On Wednesday evening (Oct. 5), ten of the 11 Pitt Meadows city council hopefuls gathered at the South Bonson Community Centre to partake in the only all candidates meeting before the upcoming Oct. 15 elections.
Bob Meachen, Mike Hayes, Tracy Elke, Gwen O’Connell, Bryce Casidy, Janis Elkerton, Alison Evans, Mike Manion, Jag Parmar, and Brad Perrie took their seats at the head tables in front of a crowd of 150 attendees, which included current mayor Bill Dingwall and mayor-elect Nicole MacDonald. Council hopeful Don Jolley did not participate in the event.
Q1 – What do you think is the greatest need right now for businesses in Pitt Meadows, and what would you do to help provide that need?
O’Connell: “Unfortunately, when this business park went in, the community was promised all these thousands and thousands of tax dollars were going to come from it. But guess what? It didn’t happen because they’re zoned differently. So we need to work with provincial government so that CPR and different industrial businesses are paying their fair share. A hairdresser should not be paying the same as what people on CPR lands are paying.”
Elke: “We did have an economic development committee going for many years, and that was shut down by the previous council, so we are bringing that back. We had a strategy that came forward and in the next year you’re going to see a lot of new initiatives and more support.”
Q2 – We have seen devastating floods and fires that have impacted so many people and businesses. How do you plan to implement extreme weather readiness?
Elkerton: “We have to, as a city, not expect senior levels of government to pay for it all. When they put in the drainage system in the agricultural area, that was paid for by senior levels of government, but they never put anything aside for the upkeep on it. Our dykes are low, our pumps need replacing, and that has to go forward so that we’re being in a preventive mode instead of reactive mode when the floods come.”
Casidy: “We need the underpass to go through. I don’t know if anyone else had an issue with it last year with the flooding, but there was a period where a train was stuck on the tracks and every route out of the city was blocked. I had both of my daughters in daycare in other municipalities and I was working from home, not knowing when I was going to be able to go get them. So I think we need that [underpass] to go through and obviously make sure it is well drained.”
O’Connell: “We have been working hard on our pumps being upgraded, etc. in the city and I think that the information is on our webpage. I know it’s a scary thing what the weather is doing, but we all need to be prepared. I personally can’t save all of you, so I think we really need to get involved with that.”
Q3 – Where do you stand on progressing with the building of a new RCMP facility in Pitt Meadows?
Manion: “Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge crime is very much different, and I always hope we can continue to say that. We need more crime prevention in the areas of tagging, graffiti, and street racers. The sorts of things that are probably considered less than exciting if you’re a policeman, but it focuses on community policing. And that’s the key word. We need community police officers that are focused on the sort of crime prevention that we need here in Pitt Meadows.”
Casidy: “While I do agree with the need for our own RCMP detachment here, in principle, I don’t think it needs to be one of our top priorities. I think the strong presence of RCMP and police in our current council has contributed to how fast this has gone ahead, and I think maybe we need to reconsider.”
Elkerton: “The fact that this is an RCMP building and not our own police detachment means we’re going to get the same kind of service and the same kind of priorities as we do with Maple Ridge. We have mutual aid agreements with both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and we have to actually give up our police officers when it’s more severe crime. So I think renegotiating and providing better alternatives would have been a better choice than delving into a brand new station.”
Parmar: “Port Coquitlam had the chance to potentially do this a couple of years ago. They have three times the population that we have and they voted this. Why? Because they didn’t want to put that type of financial pressure on their residents. And we don’t have to either.”
Meachen: “We pay 20 per cent of all of the costs for police services between Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. When we did the review of what we get for that 20 per cent, it worked out to about 12 per cent for the services being provided. Do you call that a good return on investment? I don’t.”
Evans: “Police officers need to commute back and forth. Every time they arrest someone, they got to go back to the main detachment. They’re not here in Pitt Meadows. That’s a delay in response. From a public safety point of view, that should concern you.”
