Lake Country residents will be asking themselves whether it’s time for change or not, when they head to the polls this weekend in the B.C. municipal election, with choices on the ballot for mayor and council and only one ward council seat being filled by acclamation.
Incumbent mayor James Baker is being challenged for the second straight election by realtor Jayson McCarthy while newcomer Matt Vader is the only council candidate who isn’t in a race for his seat as the lone person to come forward in Carr’s Landing to replace Barbara Leamont.
“More of the same old rhetoric is not what we need,” said Vader, who took part in an all-candidate’s forum in Winfield, despite already winning the seat. “We need a council that can set policy and not only stick to the plan but provide tenacious oversight to make sure the plan and vision is followed.”
The election campaign in Lake Country has featured two candidate’s forums where the biggest issue raised was the restructuring that took place at Lake Country municipal hall as former administrator and council candidate Randy Rose has been able to push the issue to the fore-front, both in Oyama and in Winfield. Other issues raised by residents included the future of Pelmewash Parkway, infrastructure, development and future growth of the district as well as balancing that growth with the area’s small town history.
In the mayor’s race Baker is running after three straight terms as the head of the council. A former councillor and retired professor, Baker says despite issues raised in the candidate’s forums, the changes at municipal hall were necessary to position the municipality well for the future.
“It was something that needed doing,” said Baker. “We’re in good shape. It cost money to reorganize but we save money in the long term. We were top heavy and now we’re not. We have less administrative costs and we’re finding ways to get the work done with fewer people.”
Baker denied it’s time for change in Lake Country and said there is much work to be done to continue Lake Country’s growth.
“If things aren’t broken why fix them,” he said. “I think we’ve done well as a small community. The council has worked on things that provide more services and make things safer as you can see from our roads projects like Bottom Wood Lake Road. We’re working on getting our infrastructure upgraded and those things are done by going after senior government grants.”
A former two-term councillor (199-2005), McCarthy is running for the mayor’s chair for the second straight election. This time however, there are just two candidates for mayor in Lake Country, as opposed to three years ago when Baker, McCarthy and two other candidates all ran, with Baker coming out on top.
McCarthy says it’s his philosophy that turn-over in local government is a good thing. He says he didn’t run again for council after two terms for that reason, stepping back to let other people come forward. This year he said he decided to run for mayor again to give a fresh perspective.
“I think when you have been in the same role for an extended period of time you start taking certain things for granted,” said McCarthy. “With new energy and new perspective comes a new way to look at critical issues.”
Born and raised in Lake Country and with a background in several small and large businesses over the years, McCarthy has temporarily re-located to Kelowna to care for a family member. He called himself a Lake Country guy and says he will return to Lake Country as soon as his family matters can be dealt with. In terms of the restructure, he said the moves have had a big impact on the parks and recreation department and that is something he is not in favour of.
“I have significant concern about the decision of the district to dramatically move away from parks and recreation as a priority and there are a lot of people in the community that are really disappointed,” he said. “They didn’t consult with the community in any of those decisions. I would lead council to talk about understanding the balance between an investment in parks and recreation in conjunction with the other infrastructure issues.”