Two-and-a-half hours in, the 10th and final question of the night, and the A-word came up at the Spallumcheen mayor and councillor candidates’ forum Wednesday.
The question was posed to mayoral candidates Dave Brew and Janice Brown, along with the eight seeking one of the six council seats: what is your thought about 17 water districts being in two municipalities under one governing body, and what do you think of amalgamation between the township and the City of Armstrong?
“We could be here all night,” said Brown, a current councillor, like Brew, seeking to replace the retiring Will Hansma. “We tried years ago to maybe join all the water districts and they are each their own individual water districts. We’re working with them right now, but we have to get infrastructure in the ground before we take them all over.
“With amalgamation, we need to work better with Armstrong but right now we double-dip on all of our grants. We do well as different communities when it comes to grants. For the pool, we each got a grant. When we applied for the arena, we each got a grant. We’re getting double government funding. We’d have to go to referendum to see if the community wanted it. But right now, we’re a big area, we could never put water into everybody’s homes.”
Brew said the water districts are out of the township’s control, that they’re set up under the provincial government.
“We can’t take them over unless they want to dissolve,” said Brew. “It’s a long, drawn-out procedure. A lot of them work very well, some don’t. It’s got to be a co-operative deal between the water districts.”
Brew said amalgamation between the two municipalities is a touchy subject.
“I got enough people telling me we need to amalgamate and I listen to that,” he said. “This one time I’m going to ride the fence. I will say we are getting along better with Armstrong than we have for a long time. The co-operation between parks and rec and the IPE is better than it’s ever been.
“There was a tremendous amount of animosity between the two but we were able to work together to build a $5-million pool. We’re able to sit down with them now in a reasonable manner and I hope that continues even better in the future.”
On the topic of amalgamation, incumbent councillors Todd York and Andrew Casson expressed they would be in favour, but also liked the current set-up, while Christine Fraser said both sides of an amalgamation argument would have to be investigated, and that she’d listen to what the people of Spallumcheen wanted.
Challenger Carolyn Farris said if amalgamation takes place, it must be done in a respectful and co-operative manner.
Joe Van Tienhoven appreciates the fact that both communities are working well together, while Tom Boeve said both will always be different entities and there would always be conflicts if both were put one umbrella.
Ed Hanoski believes in the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” theory, while Rachael Ganson agreed with Brown about the two communities being able to receive double the government funding.
Ganson did deliver the best one-liner of the night.
Asked by a resident if any of the candidates had family ties, and, if so, what is the relationship, Ganson and Hanoski were the only ones to raise their hands.
“I hope you’re thinking father-daughter,” deadpanned Ganson with a big smile. “You’d be right.”
Close to 80 people attended the forum, hosted by the Armstrong Ministerial Association and Okanagan Advertiser, with Don Blakely serving as moderator.