An all-candidates meeting put on by the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce packed the 450-plus seats of the Tidemark Theatre Wednesday.
And there wasn’t much room on the stage either as the 17 candidates vying for six city council seats sat down to face nine questions drafted by chamber of commerce members and staff. The evening was divided into two sections with the councillor candidates going first and then the process was repeated for the four mayoral candidates. The mayoral candidates also took questions from the floor.
The questions were divided amongst the 17 council candidates because to have them answer them all would have taken too long. The candidates were given two minutes to respond to the questions. Most of the questions dealt with business concerns surrounding taxation, cost efficiency, transparency, economic development and creating a business-friendly environment in the city and a customer friendly environment at City Hall.
To report all of the responses would take up too much space in this newspaper but luckily, the chamber asked the candidates for written responses to the questions as well and those responses will be available on the chamber’s website (www.campbellriverchamber.ca) on Nov. 4. The council candidates did not get to address all the questions at Wednesday’s meeting, making it impossible to fairly report all of their positions, but they will in the written responses.
If there was a consistent theme in the mayoral debate, it may have been an us-against-them scenario between the two incumbent city councillors seeking the mayor’s chair and the two outside-of-council candidates hoping to become mayor. Roy Grant and Ziggy Stewart are the incumbent city councillors and Walter Jakeway and Michel Rabu are the other two candidates.
It was particularly evident on the hospital question when Stewart and Grant assured everyone there was no need for concern that the new hospital project would be downgraded and the level of health services in the community would be less than promised (see stories on page A1 and A6). Jakeway and Rabu expressed suspicion about the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s seeming lack of communication and transparency as accused by the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce.
But it also showed up in economic development and budgeting questions as well. Stewart and Grant would defend the actions of the current council while Jakeway and Rabu had the luxury of criticizing the current council without having to defend a record of their own.
“If you want more of what you have, you can make your decision (on Nov. 19),” Jakeway said.
Rabu hammered the incumbents for being part of decisions that went against the wishes of people like the Dogwood Lights, the “chaos” of the Highway 19a project and invalidating the chamber of commerce’s survey that expressed concern about the lack of a business friendly environment in the city.
Rabu veered away from the chamber’s instructions for questions – albeit from the floor, not the candidates themselves – to avoid focusing on personal issues and stick to issues that all candidates can address. He took a shot at Grant for the controversy the incumbent got himself into with comments he made about the level of salary the mayor’s position receives.
Grant took the high road in response.
“I don’t have any insults in my repertoire,” he said to some applause from the audience and asserted his experience on council and leadership skills will allow him to obtain the consensus needed to get things done.
Grant also said he “enjoyed being a politician.”
“I’ve got a real thick skin,” he said.
Stewart, meanwhile, is proud of his record and was positive about the future.
“As your mayor, I look forward to building meaningful relationships,” Stewart said.
He also appears to already have meaningful relationships.
“I have a great wife, I have a great life and I have a great business,” he said.
For more on this meeting, see the next issue of the Campbell River Mirror, or visit www.campbellrivermirror.com