Bowen Candidates 2022: Andrew Leonard – Mayor


What’s your occupation? (Current and/or past)

Aside from being a dad to a pair of amazing kids, I have a few things on the go. I’m the executive director and vice board chair for a charity; I run a consulting business that focuses on personal development and project management coaching; and I’m a master’s student in psychology through Harvard. Some of these I’m able to downshift out of if my mayoral bid is successful as I’d be seeking to commit fully to this municipal role.

How long have you lived on Bowen?

The lure of Bowen emptied our East Van neighborhood of family and friends in the 2010s as they sought greener spaces and homes for their growing families. Shortly after some of those folks arrived, we came to visit and immediately knew we had to raise our kids here. After several more visits, we were finally able to call Bowen home in 2016, landing in a community of our own friends and family. We’ve enjoyed the connection to nature and culture of free-range parenting that we didn’t have in the city.

Who inspires you? (Real or fictional)

My personal heroes are Carl Jung and Hermann Hesse. Their writings deeply inspired my worldview in my early 20s, providing a base for much of my meaning making today. My mom was an inspiration to keep doing the hard, personal work of becoming a better human in the face of adversity. My four-year old has an energy that is a constant reminder to orient towards love, kindness, and humor.

Please list any current and/or past committees or organizations you’ve been a part of in your career.

At 14, my proudest moment was becoming a boating instructor at the summer camp I grew up at. This kicked off a long love affair with outdoor, experiential education that led me to working with multiple YMCA/YWCA’s, the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation, Scouts Canada, and Diabetes Canada. I’ve played in the area of ​​youth advocacy and mental health promotion. I’m currently in a few music groups for modular synth nerds and am a member of a virtual reality e-sports team. I’m also looking to join a Dungeons and Dragons game on island as I couldn’t suck my family into the game during the pandemic.

What are your (non-housing) related priorities for the next four years?

Over eight days last week, it was a gauntlet of events for the candidates. I was surprised that we were not asked a single, direct question on children, youth, and families. Or on community mental health. We’ve just come out of a period that harmed our community resilience in ways that hasn’t been fully healed. So, a big priority is to bring our community out in the world and back together. Using community development process and evolving our engagement is also top of mind, along with process improvement in the way our council functions amongst itself, and between staff and citizenry.

How would you tackle the issue of affordable/rental housing on Bowen? And, Bowen will be doing a full review of short-term rental policies next year, do you have any early thoughts on this specifically (ie. Should short-term rentals continue to be allowed in secondary suites)

A demographic that this question misses are families who bought a house on Bowen within the last decade and have made their housing affordable using the revenue coming from a secondary suite. However, that affordability comes with the challenge of removing potential rental stock from the market. The issue here is that short-term rental stock and long-term rental stock are the same market. We need policies that create solutions to separate those two markets and incentivize long-term rental use, particularly for on-island workers and families. Second, we need to build the BIRCH project yesterday. Third, we should be looking at municipality-owned funding vehicles to create new housing on municipality owned land.

Property taxes are set for a double digit increase next year. What will your fiscal approach be re: what municipal financial obligations are passed on to property owners?

Outside of grants or contributions from community foundations, nearly all municipal financial obligations are passed on to property owners. We don’t have a large business tax base, and major grants that do come in are a mixed blessing as they are often tied to capital projects that we need to kick in our own funds for. The Undercurrent previously reported that our debt servicing obligations are set to triple for 2023. With these factors in mind, the key fiscal approach will be one of accurate forecasting in the five-year financial plan the municipality does every year and bolstering public education and engagement in our budget process. No more surprises.

Assuming the land sale goes through, how will you advocate Bowen gets the best result from the proposed Cape Roger Curtis park?

There are three things that have to happen. The first is that we need to be ruthlessly honest in our communication with Bowen residents about what’s known about this project – and then solicit those informed residents for their informed opinions. We need to get our committees running “what if” scenarios immediately to consider transportation to recreation to economic development to indigenous relations. Third, we should be looking at other communities in North America who have faced similar project stresses and incorporating their wisdom. By having well informed citizens providing issues-based engagement, and understanding analogous projects in other communities, we’ll be able to participate in any Metro led engagement process with articulate community-sourced opinions in hand. This will allow for the Mayor to advocate fiercely and articulately for Bowen’s interests in this project.

What will your approach to tourism on Bowen be, and how would you strike a balance between the tourism economy and issues that arise from it (ferry capacity, increased strain on island services such as emergency, etc.)

I believe that Bowen is really aimed to define its conversation with tourism this term. There are many residents frustrated by the strain that it puts on the island and little in the way of a vision that suggests what tourism on the island should look like – and what its impacts should be – in the coming decades. In the near term, we need a summer ferry solution that doesn’t delay commuters going to work or coming home to their families, better ferry marshalling, better traffic control around points of interest, and bolstered Translink support on island.

Bowen’s population rose by 600 in the past 5 years, and could pass 5,000 by the next census in four years. What is your opinion on continued population growth on the island, and the best ways to manage it?

We have a number of significant, unbuilt developments that are waiting for houses to go on them, such as Arbutus Ridge, Grafton Lake, and the Cape. We also know that new rental and resilient housing needs to be built. We’ve also just approved legislation for detached secondary suites across the island. The result is that population is going to increase. Given our infrastructure woes with roads and water, I’m not convinced that we have a sense of the impact these new developments will have once they’re all built out. Our best management approach, I believe, is going to consolidate what we already have and evaluate its impact on island resources.

Water, sewage and roads will need major amounts of work in the upcoming years. What will your approach to our infrastructure be to avoid surprise or rising costs?

Our infrastructure plans need to be published on a community dashboard immediately. At a glance, any resident should be able to see the status of what’s upcoming and what’s in progress – from the community center to culverts. These should all have real-time key performance indicators which let us know what’s been spent, how that’s tracking with budget, what the completion date is, and where we’re at in high level milestones. This information should be plugged into realistic five-year financial plans that don’t gloss over the challenges in tax rates or operating costs. No more surprises.

What is your position on the Bowen election Islands Trust referendum, and how do you want to see Bowen’s relationship with Islands Trust change (or not) during the next term, keeping in mind the group has applied to the provincial government for a full review of its operations.

My position on the ballot question is that I think too few people on the island really know what the Islands Trust is or does. Which maybe makes that ballot question read as: do you want to pay less for this thing you don’t know much about… possibly a fair question. I’m heartened that the Trust has done the soul-searching to initiate their own governance review, which makes our relationship with them a good time to negotiate. My personal view is that I’d like to see the Trust be more active and visible in their advocacy, education, and GIS activities on the island.

And for fun, if you could pick a new animal to add to Bowen’s mascot roster, which would it be and why?

It’s not native to the island, but I’d have to say a chicken. For her 40th birthday, I gave my wife a half-dozen chicks for our backyard. I’d thought chickens were silly animals, but I’ve grown to find them hilarious and a loved part of our would-be homestead. We’ve got no mascot related to our domestic animals or organic agriculture on the island, so maybe it’s a good fit?

Contact:

I can be emailed directly at me@andrewformayor.ca, phoned directly at 236-471-6656, or you can check out my website at www.andrewformayor.ca

At my website, you can listen to the podcast I did with the wonderful Don Shafer as well as see some of my campaign updates.

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