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Pemberton by-election debate marked by war of words

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Two candidates battling for a single spot on Pemberton village council engaged in a war of words Monday night during a public debate.

Mark Blundell, a local business owner, led off with an opening salvo accusing his opponent, David Midgley, of working against village council and the Official Community Plan.

"I believe in the OCP," Blundell told a crowd of about 20 people at Pemberton’s Royal Canadian Legion. "The goals and objectives were developed by the residents of Pemberton and that’s what they want."

Blundell, owner of the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, has lived in the area for four years.

Midgley quickly dismissed his opponent’s accusations before stating his platform.

"I’m against the zoning, not the OCP," he replied. "The current zoning is too particular — council is trying to micro-manage. We should encourage industrial development," he said.

"Pemberton is going to grow no matter what and if we don’t do something, we’ll lose potential tax dollars."

Midgley, a retired businessman, has lived in the area for six years.

Both candidates are actively involved with various community groups.

The debate featured a question-and-answer period, during which the candidates replied to queries from audience members.

Both Blundell and Midgley stated their concerns about the village’s inevitable growth and what they would do, if elected, to help ease those growing pains.

Blundell said the area needs to develop its residential base first before pursuing commercial growth.

Midgley disagreed and said it should be the other way around. "We can’t develop on residential taxes. We need to develop an industrial base," he said.

"Mr. Midgley is out to lunch," said Blundell, noting that developers should pay for much-needed facilities, such as a new community centre, arena and library.

Midgley called Blundell part of the "downtown clique" and said his opponent has a vested interest in local development.

"A council member should represent the whole community, not just the business community," he said.

Blundell replied that being a business owner should not preclude him from being on council and that he welcomes competition.

The muckraking did slow for a while, as the two candidates agreed somewhat on certain issues and discussed the village’s needs for infrastructure improvements, including upgraded sewer and water systems, and commercial development on Highway 99 to deal with increasing tourism in the area.

"I believe in development and that’s why I invested in the community," said Blundell. "We need to create our own employment opportunities. We cannot always depend on Whistler.

"I know what is going on in the community," he added, "and I can make things happen."

The mudslinging restarted as Midgley said the only reason Blundell knows what is going on is because he’s part of the village’s "inner circle."

"Residents need to know more information about what is happening in the community," he said as he promised to publish a community newsletter if elected. "Rumours are no good. The public needs to know the facts."

The debate then stalled and died in its own hubris before the meeting adjourned to the nearby bar.

The two candidates are seeking to replace councillor Bruce MacFayden, who resigned in April due to health reasons. MacFayden won two elections and served four-and-a-half years on council.

"He put a lot of time and energy into the community," said Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner.

The by-election vote takes place June 23 in council chambers above fire hall. Pemberton residents can also vote in advance June 13-20 at the village office.

The elected councillor will serve until the next general local election in November 2002.

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