Aaron Stone speaks about the Town of Ladysmith’s strategic plan at a Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce event (Gerry Beltgens photo)

Aaron Stone speaks about the Town of Ladysmith’s strategic plan at a Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce event (Gerry Beltgens photo)

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone elected to chair CVRD board of directors

Stone speaks on priorities of the CVRD board for his term as chair

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone was elected to serve as the chair of the CVRD board of directors. Stone was elected by the board at a November 13 CVRD board meeting. He will replace previous chair, Area F director, Ian Morrison.

“I am excited to lead the Cowichan Valley Regional District as Chair of the Board and I look forward to building on what Director Morrison accomplished in this role during the first year of our term,” Stone said.

“Having spent my entire life in the Cowichan region, I appreciate both the unique and collective challenges our communities are up against in the face of climate change, evolving economies and shifting demographics. I hope to bring a collaborative, relationship focused approach to our regional governance, particularly with our First Nations leadership and community members.”

In his new role as chair, Stone hopes to bring the varying CVRD perspectives together to form a cohesive vision for the Cowichan area. Stone said his top priority is developing a strategic plan for the CVRD to work from.

“We all have very individual issues, but also more broad ranging shared issues, like climate change. As we move forward, the chair’s role is to help facilitate the desired outcomes of the board. I view myself as a facilitator, and a leader that likes to focus on outcomes,” Stone said.

Some of the more broad ranging issues include climate change, housing affordability, and transit.

Nanaimo city councillor Tyler Brown congratulated Stone via twitter. Stone responded by saying “Thank you, sir! Let’s get this transit done!”

Stone has long advocated for a more cohesive approach to transit between the CVRD and the RDN.

“Sometimes my tweets are a little off the cuff and glib, but I think it’s been expressed at a regional level as well that the local loops in our transit system throughout the region will be strengthened once we have that corridor connection that really — in the long term — should go all the way from Victoria to Courtenay, and from Nanaimo, Parksville-Qualicum area out to Port Alberni. If we have a strong corridor connection facilitated through transit, then the local loops become much more valuable,” Stone said.

“I think we’ll see a much greater value in terms of cost recovery for transit, but we’ll also introduce a great bit of equality where opportunities for education, for health services, for seniors, for workers, for labour mobility — if you will — will be enabled to open up opportunities for people all across the spectrum of age, income, and abilities.”

Stone said that transit system is ‘on the horizon’ pending an agreement between the regional districts, and the provincial government. However, it is not something that will happen in the short term.

On the note of short term action, the CVRD has heard calls from the group One Cowichan to declare a climate emergency in the region and act swiftly on climate action. Stone said the CVRD declared recognition of a climate emergency, and directed staff to include planning for climate change in the strategic planning process. This will allow the CVRD to do a more in depth look at the impacts of climate change.

“I think it’s important we do it right, and that does take a bit of time. So, if we’re talking about a couple of months to work with staff, to come up with the right agenda to move us forward on that front and achieve the outcomes we need, I think it takes a bit of time, and I’m comfortable with that,” Stone said.

Overall, Stone is focused on facilitating CVRD outcomes. His term as chair will last only one year — with the possiblity of reelection at the end of his term. Stone said he has no intention of being a long term chair, however he does have the intention of setting a framework for the board to work from well in to the future.

“We’re absolutely going to get a top-quality strategic plan delivered for the community,” Stone said. “I believe that once we’ve done that, we’ll see a level of focus come to this board that will allow us to deliver on all those very individual, and shared priorities.”

“I’m stoked, I’m super motivated. I have a lot of belief in the people in the organization, around the table, and on the staff, just like I do with our municipal team in Ladysmith. I think the more we support and empower them, and give strong solidified direction, the more we’ll achieve.”