Each of the 16 candidates vying for seats at Duncan’s city council table discussed numerous issues at an all-candidates meeting on Oct. 4.
The turnout for the meeting, which began at 7:30 a.m., was small but enthusiastic.
Each of the four mayoral candidates and the 12 candidates for the six other council seats were given two minutes to introduce themselves and state what their platform is, and then took questions from the audience at the meeting, sponsored by the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Area.
Incumbent councillors Sharon Jackson and Michelle Staples, and newcomers Martin Barker and Daniel Helmer, are competing to be the next mayor of Duncan.
Long-time mayor Phil Kent is not seeking re-election.
Jackson, who has spent 23 years on council, said the city is limited as to what it can do in regards to Duncan’s homeless and opioid crises because they are mostly outside its jurisdiction.
“We should go to the province and demand that more detox beds be set up here,” she said.
“What we can do in regards to housing is cut some fees and charges to developers that would make affordable housing projects a part of their developments.”
Business owner Martin Barker said he believes a “fundamental shift” is needed on council.
Barker said that with the ongoing home affordability crisis, he wonders why condos were constructed downtown that are selling for about $350,000 each.
“We can have an impact on homelessness, opioids and affordable housing,” he said.
“I believe a lot can be done to address these issues. The mayor has just one vote but controls debate. I’d like to see civil debate in council, but with passion, and when we’re done debating, we will all get along. ”
Asked how she would propose to work with the downtown business community if elected, Staples, who has been a city councillor for seven years, said small businesses are major employers and a very important part of the community.
“We have always had a good relationship with the DDBIA, but there are sometimes struggles at the (discussion) table,” she said.
“A lot of times, we want the same things, but we can’t figure out how to move forward. We need to get together to talk about what we can accomplish together.”
Daniel Helmer, manager at the Cowichan Health and Wealth Centre, said his main concern is the rampant drug abuse in the city. He proposed that a detox centre be built so addicts can get help with their issues.
“Drug users do a lot of damage in the community, especially when they are allowed to congregate, and there are not enough police to deal with it,” Helmer said.
“I’d also like to see plans for the sewer system move forward, and to build a parkade downtown at some point.”
Notable quotes from the other council candidates:
George Nielson: “I support a women’s shelter in Duncan, and we need to take some action. But Duncan is small so putting it anywhere means it will end up in someone’s backyard, so the service should be scattered through the city.”
Tom Duncan: “I think we should collaborate with the federal and provincial governments to get funding for affordable housing. I’ve been working on this issue, and many others, and I’d like to have another chance to use the experience I have to help the city.”
Roger Bruce: “I haven’t been able to get anything passed by this council during the last four-year term, and I’m asking voters to consider putting some new faces at the table.”
Garry Bruce: “I’d like to see it made easier for developers to build here. I don’t want to give away the farm, but we should make it as easy as possible for them.”
Bob Brooke: “There is a need for thinking, not necessarily outside of the box, but thinking differently.”
Stacy Middlemiss: “I believe the opioid crisis and violence against women, as well as the fact that many in the community don’t have enough to eat, are major issues. If elected, I would work hard for the community and will listen to everyone’s voices and opinions.”
Glen Santics: “I’m fairly new to Duncan and would be a new face at the table if elected,” he said. “Working as a realtor in a number of areas, I have seen what works in those communities and can bring that experience here.”
Carol Newington: “I’d like to see a program that would increase the vibrancy and sense of community downtown. Tours, including bus tours, bring in big money and encourages spending in Duncan and we need more ideas like that.”
Mark Anderson: “I’ve become aware a lot of council members reside outside of Duncan and don’t pay taxes here. I think it only makes sense for Duncan residents to get involved in their council.”
Jenni Capps: “My vision is to make Duncan more welcoming, inclusive and for it to have a strong economy. I would work towards more collaboration with other local governments because I think that it’s the best way to meet our challenges.”
Lura McCallum: “I’ve run a successful business for 43 years and it’s tough and challenging with property taxes constantly increasing. All renters of commercial space are also impacted by taxation. It’s the elephant in the room.”
Gord Heppell: “The fact that I’m at my business, Big Scoop, in downtown Duncan all the time has opened my eyes. I’ve been listening to people and their concerns around panhandling, parking, the fact there are no public bathrooms and other issues. These are simple issues with simple solutions.”