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Parksville council candidates share views in special forum

16 candidates for mayor and council attended event at Knox United Church
16 candidates for mayor and council attended a forum at Knox United Church in Parksville on Sept. 26. (Knox United Church livestream)

Fourteen Parksville city council candidates and two mayoralty candidates vying for votes presented their views on three major issues during an all-candidates forum at Knox United Church on Sept. 26.

Ed Mayne (incumbent) and Doug O’Brien, current councillor, have put their names forward for mayor of Parksville in the Oct. 15 municipal election.

The councillor candidates are Karin Badel, Frank Bailey, Mary Beil, Lucky Butterworth, Adam Fras (incumbent), Amit Gaur, Joel Grenz, Mike Kelly, Jeet Mann, Sylvia Martin, Paula Miles, Teresa Patterson (incumbent), Michael Pedersen, Marilyn Wilson (incumbent) and Sean Wood. They will compete for six councillor positions.

Fras was unable to attend the forum because he is currently riding in the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock fundraising cycle across Vancouver Island.

Each candidate had an opportunity to answer all three questions from moderator Dave Graham.

What will you do to provide more affordable housing, including accommodation with rent geared to income?

Wood pointed out how real estate values have gone up dramatically in the past number of years, and many people who work in Parksville’s service industry have been priced out of the area.

“Businesses are screaming for employee housing because it’s so expensive,” he said. “We really need to work on housing that is affordable and what that means is some of it might be non-market housing.”

Wilson said there is a development boom happening in the city and units are on the way.

“Housing is coming,” she said. “It just takes time to come.”

Wilson added the city has put in place incentives, such as density bonuses, DCC waivers, the option to have tiny homes on individual lots and carriage house suites.

READ MORE: ELECTION 2022: Candidates in Parksville, Qualicum Beach, RDN and SD69

Pedersen said he believes tiny homes and having multiple residences on larger properties will help, and the city can continue with smaller units and rental properties.

“And properties that can realistically house young families with children,” he said. “Not just one-bedroom, two-bedroom units.”

O’Brien said the city is working on making housing more affordable with small lot subdivisions and permitting carriage homes.

“The biggest one is going to be the densification of downtown,” he said. “Where one lot is actually providing four storeys of housing, so we’re increasing our housing inventory.”

O’Brien brought up a downtown condominium development, currently under construction, where units are priced in the $400,000 to $600,000 range, rather than the median price of $965,000, which is out of reach for many residents.

For rental affordability, he gave the example of a project by Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society (NAHS) on Moilliet Street near Quality Foods.

Miles said all the solutions she has heard so far are things that could work in the long-term, but council needs to think outside the box.

“I believe we need to come up with a short-term plan, medium and long-term plan,” Miles said.

Mayne said it’s necessary to increase housing supply to the point where the demand isn’t pushing the price up anymore.

He added partnerships with organizations like NAHS and the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC are important and the city can allow them to build projects on city-owned land on a long-term lease to bring costs down.

“This is something that’s going to take a long time,” Mayne said. “Folks we started this 75 years ago, it took this long to get here. It’s not going to change overnight, regrettably, as much as we’d like it to.”

What actions will you be ready to take in order to increase the availability of family physicians?

Butterworth said retaining and attracting doctors is a problem for communities across the province.

“Maybe we need to get together with a few of the doctors in town and find out what some of the roadblocks are,” Butterworth said. He also suggested a city-owned clinic could free doctors up from administration work.

“We have to understand why someone may want to come here to set up practice,” said Grenz, who added people can go anywhere in the world as a healthcare provider. “And I’m talking not just doctors because this is just across the healthcare spectrum, even a dental hygienist is hard to find.”

He suggested a lease option program for medical practitioners who cannot afford a home because of student loans, and the possibility of offering scholarships for students from the community to come back and serve as healthcare workers.

“The healthcare crisis is affecting all of us,” said Gaur. “Especially in an aging community. We need more healthcare access and it’s going to get worse if we don’t address the problem.”

He said council could speak with the province and added Parksville-Qualicum MLA Adam Walker has a plan for a primary health centre, a concept which Gaur said he supports exploring.

Bailey said for Parksville to attract healthcare workers, council will need to work co-operatively with different levels of government.

“We’re going to have to think outside the box,” he said. “Work as a team, both provincially, federally and on a municipal level to attract these doctors.”

Badel said the city could create infrastructure that would allow physicians to work without the overhead costs and responsibilities of running a practice.

“We need to be creative with the type of healthcare providers that we encourage, opening up a clinic with nurse practitioners, partnering with agencies that create the umbrella that allow physicians to come and work,” she said.

We live in a UNESCO designated biosphere, the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. If elected, what will you do to ensure that economic development within our biosphere will reduce our greenhouse gases and carbon footprint?

Patterson said the city needs to carefully consider what is being constructed in the community.

“We have to look at what we’re building and do we have to?” she said. “Do we actually have to grow? Do we need to have more buildings? I know it sounds weird, but everybody has water restrictions in the summertime. We live in a beautiful place. I’d like to keep it.”

Martin said she has lived near the Englishman River all her life and was pleased to hear the city planted 12,000 trees in the past several years.

“There’s more we can do. You can never do enough, as you know,” Martin said. “So we continue to work at this and I will, on council, do that.”

Mann said he would like to see more public parks in the city.

“12,000 trees sounds like a big number — it’s a big number,” he said. “Is a seedling giving you the exact same amount of greenhouse gas reduction as a 100-year-old tree would?”

He added that when projects are built, there should be a return on investment in terms of long-term sustainability for the community.

Kelly said he believes municipal governments have little control over the issue, but can focus on goals such as improved bike trails.

“We gotta look at much more communication amongst the RDN and the City of Parksville to ensure we get bike trails, we get parks protected, we get trees protected, we get everything that’s there now protected,” he said. “And then we look forward.”

Beil said, if elected, she would look at protecting riparian zones, encourage active transportation and that storm water management should be a big priority for the city.

“I would really like to see a priority for getting more street trees, so that we can further increase our tree canopy,” she added.

The moderator read a statement by Fras, which said his priority is to cautiously grow Parksville in a way that is supportive of families.

“As a father with a young child and with senior parents, I have an understanding of the challenges facing young families in our area, including limited housing and healthcare access,” Fras wrote in his submission.

The municipal election will be held Oct. 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Parksville Community Centre (132 Jensen Ave.) and Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church (550 Pym St.).

Advance voting will be held on Oct. 5 and Oct. 12, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Parksville Community Centre.

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