By Christopher Sun
It was the one chance for the community to meet and pose questions to all 10 people vying for a council seat before heading to the polls on Nov. 19.
Over 120 people attended the Nov. 8 all-candidates meeting at the Eagles Hall, hosted by the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce. The first question from the audience asked the five candidates, who did not sit on the previous council, how many council meetings they have attended in the last year.
“I have not attended a council meeting in Ladysmith,” said mayoral candidate Regan Grill. “But I have attended council meetings in other communities, so I am familiar with how it all works.”
“I haven’t attended one, but I hope to be attending lots,” said former councillor Glenda Patterson.
Gord Horth also said he hadn’t attended any in the last year, and David Brown said he had been to two. Of the newbies, only Bill Drysdale had gone to more.
“I have attended less than 50 per cent of the council meetings,” said Drysdale. “But bear in mind that the search and rescue meetings fall on one of the council meeting dates.”
Drysdale is president of Ladysmith Search and Rescue.
The subject of providing 24-hour policing and the installation of surveillance cameras was raised by the chamber of commerce and directed to all 10 candidates. Incumbent mayor Rob Hutchins said he does not support 24-hour policing.
“In the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m., that’s what we are speaking about, in the last 10 months we’ve had three incidents a month, one every 10 days, that required police assistance and they were responded to by on-call police officers,” Hutchins explained. “If this 24-hour coverage was needed I am confident our staff Sgt. Roger (Plamondon) or Charlie Schaal who came before him, would have petitioned for the expansion of services, but they have not.”
Two extra officers at a cost of $140,000 each would be needed to provide full coverage for those three hours, Hutchins added. He also does not support the use of surveillance cameras.
Incumbent councillor Don “Duck” Paterson said he would like to see the RCMP juggle its coverage, something both Dashwood and Horth also suggested.
“Maybe there is a possibility of rotating shifts, put on alternating shifts so those little pukes out there don’t know when the police are going to be on the street,” Paterson said, adding that he is open to installing surveillance cameras.
Incumbent councillor Steve Arnett said he would support hiring the extra officers if the community wants it and is willing to pay more for it. Cost concerns were also shared by Drysdale and David Brown. Bruce Whittington said he would like to see more citizens on patrol and would encourage private businesses to hire their own security. Grill said she would look at ways to afford round-the-clock policing and would put the issue of video surveillance to a referendum, even though she is against putting up such cameras. Dashwood and Horth are also against installing cameras.
Glenda Patterson wondered if an arrangement with the highway patrol to provide policing would work here, citing Chemainus as an example.
The candidates also discussed their perspective on tax rates, transit and the Ladysmith Trolley during the session.
Another question directed to all candidates was where each stood regarding the Couverdon proposal to expand Ladysmith’s boundaries.
“The proposal came to us three years ago and to be frank with you, my first reaction to it was ‘wow, this is 750 acres,” Hutchins said. “We have always had an urban containment boundary on the extent of the transmission line. This was flying in the face of the vision of our community.”
Hutchins added that the majority of the town’s watershed is owned by Couverdon and protecting that water source is his biggest concern.
Utilizing the town’s desire to gain ownership and protect the watershed as a bargaining chip to allow managed development of the land was something the majority of candidates shared.
“I think this is an excellent opportunity for us to gain ownership of the watershed,” Drysdale said, adding that he is skeptical development will proceed there anytime soon. “I don’t see huge development happening there in the next 10 years with the current economy.”
“I’m not opposed to it,” Whittington said of the proposal. “My single biggest concern is habitat will be lost. The trade off would be to secure the water supply.”
“It needs to be managed growth,” Arnett said. “I’m not against folks coming in to invest in the community.”
Grill said she wasn’t familiar with the issue and if elected, she would do the research to make an informed decision.
Most questions were addressed to individual candidates or some of them.
Alana Newton wanted to know why people should vote Grill in for mayor, as she lives in Nanaimo and does not pay Ladysmith taxes. Grill said she chose to live in Cassidy because she owns a five-acre, organic farm. However, she considers Ladysmith her hometown.
“I think everyone has the right to belong to a community and I don’t feel I belong to Nanaimo,” Grill said. “I can serve this community in many different ways. I am a strong willed person, I work well as a team member, I network well, I build strong relationships, I make sound decisions, I have good judgement… I’m awesome.”