Supporting local business while attracting new employment opportunities to the community seemed to take priority among the minds of voters attending Sicamous’ first all-candidates meeting last Thursday.
Candidates for mayor and council were asked several questions related to the economy and employment at the Sicamous chamber-sponsored event. The first question of the evening to the mayoral candidates set the tone for much of the event: how would you make Sicamous sustainable? Sheldon Ready said he would focus on private-sector diversification and making Sicamous a centre of wellness. Darrell Trouton said he would want to hear from the business community first, but suggested a low-cost campground is needed, with the idea of focusing on Sicamous’ roots and natural strengths. Incumbent Mayor Malcolm MacLeod noted what the current council has done, including work on the CP Rail discontinuance with the goal of making a multi-use trail corridor, and the creation of a tourism-related education facility. Former mayor Lorraine March said she would work with Shuswap Economic Development to make sure nothing is being missed.
Councillors were then asked how they would retain Sicamous’ working population. Terry Rysz suggested Sicamous could make a go at it as a bedroom community. Greg Kyllo emphasized the need for a “can-do” attitude at district hall that would find a way to make things happen. Joan Thomson recommended that the district set up its own economic development committee. Charlotte Hutchinson said the district needs to keep promoting its recreational side. Fred Busch said Sicamous needs to capitalize on its assets, and suggested the community would be an ideal location for a warehouse for transportation companies. Lynn Miller suggested an attitude change is needed, that the district has to be inviting. Kevin Kruger called for a more selfless approach to making change happen. Don Richardson encouraged positive thinking to come up with innovative ways to capture and retain business. Diana Stooshnov said the district has to provide opportunities for home-based businesses to grow and flourish. Jerry Silva touted the wisdom of group thinking, and said he would work with council to explore all options. And Terry Sinton said every possible outdoor pursuit is already available – the goal is to seek out businesses that complement what the community has to offer.
Barry Chafe and Sharon Gibb, school district trustee candidates for Sicamous Malakwa, also had an opportunity to introduce themselves and speak to concerns relating to declining enrolment and the cutting of vice-principal positions at local schools. Both spoke passionately about the health of their schools and making students the number-one priority.
While civility was maintained for the majority of the meeting, MacLeod surprised many in the audience with his introductory speech which wound up being a vitriolic attack on March. He described his term as a councillor with March as difficult and toxic.
“There was a serious problem between the staff, mayor and council. There was decisions being made that I absolutely did not agree with. I realized that with some people, common sense and fairness is not universal…,” said MacLeod. “We’ve all seen what happened the last time when we elected a mayor with no experience. From 2005 to 2009, under the direction of the previous mayor and council, your taxes increased 69 per cent… you can’t count on a mayor that can’t count.”
Later through the evening, allegiances were made clear with Busch and Silva standing strong behind MacLeod and the record of the current council. Miller, on the other hand, called the past three years the most frustrating term of her life.
“We have no committees, no communication with public works personnel or our firefighters, no public input, but worst of all, we used to spend hours in planning and now we turn it over to the staff and get a report,” said Miller.
On a lighter note, when candidates were questioned on their stand on BC Hydro’s controversial smart meters, Kyllo admitted to not being up to speed on the debate.
“What the hell’s a smart meter?” asked Kyllo, who after receiving a quick explanation, provided an equally quick response:
“I certainly haven’t any challenges with the privacy issue; however, I know having four daughters in the morning, when the hair dryers and curling irons and the showers are running non-stop, as long as they don’t suspect me as a grow op…,” said Kyllo.