Election 2014: Candidates in the hot seat

District of Hope: Mayoral candidates discuss a variety of issues at all-candidates meeting

Hope mayoral candidates Glen Ogren (left)

Residents packed the recreation centre conference room on Tuesday night to hear Hope’s mayoral candidates weigh in on local issues.

Lloyd Forman, Glen Ogren, Wilfried Vicktor and Cindy Young answered questions on a variety of topics, offering voters insight into their priorities and leadership style.

“I would work very hard as part of the elected team to bring about a system of transparency and teamwork,” said Forman.

“My goal is to harness the power of the taxpayer and elected people and staff by building respect, communication and trust. I will continue with a six-year tradition I’ve had of holding scheduled town hall meetings on a regular basis every 60 days.”

Forman, who is running for mayor of Hope as well as Fraser Valley Regional District electoral Area A director, feels he’ll have enough time to do both jobs adequately if elected and won’t have any problems dealing with potential conflicts of interest that may arise. He also apologized for a column he wrote in a Lytton newspaper that referred to voters collectively as a puppet master and elected people as the puppet.

“It was a philosophical view of democracy,” he said.

“It may have been put in a hillbilly-ish way but the reality is the shareholders here are the ones in control. I subsequently wrote an apology and said I shouldn’t have written it.”

Vicktor, who previously served as mayor for two terms in Hope, pointed out that he’s running on his record this election and has shown he’s “consistently respectful and honest with the public.” He hopes moving forward, council functions well as a team and generates a high level of “customer satisfaction.”

“In four years, I would hope that the new council would have a track record of teamwork, respect, honest communication with the public, complete transparency and essentially satisfaction in the work they performed as a council,” he added.

When questioned about unlicensed vehicles on his property, a concern raised by several residents in attendance, Vicktor invited people to drive by and check it out for themselves.

“If it’s objectionable to you, I’d certainly suggest you do not vote for me if you feel that I’m not capable as mayor based on an extra couple vehicles,” he said.

“My personal opinion is if anyone is caught in my backyard, particularly after hours, a bylaw violation is probably the last of their concerns. I’m going to be issuing a non-verbal conversation if they’re trespassing.”

Vicktor was questioned about his opposition to a casino proposal on First Nations land several years ago when he was mayor.

The council at the time supported the initiative but he felt the proposal needed further consideration because it was not a destination-style casino and would not have any direct taxation revenue.

“I didn’t veto anything. The mayor has the ability and the duty to bring back issues that he or she feels have not been properly investigated,” said Vicktor. “Council was given an opportunity to revisit it because I brought it back. I did not do that to disrespect council. I did that because we had dealt with a First Nations band who refused to deal with us for over a year-and-a-half on another issue. They show up, they give us some cute little paddles and say it’s time to develop relations. The reality was that a letter of support from a district has lots of things attached to it. So if the community backs something like that it should mean something.”

As a relatively new resident, Young spoke about her desire to facilitate change and help Hope move in a new direction.

“I want everybody to work as one as a community because that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” she said. “I’m honest, I have integrity and if you elect me I’ll do the best job I can. It will be open to you to see what the books would look like and my office door would always be open to you. I want to hear from you because that’s what makes a town work. I’m here for you guys.”

Ogren, who is also a newcomer to the political scene, shared his passion for seeing Hope flourish. As a business owner raising a family in the community, he feels it’s time to bring in the amenities needed to see the town fully grow.

“The end goal for me is to make Hope one of the most livable small cities in B.C.,” he said. “I think transit opens us up to other communities and a bus to Chilliwack or Agassiz for single-car households and seniors is a very needed thing in Hope, especially when you have Care Transit constantly looking for drivers and trying to keep up with the demand for driving into other communities.”

The mayoral candidates agreed on several issues, including the need for further economic development, improved community infrastructure, and more good paying sustainable jobs.

“We’ve lost 3.5 per cent of our population over the last 10-15 years and we’re paying more in taxes to keep the services that we have,” said Ogren, who would like to see a light industrial park built with green technology. “You’ve got to be business-friendly and you have to be ready for business. You need to grow the tax base in order to lower the taxes.”

Both Ogren and Young see the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline twinning project as an economic benefit for the area, but acknowledged the need for environmental precautions to protect local aquifers. Vicktor and Forman also supported the work currently being done to enhance tourism opportunities through AdvantageHOPE, which includes the development of trails.

A councillor all-candidates meeting will take place on Nov. 3 at the Hope recreation centre, starting at 6:30 p.m.

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