All seating, standing room, and even the corners behind the candidates tables were filled with residents at Oak Bay’s first all-candidates meeting for the upcoming 2018 municipal election.
The Oak Bay Watch sponsored event, held Sept. 22 at the Monterey Recreation Centre, was moderated by Eric Dahli, chair of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, and began with questions to the mayoral candidates – incumbent Mayor Nils Jensen and challenger Coun. Kevin Murdoch.
Questions were focused around infrastructure, tax increases, public engagement, development, and affordable housing.
The answers below are condensed responses from the candidates who were given two minutes to respond to questions during the meeting.
On the question of housing, both agreed that Oak Bay needs additional housing options. While Jensen focused his response around the benefits of secondary suites and the need for non-market housing, Murdoch stressed the importance of creating a detailed plan of where different housing options – from duplexes to townhouses to multifamily developments – would be placed within the community in order to get away from the current practice of spot rezoning.
Both candidates said they do not support amalgamation.
On public engagement, Murdoch said he looks at public engagement as a way to drive good decision-making especially with the incredible body of expertise in the community. He noted the need for better public notification, and his preference for working group models vs standing committees where possible. He would support town hall meetings. Jensen said that since he became mayor, they have moved forward in a very modern way with the implementation of webcasts and electronic agendas to increase public engagement. He also mentioned the work currently being done by the Mayor’s Task Force on Public Engagement to create structures for public engagement.
The sewer costs being placed on the water bill was raised as a question to the mayoral candidates. Jensen responded that he believes it is best tied to the user pay model of water consumption and placed on the water bill. Murdoch sites a lack of transparency with that model as it is not a separate line item on the bill and therefore not clear to residents when there is an increase in sewer debt cost vs water cost.
After a question about tax increases, Mayor Jensen explained that taxes went up just under 5 per cent. He said there were four main reasons for the taxes going up last year. One is the cost of fire and police which is almost half of the overall budget. Second, a one per cent reserve fund for infrastructure was created. They also added 0.7 per cent for paving management and the library went up about 0.5 per cent. Jensen said that taxes will go up more and more as a result of infrastructure needs. Murdoch agreed to disagree on some of the numbers. He said the way that council has been doing the budgeting and allocating has not been effective, and that they need to change the structural approach to budgeting. He also noted that a lot of the increase has been buried in the water bill.
On the question of infrastructure, Mayor Jensen said there are three ways of paying for it. One is to fund it through reserves which puts the cost on past tax payers, the second is to fund it through a rise in taxes which puts the cost on current tax payers and the third is to fund it through borrowing, which he calls the inter-generational equity approach. Mayor Jensen voiced his preference for borrowing in order to spread the cost out over generations. Murdoch focused his response around the need to tackle infrastructure first during the budgeting process and not as an afterthought. He said certainty needs to be built into the funding to prevent the under-funding that has happened in the past.
For a more thorough look at the political platforms of the two mayoral candidates, see their websites at:
Nils Jensen (incumbent) – nilsjensen.ca
Kevin Murdoch (current councillor) – murdoch4mayor.com
All 10 councillor candidates were present for the meeting, taking questions from the residents.
To view video recordings of the meeting and to read more go to https://bit.ly/2NJR6Zl.
For links to the councillors websites, visit: www.oakbaynews.com/municipal-election/oak-bay-election-candidates-and-voting-information/
An additional all-candidates meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 11 at Dave Dunnet Community Theatre, Oak Bay High.
Oak Bay residents will elect one mayor and six councilors when they vote in the municipal election on Oct. 20.
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