It was perhaps an unexpected ending to an all-candidates meeting, with Metchosin council hopefuls embracing in public displays of affection.
Mayoral and council candidates met a full-house of residents and a barrage of questions at the Metchosin Community Hall last Friday night.
All current council members are running again this election — councillors Jo Mitchell, Moralea Milne, Bob Gramigna, Larry Tremblay and Mayor John Ranns.
Former councillor Kyara Kahakauwila, former mayor Karen Watson and newcomers Terry Wilson and Dani Horgan are seeking a council seat. Former councillor Ed Cooper is challenging Ranns for the mayor’s seat.
When candidates were asked for their long-term vision of the community, Cooper responded with, “I’d like to see everyone in the community get along.”
With that, Ranns reached over and put his arm around his fellow aspirant. Hugging became infectious as Milne and Horgan embraced, and other candidates began to follow suit as the crowd erupted with laughter.
The opening statements of Ranns and Cooper were the most heated of what was still a rather mild meeting. Cooper argued that Metchosin is in financial trouble and read out details of staff salaries and vehicle maintenance reports.
When Ranns, seeking his sixth non-consecutive term as mayor, took his turn, he said, “I really like Ed, but he’s really not right about a lot of stuff.”
Ranns said the District is a provincial leader on running a small municipality and is in excellent financial health.
Audience questions mainly focused on two topics: the upcoming referendum question on detached secondary suites, and bylaw enforcement.
Watson, Tremblay, Wilson, Horgan and Cooper all said they would vote “yes” to allow detached suites. Kahakauwila was undecided, while Mitchell and Milne said they are opposed to detached suites.
Gramigna and Ranns stayed neutral and refused to disclose their votes.
“I see detached suites or second houses as a slippery slope to subdivisions,” Mitchell said.
“If there has to be 50 feet between the suite and the house, how could you subdivide that?” Tremblay responded.
“I maintain my neutrality. It isn’t for me to sway to the vote,” Gramigna said.
While Metchosin residents will be voting on whether or not to allow detached suites in the district, many of these suites already exist in Metchosin.
“We have detached suites here. A lot of young families live in them, a lot of our volunteers live in them,” said Kahakauwila, a former three-term councillor.
For candidates in favour of secondary suites, the consensus was the detached suites would be built primarily for family members, giving grown children the ability to stay within the district.
“This will make us stronger by keeping families together,” Wilson said.
Horgan admitted to living in her parents’ legal secondary suite. “I am a renter and can’t afford to live here. I would love to have my own (detached) suite.”
Residents voiced concern over if detached suites are OK’d in the district, people may start building additional suites illegally. “We would draft a a very tight bylaw,” Watson said.
“We need to make sure we hold tight and protect what we hold dear to ourselves,” Kahakauwila said.
Throughout the meeting residents, raised question about the District’s ability to enforce bylaws pertaining to secondary suites and other infractions.
Milne brought up the point that while the detached secondary suites are illegal, “you can’t just kick people out. Some people are barely above homelessness.”
Ranns explained mediation is best way to handle bylaw infractions, as opposed to going to court, which is costly for the District and taxpayers.
All candidates agreed the new council will need to look at the detached secondary suites, regardless of the referendum results. “We will have to look at how we address our illegal suites,” Ranns said.