A group of men and women with picks, other hand tools and a bucket, standing in the middle of a trail

Robyn Mawhinney’s First Two Months as Regional Director

Originally published on the Bird’s Eye

By Ramona Boyle

BE: What has it been like for you to work with the Strathcona Regional District? Is it what you expected? 

Robyn: It’s been a lot of listening and learning about issues in various areas of our community. Folks have been asking me a lot of questions. If I haven’t known an answer, it’s been a great opportunity for me to be able to learn and share that answer with the bigger community as well as with the folks who are asking the question. There’s also lots of reading and writing. Is it what I expected? I expected a big learning curve, and there is one. So, yes, it is what I imagined it would be. 

BE: As someone new to local politics, how have you found the system? Robyn: Well, in my first 8 weeks I’ve learned that the pace of time is different within the Strathcona Regional District; things are not speedy. 

BE: Why do you think that is? 

Robyn Mawhinney was recently elected to represent Area C which covers approximately 10,650 square kilometres, including Quadra Island, Read Island, Redonda Island, Port Neville, Refuge Cove, Hardwick Island, East & West Thurlow Islands & Mainland Inlets. – Photo courtesy the Bird’s Eye

Robyn: Everything that the Strathcona Regional District does, they’re following procedure. The Community Charter and the Local Government Act are there to make sure everything is being done properly. 

BE: I guess that begs the question, now that you’re there, are you happy you put your name forward to serve as Area C’s Director? 

Robyn: Yes, I am, for sure. There’s latitude within the role to focus on the things that I think are important and I’m happy for that opportunity

BE: What are your priorities? What are the things that you really care about that you want to do something about? 

Robyn: Well, housing is an issue which affects so many folks; making moves towards housing solutions on Quadra Island is something I’m focused on. I’ve planned a first meeting with Islanders who want to work on housing solutions, I’m really stoked that there are people who want to put energy into this. Finding solutions and funding is going to be a team effort. We’re having our first meeting January 20th. Anyone who wants to be involved is welcome; please get in touch with me for meeting details. 

BE: Aside from the important issue of housing, what else are you hoping to work on? 

Robyn: I’d really like the walking path along Harper Road completed. It’s one of our busiest roads and it’s a significant safety issue. The sticky point with this project currently is landowner permission. There is an easement for the Quathiaski Cove sewer line, but a separate easement must be acquired for a pedestrian pathway. I’m working with Regional District staff on this and I’m very hopeful that the property owner will see community value in allowing a path to cross the front of their property. 

BE: Would this be the same issue with the creation of bicycle/pedestrian paths along West Rd or Heriot Bay Rd.? 

Robyn: Widening a road to make space for pedestrians and cyclists is a different matter than the issue of the Harper Road easement. I’ve started a conversation with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to get more information about pedestrian infrastructure and more marked crosswalks. 

BE: Does the SRD concern itself with Quadra issues like bike paths and crosswalks? 

Robyn: The pathway in Cove has been an SRD project with SRD funding. Some issues, including bike paths and crosswalks, are not within the SRD mandate. However, as Director I’m in a stronger position to advocate for these things. 

BE: When the SRD is making decisions like how to allocate funds, and Area C is such a small portion of the District, how confident are you that your voice will be heard? 

Robyn: In my first two months as Director I haven’t run into issues where my voice isn’t being heard. There are 14 seats at the SRD Board table and I am in one of them, and we all have a voice at the table. It’s been shared with me that the role of Director is to think ‘regionally’ while balancing the needs of Area C. Building relationships with other Directors and supporting their initiatives when appropriate will hopefully strengthen the network of support for Area C projects.As to allocating funds, each Electoral Area has their own individual budget and priorities.

BE: You campaigned on a plan to establish a Community Advisory Council. Has it been created yet? 

Robyn: The Community Advisory Council is a work in progress. I’ve learned that for a council or committee to be recognized by the Strathcona Regional District Board and have land use applications referred to it, it must be named in the Local Government Act and created at the Board level. An Advisory Planning Commission makes sense, but it’s limited in the scope of topics it can discuss. I’m considering that after Advisory Planning Commission meetings there’ll be a second meeting with the same group to discuss broader topics unsuited to the narrow parameters of the APC Bylaw. At our SRD Board meeting on December 7th, Director Rice of Area D requested a staff report on ways to have a more transparent process for appointing APC members. I supported his motion and I’m looking forward to learning what those options might be. Having a transparent selection process could strengthen understanding that individuals are appointed because they have something meaningful to contribute. 

BE: I have one more question, and that is about your commitment to building relationships with our First Nations. 

Robyn: I think that Reconciliation is ongoing work and making space for and listening to indigenous voices is important every day. I’m fortunate that I’ve been appointed to the First Nations Relations Committee at the Strathcona Regional District. The committee hasn’t met yet but I’m looking forward to seeing what work we can do as a group to centre First Nations voices and advance Reconciliation through the Strathcona Regional District.

Top image credit: Robyn Mawhinney with other members of the Quadra Island Trail Committee – Photo courtesy Roby Mawhinney

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