The all candidates forum held last week in Burns Lake was an interesting night for sure.
Although some of the candidates were nervous (and I don’t blame them; public speaking is not for everyone), they did a great job getting their points across.
Not surprisingly, one of the main topics that night was timber supply.
As Lakes District News has been repeatedly reporting, the annual allowable cut of Burns Lake’s community forests will be significantly reduced after 2020. Although nobody knows for sure what will happen to our local mills, a loss in economic activity is expected.
Candidates were specifically asked what they would do to address that issue and how they would help our community survive and thrive.
Some candidates seemed surprised with that question. Considering the importance of this issue to our community, I think this question should’ve been expected and they should’ve been prepared with a reassuring answer.
Michael Riis-Christianson demonstrated a deeper knowledge of that issue. He seems to have impressed the public with his understanding of what is happening and what needs to be done, mentioning that the community should “reinvent” itself.
Councillor candidate Craig Haizimsque mentioned that diversification is important and suggested that Aboriginal tourism would be one way to diversify the economy. He even suggested placing a zip line in the area known as the “gully” (is it just me or is that a super fun idea?).
Councillor candidate Greg Brown said he would like to be a part of the task force that is currently being created in Burns Lake to diversify the local economy.
Mayoral candidate Chris Beach was able to point out what council has done so far in that regard and mentioned that partnerships are important to address the issue, but didn’t present any specific plan.
Mayoral candidate Jim McBride also wasn’t able to present the public with a plan to address the issue.
Another topic that the community was concerned was a possible conflict of interest on council – being that Beach is married to the village’s director of recreation. Moderator Pat Dube said he received so many questions on that topic that he had to combine them into one question.
Beach also had to answer questions about his business, volunteering efforts and council conflicts. Even though he received the toughest questions that night, he did a good job answering them and remained calm throughout the forum.
McBride also received a tough question, asking how he would avoid micro-managing the fire department, given that he was the fire chief for many years.
Although the questions were written down by community members before the start of the forum, the public also had a chance to raise their hands and ask questions at the end of the event.
The community asked really good questions, mentioning the need for a homeless shelter for men, support for the Burns Lake Community Garden and the need to attract more doctors to Burns Lake.
I can’t speak for everyone else, but I left with a good sense of what each candidate stands for.