Candidates vying for spots on Ladysmith council shared their views with the public at an all-candidates forum on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Aggie Hall.
Aaron Stone has been acclaimed as mayor, with 11 candidates, Alice Clark, Raymond Gourlay, Amanda Jacobson, Doug Johnson, Tricia McKay, Kim Nakahara, Duck Paterson, Rhonda Shirley, Marsh Stevens, Lyle Tassone and Jeff Virtanen aiming for six councillor slots.
Nakahara was not able to attend the forum because of a medical procedure that could not be rescheduled.
Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce executive director Millie Stirling moderated the forum, which began with candidate introductions, followed by each answering two questions chosen by the chamber board of directors.
The candidates shared their views on tax-relief policies and the merits of placing time limits on building permits.
Tassone said he would, if elected, look at changing or amending the tax-relief bylaw.
“I would like to see that tax exemption to be broadened to include all commercial buildings within city limits, not just limited to the downtown core,” he said.
Virtanen said he does not believe setting time limits for building permits is a good idea. He pointed out such a policy could compromise safety and building quality. Virtanen said the town could hire more building inspectors to speed up the process, but this would likely mean a tax increase to cover the cost.
Residents were able to pose questions to specific candidates for the second half of the forum, which brought up the issues of development, homelessness, environmental concerns and the town’s waterfront, to name a few.
When asked if she would support the formation of a First Nations Elders’ Council, Clark spoke about her career as an RCMP officer in Alberta and her experience getting to know people on reserves.
“I am more than willing to work with that and help move that forward, especially with the history, given with the RCMP. I want to mend those bridges. I want a stronger relationship with our First Nations.”
A resident asked Gourlay if he supported high-density development. Gourlay said he supports densification where it makes sense and said he does not favour clearing more land to build suburbs, so densification is necessary because of the demand for options such as townhomes.
When asked why the Machine Shop building on the waterfront was not being finished, Paterson said the funds just aren’t there.
“We don’t have the money. That’s the unfortunate part. We have applied for grants and the latest one we applied for we got turned down,” Paterson said. He added town staff will work on more applications.
A submitted question asked McKay if she supported more cycling infrastructure, such as bike stands at Transfer Beach so they can be properly secured.
McKay said the town has been successful at introducing electric bikes, which help riders overcome the town’s hills. She called the installation of bike stations a win and a good opportunity for people to move away from vehicles.
When asked what she would do to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Ladysmith, Jacobson pointed to the permanent zoning for a 10-bed, 24-hour shelter in the Rialto building, operated by B.C. Housing. She added it is an encompassing issue and one that is difficult to come up with a list of things a single person can do to help.
Shirley was asked if she would push for a master plan with regards to Ladysmith’s waterfront area.
She said she wants to preserve the natural aspect of the waterfront. She added she is a proponent of keeping the rail line open, along with a wharf with a pub or restaurant and local artisans selling their wares.
Stevens rebutted that “the bulk of the master plan is the waterfront plan.” He said 52 per cent of the waterfront area planned will be public park and said the idea that council will make it so park space cannot be expanded is “Facebook nonsense.” Stevens said the area would be developed over decades and fully in the public realm.
Johnson was asked what his policy was for protecting green spaces.
“I think we can all agree that green spaces are vital and critical to any town,” he said. “We have beautiful water courses that need to be protected.” He added he would like to see the rail corridor used as a bike trail to promote green travel and would also like to see the waterfront protected.
The municipal election is set for Oct. 15.
For more information, visit www.ladysmith.ca