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Abbotsford City Council candidate: Nathan Loewen

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Interviewed by Kodie Cherrille.

Since many students will be voting for the first time, what would you describe as the role of municipal politics? What can city councillors actually do?

Essentially, city councillors and municipal [government] define how we use our land base. That, to me, is the most important aspect of city government. In Abbotsford, we are in charge of our own policing and fire rescue services. We can influence aspects of the city through partnering with other local governments, like in transportation and housing issues — but those are not directly in control by city government; we must work with higher-up levels of government to get better transportation and affordable housing. Most importantly, for me, the government defines the nature of how we use our property and zoning.

Who do you view as your constituents?

The constituents in Abbotsford are the people that vote. The younger demographic, particularly between the ages of 19 and 30, is my specific target audience, as I’m a young person. I’d of course represent constituents of all demographics, but I’m running because I want to get people interested in municipal politics that wouldn’t be otherwise, and by running I hope that my friends and colleagues, who are in their 30s or 20s have been more engaged in the process.

Are you doing anything to address the lack of student interest in local politics?

That is one of my concerns, definitely. It’s the reason why I wanted to be involved in local politics. For one thing, high school students do have some involvement in city politics, but I’d like to increase that through having a representative of each school come together, to represent a city-wide body of representatives to interact and engage with city council on a regular basis, perhaps every couple of months, to discuss issues that are pertinent to their schools, and to get feedback from the elected officials as to what they can actually do about meeting their needs as youths of the city. For university students, a lot of people don’t get involved in politics in person, but would be more interested if it were more convenient for them. So, having online town forums, where the city could discuss issues and gather feedback, would provide access to a demographic that is much more different from what they would see in person. It’s extremely rare to see anyone under 40 years old at City Hall. Doing more online forums and public consultations.

If elected, how would what you want to do as councillor be different from what council is already doing?

I would prioritize the values of my environmental ethic. I want to promote a sustainable city ahead of the priority of doing business at whatever the cost. I think that certain decisions over land use, especially those involving the Agricultural Land Reserve, or on the outskirts of town where developers are asking for approval for further development, I would look more closely at the long-term environmental implications over the short-term development. I’m concerned about what is going to be sustainable in the next 10, 20 , 50 years — I don’t want to make a “five-year plan,” which is typically how City Council does things here.

I want to concentrate all development within the core of Abbotsford, and not promote leap-frog development and urban sprawl. Already, Abbotsford is huge. It’s expenseive to service those further-out spaces. So, I’m promoting densification. I’d also promote the green community plan that the City of Abbotsford has recently developed but hasn’t implemented, which is part of the Community Sustainabillity Initiative. I’m 100 per cent for a green community plan, but I feel that the city has not really put this plan into effect. Perhaps out of a timidity? It’s a touchy subject for some businesses.

I’d also stand up, as much as I’d be able to, against proposals such as the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, which is also coming through Abbotsford. I know the majority of the council in City Hall now would be in favour of it. I don’t think it’s a wise decision, following a precautionary principle, seeing the damage it can cause Abbotsford through neighbourhoods and our sensitive watersheds, the future threats are not worth the short-term benefits of job creation. I’d promote the development of a clean-tech industry in Abbotsford, specifically offering incentives in property tax reductions for businesses involved in creating either higher recycling value or renewable energy sources. I would promote it.

Do you have a specific project you want to prioritize or bylaw you want to change?

New bylaws that promote densification. A new bylaw that requires developers to buy into green initiatives in an urban development project, the developers would be required to pay for some of the cost involved in making that development more sustainable, whether it’s using better rain water or storm systems, which would make less damage and water waste. Promoting new technology that isn’t so harsh to our watershed and the aquifers nearby.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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