The Cowichan Valley is known for its prime growing conditions as it is a rich agricultural area spanning from south of Mill Bay to Lake Cowichan and Maple Bay. Farms and the forestry industry are part of the area.
The riding’s biggest city of Duncan, where thousands live and go to school, has become a visible centre for homelessness and the opioid crisis.
“Never gets any better,” said Duncan resident Donald MacKay.
“At night time we come out here at 2:30 in the morning and that’s all it is.”
Current MLA and BC Green Party candidate Sonia Furstenau, who is also the leader of the BC Green Party, won the seat from the NDP three years ago and made history in the longtime New Democrat stronghold by taking it by just by a few thousand votes.
Furstenau, a teacher and Cowichan resident, grew her profile as a community activist in the fight against a contaminated soil dump near Shawnigan’s watershed.
“I want us to be able to trust government,” said Furstenau.
“I want us to be able to know that decisions are being made from a place of evidence and most important that people and their well being are at the centre of all the decisions that we’re making.”
The NDP is keen to take the riding back from the Greens, with two time North Cowichan councillor Rob Douglas running there. According to Douglas, he’s had two terms dealing with the crises affecting Cowichan and feels a seat in government would make him more effective to deal with them.
“Locally we can’t solve all these problems on our own,” said Douglas.
“And at that provincial level, there’s real opportunities to take action.
BC Liberal candidate Tanya Kaul, who is a civil servant with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said making Cowichan’s streets safer is the most important issue to people casting ballots here.
According to Kaul, if elected, she would pause Island Health’s controversial wellness centre that includes a safe injection site for addicts.
“So one of my top priorities would be to put a pause on the project to allow for proper community engagement,” Kaul said.