Moderator Diane Janzen with 10 of the 12 council candidates on stage at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Sept. 28, 2022. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

Moderator Diane Janzen with 10 of the 12 council candidates on stage at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Sept. 28, 2022. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

Chilliwack city council candidates weighed in with hot takes on pressing issues of 2022 election

Hot-button topics included homelessness, transit, affordable housing, crime, and flood mitigation

Council candidates lined the main stage of the Chilliwack Cultural Centre Wednesday night weighing in on homelessness, indigenizing council, affordable housing, crime, transportation, flood mitigation and much more.

The Sept. 28 all-candidates’ event was hosted by the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, and the downtown Chilliwack BIA, and about 150 people showed up to listen to the candidates in person.

Council candidates offered their bios and experience, and had two minutes to expound on a series of hot-button questions.

Here is a brief snapshot of some of the comments:

Candidate Brent Bowker said in looking at the 10-year plan for transit improvements in Chilliwack he “agreed with where the spending” was earmarked in the Future Plan, but suggested there could be even more investments in cycling infrastructure. “There is a plan,” Bowker pointed out, and said council should follow through on it.

Candidate Craig Hill, who later appeared to be feeling poorly and left the stage, said one of the main things in terms of transportation corridors was the “lack of attention to Young Road,” in terms of improvements, adding “it looks like it did 60 years ago.”

In terms of existing transit routes, candidate Nicole Huitema Read said: “It’s hard for workers to get to the manufacturers located outside the community” so looking at “enhanced services” or new routes might help “so people can get to work.”

Incumbent Chris Kloot stressed that Chilliwack, like other communities, has seen homelessness and crime issues “dominating” their time and attention. Chilliwack has brought to fruition “housing first” projects by partnering with the province. City officials have waived $1.7 million in development cost charges between 2015-18, and $3.9 million in DCCs between 2019-22 for these projects. There were a total of 372 supportive housing units built (or under construction) since he was first elected in 2014.

Incumbent Jason Lum said: “This is what I know about social issues – they are extremely difficult to solve,” and a “one size fits all” approach does not work. But that being said, “this community has a big heart for helping,” Lum pointed out.

Candidate Mike McLatchy stated Chilliwack has become “a very desirable place” for homeless people to come to, but he’s also aware that Chilliwack has a homelessness action plan in place. McClatchy then repeated something that outreach workers have been saying is a complete urban myth, which is that “a couple of busloads” of unhoused people were brought to Chilliwack. The real challenge according to emergency responders he’s spoken to is the lack of treatment centres for those with substance issues to go into recovery, McClatchy added.

Incumbent Jeff Shields said: “We do a good job in Chilliwack of working on social issues,” adding it’s “very cool” how the health and social service groups and providers of Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC) work so closely together. “Unfortunately” the myth that’s still making the rounds, is about “Chilliwack being a victim of its own success” resulting in “busloads” of homeless people being dropped. In speaking with hands-on service providers, Shields said, he learned that it’s not true, and while they may see the “odd new face” around town sometimes, it’s simply not true there are busloads arriving.

On the question of whether Chilliwack council should have eight seats rather than six seats, with a designated Indigenous seat, incumbent Bud Mercer said: “I believe it’s a good idea.” As co-chair of the mayor’s task force on diversity, inclusiveness and accessibility, it’s an idea that lends itself to reconciliation, and it’s something Chilliwack should “move forward on quickly,” Mercer commented.

On the prospect of increasing council to eight members, candidate Jared Mumford stated he thought the idea was a “no-brainer.” He’s in favour of the idea despite the possible monetary implications. He also said he sees advantages in terms of considering a dedicated Indigenous seat on council, maybe for an Indigenous elder, possibly by the time the next election rolls around.

Candidate Amber Price said she’s in favour of increasing the number of city councillors to eight, as recommended for communities of more than 53,000 people under the Municipal Act. She said she’s in support knowing “there are cost implications” if they increase the size of council.

“We have outgrown the council table of six,” and since the community has undergone such “rapid growth” having only six councillors “has left our citizens under-served,” Price said. More members sitting at the council table will mean “more diversity” and more broad-based representation on council, she added.

On the topic of real estate prices, and how to increase affordable housing incumbent Harv Westeringh said three factors are at play: “Supply, demand, and cost.”In order to see more housing supply of the least expensive kind on the valley floor, “the only way is to densify,” especially in corridors like Young Road, Vedder Road and Broadway Street.

“So the solution to increasing affordable housing is to densify,” Westeringh said.

The council Q&A portion of the all-candidates’ evening went almost two hours long and can be viewed by watching the archived Youtube video:

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City CouncilCity of ChilliwackElection 2022