There is one thing Vernon’s three mayoral candidates are together on, and it’s the need for a new swimming pool.
Scott Anderson, Victor Cumming and Erik Olesen squared off in a municipal forum Tuesday, Oct. 4, in front of a couple of hundred attendees at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
The event was jointly sponsored by the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Society and Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re caught in a situation where it becomes really important for our city to continue to provide these recreation facilities. And they’re expensive, no question about it. And they’ll be more expensive in the future,” said Cumming. “It’s critical we do it now, meet the needs of the current population, as well as those that are coming here.”
Olesen said the current Vernon Aquatic Centre will soon be “not up to standard very soon.”
“We need to do it in the right way. We need to have the partners on board. We need to work with our surrounding communities and it’s unfortunate that the neighbouring communities are not participating for a number of reasons,” said Olesen, referring to Coldstream and Regional District of North Okanagan electoral areas B and C who declined to participate in the borrowing referendum.
“We need to make sure these projects go forward. They’re feasible for our community and our community needs the taxation on our residents. It’s not going to affect their pockets any more than what they’ve already faced. I’m for the Active Living Centre done the right way.”
There were two mains reasons Anderson said he was voting in favour of the referendum.
“One is, our existing pool is facing imminent failure. It has minor failures every year and by minor I mean a few hundred thousand dollars, not minor-minor, something that we wouldn’t notice if it happened to our car,” said Anderson. “One of these days, it’s going to go. It’s old, it’s past its best before date and it’s living on borrowed time right now. If it does go, we have no replacement.”
Each candidate faced seven questions – none were given questions in advance. The opening question saw the trio give their take on improving safety and security for local businesses.
Anderson said he’d exercise everything available in council’s tool box, but admitted “we don’t have much we can do within our jurisdiction other than enforce bylaws.”
“We can, however, start working on the little things,” Anderson said. “If we stop the little things that are happening, significant crime has trouble taking root.”
Cumming said bylaw files in Vernon’s downtown core have fallen 58 per cent in the past four years, and he said that’s mainly to do with supportive housing.
“Providing supportive housing for those who really don’t want to be in the mix on the streets is one of the most critical things we can do as a city,” said Cumming, noting the city has added RCMP and bylaw officers, and nighttime security view and report. “These are the mix of things we have to do. Work on the housing, work on the supports, work with the partners in Interior Health and B.C. Housing and decrease the number of people living on the streets.”
After consultation, Olesen said he came up with a five-point strategy for helping businesses and residents feel safer.
“Government leadership, social economic development and inclusion, cooperation and partnerships, which are key, sustainability and accountability of the goals we create, and knowledge-based,” said Olesen. “We cannot set goals and tasks that are not knowledge-based. We need to hear from people that know and understand how to attack these, and implement these in our strategic plan as a council.”
Other questions to the candidates focused on the city’s relationship with the Okanagan Indian Band, speeding up the development approval process, policies on hosting events, taxes and fees, and making the lakes within Vernon and area more accessible and attractive.