Re-Elect Teri Towner to Coquitlam City Council

When I ran for a seat on Coquitlam City Council back in 2014, one of my campaign promises was that I would serve the community in a family-focused way. I am pleased to tell you that I have been a voice for families and have been serving residents in a family-focused capacity. If the people of Coquitlam place their trust in me and re-elect me for another 4-year term, I promise to continue to serve the residents of Coquitlam with integrity and commitment AND with a continuing focus on families.

I am always out in the community, listening to people who love this city, and like me, who want Coquitlam to continue to be a great place to live and raise our children. I hear from families regularly.

Some examples of how I’ve been focused on families:

 

An active community is a healthy community.  Being involved in organized sports benefits the participants, our community and society on a whole.  Our children build character learning how to win and lose with grace, be committed, be a team member.  Organized sport provides volunteer opportunities for many wanting to give back and sporting events build community. 

This is, in my opinion, one of the key functions of local government.   People think of pipes, roads, garbage, police and fire etc. but healthy and active lifestyles – particularly for children and youth – have a huge and positive effect on the quality of life in our communities.  Sport provides vital life lessons, encourages achievement and teamwork, commitment to goals, personal discipline and hard work, leadership, sportsmanship, etc.  The leadership opportunities and contributions made by volunteer coaches and others to improving the lives of our youth are invaluable. 

Community sports organizations also do just that – build community.  Sport brings people together, provides social opportunities, a common point of contact and new relationships that within the realm of organized community sport helps form a backbone of the city. 

There are also economic benefits to organized sport. Tournaments and large-scale events inject dollars into our local economy.   Amongst other large sporting events, I have participated in the BC Summer Games twice and know how, in addition to everything outlined above, these games bring economic benefits to the host city and region.  I was thrilled to volunteer my own personal time to help measure discus and shot put throws during the Track & Field events at the 2016 BC 55+ Games hosted by Coquitlam. 

Promoting the 55+ Games

Of course, I also have to address that being active in sport provides health and fitness for those involved.  ESPECIALLY in this day and age where far too many children and youth are overweight and sedentary – and spend too much time on their screens – which doesn’t provide any of the desired outcomes outlined above.  

I have been very active in community sports my entire life – as an athlete, coach, volunteer, team manager, tournament volunteer and parent of athletes.  The experiences I have had – as well as the ones of my own active kids – had added to our lives immensely.  Because I know first-hand the vast benefits of being involved in community sport, I have always supported initiatives to increase participation and involvement. I have personally been involved in supporting/spearheading participation of low income residents, refugee newcomers etc. When citizens are active and connected to something, our community is richer for it and we all win.  

As a City Councillor I will continue to advance the increase in sporting amenities that are needed based on the Parks Rec & Culture Master Plan and demand in the community.

As vice-chair of the Sports Advisory Committee I have engaged with and listened to the various sports user groups and will continue to do so.  I am currently advocating for the Coquitlam Curling Club to get to yes towards building a regional curling centre in our city. 

During my term on Council the city has opened and/or upgraded numerous parks – including the revitalization of 12 parks in southwest Coquitlam.  The projects bring immeasurable benefit to our neighbourhoods and after I’m re-elected I will continue to ensure our existing facilities, parks and community spaces are maintained and new facilities are sought after where current demand is not being met.

I am committed to the well-being of youth, seniors and families.  I support initiatives and policies that promote accessible, quality recreation programs, support for team sports, cycling infrastructure, library services, youth programs, arts centres and festivals. 

I believe that a municipality should provide a wide offering of programs and activities that promote and encourage active participation for all ages and ability levels – ranging from set programs to drop-in classes.  I am also a fan of “Try it” events so residents can be exposed to new activities. Over 70,000 participants registered in Coquitlam recreation programs in 2017!  I will continue to support all of this! 

I want increased opportunities for our children to be active – unstructured activities such as what is offered in adventure playgrounds, (for more info: https://www.teritowner.ca/toggle/adventure-playground/ ) pop-up play, impromptu gatherings, connected, social neighbourhoods.  I will keep advocating for cycling infrastructure (multi-use paths, dockless bike sharing, more bike racks) and maximizing indoor and outdoor facility use. 

