Nine of 11 candidates for Coldstream council sounded off on issues affecting the community at an all-candidates forum Wednesday evening, Oct. 5.
Close to 150 people filled the Okanagan College lecture theatre to hear candidates discuss climate change, housing, densification, protections for Kalamalka Lake and more.
Incumbents Doug Dirk and Stephanie Hoffman joined former mayor Jim Garlick and newcomers Alex Dantzer, Don Jefcoat, Jeremy Levy, John Myhill, Simone Runyan and Jeff Stevenson in participating in the forum. Incumbents Pat Cochrane and Glen Taylor were absent due to prior engagements.
The moderator was Kelly Winston.
The candidates were asked what they think is the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, and how the district should respond to climate change.
Jefcoat put it bluntly: “The transit system sucks.”
He said Coldstream needs a smaller bus transit system that is more up to date, adding that he likes the Neuron e-scooter system in Vernon and would like to see it added to Coldstream.
Dantzer said he’s in favour of local solutions to the environment and climate change, but noted that these are big problems that “Coldstream can do little or nothing about by itself.” He said if elected, he would take the environment into consideration, but would be “reluctant to talk about huge issues without having anything we can do about it.”
Levy pointed to Vernon’s Climate Action Plan, saying he thinks the district should adopt some of the plan’s key recommendations.
“Climate change does not see borders,” Levy said.
“Thus a collaborative effort is necessary.”
Levy named several initiatives he would like to see council undertake, including developing active transportation corridors, solar power, and finding ways to entice people to commute by bike or e-scooter instead of by car.
The candidates were asked a question focused on protecting Kalamalka Lake from invasive mussels, sedimentation and fertilizer run-off, among other threats. Many of the candidates described the lake as a jewel in the community that needs to be safeguarded.
Runyan said we need to “keep the nutrients in the soil on the land where it belongs,” adding there needs to be work done to slow the Coldstream Creek down to allow it to drop sediment. Runyan said the district also needs to lobby the provincial government to protect Kalamalka Lake from invasive mussels.
A question from the audience asked candidates how Coldstream can draw in green tech companies that can’t afford to buy a place in Vancouver.
Stevenson said it’s an “amazing opportunity for growth,” but added that investing in infrastructure such as bike paths is needed to draw those companies in.
“When green companies want to come here there has to be that green option that’s there to support them and their employees for the time that they work for them,” he said.
A question from the audience remarked on a comment made by Garlick regarding a flood mitigation effort that involved rerouting water off a road and into Skobalski Creek. The resident was concerned that this would amount to polluting the creek. Garlick said the water comes up from the creek naturally during freshet season.
“There’s more to it than just saying we’re pushing our drainage water into Coldstream Creek,” he said, adding that this does not cause pollution.
The member of the audience asked if any of the candidates were interested in proposing an idea to have options other than Alexander’s Pub to go out and eat, while offering local farmers the chance to bring their agricultural products to market.
Garlick said he’s in favour of establishing farmer’s markets or vendors in the parking lot towards the north end of Kalamalka Lake, adding that the new community hall that’s in the works could also be a “great centre” for a market.
Residents will head to the polls on Oct. 15 to cast their votes council and school trustees in the local general election. Mayor Ruth Hoyte has been acclaimed.