Original Published on Oct 13, 2022 at 14:21
By Kaitlyn Bailey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Daajing Giids election contenders laid out their visions for the village during the Candidates’ Forum on Oct. 6. Elections were October 15, 2022
More than 30 people attended in-person at the community hall, Linnaea Fyles from the Haida Gwaii Radio Society stated. The forum was also broadcast for those who could not make it.
All three candidates running for mayor were at the event: Leslie Johnson, Kris Olsen and Lisa Pineault.
Of the seven individuals vying for four councillor positions, six attended: Kim Claggett, Jesse Embree, Jim LeMottee, Alanah Mountifield, Jennifer Parkins and Ayla Pearson. Connie Young sent her regrets.
While many topics came up during the hour-and-a-half session, including reconciliation, housing, transportation and climate change, moderator Steve Querenjung said sewage treatment was one of the top concerns from people who submitted questions for the evening.
In 2009, the Village of Daajing Giids received a letter stating that under the Fisheries Act, they needed to develop a strategy for the treatment and disposal of their sewage.
Incumbents Pineault and Embree said that the current council is working on the issue of sewage treatment but the conversations are still in-camera, which means they are closed to the public
“I do support having everyone in this community on a sewer treatment system and the steps to doing that is to find an innovative system that we can actually afford in a piece of property that we can use that is central enough for everyone to be able to access it,” Pineault said.
Olsen, the incumbent mayor, focused on his plan for funding a new sewage treatment without increasing taxes.
“I believe that we should continue collaborating with Hlg̱aagilda Skidegate in working to find a solution that works with both of our communities that’s affordable so that our tax base isn’t burdened with the maintenance and construction of such a facility. This is doable, this is achievable. We can get this done. While working with the [Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance] we will be able to have the funds to pay for this that will not go into debt for generations.”
Johnson, the third candidate for mayor, was optimistic that the village will work something out and will be able to do the financing. In a statement at the beginning of the forum about her platform, she spoke about the first time the village funded a sewage system.
“I want to remind people that we funded the original water and sewer system in the early eighties when interest rates were in the 18 per cent range. If we could do that, then surely we can take the next step now to expand the system and treat the waste.”
Embree spoke of the importance of building relationships in order to successfully complete the project.
“It is going to be a lot about partnerships and trying to work with our neighbours and Skidegate and looking for other partners like the BC Ferries and just trying to get as many people off of septic as we can. We want to have our oceans be clean.”
Mountifield lamented the difficulty of not knowing what is currently being considered by council but proposed what she would do, emphasizing the need to provide the public with more than one option.
“So from my perspective, it would be a critical analysis of what the options are. Critical analysis of the costs, the impacts to the environment. Is it going to create economic drivers? Are people going to get jobs? How long will they last? What is the payoff period? How much is this going to cost us in the long term? Are there agreements?”
Parkins admitted the only thing she knows about sewage is how to flush a toilet, but said she is open to learning.
“I’ve heard people talk about where the water might go. And I’ve had sewer problems myself at my own property. So it’s kind of in the front of my mind,” she said.
During a discussion about reconciliation, Claggett said she felt fixing the sewer system is a form of reconciliation. In terms of what steps council could take to fix their problems, she agreed with many of the other candidates that partnering with Skidegate would be a good idea, but also offered a novel solution.
“If we unincorporated, the province would pay for the water and sewer treatment.”
Incumbent Pearson stressed the need for council to once again go through the process of assessing different options and presenting them to community members.
“Looking at some of the newer technologies that can be used today that change the footprint, the smell and different things like that. Looking at what the affordability is because that is definitely a huge issue and bringing that forward so that community members have options to look at that and see what the different ability is,” she said.
LeMottee was the last to respond. He led by touting his own knowledge and skills in construction and suggested there are two concerns, location and cost.
“One thing to keep in mind is that all of the sewer system here is pumped. It’s a series of pump stations. We’re sea level, you have no hills, you have stuff coming down the hill, but once it’s there, it’s just a continuation of the same thing. So my perception, I thought that if Skidegate was willing and able that tying into their system might be the biggest long termlong-termsolution.”
The event was hosted by the Haida Gwaii Radio Society and sponsored by the Haida Gwaii Teachers’ Association and the BC Schizophrenia Society.
Municipal elections were Oct. 15.