A packed house prepared for political battle last Thursday evening. Two potential candidates awaited questioning for mayor, two for regional director and six for councillor. Chamber of Commerce manager Lori Thomas and moderator Keith Olsen stood at the ready with questions from the public.
Each candidate began with opening remarks and ended with closing remarks. The middle was a mixture of pre-determined questions and open mike questions. Some of the pre-determined questions were released to the candidates beforehand. Others were asked by Olsen.
Each candidate was given a time limit within which to answer. Incumbent Mayor Randy McLean spoke about the learning process of leading the community. “Building relationships with strategic government officials takes time. We have been making things happen and following through with our projects.”
Candidate Fred Thomas announced, “I decided to step up when I saw only one name on the candidates list for the position of mayor.”
All candidates were asked if they were in favour of an aquatic centre for Princeton. McLean saw the aquatic centre issue as one which needs to be re-examined to see “What is the financial threshold of our community?” He also said it would be wise to find a way to use the community’s considerable talent pool to construct such a project.
Thomas stated, “I am for the pool. We need to build what we can afford and collect as much money as we can beforehand.”
Councillor candidate Christina Longley-Scarisbrick said, “we need to build a pool that we can use for swim meets.”
Incumbent Jason Earle stated, “we need to find out what we want.”
Incumbent Marilyn Harkness said, “we lost a health care worker already because we didn’t have an aquatic centre.”
Incumbent Frank Armitage saw “public input and affordability as the main issue that needed to be examined before the aquatic centre idea could move forward.
Candidate Kim Maynard said, “the community needs to help direct any aquatic centre project towards what they will accept as a fair price.”
“We need to have all politicians on board,” added RDOS candidate Charles Weber.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” regional director Brad Hope stated. “I think the issue is about tax tolerance.”
Incumbent Ray Jarvis said he supports an aquatic centre, but agreed with the others that the financial picture needed to be clear first.
Health care was the hot topic of the evening. All candidates were on board that health care for Princeton was not ideal and that more work needed to be done to recruit and keep the emergency room open 24/7. Earle and Scarisbrick also felt an operating room was necessary to lure doctors and keep doctors. Harkness saw the health care problem as one of amenities as well. Listing some of the results of an Ontario study whereby healthcare workers were asked what they felt they needed to settle in a community.
Thomas suggested free housing might be an answer to recruitment.
McLean said he is working to get doctors trained overseas back to Canada quicker and spoke briefly of his connection at the UBCM with another doctor who is already working to find such solutions.
Armitage promised to work hard if re-elected to find a way to relieve some of the current strain the community is under by working to recruit, maintain and find transportation solutions for those who needed to travel to specialists.
Maynard said he would examine every avenue to help Princeton get doctors and other health care workers.
Jarvis wants to see more doctors no question.
Incumbent Earle announced to the public his plan to deal with the deer problem through a provincial urban ungulate conflict analysis program.
While some candidates gave the audience a laugh to lighten the complexity of the issue, Weber added, “The deer are not just a town problem. They are affecting farmers and ranchers financially by eating their crops.”
Some members of the audience were enlightened about the open public meetings that council have each month called Committee of the Whole meetings.
All council members saw water as crucial to the community. A question regarding chlorinated water got mixed answers. Councillor Ray Jarvis said, “I like the water just the way it is.”
Maynard said just like lighting on the KVR trail LED is not cost effective now, but technology is continually changing and improving and it is not impossible to expect other technologies to replace chlorine in the future.
McLean spoke briefly about the potential of osmosis.
Unilaterally all candidates were extremely supportive of the arts council.
Scarisbrick focused in on children and youth in her closing speech. Maynard asked to be given a chance to prove himself. Armitage, Earle, Harkness and Jarvis all stated that they had enjoyed their term as councillor and wished to continue. Thomas spoke about a time for change and financial responsibility while McLean spoke about the need to continue building relationships and moving Princeton forward.
Director Hope listed some of the projects completed during his term and asked voters to let him continue.
Weber spoke about a greater need for rural input from an Advisory Committee.
The forum was mostly civil with a few digs. Like true Canadians, even the digs were polite and not too lethal.