Candidates running for civic office faced off in two separate Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce forums in Williams Lake this week.
Local business owner John Hack moderated both forums, posing questions to the candidates contributed by chamber members, the Conservation Society, the Social Planning Council and local residents.
Candidates vying for city councillor participated in the Monday evening forum, held at the Gibraltar Room.
People running for council are newcomers Wayne Lucier, Craig Smith, Peter Bowman, Sue Lachance, Jason Ryll, Bobbie-Jo Macnair, Tovi Pare and Marnie Brenner, incumbents Sue Zacharias, Ivan Bonnell, Laurie Walters, and former mayor and councillor Scott Nelson.
Pare suggested the city needs a strong, positive council.
“The morale between council and the city needs revitalizing,” Pare said, adding council needs to listen to the public and provide more information to the community.
Macnair promised a new perspective, a young voice and a commitment to seniors.
Diversification of the economy, a revitalized downtown with more rental units above businesses, expanding tourism and improving access to the lake are all ways to improve the city, Macnair suggested.
Concerned about the future of his hometown, outgoing chamber president Ryll said he cannot stand idly by.
“I have a plan for economic development and will not be coming to city hall ill-equipped,” he said.
Lachance said through her work experience she has assisted in more than 500 business startups and will bring that knowledge to city council.
“We need leaders who are willing to shamelessly lead the community, get out from behind their desks and work towards a better tomorrow,” Lachance said.
Bowman said he wants to focus on youth and seniors if he’s elected.
“There are opportunities here and I want to use my vast networks of friends and business figures in this town to help move to this town forward, whether it’s mining, forestry or new diversification of the economy.”
Creating a positive investment climate will drive the community forward, Nelson said.
“Williams Lake is strategically placed along the transportation corridor,” he said. Spending mistakes have cost the community hundreds of thousands of dollars, Nelson said.
Walters vowed she is committed to developing a 25-year infrastructure plan and said she hopes to be re-elected to help bring projects council has been working on to completion.
Bonnell said there are serious challenges facing the community.
“Answers won’t come easy. I want to be part of team finding solutions,” he said, citing the Annual Allowable Cut and the effects of the Mount Polley incident as two big impacts to the region.
Zacharias praised the leadership of Mayor Kerry Cook, and said she wants Williams Lake to be a place where people can raise families, work and own their own homes.
Smith said he will advocate removing red tape for people operating businesses.
“I would like to make this town business friendly,” he said.
For Lucier balancing social concerns and economic development is key.
“We need affordable housing and we need to encourage new industry while sustaining what we have,” he said, adding a council works as a team but it also needs to listen to people that have skills it doesn’t.
Brenner was absent due to a death in the family and having to suddenly travel to Saskatchewan, but in a written statement said she promises to be approachable, believes in relationship building and will be back in Williams Lake next week to connect with voters.
At a luncheon held Tuesday at the Pioneer Complex, John Bjornstrom, Surinderpal Rathor, Mayor Kerry Cook and former mayor Walt Cobb — had their turn in the mayors forum.
Questions posed to them covered economic development, improved communication, mayor’s role on the beetle action coalition, the role of arts and culture, a vision for the downtown, curtailing spending and tax increases, more lake access and a business vote.
Bjornstrom said wooing small manufacturing businesses to the city would help economic development.
“As a truck driver I also see there is a great amount of waste that can be turned into something of value,” he said.
Cobb suggested the committee system be redone so that more council debates are brought out into the public.
“It’s a way to get to know your city council outside of press releases,” he said.
Rathor promised a city open for business, with controlled spending, reinstatement of the economic development advisory commission and less time spent in the courts to reach agreements.
Cook said in the last six years $84 million has been reinvested in the community, that 10 to 20 new homes are constructed a year, and $14.5 million has been invested in new road works.
“We continue to reduce crime, making our community a healthier and safer place,” she said.
The chamber said it plans to send all of the questions from both forums to every candidate to answer on their own Facebook pages or modes of communication.
Both candidate forums were sponsored by the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce and the BC Northern Real Estate Board.
Watch for the Nov. 7 edition of the Williams Lake Tribune/Weekend Advisor for an extensive question and answer section in the paper detailing answers from city, Cariboo Regional District and School District 27 candidates in their own words.