The Halalt First Nations and the Municipality of North Cowichan have had an on-going dispute over water rights and the Chemainus River aquifer for some time. The court has ruled in favor of the Halalt. However, it seems that both North Cowichan and the Halalt people acted in good faith and the provincial government is to blame for the failure to reach a resolution to the problem of a clean water supply for Chemainus residents. If elected to council, describe how you would go about helping to resolve this problem?
The overarching theme of my election campaign is that we are all neighbours. My goal is for us to become neighbours working together, to make our visions real.
The Halalt's concerns -- about the safety and long-term viability of the aquifer, as well as about not being adequately and respectfully consulted -- must be addressed.
Everything I know about this issue, I have learned second-hand.
So going forward, what I will do if elected is to work first-hand on repairing the relationship between our Halalt neighbours and ourselves. Consulting them as partners in creating a vision for North Cowichan's future that is sustainable on all fronts.
In fact, I'd like to see us work together with all our neighbours on water issues.
Our environment is connected by water. We live on the sea, and lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and groundwater flow through our communities. We use water to grow our food, to support our industries, to recreate ourselves during time off, to get from one place to another, and to drink.
Natural water ecosystems also provide habitat for many other species, both plants and animals, including some that we like to eat (like fish).
To ensure that our water ecosystems are healthy and that we have the water we need, we must meet a range of challenges. We must deal with pollution, water exports, water withdrawals, climate change and diverting water flows.
The Halalt have good reason to be wary about protecting the Chemainus Aquifer. And they haveevery reason, ethical and moral, to feel like equal partners in the decision-making.
We must take care of our water, so that it can continue to take care of us. Some ways to do so are to:
1. Establish, regulate and enforce ecosystem-based instream flow standards for all streams in all watersheds of British Columbia.
2. Shift gradually to a "priority of use" water allocation system. This would include withdrawing and restructuring existing water licences, to ensure that minimum ecosystem flow standards are protected and priority of use is implemented.
3. Provide regional support for integrated watershed management and shared water governance.
We have to take care of communication, with all of our neighbours, so that we can take care of each other and the resources we all depend on to live here.
There is much work to do on many issues. I have every confidence that we can accomplish much more by working together, with all stakeholders, on water and our other resources.