Incumbent councillor Sheryl Armstrong and council candidates Tyler Brown, Guy Beaulieu and Erin Hemmens participated in a town hall meeting Wednesday night at the Windward Pub. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

City council candidates take on regional themes at town hall

Transit and recycling discussed at voter information event Wednesday at the Windward Pub

When voters choose Nanaimo’s next city council, they’ll also be choosing Nanaimo’s representatives on the regional district board.

Regional issues such as transit and recycling were two of the topics discussed Wednesday night at a city council candidates’ town hall at the Windward Pub. Incumbent councillor Sheryl Armstrong and council candidates Tyler Brown, Guy Beaulieu and Erin Hemmens participated.

The first question was about public transit and Hemmens said various community groups are working toward a more “age-friendly city” that better supports seniors in being able to get around. She also referenced the City of Nanaimo’s transportation master plan and suggested it’s one of a few planning documents being under-utilized.

“If we’re creating these amazing plans with the community but we’re not actually implementing them and we don’t know the costs associated with implementing them, we’re kind of just shooting randomly,” she said.

Brown said he’s a believer in cities that work for eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds and by extension, everyone. He said public transit in Nanaimo isn’t efficient or effective and said tactical investments in transit exchanges at Country Club Centre and downtown are worth examining considering that B.C. Transit is willing to partner on those projects and federal infrastructure funds are available right now.

“So essentially we can get 25-cent dollars for one-time investments,” he said.

Asked about the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange, Armstrong explained some of the reasons why she couldn’t support the proposed depot, saying she wasn’t satisfied with the budget presented and she heeded legal advice around staying away from competing with private enterprise.

“I really believe that people that recycle, they’re going to take the time to go to the privates and the privates have seen it…” she said. “I think [the NRE] was a great facility. I personally like the one-stop; I think it’s much more effective, but I had to, in good conscience, based on the lawyers and the financials, vote against it.”

Brown said he thinks the NRE has a role to play in recycling advocacy, but suggested other components of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s zero waste plan, such as waste hauler licensing, are what will allow the region to get closer to a 90 per cent waste diversion target.

Beaulieu said he’s concerned about what’s going to the dump right now.

“We’re going to fill up the landfill in Cedar sooner than later if we don’t divert a huge amount of plastics and recyclable material,” he said.

Hemmens said environmentalism should no longer be regarded as a nice thing for some people to do.

“It’s an actual necessity. The reports that have come out recently are really scary. We need to get on this,” she said. “So I would be in support of public investment towards something that would allow us to manage our recyclables, manage our waste in a way that makes sense in our city.”

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There were a couple of questions about public safety, including overdose prevention, supervised consumption and the needle problem. Armstrong said free needles are here to stay because they have reduced instances of HIV and have brought “huge health savings” that way. She said she would support supervised consumption with attached social services, and linked Nanaimo’s Wesley Street overdose prevention site – without some of those complementary services – with a doubling of crime in the neighbourhood.

Brown suggested Nanaimo’s current city council hasn’t been a willing partner with Island Health on supervised consumption and said the health authority is probably waiting for the next council. He said supervised consumption is “absolutely” needed.

“Whether it’s one [location], whether it’s two, they need to be sited and they need to be sited properly,” he said.

Wednesday’s town hall came with the general election 10 days away. Armstrong said so far during the campaign she’s been learning from candidates who have different kinds of experience and expertise than her own.

“I think it’s really important that when you go to the polls, you actually look at each person’s individual characteristics and what they bring … and it may not be me,” she said. “But really look at what this person brings to your council, because if you want a council that’s all the same, be careful with that.”

Half a dozen other local government election candidates observed Wednesday’s town hall.

To read questionnaire responses from Armstrong, Beaulieu, Brown, Hemmens and 71 other local government election candidates, click here or here.

Previous voter information events:

Mayoral candidates debate their visions for leadership in Nanaimo

School budget debated at all-candidates’ meeting for Nanaimo trustee hopefuls

Candidates ponder affordable housing and homelessness

Candidates talk waterfront planning, supportive housing at south-end debate

Five-candidates’ meeting held in north Nanaimo

Upcoming voter information events:

District of Lantzville all-candidates’ meeting, Thursday, Oct. 11, 6-9 p.m., Costin Hall.

Nanaimo council candidates’ meet and greet with eight candidates Thursday, Oct. 11, 7-9 p.m. at Departure Bay Kin Hut. With Tyler Brown, Zeni Maartman, Don Bonner, Erin Hemmens, Wendy Pratt, Ben Geselbracht, Jim Turley, Alexis Petersen.

Chase River town hall. Sunday, Oct. 14, 3-5 p.m., Moose Hall. With candidates Erin Hemmens, Peter Kent, Don Bonner, Sheryl Armstrong, Tyler Brown and Ben Geselbracht.

District of Lantzville all-candidates’ meeting, Sunday, Oct. 14, 3-5 p.m., Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 257.

Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce/Our Nanaimo council candidates’ forum, Oct. 15, 6-9 p.m., Vancouver Island Conference Centre. For a list of the 25 invited candidates, click here.

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