Comfort. Public input. Baked goods.
All three could be mainstays of town hall-style meetings in Spallumcheen, if they were to be held.
Such a question was posed to the seven township council candidates at a forum at Armstrong’s Centennial Hall Wednesday, attended by about 100 people.
“I thought town hall meetings were already held locally at the A&W,” chuckled incumbent councillor Joe Van Tienhoven, who admitted in his opening to being uncomfortable standing in front of a crowd.
“As a council, we generally hear what people are unhappy with. Nobody comes to meetings when things are going good but when we talk things like water or Bill 8 (farm taxes), people show up and we take that seriously. I think town hall meetings would be great.”
Also uncomfortable with crowds is incumbent Andrew Casson, but he agreed town hall meetings would be a great way to find out what people are thinking.
“It would be a chance to meet in a comfortable setting and listen to what you have to say to us,” he said. “Any kind of feedback is what keeps us going.”
Farming dominated most of the questions asked from the floor, including how candidates would advocate for small-scale farmers in the areas of access to markets, and distribution and storage of products.
Veteran incumbent Todd York said council advocates regularly but gets frustrated because of provincial rules and regulations.
“In the past decade we’ve watched the inability to have farm meat sales due to regulations, lost the abattoirs, lost the ability to have access to our own products. We bring this up every single chance we get (with the province). I’m unfamiliar with small-scale farming and how they deal with distribution. As for storage, if we were trying to shape a storage area for the farming community to utilize, I’m sure council would embrace such an idea and assist any way we can.”
Incumbent Ed Hanoski remembers when the region was famous for peas, celery and cheese.
“Those days are gone,” he said. “Seventy per cent of our food comes from outside of B.C., so there’s a big market there. We have to band together and get an industrial setting of some sort to help your access to market. And we need a cold storage unit so people can store their berries.”
It was small farms that attracted hopeful Christine Lemaire to move to Spallumcheen.
“I love the accessibility to all the things you can get locally, and I think that’s a really important part of the community,” she said.
Agriculture regulations have had a huge impact on small-farm processing said hopeful Linda Griffin, adding she’s had friends with mobile slaughter units move to different communities because of the many rules and regulations that cut into their business.
“For storage, there are so many regulations on how to set up that most farmers can’t afford to upgrade because it costs thousands and thousands of dollars before the government approves it,” said Griffin. “For distribution, you need to have vast amounts of stuff to ship out.”
Only one question was asked directly of one councillor and that was to Christine Fraser. A gentleman asked her to describe the relationship between the councils of Spallumcheen and Armstrong over the past three years.
“Our relationship now with Armstrong is excellent,” said Fraser. “Last night, when they had their forum, we were there listening to them, now they’re scattered in here in support of us. It’s really nice to have that kind of relationship because in a lot of ways, we’re one community. Historically there’s been a lot of animosity. In the two current councils, the relationship is really, really good.”