Sparks flew between mayoral hopefuls at a View Royal all-candidates meeting Thursday evening.
Responding to a final question about connecting with young voters, mayor-candidate Andrew Britton, 45, took a jab at three-term mayor Graham Hill’s age, remarking, “Some of us are closer to 20 (years old) than others.”
Hill, 76, retorted by calling Britton inexperienced and said he’s shown little leadership on council. “I haven’t seen a lot out of councillor Britton,” the mayor responded.
The third candidate for mayor, Barb Fetherstonhaugh, kept out of fray, sticking to a message of increasing public engagement.
“Nobody has all the answers,” Fetherstonhaugh said. “We need to go out to the public and find out what people want.”
The mayor’s debate was the focus of the meeting at Shoreline school, with most audience questions directed at the three of them, rather than at the six council candidates vying for four seats.
Several audience members wanted to know if Britton, a full-time paramedic, could commit enough time to the role of mayor.
He said it wouldn’t be a problem: “I can switch my shifts … and our collective agreement allows us to take unpaid leave (for multi-day conferences),” he said. “I will be available to represent you seven days a week.”
Fetherstonhaugh noted she would work half-time at her business if elected. Hill, long retired, has been a full-time mayor sitting on several regional committees.
Responding to a question on what they thought would be the biggest challenge to the Town during the upcoming term, the three agreed it would be how to pay for major regional projects, including sewage treatment and rapid transit.
Hill said he’s consistently opposed the Capital Regional District’s sewage plan and that he also isn’t comfortable with the transit plan moving forward without a plan for how to pay for it. He said he’d continue to press for answers at regional meetings.
Britton said the projects are needed and the only way to pay for them is increasing the tax base with more small-scale commercial development, while Fetherstonhaugh pointed out that the town doesn’t have a business-friendly image and said that would be the first thing she’d work on.
Council hopefuls also shared their vision for View Royal. Vying for four seats are: incumbents Heidi Rast, John Rogers and David Screech, former-councillor Ron Mattson, and first-time candidates Frank Rudge and Brian Watters.
Rast, a one-term councillor, said she brings a different perspective to council as the only female and because of her background in biology and environmental issues. She also cited her near-perfect attendance record, having missed only one meeting in three years.
“My feet are now well grounded, and I know where I want to go,” she said, noting that she hopes to secure grants to celebrate the town’s 25th anniversary and that she would ask that full council agendas be available online.
John Rogers, who has been on council 15 years, said he’s proud of where View Royal is now, “We’ve become the gateway of the western communities,” he said.
David Screech, a nine-year councillor, also said his experience would be an asset. “The town needs a strong and experienced council to manage your tax dollars,” he said.
Ron Mattson was on council for 15 years, but took the last term off. He said he wants to return because View Royal has lost its sense of community.
“We need to adopt policies to increase community engagement,” he said, suggesting there could be more community events, such as garbage cleanup days.
To show he’s serious about saving taxpayer money, Mattson promised to donate 10 per cent of his council stipend back to the Town.
Conversely, Frank Rudge said some councillors have been at the table too long.
“It’s time for new eyes,” he said, adding that he would push to have a town centre developed in a shorter time-frame then stipulated in the official community plan and would support provincially-mandated amalgamation — something other candidates got spontaneous applause for speaking against.
Watters, the youngest of the council hopefuls, said he was ready to work hard for the town.
“I may not know everything right away, but I know how to find answers,” the 31-year-old said. “There’s a perception that once the mayor and council are elected, they do whatever they want. I would work hard to change that perception by really listening to people.”
The meeting was hosted by the West Shore Chamber of Commerce. A full video recording will be available at www.youtube.com/moderndemocracy.