The time demands of serving as on the Sunshine Coast Regional District Board have hit home for the Halfmoon Bay area director-elect Justine Gabias.
“I might just cancel my Netflix subscription,” she wrote in an email to Coast Reporter on Oct. 18.
Voter turn out 'disappointing'
In the Oct. 15 local government elections, Gabias received the nod from 457 of the 635 area electors who cast ballots, defeating candidate and former SCRD staffer Patrick Dickie, who received 175 votes. SCRD chief election officer Sherry Reid told Coast Reporter that there are 2,145 eligible electors in Area B, (Halfmoon Bay). "The voter turn-out was 30% based on a total of 635 electors voting," Reid wrote in an Oct. 17 email.
When asked for her views on 2022 voter turnout, she wrote, “It was disappointing that we weren't able to get more folks energized and going to the polls. There is a chance some folks weren't aware of the election, but I think some might have felt like it didn't matter. I hear some say they have lost faith in our municipal government – that is something I would like to change through my tenure. I'd like to improve communications, foster engagement, and make people feel heard and represented. If folks can witness meaningful, positive changes in their lives, they might become more interested in municipal politics.”
Expressing thanks to her community for their support at the polls, she stated she believed “folks saw my energy and drive and recognized that the SCRD is in need of fresh eyes to look at old problems. I think I stood out as authentic and community-minded. I work in Halfmoon Bay, ride my bike, take the bus, and grow food for a living. I was an unusual candidate, but the residents understand that we have to approach problems differently now, as we find ourselves in the midst of multiple crises and need to take bold action. Voters might have noticed my creativity, eagerness to improve, and my deep commitment to the environment and to mitigating climate change.”
Preparing for the challenges ahead
To prepare for her new role, Gabias said she has been meeting with past and current directors, as well as reviewing past board meetings online to learn more about the history of specific issues, and the challenges that lie ahead, “especially when it comes to the water crisis.” Also on her to-do list is outreach to elected leaders at the provincial and federal level to start building good working relationships.
When it comes to her priorities for the term, she stated, “I am very passionate about creating affordable housing opportunities for workers, young families and seniors who want to downsize without leaving the Coast. I will be looking for creative ways to increase housing stock, particularly in Halfmoon Bay, without compromising our rural character. Local agriculture is unsurprisingly very close to my heart, and I intend to put forward initiatives that will support our farmers and increase local food production. There is also so much to do in regards to the climate crisis, and I intend to work with other board members as well as climate advocacy groups to develop new initiatives meant to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I would also love to meet young folks in their schools, and get them engaged in local politics through community projects.”
Communications with constituents will another focus area. In her view, “to make balanced decisions, area directors must engage with their community, and I intend to create multiple opportunities this coming month for Halfmoon Bay residents to exchange ideas and voice their concerns.
She also intends to develop a newsletter, maintain a website, and find ways to hold in-person meetings. “I am looking forward to a cafe in Halfmoon Bay, so I can make myself available there regularly. I am also often cycling or walking around the neighbourhood, and I hope people will feel comfortable engaging with me when they see me,” she wrote.
Gabias said an announcement on an alternate director for Area B will be made when the new board begins its tenure on Nov. 10. Her comment was that position would be filled by someone who is “community-minded, collaborative, and a strong advocate for a just, healthy and sustainable Sunshine Coast.”
As for her own future, Gabias considers area director as her “full-time gig." She plans to maintain her market garden, as that will be “an excellent place for me to unwind and get perspective on the issues. “The road stand is an awesome way to connect with neighbours. We will streamline operations so I can spend a little less time there, and I will set a schedule that will foster balance and productivity.”
In a closing message to her community, she wrote “We have a duty to do everything in our power to sustain a thriving, just and beautiful Halfmoon Bay, not only for ourselves, but also for the future generations. Let's get to work!”