‘Ditto’ was the word of the night at the Area E all-candidates forum Monday night at Nanoose Place.
The three candidates to represent the Nanoose area on the Regional District of Nanaimo board — Ed Mayne, Bob Rogers and Gordon Wiebe — answered spoken and written questions from the crowd of about 300.
Organized by Jim Lettic and sponsored by The NEWS and the ad hoc United Residents Association of Nanoose Bay, and moderated by The NEWS editor John Harding, the evening started with a tribute from RDN chair Joe Stanhope to area director George Holme, who is retiring after 26 years as a director.
“There are a lot of hot button topics… all having to do with water,” Lettic summed up before the forum.
The first question addressed Ed Mayne directly, asking, since he’d stepped down as mayor of Parksville to run for the provincial Liberal leadership in 2011, why should residents trust he’ll stay if elected to this position?
“It didn’t take long to get to that question did it?” Mayne quipped before explaining that he’d waited until January to resign as mayor, putting him at a disadvantage in the leadership race, to save the city from having to hold a by-election.
“I am fully committed. If elected I will be your director for the next four years.”
Each candidate was given the opportunity to respond to every question, but the others declined to address that one — to chuckles from the audience. Water did then come up, with a question about whether property owners should be able to sell water connections, referring to a specific incident.
“I will be reviewing that agreement, and see how we can move forward with that,” Rogers said getting into the history of water on the peninsula. “This whole topic should involve more consultation and more discussion.”
“I’m not in agreement with selling water, whether we can stop it or not, I don’t know,” said Wiebe, agreeing that “we need a review,” setting the tone of agreement for the evening.
“I thought the whole system, in consultation, was poorly handled,” Mayne said. “Whether it’s right or wrong, I don’t know the answer, I don’t think many people know the answer frankly. I believe the water sustainability act will solve that problem in the future.”
He then clarified, “I do not agree with selling any of our commodities.”
Those responses also summed up another trend, with the candidates often admitting they don’t know or have the answers, but that they would look into it further, find out what residents want and represent that on the RDN board.
Another common refrain was summed up in the answers to a very specific question about safety at the corner of Northwest Bay and Claudet roads.
“The roads are under the Ministry of Transportation, the regional government has no control over road system, but we could at least have that conversation with Emcon, who’s doing the work for them, and say do something about these bad intersections,” Mayne said after commiserating that there are a lot of bad corners.
Rogers agreed that the intersection is surrounded by private property, “it would take some work on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation to sort that out.”
“There are quite a few intersections like that in Nanoose because it was first developed as a collection of little cabins and little roads, but things change,” said Wiebe. “I agree we don’t have the jurisdiction to do anything about it… I know George (Holme) has struggled with it for years.”
In brief the candidates also agreed to look into culling the deer if that’s what people want, but that it would take a very long time to get all the proper permission. They agreed that it would be nice to see more trails in the area, including along the rail right of way, that residents should not be supporting the Island Corridor Foundation through taxes, that medical marijuana should not be grown on agricultural land, but in industrial areas and that they might support incorporation (becoming a municipality), but that they can’t imagine it happening in their lifetime.
In response to a question they explained that the referendum question about borrowing $2.6 million for the Nanoose Water Service is about updating the area’s existing water system, while the proposed Englishman River Water Service project is about a new river water intake and treatment plant.
Asked their specific priority, Rogers said “providing good accountable representation.”
Wiebe said “protecting our resources and environment,” and Mayne said “find out what you (residents) want to see and that’s how I’ll set my priorities.”