The WestShore Chamber of Commerce hosted an all-candidates forum for Langford’s candidates for mayor and council on Sept. 28.
All candidates answered three core questions on sustainable development in the city, how to attract more family doctors and balancing the need to maintain services while keeping taxes low.
Here’s what was said.
Mayoral candidate Scott Goodmanson emphasized consulting the public during his opening statement and the majority of his responses, particularly surrounding development.
“The public has grown increasingly tired of being put down, shouted over, mocked and made to feel like their concerns, their voice, no longer matter,” said Goodmanson. “We need to build community, not just houses.”
He suggested building office space specifically for doctors to help them establish new clinics as well as giving physicians rent subsidies and said he’d look to cut wasteful spending on things like repeatedly redoing infrastructure projects to keep taxes low.
Incumbent Mayor Stew Young said Langford needs to continue to roll out the red carpet for business.
“I think it’s important we make sure our community is always open for business, that’s what’s going to help our community grow and prosper,” said Young.
The candidates had contrasting views on development.
Young said slowing down development would hurt the city’s revenue streams and mean higher taxes, adding that with the economy in flux slowing down could mean jobs leaving Langford.
Langford Now slate candidate Colby Harder has worked for the Capital Regional District on planning school transportation. She wants more greenspace, transit and collaboration with other municipalities to create doctor subsidies. She also called out the current city council for unwise spending, with tax increases over the next five years set to be greater than five per cent.
Community First slate candidate Shannon Russell Willing previously worked as an advisor in Premier John Horgan’s office and emphasized densification during her responses, saying that building mixed commercial and residential will help grow Langford’s sense of community and lower taxes by attracting investment. She said the new post-secondary campus should help attract students interested in the medical field.
Community First slate candidate and incumbent Coun. Lanny Seaton also extolled the virtue of developing the downtown core, saying it will keep development sustainable, attract young doctors to raise their families in Langford and mean businesses in town will help fund public services.
Incumbent Coun. Lillian Szpak said the city has failed to follow urban planner Avi Friedman’s vision, calling for a 30-year strategic plan and the return of the committee of the whole. Szpak said the city should work on zoning more space for doctors’ clinics and focus on paying for the amenities residents want.
Community First candidate and incumbent Coun. Roger Wade said Langford supports the housing needs of the whole region, not just current residents, and protects greenspace through its development permit process. He wants to work with the province to prevent doctor burnout and said the city should keep close ties with the development community to fund infrastructure and keep taxes low.
Langford Now candidate Mary Wagner is a biology instructor at the University of Victoria and said the pace of development is hurting the environment and current residents. She’d advocate for the province to up doctors’ visit fees and for a strategic review of the city’s finances.
Langford Now candidate Keith Yacucha is an economics professor at Camosun College. He said he would establish volunteer design panels for residents to discuss development issues, require developers to include space for clinics and would cut back city spending on ad hoc projects, like the moving of the hydro pole near Starlight Stadium, which he considers wasteful spending.
Community First candidate Shirley Ackland, formerly a councillor and mayor in Port McNeill, said developing the urban core and the new post-secondary campus would be a key support for growth in Langford. She wants the city to implement teaching clinics for medical students and stay the course when it comes to the city’s policy on taxes and infrastructure.
Incumbent Coun. Denise Blackwell said building up is needed but that has to come with greenspace, and that the city should lobby the province to allow foreign-trained doctors to work in Canada and for clinic-based doctors to earn the same as hospital-based physicians. She added taxes have been kept artificially low and that the city should ask residents what amenities they most want.
Langford Now candidate Kimberly Guiry said the city should build more energy-efficient buildings and focus on building whole neighbourhoods with amenities. Having housing available for doctors could help combat the shortage and Guiry said council should meet with neighbourhood associations to discuss what residents want for amenities.
Independent candidate Wendy Hobbs, who has been a school trustee for more than two decades, said the city should review its official community plan and look at building a community centre to provide space for doctors, as well as mental health clinics and daycare space. Hobbs added that the city needs a more robust budget process with more consultation.
Langford Now candidate Mark Morley said Langford needs to pace development to allow time for infrastructure to catch up. Morley said the city should look at student loan subsidies and office spaces for doctors and review the city’s budget to cut wasteful spending.
Community First candidate Matt Sahlstrom said densifying the downtown core would help combat urban sprawl, and could allow for free clinic space in towers funded by developers. Sahlstrom said continuing to work with developers would help “pay for the gravy,” like recreation spaces.
Community First candidate and incumbent Coun. Norma Stewart said council should review its official community plan as needed, ensure there’s attainable housing, support local medical students with bursaries and focus on infrastructure improvements.