Incumbent Mayor Janice Brown (left) and challenger, current councillor Christine Fraser (centre), draw speaking lots from Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce executive director Patti Noonan prior to Thursday’s township all-candidate’s forum at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Incumbent Mayor Janice Brown (left) and challenger, current councillor Christine Fraser (centre), draw speaking lots from Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce executive director Patti Noonan prior to Thursday’s township all-candidate’s forum at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Spallumcheen candidates tackle tough questions

All-candidates forum for Township of Spallumcheen draws 75 people to Armstrong’s Centennial Hall

Talk about loaded questions.

Council candidates in Spallumcheen were asked from the floor what qualities do mayoral candidates Janice Brown (incumbent) and Christine Fraser (current councillor) have that would make them a good mayor.

It was the first question following an intermission of a near three-hour all-candidates forum Thursday at Armstrong’s Centennial Hall, attended by more than 75 people.

“At the end of the day, when I think about what happens after Oct. 20 (municipal election), I keep picturing how we’ve lost a really good person on council,” said incumbent councillor Andrew Casson. “Both of these candidates are very passionate about their opinion, and an excellent team. So when I look and think at what one will be like without the other I struggle to picture it. Both have so many qualities that complement each other very well. I’ve learned a lot from both women. They’re both very good at what they do. I think ultimately we are losing a very good person on council either way.”

Questions were directed to either both mayoral candidates, six of the seven council candidates (incumbent Todd York was absent from the forum) or all eight.

Brown and Fraser were asked for their vision of Spallumcheen going forward.

“We’re working on building southeast sector business, but most importantly we’ve been working on retention of our industrial park,” said Brown. “With that, we’ve got fibre optic into our industrial park, we’re working on retaining our businesses, working with our farmers. We’re trying to have farming comes first but we are running into the problem of industrial farms and policies and the Right To Farm Act. The next big challenge is cannabis coming into our area with not a lot of guidance and knowledge on what we can do.

“My vision is always to build the community strong. Have it be a great place to live.”

Said Fraser: “If you flip forward 10 years, I see a thriving industrial park, us doing everything we can to get a small section of ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) land out of the ALR at the far south end of the township for industrial land; I see our wastewater facility doing well down there, providing irrigation water for farmers, providing biosolids, they process them down there, make compost that’s used on farms and have for the last 10 years, it’s a great product.

“I see our residential staying with our acreages, small holdings, country residential, 2.5 to five-acre parcels for everything that’s not in the ALR. Our industrial park is really important moving forward. That’s how we’ll keep our taxes low.”

Something coming into the township, and all B.C. municipalities moving forward, is cannabis stores and production facilities. Council recently hosted a lively presentation from a Kelowna-based company that plans to open a major production centre on Pleasant Valley Road.

RELATED: Capacity crowd crams Spallumcheen chambers for marijuana facility presentation

The incumbent candidates were asked if they voted in favour of the facility — in fact, no vote has been conducted on the presentation — and was given an opportunity to speak on the topic.

“I’m torn about this one and I’m not sure where I stand on it just because I don’t think we’ve had the opportunity to look at it and all the implications of it, and what it means to our community,” said Christine LeMaire. “It was handed to us. We were told this is how it’s going to be and you all need to adjust. I do believe it’s something we’re all going to have to learn to adjust. Try to look on the positive side. This will bring some jobs to the community.”

The issue of transit in the township was brought up from the floor, with one woman stating that “it doesn’t seem like you can get anywhere in Spallumcheen without your own vehicle.”

Coun. Joe Van Tienhoven said council has looked at the issue with B.C. Transit.

“We’ve talked to them about it, in particular of maybe having some extended or earlier bus hours so people can get to work for early shifts at the industrial park,” said Van Tienhoven, adding he spoke with ministers at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler.

“They’re seemingly reluctant to bring in Uber (a location-based app that makes hiring an on-demand private driver easy) so as to not compete with taxi companies, but what about a rural Uber; Ruber? Lots of people live in Spall and Armstrong and work in Vernon, travel back and forth. Why not have an Uber system for rural areas where people can get a ride at different times of the day where it’s not tied to a schedule?”

Like at the Armstrong forum the night before, the A-word – amalgamation – came up, with candidates asked their thoughts on possibly combining with the City of Armstrong to form one municipality. Challengers to the incumbent councillors, John Bakker and Gerry Popoff, were of the same opinion.

“It’s purely up to the residents that should come up and say we want it or we don’t,” said Bakker. “I look at it this way; if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

“There was a referendum a few years back. We live in one community,” said Popoff. “Some people live in Spall and work in Armstrong, some in Armstrong work in Spallumcheen. We share things together, swimming pool, fire department. Right now it’s working fine. Leave it alone.”

RELATED: Questions from cannabis to rail trail for Armstrong candidates

Former councillor Carolyn Farris is running for a seat on both township council and to be the area trustee for the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District board. A now fully retired teacher, Farris was asked if she wins both spots, would she be able to commit to both.

“I know what the time commitment is for both,” said Farris. “The only thing I have to be really clear about is if there’s any point where there’s a conflict, I can’t vote at both tables. I would have to declare that and choose which table I’d vote at and recuse myself at the other. Because they’re so different it’s unlikely that will happen.

“I was taught when you take something on, you do your very best, 150 per cent at least and you don’t let down the people who chose to put you there. If I’m fortunate to be elected, it will be 150 per cent.”

The forum Thursday was hosted by the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce.

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