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CITY COUNCIL: First of three city councillor candidate debates held

VIDEO: Review the full discussion by the first five of 14 councillor candidates
Council candidates (from left) Mike Davies, Colleen Evans, Tanille Johnston, Susan Sinnott and Sean Smythe prepare to debate the issues in the first of three councillor candidate debates at the Tidemark Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 22. The other two debate were one on Mondary and one tonightPhoto by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror

After the mayoral candidates took to the Tidemark Theatre stage Wednesday, Sept. 21, it was the first of the city councillor candidates to have their turn.

RELATED: CITY COUNCIL: Mayoral candidates wrestle with complex issues

Because there are 14 councillor candidates the all-candidates debates was split up into three sessions. The first was on Thursday, Sept. 22 and put candidates Mike Davies, Colleen Evans, Tanille Johnston, Susan Sinnott and Sean Smythe in the spotlight where they answered questions put to them by moderator Mary Ruth Snyder, executive director of the Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce, one of the sponsors of the debates along with the Tidemark Theatre Society and the Campbell River Mirror. There was also time given to the candidates to ask a question of other candidates and then offer a closing statement.

A number of questions were asked, which can be seen in the YouTube video of the debate on the Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube channel but one of the questions put tothe candidates was “If You are elected, what will be your top three priorities and which one would you focus on first?”

Their answers are:

Tanille Johnston:

“Top three priorities would definitely be investing on solutions for our downtown core. Looking at opportunities to create safer pathways for support. We have a lot of incredible organizations in Campbell River but we also have a challenge with silos and not working completely collaboratively. We spend a lot of our money in those silos, often trying to do the same work but in in individual pathways. So bringing all those community groups together to look at supporting our downtown core and how we can enable a safer space for for all people living in Campbell River. That would be a big one for me. Reviewing our city’s master transportation plan, there was some consultation just recently done to update that plan. I would like to action that plan. I would like to see us invest in how we will promote our city and in doing so in a way that supports and enables all types of people to access everywhere more easily. I kind of have four. I really want us to increase childcare spaces. We’ve only added 30 childcare spaces. We needed 90 in 2019. There have been a lot of babies born in the last couple years and we need to enable parents to be able to get back to work. We have an entire workforce that is stuck at home because we don’t have childcare. So childcare is a really big one for me because we’re losing out in our economy by parents that just can’t get back to work. Thank you.”

Susan Sinnott:

“And yes, I do agree with candidate Johnston. About the safety and the downtown issue. I spent some time today talking to one of the managers at the security services and it’s probably more extreme than some of us even realize, so that requires resourcing more safety. The other issues sort of develop in between each other. It’s the housing availability, affordability, the development approval process, which is slowed down our housing availability, and our OCP review, which is long overdue, and quite frankly, our OCP has too many outcomes for a town of our size to be actually realistically achievable. And the third one is all of these really depend on our First Nations coordination. We have to be very aware of what’s happening right now. I had a meeting with the Wei Wai Kum and the development of a new Indian reserve that’s coming there. They’re wishing to grow up on Evergreen Road, the development of the drainage into Nunns Creek Park, there’s a number of projects that they have on hand which directly affect our town. They are also incredibly concerned with the safety issues downtown. And they have some solutions and I hope that we’re going to work cooperatively with all the First Nations including We Wai Kai to get these things accomplished for our town. So I’ve been wrapped that up. Thank you very much.”

Sean Smythe:

“Yes, top three. So first one will be housing development. Just today, I went to the bank and a great guy helped me out of the bank and he was just visiting he was working for about six months in Campbell River and right away I said ‘dude where are you living?’ and holy let me tell you a story, he said. We have a serious problem with our housing. So first thing I’d like to do is really push through a project. We got projects sitting waiting to increase the housing supply. We have some great ideas coming through, things that will address our issues but they’re just jammed up a backlogged within City Hall and it’s not the fault of staff. But it’s something we got to get going because the private sector is there willing to solve a problem. The next one is downtown safety or I’m just gonna say community safety ‘cause it’s spread out throughout the whole community now. It’s moving everywhere. And this is probably the number one issue that people talk to me about. By far. And just yesterday, somebody told me they don’t take the kids into the library anymore. Somebody told me they changed banks recently because they don’t feel safe going into the bank. And my own daughter told me please don’t be late coming to dance because I don’t feel safe standing outside. The last one is the budget. We got some serious financial rocks coming. And that’s not my point. But that that’s a big issue that’s not been talked about.”

Mike Davies:

“So I thought for a second that it was going to be what? What are you going to start with in terms of when you’re elected? We’re going to go into budgetary discussions over November, December so the first thing we’re going to do is have to deal with the budget which I guess falls into this category because one of the things that would be a priority of mine would be to get the budget under control because I, I watched a lot of budget discussions and there were a lot of things in there that I had questions about. But that’s that’s fine. I wasn’t in charge of making those decisions. But yeah, keeping keeping spending under control while still providing good value for money for the community would be one of my priorities. Second one is obviously the thing I hear the most about from people around me is the housing affordability issue. I feel really, really bad for some friends of mine that have been renting for years trying to save money to buy and every time they get anywhere close, they realize that they’re nowhere close. So dealing with the housing affordability, part of that has to do with, like Susan said, matching, getting our OCP refigured out because it’s well overdue and matching the OCP with our zoning bylaws, finally, would be nice. And then I guess third, I don’t know if it’s a priority, because I mean, obviously, downtown safety. But I’d like to get more arts and culture initiatives happening through the city, as opposed to always relying on local nonprofits and other organizations to do more arts and culture through the city.”

Colleen Evans:

“Thank you. And certainly, as I’ve been listening to community members and hearing what their concerns are, housing is, housing affordability is one of the top priorities. And it’s really concerning for me when I hear that seniors are really worried about the ability to even make a move in this community because it can’t afford the kind of rental property and the level of rental properties that they would be moving into. We can’t leave anyone behind. So, being able to create the kind of land use policies, the kind of development of permit policies that help us fast track the kind of housing that we need in this community to enable people to look at multi-generational housing, secondary suites, mortgage helpers row housing, we built 507 units last year. Most of those were the type of single houses and apartments that did not provide the kind of low-cost housing that many of our residents are requiring. So certainly, housing affordability is a key issue. Second, safety concerns. It’s very concerning when we hear about people in our community that feel that downtown safety is something that’s precluding them from engaging in our downtown core. We need to make sure that we take care of that. And third, budget financial stability. We need to make sure that the kind of financial decisions that we’re making with our 10-year financial plan, really meet the needs of our growing community and give us the kind of financial stability and security that we have to move forward.”

Note that a lot more was said, so you’ll want to catch the full first councillor candidates debate:


The second city councillor debate

Catch the remaining councillors opinions in the upcoming debates:

– Monday, Sept. 26 — Council debate 2

Candidates: Doug Chapman, Sandra Milligan, Gwen Donaldson, Claire Moglove, Ferris Sterling

– Wednesday, Sept. 28 — Council debate 3

Candidates: Ken Blackburn, Ben Lanyon, Sue Moen, Ron Kerr

On Wednesday, Oct. 5 — the SD72 School Trustees debate will be held.


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