Saturday, November 08, 2008

Prince Rupert voters anxious to learn more about the candidates

The topic of the two electoral forums has become a rather interesting discussion point around town these days, this past weeks Lester Centre forum was a quickly pulled together affair and an answer of sorts to the one planned for 7 pm on Sunday, November 9th at Chances Gaming Centre.

That location seems to have offended a number of local citizens, who didn’t feel comfortable with the local Gaming location being the host for the only scheduled debate on the issues, as would be outlined in a letter to the editor from Farley Stewart of Friendship House Wednesday’s debate was designed to include those residents, as well as a hoped for large audience viewing on Cable ten.

The Cable ten option is an interesting one to consider, with the satellite dish penetration in the Prince Rupert market being one of rather steady growth over the last few years, there’s a very good chance that the number of available eyeballs for the cable ten production could be limited.

However by at least putting the signal out into the community CityWest is providing for a positive move on the electoral scene and more or less is indicative at to what the idea of a local cable provider is all about.

Though we feel that the best use of technology available now isn’t in place here, for the next debate it would be interesting if someone could set up a streaming audio link on the Internet from the Gaming Centre. Providing the live content from the forum as well as an archive of the night's content and a chance for those that can’t make it to Chances (or for personal reasons don’t want to go there) to have the opportunity to hear for themselves how the candidates handled the various issues.

The other reason for the Friendship House hosting the forum at the Lester Centre was the hope of getting Prince Rupert’s large First Nations community more involved in the local political process. With a population base that makes up over half of the residents of the city, Stewart is hopeful by having presented the issues on Wednesday night, the local First Nations residents will become more interested in the campaign and weigh their votes carefully on November 15.

The large number of candidates participating and the nature of these forum set ups doesn’t quite allow for the give and take of a normal debate. Nor does it allow for much in the way of expanding on issues or getting a reading on how all the candidates feel about the issues, but it does provide for a quick glimpse of each candidate and how they handle a public session.
An important part of the process, which should give residents an idea on the candidates thoughts and perhaps the motivation to inquire further of them, if they aren’t satisfied with an answer.

We fell a bit behind the information curve on this first debate this week here at Podunk, so we’ll do our best to recap the developments of it through the wek, from the planning stage, through to the final question of Wednesday night.

From Mr. Stewart’s invitation in the Daily News of Tuesday, to the coverage of the Daily News and the Northern View on the discussion points of the night, we recap it all below.

Letter to the editor
The Prince Rupert Daily News
Tuesday, November 4 2008
Page 4

All-Candidates meeting needed
To the editor

An open letter to all candidates for city council

I would like to invite your participation in a Municipal All-Candidates forum this coming Wednesday evening, Nov. 5 from 7 to 9 pm at the Lester Centre for the Arts.

I apologize for the rather last minute notice for this event, however, when we realized that the only other forum was scheduled to take place at Chances and would not be televised we were concerned that (1) this would not allow for many seniors, elders and other folks with accessibility issues in our community, to have an opportunity to see and listen to the candidates for municipal office prior to the election on Nov. 15; and 2) as you may be aware, there are also a number of residents who have made the decision not to support the casino in our community, given the many social challenges many in our community already face.

It is for these reason, and an opportunity to involve more First Nations residents in our municipal government process, that the Friendship House and Gitmaxmakay Nisga’a Local Society have stepped up to host a second forum at the Lester Centre that can be televised live.

We are hopeful that you will be able to participate.

The format for the evening will be as follows:

1) Welcome by Farley Stewart

2) Traditional welcome by Ts’ymshen leader.

3) Two-minute introduction by each candidate.

4) Prepared questions drawn fro a hat. Each candidate gets one question and two minutes to respond.

5) Intermission (during which audience can write questions on index cards.

6) Audience questions.

With this format, each candidate will be given three opportunities to speak before a live and television audience. A committee of representatives from the two sponsoring organizations will prepare advance questions on a range of topics including the economy, housing, poverty, jobs, First Nations relations, environment, development, active living/recreation, youth opportunities and challenges, vandalism, alcohol and drugs, etc.

Please confirm you r participation by telephone or email. We look forward to providing a rich exchange of ideas.


Farley Stewart
Executive Director, Friendship House

Election forum tonight a chance to question
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Pages one and five

Tonight, Friendship House and the Gitmaxmakay Nisga’a Local Society will host an all-candidates forum at the Lester Centre for the Arts. And while it is the second announced forum, it will be the first to showcase candidates.

Friendship House Executive Director Farley Stewart said there were at least two reasons for the decision to host the forum.

“Accessibility to the PAC is a lot easier than the gaming centre and they also have access to setting up for Channel 10, which allows us to get information out to our people,” said Stewart.

Stewart admitted that it has been a struggle to get First Nations voters out for the local election and having the forum on television would allow those who can’t make it out to the local debate to witness the event on TV.

