Twelve of the thirteen councillors running in the District of Hope municipal election shared their views at an Oct. 3 all candidates meeting. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

Twelve of the thirteen councillors running in the District of Hope municipal election shared their views at an Oct. 3 all candidates meeting. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

Twelve of thirteen council hopefuls face off at all candidates meeting

Candidates talk business, infrastructure and attendance at Oct. 3 meeting

It was standing room only at the District of Hope all candidates meeting Wednesday, as over 250 Hope residents came out to see twelve of thirteen of Hope’s candidates vying for six council seats make their pitches.

Candidates had an opportunity to introduce themselves to the crowd before moderator George Rice posed questions on aging infrastructure, attracting diverse business, housing and other issues of concern for the community. Incumbents Bob Erickson, Donna Kropp, Scott Medlock, Heather Stewin and Dusty Smith were present at the meeting. All new candidates, save for Sung Yun Wong, were present: John Duff, Sharlene Hinds, Steven Patterson, Victor Smith, Matthew Steberl, Paul Stock and Craig Traun.

Candidates introduce themselves

“Though I love Hope with all my heart and soul, but I believe we can do better. Here’s what I mean, I only need one hand to count all the classmates I went to school with who still live in Hope,” said candidate Matthew Steberl, who grew up in Hope since 1997 but now lives ‘just outside’ of Hope. “This is why I’ve chosen a platform of innovation and technology.”

Scott Medlock shared his experience as a manager of Lordco Parts Ltd. and avid volunteer with the Hope Motorsports Group, Hope Lions Club, Hope Fire Department, and some of the successes over his 10 years on council.

“We have paved more roads in the past two years than the past decade combined. With the help of a successful grant application, we were able to upgrade our pollution control centre, bringing it into compliance,” he said.

Candidate John Duff, a resident of Hope for over 10 years and volunteer with the District of Hope Ratepayers Association, said he looked forward to finding out what the needs of the people are as well as collaborating with the district if elected.

Donna Kropp focused her introduction on the housing challenge, outlining the serious need for workforce housing and the work done by council this far.

“The families that would love to live in Hope are hampered with high rent or a shortage of rentals. This affects our businesses, with lack of labour to draw on,” she said. “The unprecedented building permits we have issued in the town hall over the past couple of years are a strong indicator we are projecting an open for business image….We have transit, a new sewage treatment plant as well as other projects that add value and quality of life to our community.”

“I may not have as much experience as the others up here, but I bring a young, fresh perspective,” said candidate Craig Traun, who told the audience he was born and raised in Hope and had no intention of leaving town and instead wanted to see it grow beyond a tourism-focused economy.

“Near and dear to my heart are our seniors, who need to be looked after,” said candidate Sharlene Hinds, a resident of Hope for nine years and volunteer with among others Purple Light Nights. “I believe we all want the same thing in our life here. We want a safe, prosperous community.”

Candidate Victor Smith, born and raised in Hope, described himself as a ‘motivated self-starter’ who has been involved with the chamber of commerce, Community Futures and Communities in Bloom.

Heather Stewin, seeking her second term on council, said her experience with multiple volunteer groups including the Canyon Golder Agers, Purple Light Nights and the chamber of commerce, has given her “first hand contact with seniors, students, people who have faced domestic violence and hardships in their lives, as well as small business.”

Financial analyst and candidate Paul Stock, who put together Hope’s first 10 KM race this spring, cited rising unemployment, crime and people frequenting the food bank as he urged residents to ‘vote for change.’

Bob Erickson, a dentist and Hope resident since 1981, said he has been vocal on “fiscal responsibility and fairness” as well as working to make council transparent during his first term as councillor.

Steven Patterson, who moved to Hope five years ago and works as a natural resource manager for Yale First Nation, said he now has three generations of his family living here and sees his bid for council as a ‘logical extension’ of the initiatives he has worked on so far.

“I’m running again because I feel my work is not done,” said Dusty Smith, who said he sat back and listened a lot during his first term on council. Born and raised in Hope, Smith said he is now ready for his voice to be louder.

The only out-of-town candidate Sung Yun Wong was not present at the meeting, he had a scheduling conflict with an all candidates meeting in the District of Kent where he is also running for council.

RELATED: The Hope Standard’s full 2018 election coverage

On aging infrastructure

In response to a question about Hope’s aging infrastructure — including the tourist information centre and museum, fire hall and police station — incumbents defended work done over the last term and new candidates kicked around ideas including a cultural centre and innovative building approaches to lower costs.

