Election 2014: Burning questions for Chilliwack council candidates

City of Chilliwack: Hundreds of Chilliwackians packed the Cultural Centre Monday to hear what the candidates had to say

Phill Bruce speaks during the city councillor all-candidates meeting at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Monday. All 17 candidates were in attendance.

Most of questions fired out at would-be councillors at the all-candidates’ meeting were on topics ripped from Chilliwack headlines.

All seventeen council candidates were on stage Monday night, as they vied to make an impression on the large crowd of more than 400 people who showed up at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

Topics range from recognition by Chilliwack of unceded territories, where the Aevitas waste recycling plant should be sited, and whether the risks of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion are worth it.

Here are some of the questions and responses.

On Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion the question some were asked was: “In case of a spill municipalities will likely be first responders and possibly saddled with a portion of the cleanup costs, where do you stand on the pipeline expansion and do you think the risks are worth it?

Incumbent Chuck Stam cast doubt that municipalities “will be saddled with the cost,” of a spill. Kinder Morgan would be getting a “hefty bill” if that were the case.

“We’ve outlined our concerns,” he said about Chilliwack’s issues, as covered by the FVRD as an intervenor in the NEB hearings.

Candidate Dick Harrington said he has concerns about the expansion, and possible leaks.

“I don’t think the risks are worth it,” Harrington stated.

Candidate Patti MacAhonic answered in a similar vein.

“I don’t think the risks are worth it,” she said, adding that recent events in Burnaby raise even more questions.

Candidate Gerry Goosen later tackled the same question in round three, on the environmental risk the pipeline expansion poses, and reminded everyone the country was “built on risk” and “We should be taking risks to keep moving forward.”

On the growing truck traffic at Lickman, all four candidates expressed the need for improvements to infrastructure to relieve the pressure.

“The congestion has become almost unbearable,” said incumbent Ken Popove. “We need to partner with the province, and fast track the Prest Roundabout project.”

Candidate Richard Williams’ answer, in which he varied the details but always repeated, was to emphasize how little was available online at the city website.

It would help to know where a project falls in the priority list, “so we know why it should be fast-tracked,” he said.

On the Aevitas recycling facility by the river, candidate Chris Kloot said he thought the biggest problem was that the public was “not aware” of what was being proposed in this location.

“I would want to look at this very carefully,” he said.

Incumbent Stewart McLean noted that even though the matter is before the courts, the province still has yet to speak to it, and underlined that Aevitas would sign a covenant on how the community would be protected.

“We did not go into this with our eyes closed,” he said about the unanimous council decision in favour. “We did our due diligence.”

Incumbent Sue Attrill encouraged critics to go to the city website for details that could clear up some of the “misinformation” circulating.

Candidate Phillip Maxwell said he agreed the opinion that the Aevitas facility was “in the wrong place,” and challenged everyone to come up with “a good place it could go.”

“Don’t just leave it to city council to make this decision. Everyone needs to be involved.”

On the value of Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation to Chilliwack, all three who were asked indicated support for CEPCO’s contributions.

Sam Waddington said CEPCO made Chilliwack the “envy” of other Lower Mainland communities because it “enables the city to do things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to” achieve.

Incumbent Jason Lum said the city needed to do a better job of communicating the economic value CEPCO brings.

The public ended up have a fair bit of sway on which questions were asked.

“Of the 13 questions that were asked, nine of them were actually submitted from the floor that night,” commented Kyle Williams, executive director of the DT Chilliwack BIA.

Some topics from the floor included:

• Lickman truck traffic

• Agriculture

• CEPCO

• Flood protection

• Taxation

Topics prior to the event:

• Crime rates

• Revitalizing downtown

• Aevitas hazardous waste recycling plant

•  Social issues

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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