For the first time since the Mission mayoral by-election campaign began, all six candidates came together, via the Internet, to answer questions as part of the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce’s all-candidates meeting.
Each candidate was given two minutes to answer questions. Here is a sampling of their answers:
The first question asked candidates about their position on the Waterfront master plan.
Rhett Nicholson said he was “kind of over” the waterfront and just wants to see it get done.
“I thinks it’s time to be a little more professional about it. It’s time to put all the issues in the past, roll up our sleeves and get to work. This is a huge deal for us. It’s jobs, it’s tax revenue,” said Nicholson adding what’s important with the waterfront is to build confidence with investors.
Nelson Tilbury said he read the waterfront studies, when he was on council, and zoning was put in place. Recently a developer expressed interest in the Braich property, but the project never happened.
“Us walking away from that … it’s unbelievable, especially when we told them that this is what they could do and they come and we come up with a new idea and yank the carpet out from them.
“I think the city should get on board with the zoning they put in place and get this job done,” said Tilbury.
Dave Perritt called the waterfront a “long, drawn out situation” that has been talked about for a long time.
“The waterfront has to be more like Steveston,” he said, describing it as a working pier.
“I have friends who are commercial fishermen, I have some native fisher friends, they would love to sell on the pier … The challenges are many, the infrastructure, old pipes, very small lots and that crazy bypass that takes up a huge chunk of the waterfront … I totally support the development, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Perritt.
Earl Babich said he has a plan for the waterfront.
“I’m going to put shovels in the ground in 90 days, even if its just putting down turf and putting picnic tables on areas that would compromise with the Braich family that we can have for public use … We are going to build commercial and living units. I plan to bring something that is similar to the 17 acres of the Olympic Village (in Vancouver).”
Paul Horn said he shares the frustration of many of the landowners in the area who have thought about and heard about development for years, yet nothing has happened.
“There are a lot of things going on down there, more than 60 land owners, three branches of government, flood issues, soil issues, contamination issues, Salmon habitat and on and on, the race track and so forth.
“I envision something that will get done quickly and the current plan is supposed to be done in 2022 and that’s a fast turn around time.”
Horn said a significant amount of the space must be dedicated to real jobs.
Colin Renkema called the waterfront a major project that can’t be done right away.
“I absolutely support what the councillors have done by moving this off to the expert. We don’t have the capacity or the understanding at city hall to do a project this big and to do it right. If we try to put shovels in the ground in 90 days we are going to have an absolute mess,” said Renkema.
He also pointed out that council has already made this decision on the waterfront.
“If some of these people want to go in with a wrecking ball and try to change it, they will just be ignored. It’s already over.”
Another question asked the mayoral hopefuls how they would work to forge and maintain meaningful relationships with the Indigenous community.
Babich said the Aboriginal community will play a big role in dealing with the waterfront.
“I think that their say is probably the most important, because they, along with me, we fight for the wild salmon protection.”
Horn said one of the most important things he’s learned is that it’s about extending ourselves when we want to build partnerships with local Indigenous groups.
“It’s just lip service to say I’ll have an open door. I think you have to actually go and spend time with people in their community and demonstrate a true respect,” he said.
Nicholson said he and his wife are Metis and when he was on council a lot of work was done, partnering with the First Nations in Stave West.
He said the council was blanketed, which was “an emotional time for me.” His business has also worked with many local bands already.
Renkema said it is disgusting that BC is so far behind on land claims.
“The Indigenous outreach that I did as a Vancouver Police officer became a bit of a passion for me.”
He started an Indigenous cadet program to bring in Indigenous people and give them summer work experience.
“Our public schools are doing a wonderful job in Mission, we have excellent outreach.”
Perritt said he wants to recognize the stewardship that has been taken on in the past by the West Coast Salish People because we wouldn’t have this environment if they hadn’t.
Tilbury said his experience goes back to work he’s done with First Nations in the Okanagan, the Penticton band and the Similkameen band to name a few.
He said he found himself involved with some negotiations with three bands to protect archaeological sites.
“We didn’t know them at first, but it’s funny because growing up in Steelhead actually better prepared me for that. At the time Sandy and I were one of the first people to make a deal with anybody like that in the whole of B.C.”
Another question asked candidates how they would advocate to the provincial and federal governments to improve healthcare for the growing community.
Horn said we have to work in partnership with existing organizations because the government likes to deal with partnerships.
“They want to know that they aren’t just dealing with the city, that they have buy-in from the community as a whole.”
Tilbury said we are going to have to work with professionals at the hospital and have them tell us what they need.
“And we are going to go back to the BC government and make sure we get it.”
Renkema said healthcare is entirely within the provincial government’s jurisdiction and we must work with them.
“We have two provincial MLAs, both in positions of power right now. We have not ever had a better time to get this together. The other thing that’s happening is we’re seeing a real, true willingness in Victoria to work with communities to solve problems. Not just put band-aids on them.”
Perritt said sometimes things move slowly.
“We don’t have healthcare for the growing population that we service as well,” he said, including Miracle Valley and Harrison Mills to name a few.
“We are getting those people in so we need to look at the whole region.”
Babich said we are in a great situation with the provincial government we have now, but also said we need to work with the Union of BC Municipalities in order to advocate for needed funding.
Nicholson said people are looking to Mission as an affordable place to live, causing the community to continually grow. He said we can calculate the numbers of people expected to come here and use it as evidence of the need for a hospital.
Other questions asked covered subjects including the District’s Strategic Plan, development, affordable housing and more.
To hear the candidates full answers to all of the questions, watch the video on the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook Page.