I believe that a connected community is a strong, healthy community and will continue to support initiatives that provide opportunities for impromptu gatherings and social connectivity amongst residents: grants for block parties, Neighbourhood Nights, Lights at Lafarge, Summer Concerts and the like.  Coquitlam has seen much success with the Block Party program and I hear from residents regularly how much they benefited from their neighbourhood block party: new friendships, increased safety and awareness – and fun!

The Coquitlam Crunch has up to 50,000 visitors each month in the summer!  This amenity is free of charge and is very much loved!  I was pleased to support the twinning of the stairs and I also support future improvement with respect to washrooms, water fountains, parking and expanding the trails.

The Burquitlam YMCA project is underway (a significant partnership) and so is a replacement for Place Maillardville.  I was one of the Councillors who pushed for a recreation centre on Burke Mountain to be built – sooner.  The shared use with SD43 at the recently-opened Smiling Creek Elementary school brings a variety of programs to northeast Coquitlam.

Over my term on Council, dozens of parks were built or revitalized – including the Southwest Park Blitz, the Foster Ave tennis facility was renovated, Porier Rec Centre made changes to enhance the usage of space, the Poirier Forum was open – just to name some.

Mental health challenges need more attention – more funding, more support, more treatment.  I will continue to advocate to the Province for more mental health-related resources in Coquitlam.

Another way for a city to be healthy and active is to promote and celebrate volunteer opportunities.  I am out at least once a week with different volunteer groups for a variety of causes and I truly believe that having access to rewarding volunteer activities helps with connectedness, social isolation and of course helps build a caring, connected community.  I especially love it when I see how involved our seniors can be in our community – through volunteerism.  It’s win/win/win.

Given my own background, I can personally relate to the challenges people face trying to make ends meet living in Metro Vancouver. Not only am I not detached from the reality of most working citizens, I am one of them.

Housing is a challenge facing every community in Metro Vancouver and Coquitlam is making progress incentivizing the development of a wider range of housing options – housing that will enable families to stay in Coquitlam, for people to put down roots in our city.  One example of the progress we are making:  as of April 30, 2018 there are an anticipated 3159 new purpose-built rental units and 986 new below-market and non-market in stream.  Other cities are looking to our strategy as a model to address housing affordability in their communities.  

But affordability isn’t just housing. Citizens need options for transportation, childcare and recreational opportunities. 

Dropping off 66 lbs of freshly-picked blueberries at the food bank

I will continue to advocate for more buses coming through our neighbourhoods, for cycling infrastructure and for more car-share programs in multi-family developments.  Many families can forego their second car and simply utilize car sharing for the “extra” required trips.  This is said to save families upwards of $10,000/year. 

I am an avid supporter of the development of childcare opportunities in our community – through schools, rec centres and park spaces, through density and regulatory incentives for daycare providers, and through zoning and land use requirements for developers.  I am also in favour of looking at ways in which the City can streamline the process for operators to obtain appropriate licenses and looking at ways we can assist groups wanting to operate a child care facility in Coquitlam. 

I am also an enthusiastic supporter of affordable recreation opportunities.  I support the various Parks and Recreation programs designed with affordability in mind, the Get Connected, Get Active, the One Pass and the Low Cost, No Cost programs – and more.  I  believe that access to affordable recreation is important for the health of a community. 

I support public policy initiatives that help address affordability and will loudly advocate to other levels of government for necessary changes and programs helping to address this challenging issue. 

Assisting a child with new clothing after a fire displaced her family

 

I support excellence in police and fire response. I am very proud of the work both Coquitlam RCMP and Coquitlam firefighters provided to assist with the BC wildfires during the provincial states of emergency these past two years.  Their commitment and dedication to our community is top-notch.    

Coquitlam is a safe place to live and raise our children and we are fortunate to have effective public safety strategies, initiatives and dedicated, professional police and fire personnel. 

Because of proactive policing and the work of the Uniformed Crime reduction Unit (UCRU) crime did not increase with the introduction of the Evergreen Line to our city. 

But public safety isn’t just about police and fire response.  I have been advancing traffic safety initiatives, particularly around our schools,(for more info: https://www.teritowner.ca/teris-platform/community-centred/ ) as well as road infrastructure improvements.  From small changes such as suggesting “No Parking” signs where I see a hazard to larger, more significant changes such as improvements along the Lougheed Highway corridor and the Brunette Interchange.  I will continue to work with our Traffic experts to make changes to improve safety and will continue to advocate to the levels of government responsible for the larger road infrastructure projects. 

