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My Responses to Surveys; Candidate Comparison Tools

As a screening tool for your choice of candidate, I would recommend the Capital Daily’s 300 character response (based on letters and spaces used) as an initial screening tool only. It is very difficult to write meaningful responses to their “long” answers with this restriction, but it is a very useful as a screening tool.

As an in depth tool, I would recommend the Victoria Downtown Residents Survey as responses they did not have a word or character limit. It encouraged detailed responses to specific questions, and although they focus on the downtown, they are applicable to most city neighbourhoods.

Similarly, the Gonzales Neighbourhood Association has open ended questions and has its own set of questions.

If you have a particular interest in comparing candidates’ specific positions to mine, in addition to the above linked surveys, I have also participated in the following surveys. All of these also publish the candidates’ entire responses to their own unique set of questions, so you can make up your own mind. Democracy in action! This is not being done in some short, rating-scale surveys.

Disability Resource Centre Survey (my response to their 3 PWD questions posted far below)

Victorians for Transportation Choice

Friends of Beacon Hill Park – Victoria Candidates Respond

Times Colonist

Livable Victoria – I made their list late after they realized they had not contacted me

Last Comments About Advocacy

A main issue in this election is that many organizations such as Dogwood or Homes for Living have made recommended lists based on simplistic questions to complex issues. Creating recommended lists without posting all the “long” response( 25 – 100 words or less on Dogwood’s) does not let people make up their own minds and is anti-democratic. It rewards and selectively favours fluffy answers over more nuanced responses. For example I am and have been a strong environmentalist and educator for 35 years, and I was screened out of Dogwoods recommended list.

We need to ask why many candidates seem to be screened out for well-reasoned positions to complex issues, favouring instead simplistic populism in line with the survey. Did not respond to survey is not being shown vs did not get contacted by us, and this makes a huge difference, for both can be interpreted quite differently. A number of advocacy groups have not contacted all the candidates running (Homes for Living, Victoria Buzz as examples). It is also not clear who is funding them or how to contact them, but developers are also participating vigorously in their forums and threads. Whatever reason they may have for this non-contact, it is damaging to both those candidates omitted and for well-reasoned democratic participation.

All of this adds to polarization in our community and confusion or, perhaps worse, too much certainty amongst voters for change or a particular policy. As science and revolutionary theory has shown, the illusion of a comprehensive solution is far worse than admitting uncertainty.

Victoria Disability Resource Centre (DRC) Questions

Question 1. Many people with disabilities live on fixed incomes. Persons With Disabilities assistance from the provincial government includes a shelter portion of only $375 per month. BC Housing has a waitlist of potentially nine years (priority is given to families with children or those without housing). If elected, what would you do to create a more livable, affordable city for PWD recipients?

My main platform position when viewed with an accessibility lens are vital to the City’s response to PWD needs and the barriers they face.

We need measures to reduce the severe uncertainty felt by very-low to moderate income renters, be they seniors, working families, PWD, or students, as they face real possibilities of renoviction, demoviction and homelessness. Improved tenancy protection at the provincial level is required.

We can get more rentals out of the existing housing stock through incentivizing house conversions with accessibility requirements, and through enacting Residential Rental Tenure zones (rezoning land for rental housing only). Most of our existing multi-unit rental buildings need this protection to prevent them from being destroyed and turned into concrete, luxury condos.

Vacancy control to limit the rent increases between tenants, coupled with specific renovation grants applicable only to the landlords providing truly affordable rental stock, should be enacted

AirBnb’s should be put back into the rental market ((possible options to consider could be capping numbers, banning them outright, restricting them to involved owner occupiers, mandating that they act as emergency relief (be it a low rental situation or earthquake event) and loss of the AirBnb status if the property changes hands.))

The replacement of smaller single-family homes with mansions can be made far more difficult by regulating size limits on new single family homes. Much of Victoria’s rental stock is in older homes with suites (67% of neighbourhoods are rental already). We must act to get retrofit grants available to landlords to make more of our existing stock truly accessible.

I agree with BCGEU local government policy statements 1-7 in their report, Affordable BC: What Can Local governments Do? (August 1, 2018) and to their key measures for the provincial governments can do. It is four years since this report was released and precious little has been accomplished. Since this reports release, developers have been allowed to up zone parking lots and remove buildings in the downtown core without providing greenspace or services (public washrooms for PWD access for example). Unfortunately BCGEU lately is putting their support behind MMIH blanket rezoning, which puzzles me greatly.

Developer-driven densification is making things worse not better for low-income people with disabilities. Steel and concrete towers for wealthy investors or retirees from elsewhere contribute massively to our carbon footprint. We cannot talk about sustainability without considering our carrying capacity and serving the needs of locals first, including a major focus on PWD.

