Candidates and their supporters almost outnumbered voters Thursday in Hammond as the campaign for the Nov. 15 Maple Ridge election kicked into high gear.
Five competitors for mayor and more than 20 council hopefuls tried to summarize their platforms in two-minute speeches and answer questions from the audience in the same period of time.
“In Maple Ridge, we need to set bigger goals,” said Tyler Shymkiw, seeking a first term on council.
Maple Ridge has to find a better way to use “the best asset we don’t use” – its waterfront along the Fraser River, he said.
Many candidates said they wanted to bring jobs to Maple Ridge so people don’t have to leave the community to make their living.
“I’m just so tired all the time,” said Grant Sanderson, who commutes hourly to Langley after losing his job several years ago when the Pelton Reforestation tree nursery closed.
“I do believe we need jobs in the community like nothing else,” added Al Hogarth, seeking a fifth term on council.
“We need post secondary and that is through bricks and mortar,” not through online programs, he added.
Maple Ridge, Mission and Pitt Meadows have created a task force in an attempt to bring a multi-university college to the area.
The city also needs more leadership from council in the community, “and not just be there for the sake of shaking hands and kissing babies,” said former Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce executive director Dean Barbour.
He wants to focus on economic growth and continue to improve on the downtown, adding he believes in smart growth.
The meeting took place at Hammond elementary, but local issues, such as the area plan underway to plan Hammond’s future growth, weren’t discussed.
Former mayor Gordy Robson noted he used to go to elementary school in the area.
“The roads down here haven’t changed much in Hammond. That’s a long time ago.”
He said he wants to change the way Maple Ridge looks at Metro Vancouver and Pitt Meadows.
“I’d like to change the way we think about our relationship with Pitt Meadows.”
First Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows fire departments can merge.
“Do that and we can be one step closer to what we eventually have to do – and that’s amalgamate,” Robson said.
Kristina Brown, a Vancouver realtor, said she can no longer watch the direction Maple Ridge is growing.
“We need to take a break from building houses in the northeast. We do not have schools to support families in those areas. There are limited services in place.”
The required additional infrastructure is causing taxes to rise.
“Quite simply, this method of growth is not sustainable,” she said.
Council incumbent Corisa Bell said she’s pressed city hall to be more accountable.
“I’ve continued to ask the tough questions about how your money is spent. The property tax increase was lower, government was made more transparent and an environment for change was created.
“Any questions, I’m an open book.”
Council candidate Craig Ruthven said he learned from visiting 1,800 homes during the 2011 election that people want to preserve Maple Ridge’s natural beauty.
“I think we’re all in agreement that we want to safeguard those surroundings.”
The last three years he visited Langford, North Vancouver, Saanich, Whistler, Canmore, Alta., talking to staff and councillors to learn about each city.
Hammond resident Eric Phillips organized the meeting and exhorted people to vote.
“We need everybody out there voting.
“Twenty per cent of those coming out to vote is not going to be very much fun.”
If people don’t bother to vote, they can’t complain, he added.
All five mayoralty candidates, Mike Morden, Ernie Daykin, Nicole Read, Graham Mowatt and Gary Cleave took part. Absentee council candidates were Mission magician Mike Norden, Bruce McWilliam, James Buddy Rogers, Sara Dawn Beckett and Brian Savage.