Question and answers with by-election candidates

Lynsey Kitching


The official voting day to elect two new councillors is fast approaching and the all-candidates forum was held last Tuesday at the community centre. There was a pretty big crowd who showed up to ask their questions and get to know the candidates a little better.

Here are a few of the questions asked and the responses given by our by-election candidates Bev Litster, Brenda Holmlund, Chris Leggett, and Jerrilyn Schembri:

Can you explain your understanding of a Geopark, and if you are elected, would you support that initiative?

Leggett: The Geopark is something I have done some research on. I did a presentation with Charles at the opening day of the Geopark Symposium. I understand it is a very exclusive club, globally. Tumbler Ridge definitely wants to be on the map, in terms of a destination for that avenue. I don’t have the knowledge base of those who are heavily involved with it, but it’s something I fully support.

Holmlund: Of course I support the Geopark, just a great idea, it’s exclusive. My background is mining technology, geology, geographic information systems, mapping, plotting and land-use planning. So, I would love to see it here. I am familiar with Geoparks within the world, glad to see it here.

Litster: I have an understanding of the Geopark and I totally want to support it because it’s part of what Tumbler Ridge can build on; our destination, tourism. I think that would be a great opportunity to build on what we have here.

Schembri: I support the Geopark too. It has really great support from the regional district and the community and I think it is something that will be valuable for Tumbler Ridge for a lot of years, so I would have to support it on council.

In one word, can you please describe to me how you will compliment council as it stands now?

Schembri – Work: I understand that it takes hard work and dedication. It’s something I am willing to put into serving on council. There are agenda’s to read, there are time commitments, but it is something I think is incredibly important.

Litster – Collaborative: To be part of a larger group means you have to be collaborative and to have success, you have to have people that work together. That is what I am committed to do.

Leggett – Cooperation: Being part of a council requires everyone to get along. Not necessarily seeing eye to eye on all topics, but being able to express our views to each other in a respectful manner. I think that is the essence of collaboration and being able to work together.

Holmlund – Numbers: What runs this town is our budget. Most of the year is focused on that budget – where we are spending money, how much we are spending, is it getting spent, and is it getting done? I like numbers and I like budgets.

What do you see as being the biggest challenges we have in front of us in Tumbler Ridge, and how will you address the challenges?

Holmlund: I would say health services. In this area we have two producing mines, we have one coming on stream, we have another in environmental process, we have one windmill project, and we have construction all over. Health services, the doctors and nurses. We need to do something about it. We start with a vision and then we sit down with stakeholders, council, northern health, nurses, doctors, residents, anyone who can help with coming up with a solution.

Leggett: From a long-term perspective I think one of the most challenging things TR faces is economic diversification and community branding. This community is known throughout the province as a coal mining town. Having lived in a number of communities, I have seen a lot of communities that have gone from that type of label or branding and changed themselves into something bigger than the primary industry. Kamloops is a big one. For the longest time it was known as a pulp mill town and it wasn’t somewhere you went as a destination, you passed through or ended up there. Over the last decade they have rebranded themselves as the tournament capital of BC.

Litster: Health care is probably one of the big issues we have in our community. When I was in Sparwood, we had the same problem in trying to recruit. Council worked with the provincial government and the health authority to solve the problem. It took some time and it was solved. It took some creative thinking from all parties involved.

Schembri: I would have to say health care too. I see we are in a position where we aren’t having new doctors and nurses coming in. Northern Health is working to see that happen. On Friday and Saturday, Northern Health came to do a video of our community. These videos will be used to promote the community. We are the people who love this community and we are the people that can sell it to doctors and nurses. We need to invite them, we need to show them what a wonderful community we have.

What influence should council have on the shifts at current mines and proposed mines?

Leggett: I’m not sure council should have influence on the mines shifts, but what I do think, is council should have influence on services in the community that lend themselves to those shifts that are operated in the mines – the potential for 24 hour daycare.

Holmlund: I don’t think it’s any of council’s business. The mines are a business and they operate on their own system. Council’s business is administration of our municipality. We can suggest or ask. I know we can’t dictate it; it’s through open and honest communication.

What needs to be done to attract services, i.e. plumbers, electricians in town?

Litster: Providing more services is something that is important. That is a goal I would like to work towards; finding ways to bring those with entrepreneurial spirit to town. A lawyer, a notary, there are many positions. We need people who are here to support those businesses that do come here.

Schembri: It does create all sorts of issues in the community. We have to make our community a place people want to move. It is a community where people genuinely care and you are apart of something much bigger than yourself.

Holmlund: I have to tell you I’m sharing a contractor between two other houses, so the amount of time he puts in at my place is one third of his workload and we’re paying quite a bit. I do know tradespeople are in high demand.

Leggett: I think for that issue, there is a two part solution. Create something of a public forum where people can advertise work they need done over a given period so when that contractor comes in, there isn’t just one person footing the bill for the travel costs, it can be split. The long-term solution would be to have them in town, but we aren’t just going to blindly attract people. We have to show them there is some money to be made.

What would you do to open up more space for small business to come to town?

Holmlund: One thing we can consider is adjusting the mill rate for businesses, two, let’s look at the land sale policy. I think the people to talk to would be the business owners—they have come here and invested in the community, they know.

Litster: You have to have support. Unless the local community will support local businesses, you aren’t going to find local businesses because the risk is there. We need to educate our community that if you want more, you have to support more.

Schembri: One of the things CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) did was make a downtown core which is fairly specific and hard to expand. A lot of that in past years has been bought up by private developers. There are a lot of lots downtown that are not accessible. We need to look at some solutions into getting those lots back to the community or sold, ready to develop. If we can’t do that, we need to start developing up rather than out.

Chris: I think the open retail space in town is also part of an affordable housing problem in town. Houses here are up there in terms of price. I think to have people come up to this community who are looking to start small scale retail operations, their incomes aren’t going to be what they are paying what the mines are. We have to have somewhere affordable for these folks to set roots and start.