The Cache Creek All Candidates Forum on Nov. 5 was decidedly edgier than the Ashcroft forum, as Cache Creek candidates faced pointed questions about recent Council decisions such as the removal of woodchips from under the new playground at the park and the controversial development permit areas next to the Bonaparte River, to how to increase and support business in town.
The question of hiring an Economic Development Officer was repeatedly raised, with some support from candidates Marg Durnin, Martin Dalsin and David Dubois, and firm opposition from John Ranta and Herb Hofer.
Ranta’s position was that the Village was doing everything that an EDO would do. He said the Village undertook an economic development study in 2011 and is using that as a guide.
“We need to focus on the trucking industry,” he said. “Our geographic location will give us a step up on other locations.”
He also talked about his attempts to reach out to industry in other communities to invite them to re-locate in Cache Creek.
Durnin said she was all for the trucking industry, but without an EDO and a marketing plan, the message wasn’t getting out on a broad scale to the proper markets.
Economic development is a serious issue in Cache Creek, said Martin Dalsin. “We need a professional to get our community growing again,” he said. There is potential with the landfill and the Maggie Mine, but more needs to be done.
Herb Hofer disagreed, saying the Village would have to spend $100,000 for an EDO. Meanwhile, he said, the economic development study they had done cost $25,000 and is gathering dust.
The candidates were asked how they would work with other local governments.
David Dubois said he would work with the TNRD and encourage council to be welcoming and opening. He would extend an invitation to other mayors and chiefs to attend their meetings.
Jim Lambert said they should be working more with Ashcroft. They could share infrastructure costs and equipment. Ashcroft Terminal might happen sooner than Maggie Mine, he said, “so we want to keep those lines of communication open.”
Lambert expressed disappointment that there was no consultation with Cache Creek when the Esso was built on the Ashcroft Reserve.
We have protocol agreement with Bonaparte Band, said Wyatt McMurray, an agreement with the Ashcroft Indian Band over the Landfill Extension. Rather than work closer with other governments, he said, we need to tell people that we are.
Martin Dalsin said he would like to see more inter-community co-operation, such as joint council meetings. Start with something small, he suggested, like joint business licenses.
Lisa Dafoe said the Village already worked closely with Clinton on several committees, and Ashcroft as well. We just need to keep working on it, she said.
Dafoe and Hofer were asked if they would consider bringing back the bus service.
Dafoe said the old model was too expensive. Hofer said it still seemed underused for the price of it.
Candidates were asked how they would support and entice businesses.
Continue with low taxes, low utilities and best service we can provide, said Wyatt McMurray. It makes us the most desirable place to come to. It’s really about providing a beautiful place to live
Lambert said he would approach the businesses and help them advertise. “We have to be friendlier to who’s here and ask them what they like,” he said
Dubois said he travels a lot and spreads the work about Cache Creek. He thanked the Village for helping to beautify the downtown in the past few years. He also suggested using NDIT money to hire an Economic Development Officer.
Part of an economic development plan is to keep and grow what you have, said Dalsin. We need to have a dialogue with businesses. Council is allowed to give tax relief to stores that beautify their storefronts, he said. We would look in to that to help businesses who are struggling.
Dafoe said the old bridge at the north end of town was impeding business creation and had to go.
Candidates were asked if they would purchase land for industrial development.
“I don’t think purchasing land is where out tax dollars should go,” said Dafoe. She suggested looking for other opportunities
Dalsin said he agreed. “It would be nice but I don’t think we can afford it,” he said. He said he would continue to support existing industry such as the landfill and the Maggie Mine project. He also suggested a dialogue with the owners of the empty lots downtown to get them back on the market.
Dubois suggested consulting with the public on it. Perhaps those businesses active in the community could be rewarded in some manner, while absentee landowners could face a penalty such as higher taxes.
“I’m not in favour of Village going into land businesses,” said Hofer.
Lambert suggested rezoning land ahead of time to have it ready for industry.
“I’m not at all in favour,” said Ranta. “We should continue to work on facilitating an atmosphere to attract business.”
Durnin said she wouldn’t take the idea off the table if it looked as though it would provide the Village with returns. “Maybe if it was to provide extra land for a housing development,” she said as an example.
Durnin said she would also revisit the transit system that Ashcroft operates and that Cache Creek was once a part of. She said the bus operation has changed and Area I is now a partner.
Ranta was asked about growth in Cache Creek during his time as mayor.
“In the time I’ve been mayor,” he said, “population has gone from 1,007 to 1,040” while the communities all around us have declined in population. He added that enrolment at the elementary school was also up this year over last year.
“Council policies have the desired effects of drawing people to Cache Creek,” he said.
Durnin told the audience that cutting back when the economy is sluggish is the wrong move. “We have to keep adding people,” she said. She said money for operations could proably be carefully expanded but the capital spending would have to be tightened.
Ranta said he could see the landfill continuing well into the future, and being a financial benefit to the town.
“We are doing the best as a Council that we can,” he said. “We’re in good shape.”