Cumberland residents had an opportunity to become acquainted with the nine candidates vying for four council seats in the municipal election, Tuesday at a Chamber of Commerce-hosted forum at the cultural centre.
Candidates fielded questions from members of the packed crowd after presenting their vision of Cumberland in 2030. They generally agreed about the lack of opportunities for teens, and the need for a bicycle lane in and out of the village.
“There’s not much here for kids to do,” said Scott Easterbrook, who feels a skateboard park is needed.
Incumbent Gwyn Sproule, noting youth have requested a skateboard park for several years, would like to see a dedicated teen centre akin to the LINC in Courtenay. She feels teen programs are especially needed for girls who tend to “fall through the cracks.”
Leona Castle, a former member of council, recalls the lack of adult presence created problems at the former youth centre.
“I don’t think we have a problem with kids,” she said. “We just need a little more presence.”
Questions about Compliance Coal’s proposed Raven underground mine in Baynes Sound and its allegedly on-hold Bear Deposit, originally called the Hamilton Lake Deposit, drew a variety of responses.
Todd Riley supports the Raven mine and feels the Bear Deposit would be good for Cumberland. Coming off a recent four-month stint in Fort McMurray, Riley feels safety concerns about mines are over the top.
“The regulations are there,” he said. “It’s not as bad as most people make it out to be.”
Easterbrook could not provide an answer about the Bear Deposit and Eric Kozak is “divided on the issue internally.” While Cumberland was built on mines, Kozak notes the number of miners buried in the local cemetery. He therefore goes to the people for their opinion on the issue.
Conner Copeman was not impressed when Raven CEO John Tapics met with council and “tried to sell us on the fact that coal will be manufactured for steel.”
Roger Kishi, Bruce Barnes, Sproule and fellow incumbent Kate Greening do not support the mine.
“It (Bear Deposit) cannot happen here in our water system,” Sproule said.
Instead of coal, Kishi suggests looking instead at green technologies and industries.
“Realistically, it will come down to a political decision,” said Kishi, who sees council’s role as a facilitator throughout the environmental assessment process for the Raven application.
Each candidate favours development to a certain degree. While recognizing the benefits of having infrastructure upgrades paid by builders, candidates also recognize the importance of protecting natural areas around Cumberland.
“We do need jobs and those come from industry and business,” said Barnes, who feels developers should pay the lion’s share of infrastructure costs.
Copeman favours the idea of capping construction to 30 to 50 houses a year, as an example.
“We need the tax base,” Riley said.
“I’m actually not against development,” Greening said after she had expressed pride in being a “pain to developers” when candidates were asked about their proudest contribution.
Castle, who helped author the village’s Official Community Plan that contained a 20-year vision, recalls she and her council colleagues addressing environmental safety. “Some of the plan has wavered,” she said.
While she recognizes residential development creates revenue, Castle does not think sensitive land should be replaced by buildings or industry. She notes a “small window of opportunity” for lands not zoned for commercial use.
“That is the only way to keep Cumberland alive,” Castle said, noting the Cayet (Trilogy) development at the highway interchange.
Kozak said water and sewer improvements are necessary to enhance the natural environment.
“Water is life,” said Kozak, who favours limited development in relation to the availability of water and sewer.
Kishi, noting a serious need of sewer upgrades, feels questions abound about how much development should be allowed.
Greening, noting the only time Cumberland experienced a water shortage was due to a damaged dam, does not favour a water moratorium, which she said was lifted in the wake of a successful metering project.
Sproule concurs that water usage deceased after meters were installed, and said the moratorium meant residents could not subdivide property. She feels development needs to be planned around resources.
Castle said the delivery system — not supply — is the problem when it comes to water.
“There are alternatives,” she said. “Water we don’t have an issue with.”
Voters go to the polls Nov. 19.