Potential councillors answer public concerns

Voting takes place Oct. 20

At Clearwater’s second All Candidates Forum on Oct. 9, residents received another opportunity to hear from those running for council.

Some of the questions put forward included how potential councillors would support the town’s age-friendly designation, how they’d work to bridge concerns across different levels of government and how they’d represent residents who may not be able to attend council meetings.

Regarding how to support Clearwater’s age-friendly designation, incumbent Shelley Sim, who said her goals if elected include enhancing social infrastructure and creating a Social and Economic Advisory Committee, looked to her past experience on an age-friendly mobility study she worked on with the University of Northern British Columbia.

“It was because of that good work…we got (a great deal) of designated handicap parking spots,” Sim said to the audience of nearly 200 citizens at the Dutch Lake Community Centre.

“These are the issues we need to talk about in response to our community; we have to look at the reality of our demographic, I believe 58 per cent is over the age of 55, and how do we address that? I think it’s an ongoing conversation and it’s a productive conversation when we’re receptive to our community members.”

Next up to the podium was Lyle Mackenzie, a local resident whose family name has been in the North Thompson area for more than a century.

He took a humble and honest approach to answering the age-friendly designation question, admitting it was something he’d have to look into before giving an informed answer.

“I’m going to have to agree with Shelley on that,” Mackenzie said, to the sound of good-natured laughs from the audience.

“That all sounds really good; I don’t have the experience to come up with all these answers, and rather than feed you a line and steer around it, I’d have to do some research, but I will come back to your great question, it’s just right now I have some work ahead of me.”

Raymond Kollin, whose involvement with organizations includes his local church, the Wells Gray Seniors Society as well as the Wells Gray Writer’s Circle, said, “The best way to promote the age-friendly designation is to locally post events in the Clearwater Times; allow me to point out that I first studied both the Chamber of Commerce web site and on the District website before moving here.

“Well’s Grey Senior’s Society is also doing a great job with staying in touch with seniors and promoting numerous activities, but I’m surprised there are few, if any, monthly publications circulated up this way that focus on seniors—we most certainly do have a very robust senior’s community here in Clearwater.”

The next question involved how to bridge jurisdiction gaps between the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the District of Clearwater, so issues can be tackled with a united front, instead a seemingly fragmented one.

Sim agreed this was a concern, mentioning the current silo-type system where levels of government operate in isolation from one another, and said it was something Clearwater’s past council had been working on.

“In fact, we were incredibly proactive when we said, ‘We don’t want to have individual conversations, we want to have a collective conversation; we worked and we brought up tourism, the TNRD (and) anyone who could be part of that conversation, all in the room,” Sim added.

“We had the conversation at the same time with a team of people and the result was terrific; I think there’s a lot to be said for continuing conversation where everybody is in the same room at the same time and I’d like to see more of that kind of discussion.”

Next up was Bill Haring, who’s lived in Clearwater for roughly three years, but has been frequenting the town for more than three decades.

His possible solution to opening communication between levels of government suggests councillors be responsible for individual portfolios to champion specific issues.

“I agree we need to build a broader discussion around this and consult a lot of those (government) partners,” Haring said.

“I think reaching out to different government agencies, trying to put the pieces all together, it’s best to have someone assigned to a portfolio and have an expert in that; as council, there’s going to be six of us responsible for a huge broad swath of issues and having someone directly responsible for a portfolio is the way to keep those partners organized.”

Barry Banford, the only other incumbent running for another term, has been living and working in Clearwater since 1998.

Banford describes himself as the self-appointed reader of the past council, as he read everything that came before the organization and always evaluated the risks while keeping an eye open for solutions that benefit all members of the community.

He echoed Sim’s remarks on how council had already been working to address the issue of communication with government counterparts, though he admitted the District could do more.

He said every month during the past term, the mayor, council members and a TNRD representative had meetings to go over issues that impact both organizations.

“When we go to Union of B.C. Municipality meetings, we ask those other organizations, like the TNRD, to come along with us,” Banford said.

“I know we can do more, but I think we have strong footing that we’ve started.”

Following Banford was Keith McNeill, former editor of the Clearwater North Thompson Times, who wants to address the forestry issue in the area, and make sure the benefits of Clearwater’s resources benefit the people of Clearwater.

He mentioned something called the Community to Community Forum, which he said all the local governments in the North Thompson Valley are a part of, and suggested using that as something to further communication.

“I could see that as being a real vehicle for economic development and it’ something where different levels of government can work together on particular projects,” said McNeill.

