Laura McLeod running for Nanaimo city council

Laura McLeod

I am a communications specialist with 15+ years of corporate experience with a wide range of large engineering and architecture firms. Currently, I work in a semi-governmental role with a non-profit safety organization, where I’ve become well-versed in the requirements of the public sector, including transparency, governance and Freedom of Information. Over the course of my career I’ve taken courses on facilitation, change management and dealing with conflict, and continue to learn and grow on the job each day. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Alberta and a diploma in journalism. Outside of politics, my interests include organic gardening, yoga and horseback riding.  I own a home in South Nanaimo with my husband Scott.  

I was inspired to run for Council due to my love of Nanaimo and the sense that I can offer honesty, integrity and stability to the role of City Councilor. I am a researcher and a thinker, and I don’t run because I seek the public eye. Rather, I think my greatest strength lies in my ability to quickly assess facts and details, carefully review matters from a variety of perspectives, and consider the community’s short- and long-term needs before making any decisions. 

Get Connected with Laura

Website: www.lauramcleod.ca
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lmcleodnanaimocitycouncil
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Laura_E_McLeod
Instagram: http://instagram.com/lauraellenmcleod

Restoring Public Confidence in City Council

Restoring public faith in Council's integrity, ethics and professionalism and, importantly, restoring cordial and respectful relationships with City staff will be of primary importance. Until trust and relationships are rebuilt, motivations will be questioned and the Council will be unable to move forward in a positive and productive direction. I see establishing these good working relationships as being the number one priority for the new Mayor and Council to address immediately. This will require:

  • Re-establishing the role and responsibilities of the Mayor, Council, the CAO and City staff, and how each work together.
  • Modelling open and transparent communication, both among council and with the community at large to rebuild trust.
  • Considering more ways to engage community members and ensure their thoughts are heard and responded to. This could involve regular townhalls, the use of online polling or other community feedback tools.

Affordable Housing

I see housing as a human right and by this I mean that everyone in our country should have access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home with freedom from forced eviction. Housing can take many forms, including supportive housing, subsidized rental accommodation, co-ops, mini homes and more, and I feel our City Council should be actively encouraging all of the above. Development should be monitored closely to ensure it is providing the "right" type of housing that is affordable to local residents. Some ideas that can be undertaken at a municipal level include:

  • Using inclusionary zoning to require a certain portion of new developments contain affordable housing. 
  • Reviewing bylaws to permit the addition of laneway homes, mini homes and other options, where appropriate, to provide alternatives to those who do not wish to take on the costs and maintenance of a single family home.
  • Working with provincial and federal government to build and support co-ops, community land trusts, and other forms of non-market housing to meet the needs of a growing portion of our population.
  • Exploring the impact short-term rental sites such as Air BnB, VRBO, etc. may be having on the rental pool and, if deemed significant, consider bylaws, regulations, or incentives to ensure that viable rentals are not being converted into short-term suites beyond a limited period (i.e., 90 days a year). This has the potential of boosting the number of rental properties available in the City, which could reduce pressure in an environment where we have a less than 2% vacancy rate.

Develop and Support an Ongoing Plan Around Homelessness

Homelessness is a serious issue within our city, as evidenced by the recent homeless count which indicated 300+ people in Nanaimo without a place to call home. We cannot throw money at this problem. Rather, we need to develop a solution-focused approach to this issue with solid objectives, timelines and an action plan. Due to the length of time required to secure funding for suitable housing and to build it, this plan must incorporate short-term, long-term and interim measures. To do this, I suggest we:

  • Collaborate with provincial and federal government to partner on the build of shelter-rate housing units affordable for those on provincial assistance (i.e., disability, social assistance). The federal government housing strategy aims to reduce homelessness by 50 per cent over the next 10 years and increase the availability and improve the condition of housing across the country. 
  • Partner with local Nanaimo community groups who are on the ground working with the homeless to ensure that any City-run projects or facilities meet stated needs, without unnecessarily duplicating services or adding layers of bureaucracy.
  • Prepare for the next round of provincial funding for supportive housing and ensure we have multiple location(s) lined up, and an appropriate strategy to address and mitigate community concerns.
  • Move forward with the homeless drop-in shelter with health + wellness component. Develop a long-term plan vision and budget for this centre as well as target goals and milestones so that progress can be tracked. 

Foster an Economically Vibrant Nanaimo

Ensuring that Nanaimo has solid economic footing and attracts business, residents and tourism is a top priority. To do this, we need to attract the right type of development to our community and, in my mind, that is the kind that supports people who live and work here as the first priority. With real estate prices in the Lower Mainland soaring, developers are turning their eye to our community. However, proposals that may be big money makers for developers are not necessarily always the right choice for our community or its residents. I’d like to see accessibility and liveability considered with each decision we make. Some ideas I support include:

  • Maintaining momentum on the waterfront walkway project and Harewood trail initiative, both key projects that will enhance liveability of our beautiful city.
  • Considering an outdoor market at the waterfront similar to Granville Island for reasons of tourism, community and food security.
  • More initiatives to draw people downtown during the winter months. 
  • Working with planners to improve the walkability and safety of our streets, reduce sprawl and enhance walkability.
  • Introducing bylaws that heavily penalize business owners for allowing their sites to become derelict, and raise fines for homeowners who allow their homes to harbour noxious weeds or fall into disrepair.