2011 Nelson Municipal Election: Candace Bartycki — accountable, approachable, available, creative.
Candace Batycki rounded out the field of eight candidates for City council in this 2011 municipal election. Below is her biography, her views and answers on some typical Nelson issues.
By Candace Batycki
A bit of a biography
If not from Nelson, where are you originally from?
I was born in Bella Coola on the BC coast but grew up outside Vancouver in what was then a small town: Port Coquitlam.
How long have you lived in Nelson?
I started visiting Nelson and the Kootenays in 1986 when friends of mine were working on the Steve Martin film Roxanne.
But like many folks, it took me a while to actually move here permanently, which happened in September 1990. I lived first on the East Shore, then up in the Slocan Valley. I loved the rural lifestyle but I hated all the driving! It was also harder to access all social and cultural offerings of town.
I bought my home in Nelson in 2003 and I love it. I can walk almost everywhere, which is great. I feel healthier and more connected to my community.
What brought you here (if not from Nelson)?
The first time I came to the Kootenays I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I have always been very outdoor-oriented and it’s great to be able to live in a caring community with interesting people, while also being able to be in wild places right out the back door.
What is it about Nelson that you like?
Nelson has a wonderful texture that is hard to put into a few words. I like the contrast of the small-town feel of the heritage buildings with the urban feel of the alleyways.
Our culture is like that too: we’re interconnected locally, while also linked to bigger cities through family, friends and work, and through the global ideas and events that we can access almost in real-time over the internet. I think this breeds tolerance, and better yet, celebration of diversity.
There’s a cheerful feeling here: people are happy to live here, and are grateful for their good fortune, and they express that in their demeanour. And of course, we have incredible natural wealth all around us.
What do you do for a living (or what did you do if now retired)?
I have worked in non-profit organizations for over 25 years, with a focus on environmental advocacy. From 2000 to 2010 I was the Director of Forest Programs for ForestEthics, an international organization.
I was fortunate to work on campaigns that led to a lot of forest and ecosystem protection. My focus was forests right here in the inland temperate rainforest region, particularly mountain caribou habitat, but I worked to protect other endangered forests as well, in the West Kootenays, the East Kootenays, and as far north as Prince George.
This work was always done in coalition with other local, regional and provincial organizations. I’m a firm believer in partnerships. I also managed our programs in the Great Bear Rainforest, the Canadian Boreal Forest, California and Chile.
Since 2010 I’ve been the principal of Windhorse Strategies, consulting to non-profit organizations. I particularly enjoy designing and facilitating group meetings and retreats.
Do you have any political or other organizational experience?
This is my first run for political office, but I’ve worked with government staff and elected officials for many years.
Effective advocacy means identifying an issue, developing solutions, and then working to make them reality, which almost always involves at least one level of government, sometimes many. It also means working with business interests, issue experts, culture workers, the media, everybody.
I think one of my strengths is being able to work with a broad range of people to identify and implement solutions. On the organizational front, I have many years of senior management experience, which includes human resources, fundraising, budgeting, strategic planning, and maintaining strong allies outside one’s organization.
What made you personally decide to run (or run again)?
Over the years political office has been in the back of my mind, sometimes pretty far back though! I have been working very full time and also had to do a lot of work-related travel.
Now that I’m consulting I can be more flexible, and also travel much less. I can be more available to my community. And I think my experience gives me something to offer back to this community that has been so good to me.
What did you see happening in the city that made you want to become involved in municipal politics?
Sustainability is of course a big area of focus for me. I see municipalities as way out in front on this. It’s great to see Canadian cities, including Vancouver and Victoria, competing to be the greenest.
Nelson’s Path to 2040 Sustainability Strategy is intended to be an umbrella document that guides all future policy and planning decisions for the city. What does that look like on the ground?
I want to work with city staff, mayor and council, businesses, community groups and organizations, everybody, to develop an action plan and move forward.
What do you think you bring to the municipal table as a politician?
I’m a good at listening to a broad range of voices, and finding the “sweet spot” that might hold the key to a solution. I work hard, do my homework, and consult broadly. I’m very interested in good process because it leads to good decisions and outcomes.
List a few characteristics that you feel embody a Nelson municipal politician?
Accountable, approachable, available, creative.
What one issue has really been ignored in the last years (or years) in Nelson?
We have all these vacant lots where gas stations used to be. Are there toxics issues here? I would prefer to see businesses or mixed use residential in these locations.
There may be money available from the province for this; they have a program for funding brownfield renewal. How can we move these sites back to productive use?
What do you see as one of the biggest problems Nelson has to deal with next?
How we handle growth and development is huge. Big developments are contentious, for good reason.
My understanding is that right now developers are asked for voluntary concessions during their permit negotiations. I am very interested in exploring how the city can strengthen our hand here.
The Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan has some good recommendations but what seems to be missing are design guidelines that go beyond preserving heritage to also mandate sustainability. We need to also ensure that more affordable housing gets built, for rental and purchase.
Do you see Nelson as a special case in terms of community, or are we dealing with the same issues as everyone else in B.C.?
