Quesnel & District Chamber of Commerce hosted an all-candidates forum for Quesnel city councillors tonight (Oct. 11) at the North Cariboo Community Campus, with 10 of a total 11 candidates showing up to speak to the crowd of around 80 citizens, and take pre-approved questions from emcee Ruby Derksen, a local businesswoman and member of the Toastmasters Club.
Kyle Townsend, Ron Paull, Scott Elliott, Fritz Wyssen, Susan MacNeill, Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, Tony Goulet, Tammy Burrows, Martin Runge and Mitch Vik faced the crowd, with just Lindsay Woods not in attendance.
Each candidate was given three minutes for opening statements, in which they introduced themselves to the crowd, outlined past accomplishments and listed a variety of projects they hope to move forward on if elected.
Thirty questions were asked of candidates, with two or three candidates answering each question, and each candidate given one minute for their answer. Questions ranged in subject matter from the arts to air quality to the public works referendum, and were submitted by Chamber of Commerce members, as well as the general public and the candidates.
More general questions also gave candidates a chance to broaden their answers to outline issues that are important to them.
Each candidate had the opportunity to answer around eight questions, with emcee Derksen rotating through the speakers and randomly selecting the questions. Housing was a theme that emerged, as were things like crime reduction, and city council communication strategies to more actively and effectively engage the public.
Candidates Runge and Elliott answered the question: What are the most important challenges facing this community? Both mentioned housing as a top challenge, with Runge commenting that housing opens up to many different community issues, including crime. He cited seniors and affordable housing challenges, as well as the need for policies to allow rental suites. Elliott commented that housing is part of feeling secure in the community, and he also mentioned community safety as a top challenge, with the need to create tools get get repeat offenders off the streets.
When speaking to the possible uses for the land in North Quesnel where the old junior school sits, Burrows suggested the space could be converted to a park to encourage family fun time and community connections. Paull said the site could be used for housing, including for seniors and for those potentially displaced by the proposed Interconnector project, as well as for a combination of rental and market housing to meet local need.
Some candidates were given the opportunity to describe their number one issue in the election. Townsend mentioned crime prevention and reduction, something he touched on during a few of his responses throughout the evening. “This should be a safe place to live,” he asserted. MacNeill cited housing as her number one issue, with the need for medium income rentals and allowing seniors to have the capacity to “age in place.”
When asked about what would be their first special project if elected to council, Goulet said there needs to be a serious discussion around creating a harm reduction strategy. “It’s a reality, and it’s in our face,” he said. Incumbent councillor Roodenburg suggested she would like to advocate for a food security policy, to enable the public to have consistent access to enough food to have a healthy lifestyle. She also commented that such a strategy could incorporate locally grown products.
When asked to outline a problem they’d solved, candidate Vik brought up his work with the Lions Club in fundraising for Silver Manor, the affordable seniors complex which is poised to open its doors in North Quesnel. Wyssen commented that he has worked to create a virtual community block watch program in West Quesnel, after the community program was cancelled. He said the program uses social media “with it’s best intentions” to help neighbours feel secure.
Following the 30 questions, Derksen invited the candidates to offer one-minute closing remarks. All candidates thanked the public for attending, and some outlined issues they felt hadn’t been touched on, while others again highlighted some of the reasons they felt they would be suited to a seat on council.