Thursday, November 6, 2014

Council candidates seek to turn Tuesday's election forum appearance into votes

The Prince Rupert Election Sign Farm at the Courthouse

With as large a group as that assembled on the stage of the Lester Centre on Tuesday evening, each seeking a seat on Prince Rupert City Council for the next four years. The opportunity to see what turned out to be a thumbnail sketch of the nine Council candidates, was about all we could hope for during the course of the hour and a bit discussion.

Much like the Mayoralty Forum which preceded it, the Council edition featured some opening remarks from the candidates, providing a short overview of their position points heading towards the November 15th vote.

The synopsis of those can be found below,  in the order that the candidates appeared at the Forum.

Ray Pedersen

A transplant from the Lower Mainland, Mr. Pedersen outlined some of his past travels and career work in Asia and how he made a conscious choice to relocate to Prince Rupert, to raise his family and grow his businesses.  Stating how the the future of Prince Rupert did not die with the sinking of the Titanic, and how he is looking to contribute to the challenge of making Prince Rupert the next great Port City.

Barry Cunningham

The incumbent (of one year on Council, elected in last years by-election) offered up his overview of what is ahead for the city in the way of population growth and capital investment, advising as to how they will provide challenges for the community.  He offered his observation that Council is a two way street and stressed the need for the help of residents to provide the input to Council, highlighting how he was approachable and welcome to their thoughts. As for the years ahead, he promised to address all revenues available to improve the community.

Nelson Kinney

The long time Prince Rupert Councillor opened up his presentation by explaining how he believes that Prince Rupert faces some serious stuff in the years to come. With his most important issue to bring to the discussion being that of housing. Mr. Kinney commented on the need for Senior's Housing, Assisted housing and housing for the homeless. Suggesting that it is one of the key issues facing the Mayor and Council for the years ahead.

Anna Ashley

Another incumbent, Ms. Ashley outlined her two main goals that of addressing infrastructure issues in the community and to make plans for Industrial Development, looking to see Prince Rupert benefit and thrive from that industry. She wants to make for a workable balance and to protect the community from any negative impact. She highlighted her experience on Council and how she sees that as assets and skills that will help Council to solve the problems that face the community in the years to come.

Blair Mirau

Mr. Mirau offered up a short review as to how he is a lifelong Rupertite and then touched on some of the discussions he has had with residents of the community. Learning more of the concerns that he shares with them, issues that he says he would work towards bringing to Council. He would like to see more jobs in the region, more affordable housing and more  recreation opportunities. But to get those items and more, it will require a plan to get to the future that all in the community would like to see. He provided three priorities, enhancing the accountability of the city's elected officials, efficiency of City Council to focus on items within the city's jurisdiction and to grow our tax base.

Gurvinder Randhawa

Mr. Randhawa opened by providing a brief snapshot of his time in Prince Rupert which spans twenty years, expressing his desire to help the community take advantage of the new industrial opportunities that are on the horizon. He observed that there is a need to build good relations with First Nations and neighbouring communities. He also would work towards openness, transparency and integrity at Council and with the City.  He would like to see new economic activities and address the city's infrastructure needs. Calling on his experience with a number of local boards, he put his emphasis on the need for good teamwork and an ability to work towards a common goal.

Wade Niesh

Mr. Niesh, outlined his background as a contractor in the city and recounted how he did not leave the city when he economy took it's downturn years ago. He took the audience on a history trip back to 1981 and compared those times with the conditions that the City faces today.  Explaining to the audience that City council needs to take control of spending and plan for the future, suggesting that it's not a right wing versus left wing thing, or union and non union situation, but a simple case of taking control of our destiny and doing what's right for our community.

Joy Thorkelson

Another incumbent, Ms. Thorkelson observed as to the cusp of change that Prince Rupert finds itself at, with the incoming council required to prepare for the possibility of a boom environment one or more LNG terminals locating here. She spoke to some of the challenges that any growth could bring, her priority focus being that of housing.  Stating that the City needs to ensure that there are enough rent controlled units available in the community and that Council will have to have an in-depth discussion with Prince Rupert residents on the housing issue. She mentioned the prospects for the Tuck Inlet LNG proposal, reviewing how the project is proposed for City owned land, so the city's residents will decide if they want it and under what conditions. She reminded the audience that whatever the new council decides it will have consequences on jobs, taxes and our environment.  She stressed how she can work with anyone, but that her interests are to make sure that everyone has a place in the discussion.

Gina Garon

The final candidate on the panel and another incumbent, outlined her passion for Prince Rupert and how she has learned much, on a range of topics in her time on Council.  She outlined how it was  a great time of change, opportunity and challenge for the community and how her past experience on council, as well as with boards and committees would help her to lead this community forward, with her goals to make Prince Rupert a healthy community and a good place to live.

Candidates for Prince Rupert Council
at the Election Forum of November 4

The next phase of the Candidate Forum was the Question Period, though with larger numbers than the Mayoralty Forum, there would be no rebuttal questions allowed for those on the stage.

Leaving the nine candidates to offer up short responses to the questions posed by the panel consisting of Shaun Thomas, Mary Bartlett and George Baker.

