Rec centre important election issue in Masset, as all candidates meeting held

  • Nov. 5, 2008 12:00 p.m.

Replacing the rec centre was one of the biggest issues discussed at the Masset all candidates meeting Monday evening. Attended by about forty-five people, the meeting was low key, but did succeed in covering all the issues important to residents. The candidates spoke as follows:School Board 50-Northern Graham IslandSharon MatthewsMs Matthews told those attending she is the mother of two grown sons and three grandchildren, all girls, and that many of her nieces and nephews have attended all three schools in Old Massett and Masset. Ms Matthews said she works collaboratively with all groups, seeks the best in people, and wants to contribute to the success of our children.”I listen and I speak out in a respectful manner,” she said. As a trustee, “it is my responsibility to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders. When we work in a collaborative manner, we are working for the betterment of our children,” she said. She cited declining enrolment, transportation and low graduation rates as the three main challenges now faced by the school district.Valen AsherThe candidate was absent from the meeting.Melanie WoodeMs Woode said she’s been a resident of Masset all her life, and is raising two sons. She works at the Coop and has been active on the PAC. “My goal is to communicate with and educate other parents about our school system. I will work very hard to ensure all students will receive a high level of education.” She also said it is a misconception that you have to move off island to get a good education for your children.Jana McLeodMs McLeod is the mother of eight and said originally she planned to wait to run for the school board until her children were old enough to vote, but then decided they might not all vote for her, so is running now. She mentioned numerous people who have been important in her life, including Ernie Collison, Ken and Barb Edgars and many others, and also praised the Ministry of Children and Families and Haida Children and Families, where she works. “My interest comes (from) my commitment as a parent and a student. I will do the best I can do,” she said.Regional District Area DKaren ChurchMs Church told the audience that she is learning the Haida language and hopes to be able to communicate using it in the future. She has worked in the forest for many years, including as Culturally Modified Tree program coordinator for the Haida Tribal Society. “More people should experience the forest,” she said. Her political activity includes the Tow Hill Road Committee and she is an alternate on the Gwaii Forest Society. “I think we need to move our institutions away from paternalistic structures,” she said.Michael MullerMr. Muller is a 12-year resident of the islands and has been active in community work, including being on GIAPC since 1998. “I am well versed in local government,” he said, “I am quite involved in islands issues. I intend to go to three to five meetings a week.” He said he supports more economic development on the islands, and believes we should move towards a more self-sufficient model, especially in terms of food, energy, clothes and housing. Mr. Muller said he was a strong supporter of the environment, adding “all wealth is from the earth”, saying “a healthy environment gives us a healthy economy and future.”Ian HetmanMr. Hetman is the incumbent director, in his third term, and says he has kept all three of the promises he made during the last campaign. Having SMFRA moved to the islands, signing the Protocol Agreement with the CHN and starting an official community plan, now underway, Mr. hetman counted as his achievements. He’s on the BC Ferries northern advisory committee, and has been very vocal on the recent schedule change. He also has been vocal on asking for a rate reduction for islanders in January, which the province is now considering. “I am retired and I have the time and the energy. I believe I have showed I am reliable,” Mr. Hetman said.Brad SetsoMr. Setso said he is a lifelong resident of Old Massett and has served on the Gwaii Trust, Old Massett Village Council, Gwaii Tel and GMDC. “I am not afraid to ask the tough questions,” he said, although he knows doing so means sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth. He said a good portion of Area D includes Old Massett and Skidegate and he feels residents of those communities need a voice on the board. Mr. Setso recently finished a business administration diploma in Prince Rupert.Masset Village CouncilJason MajoreMr. Majore is the administrator for the Old Massett band, and although he grew up off-island, his family always came home for the holidays. “It is home for me,” he said. That means he’s familiar with the islands, and is running in part because he believes it’s important that there’s a recreation centre here. “To improve things in the Village of Massett also improves conditions for Old Massett as well,” he said. He added that he would be a good candidate because of his experience.Ed WoodeMr. Woode has lived in Masset for 39 years and has had a variety of positions including managing the Coop. He has been a councillor, off and on, since 1983, and was involved in the creation of the airport. While he announced last summer that he would not run again, the announcement that the rec centre was closing caused him to reconsider. “I quickly changed my mind,” he said, “the rec centre has been important to my family”. “I’ll do everything in my power to ensure a new rec centre will be open as soon as possible,” he said. He also said he knew he can bridge the gap between the old and new councils. Then, the best line of the evening: “On November 4th, vote for Barack Obama. On November 15, vote for me.”Bret JohnstonMr. Johnston is currently chair of the Coop board, works with Citizens on Patrol and has been active in community events for several years. “We are in exciting times,” he said, we have a new hospital. We have a new tourist centre.” He noted that tourism is important to the community, and suggested that the new centre, now under construction, be operated by private business. He said the loss of the rec centre has been a blow, and that when a new one is built, its board should be elected by the community. He also said he thinks better communication on the part of the village is important.Andrew MerileesMr. Merilees has lived in Masset since 1999, and moved because of the opportunity and the quality of the residents. “I really want to give back to the community,” said the current councillor, elected last year to fill Janet Brown’s position. “I have gained a lot of experience this past year,” he said, noting the work he had done on the new union contract with village employees. Mr. Merilees is president of the Haida Gwaii Tourism Association and is on the regional tourism board as well. His priorities, if elected, include building a new rec centre, and re-establishing strong community advisory committees, on the nature centre and airport, for example. “I am confident talks (with the province) bode well for a new rec centre,” he said. He also said other issues of importance include sustainable alternative energy, access to services available in the rest of the province, support for business owners and helping with economic growth.Steve AlexanderMr. Alexander is retired from the military and has been on island for four years. Recently, he was the Commanding Officer of an air cadet unit in Richmond and is interested in youth issues. “I didn’t think about running until the last GMDC meeting,” he said, adding it “stirred my heart up for the kids.” “I will ensure we will have more activities for the kids of this town,” he said, “to try to make them into responsible citizens.”Steven GrosseMr. Grosse has lived in Masset all his live, and has served with the fire department for ten years. His interest in politics stems from his late father, Nick, previously an alderman, then mayor of Masset. He is frustrated over broken bylaws, he told the audience. “If I am elected, one of my jobs will be to see what can be done about (them)” he said. He also said Masset’s future is in tourism. “I believe we need to make our town more inviting,” he said. He pledged to attend all council and committee meetings, and said “my father always told us it is our duty to give back to this great community.”Ian Edwards Jr.Mr. Edwards was born in Masset and lived in town all his life. He is raising three boys in the community, and has fished, and worked with heavy equipment and been a member of the fire department for eight years. “If elected I have lots of time to commit,” he said. He added he looks forward to working with Old Massett to raise funds for the new rec centre, as well as for the airport, to allow it to grow. “I look forward to being your representative on council,” he said.It was then time for questions from the audience, which included concerns about road maintenance, bylaw enforcement, operating funds for the new rec centre, the lack of a teen centre, the proposed community forest, communication with constituents, graduation rates at the high school, the teachers’ contract and more. The meeting ended with time for constituents to spend a few minutes with the candidates if they so chose.