Crosswalk flags on Mundy Road

Speeding vehicles in our neighbourhoods is a significant concern.  I will continue to advocate for the Speed Watch initiative, for more flashing signage reminding drivers to slow down and for an increased police presence on our streets where speed is prevalent. We have more residents, more traffic and it makes sense to also have more enforcement of driving behaviour on the roads. 

I attended the Sept 18, 2018 news conference launching Project Scarecrow – an initiative that is aimed at slowing speeding motorists down.  I enthusiastically support any and all initiatives aimed at addressing the issue of speed in our neighbourhoods.  https://www.teritowner.ca/2018/09/a-creative-tool-to-address-speeding-in-our-neighbourhoods/

Sadly, we are in the midst of an opiod crisis and Coquitlam is not immune to it.  The Riverview site should be re-purposed to provide an increased level of mental illness and addiction treatment.  With respect to safety, we must take measure to address the public safety aspects of addiction.  This includes improperly discarded needles.  It breaks my heart to hear that some families avoid certain parks and green spaces because of the fear of coming across a discarded syringe. Through my work on the 3030 Gordon Emergency Shelter Task Force, I will be advocating to harm reduction agencies to help address this concern.  I will also push to have more sharps collections containers installed in our community.  One pricked person is one too many. 

Living safely with our city’s wildlife is also very important.  We are blessed to be surrounded by mountains, a river, streams, forests and an abundance of green space.  With that abundance of beauty comes wildlife.  I have been very vocal with respect to education and outreach efforts informing residents how to live safely and I will continue to do so.  For more info: https://www.teritowner.ca/2018/07/using-a-dead-habituated-bear-for-educational-purposes/

Coquitlam is a safe place to live and raise a family and I believe we can all work together to keep it that way.

 

Child care is a very much-needed amenity in our society today – including Coquitlam. Childcare options can help lift a family, and the lack of options can result in the opposite.  I am an avid supporter of, and will continue to advocate for, the development of childcare opportunities in our community – through schools, rec centres and park spaces, through density and regulatory incentives for daycare providers, and through zoning and land use requirements for developers.

I am in favour of looking at ways in which the City can streamline the process for operators to obtain appropriate zoning and licenses and looking at ways we can incentivize and assist groups wanting to operate a child care facility in Coquitlam. 

To help address the affordability issue affecting our region, in addition to aiming for a wide variety of housing options and solutions, we must also embrace creative solutions for other elements affecting affordability: transportation, the creation of good jobs AND the availability of childcare in our city.  

Years ago when a childcare facility in a Central Coquitlam elementary school was being shut down by SD43 because the space was needed by a Strong Start program moving in, I very strongly advocated to the MLA, the school district and rallied the parents at the school to save the daycare.  Our efforts were rewarded!  The District built a facility on-site and the facility is still used by working families today.  

Council has had many discussions on the issue of child care, and we’ve made progress – though I and others would like to see more.  The City has added a “Child Care Strategy” to its workplan and is dedicating resources towards analyzing the issues and coming up with concrete solutions. We’ve also met with the Province of BC representatives on the Child Care file and with SD43 to discuss moving forward and addressing the child care crunch in our city.

A childcare proposal on Burke Mountain:  http://bit.ly/2LVElF5 I was very happy to support this valuable project and am very pleased it passed! And a child care operation on Hart St in SW Coquitlam is currently awaiting final inspection from the Health authorities and will be opening its doors shortly. This was another project I enthusiastically supported.

If I am fortunate enough to be re-elected on October 20, I will continue to advocate for policies and regulations that increase the creation of childcare in Coquitlam.  I am aware of the issues, know what the opportunities are for moving forward and will continue to be creative, collaborative and look for partnerships to make this is a robust reality.

More on affordability: https://www.teritowner.ca/toggle/affordability/

 

I am receiving a high quantity of emails, phone calls and questions on the door steps pertaining to the upcoming legalization of cannabis.

The specifics of each question vary.  Below are some facts and my thoughts on the topic.

