NSSWD candidates Q&A

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Property owners eligible to vote in the North Salt Spring Waterworks District should be receiving ballots and detailed directions for a trustees’ election in the mail imminently if they haven’t already done so. Five candidates are running for two vacant seats. They have answered some Driftwood questions in the space below, as published in the April 6, 2022 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper.

LEIGH LARGE

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.

A. My involvement on Salt Spring Island goes back 50 years to when our family purchased Ben’s Lucky Dollar, which over the years has morphed into Country Grocer. My career has been oriented around our family business — primarily grocery, liquor, and real estate. People and community have always been our focus. I have a son and daughter who are involved in our businesses and three grandchildren.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the NSSWD in the next five years?

A. We face some big challenges on Salt Spring in terms of building more affordable housing, for the homeless as well as the workforce. Lack of access to water is at the root of that problem. I’ve seen firsthand the challenges of finding homes for our workers at Country Grocer.

In my view the main challenges for the NSSWD board over the next five years start with listening. We need to gain the understanding and support of staff and ratepayers. We have to settle long-outstanding litigation issues and resolve the water moratorium. Saying no is not the long-term answer. In the years ahead, we need to lay out a go-forward platform that is viable, cost effective and responsive to the needs of ratepayers.

Q. How will your experience and perspective benefit the NSSWD and its ratepayers if you are elected to the board?

A. I approach things with a business perspective and a “yes” mentality. With that in mind I look forward to working with my fellow trustees and the community, so together we can build on the many achievements of staff and trustees, past and present. Drawing on my business and people skills I want to address NSSWD challenges in a cooperative, pragmatic, transparent and realistic manner, to plan for the uncertain future we all face.

The first thing I would do is listen to all the points of view. People are tired of inaction and water moratoriums. By listening and understanding the pros and cons, we will be in a good position to develop a workable plan that can be supported by the whole community. Most importantly, I know a deal can be structured that can be paid for without raising the rates of ratepayers. It can be done, and if elected, I will focus on that.

MICHAEL MCALLISTER

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.

A. I am a lawyer, specializing in local government law. I have been a trustee at NSSWD for the past five years and chair of the board of trustees the last three years. I have lived on Salt Spring since 1993.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the NSSWD in the next five years?

A. There are many challenges that NSSWD is currently facing, but in my opinion, the biggest three challenges we will face over the next five years are: (1) governance (decisions about Salt Spring should be made on Salt Spring); (2) water availability/water shortage/ moratorium on new water connections; and (3) the settlement of various pending legal actions.

These three key challenges are refinements on the answers I gave three years ago during the election campaign. Over the last three years, significant progress has been made on the first two challenges.  As to the pending litigation all I can say is that it is never far from our minds.

Q. How will your experience and perspective benefit the NSSWD and its ratepayers if you are elected to the board?

A. My experience as a municipal lawyer for the past 34 years has been and will continue to be a benefit to NSSWD and our ratepayers as I understand the ins and outs of local governments and its interactions with the provincial government and its various ministries.

I am proud of being given the opportunity by my colleagues to be elected as the chair of the board of trustees at NSSWD for each of the last three years. I say this because the board is comprised of very different personalities and also because of what we have manage to accomplish, generally with all board members being in agreement.

Finally, as to my perspective, I believe in finishing any job that I start. While I had not originally planned to run for a third term, I was asked by members of our community to reconsider and run again. In deciding to run for a third term, I am hopeful that we, as a board, will be focused on delivering tangible results on these three challenges for the benefit of our ratepayers.

We still have much work to do on all three challenges over the coming years.

RICHARD SWANN

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.

A. I am a retired technology CEO with a masters degree in business administration and a technology diploma. I have successfully lead engineering teams working on complex, multidisciplinary projects for government and the private sector, including the software for the Canadarm 2 on the International Space Station.

I volunteer with the Salt Spring Literacy Society, am on the executive of the local chapter of Rotary International and a board member of the Salt Spring Island Public Library Association.

My wife and I have lived on Salt Spring for just under two years.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the NSSWD in the next five years?

