Veteran local politician and realtor Lorne Lewis is making another go of it as Sunshine Coast Regional District director for Area E.
Former journalist Donna McMahon declared her candidacy in mid-August, so with his announcement comes a race in Elphinstone.
Lewis identified the ongoing efforts to have an area of Elphinstone forest known as DL 1313 preserved as a park, as well as resolution to the water crisis as key unresolved issues that spurred him to take another plunge into local politics, but he said he is also concerned about turnover at the board.
If re-elected, Lewis, who has served four terms as director, will be the only incumbent rural director. “I have 155 months of experience,” he said, “I really don’t think that having five rookie electoral area directors is going to be a good thing.”
A brand new crop of rural directors is unpalatable, said Lewis, because “it takes you a couple years to get up to speed to know what you should be doing and when. This isn’t just a simple task you can show up for.”
In terms of ongoing tasks, Lewis said he is moving ahead with lobbying efforts to protect DL 1313, including supporting a letter-writing campaign by residents. Earlier this year, BC Timber Sales deferred auctioning the cutblock until 2019. When asked about an anticipated resolution, Lewis told Coast Reporter, “It’s not like there’s some nebulous dark hole that letters disappear into. The people at the other end of the dark hole have actually taken note that the letters are being written.” He said if the cutblock does receive park status, he wants Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Nation to be “pleased with the way it’s being dealt with as a conserved area.”
DL 1313 isn’t the only unfinished business for Lewis. He said he’s also after a resolution to the ongoing water crisis. While he has been on the board since before the Comprehensive Regional Water Plan was adopted, he acknowledged, “Things are taking too long.”
Lewis, who has consistently voted against the Chapman drawdown, said he wants to see a reservoir built instead, estimating that it could take up to four years once a land purchase agreement is in place, something he noted “isn’t just going to pop into place immediately.” In the interim, Lewis said the SCRD should continue looking into groundwater investigations. “Wells are faster to get functional than anything else,” he said.
Another issue facing Elphinstone residents is roadway infrastructure. Lewis has been an outspoken critic of Gospel Rock Village, a development in the Town of Gibsons bordering Area E, in part because construction vehicles will be using the area’s roads.
Lewis was not optimistic about finding a resolution. He said he had brought the issue to B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena and that despite providing some suggestions, she could not influence the outcome. “If the minister has no influence, you can imagine how much influence I have.” Lewis is, however, hoping to speak with her again while attending the Union of BC Municipalities conference to ask her to address a petition for safety improvements along Highway 101 between Lower Road and Henry Road.
The nomination period for the local government elections ends Sept. 14 and voting day is Oct. 20.