With the typical moody weather system in Rupert, it’s hard to tell if the weather will be friendly to audience participation.

According to Environment Canada’s weather office, Prince Rupert can expect a cloud sky with a 30 percent chance of showers in the afternoon with period of rain beginning later in the afternoon, and 30-to-50 km./h southeast wind.

It’s a political problem so that having TV available is an important avenue for information.

“It’s one of my personal goals to try and increase the First Nations voter turnout for the local election where about 50-to-60 percent of our population is aboriginal descent here in Prince Rupert. If we can get our people out to vote, we can have some control and input into the city’s functions,” said Stewart.

Whether simply having another venue for the forum can do that remains to be seen.

On the flip side, perhaps there isn’t enough information about the candidates floating out there for First Nations voters to decide.

Currently, there are only two First Nations candidates running for council this time around George Sampson, a member of the Lax Kw’alaams tribe, is one of the candidates that is running and the only visible minority.

Sampson agreed with Stewart that getting First Nation voters out for an election is really important.

Sampson wasn’t quite sure just why local First Nations voters haven’t traditionally come out in large numbers but he said fostering a relationship between them and city hall is very important part of why he is running.

“I have to gain the confidence of First Nation voters. They may not always agree with me, but I still have to do my best for them and all the people of Prince Rupert,” said Sampson.

Letter to the Editor
Prince Rupert Daily News
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Page four

Meetings must be advertised
To the editor,

I was wondering over the weekend why I hadn’t heard anything about all Candidate’s Meetings for the municipal election and the school board.

I worried that I had missed some notice in the paper, I had heard nothing on the radio, I had seen no posters. I told myself that there was sure to be some information in the paper on Monday or Tuesday.

Well, I was right. I found Farley Stewart’s letter to the editor, telling me that, yes, there is a planned forum. No official notice in the paper yet. Moreover, I read that this forum is planned for Chances, of all places. As Farley points out, there are many people who refuse to patronize this place. We have a theatre which has always been used for community meetings. Why has this changed? Is this an attempt to limit participation, by driving away our most socially and politically active citizens?

If Farley’s information is indeed correct, could you please announce this meeting? Could you please announce this meeting? Could you also let me know the name of the organizer(s), so that I may protest this venue?

I was also told today that there is a School Board Candidates’ Meeting set for Thursday night at CHSS, the first I’ve heard of this very important forum.

In a democratic election process, we need to be given as much advance notice as possible in order to arrange our schedules. And we need to attend a meeting in a place which does not offend the values of many. I feel quite strongly about this, and I know that there are many people who will agree with me.

I look forward to further information on this topic.

Trish Banighen

Prince Rupert candidates face off at all candidates forum
By Shaun Thomas - The Northern View
Published: November 05, 2008 10:00 PM
Updated: November 06, 2008 8:27 AM

A small but attentive crowd came out to the Lester Centre on November 5 to witness the candidates in the upcoming municipal election participate in the first of two all-candidates forums, this one hosted by the Friendship House.

The candidates responded to one of 29 questions randomly by a panel and one question asked by the panel posed by the audience.

Paddy Greene spoke first and noted that Prince Rupert is “a great community made up of contributions from all ages”. His question from the panel related to the fixed link to the airport, which he said isn’t the highest priority because bridges were unlikely to be constructed and employment and increasing the tax base was more important. His question from the audience related to volunteerism, and he acknowledged there is a need for more recognition.

Joy Thorkelson spoke of the need for a balanced approach in creating the community residents want. When asked by the panel about the city’s energy plan, Thorkelson said there are tasks for the municipality and the community to do and suggested linking the pool to the arena to reduce natural gas usage. When asked about making the city a child friendly place, Thorkelson said she felt, “our community needs to be child friendly” and pointed to making facilities accessible to everyone in the community.

Sheila Gordon Payne said she would like to see the city move forward with its budget reducing the city’s debt while getting creative with infrastructure. In regards to barriers to housing, Payne pointed to the high rental vacancy due to the condition or affordability of the shelter and proposed working with Northern Health and B.C. Housing to seek a solution. Asked about social planning, she said the key to it was to continue revitalizing the community.

Tony Briglio emphasized the need to “operate the city like a business” with fiscal responsibility and accountability. In terms of affordable housing, he said that people in the community, like landlords, need to step up as individuals to help the people in the community and for council to be reminded that both fortunate and less fortunate people are in the community. On the subject of CityWest, he stated emphatically that it was not for sale because it reduced the recent tax increase and creates jobs for residents.

Jason Shellenberg said despite his age he was a serious candidate who believed in a strong economy supporting a strong environment with more recreational opportunities. On the subject of government funding, he said he would pursue grants for a variety of initiatives. When asked about benches and sitting space for tourists downtown, he said that the “for customers only” policy of some businesses could be negotiated away with possible tax incentives, in addition to installing more benches.

