- BC Games
Byelection candidates face the public
Coquitlam byelection candidates faced the community Wednesday at the first of two public meetings before voters go to the polls on Oct. 26.
Hosted by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, the two-hour all-candidates meeting saw the 11 contenders for two council seats opine on subjects ranging from the future of the Riverview Hospital lands and Austin Heights parking to amalgamation of the Tri-Cities. About 100 people attended the session at Douglas College, including Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, city councillors and staff, and chamber members.
Candidates started with one-minute speeches that touched on the Evergreen Line as well as business taxation, growth, city hall spending and Coquitlam's natural assets.
Then came the questions from the floor, which were written out and then read by MC Richard Rainey, a past chamber chair.
Addressing the delivery of core city services, most candidates singled out police and fire, garbage pick-up and parks as topping their list. Ben Craig suggested council find budget efficiencies and review city managers' salaries, which he contends are out of whack with those in other cities.
Doug Macdonell, a former councillor, said keeping taxes low is key. "There's no secret formula to this: It's reduce spending, reduce spending, reduce spending. That's going to keep taxes down."
The redevelopment of Austin Heights was also addressed, as was the parking crunch along Austin Avenue. While some candidates proposed pay and underground parking, others, including Bonita Zarrillo, said the city could find flexibility by asking Safeway to share its lot.
"I'm not really sure there's that much of a concern," said Michael Bell, while also pressing for more public transportation to Austin Heights.
"When we densify, it will be a walkable area," added Barrie Lynch, another former councillor, while also suggesting TransLink be lobbied for transit improvements.
On the future of Riverview, which is undergoing a visioning process, Chris Wilson said he has concerns about BC Housing's goal for the redevelopment to "break even." "It's going to cost millions of dollars to rehabilitate those buildings in the proper way," he said.
Macdonell said he suspects the province has a "hidden agenda" while Zarrillo said city council has to fight "hard and early" to preserve the 244 acres.
Kevin Startin was jeered when he suggested the grounds be transformed into a medical facility with surrounding housing. "It can be well balanced," he said.
On employment and affordable housing, Craig said Coquitlam is one of the most expensive places in B.C. to do business while Startin said the Tri-Cities need a single tax policy.
For recreation opportunities, Vincent Wu said the 2016 BC Seniors' Games will put Coquitlam on the map. Macdonell said Town Centre Park needs to turn into a tournament site while Wilson supports a YMCA on Burke Mountain; Planet Ice will also need to be upgraded when the city takes it over, he said.
The perennial question about Tri-Cities' amalgamation also reared its head, with most candidates suggesting caution. Whether it be a review or a referendum, the villages of Anmore and Belcarra need to be part of the discussion, Kurt Zaporozan said.
Some interesting responses also came about the need for a new amenity.
Bell said his wish is for an outdoor amphitheatre while Craig said he wants a Burquitlam community centre. Ben Kim offered a P3 facility with a company paying for naming rights, while Lynch and Macdonell said they want to see a hotel in Town Centre. Startin pressed for an office building while Zarillo and Teri Towner said they would like to see a covered multiplex for indoor conventions. And Wilson and Zaporozan both said a four-lane the bailey bridge to New Westminster would be good news.
Coquitlam residents can vote early for the Oct. 26 byelection:
• Saturday, Oct. 19 at Pinetree community centre (1260 Pinetree Way);
• Wednesday, Oct. 23 at Poirier community centre (630 Poirier St.)'
• and Friday, Oct. 25 at Pinetree community centre (1260 Pinetree Way).
The polls are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on those days as well as election day. Election results will be available on the city’s website (coquitlam.ca) shortly after the close of voting on Oct. 26.