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Prince Rupert council candidates find some common ground during public forum

For the second time in two weeks, candidates running for Prince Rupert city council gathered to seek support from the public on Nov. 15.

For the second time in two weeks, candidates running for Prince Rupert city council gathered for a forum to outline their platform and seek support from the public on Nov. 15.

Anna Ashley, Barry Cunningham, Gina Garon, Nelson Kinney, Blair Mirau, Wade Niesh, Ray Pedersen, Gurvinder Randhawa and Joy Thorkelson spent an hour at the Lester Centre of the Arts fielding questions from forum organizers and a media panel on the evening of Nov. 4, but unlike the mayoral candidates there was no opportunity for rebuttal.

Following introductions, the first question hopeful councillors fielded related to the $258 million infrastructure deficit and how to fund needed improvements. For Randhawa, Niesh, Kinney and Cunningham, the answer was to pressure the upper levels of government for assistance as they need Prince Rupert to be a gateway for the country and the province, while Thorkelson, Garon and Mirau pointed to a need to grow the tax base and Pedersen and Ashley said the money needs to be found in the budget through a management plan.

On the question of balancing fiscal responsibility with maintaining services that contribute to the quality of life for residents, such as recreation and the library, Ashley, Mirau and Garon said more public input was needed to determine the community’s priorities, Cunningham and Randhawa said they would like to see new industry contribute to maintaining services and Kinney said the answer was to turn to the managers of the different services to come up with how they can maintain them within budget, while Pedersen, Thorkelson and Niesh said the answer lies in the budget process and balancing cuts with taxes.

The final question of the evening, relating to ensuring there is affordable housing, saw all candidates agreeing the city needed to increase pressure on the province and BC Housing to create more spaces, although Ashley and Garon pointed to the creation of a housing commission as part of the solution and Mirau and Niesh indicating tax incentives or breaks could help entice developers