Candidates running for district council in Lake Country faced questions from the public on Monday night at the Creekside Theatre at George Elliot School, being quizzed on a number of topics, ranging from how to balance the community’s rural nature with expanding business and growth, to tourism and the now well-known municipal restructuring plan.
Every candidate for election was in attendance, save for at-large candidate Bill Scarrow who had a family commitment, while close to 130 Lake Country residents packed into the theatre to hear from the candidates.
Questions were submitted to the Lake Country Chamber in advance of the forum and asked through a moderator while each candidate was given the floor with an opening and closing statement.
The race for mayor features incumbent James Baker versus businessman Jayson McCarthy, who is running for a second straight election against Baker, who said the district has gained more control over its growth since incorporation.
“I always though we had to retain our rural atmosphere and that was one of the reasons I pushed for incorporation…so that we could get control of the planning,” said Baker. “The regional district was doing the planning so things could happen here we didn’t have control of. Since incorporation we’ve tried to retain that dual atmosphere (balancing rural and growth)and I think we’ve succeeded.”
McCarthy, who was one of three residents to run against Baker in the last election, continued to preach about a needed change in Lake Country as the community grows.
“The mayor is the most important economic development officer,” he said. “Our retail sector is going to continue to grow with increased population. We need a new strategy to diversify the tax base.”
In the race for the ward elections—Lake Country is the only community in BC to use the ward system where residents vote for specific candidates in the areas of Okanagan Centre, Carr’s Landing, Winfield and Oyama—candidates also fielded questions through the chamber moderator.
In Okangan Centre incumbent Lisa Cameron is running against Blair Ireland while in Winfield incumbent Rob Geier is up against former Lake Country administrator Randy Rose.
Oyama incumbent Owen Dickie is being challenged by newcomer Keli Westgate while Matt Vader has been acclaimed in Carr’s Landing as the only person to put his name forward.
“More of the same old rhetoric is not what we need,” said Vader. “We deserve a council that can set policy, abide by it, have a plan and stick to it. Council needs to provide tenacious oversight to make sure the plan and vision is followed.”
There are five candidates running for two councillor-at-large positions including incumbent Penny Gambell and candidates Richard Issler, Don Rae, Arlene Brenner and Scarrow.