Candidates seek to preserve rural culture of RDN’s area A

Four candidates vie for director position in electoral area A.

Preserving the rural culture of communities in the Regional District of Nanaimo’s area A is a priority for all candidates seeking election this year.

This year’s contenders for director of electoral area A – which covers Cassidy, Cedar, Yellowpoint and South Wellington – include Geoff Baltzer, Andrea Bonkowski, Laurie Gourlay and Alec McPherson.

All four candidates have similar election platforms, including protecting the rural character of the communities, taking steps to protect water sources, and ensuring responsible and sustainable growth.

Gourlay, 58, an organic farmer from Cedar and former president of the Mid-Island Sustainability and Stewardship Initiative, said he support a “kinder, gentler growth, in the community.

He said there needs to be sustainable and responsible planning instead of dropping “mega-developments” such as the Cable Bay project on the borders of rural communities which taxes water resources and infrastructure.

“Urban sprawl is totally irresponsible in terms of climate change,” said Gourlay.

Bonkowski, who served as a trustee on the Nanaimo school board for two terms, agrees that responsible growth is needed.

“We can’t remain small but we can’t be taken over by large development,” she said. “My vision is to have a sense of community. We are rural and we want to cherish and work on our heritage.”

McPherson, 66, is currently board chairman of the North Cedar Improvement District.

He supports sustainable development that adheres to the official community plan. He’s against OCP amendments that go against the “spirit” and goals of the OCP. He supports creating an incorporation feasibility study for area A. By incorporating the communities would be more in control of issues such as development, subdivision procedures and more.

Protecting the rural nature of the communities in area A goes hand-in-hand with water issues, said Baltzer.

The 63 year-old semi-retired millwright spent 16 years on the Nanaimo Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission representing area A. Baltzer said he wants to take a “greener view of things” to ensure the green space, farmland and water supplies are protected.

Protecting the water supply requires information on water volumes in the area. McPherson said he’s like to get information about whether there is enough water to support the current level of development area A is experiencing.

Gourlay said many residents’ wells are running dry in the summer and some are getting saline in them.

Candidates also want to promote recreational activities by creating trails and cultivating existing green spaces.

Electoral A residents can vote at two locations on Nov. 19 – North Cedar Intermediate School, located at 2215 Gould Rd., and the Cranberry Fire Department Hall, located at 1555 Morden Rd. Voting hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.