The candidates hoping to secure themselves a seat on Sicamous District Council in the upcoming election had a chance to make their positions known on a variety of issues, from major capital purchases to legalized cannabis, at an all-candidates forum on Oct. 4.
The 10 council candidates and two candidates for the position of school district trustee answered pre-submitted questions and had an opportunity to give those in attendance information on their platforms and personal backgrounds.
Mayor Terry Rysz spoke at the end of the forum; he has already won the mayor’s chair for another four years by acclamation as no one ran against him.
All of the candidates were asked their position on the major purchases the district has made over the past four years and the role of public consultation in deciding on future large purchases. Examples of purchases given were the green space at 200 Main Street, the medical centre, the boat launch at Old Town Bay, the portable stage and, most recently, the land for the community campground. Incumbent Coun. Todd Kyllo noted that the purchase of the campground land has not been finalized yet. Kyllo went on to say the boat launch near his company Twin Anchors’ facility at Old Town Bay was planned by Twin Anchors before the project was taken on by the district who wanted it to be public property so its use could be offered for free.
Malcolm Makayev, another incumbent councillor, said the community already has an opportunity to be involved in deciding on major purchases by the district because there is a public consultation process for the district’s annual budget. Makayev encouraged more people to attend council meetings so they can get a good idea of the choices council makes.
“We need to engage with the public but the public needs to engage with us also,” he said.
Coun. Jeff Mallmes, the next to answer the question, noted that council has the power to borrow up to $5 million without a public referendum so long as it is paid back within five years.
“These things are all exposed to the public; they’re listed before the council meeting and the public has the right to come and express their opinion at that time,” he said.
When it was her turn to answer the question on the public’s role in deciding on large purchases, Judy Moore said she thinks the portable stage, which was used for Music in the Park and other public events, is an expense everyone can get behind but said there could have been more public consultation before the purchase of land for the Old Town Bay boat launch. She also criticized the amount of parking available at the site.
Tammy Chopick-Chouinard also stressed the need for the public to inform themselves and get involved in the decision-making process before the decision on a purchase is made by council.
Bob Evans, a pastor with Shuswap Community Church, said he agrees with the sort of purchases that are thinking of generations to come. Referring to the district’s purchase of the medical centre, he said Sicamous really needs a young doctor who will set up shop in the community.
Leanna Komaryk says money needs to be spent to enhance the community. Like Moore, she said the portable stage is a great addition to public events in Sicamous. She added it is important for everyone in the community to come to meetings and make their voices heard.
A question submitted specifically to Chopick-Chouinard asked about how the pool she says she would like to see built in her candidate’s statement would be funded.
“If you’re going to live by water it’s very important that everyone in your family, including children, know how to swim,” she said.
Using the pool in Revelstoke as an example, Chopick-Chouinard said a pool could be built with capital grants.
In response to a question asking their position on a community daycare in Sicamous, the candidates unanimously agreed that one was needed.
Makayev said someone is already trying to get a daycare started in Sicamous. He also brought up the possibility of leasing land on the Parkview Elementary site from School District #83 in order to build a daycare centre.
Ryan Airey said it would be good to plan a daycare into a pool or recreational facility in the long term, but a short-term solution is needed as well.
Colleen Anderson noted that after-school programs run by district employee Jamie Sherlock are partially filling the void but council is currently working on a longer-term solution.
Gord Bushell said he thinks the need for a daycare centre in Sicamous is more pressing than ever as he see lots of new children and young families in town and also noted enrolment at Parkview is rising.
Chopick-Chouinard, the former owner of a daycare in the Shuswap, said a daycare is an important part of a community and added she will continue to lobby for one in Sicamous whether she is elected or not. She added that a daycare in Sicamous needs to be open extended hours and on weekends due to the number of parents working in the tourism and hospitality industry.
A question was posed to the new candidates asking what issues impact quality of life for families in Sicamous.
“Our industry is based on tourism, but not all of us own a snowmobile, own a boat, get out on the lake or go quadding. A lot of us just live in the community. Our life needs to be as beautiful as our surroundings,” Moore replied.
She said priority should be placed on good roads and sidewalks as well as the attraction of businesses such as stores and restaurants in order to keep residents’ money in Sicamous.
Airey said mobility outside Sicamous to access essential services in Salmon Arm and other communities should be made a priority.
