Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce president John Treleaven called it the ultimate “employment interview.”
Eight of the nine candidates for North Saanich council sat before more than 200 residents at the Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church last week, fielding questions covering topics from fire halls to seniors housing during the all-candidates forum.
As the final council hopeful finished her introduction, a pager sounded in the back of the room. A half-dozen volunteer firefighters left on a call. They returned a short time later, just in time to hear candidates answer a question surrounding last spring’s referendum over the district’s borrowing to rebuild North Saanich’s Wain Road fire hall. Residents voted 77 per cent in favour of doing so.
All of the candidates agreed that if the money was available, the new hall should be built.
Jack Thornburgh and Celia Stock both admitted they voted “yes” in the referendum.
That was as hot as things got, though the room got a bit stuffy, as candidates answered questions ranging from what issues would threaten to divide the community, to senior’s housing.
“There’s going to be a few divisive issues,” said Celia Stock, giving municipal amalgamation as an example.
Conny McBride and Dunstan Browne both see the Sandown proposal as a major “divisive” issue in the district. “The municipality, they’re either going to be landlords or they’re going to be farmers,” McBride said.
Other divisive issues suggested by the candidates included “Finding a balance,” according to Thornburgh, who referred to taxes and spending, another top answer.
“The issue of fiscal responsibility,” added Craig Mearns.
Ted Izard harkened back to his role on the advisory planning commission, when development proposals for the Canora Road area came to council. “They’re going to surface again,” he said. “How we deal with that is a good question.”
“Allocation of resources,” said Elsie McMurphy. “If I look back (issues) have sprung up when (there was) a gap between what was promised and what was delivered.”
To support or not support seniors-only housing was also on the agenda. The question focused on whether a seniors-only model was the best housing to support in the district.
“We just don’t have the infrastructure,” Mearns said.
“We don’t have sidewalks and gutters and street lamps … seniors want to be where they can walk.”
“Aging in place is a challenge for North Saanich,” McMurphy said. “The needs of people vary so greatly.”
“Most people who want to move into a facility would find North Saanich too sparse,” Izard said.
“We don’t have the provisions,” Browne said. “The seniors that are here can cope with their requirements. If they don’t, they go to Sidney.”
“It’s really a shame they have to leave and go to Sidney,” McBride responded during her turn answering the question.
“As a first step you need to have public transportation available,” Collier said. “That’s what we need to work on.”
• North Saanich Residents Association hosts two all-candidates meetings in the coming days. The first happens Wednesday (Nov. 9) from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, 9296 East Saanich Rd. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
• The second goes Saturday, Nov. 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Parkland secondary theatre, 10640 McDonald Park Rd. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. For more information, contact Geoff at 250-656-4562.