“To date, the focus has been on upgrading other infrastructure such as roads, sewers and including bringing the pollution control centre into compliance and recently some repairs to district hall,” Medlock explained.

The district’s asset management plan, including master plans for roads and water, were mentioned by both Medlock and Kropp.

As for the visitors centre, Medlock called for a cost estimate to be done on the visitors centre building, in order to compare whether to relocate or rebuild the centre.

Both Hinds and Erickson brought up an idea which has been kicked around for years, for the district to attain the old Emil Anderson building at 6 Avenue. Erickson said he has brought the idea to the district, in council meetings, a total of three times.

“It’s centrally located, it could house the public works, the city hall and the city hall, presently, could become a tourist centre and museum,” Hinds said. A referendum would be required to purchase this property, Erickson said, adding Hope Search and Rescue could also move there.

Victor Smith called for innovation to lower maintenance costs, citing successes in solar powered lights and metal roofing at another project he was involved in.

A cultural centre is a worthy investment, Steberl said, to encapsulate facilities such as the visitors centre and museum.

The only mention of Station House in response to this question was from Paul Stock, who called for a binding referendum on the project.

On attracting more sustainable, living-wage employment outside of tourism

Candidates were then questioned on how the district can attract more businesses, outside tourism, that can provide sustainable, living wage employment.

Incumbents pointed to a busy development department and new businesses setting up shop as signs that Hope is moving in the right direction. The community development department, which deals with rezoning and building permits, is the busiest it has been in 25 years said Medlock. A new concrete plant and mattress recycling business are also signs of success, Stewin said.

“AdvantageHOPE is looking at refocusing into three different silos: one being tourism, one being investment and the other is on attracting industry,” she said, adding that infrastructure including sewer and water systems need to be in place for businesses to be attracted to the available industrial land, much of which lies in Silver Creek.

Despite AdvantageHOPE being the district’s economic development organization, councillor Bob Erickson advocated for hiring an additional economic development officer.

“We must hire an economic development person, responsible to the district council, who works full time in bringing business to Hope and attracting industry…A new economic development officer, or another one, or it could be the same one,” he said.

Planning for development was another theme touched on by Erickson, who floated the idea of creating a land map that shows all the land available in the district for industrial, commercial and housing development. The map, would be updated on a quarterly basis, something not yet available.

Other incentives, such as tax breaks offered by the district, is something Traun said he supports and pledged to keep an open mind when rezoning applications pass through council should he get elected.

Workforce housing is crucial, said Duff, echoed by Kropp who added diverse housing options and affordable accommodations for families is needed.

“We are the answer in the Fraser Valley (for affordable housing), we’re much better off than anybody else,” said Victor Smith. Together with events hosted in Hope, light industry along 6 Avenue and Flood Hope Road and collaboration with First Nations, affordable housing will provide the right mix for attracting business he said.

Steberl said the district should focus on attracting the clean technology and motion picture industry to Hope: he mentioned a cultural centre with a soundstage as a first step to attracting the latter.

Patterson also dispelled the possibility that the resource economy could return to Hope, instead the town must focus on attracting “skilled labour, the creative class and medical professionals” to overcome the number one hurdle Patterson said plagues the town, namely a small workforce.

Using the town’s existing amenities, like the Fraser Canyon Hospital, the golf club and the recreation centre, to attract a higher-end retirement community is one idea said Hinds.

Dusty Smith said negative chatter about Hope on social media could negatively influence whether an investor decides to set up shop here, so a shift must be made to broadcast what is great about the community instead.

RELATED: Candidate for Hope council challenges Mayor and council to donate their wages to local charities

On council attendance

None of the current councillors seeking re-election have a perfect attendance record, although each assured the audience that they do prepare for and take meetings seriously. In response to a question on attendance from a community member, councillor Stewin said she missed three meetings, Erickson missed five, Medlock missed three, and councillors Dusty Smith and Kropp didn’t give exact numbers.

There was, however, one candidate with a perfect attendance record.

“I do want to give a shout out, I know this might not be appropriate, but John Duff did not miss one single council meeting,” Stewin said, to laughs and applause from the audience.

“He is the reason that those videotapes exist,” she said, referring to the videos filmed and uploaded online by the District of Hope Ratepayers Association, of which Duff is a member.

RELATED: Contenders for Hope, regional district and school district announced

To watch a full video of the all candidates meeting and to read The Hope Standard’s full election coverage, see The mayoral all candidates debate will be covered in the Oct. 18 edition.

Is there more to this story?

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter