Regional District of Nanaimo Area A candidates Keith Wilson, left, Kate Poirier, Jessica Stanley and Carl Delcourt participate in a debate Thursday, Oct. 6, at Cedar Community Hall. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Regional District of Nanaimo Area A candidates Keith Wilson, left, Kate Poirier, Jessica Stanley and Carl Delcourt participate in a debate Thursday, Oct. 6, at Cedar Community Hall. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Area A candidates talk taxes and communication at debate in Cedar

All-candidates’ meeting held Oct. 6 in Regional District of Nanaimo’s Area A

Residents of Cedar, Yellow Point, Cassidy and South Wellington have choices at the ballot box this election, and a debate was held last week to help voters choose.

The four candidates running for Area A director in the Regional District of Nanaimo participated in an all-candidates’ meeting Thursday, Oct. 6, at Cedar Community Hall, hosted by the Cedar Community Association.

Candidates fielded questions submitted by audience members and while there were some specific questions – about airport land development and school district French immersion planning, for example – the debate started with general questions about communication, representation and taxation.

Candidates were asked about Area A’s low voter turnout in the last election, below 20 per cent, and ways to improve citizen engagement.

“It all starts with communication and actively reaching out to the community…” responded candidate Jessica Stanley. “I think it’s also important that the director reaches out as much as possible to the community association, community groups that do incredible work at keeping a sense of cohesion in this community.”

Incumbent Keith Wilson said it was a mistake this past term not to have held public sessions to meet with community members.

“It was partly an oversight and partly COVID that got in the way of that,” he said. “It’s key that whoever is the director knows what the community is thinking and what the concerns are.”

Candidate Kate Poirier said as far as voter turnout, more polling places would help as 90 per cent of votes in 2018 were cast at one location, Cedar Elementary. A commitment to communication throughout the year, she said, would also keep residents engaged.

“When people know what is going on, they’re going to have an opinion on a subject and they’re going to show up at the vote,” she said.

Candidate Carl Delcourt said it’s important to communicate to people that “nothing’s going to happen the way they want it” unless they vote.

“I really think the big thing is just making people aware in your community. Talk to as many people as you can,” he said. “A lot of people will make the effort if they realize how important it is that they do get out and vote.”

On taxes, Delcourt was first to respond and said it’s a central issue for him as he sees fellow residents, including seniors and young people “scraping by,” challenged by rising costs of living.

“The way that you try and get it under control is to get the board to learn how to tighten their belts where you can tighten your belt,” he said. “There’s not an endless coffer for them to reach into your pocket and pull out more money.”

Wilson said “unfortunately, this is a bad year for taxes” and noted that the tax increase was largely due to a new recreational programmer in Area A, which he said was a response to community requests, and a higher requisition for the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District.

“This region has not been putting away money in reserves to respond to the needs of the hospital,” he said.

Wilson added that next year’s tax increase is projected to be lower, closer to two per cent, which he said is less than inflation.

Poirier said the area’s finances should be better communicated to residents.

“People don’t know what’s going on in our budgets a lot of the time and the big-ticket costs aren’t well-communicated, so we don’t know long-term,” she said. “We need a better understanding of all the residents’ long-term costs of the major projects that we’re signing up for.”

Stanley said the regional district can do better at finding efficiencies, and she said it’s important that taxation supports programs and services that the community wants or perceives some benefit from.

“You’re one person on the board, so that’s a challenge, but you do need to advocate to the other board members and express the concerns of your community, and affordability concerns are a huge concern that I’m hearing right now,” she said.

The hour-long debate was moderated by Cedar Community Association director Bobbi-Jean Goldy and was followed by a meet-and-greet with the candidates.

ELECTION 2022: Regional District of Nanaimo Area A and Area C director candidate questionnaires



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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