ALERT BAY—Seven candidates, representing a mix of incumbents and newcomers, stated their case for spots on the Village Council to an audience of about 50 residents last week in an all-candidates meeting hosted at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall.
The night was dominated by the question of how to fund needed services with a shrinking population and a tax base lacking a major industrial employer.
On the other side of the equation, the recently signed economic accord between the ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village give hope for the possibility of shared projects in the future.
Chief among them, agreed on by all the candidates, was a seniors’ assisted-living centre that candidate Kim Mercer said would be the first of its kind on the North Island.
“That’s the kind of facility that could bring in young people for jobs,” she said. “The reason our kids don’t come back (to Cormorant Island) is there are no jobs for them in the field they’ve chosen.”
Kane Gordon, an incumbent, used his opening statement to highlight some of the village’s recent accomplishments, including insulating and siding the community hall, building the skate park and the Village-’Namgis collaboration. He also pointed to the need for expanded harbour capacity and a fuel dock.
Newcomer David Faren wants to see more job opportunities, particularly for young people, and for the Village to find businesses that will bring new money into the community, “instead of circulating around the same dollars.”
Dennis Buchanan, a recent retiree who said he finally has time to devote to council, highlighted the opportunities the Village-’Namgis accord makes available. He also sparked a lively discussion when, in response to a question about recreational facilities, he mentioned an artificial ice product as the way around the Village’s inability to afford building a skating arena.
Lisanne Granger said the assisted living facility was critical for aging people who wish to remain in the area and called for enhancing health care and tourism.
Wendy White, another incumbent, said she appreciated working with council the last three years and wants to work on tourism, the assisted-living facility, and attracting people back to the community.
Duncan Williams admitted up front he was concerned about Alert Bay’s survival.
“We’re losing business and losing people, and my goal is to change that,” he said.
“We need new business to come in while at the same time keeping existing business.”