The nine candidates vying for a single Langley City council seat met Monday in their only public debate before this Saturday’s vote.
Held at the Langley Seniors Resource Centre, the debate was focused on a few areas – homelessness, crime, city infrastructure, and seniors issues.
The candidates gave brief introductory speeches and then fielded questions from the crowd, which included a number of their potential future colleagues on City council.
Rae Maj talked about her own senior parents and how some people don’t feel safe in Langley City’s downtown at night.
Sharon Newbery mentioned the issue of access for seniors, particularly those with mobility issues.
“People should not have to navigate around poles in the middle of the sidewalk,” Newbery said.
“I’m not a good speaker, but I’m a good doer,” said Serena Oh. The former Township mayoral candidate said she wanted to end “rental abuse” against seniors.
Former Township councillors Carol Gran and Mel Kositsky were both asked if they still supported amalgamating the Township and City
“I think that ship has sailed a long time ago,” Gran said.
Kositsky said that he never supported amalgamation, and that he has fought against forced civic amalgamations, saying that in other parts of the country they have never worked out well.
On the use of casino funds, all the candidates said it should not be used for day-to-day City expenses.
It doesn’t make sense to get dependent on the money, in case it dries up, said Shelley Coburn.
Nathan Pachal noted that along with infrastructure projects, the money is used for vital community grants.
Sharon Newbery noted that if casino revenues dropped, it would mean a tax hike to deal with the shortfall.
A question on seniors and parks brought out a number of ideas.
George Roman noted that there are not enough seniors on Langley City’s volunteer committees.
Kiernan Hillan said that when he was a manager with the City of Richmond, he was on the Slips, Trips, and Falls committee. It’s the little things that need to be improved in infrastructure, Hillan noted.
Kositsky talked about adding more benches to parks, while Pachal had specific concerns about the size of park paths and lighting, and suggested adding interpretative programs to bring more people into the parks.
A number of questions touched on homelessness. Gran said her experience as a Kelowna councillor showed that government-managed housing could help get people off the streets.
“I wouldn’t be the least bit concerned to have one right next door to me,” Gran said. She said once you give residents a place to stay and bathe and help with food and medication, they come out looking like everyone else.
Coburn said it is a complicated issue.
“There’s a lot of people who are homeless because that’s what they want,” she said.
Oh proposed renting properties to use as shelters until long term solutions could be found.
Voting for the single seat, opened when the late Coun. Dave Hall stepped down last year, will be Saturday, Feb. 27, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Douglas Rec Centre.