Candidates for city council packed into the TRU gym Monday for the last debate in advance of the Nov. 19 municipal election. Thirteen of the 14 council hopefuls attended the event that was more complimentary than adversarial with candidates readily recognizing policy ideas held in common with their colleagues.
Candidates were asked to declare whether they were affiliated with other mayoral or councillor candidates in the race, to declare any business partnerships with other candidates and to state how they will independently represent the community.
Peter Bowman said he was not affiliated with any of the candidates.
Incumbent Geoff Bourdon also said he had no business with other candidates. “It’s about standing behind the information you feel is right and the feedback you get from constituents,” he said of being independent.
Mike Bouchard said he was a business partner with a candidate but didn’t identify who, saying the details were declared as part of official paperwork to run for office.
Ivan Bonnell said he was independent but added that he had worked with all three mayoral candidates and said he was “committed” to working with whoever is elected.
Incumbent Surinderpal Rathor said he was not associated with any candidate saying, “I will represent you to the best of my ability.”
Richard Vollo said he had no business relationships with the other candidates and that he believed in “evidence-based” decision making.
Incumbents Laurie Walters and Sue Zacharias said they have no affiliation with other candidates.
Mike Jacobson said he had business with one mayoral and one council candidate. “My business has nothing to do with what I’m doing today. My business will not affect my decisions,” he said.
Gordon Kenner said he had no affiliation and was running as an independent.
Danica Hughes identified no affiliation.
Paul Kandola said he had no business partnerships but identified his wife as being a business partner of a mayoral candidate.
Steve Forseth identified no affiliation.
Candidates were then asked what their thoughts are on a new aquatic centre.
Forseth said there needs to be a public discussion on the issue.
He added that he didn’t think that grants from Ottawa or Victoria were likely.
Bowman said he advocated lobbying the provincial and federal governments for funding.
Bourdon told the audience that the premier had earmarked $30 million for infrastructure grants province wide.
“That’s peanuts,” he said, adding that money will go to those communities with the “best” plan and those who have done the “best” work. Bourdon added that the City needs to project several decades out to determine what type of facility will be suitable long term.
Bonnell agreed that the pool was important and that there should be discussions with the Cariboo Regional District and the Ketcham family.
Rathor agreed that the community needs a pool and noted that planning is underway but the challenge would be funding.
Vollo said a pool is “vital” for any community to have and that the City should seek infrastructure funding.
Walters suggested she would like to see a performing arts centre as part of a pool facility.
Zacharias said it is infrastructure like pools that attracts people to the community.
Jacobson said the City needs to find a way to make the pool happen in a financially responsible way.
Keener said the City should work with the CRD and lobby other levels of government for grants, gaming revenue and gas tax revenue.
Hughes suggested to find out what the community wants and new ways for the City and the CRD to generate revenue. She suggested seeking corporate funding rather than tax hikes as a way to pay for the facility.
Candidates were then asked how city council could encourage young entrepreneurs.
Rathor said, “We need to encourage people to shop local,” and added that shopping in the stores of young entrepreneurs could be helpful.
Vollo noted that most small businesses in B.C. are started by young people. He suggested providing entrepreneurs with seed money for capital investments.
Walters suggested a tax incentive for young entrepreneurs along the lines of what is offered to downtown businesses to improve their establishments.
Zacharias said that customer service can be the difference maker, noting that there’s a “whole generation” who don’t want to shop in big-box stores.
Jacobson said that council should not impose fees and restrictions on small businesses and make fiscally sound decisions.
Keener suggested there needs to be a balance between small businesses and big-box stores. He said the support of Thompson Rivers University, Community Futures and council could be helpful in fostering businesses in the downtown core.
Hughes said she felt local entrepreneurs were more likely to be entering retirement and suggested they are in need of young people to take over their businesses. She added a mentorship program to facilitate that could be adopted.
Kandola said securing funding from banks can be a challenge and noted the key to success is finding a business niche.
Forseth said partnerships between organizations like Community Futures, the school district and Thompson Rivers University could promote small business among youth.
Bowman said there needs to be a balance between big-box stores and small businesses.
Bourdon said a problem for small businesses is that few have a succession plan. He agreed that small businesses must find a niche and excel at service as they often can’t compete on price with big-box stores.
Bouchard said there has to be a demand for businesses and that they have to find a clientele and niche market and “exploit it.”
The City can provide transportation infrastructure, parks, recreation, leisure and other opportunities, said Bonnell, and that will bring in potential customers. He added Community Futures, the chamber of commerce and the Business Improvement Association are “great organizations to help local entrepreneurs.”
The candidates were then asked about their two priorities for maintaining the environment.
Bouchard said a future potential water and sewer shortage, improving recycling programs and recycling the city’s grey water.
Bourdon also identified grey water as an issue and said the City should work with industry to find a solution.
Bowman agreed that the City’s aquifer and grey water is a concern. He further identified the need to protect air and water, suggesting there are opportunities to locate industry in the Mackenzie Avenue corridor.
Forseth said a comprehensive water plan that addresses the City’s grey water.
Kandola also said the treatment of grey water should be addressed, adding there could be assistance from the province.
Hughes said she supported the mandatory installation of water meters in new developments in the city.
Keener cited run off into Williams Lake from the San Jose watershed is a concern as is grey water.
Jacobson identified the future of the RC Cotton site as an issue and grey water.
Zacharias said the use of the City’s treated water by industry is a concern, adding that the recently enacted official community plan is designed to promote quality of life, the economy, the environment and social well being among others.
Walters said the extension of water services to Woodland Drive and the City’s reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions to meet 2020 and 2050 targets.
Vollo said it was important that the City water system remains under public control. He added that creating full-service recycling depots would also be important.
Rathor identified the treatment of grey water as a high priority as well as a clean air policy.
Bonnell said he supported improvements to air quality and the diversion of storm water runoff, suggesting treatment rather than it running off into the San Jose watershed.
Candidate Tanessa Fairburn did not attend the event.