At a standing room-only all-candidates forum Tuesday night, Sidney council hopefuls made their case for election.
Mary Winspear Centre staff put out 490 chairs, and when that was not enough, they brought out an extra 100. With the floor full, spectators lined the walls and peered in from doorways. Candidates were given a minute each to answer questions on a few broad themes, including development on Beacon Avenue, affordable housing, community consultation, and environmental issues. Due to the format, candidates answered a similar set of questions from the moderator but did not debate each other.
Many newcomers, including Terri O’Keeffe, Scott Garnett and Chad Rintoul felt development was an issue. O’Keeffe said development “tilts too far to the high-priced end, and I think we can do better,” and that increasing density alone will not reduce housing prices. Garnett (a letter carrier for the last 27 years who has observed council meetings for three years) said public input is “disrespected and criticized” by some incumbents, and wanted to foster a respectful tone to re-establish trust. Rintoul (delayed on a flight from Kelowna due to work) said in a statement that the heard a sense of anxiety from residents about developments “out of character for our community.” He later arrived and made closing remarks in-person.
Incumbent Cam McLennan said he saw Sidney blossoming and focused on affordable housing and doctors. “No more working a long shift and driving home to the West Shore.” The small-town charm is contained within people, not buildings, he said, because many buildings on Beacon Avenue are old and lack foundations. McLennan touted the previous council’s loan to Peninsula Medical, an unusual arrangement at the time which he said secured a clinic in the area. “We wouldn’t have had anything if we hadn’t given that loan.”
Stephen Weller said Sidney is a much better place now than 25 years ago, and wanted more take-up on his offer to do one-on-one conversation. He asked people to “continue to move forward, stop looking in the rearview mirror. The view’s not good back there.”
The house lights went off. Then back on again a few minutes later. D R A M A…Just as Rintoul arrived late due to a late flight. "I'm sorry for being late," said Rintoul. "I'll thank Air Canada for that later."
— Peninsula News (@PeninsulaNews) October 3, 2018
Incumbents Peter Wainwright and Barbara Fallot both felt the current council was disrespectful to resident input. Fallot wanted to “leave the predictable 4-3 vote splits behind us,” and Wainwright said residents deserved more of a say on the $10 million assent-free borrowing plan for the new Community Safety Building and the redevelopment of the old fire hall, which netted the Town $9.9 million after the land sale and bonus density charges paid by the developer. He and Fallot opposed both and said they would do the same today. Garnett agreed on this point.
Melissa Hailey, who co-owns Beacon Tax Services, highlighted her analytical skills, a self-described “policy wonk” would provide an informed opinion. Jordan Templeman said a youthful viewpoint would be useful and wanted to focus on affordability. Sara Duncan said she wanted to “make the personal political” and wanted to make people in town feel like they were in control. Greg Lynn wanted to be part of a refreshed council and to listen to residents.
On development, Duncan said she was open to changing the nomination process for the Town’s Advisory Planning Commission, the volunteer body that examines development applications for form and character, so there is a greater mix of people from the community.
Rintoul said he wanted to set design guidelines into the OCP or form a committee to “preserve the seaside feel.”
After a short intermission, the mayoral debate commenced.
The Peninsula News Review has live coverage of the all-candidates forum available on our Facebook page and website.