On Nov. 12, over 100 Creston Valley residents attended a public forum for candidates running in the Nov. 19 civic elections. Organized by Tamara Fox, Joanne Ferry and Jesse Willicome (who acted as moderator), the forum was the only opportunity for voters to question the candidates running for town council, mayor and Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B director.
Of Creston’s 13 town council candidates, 10 — Justin Lysohirka, Ingrid Voigt, Malcolm Ferguson, Renee Kyle, Scott Veitch, Wes Graham, Rhonda Barter, Ed Vondracek, Joanna Wilson and Jerry Schmalz — attended, while Tanya Ducharme, Judy Gadicke and Louis Mihaly did not.
Both candidates for mayor, Ron Toyota and Joe Snopek, attended, although Toyota didn’t arrived until the fifth question was read.
Ed McNiven was the sole RDCK candidate at the forum; incumbent John Kettle did not attend.
The candidates fielded both pre-selected questions and impromptu questions from the audience.
One audience member asked two questions: How would you develop an economic development program? What will you do about the Cook Street bypass?
Ron Toyota: The town gave $30,000 to the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce for agri-tourism development. “If we want to do proper development, we have to spend more money, and that means more taxation dollars. … We talk about the Arrow Creek bypass. … It’s the B.C. government. They’re not going there because it will cost millions of dollars. … We’re very close to seeing a Cook Street realignment happening in the next three to five years, and it will not close off our downtown. It will take heavy truck traffic off of our downtown street.”
Scott Veitch: “When the opportunities are there, take it and run with it. We had the opportunity to realign Cook Street in early 2000s. We dropped the ball. … There is a window of opportunity. Do it before it closes.” Regarding economic development, “get it started. …. Yes, you have to put together a committee. Yes, you have to work together. … It’s about figuring out what you got, and what you don’t got and what you do want to get. And if you don’t do it, you ain’t gonna get it.”
Wes Graham: Regarding economic development, “we do need a committee. We need to keep going at it. It did kind of derail a bit three years ago, but I think there’s hope for it and it’s necessary.” The transportation minister must be lobbied about Cook Street. “In the last three weeks, we had two big trucks that were broke down right in the middle of main street. … It’s about health and safety.”
Rhonda Barter: Economic development is about “opening the businesses and trying to sustain them here so we have businesses uptown. … I’d like to help work on that.”
Ed Vondracek: “We target what we can afford with that funding. If we target small and grow little by little, it will work.”
Joanna Wilson: “It’s totally imperative … that we get the heavy truck traffic off main street.” Regarding economic development, the committee must be revived, and interested groups and stakeholders must get together “and see if we can do a lot more together than the town can do on its own.”
Joe Snopek: The last economic development committee “disappeared with the last economic development officer, I believe. … As for Cook Street bypass, I’m still in favour of the Arrow Mountain truck route. … [The Cook Street plan] would block main street off before 7-Eleven, which would seal off 7-Eleven and the Esso station. So it has a lot of design problems to take a look at.”
Jerry Schmalz: “I support moving the highway. … I was on council back in 1993, and we were discussing it then. It takes a terribly long amount of time. … There isn’t enough money in economic development to do anything. What we need is some extra pressure on the regional district in order to give us some more money, to put some more money in that fund so we can actually do something positive with it.”