I, Roger Bruce, am very excited to run as a Duncan councillor again. There will be many difficult decisions regarding policing, infrastructure, homelessness, and affordable housing to come. In the last number of years the Cowichan Valley has yearned for steady leadership and I would encourage voters to consider some fresh ideas when it comes to this election.
In my first six months in office (2014), I was able to establish that the city had about $15 million in reserves (about 80 per cent at the discretion of council). The previous council was taxing heavily in order to deal with the eventual policing costs coming, however 50 per cent was in a bond fund and was susceptible to rising interest rates and thus potential losses. I encouraged council to move all the dollars into GICs to protect the taxpayers’ money — and we did. These reserves will be gone in a blink with increased policing costs coming and the impending costs of an aging infrastructure.
The City of Duncan only enjoys one-sixth of the tax revenue compared to the Municipality of North Cowichan and thus charges higher taxes, so future councillors will need to be extremely careful when spending from our limited tax base. Residential taxes in Duncan are higher than the Municipality of North Cowichan but our downtown commercial rate was an incredible 28 per cent higher than the municipality back in 2014 (currently a bit better).
In the last four years I was proud to have advocated for new flashing crosswalk lights and I was pleased to have slowed down the dramatic zoning changes until property owners had a chance to ask questions and become comfortable as the City went from 16 zones down to eight zones. I was not pleased that I could gain no support in slowing down the Canada Avenue new road construction and now we have discovered that we neglected to check the old sewer lines and there is a chance we may once again have to dig up the road.
In my first year as an elected official it was easy to envision the need for a warming shelter. Campbell River was successfully using a 16 bed mobile shelter and I felt this idea was needed here in the Valley. Over the last four years I have had some good conversations with Campbell River but was not successful in gaining local council support, but if elected I will push for it again as this solution will help those less fortunate while allowing us greater flexibility in where to locate the mobile shelter. Time is of the essence, winter is coming and those less fortunate need our help.
Traffic and parking will continue to be an issue for Duncan as the traffic does not start in Duncan nor end in Duncan, thus we need full cooperation from other local governments to come up with solutions. The sometimes awkward working relationship between the municipality and the city has hindered highway solutions, traffic planning, infrastructure upgrades, water, schools and hospitals. Too often federal and provincial politicians have been confused as to who is leading the development of our communities and this has led to lost opportunities for important local solutions.
And finally Duncan City Hall (a Cowichan Valley historical building) may need a seismic upgrade (likely cost — $500,000 to a $1 million) but like the $50,000 bill for the tent city clean up, this upgrade will be paid 100 per cent by only the Duncan taxpayers so please be prepared over the next five to 10 years.