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Voters fill Grand Hall for KTW election forum

It was standing room only in the Grand Hall at Thompson Rivers University on Monday night, with hundreds of Kamloops residents turning up to hear from mayoral and council candidates five days before heading to the polls.

It was standing room only in the Grand Hall at Thompson Rivers University on Monday night, with hundreds of Kamloops residents turning up to hear from mayoral and council candidates five days before heading to the polls.

About 450 people attended Kamloops This Week’s civic election forum, with about 100 more watching the event being streamed live online.

(Video of the forum can be found on KTW’s Facebook page.)

Mayoral candidates Ken Christian and William Turnbull faced off first, followed by council candidates Jennifer Adams, Nicholas Adams, Dale Bass, Chris Bose, Donovan Cavers, Corally Delwo, Dieter Dudy, Dennis Giesbrecht, Sadie Hunter, Jimmy Johal, Stephen Karpuk, Caroline King, Alison Klie, Mike O’Reilly, Bill Sarai, Kathy Sinclair, Arjun Singh, Denis Walsh and Gerald Watson.

Absent were Ray Dhaliwal and Shawn Harnett.

Over the course of 2.5 hours, council candidates were split into mini-forums and quizzed by the audience. Themes of housing affordability, neighbourhood engagement and transporation emerged.

Asked by a mother how to solve a shortage of rental space with more than two bedrooms in Kamloops, Sarai recommended incentives to builders in adding secondary suites.

O’Reilly echoed a similar response he offered homebuilders during a forum last week — that increased student housing would alleviate the rental market.

“The best time to find a rental in Kamloops is in June — and that’s when all the students leave,” O’Reilly said.

Asked if candidates would financially support neighbourhood associations, Watson and Dudy expressed concerns, while incumbent Singh noted grant programs already exist alongside a city staff member dedicated to liaising between the groups and the city.

Bose said he is in favour of a small financial boost to “get things moving,” noting food is often effective in bringing people together.

One audience member asked candidates for a pioneering idea to better connect the sprawling city. Hunter suggested a review of transportation, noting some bus routes are empty and others are packed. She also later advocated for a subsidized bus pass program based on income.

Bass suggested a link system, with loops connecting areas like Valleyview, Dallas and Barnhartvale.

Sinclair said she loved the vision of light rail, but noted the city doesn’t yet have the density.

She said she has been involved with a group trying to get car-sharing in the city, noting transportation is still “very important” to her.

Other audience questions related to specific issues, including biosolids, McArthur Island, a performing-arts centre, reconciliation and a ward system.

Asked about concerns and solutions related to biosolids, Walsh noted a city committee continues to examine which methods would be best-suited for Kamloops.

King said she is not comfortable with land-application and Giesbrecht said due to the high costs associated with modern ways in which to manage biosolids, he would like to see collaboration with other communities.

Kamloops Naturalist Club director Jesse Ritcey asked candidates about the best use of the former golf course land on McArthur Island.

Ritcey is lobbying for the space to be used solely as a nature park, though the city has been working with the Naturalists and the Kamloops Disc Golf Club on a joint-use proposal that has yet to go before council.

None of the five candidates asked spoke in favour of a permanent disc golf course on the site.

Nicholas Adams said he supports the Naturalists, while Jennifer Adams suggested finding another location for the disc golf course. O’Reilly suggested a temporary course at McArthur Island until another location could be secured.

Cavers said he would have liked to have seen joint-use, but “best case”, he said, is a mini-golf course. Sarai suggested a partnership with Tk’emlups te Secwepemec.

Asked about resurrecting a performing-arts centre, several more candidates expressed support for some sort of a PAC: O’Reilly (without parking, downtown), Jennifer Adams (artist driven, different funding), Sarai (not on backs of taxpayers) and Cavers (something to which local kids could aspire).

Nicholas Adams stressed fiscal responsibility and suggested facilities all over the community.

On the subject of reconciliation, Bose suggested town halls and meetings to address the 94 recommendations released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He noted between 8,000 and 9,000 Aboriginal people live in Kamloops.

Singh said efforts have been taken, but noted challenges such as delays to the Heffley Creek Bridge reopening due to archeological discovery.

“There’s going to be challenges for us,” he said.

Of four candidates asked if they would support a ward system in Kamloops, one lone candidate said yes. Bass said she would be in favour, likening it to the way in which the school board operates.

In opposition, Sinclair said her Kamloops includes every corner of the city, while Hunter said a ward system creates divisiveness.

Klie said the city’s population isn’t big enough, but added she supports neighbourhood associations as stakeholders.

Dave Eagles photos/KTW