The need for more housing (especially the less-expensive variety) and the content and pace of development were among the top issues discussed at a Qualicum Beach all-candidates meeting Oct. 2.
The meeting, hosted by the Qualicum Beach Residents Association, saw all 11 candidates for the coming Oct. 20 municipal election attend, as well as hundreds of voters who packed the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre, with some having to stand or sit on the floor.
Affordable housing and development in general were discussed at length at the two-and-a-half hour event, with new candidates like Robert Filmer, Scott Harrison, Dave Willie and Brian Wiese (running for mayor) pushing for action after what was described in various terms as years of foot-dragging.
Doug MacKay-Dunn preached a strict adherence to the Official Community Plan and community input that effects outcomes. Adam Walker said he’s good with three-storey buildings downtown, but would push against sprawl. Jean Young called for gradual, planned change, adding that community input is important, as is the input of experts.
Those seeking re-election like Anne Skipsey (running for mayor rather than councillor this time), Barry Avis and Teunis Westbroek (running for councillor rather than for mayor) at times were left defending their decisions for and against various projects. Westbroek at one point appealed to the crowd to clap if they “like Qualicum Beach?” A fair amount of applause ensued, though some remained silent.
Neil Horner (also running for re-election as a councillor) said council requires a “monkey in the middle” who would be the swing vote in a community that he said “has a longstanding and bitter divide between developers on the one side, and what I would loosely term environmentalists on the other.” He said he is willing to fill such a role.
Other topics included the lack of doctors, the need for respect between council and administration, a lack of communication between the town and the community according to some candidates like Young and MacKay-Dunn, and balancing development with protection of the environment.
Mayoral candidate Wiese pressed the need to act on the Perfect Storm Group’s plan for a health care facility, and to create apartments and affordable housing for young workers, families, seniors and the less-fortunate.
Skipsey said, “As mayor, my first priority will be to establish a council code of conduct so that over the next four years, council members act in the manner that befits the role and responsibilities of the positions, and your expectations.”
While some candidates were in favour of the task force, others called it an unnecessary bureaucratic hurdle that would further delay the creation of affordable housing.
“How can we solve a problem if we don’t know exactly what it is?” said Skipsey. “We need to know what is missing from our housing mix, what people, families and seniors on a pension can afford to pay. What models have been successful in other communities, and with whom can we partner?”
Filmer disagreed, saying, “In this election, you’re electing your housing task force. Your council is the housing task force, that’s their job,” he said. “We’ve been dwelling on this issue for far too long. In 2014 in that election, we heard that the main issue was affordable housing. Nothing’s been done. That’s council’s job. We can’t be delegating this out any more.”
Horner similarly described council as the appropriate task force.
“Let’s gather all the studies, all the experts and public meetings we can in order for council to make the good decisions required.”
He also voiced concern that such a task force might get in the way of projects like the East Village as well.
Harrison suggested a housing task force would be appropriate to create a 15-year plan, but that immediate action could be taken based on BC Housing information.
Westbroek said a task force could be helpful if it has the right makeup of people, but took exception to the suggestion that nothing has been done.
He noted a bylaw allowing for secondary suites anywhere in town, as well as the town’s donation of parkland for the Kiwanis Qualicum Park Village affordable housing complex with 34 units.
“We have done more than nothing,” said Westbroek.
A question from the crowd sought to get candidates on record as for or against the planned roundabout on Memorial Avenue and Highway 19A. The responses were as follows in the order they spoke:
– Young: for
– Walker: against
– Willie: for
– Horner: for
– Harrison: for
– Westbroek: for
– Avis: against
– Mackay-Dunn: against
– Filmer: for
– Skipsey: against
– Wiese: for
For a video of the all candidates meeting, check www.qbresidents.ca, where the video will likely be posted by Oct. 8.