Green issues take centre stage at Sooke Mayor Candidates’ Forum

Event sponsored by Transition Sooke

Maja Tait

Green ideas featured prominently at a Mayor Candidates’ Forum at EMCS Community Theatre on Wednesday night.

It was the first forum between the mayoral candidates before the Oct. 20 election.

The candidates – Mayor Maja Tait, Coun. Kevin Pearson and Mick Rhodes – answered questions on issues important to forum sponsor Transition Sooke. Time was also set aside for residents’questions.

Candidates answered questions on cosmetic pesticide ban, smart growth, promoting food security, the Charter of Compassion, traffic congestion, walk ability, quality of life, recycling, the official community plan, the local economy, and carbon neutrality.

The three candidates kept mainly to their platforms, and only veered slightly off course when discussing residents concerns.

On growth, the candidates agreed to the smart growth mantra.

Pearson said smart growth is about social, economic and environmental issues.

“If you can balance all three of those in your construction and ‘densification’ of your core area then you’ve addressed the smart growth principles,” he said.

Tait considers smart growth about using infrastructure wisely, preserving natural spaces and consideration of community values, while Rhodes favours more mixed land uses, diverting traffic and creating a downtown park.

“Some work has already started,” she said. “The roundabout has improved traffic flows and eased up on traffic idling time of the past, sidewalk improvements that are accessible … but we need to keep these things rolling and improve on them.”

When discussions turned to residents’ questions, the three candidates delved into issues as diverse as finding a new home for the Saturday Sooke Country Market to the official community plan – even the super powers they possess.

The country market is located at Otter Point and Eustace roads, but is not a permanent location. The candidates were asked if they could help finding something permanent.

Tait and Pearson suggested Lot A as a new home, while Rhodes again pushed the idea of a central park at the corner of Church and Sooke roads.

“I would love to see a waterfront park blossom in heart of Sooke. It’s the major reason I’m running,” said Rhodes.

Added Tait: “We know we have a need for more space. I think the market belongs in a place within the core that is walkable and close.”

The district is currently examining the uses for Lot A, a five-acre property on Wadams Way, and a consultant’s report is expected soon. The property is already earmarked for a new 10,000-square-foot library.

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