Will Ellis, who has lived locally for almost 40 years and given the diversity of jobs he’s worked, including runs in the oil sector and on several safety boards, said he believes he has the tools and training to take on tasks as part of council.

He suggested lobbying the other levels of government and addressing the issue head-on.

“Someone needs to go and say, ‘Come one, let’s buck up, let’s share this, this is your responsibility, this is ours, let’s get together and let’s work on this.’”

Brent Cooper, who cites his extensive educational background as something that puts him in good standing as a town councillor, said he took specific courses in post-secondary education so he could improve social systems and make the world a better place.

When answering the question of inter-government communication, he added from what he’d heard from the two incumbents who spoke before him, the District just needs to keep moving forward with what they’ve been working on.

“I think what this council already shows is that there’s a lot of consensus and a lot of team work, so I think it’s just a matter of continuing with that and what the others said,” Cooper answered.

Travis Borneman said since he’s been in Clearwater he’s been involved with the volunteer fire department, the Elks and other organizations, and while he may not have all the answers, he has the motivation and he’s willing to put that into effect as part of council.

As for his answer to the question on government communication, he recommended breaking things down and addressing the problem piece by piece.

“It sounded like there’s a lot of problems coming from that and I don’t think we’re going to accomplish much by dealing with 50 different things (at once),” said Borneman.

“Like any obstacle, I think we have to focus on different objectives and separate important from the urgent, and allow time for both—by breaking down the large tasks into a series of small tasks and starting to take action.”

The final question of the night came from a citizen who wondered how the potential councillors would represent the people who couldn’t necessarily make it to council meetings.

Ellis had a decidedly practical solution, suggesting he could take the time to stroll around neighbourhoods and knock on doors to hear the concerns of the town.

“Once a week or once a month, go to one area and knock on doors— I’d be willing to spend some of my time to come up to your doors, knock, and say hey, what gets you about Clearwater? What can we do?,” said Ellis.

“You can tell me to go away, you can invite me in for coffee, it doesn’t matter, but I am going to start asking because we need to start moving forward here somehow.”

As for Banford, he said he’s recognized not many residents tend to make it to council meetings, but they manage to find him and bend his ear regardless, which he added is something the unseasoned councillors who get elected should be ready for.

“I went to buy a hunting license and spent 25 minutes talking to someone in the store; I walk my dog and stop and talk in the street to people; I go to get milk in the grocery store and spend 15 minutes there talking,” Banford said.

“If you think council is two days a month, you’re wrong and you shouldn’t be here—it’s a 24/7 job and you always have to be willing to listen to people and hear what they have to say, and ask them what it is and how you can help them.”

Lucy Taylor, who moved to Clearwater from Ontario in 2015, has served as a director on the Raft River PAC, served with the Wells Gray Riders Association and volunteered at the evacuation centre during the 2017 wildfires.

She’s worked in the financial sector as a senior finance manager and hoped to bring her expertise to the District of Clearwater if elected.

Her recommendations to represent those who can’t make it to regular council meetings involve taking emails from citizens or opening other ways for people to meet with their representatives.

“I think we definitely need to find ways to gather inputs and perspectives from the community on a variety of issues and really understand what are the issues that are important to them,” said Taylor.

“Maybe (they) can email or maybe we can hold office hour forums, where it’s a more informal setting, to come and chat with council members as another way to have the conversation.”

Lynne Frizzle, who has also spent most of her life in Clearwater, said she’s learned the importance of collaboration, listening, and finding solutions within a group.

She said she’s also worked at the municipal office where she went to many meetings of mayor and council and as a result, has a good understanding of how local government works.

Frizzle also recommended face-to-face discussions as a means of representing those who have difficulty addressing council members at the regularly scheduled meetings.

“I’ve been in the community for a lot of years and I’ve been with the seniors a lot. I’ve had a lot of discussions with the seniors and they have a lot of opinions and a lot of ideas, and I think it’s a great idea to get the community together with us and talk about what you really want and really need,” said Frizzle.

Mackenzie, the last to address the crowd at the forum, agreed social media is definitely a way to make oneself visible, but also added his deep roots in the community, and the fact that he’s almost always open for a chat, are all ways for Clearwater residents to address him in his capacity as councillor, should he get elected.

I feel very social, I know a lot of people in this community. I’d always have an open door policy so if anyone sees me around town or wants to get a hold of me, I’m always willing to sit down and have a conversation about anything.

Voting for the Clearwater election takes place this Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Dutch Lake Community Centre between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at 209 Dutch Lake Rd.

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