Those applying for the job of Quesnel City Councillor were front and center at an all-candidates forum at the North Cariboo Community Campus last night.
The host Chamber of Commerce, the public and the candidates themselves asked a wide range of questions.
While crime, the opioid crisis, public safety and security were the dominant themes, there were other topics discussed such as the public works facility and the airport referendums, the arts, and the proposed bypass to name a few.
Around a hundred people attended the forum and 10 of the 11 candidates were in attendance.
Below are some of the questions and the answers.
What are the most important challenges facing this community ?
“I ultimately think the most important challenge is housing. I am going to steal the onion analogy because it opens up to many different things, whether it’s seniors, affordable housing, people that own homes and want rental suites, all those things i are going to be coming up with this Council.
“I think safety and security are paramount for everybody. Security in the respect that everybody deserves to have a home. And I think Quesnel has done a great job in the last year or two in creating some more housing. And security, everybody is sick to death about people’s houses getting broken into and not being secure in your neighourhood. I really feel the RCMP is doing the best job that they can but we need to create the tools to get the perpetrators put in jail if that’s what’s needed, so we need another judge, we need another prosecutor.”
What would you bring forward as your first Council special project ?
‘I think a harm reduction strategy needs to be looked at. There needs to be some serious discussion around what that can look like and how we can move together on that as a community. It is a reality, it’s in our face out in front of us, so I think as a Council we have to sit down and figure out what kind of a strategy we can develop. It’s going to take some time, but I think a good dialogue with community partners, with different levels to see how we can work together as a community.”
“One of the pieces I am really starting to put some oomph behind is around food security and I would like to advocate for a food security policy that deals with what is becoming a public health problem in our community. A food security policy would enable people to access enough safe and nutritious foods to have a healthy lifestyle. A food security policy would promote healthy living and would create a better opportunity for safe food to be put on the table and potentially grow more locally than not.”
“One of the first things I’d like to work on would be crime reduction and crime prevention. One thing I hear a lot of in the community is the problem of theft and drug abuse. I believe that fully staffing the RCMP department would allow us to have a special task force to solve these problems, such as the drug units and crime units.”
How do you think the City of Quesnel could best support affordable housing for residents ?
“So having gone through this process in the last couple of years, I would say absolutely the City did very well in terms of offering DCC (Development Cost Charges) reductions and in fact some tax relief over the years. Where I found we could have had extra help, land costs for us was significant, and i’m glad to hear that land would be on the table for future projects. That was a significant cost for the group I worked with and that would have been money to put towards the project. Also, I would say any affordable housing project that gets off the ground requires provincial support. Much of our funding came from the Provincial Government and I believe a liason from the City to help coordinate that would have helped us get there a little faster.”
What do you see the City’s role is in influencing or championing issues at the provincial or federal level ?
“This is a little personal to me. I’m known around the Council table as the resolutions guru and I think where we can have a real effect on provincial and federal policy is when we advance resolutions through the North Central Local Government Association through to the Union of BC Municipalities and to government. I think I’ve authored about 10 resolutions, some of them were recent ones. The single transferable license plate, changing back to durable highway road marking paint and wildfire crime, which passed unanimously at the last UBCM.”
What is a demonstrated problem you have solved ?
“Our Community Block Watch program was cancelled some years ago. We met with the city and tried to reinvigorate it and at that time nothing was able to be done. I took it upon myself to use social media, with its best intentions, and started a community Block Watch program for the west side, and then with the assistance of friends, guided them for different areas of town. The goal of this was to provide some level of security and sense of accountability for each of the neighbours. It was able to bring many neighbours together and I think it was a great success and a start and something we can build upon.”
What do you think would be the best use of the former Quesnel Junior School lands downtown if they become available for non-school district related development ?
“Well I would have off the top of my head, because I have been thinking a lot about more family functions and getting together and doing a lot of things, so i believe that space would be great for having family fun time and just connecting as a community. People are board and need places to go.”
Over the past four years what could City Council have done better ?
“I do believe communication is the key. I believe if we have better ways and use tools that are known to us that we would have better success with hearing the full story and being able to understand exactly what is going on at City hall. So i think the use of Twitter, Facebook, Face Time, Skype, those other electronic versions would be paramount for the city.”