Many candidates running for the first council of the newly incorporated village of Queen Charlotte campaigned on a platform of restraint at Thursday’s debate.
“If I am elected I’ll be as restrictive as possible in spending in the first year. I’ll hold back the reins as much as possible,” said Kris Olsen, who grew up here and wants to work to provide opportunities for youth.
Gladys Noddin said she’s semi-retired and repeated restraint in her introduction. “Things must go slowly at first. We have an enormous learning curve,” she said.
Ms Noddin also promised to cultivate dialogue with the people if she is elected.
Others reminded the electorate of their experience in the Queen Charlotte Management Committee and former advisory bodies of the community.
Eric Ross and Ann Mountifield are present members of the management committee and have served the community in various ways over the years. Greg Martin said he had been active in local government for 11 years and was part of the team that developed the Official Community Plan.
The night’s hottest topic? The sensitive issue of zoning.
Sheila Wigmore, who told the audience she grew up in Ottawa surrounded by politicians, referred to the chicken issue and said she would advocate respect and understanding of others.
“We don’t want to live in a structured environment, that’s what makes Queen Charlotte what it is,” she said.
Ms Mountifield said she would proceed thoughtfully and carefully with lots of public consultation.
Mr. Olsen said he would encourage businesses to exist where they are, not in specific commercial areas.
“Don’t shut people down,” he said.
Mr. Martin remembered past discussions during the OCP, when many wanted to have industrial zoning, but they didn’t want their neighbours to have it. He said, “before you make something illegal, give them a place to do it right.”
Mr. Ross had a more restrictive position. “We need rule or control when someone wants to build a building,” he said. He also expressed concern over people who build $3-million homes and face having a blacksmith shop next to them.
Lance Barker told the audience he had been against the move toward incorporation, but he’s put that behind him.
“We need a balanced council,” he said about why he’s running. A newcomer to politics in Queen Charlotte, but with experience in the Yukon, his platform includes reliable transportation, better water (not water metres), youth opportunities and recreation. As a small business owner, he said he was pleased to hear most of the candidates’ positions on zoning.
Most candidates were taken by surprise when an audience member asked whether a $700,000 excess over cost in the water and sewer budget meant 340 taxpayers were paying too much.
Only Mr. Ross spoke clearly on the issue, with a loud, “No!”
What would you do to further a sustainable island economy, was a question from the floor.
Mr. Martin said he would encourage small business and a small holding section in the industrial park. He, like others, was concerned about the high cost of power on the islands. He supports the wind farm, if it is environmentally safe and can connect to island power grids.
“We need better power, before we can get better industry,” agreed Ms Noddin. She said the container port in Rupert may prove beneficial for islanders to ship small business products.
Mr. Olsen thinks capitalizing on chantrelle mushrooms and small fishing operators is the way to go. With high speed internet, he thinks the islands could be a great place for consultants and other mobile people to live.
Ms Wigmore would like to see a year-round sustainable supply of local agricultural products and more infrastructure for tourists. Why not a wood pellet plant, she asked.
Mr. Ross noted that this type of industry takes a lot of power too.
Recycling, which Mr. Martin described as a motherhood issue, was also discussed. Would the candidates support curbside recycling, asked one audience member.
Mr. Barker said he would have to look at the costs and Mr. Olsen suggested charging a user fee. Ms Noddin said a campaign to boost enthusiasm for what the town already has could be in order.
Ms Wigmore was enthusiastic about setting up a community composting facility and Mr. Ross described his efforts to have old cars and other scrap removed from the islands.
“It costs too much,” he said, but he’s still looking for solutions.
Another audience member asked for candidates’ thoughts on recreation and promoting less use of cars in the downtown area and more bike riding, rollerblading and walking.
Mr. Ross, a strong advocate for more parking in commercial areas, said there are safety factors to consider. He supports the skateboard park. No one else made any comments on the direct question, but Ms Wigmore said she also supports the skateboard park and would work on more seniors’ recreation. Mr. Olsen thinks recreational opportunities help provide a positive self-image. He’d like to see more.
“Growing up, it was there, but not to the degree we would have liked,” he said.
As for the protocol agreement with the Haida, all candidates said they would bring the document to the people for consultation, before signing.
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