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Pemberton all candidates meeting draws standing room only crowd

"I’m sorry I blew up a little, but I had a right to."

— Mark Blundell

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Incumbents’ defensive statements met with chastising remarks and jeers

One candidate’s opening remarks drew thunderous applause while another’s closing comments brought boos and hisses.

More than 350 people attended Pemberton’s all candidates meeting Monday – a number not far off the 408 village ballots cast in the 2002 municipal election. The event, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Dr. Hugh Fisher, attracted a standing room only crowd to the Pemberton Community Centre.

However, approximately two-thirds of the audience was comprised of Electoral Area C residents who are only eligible to vote for a school trustee and a director position on the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. With School District 48 trustee Michael Milner winning by acclamation, voter focus was on incumbent Area C SLRD director Susie Gimse and challenger Alan LeBlanc. Approximately half the audience questions were directed at these two candidates.

The format was familiar. Each candidate was given two minutes for opening remarks and a minute for closing remarks. All candidates, except mayoralty candidate Martin Dahinden, took advantage of the opportunity to reinforce their platform. Dahinden did not appear at the all candidate’s meeting due to a family emergency. In a statement, read by Fisher, Dahinden also let the audience know that he would not be actively seeking election and encouraged electors to place their votes for mayor with the other three candidates.

This statement came on the heels of confirmation earlier this week that Dahinden would not be actively running. Sources confirmed that Dahinden was left visibly shaken earlier last month, when his right to run was publicly questioned in a crowded venue. The comments directed at him were described as "humiliating, cruel and unfair." Dahinden, who was out of town at press time, could not be reached for comment.

The speeches from the other mayoralty candidates erred on the cautious.

"I strongly feel it is not the time for an all rookie council," Bruce van Mook said in his opening address after stating he is running for the mayor’s job primarily because he felt that the voters needed a choice. (Jordan Sturdy was the only declared candidate for mayor until just a few days prior to close of the nomination period, with Mark Hunter making his intentions known at that time.)

Valley Vision: Leadership in Action council candidate Jennie Helmer’s speech, a synopsis of her plan for economic growth through establishing secondary industries based on existing agricultural industry, drew thunderous applause.

School trustee candidate John Burleson generated the night’s biggest laugh with his personal introduction: "I’m 42, I have grey hair and I retain water."

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