An all-candidates meeting saw 17 of the 20 councillor hopefuls speak about Delta issues on Wednesday, Oct. 17. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Delta council candidates discuss housing caps at Tsawwassen debate

The only meeting to feature just councillor hopefuls saw 17 of 20 candidates discussing Delta issues

The first, and only, all-candidates meeting devoted to councillor hopefuls may have taken place in Tsawwassen, but many candidates took the opportunity to discuss their views on some North Delta issues.

The meeting, which took place at the Tsawwassen Arts Centre on Wednesday, Oct. 17, saw 17 of the 20 council candidates answer questions from the Sidekick Players Club and the audience.

(Achieving for Delta candidates Dan Copeland, Cal Traversy and Alicia Guichon were not present. Fellow slate member Lois Jackson said Guichon was away because her grandfather had passed away the day before.)

The question all candidates got a chance to answer was asked from a South Delta point of view: many good homes in Tsawwassen have been torn down and replaced with large homes, in the process taking down existing trees which has caused problems with underground infrastructure. What would you do to ensure this practice is stopped?

Current mayor Lois Jackson (Achieving for Delta) talked about the importance of maintaining large trees on properties, as did Joan Hansen (Team Delta). However, Hansen kicked off the discussion about needing more housing choices in the community, saying that there needed to be more affordable options.

Dylan Kruger (Achieving for Delta), Lori Mayhew, Kale Khilvinder Hale, Simran Walia (Team Delta), Chen Du and Robert Campbell (Team Delta) all talked about needing to bring in more affordable development to the city, including thinking of more creative housing options like the North Delta family who are building four homes on one lot to help the adult children remain in the community.

However, Campbell said, ““we need to find the balance between private property rights and what the community needs.”

Kim Kendall (Team Delta) and Darcy Green both took the opportunity to bring up previous campaign commitments. Kendall talked about the housing summit proposed by mayoral candidate Sylvia Bishop and the Team Delta slate; Green talked about his promise to create neighbourhood-specific area plans.

The topic of area plans was touched on by many other candidates, specifically in regards to the North Delta housing cap.

RELATED: Delta zoning bylaw could see changes following council discussion

Independents Working for You candidates Garry Shearer, Sandeep Pandher and Bruce McDonald all seemed to agree that the housing cap should be removed, or at least made the same between North and South Delta.

Bruce McDonald (Independents Working for You), speaking from his experience on council, said once you put a housing cap on an area, the cap becomes the minimum.

“Why would they build something smaller?” he said.

Fellow Independents Working for You candidate Jeannie Kanakos didn’t seem to take a stance on the cap, saying the allowed house sizes in residential zones are larger than they were in the past, and that many residents would be looking at suites and larger homes.

Param Grewal (Achieving for Delta) also spoke about the housing cap, saying it was a “matter of fairness” for the three communities in Delta. He said there needs to be creativity in housing, not just a blanket rule. Mike Smith agreed, saying one rule won’t fix it all.

Later on in the evening, the issue of housing was brought up again, specifically in regards to local area plans. Many agreed, as Pandher said, that area plans are a “golden standard we should be abiding to” and most of those plans needed to be updated.

Two yes-or-no questions were asked of the candidates. The first was whether they thought industrial greenhouses should be allowed on the ALR. Everyone answered no, though Kanakos said there was more to the issue. The second was whether hospital parking should be free — a unanimous yes.

Although the audience was asked to refrain from booing, heckling or throwing things, quite a few audience members called out their opinions throughout the meeting. Jackson was significantly interrupted by a heckler during one of her questions; most other instances occurred between answers. Councillors also threw veiled criticism at each other, and made pointed remarks about past policy decisions during the debate.

Several of the questions were used as direct and pointed criticism of current councillors, with one person asking why the incumbents didn’t attend the Burns Bog Conservation Society conference last week, and another asking if the Gateway casino employees in the audience were there to support the incumbents’ runs for council. (The answer to the first question was largely that they hadn’t been invited, while the second was that the councillors either didn’t know the staff were there, or hadn’t sought endorsement from casino staff.)

RELATED: Burns Bog group turns 30, celebrates with gala and conference in Surrey

Transit and transportation was another major discussion during the meeting, with the main focus being the George Massey Tunnel and the bus system.

Grewal and Jackson both agreed that a bridge needs to be built instead of the tunnel, and that rapid transit should be incorporated into the plan. Jackson brought up her long-standing desire to get a rapid transit system from Vancouver to the Fraser Valley via Delta.

Walia, who was also asked about incorporating transit into a replacement crossing, said Team Delta is committed to restarting the buses that go into Vancouver from Delta, but that the city is at the mercy of the province when it comes to the crossing.

Mayhew took a slightly different approach to her answer.

“You cannot build your way out of congestion,” she said.

Although a new crossing is important, she said, getting sufficient public transportation on its own is perhaps more so. Mayhew brought up her daughter’s hour-and-a-half transit commute to Tsawwassen Mills from her home in North Delta, and said there needs to be a better system to move Deltans around the city, not just out of it.

Both Du and Smith said Delta needs to keep TransLink accountable and bring a stronger voice to the table.

Candidates were also asked about how they would use casino funds (most agreed it should be a separate line item, and many called up previous campaign promises), what their thoughts were on council’s “golden handshake,” how they would prepare Delta for climate change and whether trucks should be banned from certain roads during rush hour. (Kendall said they shouldn’t be, as that was part of people’s livelihood, while Du and Craig DeCraene said they would consider it.)

The civic election will take place on Oct. 20.

To read more about the candidates for Delta mayor, council and school board, check out “43 candidates running in Delta civic election.”

For a play-by-play of the all-candidates meeting, scroll through the live tweets below.

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