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REPORTING · 4th November 2014
Walter McFarlane
The All Candidates Forum took place on Wednesday, October 29th at the Mount Elizabeth Theatre. This year, it was hosted by the Rotary Club of Kitimat and the format had changed from the last couple of forums.

Questions were accepted by the panel in advance and each question was asked to a different candidate. If a candidate heard a question which they had an answer for but were not asked, they used one of their limited number of rebuttal cards to be able to speak. Each candidate had an opportunity to introduce themselves and an opportunity to give closing remarks.

Mayoral Candidates went first.

Trish Parsons listed off her accomplishments including shop local programs, hosting workshops, and working with different organisations to make emerging issues a priority for the chamber and the community. She expressed she has helped out organizing community events including the Fish Derby, the Multicultural Flag raising, the Show and Shine and the Rail Jam. She is a member of a number of organizations.

“As an executive director of the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, I have worked with community organizations, single person businesses, and multinational companies. I have firsthand experience and knowledge of the challenges and successes of Kitimat,” said Parsons.

Phil Germuth expressed he is a hometown boy. He stated the people of Kitimat have built a strong foundation which could be built upon. His goal is to give future generations to have the same opportunities to build upon Kitimat. He wants to be the community’s voice, and Kitimat needs government and industry to hear Kitimat’s voice to ensure the town’s future is secure. He wants to unite the community and make the community proactive rather than reactive.

“Like you, I want our Kitimat to be a safe, progressive community where we can all enjoy the beautiful scenery, pristine outdoors, along with economic stability,” said Germuth. “I am ready to do the job as your Mayor, to listen and then act in your best interests.”

Joanne Monaghan listed her many accomplishments as a local politician. She stated she is well informed in many areas and has access to a powerbase she could use to lobby effectively for the community of Kitimat and its citizens, businesses and other groups. She wishes to use all of this to create a better community. She stated she listens to concerns, acts on them and accomplishes much for the community.

“I went into politics because I felt that you, the citizens of Kitimat were looking for a voice on Council with a positive approach to government, someone who was easily accessible and would respond to your concerns quickly, and in a positive way. I believe that in my terms of office, my record will show that I am accessible, responsive and reasonable,” said Monaghan.

Each candidate was asked what the pros and cons would be for changing the term for elected Council from three years to four.

Parsons replied it would give her an opportunity to learn the ropes but would limit people from putting their names in for a seat on Council and make changes in the community. Monaghan said it would give new members of Council more time to learn the ropes. Both Germuth and Monaghan expressed it would provide more time to accomplish things.

One of several topics which received a lot of attention was the issue of housing. Parsons stated it was an immediate concern and the District needed to stop lobbying government to solve the problem and be a part of the solution rather than going to others to solve the issue. She argued that Mayor and Council have resources, community partners and industry available to plan with, so they could make sure there are no renovictions when the next project is announced.

During one of her rebuttals, she explained the Official Community Plan needed to be reviewed and addressed every 3-4 years, and the current plan does not address challenges of housing for seniors, the disabled, low income families as well as second stage and transitional units.

Monaghan stated Council’s primary goal should be affordable housing, with water access and the bridge being second and third. She stated it was important to work with government to get the grant money for the housing which Kitimat needs. She also suggested a good legacy project from the industries coming to Kitimat would be a housing project, in addition to public works and maybe an MRI Machine.

She stated obtainable housing was something which needs to be looked at during expansion and currently, housing was not obtainable. The community needs to work with developers and the government for obtainable housing. She expressed she would grow the community by having the housing which the industries wanted. She would find this out by working with them.

Monaghan was asked about the old hospital land and what she would do to use it for its maximum potential. She expressed she did not have much say over the land because it is Haisla Property. Kerkhoff will be building a number of buildings for the Haisla on it and it is expected to come back for zoning shortly. She wanted to see a conference centre there but Council will work with the current plans.

Germuth stated changes in density were putting pressure on people which they did not need. Kitimat was planned to be a certain way and there are many areas available for development. If he could change something in the community code, it would relate to what they are doing with density bonus. He argued Kitimat’s original plan was not to be high density.

Parsons burned a rebuttal to state the original community plan was supposed to have far more apartments and town homes then single family dwellings. This has changed over the course of the last 20 years and Kitimat is not meeting 50% of the original density.

Germuth burned a rebuttal to counter her. He expressed in the 1952 community plan, Kitimat had one planned neighbourhood which was composed of townhouses and apartments which could be built quickly and cheaply. However, the main plan was for Neighbourhood D, which was 60% houses and 10% apartments.