George Sampson said he was in “the right place at the right time” to run because of his knowledge of protocols related to First Nations issues. On the question of First Nations businesses, he said the City should work with Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams to build businesses in the community. Regarding the vandalism in the downtown core, Sampson said he strongly believes restorative justice needs to be enhanced to create accountability for youth and their parents when they break the law.

Nelson Kinney said that we need to work together to “get industry into this town, affordable housing” and things for the seniors of the community. He responded to a panel question by saying that supportive housing for addicts is definitely needed in the community, and responded to an audience question about unsightly property owners that the city’s bylaws were being enforced by new, tough bylaw officers and that he, “would say to people to follow the bylaws”.

Don Scott said that a balanced approach is needed by council, and that he was the most qualified to run the city and administration in a fiscally responsible manner. In response to a question from the panel, he said he would be willing to look at an affirmative action type program to increase First Nations employment at the city after discussing with staff and the community, and responded to an audience question by stating his strong belief in the need for employment opportunities for youth.

Jack Mussallem said his 19 years of experience working with municipal government would give “a well informed council that makes timely decisions based on the best information available”. He said getting an inventory of the skills of people on EI and attracting businesses in need of those skills would help the EI situation in the community, and that bylaws are in place to deal with garbage, but many building owners don’t have the money to repair derelict buildings downtown.

Joe Viscount noted that while he believed in responsible taxation and open government, it was what the people of Prince Rupert believe that is important, that he would seek out that guidance if elected, and that youth in the community had been somewhat let down. He said that the bypass road was, in his view, “the only immediate priority for the safety of children and residents”, and would make in-fill housing a priority as it relates to controlling urban sprawl.

John Purdy noted that he has not seen any forward movement from the current council and that he was concerned about the lack of 20-30 year olds, who moved because “opportunity doesn’t live here”. On affordable housing he felt the city could donate land and then seek out partnerships with groups to build the buildings and that the city should clean up downtown to promote business owner pride to encourage revitalization of the downtown core.

Gabe McLean committed to fiscal responsibility, infrastructure renewal and a plan to bring investment into the community and said a vote for him would go a long way. He said he would work with the community to seek a resolution to the homeless issue, and said that he was running for council because he wants to see a change in the current council and it would allow him to better serve the community with more resources and information.

Erika Rolston said she is running to show her gratitude for the community that has been so good to her, and said her creative thinking could help grow service while the city works hard to maintain the current services. In response to the panel question, she said affordable housing couldn’t happen without the city government support. In response to the audience question, she said “social enterprise” is one specific thing that could improve the economy because it returns more than just money.

Gina Garon said that “over the last decade the quality of life has eroded to where we are now” with infrastructure faltering and a stagnant economy. In response to a question about safety for people walking, she pointed to the “atrocious sidewalks” as some of the infrastructure falling apart. On the subject of liquor licenses, while she said a serious look would have to be taken at any new license, a new one wouldn’t necessarily add to the problem because the problem is already here.

Anna Ashley said she spoke with residents, who said rebuilding the economy and reducing crime were amongst the priorities for the city, and that she dreamt of a strong community with a good economy, more services and resident that feel good about life in the city. On the question of enhancing relations with First Nations, she said there is a need to talk with and involve First Nations and other groups in the community when making decision.

The candidates will face off again at a November 9 forum that gets underway at seven p.m. at Chances. That forum will be broadcast on Channel 10 on November 12 and 13 at five and eight p.m.

Public gets firs real chance to quiz council candidates on how they would run city
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, November 07, 2008
Pages one and three

A buffet of candidates was made available for Ruperites on Wednesday as 13 of the 15 city council candidates - including both would-be mayors - made their cases before information-hungry voters at the Lester Centre for the Arts.

The two would-be mayors - both of them previous Rupert mayors - had their first opportunity to talk publicly about where they stand.

Both Don Scott and Jack Mussallem answered one question each from the panelists and one question each from the audience.

Scott went first and was asked if he would implement an affirmative action policy at city hall so that the aboriginal community would have better representation in city staff.

"I would support affirmative action and I would set up a committee to look at it," said Scott.
Mussallem was asked about how the city could help decrease the unemployment levels among the 20-to-30 age group in Prince Rupert.

"We want to avoid a boom and bust economy. To do that, we need to work in a variety of ways. One of the ways is to hire a grant writer for the city so that we can attract more money for infrastructure which attracts more business here," said Mussallem.

However, the question that seemed to be the most important given the number of questioners was affordable housing. With the world caught in an economic downturn, and locals, especially aboriginals and fishing industry workers facing a depleting employment scene, the question took on an air of importance.

"We need to start working with the First Nation community and we are going to have to do it together by lobbying both the federal and provincial governments together," said incumbent city councillor Nelson Kinney.

Sheila Gordon-Payne added: "We know that we have high rental vacancy rate and some of the rental buildings are not in good condition.

"We need to work with Northern Health, BC Housing, Transition House. We need to try to attract more affordable housing."

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