Candidates face off in election debate

Candidates face off in election debate

Topics ranged from housing, attracting light industry, rainbow crosswalks, roads and infrastructure.

Paul Rodgers

Despite it being a rainy, long-weekend Friday evening, dozens of Cranbrook residents were in attendance for the JCI All Candidates Forum on October 5 at the Cranbrook Alliance Church.

In total, there are ten candidates up for election, five incumbents: Danielle Eaton, Mike Peabody, Wes Graham, Ron Popoff and Norma Blissett, and five candidates seeking a seat on Council for the first time: Randy Tapp, Jordan Fiorentino, Melodie Hull, Wayne Price and Curt Rasmussen.

The forum, moderated by College of the Rockies president and chief executive officer David Walls, was broken into three segments. The first part allowed each candidate three minutes to introduce themselves. The second, allowed for deeper engagement —each candidate responded to one unique question, composed by members of the community. Candidates had three minutes to respond to their particular question, and then there was room for two minute rebuttals. Finally, each was allowed a further three minutes for closing remarks.

There were many common themes and issues that each of the candidates discussed passionately and in great detail. The debate segment of the evening allowed them all a chance to weigh in on subjects the people of Cranbrook hold near and dear to their hearts.

Subjects such as the creation of housing — particularly affordable housing, the revitalization of downtown, attracting new businesses, the continued improvement and maintenance to city roads, infrastructure and water systems were important to each potential councilperson.

The breakdown of the questions in the second, and most engaging debate portion of the night were as follows.

Popoff was asked, what will you do to help increase day care, day care facilities for working parents? This was something that Mike Peabody had also brought up in his opening statement.

Tapp was asked what steps he would take to improve the housing shortage issue; one of the most complex and crucial subjects surrounding the upcoming election. Tapp said, and many other candidates echoed this statement, that he has been asked about this question quite a lot, but he feels unsure that there is any one real answer to it.

However, he said that there are a number of things that should be looked at, including making more existing properties, such as those occupied by Studio Stage Door and Street Angels, available to agencies and groups that could provide housing. He’d like to see collaboration with Canadian Mental Health Assoctiaon and a revitalization of Habitats for Humanity. Every single candidate raised their yellow card, signalling their desire to respond.

Hull was asked about whether she would support a rainbow crosswalk network.

“Sure I would,” said Hull. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to celebrate every single person who lives here. And so I think the only message that the rainbow project brings to us is that message that all people should feel safe here. All people should believe that they belong here. Nobody should be marginalized, nobody should be isolated, no body should be picked on.”

Rasmussen responded to a very hot-topic issue: the KEYSA multi-use facility, and if he supports it being built in a central location in the city or on the outskirts of city limits and why. This highlighted another important issue, that of transparency, as the issue had been discussed by council behind closed doors.

Many candidates responded to this, acknowledging and commending the fact that the organization was able to raise so much money in so little time, acknowledging that they support the facility being built, and that in the future, these issues should have the full involvement of the public every step of the way.

Graham received a dual-faceted question: what is your opinion on deer culls and backyard chickens, receiving a few chuckles from the audience. His response was that he believes that as they are the province’s deer, the province should take more accountability for them or provide more resources to the city for them to deal with them, or call them the city’s deer and allow them to deal with them on their own.

Eaton was asked what role does a councillor have in ensuring city staff are dealt with integrity?

Fiorentino was asked what are your priorities for road and infrastructure upgrades including water quality, Joseph Creek and storm sewers? His response was that he is happy with the work that has been accomplished by the previous council, and he intends to carry that forward and not allow the city to fall into old habits.

Price responded to another important topic of the evening: what is your vision for downtown Cranbrook? He said that obviously thinks the primary importance is revitalization. “Bottom line is we have to get people back downtown,” he said. He acknowledged that the downtown has come a long way due in part to the “incredible jobs” done by the business owners and the downtown business association. He added that he thinks that the capable and talented staff of downtown, should be allowed to get more get more creative and innovative and create more entertainment and venues. He also said that he thinks the city and the council should work more closely with the Downtown Business association.

Peabody was asked what specific light industry he would like to attract to Cranbrook? This elicited an interesting discussion from Peabody, who said he would like to see industries start in Cranbrook that are resistant to resource-based economic downturn.

Blissett was asked: communities like Terrace and Nanaimo have recycle and compost programs. What will it take for Cranbrook to follow suit with curb-side recycling and composting?

These questions, assigned to the candidates at random, without them having seen them previously, highlighted the issues that the public feel are important moving into this election. Hopefully this forum will have provided the voting public with some necessary tools with which they can inform themselves on general voting day, October 20.