Questions on development, taxes, health care, recreation and the 222 Corfield supportive housing project took centre stage at an Oct. 11 Parksville all-candidates meeting.
All three mayoral candidates – Christopher Long, Ed Mayne and Kirk Oates – and all 11 councillor candidates – Kim Burden, Mark Chandler, Adam Fras, Al Greir, Richard Honaizer, Doug O’Brien, Teresa Patterson, Paul Reitsma, Mark Stephens, Amanda Wagner and Marilyn Wilson – were in attendance.
The meeting took place at the Parksville Community Centre, with close to 500 people in attendance.
The first question, directed to Oates, asked “what is your position on the unfettered development taking place in Parksville?”
“The development that has come before council has been very carefully considered with respect to what it would add to the community. All of the decisions that we made were made based on the ability of those developments to be sustainable within our community,” Oates said.
Question two, directed to Greir, asked “what are your views on the proposed tax increases over the next four years?”
“The first six years that I was on council we raised the tax 13 per cent, and the last four years we raised it 16 per cent… the astounding part is they’ve approved a preliminary budget of four per cent over the next five years which is 20 per cent,” Greir said. “It’s unheard of and not necessary.”
Burden added that more development will defray some of the cost to taxpayers.
“I think we have to make sure we pursue those opportunities for people to come and share the tax load,” he said.
Oates said the proposed tax increase is based on a 20-year financial plan.
Next a question was asked to all candidates about how they are going to attract new doctors to the area.
Oates, Burden and Patterson mentioned the Perfect Storm Group—a group of citizens that work together to find doctors to come to Parksville—as a solution to the doctor shortage.
Patterson said that the “Perfect Storm group has been doing amazing work.”
Almost all other candidates voiced a need to promote Parksville’s lifestyle to attract new doctors to the area.
Fras said the Island lifestyle needs to be pitched to doctors and nurse practitioners.
“The majority of graduates coming through universities are going to speciality care rather that family practice. If we can encourage our lifestyle that we have on the Island that promotes our beaches to the recreation activities like Mount Washington near by and our beautiful rivers and forests, that’s the kind of lifestyle that they’re looking for,” he said.
O’Brien said: “Build it and they will come, and by that I mean we have to have the lifestyle here that’s going to attract the new doctor and that’s why we have to have a swimming pool…we have to make it so they want to live here with their families.”
Finally a question about the 222 Corfield supportive housing project, this election season’s most pressing issue in the community, came up. The question asked: if against the location at 222 Corfield, where would you put the facility?
Several candidates said they are not against supportive and affordable housing options for Parksville, but they are against having a shelter attached to the facility.
Greir answered first saying he’s simply not for the project because of the “drug use.”
“When you have the drug situation in Corfield, then the location is wrong.”
Fras said the way the project is laid out is not fit for Parksville.
“It comes with too many different components. I think the shelter portion needs to be broken out of it and things like drug addictions need to be handled separately,” Fras said.
Burden said the comments made in regard to the drug use and “people who don’t belong in our community” hurt him to hear.
“We did consider all of these things when we were approving the development of 222 Corfield,” Burden said. “There’s nothing that presupposes that people going into this facility are going to be using drugs and there’s nothing that tells me that people that live next door to me are using drugs. We don’t know.”