Below a short overview of their responses to each question. Though in the case of Ms. Garon, microphone issues which seemed to deteriorate as the evening progressed, detracted from her presentation, at times making her remarks hard, if not impossible to hear.

Question Number One:  On nature of the city's infrastructure concerns and how the candidates would approach them.

Gurvinder Randhawa-- seek out grants, look to borrow money, attract new industry to expand the tax base
Wade Niesh-- find other ways to address the issues, approach the Provincial government for money on infrastructure
Joy Thorkelson-- Find other sources of income, take advantage of fair share agreements, raise money from local increases in industry and continue to seek out money from the Federal Government
Gina Garon-- the number one priority is the dam at the water reservoir, work with stakeholders to find ways to find common ground to address infrastructure issues.
Blair Mirau--  expand the tax base, develop a strategy to make it easier for businesses to come to the city, taking the burden off existing businesses and homeowners
Ray Pedersen-- Determine priorities and run a tight budget, take responsibility and to usher in a port related economy by attracting secondary industries here.
Nelson Kinney-- The City needs to approach the Provincial Government and remind the Premier and the Government of past commitments and the need to share the load with the city, offer a welcome to business.
Barry Cunningham-- Identify issues and develop a management plan on infrastructure issues, go to the two levels of government Federal and Provincial and have them step up to the plate to help out on the issue
Anna Ashley -- Have staff develop an asset management plan and then find creative ways to find new sources of revenue, forge partnerships with neighbouring communities and First Nations. Need to lobby higher levels of government to stop their interference in the community's ability for taxation.

Question Number Two: How would you balance the infrastructure requirements while maintaining services such as Recreation and the Library.

Barry Cunningham-- As new industry arrives in town, have them kick in and give some of our recreation locations and social requirements a contribution, we need to be open to all businesses to increase the tax rate, allowing the City to collect the taxes to provide those services.
Blair Mirau-- He would seek out more input from the community as to what their priorities are and where they would want to have the City spend their money.
Ray Pedersen-- Allocate money as to what is really necessary and remove items not required that way we can shift that money to what services you wish to provide. Invite business into town to increase the tax base to provide those services.
Joy Thorkelson-- Try to get short term funding from large corporations, having them sponsor such things as rooms at the Library or Recreation Centre.
Nelson Kinney-- We will need to do some cutting, find a way to make some money to run these operations, work with our First Nation communities who use our facilities, looking to work together on the issues.
Wade Niesh--  Solve the mill issue, he no longer wants to have to talk about the mill, which he believes puts the city in a bad position, we need to attract new business and industry, would make hard decisions on things that the City needs to cut, such as the gardening that the City does.
Anna Ashley-- Identify what the people of Prince Rupert thinks are important, have brainstorming sessions, look to offer incentives for money saving ideas. Look for help from higher levels of government. Pursue the Tsimshian Access project in order to reduce the Airport Ferry costs.
Gurvinder Randhawa-- Review and scrutinize the budget, seek new industry to rebuild the tax base.
Gina Garon-- Ms. Garon offered up a review as to how the process worked and the challenges that it provides to Council members.

Question Number Three: What can City Council do for those looking for affordable housing on a limited income.

Joy Thorkelson-- We need to make it clear to the Provincial Government as to the need for affordable housing in the community and not wait until we're in a crisis situation.
Nelson Kinney-- Find a way to get the Provincial Government on our side and to work to get this housing done.
Gurvinder Randhawa-- Look for more funding from BC Housing for low cost housing to address the issue, attract more industry to create jobs and provide for income for housing.
Wade Niesh-- Take advantage of tax incentives for builders who want to build rental units, look at lower cost options, giving an incentive to a large builder, give them a break on any taxes so that they would want to build those units.
Barry Cunningham-- Get BC Housing on Board to address the issue, reach out to local community groups. senior levels of government and non-profit organizations to offer up solutions.
Anna Ashley-- Pressure higher level of governments, develop a Housing Commission as proposed by City Council, look to what our current requirements and future needs may be, offer city lots to developers. Partner with social groups and change bylaws to provide for additional housing.
Ray Pedersen-- Improve zoning to create secondary suites, develop condos, row housing and other options.
Blair Mirau-- Waive development approval fees, develop an affordable housing policy for the Community Plan, streamline the process for development of housing, collaborate with local partners to make the best decisions.
Gina Garon-- (Audio levels were so low as to make her answer impossible to hear)

As Tuesday night at the Lester Centre came to an end, the nine candidates delivered their closing remarks, a review for the most part of many of their talking points of the last few weeks.

The nature of the Tuesday event, didn't really provide for much in the way of any thorough examination as to the Candidates positions on the topics.

Leaving it to the candidates to make use of pamphlets, newspaper ads, the short, self penned bios that appeared in the weekly paper and in some cases their website offerings, all to be used to expand on the short snippets of information of Tuesday.

Links to those Council candidates that do have a website presence can be found here, where more information on their positions on the issues can be reviewed.

You can review more background on the Prince Rupert Election campaign from our archive page here.

Note: An Online video replay of the November 4th Council Forum is available here.

No comments:

Post a Comment