The University of Victoria Students Society asked candidates a variety of questions around the needs of students and how the municipality can support them. I have included my responses below.
RUNNING FOR: Councillor, District of Oak Bay
If elected, how do you plan to support students?:
Oak Bay is fortunate to have a world-class university on its doorstep. Students attending UVic need an environment that supports their dedication and growth.
I believe that we support students by making them feel welcome and getting them the services they need. If we have done our job by providing a safe, peaceful, and welcoming environment, those students who are visiting us for the first time will want to stay here for good.
After the high cost of tuition fees, the cost of housing is the biggest burden to students and a barrier for some students to be able to access post-secondary education. If elected, what will you do to ease this burden?:
With half of UVic in Oak Bay, young adults who have grown up here have the option to live at home while attending university. Those who are visiting the region have several options including room and board arrangements or the rental of an unregulated secondary suite. With a new Official Community Plan bylaw in place, there will be a move to legalize and regulate secondary suites. As a member of Oak Bay Council, I will work to ensure that careful regulation creates an acceptance of suites in the areas where there is demand, and I will ensure that regulated suites are safe and comfortable homes away from home.
Taking in boarders is an option that has been very successful for visiting international students. Many Oak Bay families, mine included, take University and other home-stay students into their homes thereby proving a cost-effective alternative to apartment or suites. As a member of Oak Bay Council I would advocate that the municipality works with UVic to explore and expand this under-utilized housing option, possibly through an Oak Bay Housing Registry.
Students rely on public transportation to get us to where we live, work, and study. However, full busses as well as night routes that don’t go late enough make our primary mode of transportation unreliable. If elected, what would you do to address these issues?:
Students who choose to make our community their own can realistically bike, walk, and take public transit. These options will help students who might otherwise pay a multitude of expenses related to car ownership. While physical activities like biking or walking can help manage the stresses of student life, public transportation will always be critical.
As a member of Oak Bay Council I will be an advocate for improved bicycling routes throughout the municipality and to UVic. I will also ensure that the community is well served by a variety of public transit routes so that students can thrive without cars. For those who need cars, I will continue to be a supporter of the Victoria Car Share/Modo co-op.
Most students have to work while studying to help pay for our education, yet options for jobs are extremely limited. Also, students leave our programs saddled with debt and find a bleak job market. If elected, what would you do to bolster student/recent graduate jobs in our municipalities?:
I will work with UVic Career Services to help identify co-op job placement and work experience opportunities in Oak Bay for students.
Unfortunately, with the upcoming closure of the Oak Bay Lodge facility, Oak Bay is losing its second largest employer making it an even more challenging work environment.
I will work to support not only business and institutions who wish to respectfully locate in Oak Bay, but also, I will be an advocate for Open Data initiatives at the municipality providing raw data that might prove valuable to the entrepreneur and small business startups.
Where can students get more information on your platform?:
For more information about me and my vision for Oak Bay, please visit my website at www.ericzhelka.ca
Responses from other candidates are available here.