Internet a hot topic for prospective Area A Directors

Columbia Shuswap Regional District (Area A): Director Candidates discuss internet, zoning bylaws at all candidates forum.

Area A Director hopefuls Garry Habart, Karen Cathcart and Brian Spain voiced their opinions and concerns on Monday night at the all candidates open forum, which was a cordial affair with few, if any, moments of conflict.

One of the issues that seemed to elicit the biggest response was Area A’s lack of access to high-speed internet.

Each candidate believed this issue was of paramount importance and all expressed a desire to see the situation improved.

“In the 21st century we’re told that you can work remotely from anywhere. Would that this were true, it makes our area even more attractive because professionals, especially young professionals, could then come live here and work remotely. Unfortunately we can’t because we have very poor access to high-speed internet…what would you do to help implement access to high-speed internet for rural areas?” said the questioner from the public, which drew a round of applause from the gathering.

Spain, who works for Telus, called this issue a main staple of his platform and believes the company that he works for would be in the best position to implement such a project. He suggested that equipment and materials necessary for a project such as this could be purchased easily because communities such as Trail and Creston are moving towards fibre optics.

“A savvy director would be able to purchase this (equipment) at a substantially discounted rate,” he said.

Cathcart agreed that connectivity is a priority.

“We have the resources, we have the talent and we have the dollars to make this happen. We need to bring these people to the table, negotiate a solution and make this happen very, very quickly,” Cathcart said.

Habart discussed the steps he has taken to get this project going during his tenure. According to him, Telus is interested in providing this service for Area A, but is focussing on work along the Trans-Canada Highway first.

Another rather interesting discussion that came through a question from the public was what steps could be taken if a company decided to set up a military drone testing facility in Area A. The question was clearly delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but it did raise some concerns nonetheless, as there aren’t any zoning restrictions in Area A.

“If there was a group or an area, let’s say Nicholson, that wanted to put in bylaws, that can be accomplished quite easily,” Habart said, referring to a petition and referendum process.

“I think the first step is always community consultation and making sure that we have all the information and the facts that we need,” Cathcart said. “But I would say, safety and security is a number one concern for Area A residents…if that was the case and there was a concern from that perspective, we would absolutely consult with everyone at the table.”

Spain also agreed that a petition and then a referendum would be the best way to raise concerns about an issue such as this hypothetical one.