Kamloops election candidates talked crime, affordable housing at Seniors' Election Forum

Candidates talk crime

An election forum held in downtown Kamloops saw mayor and councillor hopefuls answering questions about crime and housing affordability — what many candidates have reported as being the top concerns raised by residents during this election season.

The Downtown Kamloops Seniors’ Election Forum took place from 12 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. and was attended by four of the five mayor candidates — Arjun Singh, Dieter Dudy, Reid Hamer-Jackson and Sadie Hunter.

Twenty of the 23 councillor candidates attended, including Taj Sandur, George Dersch, Bonnie Cleland, Darpan Sharma, Mac Gordon, Caroline King, Margot Middleton, Dale Bass, Bill Sarai, Katie Neustaeter, Randy Sunderman, Dennis Giesbrecht, Mike O’Reilly, Kelly Hall, Jordan Proctor, Daphne Nelson, Stephen Karpuk, Jesse Ritcey, Darrell LaRiviere and Nancy Bepple — who organized the forum, as she has for previous elections.

After each candidate provided an introduction, a number of audience-submitted questions were posed to candidates, with each candidate having two opportunities to provide a brief response to any question.

The first question asked candidates to identify which solutions they would advocate for in order to address resident concerns around personal safety, property crime and vandalism.

Councillor candidate Taj Sandur said he’s had his own truck broken into multiple times with no police response, and suggested a multi-tiered approach starting with “getting boots on the ground.”

“Whether it's the CSO bylaws or RCMP, we need to recruit people so we have a response and a presence in the streets,” Sandur said, adding other measures should be implemented ensuring those with mental health challenges are well cared for.

Kelly Hall, another councillor candidate, agreed with Sandur, and said he would advocate for a way to handle prolific offenders like ending so-called catch and release, giving police “the tools to do the job.”

Councillor candidate Darpan Sharma said if elected, he would be strongly lobbying the government for six months on social issues, and said he would begin declaring certain properties as nuisance properties.

“We’re going to start giving them fines. …We’re going to start declining the permits for temporary housing and all other legal options like other cities, like Parksville, like Quesnel, like Penticton,” Sharma said, adding he felt the current council had “failed miserably” at addressing social issues.

Coun. Bill Sarai, who is running for re-election, spoke up to address what he called “misinformation” about the current council.

“We talk about Penticton solving it, Parksville solving it. Newsflash, I sit on that board, I was just at UBCM [the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention], they're having the same issues, if not worse than we are. They're asking for the same detox recovery beds that we are, they're asking for the same RCMP officers that we are,” Sarai said, noting the current council has voted to increase the city budget for more police officers.

“Our provincial government is struggling to answer every municipalities’ needs. We as council will keep asking, and we'll keep advocating for that.”

Mayoral candidate Reid Hamer-Jackson said he would continue calling for a third-party independent review of “drug houses,” adding that people with lived experience need to run shelters, not college students.

Mayoral candidates Arjun Singh and Dieter Dudy noted the complexity of the issue.

Singh said he would advocate for 24/7 street outreach, work with other levels of government to ensure prolific offenders are put in mandated care or in custody, and would work to ensure housing sites won’t have a negative impact on the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Dudy said he would be “a thorn in the side” of provincial and federal governments, and said it’s time the city started calling on a daily basis and demanding action with respect to the problem.

Candidates were asked what the city can do to increase the amount of available, affordable housing.

Councillor candidate Nancy Bepple said city council can have a “huge effect” on how expensive housing is, pointing to Edmonton as a model.

“The city has made changes in terms of the way they do zoning, in terms of the way they do development permits, in terms of the parking requirements,” Bepple said, adding she would advocate for bringing such policies that work in other cities to Kamloops.

Katie Neustaeter, also running for council, said she wants to see the city cut red tape and create “common sense changes” to how they approach the matter.

“We need to be talking and consulting to the neighbourhoods we're building in, radical change that changes the community is not going to be effective. We need to make sure that we have the infrastructure that's supporting it,” Neustaeter said.

Councillor candidate Darrell LaRiviere mentioned his idea to create a Kamloops Housing Company “to build, buy and maintain affordable housing for city residents who cannot afford to buy at current rates,” while candidate Daphane Nelson championed co-op housing developments.

Coun. Dale Bass, who is running for re-election, mentioned working with developers to build at a lower cost by using new types of construction materials or by reducing parking space requirements for certain types of housing.

Councillor candidate Randy Sunderman said the city needed to adopt performance metrics that demonstrate how they are achieving their goals, including how much of various types of housing are being built each year.

Mayoral candidate Sadie Hunter said her ideas include pre-zoning certain areas and creating a library of pre-approved development plans which would help developers skip some lengthy steps to getting building projects approved.

There are three more forums residents can attend in order to meet and listen to candidates discuss their platforms. More information about these forums can be found here.

Visit Castanet's Kamloops Votes page to find profiles for City of Kamloops mayoral and councillor candidates along with links to candidates' websites and social media accounts if available.

The local general election will be held on Oct. 15.

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