The Kimberley Chamber of Commerce held an All Candidates Forum at McKim School on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. The forum gave residents the chance to meet, ask questions of and hear from the 15 candidates vying for a seat on Kimberley City Council.
Monday’s forum started with an informal meet and greet in the lobby of the school. Residents and candidates shook hands and spoke one on one about the issues and hopes for the new council.
Following the meet and greet was a forum in McKim’s theatre, a full house. Many questions were asked of the candidates including the fate of the Marysville bench lands, their opinion on the sale of the Kimberley Sun Mine, affordable housing, what their first priority would be on Council, where they see Kimberley in the next five to ten years, and many more. Candidates’ answers were timed and cut off after 90 seconds.
The first question, on developing the bench lands, was posed to each candidate with no chance for rebuttal.
Most candidates agreed that the bench lands are suitable for light industry, specifically a business with little light, sound and noise pollution. Some touched on the lack of industry in Kimberley aside from tourism, and the growing need for sustainable jobs in the community.
Wendy Qureshi was one of the only candidates to say that nothing should be done with the bench.
“It’s not fair to the people in Marysville,” she said. “We need to free up other land for industry.”
Incumbent Kent Goodwin says that if a company does want to purchase the land, they will have a “high bar to jump over” in terms of ensuring they are the right fit.
“The other brown fields (across the street) are a preferred place for industry,” he said.
The second question referred to the fact that resort municipality funding is highly dependent on the guest experience. Candidates were asked what they would do with vacant lots and substandard properties.
Many agreed that it might be worth taking another look at the bylaws defining what a substandard property is.
Incumbent Sandra Roberts says that the City and Council need to encourage landowners to sell or develop their land.
“There is never a better time than now,” she said.
Another question posed was on tourism funding, and whether the City should commit to maintaining funding for Tourism Kimberley or look at expanding it.
It was clear, across the board, that tourism funding is important and that adjusting the commitment on a yearly basis is the most logical approach.
Incumbent Nigel Kitto, who rebutted the question, said that since tourism is Kimberley’s number one industry, it’s important to keep the funds going in order to support Tourism Kimberley.
Michelle Nex agreed, saying that RCR has reduced their ski contribution.
“It’s vital to keep it as-is,” she said. “Tourism performance is strong and we need to continue with that and revisit it every year as needed.”
The next question was whether candidates support the reduction of flat tax in Kimberley or not, and why.
Steven Royer says he agrees with reducing the flat tax, but only if there is enough of a diversified tax base coming in. He adds that the flat tax has “saved Kimberley from going bankrupt”.
Another question posed was how the City can improve on communicating the details, rationale and cost of various projects.
Craig Janzen says that there is a “gap in communication” and with specific projects, residents should be informed personally whether it’s through a phone call, a knock at the door or in the mail.
Qureshi says that all Council and Committee of the Whole meetings should be recorded and posted onto the City’s website archives for more transparency.
The next question was what can be done about affordable housing.
Many candidates say that ‘affordable’ is subjective and that the footprint of a home is what can make it more achievable.
Kyle Dalum says that for a fraction of affordable housing, residents with the original V1A postal code should have the first right of refusal to buy those properties.
Kevin Dunnebacke says that there are currently a few developments in the works, such as the one on Rotary Drive, and that many empty nesters are looking to downsize, making room for people to purchase a home and step out of the rental market.
“I think affordable housing is on the way to taking care of itself,” he said.
Nex says that the residential tenancy act holds back homeowners from renting out their basement.
“We need to work with the provincial government to change that act,” she said.
Candidates were then asked that they would do to support current business owners and increase attractiveness for entrepreneurs.
All agreed that supporting local business and talking directly with business owners to find out what their challenges are is the best approach.
Jason McBain says that Council needs to remove barriers to those opening a business.
“It’s a multi-layered problem,” he said. “Because we also have to consider housing and child care. We need feedback from the business community and not just about tourism. We all live here, we’re all locals and it’s important for businesses to know what their local customers want.”
Another question posed revolved around the economic, social and cultural standards for the aq’am community.
Lockhart, who is a child and youth councillor for Ktunaxa Child and Family Services, says that despite the Memorandum of Understanding that was put in place in 2015, a lot more action can be taken.
“We could do a lot more to acknowledge the territory; the lands on which our city is built,” he said. “We can start with the basics, which wouldn’t cost anything, to mention it on the City’s website. Then we can look at adding it to Kimberley’s signage and branding.”
Candidates were then asked about the sale of the Kimberley SunMine, which will be a referendum question at the upcoming election on Saturday.
Mac Campbell says he supports the sale very clearly.
“The previous administration wasn’t able to come up with the funds for the second megawatt. I am keen on the concept and the potential with solar power is tremendous. I think it’s best for the City to close the sale as soon as possible,” he said.
Others agreed, with Darryl Oakley stating Teck has enough money to grow the Sun Mine far past the point that Kimberley could.
“The sale will benefit taxpayers and the SunMine will still be here, it will always be a part of Kimberley,” he said.
Janzen and McBain both say they were initially skeptical of the sale, stating that it is always worthwhile to “hang onto assets”, however after attending the recent public information session on the sale of the Sun Mine, both of them changed their minds.
Other questions asked revolved around mitigating fire risks, parking and the decision making process for large issues.
Both Goodwin and Oakley said that since the provincial government has cut funds for fuel mitigation, it is important that the City lobby the government to have that changed.
Most agreed that education and communication are large factors in ensuring the safety of the community not only when it comes to forest fire mitigation, but almost every other topic as well.
The forum ended with each candidate’s closing statements. All thanked the residents who came to be a part of the evening and urged everyone to get out and vote on Saturday.