The municipality of Comox, British Columbia is a small one; just under 17 square kilometres, with a population of around 14,000, a few hour’s drive north from the provincial capital of Victoria. But despite its small size, the town of Comox is one that understands the value of a healthy community and demonstrated said values by electing Dr. Jonathan Kerr to the town council in the city’s November 2021 by-election.
Dr. Kerr, a family physician and member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, successfully ran for town councillor on a campaign which placed an emphasis on health: community health; the health of Comox residents; and environmental health.
These core campaign values led to Kerr receiving a glowing endorsement from the Comox Greens, a municipally-focused group of Comox residents who share the Global Green values of sustainability, respect for diversity, social justice, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and participatory democracy.
To Kerr and his team, these Green values are not political, he explains to Global Green News: “They transcend across our society and all walks of life.”
When it comes to caring for the environment, Kerr explains that there is no political theatre to it. “I decided to run for Comox Council because I care deeply about the health of our community,” he says: “Our family loves the outdoors and connecting with nature, whether we are cross-country skiing, hiking, or back-country camping.” Kerr adds that he and his family also spend time volunteering for various local environmental organizations.
Before officially launching his campaign, Kerr explains how he and his team undertook a “listening campaign” with the aim of getting a concrete understanding of what issues are of the highest importance to the residents of Comox. The campaign involved virtual and in-person events, during which citizens of Comox were given the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns about their community.
The campaign also included a “sticker station” – a board displaying 24 different issues – where Kerr’s team would provide passersby with stickers to be placed on which of the issues they strongly felt needed to be addressed in order to achieve a healthy community.
According to Kerr: “Over half of all the stickers were placed on environment-related topics, such as protecting our forests, shorelines, and wildlife, having clean air to breathe, preserving our Town’s tree canopy, promoting local healthy food, having parks and recreational facilities for healthy activity, and improving our Town’s bike routes.”
Several severe environmental disasters took place in various regions of British Columbia over the past year, leaving devastating effects on British Columbian towns and citizens. These events likely played a significant role in environmental issues being among the top concerns of the citizens of Comox, says Kerr: “Comox residents understand that climate change isn’t just something future generations need to worry about, it’s here now.”
According to Kerr, by addressing one facet of health – be it environmental, community, or the health of residents – the other two would subsequently improve. “As a family doctor in Comox,” Kerr explains, “I see every day how these issues are interconnected.”
Improving the cycling connectivity within the municipality is one example of how the different types of health are interconnected. Kerr explains that making cycling a viable option provides Comox residents with a form of transportation that boosts one’s health, improves opportunities for social connections in the community, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s a win-win-win solution.”
“Comox residents understand that climate change isn’t just something future generations need to worry about, it’s here now.”– Dr. Jonathan Kerr, Comox Town Councillor
Just over one month into his session as councillor, Kerr maintains a positive attitude, and explains that he was surprised by the willingness of Mayor Russ Arnott and the other town councillors to address environmental sustainability and related issues.
“I am really optimistic for what we can accomplish together as a community in 2022 and beyond!”