Elke: “With our current model, the police are naturally going to do to where the crime is, which tends to be mostly in Maple Ridge. That’s where the action is. So we got 23 members that we pay for and that investment is going to Maple Ridge. So this police model that we are proposing in Pitt Meadows keeps the investment here.”
Q4 – Pitt Meadows is full of wonderful and vibrant small businesses. How do you plan on supporting small business?
Manion: “The Surrey Board of Trade has recently asked the provincial government to reinstate the ability for business owners to vote where they own a business. This was taken away, I guess, 30 years ago. It seems rather odd that when you have a vested interest, you are paying taxes, and you have no voice, it doesn’t really seem like you’re being represented.”
O’Connell: “When we had the economic development team here, what was good about that was that they had the ability to go and visit all of these new businesses that we’re opening and help them get through the path. But, unfortunately, 8 years ago, it was dissolved. So now, with the pandemic and everything else that’s been going on, we’re now getting up to speed and we are working with small businesses.”
Q5 – There are citizens concerned about noise and air quality related to CP operations. What specifications do you plan to take to ensure impacted residents are protected?
Elkerton: “I was one who thought the underpass on Harris, even though we need it, should never have proceeded without discussion of logistics. The air quality, the sound, everything is impacting these poor people that live on the railway and nothing should have gone forward before there was sound, and air, and sight mitigation on all the track, not just on part of it.”
Parmar: “As your councillor, I will advocate for better standards from CP Rail questioning current standards, ensuring there are proper follow ups, quality checks, and compensation from CP Rail. I have spoke to a lot of residents, and I’ve been hearing this quote of ‘well it’s their fault they’re living on that side of the train’. Yes, OK, fair enough. But they’re still our residents and our community. And when they bought, the train and CP Rail wasn’t as bad, so I don’t think it’s a fair response to use on our residents.”
Evans: “It’s disheartening. CP comes in and they drop a logistics park on our small community and there’s not too much we can do about it, but we’re going to fight it and we’re going to try and stop them. I have to complement the city, they have negotiated and they have gone above and beyond. They’ve done independent work to counter what we’ve heard from CP and they’ve proved them to be in-factual.”
Q6 – What are your views on the city of Pitt Meadows taking action to limit the effects of climate change?
Casidy: “Making sure we have safe bike routes throughout the city is very important, especially with a lot of younger families living in this area. There are also lots of other initiatives we can take. We can help supplement either provincial or even federal programs for rebates for replacing old furnaces with new high-efficiency electric ones.”
Parmar: “I think if we really wanted to take it a step further, we could introduce something that a lot of cities are starting to do, which is a plastic bags and single-use items bylaw. This bylaw would ban plastic bag checkouts, Styrofoam cups, takeout containers, plates, and bowls.”
Q7 – What do you hope to accomplish in your term on council?
Casidy: “My main priority is getting a swimming pool here in Pitt Meadows. As the father of two young daughters, trying to book them in for swimming lessons, I have to go to neighbouring communities who give priority booking to their residents. Being a city surrounded on three sides by water, swimming is a key part of life for us, and we need to make sure that our residents have access to those lessons.”
Meachen: “One of the most significant and impactful issues we have in our community is CP Rail. So I intend to carry on, looking for effective mitigation to help the folks that are really suffering with the noise and the health issues. That is something that council is doing a lot, and we cannot let up the pressure, we have to keep going.”
Perrie: “If elected, I hope to make some progress in my top three priorities, which are public safety, economic development for small businesses, and transportation issues that affect us all on a daily basis. We don’t have the provincial government’s commitment to making improvements to our access to Lougheed Highway. And Translink hasn’t committed to when they’re going to increase the access to Golden Ears Bridge, so we have some work to do there.”
Hayes: “There’s so much more work to do in our community. Increase public health and safety, addressing transportation issues and congestion issues, seeing through the completion of Harris Road underpass, police department, fire hall, and art gallery.”
View the entire meeting in our Facebook Live video below.
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