The Cawston Hall Society sponsored an all candidates meeting for Area “B” director candidates last Wednesday at Cawston Hall.
Between 60 and 70 members of the public turned up to hear the three candidates views on regional district issues in the Cawston area.
The meeting began with an apology from Cawston Hall Society President Dave Cursons for the omission of the local school trustees from the forum, due to an oversight.
Moderator and outgoing Area “B” director George Hanson outlined the meeting’s agenda, which began with the candidates introducing themselves.
Lee McFadyen won the right to speak first. She saw her qualifications for the director’s position coming from her ability to understand the process and how to accomplish results. To prepare for the job she had attended board meetings and served on a number of committees, as well as having taken on a number of environmental issues that she felt threatened the valley. She believed that there was no major issue in the community at the moment, but saw air and water quality, maintainance of the valley lifestyle and continuation of the building of an Official Community Plan (OCP) as her main focus should she be elected.
Collen Christensen, a 61 year resident of the valley, listed her experience in agriculture, bookeeping, secretarial work, office administration, and present work at the Infocentre as qualifications for the job. She also described her leadership in local committees and noted that “listening to issues was more important than talking about them.”
George Bush outlined his work experience and his assistance in creating a couple of fruit selling organizations in the valley. He described three issues in the area, namely the farmworkers campground, the Official Community Plan, and becoming part of the Similkameen Valley Planning Society as things he wished to pursue. (To become a member of the SVPS, one must be an elected official.)
McFadyen told the group that she had played an active leadership role in fighting threats to the valley for years, including the attempted dumping of toxic waste at the former Dankoe mine site. She felt her proactive approach was an asset.
Christensen wished to work on economic stability by promoting agriculture and tourism. She was concerned about the $10,000 cost of a referendum being advanced by her opponents to approve the final OCP draft, declaring that referendums were normally used for “money issues” and the area could not afford such spending. She felt that the committee should be trusted to deliver a document that would be in the community’s best interests.
The first question from the audience asked candidates what they envisioned for bylaws down the road. McFadyen replied that the OCP would probably create some new bylaws, but it would depend on what the people wanted. She noted that the document and any changes to it involved a public process, and was necessary to prevent “willy – nilly growth.” Her reason for a referendum was based on the fact that there was no clear majority for an OCP in a recent community survey. Bush noted that work on the document had been slow to date, and it could be years before the final version is produced.
Questions regarding transportation for farmworkers, how the candidates prepared for the role of director and possible funding of a full time position for maintenance of public properties like Kobau Park were also asked.
“If we want to pay for it, we can have pretty much anything we want,” Bush responded to the Kobau Park question, while the other two candidates offered to provide additional funding if there was any available.
A question regarding each candidate’s past involvement in local air and water quality issues was answered most capably by McFadyen, who outlined her previous efforts, starting with her work to change the initial location of the Keremeos sewage treatment plant from being too close to the river in the 1970’s, to her work to prevent coalbed methane drilling in the valley. She also fought the delivery of toxic waste to the Dankoe mine site successfully, and continues to work on river clean up and habitat restoration at Ginty’s pond. Bush had involved himself in the coalbed methane issue, while Christensen promised to be “first on the bus” for any issue that needed to be addressed.
A question put to Christensen regarding attaching the OCP referendum to an election as a way to address the issue of cost resulted in her reluctantly agreeing that it might work, but still had a problem with using a referendum to resolve a non financial issue.
The national park issue was raised with a question put to the candidates asking them how they would go about finding out what the majority wants.
Bush commented that taking 2,000 acres out of the Agricultural Land Reseve (at a cost of 27 million dollars) in the creation of the park “didn’t make sense.” He saw the issue as one where the local community would be restricted from use of a large part of the local landscape, and then be required to pay for it.
“A group voice can carry a lot of weight,” he added. Both McFadyen and Christensen claimed that it was a federal matter and therefore out of their hands. McFadyen noted that the conservation group CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) was expected to conduct a local, formal survey on the question in the near future.
A question regarding the withdrawal of land within the ALR for commercial or industrial purposes was answered unanimously by the candidates, who felt that it was going to at one point be inevitable, but efforts had to be made to steer development away from prime agricultural land.
The final questions of the night involved RDOS staff wages and the prospect of continued support for Keremeos – Cawston Television Society, something to which all candidates were in favour of continuing.
The meeting wrapped up with closing remarks from the three candidates.