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Candidates make it a campaign in SLRD's Area B

First vote in Area B in more than two decades



For the past 24 years, directors in Area B of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) have been elected by acclimation.

This year, two candidates have stepped forward to challenge incumbent director Mickey Macri — political newcomer Ron Rooke and former Whistler councillor Eckhard Zeidler.

"Everybody that's been acclaimed has served well, but it's time for some new energy, and there's pretty exciting things happening in Area B, particularly around agriculture," Zeidler said.

Zeidler played a part in the recently adopted Area B, Lillooet & St'at'imc Agricultural Plan, which aims to "inform future OCP amendments in Electoral Area B, by aligning the policies with respect to agriculture," according to the SLRD website.

"It's time to implement that, and there's going to be a lot of work and a lot of assistance required from the southern directors at the SLRD to make some of these things a reality," Zeidler said.

Having served two terms at the Whistler council table — as well as time on the SLRD board as an alternate — Zeidler said he has an understanding of the complicated relationship between SLRD areas, and the need for cooperation.

"(I want to) work with the southern directors and the municipal directors, and really develop an understanding that southwestern B.C. — or the southwestern coast range — is going to benefit in the years and the decades to come from a regional approach to tourism."

Whistler is "a machine that's running on all cylinders" in regards to tourism, Zeidler said, but the long-term health of that machine would be better served by expanding beyond Whistler.

"It's, to me, much more a dynamic of understanding that this region can attract much longer-haul visitors if they have a greater variety of things to do and experiences to have," he said. "(In Area B) we're developing vineyards, and there's already one very successful vineyard and winery here, which is Fort Berens, and that industry is only going to grow."

But Zeidler said he also recognizes that most Area B residents don't want change.

"Certainly some economic development through tourism and agriculture is absolutely appropriate, because both of those things are underutilized at this point, but the folks around here, they pretty much want the place to look largely the same 15 years from now as it does today," he said.

Also stepping up to the plate is Ron Rooke, a semi-retired mechanic and store manager who has lived in Area B for 20 years.

"My idea of the position is to be more of a custodian for the people of the area and take their concerns and their issues to the board," Rooke said. "I don't want to be a politician. I just want to be an intermediary for the people that live here and the SLRD, and make sure that the SLRD is doing what the people want."

If elected, Rooke said he would like to take a closer look at SLRD programs and how they affect Area B residents.

He'd also like the SLRD to be more transparent with its finances.

"I feel that as just a resident... we don't get enough information as to where the money's going, or how it's going or why it's going," he said. "I just think that there has to be accountability for what they're doing. If it's the way it has to be, and should be and is, that's perfect, but if it's not then they should be accountable."

Advance voting days for Area B are Wed., Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (at the Lillooet REC Centre, Room 201 and the SLRD Offices in Pemberton), and Monday, Nov. 10 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the SLRD offices in Pemberton.

General voting day is Sat., Nov. 15.


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