Another topic was the Air Quality Assessment. Germuth stated council failed to be part of review processes in the past. He believed there was an opportunity for scrubbers and the town should give Rio Tinto Alcan an opportunity to put them in because if the Kitimat Air Shed has too many contaminants in it, it could prevent other industries from coming to town.

Monaghan said the Mayor and Council had to ensure the study is followed and there are regular tests of the air and water to make sure they are clean.

There were a few questions regarding oil. Monaghan was asked how many oil refineries she wanted in the Kitimat Valley. Monaghan answered one, but it would probably take a long time to come. She stated it would create jobs and be good for the economy as well as being clean.

Parson’s burned a rebuttal card on the same question to state it was not what she wants, but what the community wants. However, these decisions would not be made locally, they would be made at other levels of government and added the Council should be looking at all investment opportunities which were presented to them and work with those who would provide Kitimat with a sustainable Future.

Monaghan stated she would rather have refinery product going down the channel so if there was a spill, it would evaporate whereas bitumen would not. She stated the channel creates a lot of recreation for a lot of people and this would be her choice.

The plebiscite was also an issue, with both questions being asked to Germuth. When asked what circumstances he would go to the community for a vote, he expressed it was when there was something which would have a massive impact on the community that they need community input. He also pointed out the original motion was made back in 2011 when Council could have still been a part of the Joint Review Process. However, for the second question, he answered that the cost outweighed the information which was obtained.

He would later burn a rebuttal to express he would do a better job of protecting the interests of the community then the last Council. This would include participating in the review processes to protect the Kitimat water and air shed, as well as consulting with the people of Kitimat before doing major changes to neighbourhoods.

Germuth answered two questions dealing with Kitimat’s infrastructure. One dealing with crossing the Kitimat River and one about a new museum. On the topic of Bridges, he stated the District is currently working to maintain Haisla Bridge and maintaining the bridge is paramount. If a second crossing is considered, it would best be at the Little Wedeene so industrial traffic ignores the town and goes through Service Centre. As for the museum, he replied that a new museum is important to him, but he believes the community needs to plan for a new Fire Hall and a new City Hall as well.

As for growing the commercial sector, Germuth suggested they needed to have the industry in Kitimat with permanent workers who live with their families in Kitimat. This will spark small business and fill the schools.

Monaghan used a rebuttal to state they could invite businesses to come to town who would be an advantage to the industries. She said businesses Council invited were invited Work Wear World, Starbucks and Smitty’s Pancake House. She suggested being aggressive.

Parsons was asked about developing partnerships with the Haisla. She expressed all of Kitimat’s neighbouring communities were experiencing the same challenges as Kitimat. She said the Haisla need to be included as stakeholders at the community meetings where they look at local issues. Kitimat also needs to be at the table when the Haisla nation is discussion the issues facing them as well.

There were a number of questions directed at the candidates concerning Council protocol. Parsons was asked if she expected to be a full time Mayor. She replied she did not expect the position to be full time, but the job had to be accessible all the time.

She was also asked what she would do different then the last Mayor and Council. She said she would operate Council as a governance board working to make decisions while coming up with a long term plan with a goal for Kitimat. She stated while the council can consult, eventually, they have to make a decision. She said every decision will likely upset someone and not make them happy. However, they have to do what is best for the community.

In addition, she was asked what she would do to change the perception that Council was unprofessional and questionable. Parsons replied once Council has its goals, they can prioritise the meetings and the discussion which they need to have for the community and the government. If they do this, Mayor and Council will not have to rush around to more meetings then they can attend.

Germuth was asked how he would deal with situations where Council disagrees with the opinions of the Mayor. Germuth responded by saying the Mayor’s job was to be the voice of Council, and Council is supposed to be the voice of the community. In a debate, he will debate what he thinks should be done. Once a vote has been cast, he will voice the results of that vote to be the voice of the community.

Each of the candidates also received a chance to close. Monaghan reflected on her past 6 years as Mayor but asked for four more years to complete the work which is not done. Germuth counted down the top ten reasons why people should vote for him. Parsons stated she works with a lot of people to make Kitimat a better place to live.

With the Mayoral Candidates done, it was time for the Council Candidates to take the stage. Come back next Monday to read about their portion of the forum.
Great Coverage of Mayoral Debate
Comment by Interested Citizen on 4th November 2014
Thank you Walter for excellent coverage of the debate.