The “Meet The Candidates” evening at the Coalmont was well attended. In fact it looked like a full house. People came from Missezula, Erris, Eastgate, and other communities.
The evening started out with a welcome from Chris Berringer who managed the whole event with skill and sensitivity. The three candidates each gave a short description of their platform and point of view. The incumbent Area ‘H’ director, Brad Hope, was also on hand to answer questions.
Charles Weber described the life he and his wife live on their farm. “We have been rural people all our lives.” He touched on his more basic philosophy when he said “Destiny is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice.” Then he went on to list a lot of the things to do in this area, including many in Princeton. He thinks that we need to increase the tax base, but when he says “we’re open to positive ideas for sustainable growth” it is not clear how he distinguishes between Princeton and Area ‘H’, which he hopes to represent. Centralization comes to mind when he says “we’re a hub, not a
Bob Coyne presented next. He recognizes the importance of our diversity in Area ‘H’. “I count about 8 communities” and “I’m impressed with what Brad has done here in the last years”. “We’re all together in Area ‘H’ and we need a strong voice. He also spoke about the Forest Corporation and “what are we going to do? . . . I need answers from you”. Regarding doctors and the hospital: “We have to work with the big employers to get health care here”. “That’s one of the things we need to work together on.”
Jamie Frandsen spoke next. Many years of him and his family visiting the Area makes him well connected here. He considers safety on the highways important’ and a pressing reason to improve the hospital. About himself he said: “I’ve got business sense” and mentions his history with the printing business. “I’ve got environmental sense” and mentions that his company was a pioneer in the use of environmentally friendly ink. He mostly considers what Weber said to be his platform too.
The meeting continued with more statements from candidates and some questions from the floor.
Two people asked about Charles Weber’s slogan “Time To Grow” but again his answers did not clarify whether he meant Princeton or the communities, or what kind of growth he is referring to. He did say that he thinks “we need more revenue” and we can achieve that by getting more people to move into the area which will lead to more industry.
Jamie Frandsen said that there is revenue from Weyerhaeuser coming in, but Bob Coyne corrected him, saying that this is the Forest Corp money we’ve been talking about.
Regarding the Forest Corporation (community forest) money, someone asked how it is to be divided up. Brad Hope said “we’ve looked at the tax base to determine percentages”. Weber said “I guess it comes down to each director’s personal vision”
Coalmont resident Bob Sterne asked about the supposed $350,000 that Princeton expects (according to Princeton mayor Frank Armitage in a recent newspaper article) from the merging of Copper Mountain as a satellite to their town and how the candidates viewed that, or planned to get that money back to area ‘H’.
Bob Coyne said “what was in the paper may, or may not, be happening. There’s 160 properties involved, but where the town (Princeton) got the numbers from is not known.” Weber said “I think that’s still a work in progress”. Regarding the general idea of a municipality annexing a community as a satellite, and specifically Princeton getting Copper Mountain, Brad Hope commented, “I doubt it’s going to happen here”
The situation at Kennedy Lake was mentioned. Charles said he had been up to Kennedy Lake for a visit but was not clear on where to go with that yet. Frandsen said “I just heard about this; I can’t comment”
The subject then moved to the seemingly ever present Princeton pool discussion.
Frandsen said “they’re going ahead” and when asked if we (Area ‘H’) would get to vote, said “I hope so”. Bob Coyne was more specific and said “there would have to be a referendum”.
A question from the floor for Charles Weber: “What is your position on a pool in Princeton and if your view is different than your constituents wishes, are you willing to follow their lead?” Weber replied simply, “Of course”.
But the pool questions continued: “The reason I’m asking is that three years ago, over 900 taxpayers signed a petition asking for a separate vote in the referendum. However, you spoke at the public RDOS meeting and tried to convince the board to force area ‘H’ to a combined vote with Princeton. My question is, would you again go against the wishes of the majority of area ‘H’ residents about any issues arising.” Weber’s reply was, “That was a different situation”.
Weber went on to say that “it split the community” and put a lot of pressure on him. Who put that pressure on you, someone asked. He replied, “Some people would say I did, some people would say Brad did.” He was also asked “Are you for the regional district or are you for Princeton?”. His response was “I’m for the regional district”.
Regarding the last pool vote, someone from Eastgate asked why we couldn’t have one vote per property instead of one per person. There was no clear answer, though there was a general deferral to the BC elections laws. Bob Coyne asked the person if he thought that his neighbour who had 60 properties, should get 60 votes.
The discussion then moved on with another question from the floor. “What are the priority questions about health care”. Jamie Frandsen said “doctors, doctors, doctors – and we could use a heli-pad”, and added “the golf course is all set up.”
Bob Coyne was more specific: “we need a stable hospital with enough staff to operate in a sustainable manner” suggesting too that doctor retention is a priority.
Weber added some more: “doctors should be at the table” and “this is part of what growth is all about”. He also thought that “we need to insist that paramedics are upgraded” and “we need a walk-in clinic”.
Getting back to the talk of communities, Weber said “A big part of what Brad has done in the last years is build these communities”. But, someone asked, “all the communities have different priorities, how do you differentiate?”. Weber’s response was, “I would like to see the APC (Advisory Planning Commission) have an expanded role” but added “I think you need representation from the different communities”.
At this point a break was called. People chatted and enjoyed the warm and colourful atmosphere at The Coalmont. The conversation with the candidates then resumed with some miscellaneous questions.
A woman mentioned the Missezula lake road and their special situation with something like 80% part time residents. When it comes to election issues, “it’s hard to get them going”. Also “nothing gets done with the road”. It’s such an issue that people who haven’t been there in years still ask “what’s the road like now?”. Bob Coyne was able to add some clarity to that issue and said that “The government doesn’t own that road. It is on private land and they only maintain the running surface”.
The main questions having been discussed, and the audience seemingly satisfied that they got what they came for, Berringer asked the candidates for closing remarks.
Jamie Frandsen: “Thanks very much for coming”.
Bob Coyne: “Awesome experience” and “it doesn’t matter who you elect, but please get out and vote”.
Charles Weber: “Thank you for coming. This is a pretty unique forum … sitting in a 100 year old pub.”
It was indeed a special night and perhaps one of the most friendly and social political discussions that one is likely to see. Having people from the different Area ‘H’ communities come to Coalmont made this a particularly special event for us here. §