The first all candidates meetings of the municipal election campaign filled the gymnasium at the Sportsplex twice last weekend.
Bruno Fornika, Chair of the Campbell River Seniors Centre Society – the organization who presented the meetings – moderated both Friday night’s council candidates meeting and Sunday night’s mayoral candidates. Both were well attended and gave the audience a feel for those vying to represent them on city council.
Very few questions were covered at the council candidates evening, as all of the 17 candidates were given the opportunity to answer each audience question. Consequently, it took a long time to get through each one. It was, however, an opportunity to meet the candidates and talk to them on an individual basis, as there was time dedicated both before and after the official panel for that purpose.
One of the most divisive questions of the night was in regard to the planning of the Robron recreation complex, and how the candidates feel it should proceed, if, indeed, they feel it should proceed at all.
There were three basic camps on this topic: those who are in full support of the project, those who feel it should be decided not by council but by the community (possibly by referendum), and those who feel it should be far down the priority list.
Bob Bray was the only candidate who expressly used the word “referendum” while discussing the project, saying that the process has been mismanaged by the current council, but Charlie Cornfield also suggested that it be researched and then “put before the people and we ask them, ‘Here it is, do you want it?’ and if they say yes, it’s up to us to deliver.”
Andrea Craddock and Jim Parnell both said that it needs much more scrutiny before a decision can be made.
David Christian, Colleen Evans and Peter Klobucar said it would be a low priority for them, qualifying that it would obviously be good to have more recreational amenities in the city, but they can’t take priority over other, more pressing infrastructure projects.
Those firmly in favour of the complex were Michele Babchuk, Les Lengyel, Claire Moglove, Larry Samson and Ziggy Stewart. Moglove said extensive consultation has already been done with the community, and they’ve heard overwhelming support, while Stewart added the suggestion of partnering with corporate sponsors to make it happen with less burden on the taxpayer.
Todd Jones thinks we could have had it already using surplus money that was instead wasted. Ron Kerr said we aren’t taking care of the recreation facilities we already have, so we can’t justify making another one, to which Marcia McKay agreed.
Check out @CRMirror on Twitter, as many answers from that night – as well as Sunday’s mayoral candidates’ meeting – were shared live on that platform.
The mayoral forum on Sunday night got through many more questions than the councillor meeting – what with there only being three candidates.
After the candidates introduced themselves with five-minute opening statements, the seniors society had three questions prepared for each candidate to address before opening the floor to audience questions.
The first of these was about facilitating the finding of a downtown standalone centre for the seniors in our community, to which Andy Adams said there are many options. He suggested that the library could be moved into a new facility currently being proposed in the Tyee Plaza and the seniors could move into the current library site.
Incumbent Walter Jakeway suggested that the proposal for the Tyee Plaza site should be revamped to include getting the seniors into that new facility, as well, or that the city could build a standalone building expressly for the seniors’ centre beside the Maritime Heritage Centre at the pier. Steve Wood said that it should have already happened, but that previous councils have dropped the ball on this, but he will make it a priority if elected.
The second question from the seniors’ society was about making affordable seniors’ housing downtown, and what the candidates will do to provide that. Jakeway suggested renovating the Haida Inn and making it into affordable senior housing.
Wood said “our local representatives have to step up to the plate and advocate for our seniors,” to “effectively, respectfully and cohesively express our community’s needs to other levels of government,” and find a solution to this issue in cooperation with provincial and federal bodies.
Adams proposed a zone within the downtown – between Dogwood Street and Ironwood Street – where there would be tax exemptions available to developers who build new affordable housing to encourage development rather than renovating an old hotel using tax money.
The third question was regarding lightening the load on residential tax payers. Property taxes have had to rise to make up for the departure of industrial tax revenues, and many say they can’t handle that any more. Wood said one of the first initiatives he’ll take, if elected, is the formation of an “environment, industry and job creation committee that would immediately prioritize this issue,” adding that the “cheap shots being thrown about in the media by you, Walter (Jakeway),” create an atmosphere of distrust and doesn’t promote Campbell River as a place to invest in or encourage industry to come to town.
Adams said, “I don’t believe there’s going to be a large industrial tax base that comes back to Campbell River,” adding that we need to diversify our economic structure to succeed.
He used examples like aerospace, aquaculture and technical industries as the possible future backbone industries of the community, as well as expanding North Island College, “so that it becomes a training facility for young people to come here to go to school, not (having our own kids) go away to go to school. That creates an industry in itself,” he said.
Mayor Jakeway said there is almost no chance we’ll be getting another large industrial entity showing up, adding that when industry shows up to look into investing, the last thing we should be doing is inundating them with tax talk, because it scares them off. He said we should look at cutting spending first, because if we do, “that’s like finding new money.”
The topics of the audience questions from the floor ranged from wasting tax dollars on multiple consultations on the same issue, to addressing homelessness issues in our community, to the cost of the BC Hydro project and productive communication within the bureaucracy, and shed good light on the candidates’ thoughts on many issues.
n The next all candidates meetings are scheduled for Monday, Nov. 3 at the Eagles Hall in Campbellton at 7 p.m., put on by the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association, and Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Tidemark Theatre at 6:30 p.m., put on by the Campbell River Mirror in conjunction with the Young Professionals of Campbell River.
Voting takes place on Nov. 15 with advance polling taking place on Nov. 5 and 12 at the Tyee Plaza from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is also a special voting opportunity at the hospital on Nov. 13 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.