PORT HARDY—Both of Port Hardy’s mayoral candidates and all thirteen prospective councillors had a chance to put their case for election to the public last week as the Chamber of Commerce hosted an all-candidates meeting at the Civic Centre.
More than 150 members of the public came out to hear the candidates lay out their platforms before fielding a variety of questions from the both the audience and the Chamber.
Chamber Director Angela Smith welcomed the candidates and the public to the event, saying, “Thank you foremost for attending this session. Your participation tonight is critical in sharing information which aids the community of Port Hardy in making an informed decision about who should represent us on council over the next four years.”
Given the exceptionally large field in this year’s election, and to minimize redundant answers, the candidates were broken into three panels of five for the question period.
In the mayoral race, Janet Dorward and Hank Bood are running for the seat left vacant by Mayor Bev Parnham’s passing earlier this year.
Dorward highlighted her current roles on council and spoke of the importance of delivering high-speed internet to all of the town, reexamining the recycling program and improving healthcare in the town. She also highlighted the community forest and said she would be interesting in exploring a similar model with fishing.
Bood reminded the audience of his former mayor status and argued for more accountability and transparency from Municipal Hall, citing the decision to terminate the Epcor contract “behind closed doors” as an example. Bood said he would work with senior government to improve the long-term prospects of the town.
Several common themes came in answers from council candidates with healthcare, affordable and senior housing, economic stimulation and connectivity repeated across several platforms.
Fred Robertson, a teacher and former VINTA President, urged inclusive policies, collaboration with First Nations and other North Island communities and said he would work towards a healthy economy and a healthy population.
Debbie Perkovich floated the idea of a quarterly town hall to improve communication and said she would like to see better opportunities for youth, such as apprenticeships offered through the high school and college.
John Tidbury highlighted his current council and volunteer roles and said he would place a high priority on bringing high speed internet to Port Hardy and offer incentives like lower business property taxes to boost the economy.
Leightan Wishart said that he would bring balanced thinking to the table, while his position as chair of SD85’s Board of Education would serve him well in discussions with all levels of government in an open and transparent council.
Eric Ralph, a former councillor, said the single biggest thing that would help Port Hardy was jobs, brought through settled land claims, increased resource development, more woodlots and small-scale timber sales.
Current councillor Rick Marcotte said that he wanted to continue to give back to the community through focussing on healthcare, seniors, the Cenotaph project, boosting tourism and tackling the flooding on Byng Road.
Fellow councillor Jessie Hemphill pointed to her successes in her last term, particularly in sustainability, green power, youth engagement, First Nations representation, community planning and economic development.
Former college professor Pat Corbett-Labatt spoke of her ties to education and life-long learning and offered ideas to use technology to improve transparency and public engagement with Municipal Hall.
Rod Romas discussed his volunteerism through the Fire Department and sports and said that he would work to bring back the Northern Living Allowance to create more disposable income and “bring the spirit back to Port Hardy.”
Dennis Dugas received a round of applause when he shared his upcoming 40th anniversary of working with the District of Port Hardy and said that he would look to small business concerns, healthcare, seniors’ housing and trade programs.
Shelly Siemens hoped to boost the economy, taking cues from senior staff and working for responsible spending, healthcare and First Nations collaboration. She said she would bring respectful communication and informed decision-making to council.
Graeme Richards highlighted his role with the Port Hardy Minor Hockey association and said he would work to improve the underutilization of public facilities and the current garbage and recycling program.
Shelly Quist said that the biggest challenge facing healthcare in Port Hardy was the recruitment and retention of staff and said she would work to find creative solutions to the problem, seek better acute care and work with first responders.
A video of the event will be made available on the Chamber of Commerce’s website, www.ph-chamber.bc.ca, including the question period.
More information on the council candidates can be found on Pages 12-13 of this week’s Gazette and free to view online at www.northislandgazette.com under the Elections ‘14 tab.