The all candidates forum at the Golden Civic Centre gave the community a chance to meet their municipal town council candidates in person and ask pertinent questions on September 27.
Introductions from all of the candidates let people know who they are, and how to find them if they have any questions. Leslie Adams, Jim de Bolebec, Chris Hambruch, Eddie Leigan, John Manuel, and Caleb Moss answered questions from the floor after introductions. Councillor candidate Connie Barlow was absent from the meeting, but had Shannon Hood deliver her opening and closing remarks. Moss used his introduction and closing remarks to provide an entertaining show-and-tell segment representing why he thought he is best suited for council.
Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, and Glen McEwan moderated the conversation. Candidates were given two minutes each to answer questions from the floor.
A couple of the questions focused heavily on business in Golden, asking what being a progressive business community means, and if the candidates had any ideas to help new businesses thrive.
Many of the candidates echoed each other’s sentiments about entrepreneurship in the community. Minimizing red tape, keeping consumers happy in town, and ensuring businesses have the resources they need were top priority from many candidates.
“The important part is we have open policies and bylaws that are supportive and give guidance only,” Hambruch said. “Business can tell us what we need to do.”
The candidates agreed that it isn’t council’s place to go in and tell businesses what to do, and that they all support local businesses. Leigan and Moss are part of the business community, each owning downtown businesses.
“The most important thing is to have a good, stable labour force,” de Bolebec said.
Another big ticket question, submitted online, asked the candidates how they would ease the residential shortage and free up commercial spaces.
From the candidates, de Bolebic was first to answer. He wants to encourage owners to upkeep their buildings, and suggested passing bylaws. He added that it is a slow process.
“If you choose to own a storefront and keep it empty, we’re disappointed as a community,” Leigan said, adding that providing incentives could help.
Moss and Hambruch also mentioned that town council isn’t able to do much about unsightly buildings and residential shortages without assistance from the provincial and federal governments. Adams suggested that community members write to their MLA about the issue.
“It’s sort of up to friends and family to lay pressure on them,” Moss said.
Each of the candidates are actively building relationships with the business community, they said. Leigan is in the business community, and says he enjoys walking around downtown to all of the different businesses. Moss hangs out downtown and talks with other business owners. Hambruch says it is important to have a liaison position within a business community. Adams regularly stops in at local businesses to see how everything is going. Manuel, who also works for Tourism Golden, regularly sends travellers to local businesses to find what they need. Supporting the local business economy as much as possible is also important to de Bolebec.
Other interests from the community, once the floor opened up from the online questions and invited the audience to speak, included how town council should involve inclusiveness in the community. In the wake of the recent defacing of the rainbow crosswalk, the conversation turned sombre but supportive.
Moss was next to speak, and expressed that local government’s primary job is provision of service, and it is “not designed to be a moral compass.” He added that everything should be accessible by all people who live in the community. Hambruch echoed Moss’ response, and Adams expressed her concerns from when the rainbow crosswalk was still in the planning stages.
“We will continue to perservere against hate and prejudice by keeping it clean,” she said about the crosswalk. “One of the concerns that we had was that it might be defaced.”
Manuel wants council to lead by example, and de Bolebec said that education is needed to steer people in the right direction.
Leigan recounted the story of a local religious man who got on his hands and knees and scrubbed the burnout mark from the rainbow crosswalk. He wants to see people encourage the good stories instead of the bad.
Six of the seven candidates will take on a leadership role in Golden for the next four years.
“Leadership takes many, many different forms,” Hambruch said.
At the forum, councillors and community members were all taking on some form of leadership by coming out, Adams said.
“Different people will lead at different times. You want six councillors that are different and will step up to lead at different times,” Manuel said.
Important ways to engage in leadership, de Bolebec said, is to sit and listen, voice opinions, and put forth what is best for the community as a whole.
“None of us are from the same walk of life… That’s a very healthy council,” Leigan said. “We’re going to be a diverse council.”
Leadership on town council is a position of responsibility, Moss said, and very often, it takes the form of affecting policy and change.
Caren Nagao inquired from the candidates if they had heard about the 94 calls for action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which expresses many of the issues faced by Indigenous culture in Canada to this day. Adams, de Bolebec, and Leigan were in support of further education for council members regarding reconciliation. Moss and Hambruch both agreed that the training would be a good idea, although Moss said it isn’t training he would expect council to be provided.
“If there’s something that can be done within our organization, it’s something that can be discussed,” Hambruch said.
One resident, and the final question of the evening, was concerned about changes in traffic patterns near her home on Alexander Drive. She felt that she had been waiting for answers about what was going to happen, and had safety concerns about her neighbourhood.
“They need to know their concerns are being addressed,” Manuel said about the situation.
One of the things de Bolebec says he would like improved on council is the communication between town council and the community, and he says that communication “is not there.”
“We put a tremendous amount of resources into communication,” Moss said, including that the Town of Golden has social media platforms and a communications official. “We don’t get to lead the charge and run out and ask everyone.”
Hambruch ensured that people in that area would be aware of the changes before anything happened to the traffic patterns.
“The wheels of municipal democracy turn very slowly. It may seem like we’re not consulting, but we haven’t got there yet,” Adams assured.
Each of the candidates finished off the evening with closing remarks.