Thirteen candidates seeking six seats on Delta council shared the stage Saturday afternoon at the North Delta Evangelical Free Church.
Hosted by the Delta Residents Association, the meeting had each candidate step up to the microphone and deliver a short introduction followed by answers to two questions. Each pair of questions differed from candidate to candidate, and rebuttals were not permitted.
Candidates did manage to discuss common topics while answering questions, including the MK Lands proposal for 1,100 units of townhouses and apartments with 13,000 square feet of office space on land adjacent to Burns Bog.
“Burns Bog is internationally known and valued, but there’s pressure to develop with the MK Lands proposal,” said Delta Connect candidate Jennifer Thoss, asked if she would advocate for protection of the Bog. “I certainly would not be in favor of that proposal. We need to bring attention to how valuable Burns Bog is as a natural resource.“
Independent candidate Ron Calliou (left) endorsed an idea floated by an opponent.
“I have to say Heather (King) had a fantastic solution, a land swap, so we get away from developing Burns Bog,” he said of the idea to exchange the undeveloped, city-owned Paterson Park land in Ladner with the 89-acre MK Lands. “That’s a way to go, because we don’t need to keep developing Burns Bog at all.“
Nicholas Wong of Delta Connect (below) also spoke against the MK Lands proposal.
“Unfortunately, Delta has not done a sufficient job protecting our environment,” he said. “We’ve made great strides protecting portions of the bog. But even entertaining a proposal that builds on what remains, that is compromising our environment.“
Incumbent Bruce McDonald didn’t directly address the MK Lands proposal, but did say council is very attentive to community concerns.
“We listen to people all the time. We have 23,000 acres of agricultural land, we’ve lost very little of it,” he said. “This council does listen, we’ve won dozens of awards of environmental initiatives.“
Incumbent Jeanie Kanakos, McDonald’s running mate on the Independents Working For You team, said seeking public input is a challenge for council.
“Especially in North Delta. We have our challenges,” she said. “We have more than 50,000 people living in North Delta, which is more than half the population, yet we have no community newspaper (dedicated solely to North Delta) to help us stay informed on key issues.“
Affordable housing was addressed by several candidates in their responses to questions, including incumbent Robert Campbell of Mayor Lois Jackson’s Delta Independent Voters Association (DIVA) team.
“We need more diversity to create more options. Because more options creates more affordability,” said Campbell (below). “There’s land costs and building costs, and those are beyond our control. What we can do is try to diversify housing, and provide more options. Whether its coach houses or small houses. We also need apartments, and townhouses. We need it all.“
“We have to get creative and listen to land owners and encourage them to try to come up with ways to provide affordable housing,” added Rod Binder, also of DIVA. “We need to let people have the opportunity to move here as first-time homeowners.“
King, a member of council from 2008-11, said land costs and transportation drive housing prices higher.
“Key is to take the cost of land and the cost of a car out of the equation,” she said. “An answer might be to lease land (for housing). Many communities are looking at different ways. Leased land, getting around easier by transit, and smaller houses are options.“
Johann Ackerman of Delta Connect said smaller homes could be an answer.
“Older people might not want a 2,000-sq.-ft. home,” he said. “We need to look at all options. My son lives in a 600-sq.-ft. home and he’s quite happy there.“
Other candidates seeking one of six seats on council for the next four years are incumbent Ian Paton of DIVA, independent Pater Mattoo, Lori Mayhew of Delta Connect and incumbent independent Sylvia Bishop.
Mayor Lois Jackson has earned re-election by acclamation.