Environmentalist and former municipal planner Hans Penner has announced he is running for Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) director for Roberts Creek.
Penner, 66, lost to Mark Lebbell in the 2014 local government elections, with a difference of 465 votes. “Not much has been accomplished along the lines I was promoting last time, particularly regarding water, parks, environmental protection and transportation,” Penner said when asked why he was running again. “Everything has gotten worse,” he added.
Watershed protection and increasing the Coast’s water supply by connecting three of its watersheds are among Penner’s top priorities. Rather than install a pipe to draw Chapman Lake down by an addition five metres, which Penner called “an environmental disaster,” he wants to increase supply through a reservoir and by supplementing water from Chapman Lake with water from the Dakota Creek and Gray Creek watersheds.
“By connecting the systems, we would have basically three watersheds supplying water to the residents of the Sunshine Coast. It’s a curious thing but that happens to be the case in the greater Vancouver area,” Penner said, referring to the region’s Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam watersheds. He also wants to follow Vancouver’s lead in terms of protection. The city uses gates and permits to keep unauthorized people off the land. “We still haven’t got any gates. I know for sure there’s still illegal dumpsites in the watershed, people go in there with dogs... I think that’s a public health issue,” he said of the Chapman watershed.
Penner also identified parks protection as priority, specifically the expansion of Elphinstone Provincial Park in Roberts Creek. Penner, a principal Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) organizer, was arrested by the RCMP in 2016 for refusing to abide by an injunction against blockading a Mount Elphinstone cutblock. When asked whether his work with ELF could conflict with decisions facing the board, Penner said, “I understand on issues, including on environmental issues, that not every director would see it the same way, but I would also expect to see some debate about it. I think that’s something we haven’t seen that much.”
He also said the board and the local governments “have failed to convince the provincial government in improving the local road system, the ferry system, completing the bypass.” Penner said his goal would be to push the province to complete the “half-finished” bypass to Pratt Road, as well as install more turning lanes on Highway 101. “That’s not rocket science. That’s one of the first things you learn as a highway traffic analyst, is that you keep the traffic flowing.”
Cathrine Fuller and Steven Baker are also running in Roberts Creek. The nomination period ends Sept. 14 and the election is Oct. 20.