There was a full house at the Sparwood Recreation Centre on October 21 for the Sparwood all-candidates forum.
Thirteen councillor and four mayoral candidates were each questioned in an open-mic format by the locals in attendance.
The candidates discussed a requirement or by-law that would dictate employees in senior management positions to live in Sparwood.
Simon Senycz, a former councillor who held a position on council in the 80s, argued, “We have a responsibility to citizens who work here to live here and I know there are issues with human rights and all that but it’s important we make a condition.”
Lois Halko, who is stepping down this year from mayor to run for council, explained, “This is a subject that raises a lot of emotion in the community when employees at any level are hired. What we have learned from that experience is because of human rights, it’s very sound and very definite that we cannot mandate where people live. If we could, we would impose our physicians to live here.”
Saad, however, agreed with Senycz. “I agree that people in any position in Sparwood should live in Sparwood. We need them here to perform their jobs better,” said Saad. “I know we can’t force it, but we can sure make it difficult. Some of the people who don’t live here, don’t spend a dime here. They take a hundred thousand something dollars out of this community. Somehow, we have to do something.”
Another issue brought up by residents was the wildlife problem in Sparwood. The issue has resulted in six bears being destroyed this year due to the dangers of human/wildlife conflict.
“It’s prevention more than anything,” said Bobbie Saga, who is running for councillor for the first time. “There are Bear Aware programs that can be done, bear bins for garbage, planting things in gardens that don’t attract wildlife. Most importantly, educating our community on how to deal with the problem.”
Another issue that was addressed was the highway construction in Sparwood.
Mayoral candidates — Hungry Baytaluke, Bev Bellina, Cal McDougall and Joanne Wilton — fielded further questions regarding the heavy construction located at the intersection of Highway 3 and 43.
“I need to reassure you that the development is a go,” said Wilton. “They’ve invested a lot of money into this land. We’ve been reassured that in the spring, building will commence,” she said.
Baytaluke, however, asserted that there are allegedly no set build or completion dates on the documents for the sale of the land.
Each party was “happy”, according to Baytaluke, to not have a build date on the documents when selling the land.
The candidates also discussed the issue of how to bring more people, particularly young families, into the district.
“We here in Sparwood are living in the shadow of world-class facilities in Fernie,” said McDougall. “But what I think we have is ourselves. It’s the people of Sparwood and the friendly community that makes this place what it is. I think if we can get back to basics, build some ice arenas outside and make it easier for young couples and employees to move to Sparwood, we need to make Sparwood a destination for living.”
“I think we have to be more positive as a community,” agreed Wilton. “I think we have fantastic outdoor recreational opportunities. We have fly-fishing, we’ve just added a Frisbee golf course, the bike park has been added and we have beautiful trails.”
Mayoral candidates also identified issues that were most important to them.