Earlier this year, Council took the initiative to change Coquitlam’s zoning regulations to prohibit the sale of non-medicinal cannabis in Coquitlam. We did this because of the impending legalization of cannabis by the federal government and the complete lack of regulatory framework on behalf of both the federal and provincial governments. 

Medicinal cannabis is permitted in specific zones and all other cannabis-related uses are prohibited – in all zones. Following the finalization of the federal and provincial legislation and regulations, the City of Coquitlam  will develop a consultation strategy to gather public input. Feedback from the public will then guide how non-medical cannabis is regulated in Coquitlam in the future.

To summarize, cannabis will soon be legal in Canada, but it will not be possible to sell non-medicinal marijuana in Coquitlam. 

I share many of the concerns I’m hearing about the possible unintended consequences of the legalization of cannabis. I feel very strongly it has to stay out of the hands of young people and I have concerns around public safety when it comes to operating motor vehicles.

Many are asking me about the public consumption of cannabis.  Coquitlam has a Bylaw that doesn’t allow smoking – of anything – in our parks. I’d like to see the regulations about public consumption go farther. 

Cities are going to be faced with the enforcement of the various issues around the legalization of cannabis.  In essence, it is another downloading of responsibility and costs from higher levels of government on to cities. 

For more info: https://www.coquitlam.ca/city-hall/news-media/news-media/2018/04/10/coquitlam-to-implement-interim-measures-on-cannabis

We have more seniors in our community now than we’ve ever had before and this population group will double in size over the next 10 to 15 years.  It’s important for city officials to recognize this demographic change. 

Enjoying lunch at the Glen Pine Pavilion

I supported the City developing a Seniors Strategy focusing on goals and related actions intended to meet the recreation needs of older adults and seniors. I also support our two seniors centres, the Dogwood and Glen Pine Pavilions, continuing to provide programming and services for seniors, and the larger recreation centres adapting their offerings to meet the growing needs of older adults and seniors in our community.

I fully supported the proposed development of seniors housing on Johnson Street.  I was dismayed to hear from surrounding residents that they didn’t want the project because of the perception there’d be more emergency vehicles and sirens in the neighbourhood, disrupting their quality of life.  Seniors are the pioneers of our community and we absolutely MUST provide housing, services and amenities to meet their needs. 

I attend Seniors Planning Network meetings, help out at the Dogwood and Glen Pine volunteer appreciation days and took it upon myself to engage the Dogwood woodworking club to build the Little Library I recently installed at the Burquitlam Community Garden.  I absolutely love going into the pavilions and chatting with the seniors in our community. 

Chatting at the Dogwood Pavilion

I enthusiastically support opportunities for seniors to be active and I embraced Coquitlam’s hosting of the 55+ Summer Games.  I volunteered numerous hours of my personal time to volunteer at the Track and Field events – measuring women’s shot put and discus throws!  I was also overjoyed for the opportunity to present medals for numerous 55+ Games events. 

Awarding a medal at the BC 55+ Games

There are a high number of seniors living in poverty in Coquitlam.  I support more affordable senior-friendly housing solutions, affordable recreation opportunities, transportation solutions and the promotion of “neighbourliness” – encouraging residents to be involved in the Snow Angels program, help with garbage/recycling carts. 

My thoughts on accessibility: https://www.teritowner.ca/toggle/a-universally-accessible-city/

Serving coffee at the Dogwood Pavilion 

Over my first term on City Council I learned how much cost pressure is added to the City budget because of senior levels of government downloading costs and adding increased regulations.  Some examples that come to mind include the downloading of policing DNA analysis costs, costs pertaining to the maintenance of dikes and now more recently the provincial employer health tax being implemented January 1, 2019.  There has also been a downloading of senior government responsibilities related to housing. . . . . . .

Add to this such things as a changes in the national lifeguarding standards and the requirement to hire more lifeguards, new storm water management requirements, new streamside riparian area protection regulations, climate change risk management, GHG Emission reduction issues and more, much more.  These are but a few examples of costs that get added to city budgets. These are all important safety requirements, environmental initiatives and the like but property tax-payers can only bear so much. Especially right now. The extra financial burden being placed on local taxpayers, especially those on fixed incomes, simply isn’t feasible.  

