Today’s Poll

In brief: All-candidates forum fields voice for council hopefuls

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
October 13th, 2022

Nelsonites received a brief window into the political soul and aspirations of 15 candidates for municipal office during the chamber of commerce’s all-candidates forum Wednesday night.

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce’s all-candidates forum attracted over 160 people to the Prestige Lakeside Resort for 60- to 90-second sound bites from 10 hopefuls for six councillor positions, and five candidates for the mayor’s chair.

Despite the short time frame for the replies, the event still lasted over two hours and covered a range of topics — questions generated from within the chamber’s membership — from housing to the local economy to climate change.

There was no debate on the issues, with councillor candidates taking the stage first to introduce themselves, field a surprise set of five questions, and then deliver closing remarks. The format for the slate of mayoral candidates also followed a similar format.

Even with a pro-business organization hosting the event, the questions — delivered by chamber director Bob Hall and local media personality Darren Davidson — and answers generally evolved into the spheres of climate change and housing.

Home is where the heart is

After introductions, Davidson launched into the first question, driving to the heart of one of the major issues consuming the city: housing.

He asked the candidates if development in Nelson was happening too fast, or not fast enough.

“What would you, as a councillor, do to help the rate of construction and overall ‘densification’ throughout the city remain sustainable?” he stated.

Leslie Payne

“Housing has become a commodity instead of a right that we are given to have a place to live. The fact that values have risen so dramatically is not only happening here in Nelson …”

“Council is already providing for densification.”

“We need to do it a lot more thoughtfully, considering the climate change challenges we have.”

Rik Logtenberg

“90 seconds to solve housing?”

“Part of the power of us as a council and an effective mayor is what I was talking about before about leverage. This position puts us into the corridors of power at the provincial and federal government level. We’ve used those opportunities to advocate for much better regulation on housing, we’ve used that position to develop connections with other municipalities that are doing important and interesting things.”

“What about the traffic issues that we would create with housing? Housing is also a transportation issue. If we had effective transit, if we had well-cleared sidewalks and you could walk and bike around town then there is the opportunity to do better densification because you don’t have as many cars.”

What’s your vector sector

Nelson’s three biggest employers — Kootenay Lake School District No. 8, Interior Health Authority and Selkirk College — are significant contributors to the city’s tax base, Davidson pointed out.

“Which of these sectors do you feel is the most important to the city and its future and why: tourism; the resource sector; or retail?” he asked.

Brenton Raby

“Retail in Nelson is tough. It has always been tough and it is not getting any easier.”

“People coming down into Nelson to shop, the tourists who come into Nelson, see the sidewalks busy, the parking lots full, and people are going into and out of the stores. But that is the peak. That is not the valleys and it is not the average.”

“How the city’s policy impacts retail … is that it hits all of us. Water, sewer, property tax, insurance, these costs of doing business come up and they start to add up in $5,000 to $10,000 increments.”

“In Nelson right now I strongly identify with the retail owners perhaps being left behind as we celebrate how great our community is. And we forget we are a small town and that there are tough times when retailers suffer from nobody going through their doors.”

“So shopping local is the most important thing we can do. So enjoy your homes, but come out and spend your money.”

Kate Tait

“Diversity is part of what makes Nelson great.”

“We need all of them (sectors). What people want is good paying, meaningful work. And what that can help us alleviate, also, is poverty. It leads into that piece as well.”

“The city council, along with our good friends at the chamber can work together to attract these diverse businesses whether it is light green resource industry, whether it is more hospitality or the amazing different tourist industry groups …”

“They are employers in our community and I know those employers make an effort to ensure that our neighbours are well paid so they can stay here and they can rent here and they can buy here.”

Jesse Woodward

“All of them.”

“I feel it has to be holistic. I don’t think you can chop it up. You can’t chop our town up, it’s a conglomeration of the entire community, all the businesses, the leadership.”

“I think we have to work as an entire community and plan ahead. We need to look forward with our decisions. That is something I learned a lot about being on council, is government grinds slowly because we don’t want to make terrible mistakes with quick decisions.”

“So I think we can do this. We need to work as a community, as a city, as a council, to move our town slowly but surely forward in all of these sectors.”

“These sectors are also highly affected by climate change. Look at what has happened in the tourism sector by a bad smoke year. So we have to include that in the picture.”

Jesse Pineiro

“You can’t piece one out of there. Everything depends on everything else.”

“My business depends on the health and functionality of our community, just like everyone else’s does. So we just need to take these things and realize … that nothing stands on its own.”

“During the pandemic when everything closed down and the borders were closed … our resilience and our connections as a community is what is going to take us through these challenges.”

“We have the capacity to survive the ups and downs of the resource industry, we have the capacity to survive the border closures and the smoke in the tourist industry, and I think that our strength as a community moving forward is our most important thing to focus on, not any one area.”

Glenn Sutherland

“It is important to keep the City of Nelson financially and procedurally efficient, the city must operate prudently, however, it must also meet the needs and demands of a progressive community.”

“City departments go through workforce and budget planning each year, these sessions analyze the areas of focus, forecast and address workforce supply and demand,  and ultimately provide recommendations on strategic objectives. This planning encompasses both union and management objectives and the planned objectives are advanced for final approval.”    

“The city is also addressing efficiencies through projects like digital transformation, making it easier to do business with the city (moving departments to a digital platforms will also reduce the carbon footprint).”

“There are opportunities for the city to become more efficient and address how taxpayer dollars are directed within the overall budget. City council is responsible for taxpayer dollars and the outcomes produced.”  

Note:quotes were taken from Sutherland’s candidate profile. The electronic transcript of several sections of the forum on Wednesday night were compromised.

And in closing …

Ainsleah Hastings

“What we all care about is very similar.”

“It’s really hard to condense everybody’s platforms and beliefs and who they are into these very short, little, succinct paragraphs, so that I hope that we can all check in after and talk to each other.”

“Communities are here to lift each other up when we can’t lift ourselves up, and that involves businesses, workers, renters, property owners, we are all a part of the same town and what we do matters.”

Keith Page

“The thing I want to leave you with as you go into your decision and your evaluation is … what is going to happen next. You are going to vote for a city council and it is going to put itself into a room shortly thereafter, and it’s going to wrestle with all of the different points of view and come to a conclusion about what the next strategic plan is. Those aren’t determined yet. There is no agenda. But they are going to have that open conversation and try and identify those key priorities.”

“So what is most important is when you are looking to who to fill that table with is looking for open mindedness, that there is fairness, and there is a clear sense that the agenda will come from the table and that is the agenda that will be pushed forward.”

“Let’s bring open minded people who are willing to have quality discussion with each other and are ready to listen to new perspectives.”

Kyle Wilkinson

“Don’t judge the individual by that one moment, judge them by the all of the micro-moments over the 10- to 15-year snapshot. And I humbly can stand up and say that no matter who you choose as a community to elect, you are in very good hands.”

“I just remind everyone to vote with the same inclusiveness as this community, vote with what is in your heart, and each individual up here aligns with many things that you align with.”

“So the number one key is make sure we have a deep, dynamic council that represents the dynamic elements of council.”

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