There’s seldom been such a large selection of candidates running for office in North Cowichan.
About 200 residents who turned out at the Crofton Community Centre Monday night heard a wide range of opinions, platforms and observations from the three mayoral candidates and the 14 people vying for the six councillor seats in the municipality’s Oct. 20 vote.
“The gallery was very respectful and the candidates all told me they really enjoyed the format,” noted organizer Dan Robin. “The mayor even said to me it was the best organized forum he has ever participated in. The public was given a lot of good information not only on the candidates, but on many local issues that affect all of us now and well into the future.”
The audience heard a lot about affordable housing, the environment, water and development as primary issues.
Each of the councillor hopefuls was given three minutes to address key points and say the magic words to garner potential votes while mayoral candidates Joyce Behnsen, Jon Lefebure and Al Siebring were allotted up to five minutes each.
The trio contesting the mayor’s position then answered a selection of pre-submitted questions.
Behnsen, Lefebure and Siebring provided voters with an insight into their completely different styles and points of view.
“Most people know I come from the heart, I come from the head and I get things done,” said Behnsen.
“I’ve done real things in the real world. I know many of you in here because I’m out and about everywhere.”
One of the issues she touched upon is “builders have a tough time dealing with the municipality,” she said. “There’s some drawbacks that take too long to be resolved.”
Calling attention specifically to Crofton, Lefebure said there needs to be a return of doctor, dentist and banking services to the town. He also has a vision for redevelopment of the ferry terminal and surrounding waterfront in partnership with BC Ferries, the Ministry of Highways, Catalyst Paper and the community.
“I want to work on this,” said Lefebure. “I want to be bold and determined. I want us to be inspired.”
Siebring offered a dose of reality about not getting too carried away with certain projects.
“We’ve heard all kinds of wonderful ideas about how we’re going to improve the community, but it all costs money,” he said.
“We’re not responsible for affordable housing. When is enough? It’s never enough. That’s why these issues are a federal responsibility.”
With 10 years on council under his belt, “we’re all here with good intentions and I think we can all work together,” Siebring indicated.
The 14 challengers for councillor seats comprise a vast array of work experience and community involvement. Here are some quick snippets:
Nick Caumanns — “The one thing about local government, it’s not always responsive. it doesn’t always consult.”
Rob Douglas — “I’d like to see us do a lot more to preserve our rural character. No one moves here because they want to live in a sprawling suburb like Surrey.”
Paul Fletcher — “I would vote to hold tax increases to the inflation rate. Anyone that knows me will tell you I am passionate about economic development.”
David Haywood — “I’m a tracker of how property taxes, particularly for residential, have fared.”
Pat Hrushowy — From going door-to-door and talking to people about the municipality, “there’s a significant level of bureaucracy they have to deal with and it costs money,” he said.
Christopher Justice — “It seems to me we’re at a time of substantial change. It’s clear our climate is changing and our socio-economic climate is changing.”
John Koury — “We need more inventory. The politicians have got to get out of the way of the engineers and planners.”
Tek Manhas — “I have the business experience and the fiscal management experience and the community focus.”
Kate Marsh — “Water is critical for survival. We need to protect it. I’d like to attract new green businesses.”
Marilyn Palmer — “North Cowichan is a community of communities and each of these has strongly held views on its best qualities. It’s important for the council to understand in this diversity one size doesn’t fit all.”
Catherine Pastula — “I will listen and I will learn and I will make sure I will talk to our fellow council members. Hopefully, I bring you an asset from being in this Valley for so long.”
Peter Rusland — “North Cowichan and Crofton, particularly, should be rocking. North Cowichan should be a showpiece for tourism and certainly the environment.”
Rosalie Sawrie — “I do believe my experience has helped me get where I am today. As part of being a good council, you need to have fact-based research.”
Debra Toporowski — “I’m a caring person who knows how to listen to you. I’m very excited to take on this challenge.”