There was no talk about the Fremont connector, the recent city hall employee firings or the need to hire more police or firefighters.
Instead, Port Coquitlam mayoral and council candidates zeroed in on affordable housing, downtown revitalization and public transit at the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce debate last night (Monday).
Three of the four mayoralty contenders (see story below) as well as the 19 council contenders faced off at the Terry Fox Theatre in their first and only formal gathering during the campaign.
Candidates started with a one-minute introduction, each speaking about their love for PoCo and its small-town charm.
But more needs to be done, they said, while pitching their ideas to the full house in an attempt to win votes in Saturday's election.
Incumbents spoke about the city’s ongoing capital projects, such as the recreation complex rebuild, as well as the property tax rate — with PoCo having “the lowest tax increases in the region in the past five years,” Coun. Dean Washington, the city’s budget committee chair, boasted — while newcomers honed in on community safety, sports amenities and recycling, among other things.
Often, though, incumbents corrected or clarified their challengers’ platforms.
Coun. Brad West, who is running for mayor, drew loud applause when he told the crowd of about 300 people there’s no imminent plan by city hall to implement water metering, as suggested by his opponent Eric Hirvonen, who raised the same issue in his election campaign four years ago.
Nor does the city have the power to exclude non-residents from buying PoCo land, West said in reference to mayoralty candidate Robin Smith’s pledge to do just that.
On the topic of reconciliation with the Kwikwetlem First Nation — after candidates Shakeel Gaya, Carolyn Stewart and David Blaber called for more Aboriginal arts and culture inclusivity — Coun. Mike Forrest pointed out KFN’s land claim against the city and its business park construction on IR2, which has yet to receive a servicing agreement from the city.
On public transit, Coun. Darrell Penner sparred with candidate Steve Darling over TransLink.
While Darling called the transportation agency “dysfunctional” and pressed for council to be more firm to get better services, Penner stated council members have been at the table “but it always comes down to money” for TransLink.
“There has to be a willing partner, just like in a marriage,” retorted Penner, who was then hugged in jest by Darling.
Coun. Glenn Pollock also took a poke at challengers, saying, "It’s good to see there are issues from new candidates on topics we are already working on.”
Chamber moderator Catherine Ackerman questioned PoCo candidates on their ideas for stimulating the local economy, reducing the city’s carbon footprint and homelessness, and the location of cannabis dispensaries.
Before and after the debate, school board candidates — who were not included in the Chamber function — met with voters and handed out brochures.
Mayoral candidate Patrick Alambets was ejected from the debate before the meeting started.
For the second time this month, the CEO of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce banned a Tri-City mayoralty candidate from a debate.
At the Coquitlam all-candidates’ debate Oct. 2, Michael Hind stopped mayor challenger Mark Mahovlich from joining the meeting at the Evergreen Cultural Centre.
Last night at the Port Coquitlam gathering, Hind stepped in again — this time, ejecting Patrick Alambets from the Terry Fox Theatre stage.
Alambets — whose platform is to disrupt mayoral frontrunner Brad West’s vote — had shown Hind his speech, which he claimed had damaging information about West.
But just as the meeting was about to start, Hind showed Alambets the door.
Waving his speech, Alambets tried to explain to the crowd why he was being tossed but the audience jeered him as he walked out.
After the debate, Hind told The Tri-City News he felt Alambets would not be civil. “Our debate is about the issues on the table,” Hind said. “He didn’t want to be respectful.”