic development committee which has been very active and has identified two or three things that we're really pushing and which we have pushed: better internet connections, tourism, we had a meeting with the assistant deputy minister of jobs tourism and and we had a terrific meeting. Everything is tied into everything else. We're pushing for educational facilities on the island, whether its marine biology or English as a second language. We're pushing for tourism. We're pushing for light industry, involving the arts community, that kind of stuff. Read the Economic Development Committee minutes and you'll see they're doing a great job.

I've met with the owners of the four corners to see if there's any opportunity to further develop maybe a small hotel, other facilities, how we can work that into maybe a community centre. We could bring small conventions here, and have an ability to put them up. We're working hard on that. We're actually trying to spend more time on that than the docks.

When you became mayor, you said you would work to heal the divide in this community. What have you done to that end?

I haven't. It takes two to tango.

Well what do you think needs to happen?

I don't know. Nobody from the other side - Bowen Island Conservancy, Eco-Alliance - has made any attempt to talk to us about how we could work together to move this island forward. I'm prepared to meet, I'm prepared to argue, whatever it takes, but I can't do it in a vacuum.

In the two years you've held the position of mayor, do you think you've given the people of Bowen Island the change they were hoping for?

I do. Just go out there and ask people. How did I do it I don't know. I'm easy to talk to. You bring things to me and I'll put it in front of council. We've been totally open and transparent about every thing. You bring us an issue and we'll deal with it. That's what we're here for.