Topics from public transportation to housing to big box chain stores were covered in a two-hour all-candidates forum in Lumby Monday, Sept. 26.
The event, hosted by the Lumby Chamber of Commerce, and moderated by chamber board chair Dwayne Hackett, drew close to 100 people at the White Valley Community Centre.
It was a chance for the public to meet the candidates for council and mayor (incumbent Kevin Acton is being challenged by Brad Weston).
Incumbent councillors Sherry Kineshanko, Lori Mindnich and Randal Ostafichuk have let their names stand for the four council seats, as have Geoff Bevan, Henry Ly and Julie Pilon, a former village councillor.
Incumbent Lorelei Fiset is not seeking re-election.
One of the earliest questions from the floor was about Lumby potentially following the lead of a small town in England and banning chain stores from setting up in the town.
Ly, an immigrant who came to Canada in 1979, said it’s the small businesses and corner mom-and-pop stores that are the “hallmark of a thriving community.”
“I feel that’s what we have to go back to,” said Ly. “Unfortunately things are being taken over by corporations and I feel we need to support small communities and small businesses so things can get back to what they used to be.”
Mindnich, seeking a fifth straight term on council, believes Lumby is blessed with being small and having a small population, and that big box stores would not want to come to the village.
“They’re going to want to go to Vernon or Kelowna or some place bigger where they actually have the population to support them,” she said. “Unless, if they buy the property and unless they need zoning or a variance that comes to council, we really have no say. If they do need a variance, or something like that, we can say, ‘OK, but you gotta keep it to this,’ or ‘This is something we’re not interested in,’ then they can’t. But we’re not really the community for a Walmart or Costco.”
One question that drew a number of responses was about public transportation and the current service level going down, not up.
“It was a struggle when I was on council, there really was not enough ridership,” said Pilon. “Cost was very expensive, still is. I hope we get some more buses going. I have international students and they would like to get into town (Vernon) and right now, they’re relying on me to do that.”
One woman asked how is it possible that a development of houses, priced at $700,000, is going up and how can people afford that.
Ostafichuk, first elected to council in 2011, said the village is well aware of its housing crisis and the “insane prices that have been skyrocketing up across the province and across Canada.”
“Because it is market driven, we cannot set prices on developers,” he said. “And when developers are selling houses for these exorbitant prices, we have to look at different ways of trying to cool it down and fix the problem. We did a housing analysis needs in Lumby a few years back and discovered we need all types of housing.”
A question from the floor directed to all candidates concerned better ambulance service for the village. Kineshanko said the need of Lumby is not unique among other rural communities.
“The struggle with ambulance service is absolutely horrific,” she said. “The stories I’ve heard. We’ve been very blessed. We have an amazing fire department that is filling a void they shouldn’t have to be filling. Our fire attendants have been trained to be fire attendants, not first responders and not paramedics.
“It just seems to be getting worse. All the rural communities need to speak loud and together…I promise it’s something that is not taken lightly by the current council, and I hope the council elected in October will continue to bring it forward.”
The final question of the evening was about possibly forming a position or group to run youth sports in the village. Bevan, president of Lumby Minor Hockey, thought the idea was fantastic. “Having one head group to head up a whole bunch of programs, I think that’s a great idea,” he said, noting Lumby Minor Hockey is “doing well” with numbers post-COVID, unlike some other North Okanagan organizations.