Respect and civil debate were paramount at 100 Mile House’s All Candidates Forum last week.
For two hours Annemarie Byers, Amanda Patterson, Dave Mingo, Ralph Fossum, Jenni Guimond, Donna Barnett and Chris Pettman answered the public’s questions about why they should be elected to the District of 100 Mile House council. They touched upon a variety of topics big and small.
Early on, Byers, one of 100 Mile Houses’ full-time paramedics, said she wanted to build upon the current systems the 100 Mile House has in place. If elected she intends to expand and enhance the district’s public transit system to give seniors living outside the downtown more access to the community.
“They want to age in home and they should have the right to age gracefully in their home but if they give up their driver’s license they have no public transit to get them here,” Byers said. “I want to build on our resources so that our seniors who gave so much to the community don’t have to move.”
All of the candidates agreed that more needs to be done to foster economic development and the construction of housing. Both Mingo and Guimond, who work as realtors, said it’s difficult to attract developers to 100 Mile House because of its apparent small size. While officially there may only be 2,000 people living in the community they said closer to 10,000 make use of the services the town provides.
“We need to really think outside the box and get some new industry to the town. 100 Mile has been a resource-based town for as long as I can remember. Those resources are disappearing and we need to create some well-paid sustainable employment that is going to help our community prosper,” Guimond said.
When asked why he is running for his seventh consecutive term, Fossum was firm and passionate in his response. He said that with age comes experience and that because he’s retired he can fully devote himself to the council.
“I think there’s a learning curve for any new councillor. We work as a team and sometimes those older folks in the team have a little more experience and can answer some of the questions,” Fossum said.
Barnett, who previously served as 100 Mile House’s mayor and MLA for the Cariboo Chilcotin, was also questioned why she has returned to politics. She said that she has never been a councillor and would like the opportunity to be one.
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“I spend all day volunteering in this town and I listen to residents about their concerns,” Barnett said. “I was asked by many to run for mayor again and I said no because I don’t want to travel down Highway 97 again. I want the opportunity to stay here, listen and serve the people.”
If re-elected, Mingo promised to maintain a conservative approach when spending taxpayer money, touting the district’s current debt-free status. He said he believes in paying for projects out of pocket rather than taking on debt with high-interest rates.
“(I will) look at every single grant opportunity out there. If we got an opportunity to bring in money from senior government, let’s do it,” Mingo said. “We have a strong track record on that already. We’ve brought in $20 million over the last 12-14 years. As we keep our tax rates down we’ll also help the individual homeowner and business owner survive.”
When asked about how to prepare the community for the impacts of climate change, most of the candidates pivoted to talking about wildfire prevention. Byers said warm summers like 2017 and 2021 are going to keep coming and both she and Guimond agreed that better forest management will be critical to protecting the community.
“I think we are in a really great position in our community (to deal with climate change),” Patterson said. “We are a clean city and we don’t have a lot of pollution. I think we’ve done a great job offering the free electric vehicle charger over by the South Cariboo Visitors Centre.”
Mingo said one way to combat climate change is to encourage more residents to switch to electric vehicles and build the infrastructure to support them.
The panel was asked what the council could do for businesses that have fallen into disrepair, such as the Red Coach Inn. Pettman said there is a facade grant program available through the District that businesses can take advantage of if they’re looking to improve their building’s exterior.
“We can’t lump all businesses in with the Red Coach Inn. That is a sad state of affairs for sure but overall I think investing in economic development and having a committee to work with businesses would be a very good idea for the council to do,” Pettman said.
Guimond said she was happy to hear the facade program existed, noting that perhaps the district should consider raising awareness about it. Fossum and Mingo both said legal action has been enacted in regards to the Red Coach Inn, which was closed and boarded up this spring.
When asked about a lack of activities for youth most of the candidates dismissed this concern, citing the numerous sports and outdoor activities available such as skiing, soccer, mountain biking and hiking trails. Byers, however, said she has talked with young people in their 20s born in 100 Mile House who leave and don’t return because of the lack of non-outdoor based activities.
“With growth, we need to attract more young families. Young families have children who need something to do,” Byers said. “Not everybody is into sports and outdoor recreation so we need to offer something to our youth.”
Barnett said the main recreational service the community lacks is a pool. Despite numerous attempts by community members, no aquatic centre has ever been built due to cost.
Building a pool would not only benefit the town’s youth, Guimond said, but also everyone who lives in the South Cariboo. Mingo and Patterson agreed that this project would require a partnership with the Cariboo Regional District.
Mayor-elect Maureen Pinkney, who is running unopposed, also attended but declined to participate in the forum. Instead, Pinkney addressed the crowd at the end of the night, noting she’ll be happy to serve with whoever is elected alongside her.
“Some things that will change right away is that there will be days when I am in the office and you’ll be able to book appointments,” Pinkney said. “Public consultation is forefront so right away know wherever I am people can come and talk to me.”