About 560 Mission residents packed the Clarke Theatre Tuesday night to listen to mayoral candidates discuss marijuana grow ops in homes, flooding, taxes, business development, and public safety.
Before they took the stage, candidates for council each had a minute to introduce themselves to the audience. Profiles on each candidate are available at missioncityrecord.com
The questions posed to the mayoral candidates came from the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce, which organized the all-candidates meeting.
Randy Hawes accused the current council of taking a passive approach to dealing with marijuana grow operations in the community. Mission has put out a welcome sign to anyone wanting to grow marijuana, he said.
When asked what Mission should do to give potential homebuyers reliable information about any legal or illegal drug activity related to the house, Hawes said he believes houses with illegal grow ops should have their occupancy permits removed and reinstated only when the building has been remediated.
Incumbent mayor Ted Adlem said homeowners, insurers, bankers, and realtors should also take on liability, and noted the district does not know where legal grows under Health Canada are located unless they are inadvertently revealed.
Wendy Bales encouraged potential buyers to have a home inspected. “There are obvious problems like mould and electrical,” she said.
Bales also added the federal government is making changes to its medical marijuana program and it is too soon to make judgements on what should be done.
Bales criticized the district for not working with other communities up and down the Fraser River to address potential flooding problems.
“We really need to consider our neighbours up stream and down stream,” said Bales, who is currently serving as a director on the Fraser Valley Regional District board.
Adlem responded, “Our staff already know where the problems are with diking. The issue is finding money to repair them.”
He also pointed out the district doesn’t own all the dikes and doesn’t have right of way to work on them. Parts of the dike, like in the Silverdale area, are privately owned.
Tony Luck suggested working with the provincial and federal government on the issue, but also noted the dikes can’t just keep getting higher.
“Eventually we’ll get walled in,” said Luck.
Hawes said dredging is required.
Kevin Francis encouraged the district to talk about climate change. “We need to get serious about this because provincial and federal governments are doing squat.”
Francis shared his plan to create a “participatory budget,” allowing citizens to decide where to spend the money.
Hawes and Luck had different views on business development in the community. Hawes said Mission needs new industrial and manufacturing properties to attract manufacturing companies.
“I want to see new industrial growth,” said Hawes,
“One of the challenges is Mission doesn’t have a lot of industrial land,” said Luck. “We have a lot of ALR (agricultural land reserve). Before we bring industry here, we need land. To think we’re going to be an industrial powerhouse is wrong.”
Luck believes Mission should focus on tourism, like boutique shops downtown and developing West Stave Lake.
Francis said instead of waiting for businesses to come to Mission with their tax dollars, the district should take action on its own, such as becoming an independent power producer.
On the topic of funding public safety, Adlem said the “rumour” that the public safety budget has been cut is wrong. According to Adlem, the budget increased by close to half a million dollars when comparing numbers from 2011 to 2014.
“Crime in the community is down, spending isn’t,” said Adlem, noting public safety is the greatest expense to the taxpayer in any community.
Hawes argued that according to the district’s financial statements, the budget for protective services was down and the 2014-2015 budget was amended to put more money in about a month ago.
“This is electioneering 101,” said Hawes, who said the “biggest meth lab in the province’s history” was not found because the only fire inspector is behind in inspections due to cuts. “Get the fire inspectors back to full complement.”
Adlem argued the building that housed the meth lab would not have been inspected because it was vacant and didn’t have a business permit. He also added that as of a month ago, firefighters are conducting building inspections as well.
“Now we have nine,” said Adlem.
All candidates agreed to be fiscally responsible and try to keep taxes as low as possible.
Francis said he would support a tax hike for youth services.
“Youth have been incredibly underserved,” said Francis. “We need to stop cutting at some point.”