Instead of greenwashed planning to gentrify and densify everywhere in the city, and instead of pitting at-risk renters and local home buyers against existing middle class single-family home owners, we need to mobilize the entire citizenry to put pressure on the federal and provincial governments. They are fundamentally responsible for the housing crisis and we need them to help provide the accessible housing, rental protection, existing-rental retrofits for PWD we need, where we need them.

The Victoria Housing Strategy identifies the need for “two and three bedroom units close to schools for families earning moderate or lower incomes,” so accessible Co-op housing and multi-unit buildings based on median income should be our first priority.

Livability in a climate crisis is dependent upon protecting and enhancing our ecosystems, including the vital tree canopy. Rules as they exist for protecting urban shade trees by the City are more PR than actual protection. For very low-moderate income people in poorly ventilated housing & in a heat crisis they can be life savers

PWD accessibility, community gardens, pollinator pathways along bike paths and or all streets, and back yard biodiversity are vital to the health and well being of all the city’s inhabitants. The AAA cycling network is crucial to the connection of neighbourhoods with the wider community and region. It requires continued effort to ensure safety, accessibility, and integration with the transit network. Many of the concrete sidewalks (high carbon footprints) are canted towards the street and some driveways have a significant grade, making the danger of flipping higher specially with powerful chairs and they also make walkie and talking together impossible.

Ecological restoration as part of city planning is a form of respect and reconciliation. The Songhees and Esquimalt peoples, as with all First Nations, have a wider concept of home than does the City’s Development Services. Home is conceived as “the relationships which connect a person to all that surrounds them,” including people, plants, animals, insects and the land as a “place to connect with family, community, ancestors and all of creation.”

Waste disposal and effective city services for all. Especially dangerous is the increased demand on an already floundering health care system, where existing locals, including PWD, health needs are being neglected or delayed to the point that people are unnecessarily suffering, if not dying, from delayed or lack of proper care.

Question 2. The city has an Accessibility Advisory Committee that provides feedback to city council and staff on a range of city initiatives, programs and services through an accessibility lens. If elected, how would you involve the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) in city planning?

First, It would be natural for me to bring the lenses of real empathy, my lived experience, and my range of skills to the committee’s table I was a teacher for 33 years, teaching thousands of younger students and adult learners over my career. One of my first full time jobs as a teacher was in the Nisga’a village of New Aiyansh for two years and then Prince Rupert for another two years. I would bring my training and experience as a hospital orderly (from most departments extended care to urology) and as a First Aid attendant in schools as well. In my role as a junior secondary and senior sciences teacher, I have had students in my class with a wide range of visible and invisible disabilities. Some that come to mind include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, partial paralysis, requiring wheel chair access, alcohol-fetal syndrome, severe deafness, blind, ADD, OCD, and mental health conditions. Each individual required unique accommodations and often what we could do was not enough. For example, the physical space in the science labs were not built with wheel chair access and technology for the hard of hearing was primitive and made random noises, which were disruptive and embarrassing for the student.

Technology, science and society have changed, but the innovative and practical solutions that exist need to be fully implemented to remove barriers and allow the skills and abilities of PWD to flourish.

Question 3. In 2020, the city introduced the Accessibility Framework to proactively remove and prevent barriers in the community for those with disabilities. If elected, how do you see your role on council in influencing accessibility and inclusiveness throughout the community?

I see myself supporting all 9 purposes of AAC, my eye for detail and ability to point out incongruities in policy have been honed by years of work on school, district and provincial level curriculum design and implementation. I would therefore see myself specifically useful and an advocate for the AAC’ s purpose statements(specifically in 2-4, and 7-9) as stated on the City website.

Understanding and working with people with polar opposite views is also essential, and I have had a good deal of experience with that. I am comfortable with heated discussions and I get calmer doing so. For example, one of the reasons I was asked by the superintendent of Saanich (SD 63) to create their first WHMIS implementation plan was that I had gone above my principals head (after a heated disagreement) to argue for the correct storage of chemicals and for shut off valves to in- classroom student gas supply. It also helped to have experience and training in teaching senior Chemistry. I have done similar things during my career which are always difficult to engage in.

One thing that I think should be undertaken by the City is annual large and small events celebrating the abilities of local (Joe Coughlin comes to mind) and national PWD (art, culture, music ,dance, drama, sport, paralympics etc), and the relevant NGO’s and universities experts, and sport medicine/physiotherapy experts. A larger event could also focus on raising awareness for what has been achieved and what needs to be done, combined with fund-raising, requiring public speaking from notable PWD, accessibility experts and provincial politicians to the local MP

All of what I say above has to be taken with a large grain of salt. What I do know is tiny compared to what I don’t know. A. L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong. I am reasonably intelligent, but I have fallen for simple answers before. There often have unintended consequences for anything we propose. Dialogue with a wide range of people with different political views, including those with expertise within the area of concern (AAC and individuals with invisible and visible disabilities in this case) is very valuable and I will continue to take this approach as Councillor.

Better, sustainable solutions to the complex problems facing PWD in this city are truly achievable.