A large crowd attended a candidates forum at Wildflower School on Oct. 11. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

A large crowd attended a candidates forum at Wildflower School on Oct. 11. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson council candidates face rapid-fire questions at Wildflower School forum

Event was organized by the Canadian Federation of University Women and moderated by Eleanor Stacey

The Wildflower School gym was nearly full on Oct. 11 at an election candidate forum for both Nelson City Council and local school board trustees.

The Canadian Federation of University Women, which organized the event, gave mayor and council candidates a list of 10 questions in advance, and told them they each would only be asked to answer two of them, and that different candidates would be asked different questions.

They were given 1.5 minutes, strictly timed, for each answer.

Summaries of the questions and answers for mayor and council candidates are outlined below. Responses of school board candidates to education-related questions can be found in a separate Nelson Star article.

Municipal election day across the province is Oct. 15.

How should the city solve the rental housing shortage?

Mayoral candidate Janice Morrison said the city and the Regional District of Central Kootenay should develop an independent housing authority — a non-profit corporation owned by local governments, and she pointed to examples in Whistler and Canmore.

She said the RDCK’s regional housing needs assessment, published in September 2020, would contribute to this effort.

Under her leadership, she said, the city would continue with its current policies to limit short-term rentals, give deductions on water and sewer charges for secondary suites, and adjust zoning to increase densification.

Incumbent John Dooley said there needs to be a regional approach to housing, and that Nelson should not be expected to be the sole provider of housing for the region.

“It’s a burden on our community to continuously ask Nelson to deliver that tiny bit of land that we have for housing in our community. Today I had a conversation with a community resident, and we were hard pressed to identify more than two pieces of land owned by the City of Nelson that could be put forward for housing.”

Dooley said that as mayor he would continue the current practice of encouraging a mix of secondary suites, laneway housing, and more density, as well as working with non-profit societies to develop social housing.

Fifty per cent of all individuals in Nelson earn less $40,000 a year and 17.5 per cent of seniors are below the poverty line. What should the city do to reduce poverty?

Morrison said that a living wage in Nelson is “just under $20,” as opposed to the minimum wage of $15.65 per hour, and the city should consider becoming a living wage employer for its staff and the staff of its contractors. She said Nelson could consider becoming a living wage community, but that would require “a robust conversation” with the business community.

For seniors, the city should advocate to the federal government for increases to income and rental supplements, Morrison said. The city should implement the Together Nelson action plan, developed by Nelson at its Best, which lays out five steps to reducing poverty in Nelson in the areas of transportation, employment, education, housing and access to services.

Incumbent Councillor Keith Page said the city should follow the five pathways contained in the Together Nelson report. He specified the need for a non-profit housing authority, financial literacy programs for youth, and regional transit services.

Mayoral candidate John Buffery also advocated following the Together Nelson report.

Council candidate Kyle Wilkinson said the most important step toward reducing poverty would be electing an inclusive and diverse council, one that represents a variety of community perspectives.

Council candidate Jesse Pineiro said poverty intersects with many other issues such as housing and the city should give a tax break to people to rent out their suites long term rather than turning them into an Airbnb. He suggested community gardens tended by at-risk people, and that co-operative housing should be encouraged.

Council candidate Brenton Raby said the city should control taxes and water-sewer rates while still providing basic services. He said it should support projects such as the new private senior housing project on Vernon Street because it will free up existing housing while allowing seniors to stay in their communities. The project will provide employment, he said, and the city should not overburden the developer with permits.

How should council limit the number of bears euthanized in Nelson?

Council candidate Leslie Payne said citizens need to get the information they need about bear attractants on their property and that “neighbourhood champions” could mentor and model the needed behaviour. She said there needs to be increased activity by bylaw officers to enforce, warn, and educate.

Incumbent councillor Rik Logtenberg said the city should sign up to the BearSmart community program run by WildSafe BC. But he said that would only be a partial solution because we have forest ecosystems that go into “boom and bust cycles. If it is a bad year for huckleberries they are going to come into town looking for food.” He suggested this means greater care of ecosystems.

Pineiro said Nelson should sign up for the BearSmart program, that there should be more bear proof garbage bins, that there should be weekly garbage pickup during bear season, and the city should connect people experiencing food insecurity with opportunities to pick residents’ extra fruit.

Council candidate Glen Sutherland said policies and practices in garbage collection, waste management and fruit tree harvests all need to be revisited.

How should council reduce wildfire risk?

Council candidates Ainsley Hastings and Kate Tait both said we need to have healthy watersheds and forests and that the city should continue to partner with the Regional District of Central Kootenay and private landowners, because most of the forests in question are outside the city limits. Hastings said the city should follow and continue to update its water protection plan, and reach out to First Nations on traditional ways of preventing wildfire.

Raby said the city has a seat at board of the RDCK where the dangerous forests are located, and he said advocacy there is crucial. Within the city, he said Nelson should continue to support its fire department, continue to improve water supply and storage, and continue with Nelson hydro’s vegetation management.

How would you work towards the wellbeing of women experiencing violence in our community?

Page said this situation is made worse by the housing shortage because a person facing violence at home has nowhere else to go. He said we need to hold men to account, enforcing and reflecting appropriate behaviour.

Woodward called for financial relief for local groups that support women in crisis. He said it is up to men to model appropriate behaviour.

Tait said the issue is greater than a municipal one, and the job of city council is to listen to non-profit organizations and experts in this field, and advocate to higher levels of government and to granting agencies.

Wilkinson said his first task is to model appropriate behaviour to his sons. The city should support people and organizations working on this issue.

What is the greatest opportunity facing Nelson?

Buffery said he wants to see the toxic contaminated site at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek (owned partly by the city and partly by CP Rail) brought back to its natural state and enhanced to include community gardens.

Mayoral candidate Tom Prior said that other than electing him as mayor the greatest opportunity would be to rid downtown Nelson of cars. He also wants to see heating of buildings with geothermal energy.

Logtenberg said the biggest opportunity is our young people, and he cited the (federally funded) Youth Climate Corps that employs young people to do climate mitigation work in the community such as retrofitting buildings and homes. He wants to see the the youth group continue to act on the ideas in Nelson Next climate plan.

Incumbent councillor Jesse Woodward cited opportunities including growth in tourism and the high-tech industry, the implementation of the Nelson Next climate plan, a move toward more infrastructure for walking and biking, and enhancement of Nelson as an arts town.

What is the greatest risk facing Nelson?

Mayoral candidate Mike Zeabin said the greatest risk is the amount of trees killed by the pine beetle (in forests outside the city limits). He also said food security is a threat.

Dooley said the council has worked over recent years with other governments and agencies, particularly in Selous Creek, to reduce wildfire risk. He said the city will have to find ways to work with private landowners just outside the city limits to mitigate wildfire risk and to protect Nelson’s drinking water. He said a second threat is the sewage treatment plant, which needs replacement.

Hastings said the greatest risk is divisive politics and community division.

There will be another candidate forum on Oct. 12 at the Prestige Lakeside Resort at 7 p.m. sponsored by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.

Election day is Oct. 15 at the Prestige Lakeside Resort from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.


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Meet the election candidates for RDCK Area E

• Meet the Nelson City Council candidates: Part 1

Meet the Nelson City Council candidates: Part 2


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Election 2022