Anna Bundschuh and Farrell Segall are challenging incumbent Hans Cunningham to be the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s Area G Director.
Area G, which includes the communities south of Nelson such as Ymir and Salmo, has been represented by Cunningham since 1986.
The Nelson Star spoke to Bundschuh, Cunningham and Segall ahead of the Oct. 15 municipal elections.
Anna Bundschuh says her experience running the Shambhala Music Festival has set her up for public office.
Bundschuh currently works as a constituency assistant for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding. Prior to that she was the financial officer for the annual festival near Salmo that draws approximately 15,000 people.
“I consider it building a city for a week. I had tons of experience with large budgets and planning as we built the largest city in West Kootenay for a week of the year. So with that experience, I didn’t really realize how much of it was about good governance until I’ve gotten the role of assistant to the constituents of Nelson-Creston.”
Bundschuh lives in Nelson but says she feels connected to the Salmo valley. She thinks there should be better transportation between the two communities.
BC Transit currently only runs a bus between Nelson and Salmo three days weekly, and only two of those days include stops in Ymir.
“Having regular service that meets the requirements of the workers and individuals who live in the region, I think, would really benefit our area.”
In the next four years Bundschuh wants to see improved internet service in the area and said she’s already begun advocating Telus for it. She also says the affordable housing crisis in B.C. cities has arrived in Area G.
“There’s zero vacancies. You can’t find a rental. There’s huge demand and there’s always posts about people who are looking for locations. So the demand is there. It’s just, where’s the supply? What innovative ways can we look at to be able to use the tools of RDCK to be able to address that?”
Additionally, Bundschuh wants to advocate for the province taking on the cost of diking Salmo River, which is considered a flood risk. That work, she says, is cost prohibitive and should be a provincial responsibility rather than that of local governments.
Hans Cunningham points to several climate change-related initiatives he wants to see implemented in Area G.
The first is flood mitigation work, which he says needs to be prioritized for Salmo River and Erie Creek. He doesn’t agree with how the provincial government has off-loaded diking to local governments and wants to prevent a local disaster like the Fraser Valley flooding of 2021.
“We know we’re going to get one of those atmospheric rivers one of these days, and we’re going to be in trouble.”
Cunningham agrees the area needs improved transit services, and that solutions should also include making active transportation such as cycling easier for commuters. He also wants to see more electric car chargers installed.
“The idea that you can come into Ymir with your electric car, plug it in, even if it’s just about dead, go over to the store, have a coffee, by the time you get back you have an 80 per cent charge and ready to go. Those are the kinds of things initiatives that I would like to see happen.”
Area G’s agricultural economy, he says, needs work. Cunningham wants to encourage residents to develop agriculture as a food security measure.
“I think the idea of making communities resilient means you have to think about working here to help us so that we can continue to be self sufficient.”
Cunningham says during the last term he’s been advocating for a fibre-optic line similar to the one recently finished in the Slocan Valley — although his focus is on speaking with Columbia Basin Trust and the provincial government rather than Telus — and will continue to fight any logging near Ymir’s contested watershed.
As a former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and an executive member of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), Cunningham says he knows how push for provincial and federal funding.
Farrell Segall is critical of the RDCK, which he describes as “an old boys clubs” that he wants to shake up.
Segall, an electrical engineer and current Salmo village councillor, says the regional district has become too mired in bureaucracy to be effective. The affordable housing crisis, he says, is made worse by the RDCK’s land-use bylaws although he doesn’t specify how.
“We have enormous bylaws that don’t get enforced, so then why the hell have them in the first place? An 11-acre lot like mine, I can really only have two houses on that. And we’re short of homes, short of housing.”
Segall is also critical of how the cannabis industry has developed post-legalization. He has been part of the Kootenay Cannabis Economic Development Council for the last two years and says he was part of an effort at the 2020 UBCM conference that pushed the province to introduce farm-to-gate sales.
That happened on Oct. 4, when the province announced it would allow eligible, licensed cannabis producers to sell non-medical products from stores at their cultivation sites.
Segall wants federal regulations opened up, or done away with entirely, and says the industry has been under developed locally.
“We could have had what I call the Napa Valley of cannabis here in the Kootenays.”
Transportation and communication are his priorities for the next four years. He says most residents don’t have a reliable cell connection and puts the blame on Cunningham for not acting on the issue. “Hans lives in Ymir, he has seen this issue. He did nothing.”
Segall says he is against health and COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and that he feels pity for people who were vaccinated as a precaution. “I come as an independent entirely and I have outspoken views, but I’m passionate about the health and wellbeing for everybody in this area.”