A smattering of council candidates, media and the public wandered into the Sea to Sky Hotel Monday to listen to Squamish’s three mayoral candidates in the last of the race’s official debates.
It was much as it has been, with John Erickson offering a wandering narrative somehow rooted in his disgust for the district’s acquisition of the Nexen Lands; Terrill Patterson toting props, sarcasm and the odd peel of biting criticism; and Greg Gardner promising better communication, more land for jobs and Smart Growth development.
However, the script was somewhat skewed when the media panel challenged Gardner on the existence of a slate. Throughout the campaign, Gardner has been dogged by rumors that he’s leading an undeclared slate with council candidates Mike Jenson, Paul Lalli, Rob Kirkham and Doug Race. He has denied the allegations.
“There’s no need for a party system,” Gardner said. “I use that word because the word slate has all kinds of different meanings.”
Patterson scoffed, clutching an actual slate in his hands and insisting that Squamish has long been the product of group politics and powerful community factions.
“No slate?” he asked. “No slate? Who are we kidding? Squamish has always had slates.
“I’m going to smash this slate, and I’m going to do that before I’m elected.”
There was also a question on remuneration, a fresh one as far as the debates have gone. Gardner said councillor and mayoral earnings are too low, making political participation almost elitist. He envisioned a third party setting the rates, perhaps a group of citizens, but preferably the province.
Patterson balked at this. “It’s more than adequate,” he said, accusing councillors and mayors of exploiting the perks of power.
As per usual, the Oceanfront figured into the evening’s questions. Exemplifying a creeping change in rhetoric, Gardner noted that Squamish has several land parcels that nudge the ocean shore. He then spoke to the peninsula at the south end of downtown, saying again that he favours an employment-based land use with some sort of iconic civic amenity.
“That’s a long-term development,” he added. “That’s a 20- or 30-year development. The community needs to understand that this is not a two- or three-year build out.”
Patterson said the banks would own the land in fairly short order.
Also at issue was the district’s water metering plan, which Patterson called an “iffy” environmental proposal. Gardner said the program will be beneficial.
Dyking and flood protection also figured into the equation. Patterson said the dykes need to be raised by 30 feet, while Gardner said they’re a paramount concern, though financing them has so far proven difficult.
Throughout the debate, Erickson wandered in and out of topic, causing one member of the audience to turn to Councillor Corrine Lonsdale and lament the “sit-com” nature of the whole thing. Another member of the audience took to the microphone and, referring to Patterson and Erickson, called the race for mayor “embarrassing.”