White Rock byelection forum attracts 200
The first and only opportunity for White Rock residents to hear from byelection candidates en masse made a big difference to at least one voter who turned out for the occasion.
It changed her vote.
“I’m very glad I came,” said Kristina Knowles. “I made up my mind.”
Knowles was among more than 200 people who filed into the gymnasium of White Rock Elementary Tuesday night for the all-candidates meeting, hosted by the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce and White Rock Business Improvement Association.
Eight of nine candidates vying for a single seat on council (left vacant by the June 26 death of longtime councillor Mary-Wade Anderson) attended, hoping to convince the crowd to put a check by their name on the ballot this Saturday.
Questions for the candidates, moderated by MC Gordon Hogg – MLA for Surrey-White Rock – ran a gamut, from how high development south of Thrift Avenue should go to whether user-fees should be implemented for garbage collection.
Attendees also asked Grant O’Kane, Bill Lawrence, Graham Wood, David Chesney, Scott Kristjanson, Megan Knight, Pat Petrala and Tom Willman – listed in the order they sat on-stage (Bruce McWilliam did not attend) – about pay parking, community service and the anticipated impact to White Rock if a proposed casino is built in neighbouring South Surrey.
Regarding the latter, O’Kane said there is “nothing good” about the plan; that it “will eliminate the family, community feel we have in White Rock.” Lawrence said it has advantages and disadvantages; elements of “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Wood expressed concerns about the societal problems associated with gambling, and the need for White Rock to have a voice in the decision.
Chesney said while he is “deadset” against a casino within White Rock’s borders, he is not concerned that a South Surrey facility will impact the seaside city. Kristjanson said he is adamantly opposed to casinos. Knight said she likes the idea of a decent hotel in the area, but described casinos as “a black hole.”
“They suck everything out of our community,” she said.
Petrala and Willman also expressed concern, Petrala noting it would “draw out the vulnerable from our community,” and Willman advising he has no say in the matter.
“It’s not my decision to make – it’s yours,” Willman said. “If you don’t want it, get into it.”
Asked what it would take to attract businesses to the uptown core along Johnston Road, candidate suggestions included better infrastructure (O'Kane); implementing ideas put forward by the economic development committee (Petrala); boosting the city's focus on the arts (Kristjanson); and offering tax incentives (Lawrence).
In discussing pay parking around Peace Arch Hospital, Lawrence said he is opposed to it; Willman said he wants to see visitors receive the first two hours free; Petrala noted the lot is a source of revenue for the ladies' auxiliary; O'Kane noted the importance of finding other sources of revenue; Kristjanson said he is against pay parking altogether; and Knight noted that there are a few free spots available already.
The high turnout Tuesday evening surprised organizers, who had initially not considered hosting an all-candidates meeting due to a perceived lack of interest that often surrounds byelections.
Following the meeting, candidates lingered to chat with attendees, who will have three options Saturday for where to cast their vote: the White Rock Community Centre (15154 Russell Ave.), the Kent Street Activity Centre (1475 Kent St.) and Centennial Arena, 14600 North Bluff Rd. Polls open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.