A full audience of around 150 attended the Parksville Residents Association’s (PRA) all candidate forum in Parksville Wed., Nov. 2.
Each of the 16 candidates introduced themselves and was asked a random question in three categories (waterfront, official community plan and water supply).
Asked if he’d consider sea level rise in future decisions, acting mayor Chris Burger said yes, that the city has a bylaw in draft form looking at that since some estimates show water rising by half a meter in 50 years, he said.
Asked about the need for flood plain maps, Patricia Sibley said they would be important and she believes there is one already in the works.
Incumbent Teresa Patterson said Chris Burger had answered well and she agreed with him.
“That’s the million dollar question,” said incumbent Sue Powell when asked about enforcing the 180-day stay rule for tourist accommodation in a later question.
She said she researched it when she was first elected and was told it was unenforceable.
“Then why have a bylaw?” she asked rhetorically and said she was open to ideas.
PRA member and council candidate Bill Neufeld was asked the same question and said he didn’t have an easy answer, but suggested looking to legal opinions and higher levels of government to sort it out.
Incumbent Carrie Powell-Davidson introduced herself by boasting she has the longest name on the ballot, and said her resume stands for itself.
On the water supply questions, mayoral candidate Antonio Farinha got the laugh of the evening when asked if the city would have enough water for increased agriculture — “how would I know that?” he asked incredulously. He’d already said he wasn’t running for votes, but for a chance to explain his waterfront concerns.
Asked if the expected tax and water rate increases needed for a new water treatment facility should be made public as soon as possible, mayoral candidate Rick Honaizer said he wanted the water charge gone. He said residents have been overcharged $2 million in water rates, which were brought in to pay for the Arrowsmith Dam.
Asked about protecting the city’s well fields, former federal election candidate Jesse Schroeder pointed out most of the city’s aquifer land is not in the city and subject to runoff from things like the railway, regional district garbage transfer station and that protection requires a wider perspective.
Asked if people should be granted a property tax credit if they use less than the minimum water charge, Peter Simkin said he wasn’t sure property taxes would be the best way to go about it, but he did feel people should only be charged for the water they use.
On the third category about the OCP, Peter Morrison was asked what was missing from the current review process.
“Public input,” he said, adding there will be some public meetings coming up.
On the same question, Charlie Stone said he wasn’t sure, but “it would be good to have more opportunities for input from the public.”
Asked if OCP changes should only be made by public referendum, incumbent Marc Lefebvre said a council resolution would suffice. He said the OCP is a roadmap for the future and once the update process is complete, with proper public input, it should be good enough.
Asked the same question, 19-year-old Alicia Vanin said she had trouble answering because her personal opinions were getting in the way, she said the high cost of referendums is a problem but if that is the best solution, the city should swallow the cost.
After an hour and a half of prepared questions, there were questions from the public, starting with one from Rick Sullivan on the pressure to lower taxes in the face of increasing responsibilities downloaded from higher levels of government.
“I do not think we should lower taxes,” said incumbent Al Greir referring to himself as “the money guy,” “but we have to be very careful about raising them.”
Former mayor Paul Reitsma, who resigned as an MLA in 1998 before being recalled over writing letters to newspapers under false names, was asked the only direct personal question when an audience member asked how he would ensure he wouldn’t betray the residents’ trust again.
He said after going through that humiliation he looked inward and came to terms with it and chose to move on.