Mayoral candidate Wyatt Scott (left) listens as incumbent Mayor Randy Hawes (second from left) explains the proper use of a rebuttal card. Fellow candidates Iain Gilfillan and Pam Alexis watch as the two men debate. Scott had his microphone taken away, temporarily, by mediator Sean Melia for not following the rules of process. It was later returned. / Bob Friesen Photo

MISSION VOTES 2018: Mayoral candidates quizzed at public meeting

All-candidates forum covers business licences, pot, housing and more

Mission residents had a chance Wednesday night to meet and hear all of the candidates running in the Oct. 20 municipal election.

Four mayoral and 19 council candidates took to the stage at the Clarke Theatre to participate in the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce’s all-candidates forum.

Due to the large number of candidates, council hopefuls were limited to a one-minute opening speech and two-minute closing speech to state their case and explain their vision for the future.

The mayoral candidates had more opportunity to answer questions.

When asked what her vision for Mission is, Pam Alexis said it is three-pronged.

“Number one, we are open for business. We need to create a culture that welcomes success. To do this, we must streamline processes, provide incentives and showcase our successes,” she said.

Her second point was that people matter – she said it is vital for Mission to maintain its strong sense of community.

Her third point was tourism.

“The time is right to promote our strong cultural and sports sectors and the endless recreational opportunities emerging from the Stave West region and along the Fraser River.”

Iain Gilfillan told the crowd that he sees Mission becoming a world leader in a new governing system.

“I will expand campsites and beaches and bring tourism. I’d like to build a homeless shelter so that we can treat the homeless, based on mental health, which is the biggest issue here.”

He also wants to look at building a boardwalk and putting in a new bypass.

Randy Hawes said his vision is for Mission to be a place that continues to have a solid government representing the people.

“My vision is that we have the housing choices people need, we have the jobs here that people need so they don’t have to commute everyday and that we are the community that our kids can grow up in and want to stay and have the opportunity to stay here,” he said, adding he wants Mission to be a place for everyone.

Wyatt Scott told the audience that each person has a vision that is so different, but similar in a lot of ways.

“I’m almost 45. I have a lot of energy. I have a true vision and I have the energy to take it forward. It includes creating an infrastructure that we are so far behind in right now. It creates an opportunity to have someone at the helm because the pulse of your city is the leader.”

He said Mission needs someone who will generate excitement.

Mayoral candidates were also asked about a new business licence fee structure, after a recently proposed increase was heavily criticized and sent back to council.

Gilfillan declined to comment on the issue, saying he wasn’t sure about the question.

Hawes said the district came up with the new format several months ago and called it a mistake.

“As mayor I will accept the blame for it. It shouldn’t have gone out the way it went.”

He believes the business licence fees are fine the way they are.

“We do have some businesses in this community that cost a lot more money than others in police time and bylaw time and they should pay for what they use.”

Hawes referenced pawn shops as an example.

Scott said if council is going to approach something like a business fee increase, the business community should be talked to first “before you send out something alarming like that.”

“That’s not creating a business environment conducive to generating a positive community. As a business owner in the community, I think that I would have taken a much different approach with that.”

Alexis said that soon after the election is over, the new council will have to discuss the fee structure.

“I will be certainly pulling for more efficiency with respect to business licensing because we don’t want that to hold up businesses. .. I believe why we originally undertook the exercise was to make the costs more appropriate to the number of services the business required. That model just plum didn’t work.”

She said, unfortunately, the district will have to subsidize those businesses, because they can’t make it so unaffordable that business can’t operate.

Another question addressed how the municipality can protect property owners or renters from financial risks or other dangers, such as mould, from homes that may have grow-ops in them once marijuana is legalized.

Scott said Mission has a reputation as the marijuana capital of Canada.

“Do we embrace that? Or do we fight it? With legalization coming next week, this is going to be a big issue, especially with home insurance.”

Alexis said other communities are requiring homes to be brought up to code before they can be passed along.

She said banks can be involved and the city can be involved with respect to permits.

“I don’t remember why it was dropped, but it was something we were looking at initially.”

Gilfillan said with the legalization of marijuana, a lot of new bridges have to be crossed.

“Permits have to be in place, there have to be applications filled out and licences issued so that everything is safe and it doesn’t affect the condition of houses.”

Hawes said for the last few years, people have been getting permits to grow medical marijuana in their homes.

“Mission probably is one of the sickest populations in the country,” he joked, noting there are more than 800 permits here.

“Houses aren’t greenhouses. Houses should never be used as greenhouses.”

He said houses need to be remediated.

Candidates also addressed issues regarding the need for more multi-family housing, private contracting, marijuana retail stores and development cost charges.

While the discussion was civil throughout the night, things became a little heated just before the mayoral question period ended.

Scott asked to use his rebuttal card to make one final comment, but instead of arguing a point made by another candidate, he began making an election statement.

“We have a really unique opportunity to take Mission somewhere great. We’ve had the same leadership for 30 years…,” Scott said before mediator Sean Melia interrupted him and explained he had to make a rebuttal regarding one of the questions, not make a statement.

But Scott continued anyway.

Hawes then used his rebuttal card to explain the rules to Scott.

“A rebuttal is to rebut something somebody else said,” Hawes said to Scott as the crowd began to clap.

“I want to rebut Randy,” Scott said before Melia took his microphone away.

To watch the entire forum and hear what the council candidates had to say, visit the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page.

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