Cars were lined up down School Road as Electoral Area-C residents filled the Harrison Mills Community Hall Tuesday night for the region’s all-candidates meeting.
The three director candidates, Annie Silver, Wendy Bales and Mel Waardenburg were in attendance, seated within the crowd in a circular format.
Silver introduced herself first and spoke of her experience with municipalities and on a number of boards.
“I don’t have all the specifics of Area-C but I will learn,” she said confidently.
Waardenberg said he has had a lot of experience funding and negotiating with the provincial government from his time working at Kilby Historic Site.
“Grant funding, budgets, all the tasks involved with running a little historic site,” he said.
Wendy Bales, who served two terms as director from 2008 to 2014, said she is running for the same reason she ran in the past – because she feels that there needs to be an “advocate for the people.”
“I think we really need to listen more to the people,” she said, after referencing development near the Lake Errock wetlands where she says people were not listened to or respected.
According to one Lake Errock resident, the dust from the area gravel pit isn’t being controlled. What will you do to help? he asked.
Bales said there are dust suppression laws, but they aren’t always followed.
“The trouble is, they’re not properly regulating,” she said. “One of the things I’d like to see is that they regulate when they process gravel…processing gravel creates dust, even when they use water for it.”
Bales said she has been working with the University of Victoria to strengthen laws for aggregate mining.
Waardenburg agreed dust monitoring isn’t happening. He suggested changing a bylaw to increase the tonnage fee that supports regulation efforts.
Silver felt the question had been adequately addressed.
Sts’ailes chief Ralph Leon stood up and asked candidates how they will address the urgent need for health care and emergency services.
“I call 9-1-1 in my community and it takes 45 minutes to get there,” he said, adding that seeing a doctor becomes a whole-day activity due to the lack of doctors in the area.
Annie Silver responded first.
“For the primary health centre that’s proposed [for] here, it’s going to take working together, all parts of the community as well as the provincial and federal governments to work out what that’s going to look like,” Silver said. “I think a key part of that will be involving Leq’a:mel, Scowlitz and Sts’ailes First Nations to access those First Nations Health Authority dollars, because there is money there for that type of infrastructure and that will benefit all of Area-C.”
Waardenburg said he would have to work on consultation before coming up with a plan.
“Might start smaller with a phased-in plan…then move to more of an expanded health care centre and eventually a walk-in clinic,” he said. “I believe the biggest obstacle to health care is [finding] doctors…so it has to start with a plan working with multiple levels of government and move from there.”
Bales replied that she agreed with Waardenburg, saying that many people – her family included – have to go to Chilliwack or Abbotsford for health care.
“A lot of the issue is not enough health care workers and not enough money… to actually provide for everybody,” she said. “And that’s gonna be a huge issues going into the future no matter where you live.”
Extreme weather up Hemlock
One resident asked the candidates: Are you prepared to realize that Hemlock Valley fights nature?
Waardenburg said the different terrain needs to be recognized when bylaws are created and the area’s unique Official Community Plan (OCP) used to guide decisions.
Bales responded that she would still advocate for avalanche protection.
“There’s a lot of differences up there and understandably there’s a lot of emergency differences as well,” Bales said. “So I advocate differences in the approach to the community in the OCP.”
Living in Sts’ailes, Silver said she can relate to some of the difficulties faced by Hemlock Valley residents. “We deal with the power outages, we deal with the cellphone service or the lack thereof, we deal with the snow and getting locked in during major snowfalls.”
“There’s a lot of diversities in Area-C, our communities being one of them,” replied Silver. “And I think bringing all the people together and working with all the different people to help understand those differences will help things operate more smoothly.”
Area-C candidates also addressed property taxes, water testing and Air BnBs. Read more about the candidates and their platforms in the Election section of agassizharrisonobserver.com.
General voting day for Electoral Area-C residents is Saturday, Oct. 20 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Scowlitz First Nation Boardroom – 12892 Moses Street, Lake Errock.