The first of two all-candidates debates for City councillors held Wednesday at the Tourism Development Centre provided few surprises other than the informal style used to organize the potentially unwieldy number of candidates. The chamber, who organized the event, gave each of the 13 candidates an opportunity for an introductory speech followed by mingling with the crowd to allow the public to ask the candidates questions. That was concluded by a two-minute wrap up by each candidate.
Danica Hughes told the audience of approximately 50 that her decision to run for a seat on council was based on a desire to serve the community of Williams Lake.
When asked a question later about improving First Nations relations Hughes said she liked the way the current mayor had reached out to those communities adding that a greater knowledge of the challenges First Nations communities have “endured” through time might create a more empathetic public.
Tanessa Fairburn said she wanted to make lives of people in the community better. She later added there needed to be more creative solutions that are more helpful and caring about everybody as a community. Faiburn added that the divide between those with money and those without is growing and that it’s harder to find a job to support oneself.
Gordon Keener spoke of the need to “build on major investments through economic diversification,” and building on other industries so when there are challenges in the lumber and mining sectors there are other opportunities to “fall back on.” Keener noted that sustainability was also a goal.
Steve Forseth told the audience he was running to address the issue of jobs, sustainable community development and open government. On the last point, he said he intended to “push” city council to public their expense claims on line. He added he felt the current council had “let down” the community on jobs and economic development.
Incumbent Coun. Surinderpal Rathor outlined his three priorities as economic development, fiscal responsibility and creating a safe community. “The spending needs to be kept under strict control,” he said.
Mike Bouchard spoke of the retention of youth in the community, creating jobs and “holding the line” on taxes to be achieved by encouraging business growth.
Richard Vollo spoke of diversifying the local economy beyond retail to include value-added industries.
Incumbent Coun. Geoff Bourdon indicated a continued need for long-term planning that shouldn’t be interrupted by the election cycle. He added that he would like to pursue a tax policy similar to the recently created Industrial Revitalization Tax to target new commercial properties, commercial redevelopment and properties where secondary suites are being legalized.
Peter Bowman argued for the expansion of other business opportunities that could lessen the fallout through hard economic times; he stressed a need to promote good working relationships with First Nations and to invest in and promote sports, leisure and recreation opportunities. Fiscally, Bowman suggested growing the tax base and accessing federal and provincial funding for projects rather than instituting tax increases. Paul Kandola advocated for cutting red tape and creating job opportunities in Williams Lake. He said he would not support a property tax increase during his term and indicated he would like to see Williams Lake become a seniors’ destination community. He further indicated he is supportive of the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex and Scout Island.