Ucluelet will be electing a new mayor on Oct. 15 and the three candidates vying to fill the spot squared off at an all candidates meeting hosted by the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 22.
Ucluelet’s four municipal council spots are already locked in as only four candidates put their names forward to fill them, meaning Ian Kennington, Mark Maftei, Jennifer Hoar and Shawn Anderson will all be acclaimed.
Current mayor Mayco Noel is not running for re-election and Marilyn McEwen, Rachelle Cole and Bruce Faith are each hoping to replace him. The first question the mayoral candidates were asked at Sept 22’s forum was to rank their top five issues facing Ucluelet.
“It’s easy. This is a question that I’ve thought a lot about it and I’ve lived it for the last four years,” said Rachelle Cole, noting she served as a councillor for the past four years and has represented Ucluelet on the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District board.
“It’s definitely housing. It’s definitely healthcare. Happy humans is something I think about all the time because a community can have a whole bunch of things, but the important thing is that the humans living in it are super happy.”
She cited streets, transportation and development as other key issues all resort municipalities face, noting “transportation is key.”
She suggested the district “has a lot of really great things” on the horizon to tackle its ongoing housing crisis.
“The key to this is going to be listening to the community, what the community’s needs and wants are and what that’s going to look like and how that will transition into these housing projects and making sure that we maintain the quaintness,” she said.
Bruce Faith listed his five issues as affordable housing, the “complex issue of bed and breakfasts,” healthcare, infrastructure and water treatment.
“We want to bring people in, we want families to plant their roots here and grow as a community,” he said.
He added he wants to “protect” traditional bed and breakfasts operated by residents within local bylaws while closing loopholes.
He said healthcare needs to be addressed so that residents do not have to travel to Tofino to get medical lab work done and added the district’s downtown parking plan needs to be looked at.
“We’ve got to catch up with this growth and we’ve got to be prepared for the growth that’s coming,” he said. “I’m going to be a full-time mayor. I’m going to spend a minimum of eight hours a day on the job, minimum five days a week…Please approach me. If I’m at the Co-op, post office, the bank, please come and see me.”
Marilyn McEwen has served on council for the past eight years and cited communication, affordable housing, recreation and the West Coast’s BC Transit service plan as key issues, suggesting “communication with our citizens” needs to be worked on.
“I really think we can do better,” she said.
She said district staff have made a few attempts at summarizing council meetings through the district’s Ukee Mail program and she hopes that can become more consistent.
“A lot of people don’t go to the district website to read the minutes. It’s just way easier to see a synopsis,” she said.
She said affordable housing is a “big issue (with) no easy solution” and that she would like to launch a task force to help tackle the issue.
She added that she also hopes to reinstate a Ucluelet Recreation commission.
“(There’s) so many new, young families in town I just think it would be great to have a group of vested citizens from all walks of life, young, old, seniors, just to help the recreation department come up with some good programming,” she said.
She also noted the BC Transit service plan has hit a snag and seeing it through is something she’d like to tackle “right away.”
What previous work/life experiences make you qualified to be mayor?
Faith cited a career in business as well as the Air Force and spoke to his patience and listening skills as well as a love of Ucluelet.
“I love this community. I want to work with the people in this community. I want to watch it grow. I want to put in a plan, not for next year, not for five years, but for 10 years. I want the kids growing up now to have the same place we have,” he said.
He added he would implement an open door policy at the mayor’s office if elected.
“I’m approachable and accessible,” he said. “If you see me, don’t be shy. I’m not. Come up and talk to me. I want to hear the issues and I want to deal with the issues. I want to get things done.”
McEwen noted she has served on council for the past two terms, eight years.
“I know the ropes. I get along with all the district staff. We have a great CAO at the moment,” she said, noting the CAO is the conduit between council and staff.
She spoke to her experience with toastmasters and said she “loves chairing meetings.”
“I’ve enjoyed my eight years. I’ve learned a lot. I’m a fan of lifelong learning,” she said, adding she attends as many conferences as she can.
“Staff try to tell us only to send a few (council members) to each conference, but I think it’s really important that we go as a team. It creates some goodwill between us, we learn lots…I think it’s really important that the whole team attends the conferences.”
Rachelle Cole said she serves the public in a capacity that’s different than her council role as the community’s BC Ambulance Unit Chief.
“We know that this kind of public service doesn’t really pay well at all, but the good news is I’m already used to getting paid $2 an hour as a paramedic,” she joked. “I think it’s important to be in it for the right reasons. My reasons run deep down through my roots and how I feel about this community. Just like how every good parent sets out to make a good example, that’s what we do in a community. That’s how we keep a healthy society.”
Cole said she has lived in Ucluelet for 50 years and referenced her history in fire fighting and helilogging as well as leadership roles in hospitality and recreation.
“We can talk about how we want today to stay the same as it is for the future, I can tell you the place looks a whole lot different than it did 50 years ago. There is an emphasis on maintaining that quaintness,” she said. “It’s not for me to say what my agenda is or what my story is, it’s for me to read the story of what the citizens want.”
How will you help make Ucluelet a safer community for our children?
McEwen said she’s “always thought of Ucluelet as a safe community.”
She suggested though that the local BC Ambulance crew is understaffed and “it would be really nice to boost that.”
“I’m super excited about our new school, we fought long and hard to do that seismic upgrading,” she said. “We did work really hard lobbying for that in my first time.”
Faith said childcare is most important.
“We’re going to get people moving to the community with small kids. They have to have good childcare,” he said.
He added he would look into a posted speed limit of 30 km/h in residential areas.
