Andrew Brown

Developing the questions for Qualicum Beach candidates

Keynote speaker at Qualicum Beach Residents' Association AGM suggests five queries for potential councillors

An ambiguous OCP, barking dogs, loud motorcycles, view-blocking RVs, unclear political process and development concerns were amongst the hot issues at Saturday’s annual general meeting of the Qualicum Beach Residents’ Association.

The QBRA hosted its AGM with the municipal election just six weeks away and politicians were in the spotlight.

Emotions flew high at the town-hall style meeting, where more than 100 people showed up to voice their frustrations with the town.

Spotted in the audience were many members of town council as well as those vying for their jobs.

“The big question is what kind of growth and change do we want?” keynote speaker Andrew Brown, local planner and architect, asked the audience.

Brown called his role in the election “politically neutral” insisting his mandate was to “foster constructive community dialog.”

Brown said municipal government “has to respond to physical, environmental, economic and regulatory contents.”

A planner by trade, Brown focused on the idea of town planning and the way it affects residents.

“Planning is a discipline we impose upon ourselves to make sense of things,” he said. “The problem is it’s amorphous, open-ended, unpredictable, subject to interpretation and disruption.”

Brown said he wanted to raise the level of understanding and confidence in planning “in the hopes of raising the stakes for the coming election.”

He said “municipal politics is the art of constructively managing change” and described the town’s OCP as a framework subject to ongoing interpretation.

“Does the pattern of change accurately reflect our OCP’s intensions?” he asked. “This is an important question.”

“We can have deliberate or inadvertent attempts to circumvent rational participatory processes,” said Brown. “We all know this now.”

Brown called OCPs “complex opaque documents” with too many words and not enough visual interpretation. He said they are often apt to “insufficiently clear policies” and people are liable to misinterpret their visions. But he said the biggest problem with an OCP is if it isn’t open to change — a problem that leads to “getting stuck.”

Brown said tensions result from “processes that lack credibility” and people end up focussing on “personalities not principles.”

“Any of this sound familiar?” he asked the crowd rhetorically. “Many of us have lost confidence in the process of municipal government.”

Brown went on to point out the unique aspects of Qualicum Beach, including its character, integration with nature, understated commercial presence, core concentration of activity and diverse movement options.

He suggested five questions residents should ask candidates for the upcoming election:

• What would you do to improve the climate and quality of the current municipal dialog?

• What features are necessary to ensure the town remains a unique and livable place?

• What features are necessary to ensure the town is economically viable?

• What are the defining features of your vision of the future town?

• What would be different in four years if you were elected?

Brown said there was “evident dissatisfaction with the previous council” from the perception that change wasn’t happening. He said the apparent perception was the majority of council was too cautious and controlling. But now, he said, there is “evident dissatisfaction” with the current council and the “apparent perception is only the wrong kind of change is happening.”

He said many perceive the new council as “too adventurous  and irreverent.”

While Brown provided a lot of food for thought, he fell short on answers — leaving a wealth of questions for candidates to answer in the upcoming election. He ended by encouraging residents to engage in the election, ask the right questions and make an informed vote.

The QBRA AGM voted in a new board consisting of: Bill Adkins, Bob Byan, Dave Golson, Paul Kyba, Lance Nater, Janet Raines, Nancy Whelan, Marg Copland (second term), Joanne Hill (second term) and Susan Porter (second term).

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