“In Sicamous the highways are so dangerous in the wintertime. If there was a safer alternative such as a bus to go on scheduled routes, it would make it a lot safer for a lot of our residents.”
Chopick-Chouinard said inexpensive level entry houses, senior care, transportation, along with other initiatives to help residents meet their basic needs should be prioritized.
Bob Evans said if he is elected he wants to act as the bridge between council and local schools. He thinks quality of life for Sicamous families could be improved with funding for tutoring, assistance with getting local youth into college in Salmon Arm. He also mentioned grants to help pay for food and transportation and other basic needs for families.
According to Komaryk, a lack of full-time year-round employment is the biggest barrier impeding quality of life for Sicamous families. She said lots of young families have to leave the district in order to find work. She also said affordable housing, especially rentals and activities for residents of all ages, should be made a priority.
All of the candidates were asked what positive impacts they think the legalization of marijuana will have on life in Sicamous.
“There should be a pretty good revenue stream associated with that. I think 40 per cent of the revenues are coming back to municipalities. Forty per cent of liquor revenue back would be a lot and I think there are some similarities,” Airey said.
He added he thinks consuming cannabis is a more moderate activity than drinking alcohol in some ways, and is cautiously optimistic that legalized cannabis might mean fewer infractions related to excessive drinking.
Anderson said it is important that the district has some control over the way legal cannabis is sold and used in the community, but agrees with Airey that it will be a good revenue source.
Bushell said he doesn’t see many positive impacts legalized cannabis will have and is not sure if revenue will outweigh new expenses which may be necessary, such as more bylaw or RCMP officers. He fears that most levels of government are ill-prepared for legalization, which will lead to difficulties.
Chopick-Chouinard said she thinks people should educate themselves on the medical uses of cannabis. She said she would rather see people on a plant-based product than on a pharmaceutical which could have unforeseen side effects.
Evans said cannabis use is already epidemic in the local high school. He said cannabis revenue coming in should be diverted and used for a full-time drug counsellor. He said vigilance will be important to educate everyone, particularly youth, on the subject.
Komaryk said the grey areas and uncertainties in the cannabis regulations scare her.
Kyllo said he is primarily concerned about workplace rules and regulations surrounding cannabis use; he said more investigation and study of the subject is needed.
Makayev said while he is concerned about the impacts legalized cannabis will have, it has the potential to bring new businesses to Sicamous. He also said a legal product from the store might improve safety for users as they can be sure that it is not laced with other drugs.
Comparing it to the legalization of casinos, Mallmes said he believes the federal government is legalizing cannabis for the projected revenue without considering the social cost.
Moore said she doesn’t see a lot of positive impacts besides the revenue. She added that money received by the district from cannabis sales needs to be carefully looked at in order to provide social and emotional services. She thinks use will increase immediately following legalization.
Following the portion of the forum regarding council candidates, the two candidates vying for one seat on the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District #83 trustee board to represent Sicamous, Malakwa, Enderby and Grindrod had a chance to speak.
Quentin Bruns, a second generation dairy farmer who grew up at the south end of Mara Lake, told the assembled crowd about his children in the school system and his previous experience on the school board, which he thinks make him a good candidate for the position. Bruns said he feels he has a good understanding of the community’s needs as he has lived in the area his entire life. He explained he is more familiar with Enderby than Sicamous but similar issues such as threats of school closure affect both communities. Bruns congratulated the Sicamous community on its work to keep Parkview Elementary open.
Bruns served on the school board from 2002 to 2005 and after that sat on local credit union boards. He said he will not stand for re-election to the credit union board because he wants to focus on getting back to working as a school trustee. He said he wants to hear ideas to make Eagle River Secondary more vibrant and draw kids in from other parts of the district with a specialized program like the hockey academy in Enderby.
Fred Busch told the crowd at the forum that he was a full-time teacher by the time he was 17 years old and taught all grade levels, mostly in Prince Rupert. After 20 years as a teacher, Busch changed careers and became a marine mechanic, which is what brought him to Sicamous.
Busch is a former Sicamous mayor and councillor. He was first elected to council in 1993 and would serve two terms as mayor. After being defeated in the 2005 mayoral race, he re-entered politics, serving two more terms as a councillor. He said declining enrolment is a problem for the Sicamous area and he wants to see a focus on making graduates as employable as possible.
Busch concluded by saying he has a long history with the Sicamous community and community service. He said he is willing to say no to requests from school principals in order to adhere to the budget.