Brenton Raby is one of three candidates running in the municipal byelection on March 27 to replace former councillor Brittny Anderson.
Raby has lived in Nelson for 15 years and has served as a member of the West Kootenay EcoSociety board, the Nelson Heritage Commission, the Advisory Planning Commission, and as the chair of the Board of Variance. He has been an active advocate for cannabis entrepreneurs at the municipal and provincial level. He is a downtown business owner and a parks and trails maintenance contractor for the RDCK.
This Q&A interview, conducted on Zoom on March 10, has been edited for brevity. The questions were not provided to the candidate in advance.
Why are you running?
I’ve been a longtime participant at council meetings. I do like participating. And I have a bit of a background in politics, and certainly in Nelson where I live. So I would like to say it was exclusively civic pride or the civic sense of volunteerism, but in fact, I do enjoy the process. I like reading the material, I get excited at meetings and I like how the system can resolve things. And so it’s really that I enjoy it and I have the capacity.
What are two municipal issues you are concerned about?
First, I would like to see council take its large ambitions and set them aside right now, even as it relates to climate change, and really focus on what’s going on downtown and what’s going on on the residential neighbourhoods. We had candidates run in the previous election on a slate of revitalizing core services. It hasn’t happened.
As a resident, I deal with this consequence daily in the dust that I am breathing, in the near misses on the crosswalks, in the lack of street signs, and pruning within the city’s own utility corridors. It’s lost its way. The park next to where I live, the city has removed the garbage can. So I have big issues in my world, but the little issue as I look out my door is that people just leave their garbage. And that’s in direct city control.
Second, on occasions there are discussions and negotiations happening outside of the public meetings. I believe that counsel has slipped into this like a comfortable shoe. That lack of transparency is leading to assumptions and unintended consequences and is limiting public participation at vital times.
What does the city spend most of its money on?
Some of the big expenditures are salaries, waste management, and Nelson has its own police force.
Are there any budget issues that concern you?
During this windstorm, they spent $400,000 dealing with downed trees on Nelson Hydro rural lines. $400,000, after three years of tree trimming. So I would say Nelson needs to up its game in its auditing and its accounting for its contractors who bring forward such huge expenses.
What has the city done, and what should it do, to protect us from wildfire?
It has empowered the Emergency Management Centre that the city now operates. We saw this co-ordination level in the windstorm that just went through Nelson, between the different departments and utilities that can protect our water resources and keep the power flowing, including the fire department, the ambulance and the interface with the provincial collaborators, that all happened really quickly.
The joining of Selous Creek down the rail trail as a secondary water source, and there will be a third one as well. So there is a lot that they’ve done well, and this has been on the radar for a while and they’ve moved it forward in meaningful ways.
What has to happen next is the actual fuel reduction, and that is outside of the city’s role. So it needs to really work well with the province and with the contractors to ensure that it’s fuel mitigation and not forestry and development.
What has the city done, and what should it do, to support small businesses?
They had a fairly coherent and well thought-out plan to help a small business people deal with COVID. A lot of it has to do with reduction in cash flow, and the impending nature of non-deferrable costs, so the city did a great job with Nelson hydro bills and property tax deferments and things like this.
I believe that there are some specific bylaws and policies that have appeared before council that have had unintended consequences, mostly because they were done in haste, and with the goal in front of the process. So we end up with a mobile food vending bylaw – this now deferred for another year — and also the waiving of some of the patio fees on public property. I don’t think the city has a role in supporting businesses by underwriting their business model, especially for profit. And that would include surrendering public space, in our parks and in our community gathering places. I would have liked to have seen those things debated more.
Some of the city’s permit and development permit processes and sign permit regulations are burdensome and unnecessary.
What has the city done, and what should it do, to mitigate the effects of climate change?
In the draft Nelson Next report, I see some flaws in the preamble. I see assumptions that I haven’t seen supported with data. I see that a lot of the discussion around climate change that goes on at council is anecdotal, and often out of order.
They should keep their finances under control and they should move provincial and federal stimulus grants into shovel-ready projects that reduce greenhouse gases in their own facilities. It needs to have a much more transparent and open system around the recreation commission. One of the biggest energy consumers in the city, the ice rinks and the curling rink, there’s no data brought forward, there’s very little suggestion as to closing these within the greenhouse gas consideration. So I think the city should look inward much more strongly in how it supports its own GHG reduction, which is one of the pillars of its plan.
Where to vote
March 17: advance voting at City Hall, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
March 24: advance voting at City Hall, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
March 27: general voting day at Prestige Lakeside Resort, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.