Meet the five candidates running for Ashcroft council

A by-election to elect a new councillor takes place on September 17; advance voting starts on September 7.

Five candidates are running in the by-election to serve as councillor for the Village of Ashcroft. The Journal asked all three candidates the following questions, and their answers are presented here.

1. How long have you lived here?

2. What is your occupation?

3. Have you done any volunteer work here? Which group(s)?

4. Have you served before on council? When and for how long?

5. Which issues are most important to you?

6. How would you address them?

7. Additional comments.

Advance voting for both the by-election and referendum takes place at the Ashcroft Community Hall (409 Bancroft Street) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 7 and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, September 13 to Thursday, September 15. General Voting Day is Saturday, September 17 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the community hall.

SHEILA CORNEILLIE

1) Longtime resident of Ashcroft. I have seen many changes over the years.

2) Twenty-three years in banking in our community, and another 14 years in health care, give me some knowledge and experience to prepare me for this work.

3) I have served in the community in a variety of organizations throughout the years while working downtown: chamber of commerce, charter member of Rotary, figure skating, Queens Committee, rodeo parade, daycare society, recreation committee of the village.

4) No.

5 and 6) Much of my family lives here, ranging from unborn to 80+, and I will work for a community that supports all age groups. I chose to retire in Ashcroft, and am concerned about the number of people moving away, many looking for services, especially as they age. We need all ages in our community to make it sustainable.

I support the plans the council is currently working on to assess what the people of the community desire for housing, and hope that this will lead to a comprehensive plan for the future of housing development in our community, including more dense housing for people aging in their homes who want to downsize to smaller single-storey homes, freeing up larger homes for families who I would encourage to stay here and raise their children and fill our schools. Look for ways to have the Tingley Street apartment building become a viable development for renters. Attract developers to create the types of homes we are looking for.

Health care services need to be consistent and sustainable in order to gain the trust of the people living here. I am currently working with a committee to work on a recruitment and retention strategy to our health care centre to ensure we have enough nurses, lab and x-ray technicians, and staffing in residential care. If elected I would continue to work towards an improved emergency service here with the help of mayor and council.

Our downtown core needs our support. I hope to work towards reviving the chamber of commerce to help revitalize the downtown, with business owners working together with the village to set some direction and get some support.

Economic development: this is a competitive market. We need to find ways to attract the right kind of business or industry to support our tax base, and other businesses in the community. To create jobs, we need an open and inviting council and administration. I hope to inspire new thinking in ways to be competitive.

7) I would like to foster ways for small neighbouring communities to work more closely together. Many services in Ashcroft are used by our surrounding neighbours, and there should be opportunities to work together, either by sharing resources, ideas, or funding to create a healthy friendly catchment area.

DONALD CRAM

1) When we first came to Ashcroft in 1989, I secured employment as a high school math/science teacher. In 1993 we moved to the Peace River area with our three sons, who still reside there. We happily returned to Ashcroft in 2015. All three of our sons have visited us in 2016, and feel the climate here is the best for our health!

2) For the last 10 years, I have done pipefitting, carpentry, and maintained a small farm. Presently I drive Yellow Taxi for the area, and work with my wife renovating and landscaping our property. Learning new skills and solving new problems still excites me.

3) By picking up litter to clean and beautify Ashcroft, I can support Communities in Bloom directions. Come fall I hope to volunteer for hockey, and help encourage pickleball and badminton. If enough people are interested, broomball looks like a great participant sport.

4) Up to this point I have not yet been involved in political service, but I am keen to serve the community as a councillor.

5) My most immediate issue would be to increase the number of proposals to three for a water treatment plant. Our water infrastructure should be addressed before building the water treatment plant; much of the piping in town should be replaced. Example: chlorinated water is leaking into the river at 15 gallons per minute at one location under the bridge. We have the time to brainstorm and research other water treatment options.

Work efficiently to develop a new subdivision to meet the shortage of building lots and encourage the development of the Tingley Street apartments to meet rental needs.

Give a friendly Ashcroft welcome to all new residents and businesses, and brainstorm the removal of CNR’s loud whistles/horns.

6) Sociocratic decision making is, I believe, the best way to promote public interest in government. If the village council concentrates on serving public interests, we will be able to research Ashcroft’s best changes. We need to listen to others and encourage them to be the changes that they want to see happen.

7) Any issues that the public wants, I feel would best be handled in a sociocratic manner, where research/discussion groups would give council feedback on how to handle various concerns. My hope is to encourage this method of public involvement in order to witness Ashcroft’s best changes being implemented.

Please wave me down to share your ideas, and, when I am elected, I will encourage you to present your ideas and research to village council. Help me serve you! Do what is true, right, and fair! E-mail me at tweentheposts@gmail.com; website ashcroftbestchanges.com.