Another learning throughout my term on Council:  City Councillors certainly don’t have the “power” to assist residents with all their concerns!  The Local Government Act and other legislation is quite prescriptive and I discovered many times that although I WANTED to solve an issue for a resident, I couldn’t.  Some examples of this include: having an empty, boarded up, derelict house demolished or limiting the time between sale and re-building; being able to address concerns resulting with “unneighbourly” tenants in a house owned by out-of-country landlords, quantitative measures to address disturbing noise pertaining to mechanical equipment in surrounding yards – and more. 

Taken from a video I did on unsightly premises

I am doing my best to advocate to gain more tools to deal with some of these challenges that residents face.  I would like to see changes to how BC Assessment classifies and assesses properties for taxation.  I would also like to see turf fields made eligible for funding by development cost charges (DCCs).  Both these issues are legislated provincially but affect local governments and residents/businesses in our municipalities. 

 

Throughout my term on Council I have been involved with and supportive of the Coquitlam Youth Council.  I have attended their meetings and events, picked up litter with them and acted as a mentor.  I am assisting the group and am the adult sponsor for the TedX event – Coquitlam’s inaugural TedX event! – they are organizing for November 17, 2018. Save the date!  For more info: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/tedxyouth-lafarge-lake-tickets-49114152753 

I attend and speak at youth-organized events such as Talk to Me 2.0, youth public speaking contests, Slam Jam and more.  The leadership, talent, organization, compassion and humour these youth all exhibit, and the causes they support, are outstanding! 

I plan on advocating to form another City of Coquitlam advisory committee – a Youth Advisory Committee.  We need to ensure we make decisions that will benefit our youth of today but also our future generations. Their input towards a wide variety of issues will be valuable.  For more info on the current committees: https://www.coquitlam.ca/city-hall/mayor-and-council/Committees-Task-Forces-and-Boards.aspx

I am also doing proactive outreach to the youth in our city to try and increase their engagement in civic affairs, local government and to increase their participation with respect to voting in the election. It’s been shown that when young people vote in the first election they are eligible to vote in, they are more likely to remain engaged citizens as they go through life.  

 

I was recruited and am currently serving on the Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver Family Partnering Committee.  

I will be working with a team of others to qualify families in need of decent, affordable, accessible housing based on Habitat for Humanity Canada family selection criteria.  These families will be selected for the affordable townhousing project the current Council approved for the city-owned parcel of land at 1358 Coast Meridian Road.   

I enthusiastically supported this proposal when it was presented to Council and am thrilled that a Habitat project is being built in Coquitlam.  I consider it  privilege to be involved in helping to select the 45-50 families that will partner with Habitat and one day get to call the Coast Meridian project home.  

For more information: https://www.habitatgv.ca/

I want Coquitlam to be a place of opportunity but it can’t be if people aren’t given the opportunity to live here – and raise their families here.  It is extremely important to me that we do all that we can so Coquitlam remains an inclusive, equitable and prosperous city.  

At the groundbreaking of the Red Brick project in Austin Heights

This means that we need to take action to ensure that appropriate housing is built. Some families may be able to purchase the extremely large home on a large lot but I think we serve our community better by incentivizing, in the appropriate neighbourhoods, large lots being split into smaller lots – that result in smaller homes.  These homes for many will not be considered “affordable” but they are certainly more affordable than an extremely large home. I’d like to see the permitting process sped up for residents looking to subdivide so they don’t simply throw their hands up with impatience and build one large home instead of two smaller ones.

I fully support more town homes in the appropriate areas of our city.  Town homes are less expensive than single family homes, are less expensive to heat and furnish AND as a bonus, help create a sense of community – which we can always use more of especially in housing that is targeted to attract families.  

I have been speaking up and pushing back when multi-family development proposals don’t have 3 bedroom units or an acceptable quantity of 3 bedroom units – and I will continue to do so. More couples than ever before are going to be raising their families in condos and apartments and one and two bedroom units won’t suffice. I am passionate about ensuring there are enough “family-sized” units as well as appropriate amenity space within. When youngsters need to build a volcano for their science fair, where are the kids living in condos going to make theirs?  In the common area amenity space!  We have to ensure multi-family housing is being built with the needs of families in mind.  

