About 50 residents packed into the Blue Moose on Thursday night to hear Hope’s mayoral candidates weigh in on local issues.
Laurie French and Susan Johnston answered questions on topics ranging from business and jobs, to quality of life and district policy.
The evening began with each candidate introducing themselves and explaining why voters should choose them for Hope’s top job.
“We’re watching things go downhill rather than uphill,” said Johnston. “I think it’s time for a change. There’s nothing I won’t do for this community.”
French spoke about his leadership over the last three years as mayor and the experience he gained as councillor for six years before that. He singled out projects like the new Kawkawa Lake Road Bridge, new playground at Kawkawa Lake Park, and strong relationships with senior government as term accomplishments.
“I think I’ve been the leader in the change we’ve seen and needed,” he said. “Everyone knows now that Hope is on the map. That’s why there’s more interest in Hope and that’s why there’s more people coming here.”
Both candidates agreed on several issues, including the need for economic development, infrastructure, jobs and community ownership over graffiti removal.
“We can’t have economic development if we don’t have people who are willing to spend the time fixing up their storefronts and making this a place where people want to come and do business,” said Johnston, who suggested the district offer business incentives for storefront upgrades. “We have to build it so they can come.”
The mayoral candidates were asked how they would deal with current lengthy processing times for new business licenses and development permits. They both agreed that more dedicated and trained staff are needed at district hall to help resolve this problem.
French and Johnston also expressed support for a casino in the area to generate revenue and create jobs. However, French pointed out the district has to be careful not to open one for “desperate reasons.” He said the focus needs to be more on the entertainment value.
Another issue that came up was the need for increased communication between council and the public. French admitted this is one area where current incumbents have failed. He said residents need to be more aware of what’s going on in the district and what council is doing.
Johnston also suggested there needs to be more outdoor activities, bike paths and dog parks in Hope. In addition, she proposed the district look at providing a future youth centre to give teens something to do in town.
Residents have another opportunity to hear from candidates on Nov. 7 at the Hope & District Recreation Centre. The meeting kicks off at 6:30 p.m. in the new multipurpose room.