NANAIMO — Two of the biggest issues currently facing Nanaimo were the focus of an all-candidates forum, in the hopes of informing residents about which candidates will take a stand on homelessness and affordable housing.
The United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island's forum on the topics drew roughly 450 engaged voters to ask candidates if they'll support strategies to promote affordable housing and end homelessness, as well as if candidates have the nerve to stand up to those who don't want supportive housing in their backyards.
After seeing candidates talk one-on-one with everyone at the Beban Park Social Centre Thursday night, United Way executive director Signy Madden told NanaimoNewsNOW she saw a wide range of candidates contemplate the issues.
“There's probably 10 to 12 candidates who are running who have at least figured out what the issues are and are prepared. If they get elected, I think we're very encouraged,” she said. “But there's candidates who chose not to come tonight or even answer the questions. That concerns me.”
For Madden, the biggest issue was finding out which candidates would stand up to the mentality of Not in My Backyard.
“It was encouraging to see that people had the courage to say 'We know we're going to have to house people in multiple locations through the city, that we're actually going to have to tell some neighbourhoods...that this is not going to ruin your neighbourhood.'
“I was encouraged by the number of people who actually said they're ready to stand up and say 'Yes in my backyard.'”
Many of the people NanaimoNewsNOW talked to at the event said they're optimistic about the next term of council.
“What I've seen from the candidates I've talked to is a willingness to listen, collaborate and not just work in silos,” engaged voter Kix Citton said. “No one person has the answers. How we bring those diverse voices to the table and see that our differences are strengths, I think that's the way forward.”
Despite hearing good things from the candidates, Citton said she still has many concerns about how the complex issues will be tackled in Nanaimo.
“What happens on day one?,” she asked. “We can have all these great plans on bringing high-tech jobs to Nanaimo, or as someone said opening a steel mill in Duke Point, but that's going to take time and we're in a crisis right now. So what are we going to do in the short-term? What are we going to do so we're not just putting band-aids on these really complex problems?”
Full answers to the questions asked by the United Way to each candidate can be found online.
Council hopefuls Bob Breuker, Jerry Hong, Gary Korpan, Brian Loos, Richard Scott, David Simpson, Norm Smith, Kevin Storrie and Al Thompson did not submit answers.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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