DAVID DURKSEN

1. Nine years

2. Retired/coffee roaster/community volunteer

3. Friends of the Opera House, Wellness and Health Action Coalition, chamber of commerce Santa Parade, St. Alban’s Church.

4. No.

5. The perception of the unfairness in the water treatment process.

The frustration with upper levels of government forcing new taxation on small communities.

The perception that the village does not have a vision or plan.

The democratic deficit has grown as governments have grown larger and less responsive.

6. Local government is to be the foundation of society and serve as the political forum through which citizens, families, and business owners express their collective vision.

7. Community is what we build together and leave as a legacy for the future. For our community to work, the whole team must be active. The team is made up of elected council, village staff, and residents and businesses. Each member of the team has unique and special roles to play.

It is my commitment to bring action steps to the village’s strategic plan and economic development strategy. The framework is in place; it is now time for all the members of the team to begin working together.

HELEN KORMENDY

1) Twenty years.

2) Community Services Manager, Province of B.C.

3) I have been on every committee within the Village of Ashcroft, including economic development, finance, heritage, Canada Day, Northern Development Initiative Trust, transit, and Bifuka. I am also a founding member of the Ashcroft and District Tennis Association.

4) Yes, from 2005–2014.

5) Leadership and Communication; Economic Development; Accountability.

6) Leadership and Communication:  When I was on council we implemented the village newsletter that is distributed to all post office boxes, to ensure the citizens of Ashcroft have updates on what is happening in council. We also had forums to discuss various issues so that we hear from citizens.

Even though these forums for communication continue to this day, we are going to referendum on the water treatment plant. From my perspective, council should have provided more comprehensive information at a much earlier stage to ensure citizen engagement.

It takes time to process information, as this issue has both technical and financial complexities. Clarity needed to be achieved earlier in the process and before we moved on to the next stage. Perhaps if this had happened we would not have had to go to a costly referendum on September 17. Citizen engagement is essential to any decisions made by council, and there are processes to support change. The issue we are currently working with involves millions of dollar, and this decision is heightened for citizens because it is perhaps the first time since the 1970s that we are making a decision about such huge long-term debt.

Economic Development: Our current tax base is primarily residential, and our taxes have gone up year after year. Having strong, prosperous businesses is essential to the sustainability of our village. We need to be open for business and have a strong connection to both provincial and federal governments, thereby taking advantage of existing cost-reducing initiatives and grants.

We also need to continue looking at increased housing and infrastructure for new residents.

Accountability: I will be effective as your councillor. I will perform at my full potential, providing value for your trust. I want to instil confidence that your council is responsive to the needs of Ashcroft ethically and financially.

7) Local government is the closest to the people, and supports our community to move forward with collective intention. Ashcroft is where we live and Ashcroft lives in each one of us.

CHRISTOPHER RODEN

1) Nineteen years.

2) Publisher and editor; circulation manager for The Ashcroft Journal.

3) Yes, a modest amount with Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society.

4) I have not served on council before, but I did serve for six years as school trustee for the Village of Ashcroft (2008–2014).

5)  a: Creating and spreading awareness that Ashcroft is “open for business”.

b: Economic development, whether that be via new business or via tourism opportunities.

c) Financial stability, and ensuring that village expenditures continue to be respectful of the taxpayers of our community.

d) Seeing the village move along with the Asset Management Plan, to ensure that we have a comprehensive picture of the state of our infrastructure and future needs.

e) Transparency and communication.

f) Health and wellness.

6) a: By taking every opportunity to have the “Ashcroft” name and brand at the forefront at all times. Particularly, while it is not within the influence of council, I would support and encourage the revival of the currently defunct chamber of commerce.

By encouraging the development of new housing opportunities (i.e. the development of the Mesa lands), and particularly diverse types of housing. I’d also encourage discussion on what can be done to see occupation of the available rental housing that has sat empty for far too long. And, for those businesses already established here, I advocate a “shop at home” policy wherever possible.

b) By encouraging exploration of new ideas. For example, the success of Fort Berens Winery at Lillooet is impressive. I’d like to see a discussion with them, and with viticulturalists from the Okanagan, to explore the feasibility of this area as a wine-producing district. I’d also like to encourage the idea of an evening farmers’ market, as a way of bringing business to our village.

c) Ensuring that the excellent financial management which the village currently has is ongoing.

d) Asset management is critical to future planning and taxation policy. I would do everything that I could to ensure I made myself fully informed about the process and the progress being made.

e) Ensuring that I make myself available to address and answer questions or concerns residents bring to my notice.

f) To a large extent, council is limited in what it can do regarding health care. However, I would ensure that advocacy for more health care services at our hospital continues.

7) Ashcroft is a wonderful place to live. I want to do everything I can to see that fact more widely appreciated. And I want to see a change to the all-too-prevalent negativity that I have seen and heard expressed in recent months.

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