Revelstoke mayoral and council candidates focus on housing solutions during 2022 forum

The twelve nominees for Revelstoke city council and mayor participated in a moderated forum last night, Oct. 3, hosted by the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce.

Revelstoke mayoral and council candidates at the all-candidates' forum on Oct. 3 hosted by the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce. From left to right: Tim Stapenhurst, Lee Devlin, Rushda Rubaia, Matt Cherry, John Hordyk, Eddie (Gary) Shultz, Aaron Orlando, Tony Jeglum (standing), Tim Palmer, Austin Luciow, and mayoral candidates Nicole Cherlet and Gary Sulz. Photo Nora Hughes

A need for housing, cracking down on illegal short-term rentals and improved communication. These were the themes reiterated by the nominees during the All-Candidates Forum hosted by the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce on Monday evening, Oct. 3.

The forum’s audience at the Revelstoke Community and Aquatic Centre was about 141 people at the 6 p.m. start time but dwindled following the 7:30 p.m. recess. Chamber President Maggie Spizzirri acted as the forum’s moderator, asking candidates seven predetermined questions before moving on to questions submitted at the door.

Time and time again, the topic of conversation meandered it’s way back to Revelstoke’s dire need for affordable housing. The causes and effects of the housing topic permeated all of the candidates’ responses, but few could agree on solutions that would progress towards immediate action. In many instances, nominees spoke of their aspiration to start work on items such as an affordable housing reserve, increased density bylaws, vacancy taxes, and lobbying the government for Crown land to build on. Candidates did, however, agree that teamwork is the road to success when it comes to sitting around the council table.

That’s not to say the audience heard everything there was to say. Candidates felt the pressures of public speaking and the limitations of the 60-second time constraint. Public speaking and expressing opinions under pressure are not easy tasks, nor are providing solutions to the complex issues plaguing Revelstoke.

One question asked candidates to examine what opportunities they see to support a balanced and sustainable tourism industry through policy development, which prompted many candidates to speak on ideas like increased development cost charges and Revelstoke’s affordability crisis. Multiple candidates expressed strong views concerning short-term vacation rentals but provided few enforcement solutions to crack down on illegal suites, aside from banning them outright.

When asked about solutions yet to be utilized to tackle the housing crisis, candidates brought up ideas like the need for a shift in perspective when approving development, allowing for increased density, and micro-home initiatives.

Roughly 141 residents turned up for the All-Candidates Forum on Oct. 3, 2022. Photo: Nora Hughes

Taxes, another polarizing topic, prompted discussion on how candidates would approach the city’s budget without residents taking hits to their quality of life and amenities and without increasing taxes above the inflation rate. Current councillors Tim Palmer (council candidate) and Nicole Cherlet (mayoral candidate) were in opposition. Palmer cautioned voters of ‘involuntary downloading,’ saying that higher levels of the government are putting provincial and national issue pressures onto municipal governments. Cherlet disagrees, saying ‘place-based solutions’ are what’s going to work best for Revelstoke.

In response to a climate change question, candidates were divided, with some leaning toward disaster preparedness and emergency policy and others hoping to partner with non-profits like Protect Our Winters (POW) and work towards zero-net emissions.

Overall, candidates expressed their desires for good communication between residents and the municipal government, noting mistakes have been made in the past resulting from failures to involve the public in decisions such as the Grizzly Plaza renovations. Candidates expressed concern regarding the ‘municipal election burnout,’ saying that regardless of who you vote for, it’s important to vote because, unlike other levels of government, the municipal government makes decisions that impact residents immediately.

City of Revelstoke residents can vote for one Mayor, six Councillors and five School District No. 19 Trustees for four-year terms on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Advanced voting opportunities are on Oct. 5 and 12, and the general voting day is Oct. 15, 2022. Both advanced voting and general voting days will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Revelstoke Community Centre’s Macpherson Room.

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Nora Hughes is a recent graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Interdisciplinary Program, where she combined her passions for Adventure Tourism, Communications and Journalism. With a strong interest in community news, Nora is passionate about giving a voice and face to the people of Revelstoke through storytelling.