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Civic election forum in Kamloops touches on eclectic mix of issues

Topics discussed included affordable housing, homelessness, transportation infrastructure, Greyhound’s closure and whether the city should adopt its own currency
civic election forum Council of Canadians
Civic election candidates answered questions from the public during a forum held on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Kamloops Regional Farmers' Market. The event was organized by the Kamloops chapter of the Council of Canadians.

Kamloops residents got their first chance to meet civic election candidates on Saturday morning during a chilly civic election forum hosted by the Council of Canadians at the Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market.

Seventy percent of council and mayoral candidates (16 of 23) turned up to participate in the first of multiple forums in advance of the election, which will be held on Oct. 20. Twenty-one people are vying for one of eight councillor seats, while two are running for mayor.

Absent from the forum were Corally Delwo, Dennis Giesbrecht, Mike O’Reilly, Caroline King, Ray Dhaliwal, Shawn Harnett and Bill Sarai. Gisebrecht is apparently recovering from surgery.

Questions ranged from issues that have been at the forefront in the city — affordable housing, homelessness, transportation infrastructure and Greyhound’s closure — to specific queries related to intersection accessibility and an oddball question about whether the city should adopt its own currency.

“No, we have not considered a unique currency for Kamloops,” Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said, noting it would be “folly” to be out of step provincially, nationally and internationally.

The format of the forum lobbed each question to two candidates, with other questions given to the mayoral candidates, Christian and lone challenger William Turnbull.

Asked whether they will ensure enough shelter beds will be available this winter, Turnbull recommended allowing tents inside Memorial Arena. Christian, however, said the heritage building is fully occupied with recreational activities and noted cities are moving away from big shelters to multiple smaller shelters. He called the issue a “serious problem,” but stressed the importance of providing more than mats on the floor.

“You have to help them with a pathway to wellness,” Christian said.

RELATED: Impressions of the first forum of the campaign

Christian also discussed the city’s hand in multiple affordable-housing projects. While two projects have experienced delays, he noted temporary housing en route to Mission Flats Road, slated to be ready in time for winter.

Jennifer Adams offered ideas on how the municipality could play a part in tackling affordable housing — utilizing the new good neighbour bylaw to address problem houses and facilitating their transfer to social agencies, as well as inclusionary zoning to guarantee new units would fall within the affordable threshold.

The topic of a performing-arts centre in Kamloops was posed to a pair of incumbent councillors. Denis Walsh said the defeated proposal in 2015 was “too grandiose” and criticized the idea for being made top-down. Donovan Cavers said he isn’t personally invested in a new PAC, despite supporting the issue in the referendum. He said the city already enjoys Western Canada Theatre, Music in the Park, Kamloops Symphony Orchestra and Music in the Park.

“It’s just making sure emerging artists have the resources they need,” he said.

Incumbent councillors Arjun Singh and Kathy Sinclair found themselves once again defending council’s support of a $5,000 per year business licence fee for cannabis stores, despite the fact owners of liquor stores pay $200 annually. They both support a review down the road, when costs of cannabis legalization on the municipality are fully realized.

Jimmy Johal took a position on the former golf course space at McArthur Island, noting it should become a nature park, with the miniature golf course preserved. Kamloops Naturalist Club director Jesse Ritcey attended the forum with a glossy blown-up version of the club’s proposal for the space. He told KTW he was lobbying councillors because the fate of the space is ultimately up to council.

Other more specific questions asked at the forum were related to promoting reconciliation in the next 25 years with First Nations (Stephen Karpuk suggested extending the Rivers Trail through Tk’emlups to Rayleigh) and reopening a drop-in shop at the landfill.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Turnbull said of the latter.

Christian, however, said liability costs led the city to support the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in nixing the so-called share shed. While it does not support the same volume, noted the possibility of opening another store to accommodate supply and demand.

Asked specifically whether candidates intended to add a voice-activated crosswalk at 10th Avenue and Victoria Street for the visually impaired, Dale Bass said that’s what is done as a community.

“If you need these services, it should be there,” she said.

Nicholas Adams was asked about enforcing a bylaw preventing bikers and skateboarders from utilizing sidewalks and said the problem isn’t enforcement. He recommended building infrastructure for alternative modes of transportation.

“Give people an alternative,” he said.

In addressing the issue of potholes and snow removal in the city, Singh called it a “tough one” because increasing services would result in increasing taxes.

“These things come as an added cost for us,” he said.

The Council of Canadians has been hosting political forums for two decades. Organizer Anita Strong was happy with the turnout on Saturday, noting it was higher than the 2014 general civic election.

Kamloops residents Allison Bregoliss, 25, and Jennifer Jones, 36, took it all in, hoping to see how candidates speak and engage with the public.

“A lot of what council is is interacting with the community,” Jones said.

Format for the forum allowed anyone from the public to ask a question through a moderator. Before the forum began, members took to the streets to canvas residents for questions to ask the candidates.

Notable promotions:

• Board of education trustee Kathleen Karpuk was participating in the Rotary food drive on Saturday morning, but city council hopeful and husband Stephen Karpuk had set up his and hers campaign signs at his booth.

• Former Communist Party of B.C. candidate Peter Kerek attended the event and interviewed candidates on camera for the People’s Voice, a publication that dubs itself “Canada’s leading socialist newspaper.”

• Coun. Arjun Singh promoted on his shirt at the forum the hashtag #teamkamloops.

• William Turnbull donned a shirt under his suit bearing the logo of the Turnbull Humanitarian Foundation.

- A proportional representation sticker could be seen on Jennifer Adams’ purse.