Voters crowded into a meeting room at the Lions Hall to interview the three candidates who are competing for the job of representing them as their Area F director for the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK).
Tom Symington, Susan Clovechok and Dawn Chabot Attorp responded to the first few questions at the All-Candidates Forum by reading pages of their prepared remarks. They loosened up as the hour-and-a-half interview continued and as questions from the floor left them forming their responses on their feet.
On the issue of affordable housing, Mr. Symington raised the idea of co-op housing and said he would “certainly promote multi-family housing.”
Ms. Clovechok said she would like to see changes to the provincial residential tenancy act “so that there’s some attraction for people to rent out their property.”
Ms. Chabot Attorp said she was “surprised to find out that Area F has opted out of having secondary suites.” She supports rezoning, allowing secondary suites and looking into creative solutions.
All of the candidates valued consultation with First Nations.
Ms. Clovechok said: “We need to work harder and work together” and that “it’s very important that we consult the First Peoples.”
Ms. Chabot Attorp wants to see “a continuum of engagement… depending on the magnitude of the project” with increased opportunities for First Nations to be involved.
Mr. Symington said his experience in West Africa gave him a broader perspective on the long-lasting impacts of colonialism and informs his interest in making sure the Valley “is a good place for everyone.”
The candidates offered their perspectives on how to strike a balance between economic benefits and environmental protection when it comes to the area’s lakes andMs. Chabot Attorp said the area hasn’t been doing enough to keep this natural resource healthy. She criticized the RDEK decision to approve a 60-slip marina that “disregarded” the Lake Windermere Management Plan’s objective to have fewer
motorized boats moored on the lake.
Ms. Clovechok wants to see the area develop additional cultural and recreational activities that don’t depend on the lake and to continue promoting new and existing opportunities to enjoy the Valley without motorized boats. She also wants to see a carrying capacity study done to guide lake use.
Mr. Symington said he believes it’s possible to balance the conflicting desires to enjoy lakes and to protect them. He discussed following and updating the water management plans and holding “continuous and regular consultations with all of the stakeholders” to determine the best way forward.
The candidates also wanted to see more effort to ensure that public access points along the lake are available for use and not blocked by landowners’ structures. While they agreed that enforcement would be tricky – the RDEK and provincial responsibilities overlap – Ms. Clovechok and Ms. Chabot Attorp suggested enlisting a group like the Lake Windermere Ambassadors to meet with landowners who are encroaching on the public space.
Each candidate supports contributing financially to the Columbia Valley Centre in Invermere because it benefits residents in the broader community.
They all agreed that rural roads are a concern and that residents and the new director will need to lobby the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for improvements.
When asked which of their personal characteristics qualify them for the job, Ms. Clovechok led with: “I’m a hard worker. I’m a quick study. I listen to learn and I don’t make decisions without evidence.”
Ms. Chabot Attorp began her response by saying: “I’m very collaborative and I really appreciate the public approval processes and I commit to listen to the input.”
Mr. Symington said he enjoys teaching and learning. “I like challenges and I study hard and I think I’m also a good listener,” he said.
The last question of the night was about the candidates’ long-term vision for the area. They were asked: “Under your leadership, what will your community look like in 10 years?”
Mr. Symington answered first and said: “We all love the Valley.”
He wants to see a sustainable community, where the businesses are thriving and the hotels are full. He also foresees “that we’re planning for the future and not overdeveloping.”
Ms. Clovechok was up next. She said: “Our lake will be healthy, we’ll have transportation services throughout the Valley, we’ll be able to age in place and we’ll be safe.”
She also envisions exporting products created locally and having “a world-class standard of living.”
Ms. Chabot Attorp got the last word. She would like to see lake assessments completed and management strategies in place. She envisions businesses booming, progress made on affordable housing and welcoming both local First Nations to the RDEK board as members.
The next question is up to you. Who will you choose to be your new director?
(The candidates responded to additional questions and provided more-thorough answers than can be shared in this space. For more information on their stances on particular issues, voters can reach out to their candidates directly. Their phone numbers, provided on the resume brochures they provided for the audience, are: 778-523-2524 for Mr. Symington; 250-342-6545 for Ms. Chabot Attorp; and 250-270-9314 for Ms. Clovechok.)