The six candidates seeking to be the next mayor of Delta squared off Wednesday night at North Delta Secondary.
Independent candidates Vytas Vaitkus, Alex Megalos and Moneca Kolvyn joined Achieving for Delta’s George Harvie, Independents Working for You’s Jim Cessford and Team Delta’s Sylvia Bishop for a two-hour discussion on a variety of issues in the Delta Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum.
Following opening remarks, each of the candidates responded to questions submitted by voters.
The first question asked about the candidates’ vision and strategy for Delta and how they would build a plan to encourage affordable housing.
Vaitkus said contentious and proactive planning when it comes to neighbourhood change needs to be front and centre in order to create affordable housing as well as working with community groups with a focus on local property owners, not foreign investors.
Megalos said it should be a three-way community plan and that there is no me or I in teamwork.
Kolvyn said affordable housing is not about giving people free housing, but asking people what is a good solution. She said there is already an affordable housing committee that should be better utilized, that basement suites and rentals should be looked at more closely and warehouses throughout Delta could be beautiful, affordable housing options.
Harvie said Delta’s neighbourhoods are a strong social fabric of the community and that we need to protect that. He said government needs to work with regional, provincial and federal governments as well as developers to ensure no one is left behind.
Cessford said there isn’t a quick fix to the housing problem across the Lower Mainland, let alone Delta, adding his team would create a housing choices plan, sitting down with developers to ensure they would assign 15 to 20 per cent of their units to create rental units or subsidized housing. He also pointed to Delta’s need to access grant money.
Bishop pointed to Team Delta’s action plan on affordable housing, and its commitment to host a housing summit within the first 100 days in office that would bring together developers and housing activists to get the best ideas to design a “made in Delta” solution.
Up next was transportation, specifically improving transit and working with TransLink.
Megalos said TransLink will be uncooperative because Delta lacks the population to warrant more bus routes, but suggested smaller, shuttle buses could be an option to move more people throughout the community.
Kolvyn said TransLink has an obligation to work with Delta, adding Delta needs to break through the bad communication and move forward. She also suggested private shuttles and community buses are good options.
“Have your employees live above your work and then you won’t have to transport,” she said.
Harvie said the first thing to solve the problem is to get a bridge built. “The (George Massey) tunnel is causing massive congestion problems for everyone,” he said.
As far as TransLink, he said with new mayors in many communities, especially south of the Fraser, it will allow for new ideas and a fresh dialogue, ensuring TransLink will pay attention to Delta.
Cessford said we need to work with TransLink to make buses a priority, priority lights to get buses moving quicker through traffic and improving bus lanes.
“We need to bring the 601 direct bus back to Vancouver to help our seniors and get them moving along,” Cessford said. “We need a seat at the table. It’s all about collaboration, working together to get things done.”
Bishop said Team Delta commits to restoring relationships with TransLink and the Mayors’ Council, seeking grants with the province and the feds and also partnering with local businesses on possible shuttle buses to move their employees from central locations.
Vaitkus said identifying bottlenecks, creating routes that make sense and working with TransLink are keys. He also proposed building a light rail system from the ferry terminal to Downtown Vancouver as well as a line from the tunnel to North Delta.
On the issue of crime and safety, all agreed the Delta police are one of the best forces in the province.
Harvie said continued efforts on gangs and drugs must be front and centre for mayor and council as well as committing to keep Delta’s first responders the best they can be.
Cessford said Delta is one of the safest communities in B.C., if not all of Canada, adding that his track record of working with other police agencies in his role as police chief will be an asset to keeping the community strong.
Bishop said it was a “tough act to follow” sitting beside the former police chief, but reaffirmed that Delta is one of the safest communities in the Lower Mainland. She pointed to the success of the DPD’s “no call too small” philosophy, the high visibility of officers and strong community policing efforts as keys to keeping Delta safe.
Vaitkus said the DPD are the voice and the culture of the community and have always been there as partners. He does feel there are gaps between the DPD and RCMP, specifically in policing along Highway 17 that should be better addressed.
Megalos said we need to support the force in what it does, not overstep boundaries and ensure the police chief works with everyone.
Kolvyn said in speaking with youth, their relationship with police is horrible and that is something that has to change.
Being that the forum was in North Delta there were several community specific questions, including whether the North Delta area plan should be reviewed, which all candidates said it should be, as well as what support can be given to the North Delta farmers’ market once construction along 84th Avenue is completed.
All six candidates pledged to support the market in any way possible to ensure it is a vibrant part of the community.
On the issue of off-leash dog parks, Harvie said his team has pledged to build two enclosed parks, one in South Delta and one in North Delta, saying this is easy to do and will be value-added to the community.
Vaitkus said having facilities to walk dogs safely is paramount and should be a part of any community plan.
Megalos suggested that after hours when schools are not in session, fields could be made into off-leash dog parks, which drew a loud, angry response from the audience.
Kolvyn pointed to an idea in New Westminster where there are double fences in a park allowing for a separated space for dogs and residents to recreate.
Cessford said dog parks are an important issue, pointing to a recent incident where a dog was killed near railway tracks in North Delta due to lack of proper facilities.
“This should have been done a long time ago. We have to consult with the community to get this done,” he said.
Bishop said she was kind of speechless that this still was an issue in North Delta.
“Somewhere along the line there was a plan to install off-leash dog parks in North Delta. I don’t know what happened to that plan, but as your mayor I would certainly investigate what happened to that plan and put that plan into place so North Delta gets an off-leash park.”
Voters head to the polls on Oct. 20.