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Candidates for council answer community's questions

Candidates answered a variety of questions on policy and belief

Just over 20 people came out to the All Candidates Forum last week. 

Hosted at the Creekside Seniors Centre in the evening of Friday, June 7 the forum was a chance for the people of 100 Mile House to ask the four candidates running for council their plans for the future. Marty Norgren, Cameron McSorley, Lori Fry and Dave Wishnowski are all looking to fill former councillor Ralph Fossum's seat in 100 Mile House's by-election taking place on June 22. 

The event was organized by the South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce with Coun. Donna Barnett serving as the mediator and the mouthpiece of the public. Everyone in attendance was invited to write their questions down on slips of paper, with the candidates then receiving up to three minutes each to respond.

One of the first questions posed to the councillors was what their plans were for 100 Mile House. McSorley was one of the first to answer and said he would look at expanding the recreational boundary of 100 Mile House to incorporate the townships and hamlets surrounding it. 

"That turns into a little bit of a struggle with the board of directors with the Cariboo Regional District in Williams Lake. This could change the face of the community, this could fix a lot of the problems by expanding the tax base. Not necessarily hiking taxes but bringing (tax revenue) into 100 Mile House," McSorley explained, noting 100 Mile House is the service centre for most of the South Cariboo. 

Wishnowski agreed with McSorley noting many of the people who have said they would vote for him can't because they live out of town, despite using the services in 100 Mile House on a regular basis. He also voiced his support for a new pool, skate park or recreation facility as a way to attract new families and retain young people. 

Fry said she doesn't have any specific plans for 100 Mile House other than working cohesively with all residents, community groups and levels of government. She did note that when she raised her own two children in 100 Mile House she kept them engaged and active in the community, despite the lack of a pool or recreation facility. 

"I would like to continue to build on the community we have and protect and sustain it into the future," Fry said. 

Norgren quipped that he would give everyone free beer before pushing back on Wishnowski's desires for a pool. He pointed to how the City of Pitt Meadows in the Lower Mainland recently chose not to install a new pool due to a $60-million price tag and a $1,200 hike in taxes per household for 40 years. Instead, he said his plan would be to find ways to support and promote the growth of small and medium-sized local businesses. 

"I do think we need to look at expanding on small and medium entrepreneurs and manufacturers, so I think that's one of my key (stances)," Norgren said. "My understanding is that 100 Milers don't want to big businesses here. We sure could use some small and medium-sized manufacturers to boost our economy and the tax base."

One of the more unique questions put to the candidates was how they would use $1-million in grants. Wishnowski's answer was a grassroots approach where he would distribute $10,000 each to various individuals and groups to support local causes and projects. McSorley said he would use half of it to fund infrastructure projects and would invest the other half to generate more money for the community. 

A more pragmatic approach came from Fry, who noted that these days a million dollars is a "drop in the bucket" when it comes to major projects the district is currently working on. She said she would consult with the public before making her decision, which Norgren agreed with saying he would put the use of such money to a referendum. 

When asked how they would communicate better with the public and get them more engaged with council, the candidates broadly agreed democracy is a two-way street and that citizens need to be engaged. McSorley proposed forming three advisory councils/forums one for youths, one for adults and one for seniors who would be able to communicate with council the needs of their age groups. 

On the subject of the number one issue facing 100 Mile House, Wishnowski brought it back to the fact the district doesn't have a big enough tax or voter base to support many of the projects the community wants.

"We need to work backwards to figure out how we can improve both of those things. I don't know what the answers are or how we can get there yet, but I do believe after talking to everyone I've talked to that we need to have more people participating in the system. We need to expand the boundaries and we need to make (100 Mile House) as attractive and amazing for young people and families as it is for seniors," Wishnowski said. "I can't imagine a senior that wouldn't want to move to 100 Mile, this place is like Disneyland for seniors, the services are amazing. Let's take that and do it for youth and families too."

Fry followed up his comments by noting the biggest problem facing 100 Mile House is that many of the issues discussed during the forum have been issues now for the last 35 years. McSorley agreed the community can't keep putting a bandaid on issues and believes that a data-driven approach will reveal the real problem facing the town. 

During their closing statements, the candidates thanked the community and one another for coming out. McSorley said that the fact four candidates have stepped up to fill a single seat shows the community is willing to engage with local government. 

"I hope I've given you enough confidence in me to come out and cast a ballot on June 22 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. 100 Milers it's now up to you guys to cast ballots," Norgren said. 

Fry echoed Norgren's call for the community to come out and vote, no matter who they end up voting for. She remarked she would be honoured to vote for any one of her fellow like-minded candidates, but made a final pitch for herself. 

"I happen to have a lot of energy, I'm hard-working, I'm impartial and I know the community. I've been here for 35 years and I can guarantee you I will have no visual distractions," Fry concluded. "I'm about contributing to a cohesive and prosperous community, protect democracy and build and sustain our community." 

Patrick Davies

About the Author: Patrick Davies

An avid lover of theatre, media, and the arts in all its forms, I've enjoyed building my professional reputation in 100 Mile House.
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