Several local issues were discussed among the council hopefuls at the first municipal election all-candidates’ debate in North Delta on Saturday afternoon.
Hosted by the Delta Residents Association, the event at the Northside Community Church, which saw a lighter crowd in attendance than past all-candidates’ meetings at the venue, had almost all the councillor and mayoralty candidates participating.
The three running for mayor include incumbent George Harvie, who is running a full slate for council and school board under the Achieving for Delta banner, as well as independents Joginder Randhawa and Peter van der Velden. They were first on stage, making brief opening remarks followed by answering the same two questions submitted by residents.
The council candidates then also took turns going on stage to introduce themselves and answer one question.
Achieving for Delta’s Dylan Kruger, Alicia Guichon, Jennifer Johal, Jessie Dosanjh, Daniel Boisvert and Rod Binder are competing for six councillor seats with independents Maha Balakumar, Duncan Callander, Julien Jacques, Moneca Kolvyn, Brian Read, Pamela Swanigan and Stephen Sun.
Only Sun was not in attendance at Saturday’s meeting.
The first question for the mayoralty hopefuls was how they weigh public input, what factors they consider and how do they communicate them. An example given within the question was the changes approved for the Ladner Village Official Community Plan, the preamble stating a majority of residents spoke in opposition.
Harvie answered that he is ensuring all decision-making has an open process for everyone, as was the case for the Ladner Village changes, adding there’s now even greater opportunity for input through Zoom and social media channels. He also noted, among other things, that he still answers all his own emails.
Randhawa said his office will always be open and that he will ensure he’s in the community to hear what people have to say. He also reiterated the need to attract more businesses to Delta, especially within North Delta.
Saying he is hearing much frustration during his door-knocking, van der Velden noted the current council, as well as civic committees, hasn’t been responsive to public input. He also suggested exploring the introduction of the Ward system for elections.
Asked about how the city can reconcile its vision with the fact more monster houses are being built, resulting in the removal of many trees, Randhawa said the rules already in place are not being followed. He also said would also seek provincial funding to help create more pathways and plant more trees.
Noting Delta’s tree bylaw needs revisiting and that Vancouver’s tougher bylaw with its “heavy-duty fines” should be examined, van der Velden said he supports more “medium-style density” in areas that have infrastructure that can support such growth.
Noting he took exception to the question’s preamble that stated homes were being built over property lines, Harvie said Delta recently updated its tree bylaw, making it one of the toughest in the Lower Mainland, and that the city is undertaking an ambitious planting program that saw over 1,000 trees planted last year alone. He also noted he wants to work with the school district to see if even more can be planted on school properties.
Asked how Ladner Village could retain its unique character if six-storey developments were allowed, Balakumar stressed the need for revitalization but that there needs to be a balancing act, while Read suggested a village redevelopment that blends better with the rest of Ladner, and Boisvert stressed the need for more alternate forms of housing but a lot of work still needs to be done.
Kolvyn and Guichon were asked to respond to a question submitted by Kathleen Higgins, who had several small family houses built on one lot once occupied by a single-detached house. Higgins asked whether the candidates support pre-zoning, pre-approved plans and reduced fees so that more people can build smaller homes on smaller lots.
Both Kolvyn and Guichon were supportive of such changes.
Asked for their opinion on LNG expansion at Tilbury, Binder said it’s a better option, for now, than coal but future options should be explored. He added he’s also confident in the fire department’s ability to protect Burns Bog. Jacques took a moment to consider Binder’s answers before agreeing Binder raised some good points.
Asked for their opinions on the two competing bids for container terminal expansion at Roberts Bank, Swanigan didn’t mince words in responding that both proposals were unacceptable. She also noted the current container terminal has already caused significant negative environmental impacts.
Dosanjh said he is waiting for the outcome of the environmental assessments.
Asked what Delta has done well over the last four years and what needs more attention in the next four, Kruger went over several highlights of the current council including successful pilot projects, such as the expanded outdoor bar patio program and drinking allowed in designated parks. Among the issues that need continued work is the housing front, in order to help young people and seniors be able to stay in their community, said Kruger.
Callander also said the housing issue is an important one, including the need for proper infrastructure before more high-rises are built along the Scott Road corridor.
The election takes place Oct. 15.