We are all vulnerable to global events such as economic chaos, climate change, and rising oil prices.
No community escapes that, which is why smart communities are working to increase their resilience and localize their food security and their economies. We do still have a quality of life here that for most people is pretty amazing.
How we ensure that our more vulnerable citizens also enjoy a good quality of life? All BC communities struggle with this, but we have a strong base to work from: our natural, social and cultural wealth.
What is one thing you would change in the city or at City Hall?
I would like to see better communication between city hall and the citizens. Something simple like an e-newsletter from the city would be a small start. Conversation forums, both on-line and off-line, could be more directly linked to mayor and council.
We have tools to help with this, let’s make better use of them. How about a “virtual suggestion box?” I have my own website, www.electcandace.org, and I welcome comments on it.
If I win a council seat I’ll continue to provide an on-line forum where people can make suggestions and air their concerns (in addition of course to all the other ways people air their concerns!).
Any other issues you see happening in the city, or at City Hall, that need to be addressed?
I would like to see us working to strengthen our neighbourhoods. Portland Oregon even has an office of neighbourhood involvement.
I’m not suggesting we need that, and obviously our community is very different from theirs, but there are ways to support us knowing our neighbours better, and there are many benefits, including sharing resources and services, cross-generational knowledge transfer, and much more.
What is your view on …
… the City having its own police force?
- One of the advantages of a local police force is that the officers are community members. We have a police board that citizens can bring complaints to directly. One big disadvantage though is the cost. The Nelson Police Department costs us $2.6 million a year, over 20 per cent of our municipal budget. Labour costs are rising. Municipalities that use the RCMP get a federal subsidy for that (30 per cent for a city our size), but municipalities like Nelson that have their own force pay for 100 per cent of it. The city has asked the province to cover part of our policing costs but it seems unlikely to me the province will make changes to funding structures for policing while negotiations with the RCMP remain unsettled. It is my understanding that the NPD collective agreement is up for negotiation this term and I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion about what we as a community want from our police force, and can afford. Under the Police Act, police in BC perform three functions: maintain law and order, enforce the law, and prevent crime. What are our community’s priorities within those broad areas? I’m sure it will be a lively discussion.
… Sunday bus service?
- There should be at least some bus service on Sunday. We need to be growing transit, not shrinking it. Youth, seniors and low-income families rely on the transit system. The city should look at ways to work with community groups encourage and promote ridership, and consult with riders on what they really need. Low ridership is why Sunday service got cut in the first place. Drivers need to be enticed out of their cars.
… waterfront development?
- Our waterfront is a priceless public asset and must be very carefully managed. The history of industrial use and infilling the lake to create land has left us with some cleanup issues. Do we really know what is in some of these sites? I’m excited about the transfer station lands coming back under city control and I really want to see a public park there that emphasizes restoration natural habitat, which is good for all of us. I don’t believe that private development should block public access; I would like to see ecologically healthy public space along the entire waterfront, with dense, green-built mixed-use neighbourhoods set back from there. And lots of public art throughout!
… development in general?
- Like it or not, growth is going to happen as long as the human population keeps growing, so we need to grow smart. People need to live somewhere, and I would rather they lived in dense, energy-efficient, affordable, walkable mixed-use neighbourhoods near Nelson’s downtown than in unregulated sprawl somewhere else. If we can provide that, it will draw the kind of people and businesses that we want to share our city with.
… the Civic Centre and its (lack of) theatre?
- We need to get moving on this as soon as city staff completes their review of the state of the facility. It is certainly sad not to have a theatre in town, but it would need to be a viable business; I don’t think Nelson taxpayers want to subsidize it.
… allowing dogs on Baker Street?
- I am tempted here to make a joke about letting sleeping dogs lie. But seriously, I would like to think dog owners, whether from here or visiting, would take responsibility for leashing their dogs and cleaning up after them. Maybe we could allow dogs back on a trial basis, say for six months or so, and re-evaluate at the five-month mark.
… making Nelson more of a tourist destination?
- I’m excited to see the revitalization of the “Railtown” area getting underway. I would like to see the CP station house project get some wind under its wings. We may not be far away from the return of passenger rail, which would be great in a number of ways, including reducing our emissions. Of course we should continue to promote visitors coming to Nelson, and support the aspects of our community that bring them here. However we need to be cautious about over-reliance on tourism, as it is very linked to fuel prices and global economics.
… water rates for downtown business?
- It looks like metering is going to have to happen because we can’t assess water use without it. Definitely reviewing the rate structure has to be a city priority, this issue has been outstanding for too long.
… eliminating parking on Baker Street?
- Over time, we need to reduce automobile use overall, and in the future Baker Street, or at least some of the core downtown blocks, might well be car free. But I don’t see what we would gain by just eliminating parking as an isolated strategy. Without an integrated plan we would just put parking pressure onto adjacent neighbourhoods. Let’s work to reduce our car use, and encourage active transportation, and do things in smart phases.
… the Canucks chance of getting back to the Stanley Cup final?
- I don’t know much about hockey, although I do know the blue line was invented by Nelsonites (this has little or nothing to do with the question about the city police force).