Debate dominated by Hooterville eviction notices at QC meeting

  • Nov. 7, 2008 8:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Candidates’ positions on the evictions in Hooterville dominated debate at the Queen Charlotte all-candidates meeting Thursday evening at the community hall. Eight people are running for four positions in the second-ever QC council race and each candidate got a chance to introduce him or herself and answer questions in front of approximately 100 people on Nov. 6. The water system, air quality, road maintenance, along with economic development and strategies for more community input were also discussed. Here is a break down of what was said:Leslie Johnson Ms Johnson has spent 29 years on the islands and was the chair of the 2004 incorporation study. She now wants to become more actively involved. “I believe in municipal government,” she said. She values how much people care about each other in the community and look out for each other, “while respecting each others privacy.” She wants to address issues in an inclusive and transparent way and hopes to have more forums on important topics so the community is educated before decisions are made on things like the water system and name changes on roads. The recycling system is in a “literal mess,” she said and she wants to do something about that, but also advocates islanders try to do more with less. On Hooterville/ Bearskin Bay she says drawing lines between different forms of tenure is a slippery slope, especially in the foreshore midden area of Queen Charlotte. “Two doors down on fee simple land, property owners can dig up it up and build their house. It’s hypocritical,” she said.Greg MartinMr. Martin said he was proud to be part of a team that’s brought in $1-million to the community for things like Spirit Square and the water intake. He’s also personally pursued grants of $5,000 for the RCMP’s Bike Smart program, $15,000 to evaluate the community’s accessibility for people with disabilities and $15,000 to help lower energy emissions. He’s helped achieve a 54-percent reduction in energy emissions in municipal buildings and will continue in the energy portfolio. He would also like to develop a winter tourism season and he’s pushing hard for recycling reforms through ISWAC. He’s also focused on paving a smooth transition for roads and cemetery takeovers. Mr. Martin’s stand on Hooterville is to respect the request of the CHN to return the area to its natural state. He said residents will be given first choice on crown land to be released or low cost housing. “I’m confident we can find home sites for these people,” he said.Kris OlsenMr. Olsen said he’s really appreciated his time on council, even if there have been disagreements on issues. He’s focused on working with Skidegate, building community among all islanders and initiatives toward youth and recreation. He’s also committed to the Official Community Plan process and advocates for a slow, considered approach to growth. He says the Hooterville issue is a direct result of incorporation (due to some non-payment of taxes) and that each individual living in the area should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. He says the issue illustrates the fact that there is not enough residential land in Queen Charlotte, which is something the Advisory Planning Council will soon be addressing with the long-awaited Official Community Plan.Gladys NoddinMs Noddin, said “the only way to make good decisions is to make informed decisions” and she spent time during her tenure on council “to learn the history of the services the community takes for granted.” She believes in volunteering and has helped with youth groups, the QC Women’s Auxilliary and the Swim Club. She’s concerned about drainage and culverts and ensuring the contractor takes care of these things before road maintenance is transferred to the Village. She’s also committed to ensuring a clean reliable village water system is completed. She’s committed to spending the same 27 hours a week to council work as she has been putting in the last three years. Ms Noddin said the existing council has been lobbying the provincial government to come up with a good solution for the Hooterville area. She said people are being treated on a case-by-case basis and she expects everyone to be treated fairly and with respect. That said, “the status quo is not acceptable.” The issue has been going on for 20 years, she said.Eric RossMr. Ross explained his history on the islands. He was raised on his family’s homestead up coast and moved to Charlotte in the early 1940s. He logged airplane spruce during the war and later was involved with the Credit Union movement and the Community Club for years. Since his stroke in 2006, one of his priorities has been wheelchair accessibility. He also feels that better parking in the City Centre area is essential and that a walkway between the causeway and the community hall would be beneficial. Mr. Ross said land will have to be found for the residents of Hooterville/Bearskin Bay. He said the provincial lands department has never looked after the area properly and “it’s not the Village of Queen Charlotte’s problem to straighten out.” Wendy Malesku Ms Malesku moved to the islands when she was 14 years old and has lived in Queen Charlotte, Sandspit and Port Clements. She was initially against incorporation, but now sees the benefits and wants to work with the group. She’s been elected to the United Native Nations and has worked in economic development. Ms Malesku has a vision for the islands, which includes community gardens and she wants to establish a strong working relationship with other communities, focus on youth programs, public safety, drug problems and is keen on a pool as well, if the expense is manageable. She said more research would help council avoid making bad decisions, such as the location of the water intake. Ms Malesku’s position on Hooterville is that there’s “room for all” in our community. She couldn’t believe people would be given eviction notices as winter approaches and she would like council to “ask that the eviction notices be rescinded.”Chris Collinson Mr. Collinson is from the Kunnlaanaas clan of Rose Spit and was born and raised in Old Massett. He’s lived in Calgary, Victoria and Queen Charlotte, where he owns a business with his partner Bonnie Olsen (Queen B’s). He has post-secondary education in criminology, sociology and a bit of law school. He’s never been on a council, but he is the president of the Haida Gwaii Museum.”I have no idea what I’m getting myself into and yet, that excites me,” he told the audience. “I want our community to be clean, healthy, and (I want) communities on all islands to be united in preserving Haida Gwaii forever.” He’s concerned about economic development in these tough times and wants to ensure drinking water and other infrastructure is safe and looked after. He’s also interested in planning for more tourism on the islands. As for Hooterville, he said everyone on the islands is on Haida territory and he understands the issues around being moved from one’s territory. “These are people’s homes,” he said and suggested many who own fee simple property in QC started out down there. “I say just leave them.”Jeff GarrettMr. Garrett said he’s been interested in politics all his life, but this is the first time he’s put his name forward. He’s owned four businesses and been on the college board of physiotherapists. In that capacity, he has liaised with WCB. He believes in tax stability and wants property taxes linked to inflation and capped at three percent. He’s also concerned about the water system, sewage treatment and recycling and wants to ensure the islands get “bang for their buck” from the economic development group, MIEDS. He thinks a recreational complex, including a pool is a priority and that QC should work with Skidegate to fund it. Mr. Garrett said he’d like to see referendums used more judiciously and well thought out council decisions made. On Hooterville, Mr. Garrett said he would write a letter of support regarding the residents of the disputed area “as long as they are paying taxes.” He wanted to know where they will go if evicted with low cost housing difficult to come by in the town. He said he believes in supporting vulnerable people in society and wonders at the desire to “clean up” the area. “You can go any place in town and pick out eyesores. It’s not fair to pick on one area of Charlotte.” The meeting ended with a question and answer period, which also saw several issues discussed. The election is Saturday November 15.