I was one of the Councillors who supported the building of the first purpose-built rental in Austin Heights in decades.  This much-needed project is currently under construction.  I aim to keep supporting projects so we can achieve a minimum 3% rental vacancy rate here in Coquitlam.  Increasing the supply of rental housing and addressing the vacancy rate will help stabilize rental rates and will provide more opportunities for those “harder to house” to find housing.  Increasing the vacancy rate will also hopefully encourage landlords currently refusing to maintain their rental units, to improve them – so the quality of the rental homes improves.  3% isn’t a fantastic number with respect to rental vacancy rates, but it’s a start.   

https://www.facebook.com/notes/teri-towner/realizing-rental-housing/10155026612322182/

https://www.tricitynews.com/news/rental-building-in-coquitlam-one-step-away-from-ok-1.2135245

https://globalnews.ca/news/4089591/new-market-rental-housing-coquitlam/

I am also very passionate about “Families with Children” housing being offered by Habitat for Humanity: https://www.teritowner.ca/toggle/habitat-for-huma…y-family-housing/

I couldn’t afford to live in Metro Vancouver if I didn’t already – not even as a renter. Chances are my kids won’t be able to afford to live here.  Many families are in the same position.  Living in a region with natural beauty, a strong economy and many reasons that make it an attractive place to live has really distorted the market with respect to affordability.  I am passionate about implementing solutions whereby this can be addressed.

A Housing Affordability Strategy was implemented during my term on Council – a strategy we worked very hard to create – and is proving to be successful. For example, in 2017 alone, over 700 units of purpose-built rental housing units were approved. As at April 30, 2018 there were an anticipated 3159 new purpose-built rental units and 986 new below-market and non-market units in stream.  

A primary goal of the HAS we adopted back in December 2015 is to work with partners in the non-profit, private and public sectors to ensure that a variety of housing types, sizes, tenures and prices will be available in Coquitlam in the years ahead of us. Rental housing is one of these and I am pleased that rental housing is going to become a more predominant from of housing in our city.  Many people want to live in Metro Vancouver but owning a home is not something that will be within their reach in this housing market.  Having an adequate supply of rental housing gives people an option to stay in Metro Vancouver, to stay in Coquitlam if that’s what they choose to do.

I want to continue to refine our successful HAS – attracting more affordable housing options for families and seniors – and for those whom a single-family house is out of reach. 

I have been addressing housing affordability by encouraging/supporting different housing forms and pushing for and supporting proposals for housing options that aren’t the too small condo or the too expensive house. One of the main responsibilities of a City Councillor is to make decisions regarding land use.  I take that role very seriously and want to ensure our City Council makes the best decisions for the community with respect to the use of our limited land.  

A blog I wrote earlier this year: https://www.teritowner.ca/2018/02/coquitlams-focus-on-addressing-housing-affordability/

We need to keep providing incentives to secure a wide range of housing options and solutions.  I support incremental density in neighbourhoods where it fits.  Our Housing Choices program has seen some success with fourplexes, laneway housing and 2-lot splits and I look forward to more creative options and better use of our precious land as we go forward.  

I aim to keep incentivizing and supporting rental projects so we can achieve a minimum 3% rental vacancy rate here in Coquitlam.  Increasing the supply of rental housing and addressing the vacancy rate will help stabilize rental rates and will provide more opportunities for those “harder to house” to find housing.  Increasing the vacancy rate will also hopefully encourage landlords currently refusing to maintain their rental units, to improve them – so the quality of the rental homes improves.  3% isn’t a fantastic number with respect to rental vacancy rates, but it’s a start.   

There’s some angst in our city regarding the possible re-development of our mobile home parks.  I believe we need this type of housing in Coquitlam and will be a loud voice at the table to ensure this type of housing remains.  

A housing solution I am VERY proud to have spearheaded:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/volunteers-find-creative-solution-to-house-refugees-in-coquitlam-b-c-1.4144384

The first housing project utilizing the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund https://www.facebook.com/notes/teri-towner/coquitlams-first-partnership-using-the-affordable-housing-reserve-fund/10153815675892182/ 

To read the City of Coquitlam Housing Affordability Strategy, adopted in December 2015 : https://www.coquitlam.ca/planning-and-development/resources/affordable-housing.aspx

A post I made back in summer of 2017: https://www.facebook.com/notes/teri-towner/realizing-rental-housing/10155026612322182/

 

I have been receiving numerous emails and voice messages from voters asking my stance on the SOGI 123 curriculum.  (Sexual orientation and gender identity)  I have been answering the question in two ways:

First, I let the writer/caller know that school curriculum – including SOGI – is entirely the responsibility of the provincial Ministry of Education, that it has ALREADY BEEN MANDATED by the Province and City Council isn’t involved at all in the operation of what resources are provided in schools or what is taught in our schools.  I take very seriously, in my role of City Councillor, the concept of “staying in my lane”.  I don’t tell other levels of government how to achieve things within their mandate.