A. There are two main challenges and they are related.

As this year has so vividly demonstrated, climate change presents a serious risk to infrastructure that was designed for different weather. NSSWD needs to make an assessment of the probable impact and develop an action plan to mitigate the risks of not being able to meet the needs of their customers.

In conjunction with the CRD, NSSWD needs to be aware of trends impacting water availability on Salt Spring in general. How will climate change likely affect residents on wells and catchment systems? While the primary responsibility is to existing customers, as a good corporate citizen in control of a resource necessary for life there needs to some thought given to what assistance can be provided to other island residents should it be required.

Q. How will your experience and perspective benefit the NSSWD and its ratepayers if you are elected to the board?

A. I have been successful empowering engineering teams to find innovative solutions to complex problems and delivering projects on time and on budget. I believe these skills will be of use to NSSWD.

Many of the projects I have worked on have involved government agencies so I understand the complexities that brings.

SANDRA UNGERSON

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.

It has been an honour to represent the ratepayers of the NSSWD for the past three years. As a water scientist with a master of science degree from the University of Calgary, researcher and integrated water specialist I’ve been involved in many aspects of water collection, treatment, delivery, and research on Salt Spring Island. I have directly cooperated with and/or contributed research and information to the Community Alliance, Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance, other small water systems and licence holders on Salt Spring, Transition Salt Spring and the CRD Liquid Waste Commission. I am the NSSWD board vice chair.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the NSSWD in the next five years?

A. There are so many pressures on our water resources: from watershed degradation to climate change, human activities and legacy decisions related to roads and development — all impacting the quality and quantity of water our utility is able to provide.

The biggest challenges facing NSSWD in the next five years are, in no particular order:

• Facing the Channel Ridge litigation issue;

• developing a plan to increase our opportunities for funding in innovative ways, not controlled by the Province;

• working on the restoration of the Maxwell watershed in cooperation with our land partners;

• having a specific plan for dealing with climate emergencies related to water supply delivery, and;

• reducing the energy footprint of how we contribute to the island’s greenhouse gas emissions. One example of this that is currently being put together is a centrate recovery pilot, so we don’t have to pay shipping fees for our St. Mary Lake dissolved air flotation plant effluent.

Thank you for your support and continued enthusiasm for improving the quantity and quality of the water resources in this district.

DAVID WARDLAW

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.

A. I am a professional geophysicist with an honours degree in geophysics from the University of Calgary (1988). I have been living with my family on Salt Spring since September 2020, however, we have been vacationing here for over 20 years. We fell in love with the island and decided to make the move during Covid. I have a daughter attending the dance program at GISPA and another daughter enrolled at UVic. My wife is a part-time bookkeeper and offers qigong classes and women’s circles through Zoom.

I have previously been on the board of directors of Pro Musica Society in Calgary and acted as an executive for a TSX-listed junior company. I enjoy hiking, kayaking, biking and am a member of the island’s golf club. I also run an artisan granola business in Vesuvius and sell in the Saturday market in Ganges.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the NSSWD in the next five years?

A. The biggest challenge facing NSSWD over the next five years will be the effects of climate change to hotter, drier summers balanced against an ever-increasing population demand for west coast living.

There are many divergent interests and opinions on the use of water and whether the supply should be rationed or increased to allow for more housing on Salt Spring. I will listen to the ratepayers from both sides of this complex problem.

Q. How will your experience and perspective benefit the NSSWD and its ratepayers if you are elected to the board?

A. I have an extensive background and understanding of surface and subsurface geological processes and their relationship to water reservoirs. I have worked in private business where a combination of data analysis, communication and decision-making skills are vital.

I am data driven and will use my science background to gain a better understanding of all the variables affecting the water supply for Salt Spring residents. Having a supply of potable water is the most essential resource for living here.

I believe we need to look at creative ways to capture more of the water that is in the ecosystem during the wet season so that we can be better prepared for the dry season.

Delivering a stable and cost-effective supply of water to current and future Salt Spring residents should be the goal.

1 Comment
  1. Roberta says

    Wow. What an amazingly talented group! Do ww have to vote? This would make an exceptional multi-disciplinary team!

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