It was a full house of Kitimatians on October 29, seeking to understand the views of their municipal council candidates.
Questions were asked by Rotary Club organizers in a rotating fashion, and each candidate was allowed the use of up to three response cards during the Q&A session. Questions were randomly chosen, but directed at individual candidates, so not all candidates answered the same question.
Here are some highlights from the responses from both the mayor and councillor portions of the forum.
Q: What is your number one concern for the future of Kitimat and what do you propose to do to solve the issue?
Trish: “My number one concern for Kitimat is that we stop the cycle of boom and bust. Right now our immediate concern is to address housing challenges that have been facing us and coming forward for several years now. We need to stop lobbying government to solve the issues for us.
Q: How do you propose to protect Kitimat’s air quality in light of RTA’s increased sulphur dioxide emissions and other potential LNG emissions?
Phil: “We need to be a part of the process and that is something where I feel as mayor and council for the last three years we have failed. We did not stick up for our watershed, our water supply…we do have to be concerned about the emissions in the airshed and personally I would like to see scrubbers on there [RTA smelter].”
Q: After the clean air study was released…what would you do to protect the residents of Kitimat?
Joanne: “I think we have to, as council and mayor, make sure that study followed and there are always tests that come after. When we met with RTA, the things that I suggested was not only do you take air studies but also take studies of the water, where the plumes, etc., and every so many weeks…would have to be necessary to continue to have clean air and clean water come from emissions.”
Q: The previous council chose to go to community to make a decision on Enbridge…under what circumstances would you recommend council go to a community vote?
Phil: “I believe the time to go to a vote is when you have something that has such a massive impact on the community or could have, that you need community input…there does come a time when making a particular decision is so big you need some community input.” … “The Enbridge [plebiscite] was certainly one where we deserved to go to the community.”
Q: What can the city do to help people here deal with future renovictions?
Trish: “I don’t believe we need to continue to see renovictions in our community. I think as mayor and council we have the resources available to us, we have community partners available to us, we have industry available to us, that we can all sit down at the table and come up with a strategy and plan. We’ve had a housing needs assessment done over two years ago, we’ve still not made any progress on that. We need to have a long-term vision for Kitimat so we’re not looking at future renovictions when the next project is announced and moving forward.”
Q: Rio Tinto Alcan is planning to expand it’s dock and the public will be denied access to Alcan Beach. If the District maintains a good working relationship with industry, would you work on negotiating and developing an alternative location for a public beach?
Jack Riddle: “I’ve been really involved in the MK Bay and other facilities, looking for access to the water…there just doesn’t seem to be a solution out there yet.” … “Rio Tinto Alcan has not indicated at any time that they want to share their property. I just really, at this time, don’t know the answer to that.”
John Powell: “We need to find out if the entire beach is being used. If not, if it would be possible for the District to request access for the remainder of the beach.”
Larry Walker: (Using response card) “You may not like it, but there is an answer. There’s an old saying you get more bears with honey than you ever got with a big stick. Well when honey doesn’t work you get out the big stick. That might mean expropriation of property. RTA don’t want that, but it may be the way we go.” Also, “Emsley Cove is just over the next horizon [on the logging road to Chevron’s proposed plant.]…I see that as being a boat launch and day camping.”
Rob Goffinet: (Response card) “Rest assured, all the councillors here on the present council are aware and we are negotiating with Alcan and our Haisla neighbours access directly to the ocean to compensate for the temporary loss of the beach, but this will be permanent beach front access.”
Q: What will you do differently than the last sitting mayor and council?
Edwin Empinado: “I respect the dialogue. I want the dialogue, not the debate, because when you debate someone wins, someone loses.” “It’s about how you move forward, which is the best decision we have to move Kitimat forward.”
Rob Goffinet: “It does not matter as a councillor which mayor you select. We do not select that person. We accept your judgement and work to the best of our ability at all times showing respect to our mayor, whomever that person is.”
Q: Kitimat has an aging population…however there few public washrooms and none located up the hill or at any of the play parks. Would you consider providing temporary or six-month summer toilets?
Mario Feldhoff: “It certainly something that we care to listen to, and reflect upon the advice of our [District of Kitimat] staff. Council has responded to public washrooms, temporary port-a-potties in areas of fishing. Sadly some of those facilities were vandalized…but I’m open to looking at what in the community needs changed.”
Mary Murphy: “I am very open to querying our seniors and finding out if this is an issue. And we can put up signage so that if there’s public washrooms available we can put up signage to let visitors and seniors know. We have much work to do with the seniors when we address their problems, we’re addressing everybody’s problems, and making a more friendly community for everyone.”
Q: How would you promote a Kitimat that welcomes new residents to town?
Larry Walker: “We have got to learn some marketing skills in this town…I got as far as Hazelton [on a trip] before I saw the first, and only, road sign that said ‘Visit Kitimat’. Yet right across the highway on the other side was another sign that says “Visit Port Edward.”…I think we have got to start with a good marketing strategy.”
Amanda Kozak: “I think first and foremost we need to focusing back on the family. We need to start looking at things like child care and recreational activities that will bring people out in the winter months. We need to start focusing on putting funds back in to our schools so that we can bring the families in that will stay long term.”
Q: How will you guarantee that Kitimat finally gets some government jobs based here in Kitimat?
Paul Lagace: “I suppose there’s different ways to lobby…What we’re talking about is we need to think about jobs that are not just about industry. Although industry is a key component to this town, we have to think outside that.”
Claire Rattee: “I definitely think it is important, I think that jobs in general right now are important. Certainly there’s a lot of businesses in town that don’t have enough employees, but there’s also still a lot of people that are looking for work and I definitely think some government jobs would create some stability.”
Larry Walker: (Response card) “We need to get the federal government to declare Kitimat a federal port facility, and with that comes the responsibility for DFO, Search and Rescue…Once it’s declared a federal port facility, everything will fall in to place.”
Jack Riddle: (Response card) “I was in Coast Guard for 15 years and I know what’s been happening on the coast…the federal government has just about done away with both fisheries and coast guard patrol.”
Q: What will you do to enhance recreational opportunities for young people who may not wish to be part of group regulated sports?
Walker: “You’re looking at a totally different generation now…Kids don’t want groupie-type things, I don’t think…Yes we have facilities for them. Do we need more, that’s a good question.”
Amanda Kozak: “I would love to see a movie theatre back in the community. I think that was a big loss for us, and something everybody can enjoy. As far as providing an area for people who might not want any type of team activities, I think there are options out there. I think we need to explore to see what those areas are, to provide for the areas of people who want to access that.”