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Debate sees Delta independents urge for more council voices

It was the first of two meetings hosted by the Delta Chamber of Commerce

Candidates running for Delta Council in the upcoming municipal election took part in the first of a pair of debates organized by the Delta Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday evening.

Sponsored by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, the forum at the North Delta Centre for the Arts was an opportunity to answer questions on a variety of topics, including several on the issue of housing.

Running under mayoralty candidate George Harvie's Achieving for Delta banner, councillor candidates Dylan Kruger, Alicia Guichon, Jennifer Johal and Rod Binder took part, while Jessie Dosanjh and Daniel Boisvert, who are also on the slate, did not take part as they were attending a school board meeting in their current roles as school trustees.

Also on hand for Tuesday's forum were independent candidates Maha Balakumar, Duncan Callander, Julien Jacques, Moneca Kolvyn and Brian Read, while independents Pamela Swanigan and Stephen Sun did not participate.

The council candidates were first up and had one minute each to answer a series of questions, followed at the mid-way point of the meeting by the mayoralty candidates, which included Harvie and independents Joginder Randhawa and Peter van der Velden.

Housing questions prompted a few varied but also very similar responses from all the candidates, including the need to streamline the approvals process and the need for more purpose-built rental and below-market housing, as well as seniors housing and units more affordable for younger people.

Read noted building smaller houses on single-family lots where appropriate is just one solution, while Guichon noted more density was needed within town cores and Binder said greater density is needed within major transit corridors.

When the council candidates were asked what are important issues facing North Delta, Jacques, saying there's a lack of feeling of community, brought some levity to the proceeding by quipping he'd introduce a bylaw requiring residents to say hello and get to know their neighbours. Harvie during his opening remarks countered North Delta, in fact, has "fantastic community spirit."

Johal during the debate often reminded the audience of the Achieving for Delta campaign platform and was highly complimentary of Harvie as mayor and as the long-time city manager.

Callander, however, said that while he liked Harvie and the other mayoralty candidates, four independents were needed to bring a better balance for decision-making. Kolvyn agreed, adding city hall has been lacking transparency.

Noting he was asked to join Harvie's slate in 2018 to bring a different perspective as the youngest person ever elected to Delta council, Kruger countered he voted in opposition to the the mayor on occasion, adding "if you have a room full of radical independents, nothing gets done."

Balakumar promised he'd be "the independent voice of reason on council."

Asked for their take on Delta solutions to improve transportation and transit, van der Velden said the city needs to focus on coming up with made-in-Delta solutions.

Saying he's advocating for a second exit out of Ladner, Harvie noted the new tunnel to replace the George Massey Tunnel won't change a whole lot and what is needed is another crossing, especially with the population south of the Fraser growing.

During their closing remarks, van der Velden again talked about his opposition to the LNG expansion proposal at Tilbury, while also insisting that he's not a radical.

Harvie talked about what the city has been able to accomplish in his first term, but that more still needs to be done.

Randhawa promised he would do whatever it takes to make Delta a vibrant, fast-growing community.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the Delta Chamber of Commerce is scheduled host another candidate session at the Genesis Theatre at Delta Secondary in Ladner.

The election takes place Oct. 15.

Check the municipal election section of the Optimist's website for more in-depth coverage and learn more about the candidates

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