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Election season begins

There are 154 days until November's municipal election but the campaign season has already started.

There are 154 days until November's municipal election but the campaign season has already started.

A new group called OneBowen is hoping to bring together various special interest groups, find out what their common goals are, come up with an election platform and invite people who share those goals to run for council.

Instead of putting out a call for a slate of candidates, they're looking for a slate of ideas first.

"We don't have candidates, we don't have a secret plan," says member Colleen O'Neil. "We want to reach out to the community to help us develop a platform and find people to run."

Fellow member James Glave says, "We're in the listening phase. We're not prescribing the answers. We want create solutions and we want them from all across the spectrum."

Their hope is that by uniting candidates behind common goals - and winning at least four seats on council - there won't be the split votes that can sometimes prevent progress.

Although island groups may have separate agendas, they often want the same outcome - they want the island to move forward, says member Ken Beatty. He uses the example of ferry marshalling, which has been on the agenda for 30 years and is still in the process of being debated.

"We're trying to make people look at the future," he says.

"I want a community centre now but I also want a summer job for my kids. I'd love for them to have a career here....

"We think Bowen is ready for a Yes, We Can moment."

Glave says, "We have the perception that there's a broad majority of islanders who want these festering issues resolved.... Our past approach is broken. The dynamics of six councillors and a mayor, each with their own things, assumptions and quirks - we've reached a point where it's no working. It's not that they're individually incompetent. The whole council is not working."

They don't want to demonize the current councillors. "It's a hard job with no pay, and you risk the wrath of the community every Monday night," says O'Neil. "If you have a slate and a mandate, it provides protection because they're elected by a community who wants things to run."

OneBowen has framed the issues it has identified this way:

Are tax dollars being put to good use?

How can Snug Cove look more like a village and less like a parking lot?

Why can't people afford to live and stay here?

Why aren't there more jobs on Bowen?

Will our natural environment be protected?

Why is there still no progress on a ferry marshalling solution?

Where is the community centre?

Where can people who want or need to downsize live?

"We have a starting point," says Glave, and then "we want to develop a platform and identify candidates. We'll talk to anybody and everybody."

The slate - and they're not discounting the possibility that some current members of council would be on it - would be a collection of like-minded people; four is the ideal number on a seven-member council so that there won't be as many tied votes.

And while there's strength in numbers when it comes to voting on issues, there's also comfort in not feeling you're alone as a candidate.

"There's a lot of fear around running for council," says O'Neil. "It's so personal and there's so much acrimony."

OneBowen will support candidates in the election but can also be available as resources for research on issues that arise during the three-year term, she adds. "But," she says, "we're not a shadow cabinet in the background."

Glave says, "We think there are candidates out there. Our biggest fear is that the burn-out level is so high, people won't consider it as an option."

Beatty says that with so many initiatives on the island relying on volunteers, there's also a fear that if there's no progress on issues, volunteers will also burn out. "Nothing is more frustrating than going to committee meetings and nothing happens."

One of the reasons why OneBowen feels nothing is happening is because some members of council, and the community, simply don't want change. "What's naïve is thinking Bowen will stay the way it is," Glave said. It's better to prepare for and steer the change.

In part they want to do this by getting local developers more involved, since developers will be the ones who will create housing and jobs and help pay for the costs of building the island's much-needed infrastructure.

"We have had conversations with developers," O'Neil says. "We feel there needs to be a co-operative model not based on fear but on our common goals."

Traditionally, Glave says, it's developers who pay for public infrastructure, not property taxpayers.

Beatty says, "Take away all of the things that the 'evil' developers have built on Bowen and ask what's left." His list of what developers have done for Bowen include Cates Hill Chapel, Island Pacific School, Artisan Square, Village Square, Rivendell and Tir-na-nOg theatre - all mainstays of community life.

OneBowen invites community members to host kitchen table meetings with OneBowen members. If interested, email contact@onebowen.ca or leave a message at 604-947-0232. You can also approach the following supporters: Murray Atherton, Chris Barnett, James Barton, Andrea Bastin, Peter Baumgartner, Richard Best, Alan Boniface, Tony Dominelli, Gordon Ganong, James Glave, Michelle Pentz Glave, John Greene, Don Marshall, Colleen O'Neil, Brian McCaig, Julia McCaig, Sue McIntyre, Richard Smith, Shari Ulrich, Barbara Wahler, Tim Wake, Bruce Wallace, John Williams, Gil Yaron and Leah Walker.