The Castlegar Chamber of Commerce hosted an all candidates forum Wednesday night that was attended by about 175 people. All four candidates — Arry Dhillon, Cherryl MacLeod, Tyler Maddocks and Janna Sylvest — in the by-election attended.
Suzanne Lehbauer, executive director of the Castlegar Hospice Society, moderated the event.
The format of the forum gave each candidate three minutes for opening statements and then one minute for closing rebuttals. In between, questions from the audience and media were written down and directed to a specific candidate and then read by Lehbauer. The candidate then had two minutes to respond. Additional candidates were allowed to respond by using one of their three rebuttal cards, and rebuttal responses were limited to one minute.
The format cut down on the amount of time it takes to ask questions, enabling 30 questions to make their way to the floor.
Maddocks spoke of his desire to see a strong downtown in his opening comments. “Some ideas … are a city campground. I think that if we had people coming in the summer months who had a place to stay downtown … and partake in the continual presentations downtown.”
He believes that Millennium Park is an asset towards that vision. “I think for the most part Castlegar city council is doing a lot of good things. In specific, I am a big fan of the Millennium Park. I think that can really be a difference maker in our community for trying to get people downtown,” said Maddocks.
Sylvest has a different view of the park, referring to it as a “myopic pet project.” In response to a question about what she was referring to as that pet project she stated, “I am referring to using 100 percent of revenues from the casino to pay for the operating costs of Millennium Park.”
Dhillon used one of his rebuttal cards to contradict a comment from Sylvest about his plans for casino revenues, and then chimed in on Millennium Park as well. “People do want to see Millennium Park. When I went door to door, one of the most common things I heard was, ‘I love that park.’… I fully support going forward with the park, but in a cost-effective manner.”
MacLeod also had something to say about the park, “I strongly feel there should have been a better balance between investing in our parks and our basic infrastructure.”
Sylvest and Dhillon both spoke of their desire to forge stronger ties and partnerships with Selkirk College.
“An education based economy is definitely the most sustainable economy foundation for local government because it is not resource based,” said Sylvest.
“One of the biggest ways that we can create economic development in this region… is partnering with the college,” added Dhillon when he used one of his rebuttal cards to add his opinion to the conversation.
Many of MacLeod’s responses included criticisms of the current city council. This was summed up in her closing statement when she stated, “If you are happy with the way that our council is currently running, the decisions they are making with our tax dollars, then vote for the candidate endorsed by some of them. If you would like to see the council be more open, accountable, transparent, then vote for me.”
Eleven questions were directed to Dhillon, 10 to MacLeod, seven to Sylvest and two to Maddocks. Six questions had to do with finance or development, four were about infrastructure, two were about taxes and five had to do with candidates abilities to work with the existing council in one form or another. The remaining questions ranged from environmental issues to chickens and from water meters to public engagement.
Voting will take place Oct. 29 at the Community Complex between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Early voting is Oct. 18 and 19 at the Community Forum between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.