That said, I am heavily involved in advocating for various things that fall under the mandate of other levels of government.  Some examples of this include advocating for an increase in funding for mental health supports, transportation improvements that are funded provincially, funding for subsidized housing and more buses (which is Translink) etc.  I have advocated heavily for a ridehailing framework, for policy that takes away a City Council voting on its own remuneration – and more. But when it comes to curriculum items under the mandate of the School District or the BC Ministry of Education, I am not involved.  Just as I would not expect a SD43 Trustee to advise a City how much to charge for a Bylaw infraction or how to determine a land use zone etc.

I will say however, that the approach so far regarding this topic is obviously creating a significant amount of needless angst.  I am hearing about it repeatedly on the doorsteps while out door knocking – it really does appear to be top of mind.  In my opinion, it may have been better for the Ministry of Education to go a little slower, to provide more information and to get parental understanding of it first rather than simply imposing the change without explanation and without laying out the parameters etc.  More appropriate, thorough and timely information may have prevented this unnecessary backlash.

 

There is nothing more important than our children.

We need to make sure they are kept safe. With the growth of our community we are seeing more vehicles on our streets and unfortunately we are also seeing drivers who are often distracted or driving in an unsafe manner. There is more traffic around schools than before.

More children attend schools cross-catchment to participate in the wide variety of program options available to us in our School District 43 (SD43) education system. This has resulted in fewer kids walking to school, more kids being driven to school, which leads to more traffic around schools. Many of our older schools were built in the day when children walked and therefore very little parking is available. I’ve witnessed first-hand the mad scramble at drop-off and pick-up at numerous schools and some of the existing safety hazards that this type of situation creates.

Prior to being elected in 2014, I worked with schools to address traffic and pedestrian safety issues.  As an active executive member of the District PAC (DPAC43), I sat on the TriCities Traffic Safety Committee with representatives from SD43, each city and the RCMP.

Since being elected, I supported the School Traffic Safety Improvement program and the School Walkability program that the City of Coquitlam implemented. I also worked with HASTe BC (Hub for Active School Travel) and the Montgomery Middle School PAC and spearheaded having crosswalk flags installed on Mundy Road at two crosswalks.  These flags increase the visibility of the crosswalks dramatically and improve the safety for the kids who have to cross Mundy Rd. to get to school.  These crosswalk flags are the first to be installed at school in SD43 school. https://hastebc.org/.   I have since met with representatives from other schools who are starting the process of having these crosswalk flags installed near their children’s schools. 

A blog post from last December:  Crosswalk Flags – See & Be Seen (Dec 1, 2017)

Speaking to middle schoolers about safe, active routes to school

I also engaged with middle schoolers and spoke at a variety of assemblies, met with the “Cool Routes to School” and leadership groups promoting active transportation, Bike to School Week and being safe en route to school. 

The sooner all improvements to traffic and pedestrian safety around schools are realized, the better.

 

I enthusiastically supported the proposal from Parks & Rec to install an Adventure Playground in our City Centre as I am a strong supporter of the opportunities offered by these types of playgrounds. With more families being raised in homes without backyards, I believe today’s children need more opportunities to play and explore. And more opportunities to do so without structure.

Recently, I was invited to attend a street hockey game in a cul-de-sac in Central Coquitlam.  I believe this type of unstructured play is an important opportunity to embrace.  Our children not only have a great time playing outside, they learn many life skills that may not be offered if all their recreational opportunities are planned and structured. 

Playing referee at a street hockey game

Initiatives to promote activity and impromptu play are something I am passionate about and will continue to promote and support. 

For more information: https://bit.ly/2PXGd3D

 

At Coquitlam’s Adventure Playground