Campbell River municipal council candidates took part in an all-candidates meeting Monday at the Tidemark Theatre.
Photo by Troy Landreville/98.9 The Goat/.Vista Radio
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. – They answered questions about subjects ranging from the homeless issue, to snow removal, to property taxes, to tourism.
And in doing so, Campbell River’s municipal hopefuls gave voters a clearer picture of their vision for the city’s future, who they are, and what they stand for during Monday night’s all-candidates meeting at the Tidemark Theatre.
Candidates Michelle Babchuk, Allan Buxton, Charlie Cornfield, Kermit Dahl, Colleen Evans, Ron Kerr, and Marlene Wright took part in the meeting. Mayor Andy Adams, who has been elected by acclamation, also attended and spoke at the event.
Candidates Claire Mogrove and Daniel Franklin were unable to attend.
Click here for the live stream of the event.
On the proposed drag racing facility near the airport, Wright said “I do support the drag race proposal. I understand there is criteria that has to be taken, compliance has to be made and I know they have taken the steps in the right way.”
Cornfield spoke about the initiatives that need to be happen to sustain and increase tourism in the city.
“For the first time ever, we have hired tourism professionals to do the job. I’ve got a background in tourism, I used to work for the ministry of tourism, but I don’t intend to tell them how to do their job. I think it’s important for council to set targets and goals, and the goal and the objective is to increase and sustain tourism, then that’s the goals that we transmit through our contracts with those professionals. It’s their job to do that, and then we would evaluate it from there. What we can do is keep supporting them and keep investing in tourism.”
On the controlling the density, development, new rental units and traffic along busy Dogwood Street, Evans said Council needs to be looking at the master transportation plan “on a more frequent basis.”
“This opportunity has come forward to look at first and second reading happening by council and then we move to a public hearing. I know we’ll continue to hear concerns and I would expect before that point and time, we’ll have the rigorous review of the transportation study, for us as a council to be able to make an informed decision about what needs to happen. This is the beginning of many conversations around transportation in our community and it’s time to really revisit our existing transportation plan.”
Kerr said Dogwood Street represents a challenge of growth and a challenge of success.
“This didn’t come out of the blue,” he said.
“There was this expectation that the land around the Merecroft Village centre would be developed. It’s got incredible amenities up there. They have the shopping centre, they’ve got recreational facilities, they’ve got incredible views in that area, it’s a very desirable neighbourhood, and it’s going to develop. And it’s going to develop not just as a driving neighbourhood but as a walking neighbourhood for elders. I think it’s a sign of the future. You’re going to see more denser communities like that, more smart communities, and I think the Dogwood issue… we need to look in the long-term at some property purchases along Dogwood to enable bus pull-offs, to allow the traffic flow to move through there. I don’t think we can continue with Dogwood the way it is. I think we do need to do some property purchases, some extraction along that corridor.”
Dahl opined on the City’s taxation system, on whether it’s too high, too low, or just right.
“I’ve been told repeatedly that we are in the middle of cities our size. I tend to think that we seem to be pretty high. Several years ago we got a 13.6 percent tax increase put on us, and that was a huge jump that I can’t see how we stayed in the middle with a jump that big. And we followed it up with a 3.3 the next year, and most years since then I think we’ve had some kind of incremental tax increase. When our housing prices have gone up for a lot of people in Campbell River, 25, 30 percent in the last two years with the tax rates that we have and the assessed values that we now have… our property tax costs have gotten too high. It’s too high really for a lot of the younger families trying to get into the market. I’d like us to be looking at some other ways of generating some revenue in Campbell River other than just continuously raising taxes. There are other ways to make money. Taxes aren’t the only way.”
Babchuk said the city’s tax increases have been manageable: “Over the past four years it’s been 1.7, 2.4, 2.5, 2.1 percent, when we’ve watched other communities up and down this island hit seven, eight percent depending on what it is they’re trying to build. So I think we’re doing a great job. I’d like to be able to service the people in Campbell River with what they need and then also know that we’re not putting the ‘Cadillac’ pieces of equipment on the road, and we’re making sure we can deliver it and be responsible with the money that we have.”
Buxton agreed, saying Council has done a good job in terms of keeping taxes down.
“I think the 10-year financial plan is great. Am I in favour of tax increases? Absolutely not. But taxation should be the last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted.”
And in bringing new business and young people into the community, Dahl said keeping housing affordable, updating facilities he considers to be outdated, and offering more amenities will bring a young workforce into Campbell River.