Last week’s All Candidates Forum in Ashcroft brought out a record 135 people who came to hear what Ashcroft’s candidates for Mayor, Council and School Board had to say on a variety of issues.
Questions were written down ahead of time and read by moderator Ron Hood and they touched on many issues relevant to Ashcroft, including the burning bylaw, the Opera House, home schooling, the new K-12 school and the state of the hospital, but underlying those were the questions that asked the candidates how they would reverse the declining population that leads to a loss of services and under use of facilities.
Councillor candidate Barbara Roden told the crowd that “the only say to get young people and families is to have jobs for them. It’s all a great big circle.” She said some of the current grad students plan to pursue a career in medicine and seek employment in Ashcroft.
Cultural activities can attract people to town, said candidate John Kidder, but also the changing nature of employment and better technical infrastructure lets people work from home via their computer for companies located around the world.
Candidate Al Mertens said increasing accessibility around town was key to preventing an older population from having to move away. The community bus is a good way to increase mobility, but let downs on street corners and ramps should be part of a plan for the town and not left to chance.
The Wellness brand, the source of heated debates in the past, seems to have cooled down, judging by the candidates’ responses to a Wellness vs. historical question.
“History is part of our wellness,” said candidate Jessical Clement. “To incorporate all of that into one sign should be our goal.”
Candidate and incumbent councillor Doreen Lambert, once a strong opponent of the brand, agreed with Clement that the two could be combined.
The bylaw that banned all burning in Ashcroft may be reviewed, as candidates Alf Trill and Barbara Roden both agreed that limited burning would be acceptable to them.
Trill said he was “in favour of burning a little bit of yard waste or a burning barrel for hot dogs… That would be great if we could allow it again.”
Roden said she didn’t see the harm in having backyard firepits that people could sit around and would revisit the issue.
Among their questions, trustee candidates were asked how they would gather input to make their decisions at the table.
Candidate and incumbent trustee Christopher Roden cited dialogue with the parents and consultation. He noted that the school district had just adopted a new communications plan that would allow the public to find out more about what the district was doing.
Candidate Vicky Trill said she enjoyed working with and coaching the students. Through the students she also hears what the parents are saying.
The mayoralty candidates were also asked what they would do to encourage people to move to Ashcroft.
The town needs well paying jobs that will support families, said candidate Jack Jeyes.
Job opportunities and also more residential development within the town boundaries, said candidate and incumbent councillor Jerry Fiddick.
Keeping the town attractive by making it a happy place to live, said candidate Dave Belcham. And having jobs to maintain that.
The candidates all pledged to keep hospital issues in the foreground.
Jeyes said he didn’t want to just maintain services there, he wanted to expand them. Fiddick said mayor and council continue to be in talks with the Ministry, IH and the hospital to keep the issues front and centre. Belcham said the Wellness and Health Action committee was doing an excellent job and deserved the support of the community.