Accessibility, transportation and taxation were the focus of an election forum geared toward seniors on Monday at downtown’s Desert Gardens Seniors Community Centre.
“A lot of it is about livability,” event organizer Nancy Bepple said, noting about 20 per cent of the city’s residents are seniors.
Both mayoral candidates Ken Christian and William Turnbull attended, as did 18 of 21 candidates running for seats on council: Jennifer Adams, Nicholas Adams, Dale Bass, 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 Chris Bose, Ray Dhaliwal and Shawn Harnett.
Asked about how to make the city’s downtown more accessible for seniors, Christian cited more curb cuts, audible intersections and handicapped parking spaces around health-care facilities.
Turnbull said he would advocate for improved snow-clearing on sidewalks.
The issue of snow removal was raised multiple times throughout the forum, with candidates Bass, Cavers, Christian, Hunter, Klie, O’Reilly, Sarai and Watson also advocating at various times for improved services.
Hunter has had recent first-hand experience with accessibility downtown, having spent the campaign getting around with a cane following hip surgery. She noted a sampling of businesses on Victoria Street resulted in just five of 27 businesses having power doors.
“Some of our sidewalks are not the most accessible,” she said.
On the subject of transportation, concerns were raised about the closure of Greyhound at the end of the month, to which Singh stressed lobbying the provincial government.
Nicholas Adams suggested rolling out the red carpet for businesses to flourish in Greyhound’s absence.
Others raised concerns about HandyDart. Karpuk said having to book two days in advance is “not flexible enough” and Bass called for a review of the BC Transit service involving residents.
Giesbrecht, meanwhile, suggested the city lobby Victoria to bring Uber to British Columbia, including Kamloops. He noted the ride-hailing service has been adopted worldwide.
“We’ve all heard the horror stories of people at two o’clock in the morning, trying to leave the bar, especially,” Giesbrecht told KTW after the forum. “The lineups can be hours. It’s one thing in August to stand out for a chunk of time, but January, February, nobody wants to do that.”
The taxi industry has been known to push back. Asked what Giesbrecht would say to local taxi drivers who oppose the service in Kamloops, he replied: “Technology changes. We see Skip the Dishes and that’s been fairly well received in Kamloops. That’s Uber for food. Technology changes, times change.”
Candidates were also told city taxes are pushing seniors out of their homes. Asked what they would do, O’Reilly said the city needs to increase its tax base by attracting new business. Dudy pledged to work hard to keep taxes down and Sinclair said Kamloops experienced a modest property tax increase this year compared to other municipalities.
Other points of interest:
• Turnbull said he has noticed many seniors homes are on the outskirts of town, but should be centrally located.
• A group of pickleball players turned up, seeking support for 12 to 25 additional courts in Riverside Park or on McArthur Island. King and Johal said they would support the group, while O’Reilly and Jennifer Adams said they wouldn’t sacrifice green space.
• Incumbent Sinclair found herself defending the public-consultation process regarding the McArthur Island park space. The city is currently working with the Kamloops Naturalist Club and Kamloops Disc Golf Clubs on a plan for the area formerly occupied by a nine-hole golf course. The Naturalists have maintained their vision for the space is not compatible with a disc golf course. Sinclair said the public-consultation process was extensive, noting she is waiting for a report to council before forming an opinion on how the space should be used. Bass, however, said she is in favour of the two groups sharing the space, noting kids in North Kamloops would benefit.
• When asked by an audience member, Bass, Dudy and Sinclair all pledged to get rid of plastic shopping bags in Kamloops.
• Voicing support for a performing-arts centre of some kind were Cavers, King, Klie, Watson and Singh.
• Asked a pointed question about areas of Kamloops resembling the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver and how to deal with the situation, Bass advocated for more treatment centres and suggested tax breaks to neighbourhoods to reduce NIMBYism.