PORT ALICE—The Village of Port Alice last week got a chance to quiz the candidates vying for a council position at an all-candidates meeting.
The meeting took on a town hall feel as community members took the opportunity to express frustration with internet service, parking and the marina project.
Before the council candidates faced the audience, School District 85 Area 2 Trustee candidate Carol Prescott took the microphone to urge residents to use strategic voting in the upcoming election.
Prescott outlined the boundary changes made during the current board’s tenure which will see an additional trustee from Port McNeill on the next board while candidates from Alert Bay, Sointula and Port Alice seek election to one of two seats representing Area 2.
“I’ve reviewed the numbers from the last election,” Prescott told the crowd, “and the only way Port Alice can have a guaranteed seat at the table is if Port Alice residents use strategic voting and do not use their second vote.”
Current councillor Marc Brackett said that he had “been working hard for three years now and can’t lose focus.”
He said he had heard concerns from residents on internet connectivity, taxes and services and said he would bring 21st Century tools to help engage the community.
Marnie Chase pointed to a wealth of volunteer experience and said that “Port Alice has had enough losses.”
She suggested a Port Alice fishing derby as one method to stimulate the local economy.
Christine Martin said that, as councillor, she would work to “Maintain what we have and plan prudently for the future.”
She said she would like to see the Village diversify without losing the qualities that make it special.
Current councillor David Stewart said that serving on the Village’s council was an honour and a very rewarding experience.
“Whether elected or not I plan on being the best Port Alice resident I can be,” Stewart told the crowd. “I’m committed to this community.”
Doug Worthington said he would bring financial management skills to the council table, encourage economic diversity and listen to residents.
By following this framework, he said that, “Port Alice will remain an economically viable, ecologically vibrant village.”
During the question period Worthington was asked to expound upon a suggestion of improving internet access to the Village.
“It would be a good thing,” he quipped before deferring to Brackett to explain council’s most recent lobbying efforts.
The councillor explained that the impending switch to fibre for much of the North Island would free up bandwidth for communities such as Port Alice, which would continue to operate on the current radio system.
Council’s current role, he explained, was in lobbying for a fair price for this newly available bandwidth but stressed that the long-term vision would have to be a move towards bringing fibre to Port Alice.
Issues with healthcare including understaffing and Island Health policies were raised to applause.
Candidates responded, agreeing with the concerns raised and promising to pursue advances. “We need to do better,” said Stewart.
Chase responded to questions on the Northern Living Allowance, pointing out that “Fort MacMurray, a bustling, ‘have’ community gets Northern Living Allowance — maybe it’s time this council lobbies the (federal) government.”
Other issues raised by residents included ideas for growing the population of the Village, the fee structure of the marina and parking issues.