I grew up in Chilliwack on the family dairy farm. My parents taught me the importance of giving back to the community and to love and care for the land. I moved to Kelowna in 2007, after earning my Ph.D. in Economics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and seven years at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.
I have been involved in sustainability issues since my teens when my parents gave me a membership in the Western Canada Wilderness Committee as a Christmas gift. My education, research and experience has emphasized that good policy needs to account for the complex interactions within our environment and society. We can’t compartmentalize management within ministries and ignore effects that span these silos. Good governance needs effective communication and cooperation across the government and between levels of government.
In both my hometown and chosen home, I have seen rapid development gobbling up precious spaces and destroying the very things that make these places attractive. There have been successes too, but we need many more.
I teach and conduct research at the interface between economics and the natural environment. What can we do to make people’s choices fit with sustainability and fairness?
What is the most important issue in your riding?
Broadly, our Okanagan environment. We are making decisions here in the valley that are gobbling up the land, destroying the landscape we enjoy and the habitats that unique local species need to survive. We need bold policies at the provincial level that support local governments to become more sustainable. There are more of us with more powerful recreational toys putting tremendous pressures on the public lands around the valley. We need policies that ensure everyone can enjoy our public lands and to resource the management of those lands.
We are facing a changing climate that will have major impacts on our relationship with this landscape, what we can grow and harvest from the land, and how we are affected by the responses of the land. We need to adapt to this changing climate, and take up our moral duty to stop contributing to this change.
What have you done to benefit your community in the past?
I have long felt that I have a duty to use the talents I have been given to help my community. Before coming to Kelowna I helped get a ‘Trick or Treat for the Food Bank’ going while a student at UBC in Vancouver, and was on the Kingston Bicycle Advisory Committee during my Ph.D. In Nova Scotia I was a member of the environmental committee of Nova Scotia Voluntary Planning.
Since coming to Kelowna, I have been a scout leader, taking my scout troop to help out at the Gospel Mission several times. After being a scout leader, I became a member and then vice chair of the RDCO environmental advisory committee, and currently chair Kelowna’s agricultural advisory committee. I am also on the executive of the Okanagan section of the Alpine Club of Canada.
What will you do to represent your community in Victoria?
I would work with the other MLAs to develop and implement policies that move us towards sustainability, are supported by evidence, and reflect the best balance of the different values held by the people of our province.
We won’t always get it right, and I will acknowledge when, with new information, a policy that seemed right at the time needs to be changed. Central to this is a continuing dialog with people in my riding so that I have a good understanding of the diversity within my riding.
To do this, I will have to continually reach out to people throughout the riding, particularly those who have a hard time having their voices heard. Kelowna-Lake Country is not an island unto itself.
I will also work together with other MLAs representing the Okanagan watershed, working together to enhance the well-being of the people and the environment in our valley.