Voters got a chance to see Maple Ridge’s mayoral candidates, some for the first time outside of an election sign, at an all-candidates meeting held at Webster’s Corners Elementary school gymnasium.
Corisa Bell kicked off the speakers, and the former councillor was immediately critical of incumbent Mike Morden, saying his council had been under-charging developers over the past term.
“Our council has missed out on approximately $100 million in the last four years,” said Bell, “and will miss out on another $1.6 million in development cost and amenity charges as it is currently not included in the Pattison development…”
She said if elected mayor, she would raise the charges to developers.
Bell said the current council “will go to any lengths” to control the public narrative, and excludes the voices of other elected representatives.
Speaking about public consultation, Bell said if elected she would create “neighbourhood captains” to allow for better communication and engagement and between city hall and neighbourhoods.
Incumbent Mike Morden talked about the Maple Ridge First slate he heads, as a group of “like-minded individuals.”
“We do not serve other political masters, we always put Maple Ridge first,” he said.
Morden said they got rid of the Anita Place tent city, and about his council’s “first-in-B.C.” community social safety plan. “Where neighbourhoods would once again be safe, and people could get the help they need.”
He said the demonstration project is now being used in 15 other communities.
Morden said his council has approved the building of a lot of homes, and 80 per cent are high-density homes.
“We live in an expensive part of the world, and we’re mindful that there are a lot of people who cannot afford a home,” said Morden.
Morden said the city has been working on 14 strategic plans for the city “and we want to see them through.”
Dan Ruimy said when he served as Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP he was able to secure tens of millions of dollars for projects including local highways, student jobs, daycare spaces and the Albion Community Centre, and grants from senior government are available for local projects.
“For a city our size, a post-secondary institution is an absolute must-have,” said Ruimy.
His team, A Better Maple Ridge, has heard there is a “desperate need” for affordable housing for seniors, as well as access to recreation facilities such as a new aquatic centre.
Ruimy views homelessness and the environment as key issues.
“We must apply an environmental lens when approving all developmental projects, and that includes pre-planning for electric vehicle charging stations, as well as rapid transit.”
“I’d rather have a council that works well together, bringing the changes we so desperately need in Maple Ridge,” he said, adding that the Better Maple Ridge slate is committed to debating issues at the council table.
Jacques Blackstone talked about Making Maple Ridge becoming an “entertainment Mecca” of the Lower Mainland, and said the city should invite Playland to relocate to the city, and attract other entertainment businesses, as a year-round destination.
“I don’t want to see Maple Ridge become another carbon-copy municipality like Cloverdale, Langley, Surrey,” he said.
He also spoke about the need for a bylaw to prohibit grocery stores from importing produce which is available locally.
“We should grow it here, and only import what we don’t have,” asserted Blackstone. He said that would also reduce the city’s carbon footprint, by reducing the number of shipping containers coming to the city.
Blackstone was critical of the city for not having better digital communication with residents, and he would bring the city into the modern age.
Darleen Bernard said the city is losing its single family homes and neighbourhoods, calling it a “crisis situation”. She said the city needs development that does not encroach on wildlife, particularly black bears.
“We have to define ourselves again as a community, a small community,” she said. “Development is fine when it is done, as I say, strategically.”
She said limiting development would be a means to lowering the city’s carbon footprint.
The municipal election will be held on Oct. 15.
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