An all-candidate forum for Cariboo Regional District Electoral Area B (Quesnel West-Bouchie Lake) took place last night (Oct. 1) at Bouchie Lake Hall, with local candidates Barb Bachmeier, Elizebeth Montgomery and Robert Shkuratoff in attendance to speak to the roughly 75 Area B residents about their suitability for the director role and answer the public’s questions.
Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson moderated the event, and each candidate was introduced briefly, and then given a chance to outline their experience and campaign platforms, before the event was opened up to questions from the floor.
A hot topic was residents’ access to use Bouchie Lake Hall for various events. Candidates were asked about the fee structure for use of the hall, how a volunteer group hoping to use the hall should be defined and how the elected CRD director would support local volunteers and encourage use of the hall.
Bachmeier said she’s aware there is a $200 damage deposit required by groups who wish to use the hall. “That’s too much for individuals with a small class or event.”
All three candidates agreed the fee structure for use of the hall needed to be looked at.
“Maybe there should be a tiered structure for locals,” commented Shkuratoff, after the person asking the question suggested that local groups should be able to rent the hall for a lower fee than outside groups.
Montgomery commented that any group hoping to use the hall – whether they are organized under the Societies Act or not – should have equal access. “A club is a club whether you have society papers or not,” she said.
Candidates were also asked Cariboo Regional District and emergency management teams’ handling of the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons, road maintenance, the upcoming proposed airport tax referendum and economic development in Area B.
All three candidates commented that they hoped that within 10 years, the area would be able to attract a younger demographic.
Shkuratoff said he’d like to see industry and recreation opportunities emerge in Area B. “We need to attract an industry to the area that has paying jobs, and continue to work on recreation opportunities,” he said.
Bachmeier suggested perhaps the construction of condo housing could encourage the aging demographic to downsize while remaining in the area. “[This could] give younger people a chance to move in to the homes that are freed up,” she explained.
Montgomery commented that if the area can get high speed internet – a big campaign point for all three candidates – more locals could work from home. “Being out in the rural area can be attractive as city living becomes more unaffordable.”
The candidates were also asked to envision a project they’d like to advance for Area B if there were no barriers.
Bachmeier talked about a second, northerly crossing of the Fraser River, to allow timber to be transported more easily and to ensure residents have a crossing in case the Blackwater Road slide at Knickerbocker Hill continues to degenerate.
Montgomery would like to see electric vehicle charging stations to encourage green tourism. “Electric cars can come into the area and explore… you could have a restaurant or gift store in each community to charge up your car.”
And Shkuratoff commented that he’d like to see Bouchie Lake get its own sewer system and water treatment plan, as well as for the whole of Area B to have high speed internet.
After the question period, the candidates were invited to make closing remarks and then circulated with the crowd to speak to Area B constituents one on one.