Water will be made more visible at candidates’ meeting

Organizers plan to harness technology at the WaterWealth all-candidates' event April 30 at the Sto:lo Resource Centre at 6 p.m.

It’s not going to be your typical all-candidates’ meeting on Tuesday night, said WaterWealth Project campaign director Sheila Muxlow.

It’s all about making water more visible.

Organizers plan to harness technology and social media with the help of a professional moderator and a live text feed at the WaterWealth all-candidates’ event on April 30 at the Sto:lo Resource Centre at 6 p.m.

“It’s an experimental approach,” Muxlow said. “We need to work harder at having democratic discussions about water, particularly with large groups of people at the same time.”

The idea is to establish where the candidates stand on water protection and decision-making around local water issues.

“So far we have all the candidates confirmed to attend, with the exception of (B.C. Liberal candidate) John Martin,” she said.

Recently declared candidate, Ryan McKinnon, has not yet confirmed either way.

The WaterWealth Declaration posits that water is under “unprecedented threat” from industrial activity and development, despite being everyone’s “most precious asset.” The goal is 100 per cent community control over decisions that impact local waters.

“It’s a natural evolution to allow more community say,” said Muxlow. “We’re the ones who have to live with the consequences.”

Having water health decisions made in Victoria or Ottawa creates problems, she said.

“We’re working toward saying those who live in the valley are best placed to be making these types of decisions.”

To date they’ve collected 1,077 signatures for their WaterWealth Declaration. It’s a citizen pledge asking political candidates of both the Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Hope ridings to take a stance on protecting the home waters and watersheds of the Fraser Valley.

“In talking with local residents, we were overwhelmed by the enormous sense of community pride that exists in the living rivers, lakes and streams that flow throughout the Valley,” said Muxlow. “We also heard about a lot of real concerns. People feel our water quality is not what it used to be and are fearful of what will happen to our home waters unless more is done to protect them. These shared values and concerns directly informed the language of the Declaration.”

That is precisely why the “conversation” by candidates vying for office tomorrow will be focused on water.

But isn’t the water theme rather limiting?

“No. We are sending the message that clean water matters deeply to people in the valley. We want politicians who are willing to take a stand on protecting our home waters,” she said.

It’s not really a single issue in that sense. Recent water-related issues in Chilliwack have included chlorination of the municipal water source, gravel operations, run-of-the-river projects, and the prospect of expanded oil pipelines coming to Chilliwack.

“Water is essential to our local economy. It threads through so many issues, from quality of life, economics, and recreational opportunities, to the need to have clean and abundant water for our health.”

Come early, if possible, Muxlow added.

“There will be children’s activities to make sure it’s accessible to all.”

After the meeting, at the Sto:lo Resource Centre, Building #10 on Vedder Road, WaterWealth will be issuing candidate report cards based on what they said and where they stand. Then on May 15, they’ll also present the winners with signed declarations.

See more at www.waterwealthproject.com or twitter.com/Water_Wealth