Sparwood mayoral candidate Hungry Baytaluke (left) speaking at the Sparwood all-candidate forum on October 3, 2022. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Sparwood mayoral candidate Hungry Baytaluke (left) speaking at the Sparwood all-candidate forum on October 3, 2022. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Multi-Purpose facility dominates Sparwood forum

The facility kept cropping up throughout the event ahead of the October 15 election

It was a full spread of candidates at the Sparwood all-candidate forum on Monday October 3, with both mayoral candidates and all nine council candidates turning out to talk about their vision for what Sparwood is, and what it isn’t.

Throughout the nearly two-hour event which was attended by almost a hundred residents, the Multi-Purpose facility which is on the ballot at the election was mentioned through questions and answers to do with sporting engagement, taxes, livability, council processes and more, with some candidates laser-focused on the expense, and others holding it up as the key to Sparwood’s future as an attractive community that believed in itself.

Mayor David Wilks spoke about the process and how the district had come to where it was, with a conceptual Multi-Purpose facility on the table and a question to voters whether they’d be willing to allow up to $15 million in borrowing, stressing that it was up to the electorate to decide whether to go ahead with the borrowing.

His challenger, Hungry Baytaluke, questioned the engagement that lead to the designs, while among the councillor candidates, Ralph Lovatt brought up the money with every remark, saying that Sparwood was unable to afford maintaining such a facility given uncertain economic conditions, and positioned himself at the forum as the anti-Multi-Purpose facility candidate.

The incumbent councillors running for re-election for their part defended the process in their remarks, with councillor Jason Christensen saying that even approving the borrowing “is not an exclamation mark” on the project, and it could still not go ahead at the council’s discretion, while councillor Sonny Saad was the most vocally supportive of the project, saying it was a wonderful initiative for the community regardless of the cost.

Other items on the agenda at the forum included questions about transportation, affordable housing development, recycling options, internet connectivity and more.

Candidates themselves raised items such as healthcare and long-term care, while Teck didn’t get mentioned by name until well into the event, with council candidate Chris Nand saying that the company should take some responsibility when it comes to solving the housing issues in the community due to them bringing in so many workers from outside the area.

Mining was a part of the discussion even without the name drop, with economic diversity coming up as a challenge for a “one horse town” (said by Baytaluke) like Sparwood. Candidates thoughts on that front ranged from keeping taxes low so the community stayed nimble financially in case mining had a downturn or disappeared entirely, to bringing in more small businesses (a major point raised by incumbent councillor Amy Cardozo), to leaning into the amenities and tourism of the area.

The forum, which stayed polite and non-confrontational throughout with no candidates making use of a rebuttal, ended on a high note, with Lovatt piping up to snag the last word to laud the outgoing council’s efforts to secure Sparwood more comprehensive ambulance coverage, to applause from the audience.

Voters go to the polls on October 15 to decide on who will lead Sparwood up to 2026, and also do decide whether to allow the district to borrow up to $15 million to go forward with the Multi-Purpose facility, and whether to allow the district to borrow up to $3 million to redevelop Fire Hall #2.

READ MORE: Sparwood to get greater ambulance coverage
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