With just over one week to go before the election, Delta’s mayoral candidates were ramping up their rhetoric and campaign promises at the Wednesday (Oct. 10) all-candidates meeting in North Delta.
The meeting, hosted by the Delta Chamber of Commerce at North Delta Secondary, featured candidates Vytas Vaitkus, Alex Megalos, Moneca Kolvyn, George Harvie (Achieving for Delta), Jim Cessford (Independents Working for You) and Sylvia Bishop (Team Delta). Over the course of the evening, candidates were asked general questions on housing, transportation, sport, crime, and climate change, and specific questions on road improvement, the North Delta Farmers Market and North Delta’s off-leash dog parks.
Creating a better off-leash dog park in North Delta was, it appeared, a no-brainer for all six candidates. Vaitkus and Cessford both said a safe place for dogs and their owners needed to be created, and Cessford brought up the recent incident in which a dog was hit by a train.
Bishop said there had been a plan brought to council some time ago about getting more off-leash dog parks in North Delta, but the plan had fallen out of the main conversation. She said she would use her remaining time as a councillor to dig up the report, and if elected mayor, work to implement it. (A plan to fence Delta’s 13 dog parks came to council in 2010, and again in 2016, although Bishop did not specifically say this was the report she was referring to.)
Megalos, Kolvyn, and Harvie all offered specific solutions for creating more or better dog parks. Megalos suggested turning all school grounds into off-leash dog parks after 5 p.m. — an idea that received some heckling from the audience.
Kolvyn turned to New Westminster, where she said smaller off-leash areas are created in existing parks with double fences. That was an idea she said could potentially be implemented in Delta. Harvie brought up his earlier campaign promise to create well-lit dog parks for both North and South Delta.
Candidates were asked what they would do to support the struggling North Delta Farmers Market, which had to close early this year because construction at the North Delta Rec Centre impacted its customer base. Vaitkus, Megalos, Cessford and Kolvyn all spoke in support of farmers’ markets generally, speaking about the need to support Delta’s agricultural community.
Harvie and Bishop zeroed in on the North Delta Farmers Market’s specific struggles.Harvie said he would work to bring the market back toward 84th Avenue when construction was finished and providing some marketing support. Bishop looked back to her campaign promise of an economic development office, saying this would be a classic example of how a small business could work with her office to potentially get things like a break on rental prices or help with marketing.
In the housing-related questions, which ranged from asking what the candidates would do to help co-operatives whose agreements were expiring to whether they would follow the North Delta area plan when it came to development, candidates offered some new ideas, as well as a reiteration of past campaign promises.
Bishop and Cessford relied on their past commitments to affordable housing; Cessford promised that 15 to 20 per cent of units in new developments will be designated affordable housing, and Bishop fell back on her proposed housing summit, which would bring developers and activists together to bring forward new solutions.
Both Bishop and Cessford said the North Delta area plan, last revised in 2015, needed to be revisited. Cessford said that once it was redone, the city needed to stick to the concepts in the plan.
“We need to stick to the plan, and if we’re going to change it … we need to tell them why,” he said.
Harvie, Kolvyn, Megalos and Vaitkus also agreed the area plan needed to be revised, with Kolvyn going so far as to say “I don’t rely on any documents made by the previous council.”
For Harvie, the key to providing more affordable housing was to bring more rental properties onto the market. He argued that building developments with rental units would provide more housing opportunities for people with low- or fixed-incomes. This would give people currently living in co-operative housing (like the Cougar Canyon Co-op) the ability to move to other properties so aging co-ops could be renovated, he said.
Kolvyn offered unconventional affordable housing solutions, including a proposal to reduce barriers to secondary suites and putting housing above Delta’s warehouses.
“There’s affordable housing all around us if we just get creative,” she said.
Vaitkus and Megalos didn’t offer specific ideas about housing, although Vaitkus said he would create a task force to look at the problem and Megalos said there needs to be a change in policy and possible rezoning.
Transportation was another area where candidates brought their creativity. When asked what they would do if TransLink wouldn’t increase transit in Delta, Megalos said that TransLink will be uncooperative, as Delta needs more people to get on its radar. He suggested that Delta needed to invest in more transportation options like the seniors bus that runs out of the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre.
“We’re going to have to think ahead and get transit for ourselves,” he said.
The other candidates disagreed, saying that TransLink will work with Delta after relationships are built. However, they also came up with ideas in case the TransLink option didn’t pan out.
Kolvyn and Bishop agreed with Megalos, saying that more investment was needed in community shuttle buses. Kolvyn said she would also partner with businesses to develop transportation and get employees to places such as Annacis Island. Vaitkus said Delta needed its own light rail, and Harvie hearkened back to the George Massey Tunnel replacement project as the key issue for transportation. Cessford said dedicated traffic lights and bus lanes needed to be a priority for the city, so that buses aren’t getting caught up in traffic and taking longer to get to their destination.
Throughout the evening, candidates also talked about how they would reduce crime (the overall consensus was that police are doing a good job), how they would support sport in Delta (track replacement, which is already underway, was the main solution), how they would deal with climate change (quickly), and what they would do to support healthy lifestyles for kids (largely sport infrastructure improvements and funding for societies).
General voting for the Delta municipal 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.