Candidates were asked if they supported finding other sources of potable water for the city other than the Kiskatinaw River, and most seemed to agree that should a priority of the next city council.
“There have already been a number of studies done. There are potential lines out to the Pine (River), and potential lines out to the Peace (River), and the numbers I’ve seen is about $25 million to put a pipeline out to either one. We can’t depend on the Kiskatinaw to supply half of the oilfield and all of Dawson Creek,” said candidate Doug Ragan.
Candidate Shaely Wilbur (Shaely) said city council should be looking at partnerships with industry to build a pipeline to a new water source.
“We need a new water line, and it’s not one of those issues where we can say, ‘oh, it’s getting late, we better look at it.’ We need to worry about it right now,” she said.
However, incumbent Terry McFadyen argued that the provincial government has stipulated that municipalities must meet half of their future water needs through conservation, and he said the new effluent water reclamation plant and the controversial new water rate structure are examples of that effort towards conservation. He added a new treatment plant and new pump stations would be required to pipe from the Murray or Peace Rivers, and so the $25 million figure Ragan quoted would not be the entire cost.
The incumbents were also asked why the city continues to supply potable water to industry. Incumbent Cheryl Shuman responded that council has recognized the increased use of water by the oil and gas industry, and proposed the effluent water reclamation project as a solution.
“This is a solution where we can still support industry, but at the same time, reduce industry’s use of our very important potable water,” she said.
Another voter wanted to know what role the candidates saw themselves having if elected in addressing environmental sustainability and climate change. The candidates who responded seemed to all agree that addressing environmental issues is important, but most seemed to be advocating that city council should spend less money on capital projects and more on education and empowering citizens to make changes.
“I think as municipal leaders, we should be setting the tone for our residents to follow, as well as our businesses. If we’re going to take initiative – from solar power to anything else – it should be fiscally responsible and provide some sort of return in terms of cost-benefit,” said candidate David MacDonald.
Shaely said the current council is to focussed on the acclamation it receives from retrofitting public buildings.
“We have to be responsible for our environment, but that doesn’t mean collecting trophies, that means educate and encourage,” she said. “Council should never get in the way of people or businesses that want to improve things. Council needs to be enablers, not obstacles. We need to enable Dawson Creek taxpayers to become more energy self-efficient.”
However, McFadyen defended the current council’s record, saying the initiatives council has undertaken has not only moved the city closer to energy self-sufficiency, but has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants.
“It has nothing to do with trophies,” he said. “Over the past couple of years, I think we’ve kicked up about $300,000 in grants from BC Hydro and other governments for the green initiatives we are doing. Whether you like it or not, Dawson Creek is recognized in the province as one of the leaders in green initiatives, and we picked up $300,000 doing it.”
Candidates were also asked about how use and negotiate for more FairShare funding from the provincial government. Candidate Trina Commandeur said she believes FairShare should be used strictly for infrastructure, and that municipalities in the region should be negotiating a longer-term deal with the Province.
“We are the sweetheart of B.C. economically, and we will be for at least another 25 to 30 years, and I believe we should still be getting our FairShare and it should go back into infrastructure,” she said.
Most of the other candidates agreed, but Trevor Allaby argued the city should not be relying on that source of funding.
“We really have no bargaining power to demand FairShare,” he said. “We need to eliminate our reliance upon FairShare.”
Candidates were later asked if they supported making upgrades to the city’s airport to improve service there, and most were in favour.
“I do think the airport is an important part of the community, and I do think we should support it. I think we need to look into exactly who is going where and how many people are going so we can attract the right kind of airline, and I hope we can do that pretty quickly,” said Duncan Malkinson.
Most said they would await the results of an airport sustainability study that is currently underway, but Shaely argued that it was clear from other studies done in the past that the airport needs to expand its runway in order to attract more airlines.
Healthcare was also a concern brought forward by a couple of voters, although that responsibility falls mainly with the provincial government. The candidates who responded to the questions said they would advocate local healthcare concerns to the senior levels of government. Shaely said city council should look for partnerships with Northern Lights College to train and retain more healthcare professionals. Candidate Cory “Grizz” Longley said city council needs to continue to build amenities that make Dawson Creek an attractive place for doctors and nurses to live. Commandeur added she would like to see council work with the Peace River Regional District to expand the Community Action for Seniors Independence (CASI) project to support seniors in their homes in the rural areas outside of Dawson Creek.
The candidates forum should be available to view in its entirety via an online video at www.dawsoncreekelection.ca within the next few days.