The hospital was a hot button topic for a second consecutive city council candidates forum on Wednesday afternoon.
The debate between the four mayoral candidates was hosted by members of the Seniors Centre at Campbell River Common.
Seniors submitted written questions for the candidates and had the opportunity to approach the mic and verbally question the candidates.
Coun. Roy Grant was the first candidate questioned about the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s (VIHA) plans to build a new Campbell River hospital in front of a packed Seniors Centre that quickly became standing room only.
“The project is on track, it is moving forward and going to the Treasury Board,” said Grant, who is also on the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board. “We’ve been assured by the Vancouver Island Health Authority a number of times that the current level of services in the new Campbell River hospital will not be compromised.”
Grant also said he expects in the near future an announcement by VIHA that Campbell River will indeed be getting a new, state-of-the-art, $250 million hospital.
Candidate Ziggy Stewart, and fellow councillor, is also confident there will be a new hospital.
“We’ve worked for the past six years to get a hospital here – this council, and…the Comox Strathcona Regional District Hospital Board is working really hard to get it here. Believe you me, we’re trying to get it here,” Stewart said firmly.
But candidate Michel Rabu has his suspicions.
“Are we getting a new hospital? I’ve heard rumours, but no facts and figures,” Rabu said. “If I’m elected mayor, I guarantee I will be in Victoria to talk to the Minister of Health because I have some serious concerns. I believe if we leave it alone, we won’t get it.”
Candidates also talked about the need for a new seniors centre.
“Council needs to identify and act on the seniors’ needs,” Jakeway said. “You’ve got a great place here, but council needs to work with seniors groups to build a modern seniors centre with activities…shops like woodworking and mechanics, things for men to do, where they can hurt themselves.”
Jakeway said an ideal place for a new seniors centre would be the 3.5 acres of waterfront property the city owns downtown that has yet to be developed.
Grant agreed that location would be great for a seniors centre, as well as a new Visitor Info Centre, new Chamber of Commerce and a new library.
Rabu said that same property would be an ideal retirement home location while Stewart said he would like to see it turned into a park, with possibly residential units and businesses underneath.
Stewart said he would like to see a more vibrant downtown with housing to get more people into the downtown core.
“I want to have restaurants, and a theatre,” Stewart said. “I see a vibrant downtown, but we need to get the people. Businesses can’t survive without people.”
Rabu said he would also like to see more business come to Campbell River.
“My vision for our great city is quite simple – I want it to be known we’re open for business and that we’re friendly,” Rabu said. “Now, we’ve lost the mill but that’s the past. It may be a blessing – now we have clean air we can sell.”
Jakeway agreed that business is one of the most important things for Campbell River to focus on.
He said when he first came to the city in 1976, Campbell River was booming.
But now the unfortunate reality is that his three children can’t find jobs here and have had to move on.
“We need to make our town vibrant, we need to turn it around and get our economy going and promote it to the world,” Jakeway said. “Campbell River can be almost anything to anybody. We have views that are fantastic, we need to open our minds and our hearts to the world and invite them here.”
Grant said one of his priorities is economic development and job creation, so that young people graduating from college find work in Campbell River, instead of leaving for employment.
Stewart said his daughter is attending post-secondary school in Ontario but would like to see her move back to Campbell River.
“There needs to be more here in order to get our kids back here,” Stewart said.
“From my perspective, to deliver services we need people living here, and people making money. We’re never going to get a big employer like the mill back here, we need to attract smaller business. It gets back to being open for business, and not growth for the sake of growth but growth that keeps us going and keeps your families here.”
Candidates also debated the atmosphere and structure at City Hall; open government; and tourism which will be featured in Wednesday’s Mirror.
All council candidates took part in a business forum last week at the Tidemark Theatre and will debate the arts in a forum hosted by River City Players on Monday at 7 p.m. at the River City Players clubhouse (1080 Hemlock).