Residents interested in hearing from Sproat Lake electoral area candidates packed seats at RimRock Casino on Oct. 4 for the first of three all-candidates meetings in the Alberni Valley.
Incumbent Penny Cote, former director Derek Appleton and newcomer Heather Powell defended their vision for Area D (Sproat Lake). The brief question period was dominated by questions for the Sproat Lake candidates, on everything from how they would lower taxes, whether they would support imposing restrictions on wakeboarding boats, and the controversial plans to expand Sproat Lake Landing.
Cote said the water portion of Sproat Lake is regulated federally, and they would have to work with the federal government to consider restrictions on wakeboard boats. Powell said instituting a day use permit would generate revenue to offset environmental impacts of such boats, and would also give a formal way to collect information on people breaking the rules. Appleton said water use bylaws need to be created for the lake.
Cote said she wasn’t supposed to talk about the Sproat Lake Landing issue because a public hearing on the issue is over and she is bound by municipal government laws.
“I do listen to my community,” she said. “It’s been a difficult time listening to my community and not having the board listen.”
Appleton said this issue was a good reason for Sproat Lake to look at incorporating and getting out of the regional district. Powell said “it’s a leadership issue,” and that the district is dictating to the board. “That’s not good governance,” she added.
Aside from the Sproat Lake candidates, two each spoke up for Cherry Creek and Beaver Creek, respectively. Eight school trustee candidates shared some information on themselves and their reasons for running. Five candidates are running for re-election (John Bennie, Rosemarie Buchanan, Pam Craig, Chris Washington and Larry Ransom, who wasn’t able to attend the meeting). Four new candidates (Cherilyn Bray, Janis Joseph, Jen Smith and Helen Zanette) are also running.
Bray lost by seven votes in the 2018 election “which proves every vote counts.” She has spent nine years as a youth care worker, served on the Literacy Alberni Society board for four years, and has experience as a PAC member. Joseph has been active in the school system as she raised four children, the last of whom graduated from high school last year. She has spent 25 years supporting children and families of children with challenges. “My gift is working with children with behavioural challenges and their parents,” she said.
Smith moved to the Alberni Valley in 2019, has a degree in social work and runs a small business. She is president of the John Howitt Elementary School PAC. “I want to participate in making our schools better and more efficient,” she said. Helen Zanette has sat on PACs and the District PAC. Her educational background is in criminal justice. She said reaching out to parents is a priority for her, as well as Indigenous and environmental learning in children.
Cherry Creek candidate Darren DeLuca said he decided to run for election primarily because of the zoning bylaw review, which he called “much too intrusive, much to prescriptive.” He wants to see the aquatic centre project move forward and will advocate for a new firehall for Cherry Creek.
Mike Sparrow said giving Cherry Creek residents a voice and practicing fiscal responsibility are two pieces to his platform. He listed some of the pressing issues for the area as the aquatic centre, firehall and Maplehurst Park parking.
Susan Roth said the impending zoning bylaw review and rising taxation are two reasons she wants to represent Beaver Creek. If elected she wants to create a separate zoning bylaw for Beaver Creek. Cindy Solda is also running for Beaver Creek, saying her past experience sitting as a city representative on the ACRD board would help her represent the area well. She is also running for re-election within the city, and defended her ability to represent both if elected to both.
Fred Boyko, who was acclaimed as director for Beaufort area, was given a chance to introduce himself. A third-generation Port Alberni resident with an engineering degree from the University of Victoria, Boyko said he returned to the Alberni Valley six years ago after working in the oil and gas and mining industries.
“I worked with budgets from $500,000 per day to $500,000 per year,” he said. Boyko shared his thoughts on the ACRD’s bylaw review, asking if acreages such as those found in the Beauforts should be treated the same as a home with 30 feet of waterfront. He said he supports the aquatic centre project but shares concerns about distributions of payment.
The final advanced voting day is Oct. 12. General election day is Oct. 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.