The Slopeside Cafe at the Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) was full of people Thursday (Oct. 6) evening to meet and hear out the candidates for Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area A director.
The three candidates, Hungry Baytaluke, Thomas McDonald and Lee-Anne Walker, sat in front of a crowd of about 30 people for a forum discussion that mostly revolved around potential development at and adjacent to FAR and residents’ concerns that decision makers won’t live up to the ski hill’s official community plan (OCP) or adequately consider things like safety, traffic issues and secondary access.
Very broadly speaking, the candidates expressed sympathies with the concerns of the residents and asserted that development needs to be done responsibly.
There were several questions and comments brought up by attendees, including one person asking if any of the candidates had campaign financing by developers, builders or road builders.
Walker and Baytaluke both said no, while McDonald pointed to retiring Area A director Mike Sosnowski’s help with his campaign (he said they have different views on a lot of issues), including a donation, and added that the rest of his funding came from ‘various areas’.
Walker then clarified that she had a campaign donation from a property owner who runs a recycle paving program.
Another questioner said that he is looking for action and not talk from the director, and that he wants someone who can go to board meetings and represent the people and get the confidence of the other directors, push for the issues of safety and drive for the OCP to be binding.
McDonald then spoke of the importance of taking action and pointed to his attendance and participation in development-related meetings for the past year and his networking efforts, saying that will continue in the future.
Walker said she’s very interested in getting involved, and pointed to the many ‘action-oriented projects’ she has contributed to in the Elk Valley over the last 40 years. She spoke about relationship-building and coming to a place of values when dealing with divergent interests, adding that safety is a value that is not negotiable.
Baytaluke spoke about the importance of getting support from other directors, saying that without that it’s hard to push an issue, adding that all directors have their agenda.
After about 45 minutes of discussion on the issue of development, forum organizer and moderator Sue McCreary brought up the second topic of the evening about a bike pathway project from Fernie to the ski hill.
Walker said it was a very high priority for her to get the pathway completed from the provincial park to the ski hill, and spoke about finding partners to fund it and make it happen immediately.
McDonald also spoke about his passion for bike trails and said it would be a major priority for him.
The last topic of the night was about what funding is available to Area A.
Walker pointed to her experience with non-profit ventures and her experience with fundraising and working on grants.
McDonald spoke about RDEK Area A typically having surpluses and about prioritizing where the funds go. He also pointed to other potential funding sources and said you have to go out and ask and fight for it.
The forum portion of the evening concluded around 8:45 p.m. and residents had a chance to discuss the issues with the candidates directly.
The next Area A director will be decided at the general election on Oct. 15.