It didn’t take long into Monday evening’s mayoral forum for incumbents Mayor Kerry Cook and Coun. Surinderpal Rathor to butt heads.
Sitting between the two, former politician Walt Cobb stayed clear of the sparks for the most part while the fourth candidate, John Bjornstrom, was asked few questions from the public.
None of this was lost on the 150-plus crowd attending at the Gibraltar Room.
“I can see Walt between Surinder and Kerry and there’s an obvious disconnect between the two of them,” resident Ian Pare said.
“I’m curious to ask them if it goes between all of council and [whether] there’s a disconnect between the community and city hall itself.”
Pare then asked Cobb what he would do to bring council and the community together.
“Surinder says something and Kerry shakes her head and Kerry says something and Surinder shakes his head, so what would you do to be able to fix that?”
Cobb replied he’s heard the public believes “decisions are being made behind closed doors whether they are or they aren’t.”
Cariboo Regional District candidate and alternate director Steve Forseth suggested the relationship between the CRD and the city is “effectively dead,” a fallout from its “public spat over fire protection.”
He asked Rathor what specific actions he would use to rebuild the relationship.
Rathor agreed the relationship has worsened since he was first elected in 1994.
“I can assure you under my leadership the regional district won’t have to go to court to resolve the issues, I would resolve all the issues on the table,” he said.
“Not only that we spent so much money on the legal costs to have the fire protection on top of that your city is losing almost $280,000 which was on the table in the agreement.”
While candidates were each asked different questions, Cook couldn’t help herself from responding to Rathor’s comments.
“I want to remind the public that I was one of three councillors all the way through the process that supported the agreement to be signed in December with the CRD,” she said.
“My colleague to the left was not in agreement with that. Council was split on the decision, it was tough, it was complicated.”
A total of 45 questions were posed to the candidates from the public, while the evening closed with each candidate giving a closing statement.
Questions from the public focused on pothole control, legal bills, accessible housing for seniors, lake access, tax rates, longterm debt, pressuring the government to re-open Mount Polley, reconciliation with First Nations, revitalizing the downtown, supporting ranching, increasing technology training at TRU, delinquent properties, the pool referendum and Boitanio Mall.
When asked how Williams Lake can attract more industry and manufacturing, Bjornstrom said selling Williams Lake is a good place to start.
“There is also lots of funding from the federal government available that we could access,” Bjornstrom said.