Candidates vying for a seat in civic office faced off for a third time Tuesday night in front of more than 600 people at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre.
Eighteen candidates — four for mayor, 14 for council — gave their views on the issues. The crowd thinned out considerably by the end of the night. The all-candidates forum was sponsored by the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce and The NEWS.
Council candidate Heidi Abbott, who is currently working on a masters in community development, said she wants to create a "vibrant cultural community" in Parksville toting arts and culture as an "economic engine."
Abbott said "there are well paying jobs in the creative sector" and developing a stronger cultural base would attract more young professionals to Parksville.
Mary Beil (council), former Parksville Elementary School principal, said she wants to "create a vibrant Parksville" and said she supports clean industries, promoting tourism and expanding educational opportunities.
In terms of water, Dallas Collis (mayoral candidate) said if Parksville residents could cut their water intake by 50 per cent there would be no problem. "Growth isn't the answer," said Collis. "Conservation is the answer."
Michael Donegani (council) said he thinks council should operate like a "focussed band, such as Maroon 5 or Red Hot Chili Peppers." Donegani said regardless of the cost of a new water treatment plant, "we must demand federal and provincial funding."
Mayoral candidate Antonio Farinha spent the evening lobbying for a nudist beach in Parksville, adding that his sole intent in running for mayor is to raise awareness about what he considers a “conspiracy,” involving all levels of government regarding oceanfront properties in the city.
Jim Gordon (council) said he would be open to having a referendum on the water issue.
“I’d be elected to represent you, as the people, and I want to keep this transparent, democratic and cost-effective,” he said.
Al Grier (council) called this “the most important election in recent times” and said the status quo is “no longer good enough.”
Grier advocated for a complete review of the water system. He also said when council receives the budget he will make a motion to freeze taxes for the next two years.
Richard Honaizer (council) said the city needs to make a “logical decision” about water. Honaizer went on to say that we need to “build out” the downtown core of Parksville, as he fears when the Wembley Mall development is finished businesses downtown will “struggle to survive.”
Mayoral candidate Marc Lefebvre advocated for the Englishmen River Water Service project, adding the city needs an aquifer storage and recovery system. “As mayor I’ll try my best to negotiate with senior levels of government (for funding),” he said. Lefebvre also brought forward the idea of developing the city-owned piece of property bordered by Jensen Avenue, Craig Street and Alberni Highway into a space for affordable housing.
Donald Lohvin (council) said he is concerned about the rising costs and taxes in the city — but said his experience working with handicapped children has equipped him with “empathy, concern and fellow feeling.”
Mayoral candidate Bill Neufeld said his opposition to development on the beach is an issue “close to his heart” and the reason he launched into politics in the first place.
“I would not put any residential commercial development on the beach, period,” said Neufeld. “I look at what’s happened in terms of the Beach Club and I think it’s a beautiful building in the wrong place… we don’t need development on the beach. We want to look at the community values that are of importance to us.”
Kirk Oates (council) said “I don’t know what the solution to the water problem is but I know we need full public consultation as it is a necessary human right that we have water.”
Oates called the water issue “a political football” and said he would have liked to see it as a referendum question this fall so the people of Parksville could decide what kind of water system they want.
Teresa Patterson (council) said she believes Parksville “can grow and maintain a small-town environment.” Patterson, a small business owner, said the city is “open for business.”
Roy Plotniko (council) said “water needs to be treated, it has to be safe and we need to go shopping for a water treatment plant.”
Sue Powell (council) said senior levels of government have stopped providing financial assistance to local government and that’s “a trend that needs to be reversed.” Powell vowed to work towards sustainable growth, maintaining a high quality of life and being mindful of living within budgets.
Former mayor and MLA Paul Reitsma (council) said this is “the most important election in decades” and “the issue is clearly fiscal responsibility.”
Reitsma said Parksville isn’t responsible for growth outside of the city limits and if Island Health is demanding a water treatment plant it should come to the table and help pay for it.
Leanne Salter (council) said she wants to reassess the ERWS, ensure fiscal management and investigate water and sewer rates.
Caroline Waters (council) said water is a critical resource that “everything else hinges on” and she would be open to looking at options to phase in a treatment plant. She said the ideal size of Parksville is “not any smaller than we are now” and offered: “the glass is half full, we have everything to gain and the future is golden.”
The moderator for the evening was NEWS editor John Harding.