“That’s safe for our kids and safe for our pets,” he said. “Eventually I’d like to see it enforced throughout all of Ucluelet,” he said. “Nobody has to drive at 50 km/h down Peninsula or any other road.”
Cole agreed with McEwen that the community feels safe, adding that her 11 year old son rides his bike around the same streets she did as a kid.
“We’re still a pretty close community in that I know other mothers have their eyes on my son and I have my eyes on their kids and I feel very comfortable with that,” she said.
She added the current staffing model for the Ambulance Unit is changing and she “has no concerns about our staffing in the future.”
“I’m not worried about BC Ambulance in the future, I’m not worried about my son on a bike,” she said. “I do believe that we can always do more visible traffic calming.”
She added that trying to increase safety led to a learning experience when she first joined council, explaining that she made a “rogue motion” to install temporary speed bumps around the school until the construction was done, noting “lots of people hated them.”
“The short term actually took four years. Now you can see they’ve been replaced with real speed bumps and I did get a slap on the hand and I did learn that you don’t make rogue motions and good governance is always the first choice. Some things take a little longer, but good governance takes patience.”
What are your long term solutions to solve the lack of affordable and attainable housing in Ucluelet
Faith said he and his wife moved here in 2001.
“We were fortunate enough to be able to afford a home at that time. Right now, we couldn’t afford it. I’ve talked to young people, they don’t see any possibility of them owning a home during their lifetime,” he said.
He suggested allowing property owners with extra room to build ‘carriage houses’ that would be restricted to long term rentals, noting current bed and breakfast operators should not be expected to be cut off from their income.
“We can’t expect b and b owners to abandon their income. We can’t expect them to turn their units into long term rentals,” he said. “We have to look for grants from the province, from the fed, to get this done. It’s not just us. It’s right across the country. Affordable housing is an issue, but let’s do something in Ucluelet. That’s what I care about, Ucluelet. I want ideas, I want opinions. I’ll work with people, I’ll talk to provincial government authorities, I’ll talk to the federal government. (I’ll be a) full time mayor. I’ll have lots of time on my hands to talk to these people.”
McEwen said council recently passed a bylaw that brings new restrictions to bed and breakfasts and allows property owners to build ‘extra dwelling units’ on their property.
She noted that the bylaw passed 3-2 and she was one of the two votes opposed.
“The part that I liked about that bylaw was that it offered homeowners to build an extra dwelling unit on their property,” she said. “The part I didn’t like about that bylaw was the fact that they were changing the b and b rules so that a guest has to enter in through your front door. I just think that is an old way of doing things. I don’t want a guest coming in through my front door letting my cats out in the middle of the night in order to access their room.”
She said several developments are coming online that will provide housing options and noted the Pacific Rim Housing Cooperative has been working on providing employee housing for about four years.
“They are just looking for land right now to put these units. It would be like a community within a community,” she said. “That is an interesting group to talk to for non-market housing which would absolutely solve the employee issue because a lot of businesses can’t have staff because those staff have nowhere to live.”
Cole agreed with McEwen in her support for accessory dwelling units.
“Sorry Bruce to take that one away from you. You can’t do that…It’s already done,” she said.
She said looking back over the past four years “the problems run deeper.”
She said new restrictions on developments mean the new projects coming online will provide a large shift to long-term housing and spoke to Ucluelet’s efforts to crack down on residents operating illegal vacation rentals.
“There are tickets being issued and lots of work still to be done on dialling that in a little bit more because that was part of the problem. If we take away some of the illegal nightly rentals, those get converted to people actually living in their home,” she said. “If somebody is living there and contributing to the community, then that’s a win-win.”
She said it’s important to make sure things are being done properly.
What are your thoughts on ‘van-lifers’?
McEwen said the destruction being caused by residents living in their vans is a concern.
“There are people who are choosing to live in their vans and there are people who are living and leaving large messes behind,” she said. “It’s one thing to have a whole mini city of vans and trailers, but it’s the mess they leave behind that is the worst part.”
She suggested Ucluelet is supporting the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s efforts to patrol the backroads and Tourism Ucluelet has been putting out messaging about how to visit the town respectfully and not leave messes behind.
“Hopefully people just start going back to work and stop coming here and living in their vans,” she said.
Cole said the issue is “near and dear to her heart,” noting the town was full during CERB payments.
She said the Tla-o-qui-aht’s efforts were “hugely successful this last year” and Ucluelet is supporting their lobbying efforts for funding to continue.
She added the behaviours she’s seen from visitors have strengthened her resolve to respect communities she’s visiting.
“What it’s taught me, when I travel moving forward I’m never going to park on the wrong side of the street facing the wrong way and I’m certainly never going to park in somebody’s backyard or a sideroad and do my dishes in the parking lot of the community centre,” she said. “That’s the flip side of what I’ve seen and what we need to make sure doesn’t continue to happen.”
She also gave kudos to Tourism Ucluelet for their messaging around respect “in the most polite, gracious way.”
Faith said he works at the landfill and sees what comes in from cleanups.
“It’s getting better, but the issue I have is closer to home,” he said.
He suggested the district’s bylaw officers need permission to go onto private property to deal with illegal campers around Davison Plaza and the Ucluelet Co-op.
“They leave garbage all over,” he said. “We’ve got to look close to home and then move out from there. I want to move to work to getting it all cleaned up,” he said.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter
READ MORE: Ucluelet’s three candidates for mayor introduce themselves
READ MORE: Meet your acclaimed Ucluelet councillors
READ MORE: Ucluelet mayor decides not to run for re-election
BC Election 2022Election 2022Municipal electionmunicipal politics