Courtenay mayoral candidates at Wednesday breakfast, from left: Erik Eriksson, Larry Jangula, Harold Long and Bob Wells. Photo by Scott Stanfield

Courtenay mayoral candidates at Wednesday breakfast, from left: Erik Eriksson, Larry Jangula, Harold Long and Bob Wells. Photo by Scott Stanfield

Courtenay mayoral candidates put to the test

Erik Eriksson, Larry Jangula, Harold Long and Bob Wells answered questions about traffic, taxes and other topics at a Courtenay Mayoral Candidates Breakfast, hosted by the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Wednesday at the Best Western.

Erik Eriksson, Larry Jangula, Harold Long and Bob Wells answered questions about traffic, taxes and other topics at a Courtenay Mayoral Candidates Breakfast, hosted by the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Wednesday at the Best Western.

Jangula is the incumbent mayor, while Wells and Eriksson sit on council. Long is a former councillor who served three terms back when George Cochrane was mayor.

The municipal election is Oct. 20.

The questions:

1. Are you in favour of 3L Development’s project proposal near Stotan Falls?

Long is not in favour because of the location and the inability of infrastructure to service the area.

“There’s no public roads directly to that site. We have a pristine piece of waterway there. The last thing we need is a problem with construction on top of that rock bluff that feeds into the river at that point.”

Eriksson notes the CVRD board has opted to go to the standard amendment process, and agreed to a time frame and process for resolving the controversial application.

“It is incumbent upon us as elected officials to have an open mind on this issue, because every one of us has to be heard, and the process includes public hearings, and a final vote after two and three readings,” Eriksson said.

Jangula feels elected officials shouldn’t be answering this question, noting 3L has twice successfully sued the regional district.

“When we as candidates start committing that we’re going to do something or not do something in regard to this, we’re already tainting what the outcome is going to be.”

But throughout the hearings, Jangula has heard about an acute shortage of building lots in the Comox Valley. He also notes that Stotan Falls is “the most significant recreation area in the Comox Valley.”

Wells said the amendment process requires elected officials to listen to proponents and residents with open minds.

“I do see challenges with the 3L development, and even with our Regional Growth Strategy,” Wells said.

He feels the Valley’s RGS document — which is two to three times longer than any neighboring regional growth strategy — needs to be reviewed.

“That large document has resulted in a bylaw that can be interpreted in many ways, resulting in the multiple lawsuit cases that we’ve lost.”

2. What would you do to get or keep City spending under control?

Wells thinks taxes and staffing levels are not out of line compared to other communities. However, he said the Courtenay is under-funded for capital renewal and infrastructure works.

“I was very excited when I heard there was a zero per cent tax plan for this year…But it didn’t spell out which services we were going to reduce. I’m still proud that we brought forward a 1.5 per cent tax increase.”

Long believes staff has to follow council rules. He also feels a number of senior staff positions need to be shortened, or eliminated.

“There’s no way that we can afford this type of overhead,” said Long, who favours more construction, not planning. “The idea that we’re going to reduce taxes, I can’t see that possibly happen.”

“I don’t think City spending is out-of-control,” Eriksson said, noting the toughest part of council’s job is setting the tax rate to pay for services. “I think our administration has listened to us and what kind of services people want.”

Jangula feels spending is out-of-control. Last year, he made a motion to maintain the tax level until a core service review is completed. He notes that Langford, despite a larger population, has over taxes and less than half of Courtenay’s city staff numbers.

“I disagree with the number of people we hired. It’s $2.5 million. It’s definitely a hit to our taxpayers, and especially to our small businesses,” said Jangula, who advocates a core service review.

If elected, do you commit to taking action to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in Courtenay? And support a Comox Valley-wide ban?

Eriksson supports the ban. Long feels education is the best approach, as opposed to imposing a ban, which is difficult to enforce. Jangula agrees with Long, and thinks we need a proper way to dispose of all waste. Wells favours a provincial plan that works with industry to promote change.

3. What are your thoughts on dealing with the homeless situation? Where would you see housing being built, and who would manage these buildings?

Wells is proud of the City’s efforts to advance the Braidwood affordable housing project, and the Habitat for Humanity homes under construction on Lake Trail Road. He would like the City to have its own housing strategy that dovetails into the work of the Homelessness Coalition.

Eriksson feels the City is on the right track by considering the entire spectrum of dealing with each aspect of homelessness. He believes economic development and higher average incomes will further improve the situation.

Long believes any form of homelessness requires support from senior governments. He advocates construction of affordable housing, considering the struggles of the under-employed and the working poor. Rentals aren’t the answer. He feels a re-developed downtown Courtenay is a suitable place for affordable housing.

Though homelessness is largely a senior government issue, Jangula notes the City has contributed money and land to the Braidwood initiative. He also notes an impending new project at Eighth Street. He feels more residential units should be available above businesses.

4. What do you see happening with the old Canadian Tire and Thrifty Food buildings, if they were in use?

Long suggests a community outlet or mini mall would be the best use, not a strip mall. Eriksson feels a small grocery store should replace the former Thrifty’s at 6th and England. Jangula — who found the question weird because it’s not council’s mandate — thinks the best thing for the City is to stay out of the way of private developers, and help cut the red tape. Wells feels the mayor-elect should work to attract businesses, which would utilize the buildings and provide well-paid jobs.

5. How do we expand the water supply to reduce the need for Stage 2 or 3 water restrictions?

Though they’re a nuisance, Long feels water meters might be the only way to limit use and cost, as opposed to restrictions. He feels voluntary compliance is unlikely.

Jangula says meters are costly and don’t address the delivery of water. He believes the deep water intake to be installed in Comox Lake will increase water availability, and help avoid boil water notices.

Through an education process, Wells feels we can continue to simplify the process to help reduce the restrictions.

Eriksson believes the issue is storage. He feels a dam should be built on the Cruikshank River, which would help to store and release water.

6. Some people say Courtenay has a traffic problem. What do you think, and what would you suggest we do?

Long feels we need to improve traffic flows to and from the bridge without red lights at the exits. A third crossing over the Courtenay River is not the answer, he said.

Eriksson agrees that traffic flow across 17th is a problem coming from Cliffe Avenue, where it jams. He suggests a green light for Ryan Road commuters crossing the bridge, and a left-turn only for those coming from Comox would keep traffic moving.

Wells questions the sense of having tall ships entering the slough. If the 17th Street Bridge ceased to be a drawbridge, it could be expanded at a lower cost.

Jangula favours a ring road that would come off the bypass, go onto Arden, which goes to Plateau Road, which hooks up with Lerwick. It could continue down McDonald, and perhaps to another bridge or a widened 17th. He notes the province built all the bridges in Courtenay.

7. If elected, do you commit to taking action to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in Courtenay? And support a Comox Valley-wide ban?

Eriksson supports the ban. Long feels education is the best approach, as opposed to imposing a ban, which is difficult to enforce. Jangula agrees with Long, and thinks we need a proper way to dispose of all waste. Wells favours a provincial plan that works with industry to promote change.

Comox Valley Record