John Allen

Hot Springs access bubbles up in debate

Some by-election candidates suggest source be improved for tourism

Candidates in the Harrison Hot Springs by-election touched on a few of the most current topics during an all-candidates debate Monday night.

Among discussions of development, tourism, tax rates and water metering, it was clear not all candidates are happy with the difficulties tourists have in accessing natural hot springs.

It’s the hot springs that drive tourism, but the “source is a source of an embarrassment,” said Andrew Baziuk, when listing the things he’d like to see changed in the Village if elected.

John Buckley, a former deputy mayor in Spring Lake, AB, also mentioned the lack of access to hot springs.

He said when he and his wife arrived here the first time a few years ago, they felt “ripped off.”

Arnold Caruk and John Allen also posited that the hot springs needed an overhaul. Allen said it was time to “break the monopoly on the hot water.”

“Anyone who wants to join the Harrison Hot Springs Liberation Army meet me in the back,” he joked to the audience.

About 50 people showed up for the debate, which ran inside its planned two-hour time slot. Eight of the nine candidates showed up, with Leslie Ghezesan absent.

Paid parking, an issue that has been bandied about for several years in council, was brought up as well. Past councillor Bob Perry said he’s always “been a firm advocate for pay parking,” and does not doesn’t buy into the idea that it would hurt the Village.

He sees large numbers of people show up on the beach and stay for the entire day, for free.

“They take advantage of free parking, they open their coolers, fire up their barbecues, and head back to where they came from,” he said, without spending a dime locally.

Most other candidates said they aren’t in favour of pay parking, with the exception of Richard Shelley. Two other candidates, Buckley and Marc Ferrero, said they would prefer to see more discussion on the matter before making a decision.

The Harrison Hot Springs by-election, which will see one person elected to council, is on May 12.