Less than a week before general voting day, incumbent Mayor Ken Melamed and challenger Kristi Wells pulled out the big guns during the campaign period’s only mayoral debate.
Wells asked Melamed about the perception that the “tail is wagging the dog” at municipal hall; Melamed came back with an equally fiery question about whether Wells’ work with First Nations is a conflict of interest.
The debate took place in front of about 100 people at the Rainbow Theatre on Monday, Nov. 10. Candidates Brian Walker and Miro Kolvek also participated, although there’s was little question that Melamed and Wells are the election’s front-runners.
In response to Wells’ question about municipal staff, Melamed said “perception is reality” and so he is “going to have to work on it.” He called for a review of municipal hall’s staff and said, if other elected councillors agreed, he would make this a priority.
The mayor also stated he had a great working relationship with the municipality’s chief administration officer Bill Barratt.
“I’m nicely surprised by Ken’s comments, because that was not the tune he was singing last week when he said that municipal hall was understaffed and he was not looking at taking a review,” retorted Wells.
“There will be a mass exodus after the Olympics at municipal hall, and we need to be sure we are poised with the internal people.”
But Wells also got her turn on the hot seat when Melamed asked about her working relationship with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations on the Function Junction and Alpine North developments.
Wells said while her business consulting company’s main client has been the two First Nations, the contract ended in October of this year.
“In a small town, there are often conflicts of interest,” said Wells, who also referenced Melamed’s earlier work as a Whistler-Blackcomb employee.
“This is not a legal issue, but a judgment call.”
All candidates were also asked to reveal the top three financial contributors to their campaigns. Melamed said he has received $1,000 from Whistler-Blackcomb, $750 from Telus and $500 from John Fraser.
Wells hesitated but when pressed named her mother and herself as top contributors, before adding Art Den Duyf. A day after the meeting she said it was actually Clifftop Contracting Ltd. that gave her $500.
Walker said Richard Klinkhamer was his only contributor, and Kolvek said his campaign is entirely self-funded.