The convention centre at the Prestige hotel was full to capacity with approximately 350 people who came to listen to the candidates running for council in Sooke.
The evening was divided into council candidates and mayoral hopefuls. Each gave a brief opening statement as to who they were and why they were running. (See responses from Sooke News Mirror questions in November 5 issue.)
Moderator David Stocks asked the council candidates questions fielded by the attendees, as well as from questions submitted prior to the all candidates meeting. The questions were answered by selected candidates, not all answered each question for the sake of time limitations.
Briefly summarized, the questions were:
• When asked how they viewed fire and protective services, Brenda Parkinson said there was a need to recruit more volunteer firefighters and all three fire stations needed to be up and running. They also required the equipment and educations to serve the community.
Rick Kasper said the firefighting budget has been increased and no one was denied training. He said it costs $18,000 to brings a firefighter up to Level 2. He said an $1,000 incentive for new recruits was instituted by the last council.
• When asked what their views were on roads and traffic in Sooke and the impact on Silverspray, Kel Phair and Kerrie Reay responded.
Phair said he didn’t know what the plans were but ins and outs in Sooke needed to be looked at. He said Sooke needed to have Sunriver residents turn right.
Reay said it all had to be looked at including developing along Goodmere Road, connecting sidewalks, the roundabout and the infrastructure at the end of the four lanes. She said an alternate route was definitely needed.
• The attractiveness of the town centre and decorating (for Christmas) drew comments from Kevin Pearson and Mark Whiteson.
Pearson said he would grade the town centre a C-. He said development towards the harbour should be encouraged as it is the single most beautiful asset we have. Decorating the town centre should due done in incremental steps.
Whiteson said the OCP dictates the direction and priorities and core stuff should be taken care of before decorations.
• A question put forward to Ebony Logins in regard to how to get the young to vote was answered by Logins who said she would work with the young people to make them an integral part of the community. She said that would be her number one priority.
Bev Berger said youth turnout was really low in all municipalities. She said the Youth Council needs to be empowered and their voice was needed.
• The candidates were asked how the council would move into the digital age, move from a physical site to a web-based site to engage youth more.
Rick Kasper stated the young were way ahead and thought council could do more to involve youth in decision making.
Ebony Logins said council should work with young people and hire local talent. She said it was not so much of what we can do but what we can empower our youth to do.
• When asked what they would do to improve the business climate in Sooke, both Jeff Bateman and Parkinson responded.
Bateman said he would listen to the Chamber and the mayor’s advisory panels, institute three-hour parking limits and encourage some sort of economic development officer and support existing businesses, as well as build some momentum in the core.
Parkinson said she saw council working with the chamber and community development. She agreed that the core needs tobe improved as a gathering place for people. An open forum for home-based businesses would have people working together.
• What were their views on recreation services and support services for youth and seniors?
Justin Hansen said when the money was there SEAPARC should be expanded and a new recreation centre for youth and a seniors’ centre night attract the elderly to Sooke. But Sooke was a long way from medical services.
Pearson said a youth/senior centre has been battled around for three years. There was a need but the money had to be used wisely. He suggested refurbishing the community hall as Sooke could afford it and it is in the right place.
• When asked if they would do anything to offer incentives to farmers, Whiteson said farming was important and it was worth looking into supporting Sooke growers. Reay said it was great idea to support farming.
• A resident came forward and said they were concerned with the land swap between Sunriver and the District of Sooke,
Hansen said the $400,000 should be reserved for life projects and recreational activities in Sooke and the money should not go to general revenue, but kept for playing fields. He said he didn’t want to see houses on greenspace in Sunriver.
Whiteson said the money was allocated to the people of Sunriver and the original agreement should be stuck to.