A view of Queen Charlotte harbour (Archie Stocker Sr./Haida Gwaii Observer file photo)

Queen Charlotte set for first election contest since 2011

Candidates Alan Moore and Devin Rachar to join a friendly debate Thursday night at Junebug Café

Queen Charlotte is about to hold its first real election in ages, and both candidates are under 30.

Alan Moore and Devin Rachar are campaigning for the councillor seat left vacant after Ellen Cranston stepped down earlier this year. The five-person council hasn’t had a contested seat since 2011.

Whoever wins the by-election on Nov. 18 will serve a short term before the next round of local elections next October — a welcome start for the two first-time candidates.

“I just wanted to get involved, essentially,” says Devin Rachar, when asked why he put his name forward.

Born and raised in Burnaby, Rachar is 29 and moved to Queen Charlotte three years ago. After several years as a consulting archeologist, he now helps manage sustainable forestry, eco-tourism and other certifications programs for HaiCo.

A renter, Rachar said he would definitely like to see Queen Charlotte council look into ways it can improve the local rental market.

“It’s kind of dire,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to find a place. A lot of people are moving to Airbnb-style rentals — a lot more focus on rental income from the tourist market, as opposed to long-term renters.”

Asked about what is likely the biggest issue faced by council — bringing sewage treatment to Queen Charlotte — Rachar said it’s a big-money issue that needs to be resolved.

“We’re currently pumping raw sewage into the inlet,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s happy with that system.”

Rachar said he needs to learn more about council’s proposed site on a large hill property in Skidegate Landing, but he thinks they took the right approach by putting the choice to a referendum in February.

Likewise, Rachar thought council made a good move by making sure no marijuana shops cropped up before the village had a chance to discuss zoning for them.

On the other hand, Rachar criticized the way councillors handled this year’s business facade grant, noting that some people got left out because the application process was unclear.

After seeing a number of near-empty council meetings, Rachar said while the village does have a solid social-media presence, it could still do more to engage the public.

“There are some real-life decisions being made that affect a lot of people, and not a lot of people seem to care, to be blunt.”

Alan Moore agrees public engagement is an issue, adding that the village seems particularly out of touch with older youth.

Now 26, Moore was born and raised in Queen Charlotte, and works as a policy clerk for the Council of the Haida Nation.

Growing up, Moore said he and many others his age looked up to Kris Olsen — the long-time youth centre coordinator who also served two terms on council.

“He was known to be a youth advocate, and a more maverick voice in the village council,” Moore said.

“I felt like that was the kind of voice that was missing.”

Moore said that gap was especially clear when council proposed its public-places bylaw last year.

Made in response to a party at Hadyn Turner Park that left two youth at serious risk from alcohol and substance abuse, council eventually abandoned it because many residents found it overreaching.

Moore said the whole episode generated a lot of unnecessary fear.

On housing, Moore agreed that council needs to address the squeeze created by the rise in Airbnb-style rentals, adding that Haida Gwaii’s growing tourism economy has to work for people who live here.

Likewise, on sewage treatment, Moore said it’s long overdue — not least because Haida Gwaii has generally taken such a strong stand on other environmental issues.

Speaking about marijuana shops, Moore said the Council of the Haida Nation should lead their regulation islands-wide.

“I really do see an important role for island municipalities in advancing Haida sovereignty,” he said.

Asked why he decided to run, Moore said he was raised to be be community-minded — that’s just how Haida Gwaii is.

But while he believes local government can be the most responsive, Moore said only ran because friends and family suggested it.

“My true, core political beliefs are fairly conflicted toward electoral democracy as a structure,” he said. “I really don’t like a system that revolves around elections, and that revolves around candidates who are largely self-selecting.”

“Thinking it through, I felt that not being personally attracted to the position so much as feeling almost obligated by a sense of civic duty — that made it appealing me.”

Just before the vote, Moore and Rachar will meet at 6 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 16 at the Junebug Café in Queen Charlotte for a half-hour debate hosted by the Haida Gwaii Radio Society.

Voting for the Queen Charlotte by-election runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18 in the Eric Ross Room at the Queen Charlotte Community Hall. Anyone not yet registered to vote will need two pieces of ID, one with a signature, that prove residency and identity.

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