A packed Telkwa Elementary School heard last Monday from the people who will and want to run their village and rural area for the next four years.
With all Telkwa councillor positions acclaimed, each took their turn to introduce themselves and their plans for the community.
Then it was onto the mayoral and Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako Area A candidates.
The men who would be mayor were up first. While they made it clear there were common concerns like water quality, they also had some key differences.
Current two-term councillor Brad Layton was up first. He described his desire to run originally being brought on by a high taxes, and the subsequent realization in his view that not all was as it appeared on the tax bill’s final tally.
“What the heck were they doing with [the tax money]? I was a single parent for 17 years and everything I had to do with my daughter I had to take her to Smithers, there was absolutely no recreation here within Telkwa, or very little.
“Well I got in and I had my eyes opened. I got in and found out that council that was in at the time, they weren’t wasting our money; they hardly had any money,” Layton told the crowd.
“We didn’t realize that about 50 per cent of the taxes that you pay were to other levels of government.”
The Northwest BC Regional Benefits Alliance still under negotiation with the Province was something Layton saw as a “game changer,” especially in light of the LNG Canada decision to spend $40 billion in the region. He compared it to funding deals the Province has made with other regions, including the Peace region, that has municipalities collecting much bigger cheques for the resources extracted in their area.
John McDivitt’s introduction was next and said his focus was on water, taxes and roads. He said those were the same three topics brought up as he campaigns door to door.
His plan as mayor would be to use people he knew personally to fix the stink in Telkwa’s water.
“Now we’re on treated water; it smells of chlorine badly. You can’t even drink that stuff, so why are we paying so much for water when we can’t use it?” said McDivitt.
He also believes taxes can be cut, proposing they be dropped $400 per property in the first year.
“To do this, we would get rid of buying the $50,000 underbody dump truck. We don’t need it. We would get rid of the $15,000 pick-up they’re proposing to buy because someone on the payroll was short a pick-up,” said McDivitt.
He would also save $18,000 on a second coat of calcium put down in September, instead regrading and repacking with water.
The biggest cut would be in wages: $200,000.
“We would streamline the system so some people would have to multi-task. We’re just a little town, we can’t afford all this. There’s no money,” said McDivitt.
During the question and answer period, Layton took the opportunity to say while he would challenge the Province for funding and hold the line on taxes, cutting taxes and not hiring was not the way he would go.
“We haven’t been hiring extra people, we’ve been replacing people that have moved on to other jobs. So eventually we’d be getting to the point where there isn’t going to be anybody there to do the services that as citizens in this community … like to enjoy,” said Layton, listing street plowing and maintenance as examples.
“If we don’t have people, sure we can reduce the taxes. But do we actually want to live in a community where we can’t drive anywhere because we can’t get out onto the street or any of those other things that right now we take for granted that are paid for by our taxes.”
Incumbent Mark Fisher and Leah Germain both acknowledged too many people don’t know what a regional director does, and both aimed to educate people more about the important roles a regional district fills.
Fisher put his case forward first, saying his environmental, social and financial experience makes him the best candidate. He also pointed to the work he did on waste management and agriculture.
“There’s lots of opportunities around garbage, believe it or not,” said Fisher.
Germain took the opportunity during her opening statement to talk about fire safety.
“Fuel management and risk mitigation are very important to get on top of fire prevention,” she said.
She and Fisher also supported the idea of having more people living in the rural area, allowing more people to live in smaller areas in the countryside.
The mayoral candidates also talked housing:
Other topics from the forum: