City hall wages and downtown challenges dominate election discussion in Prince George, B.C.
Mayoral challenger a no-show at crowded all-candidates forum hosted by CBC
The sole person taking on incumbent Lyn Hall for the position of mayor in Prince George, B.C., was a no-show at an otherwise crowded all-candidates forum hosted by CBC Radio Tuesday night.
Instead, 65-year-old political newcomer Willy Ens left the floor open to Hall to run on his record of the last four years.
Hall cited new developments downtown and the addition of seniors and affordable housing throughout the city as his top accomplishments and said he would continue to drive investment should he be re-elected.
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Ens did not provide an explanation for his absence.
Overtime pay questioned
More than 230 people attended the forum at the downtown public library, prompting staff to open an overflow room where attendees could view a live video feed of the forum.
In addition to Hall, 11 of the 13 people running for council took part, answering questions on a variety of topics from community groups and audience members.
Checking out the mayor and council policy forum. Good turn out. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PGVotes2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PGVotes2018</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CityOfPG?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CityOfPG</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bcmuni?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#bcmuni</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/pgelxn2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#pgelxn2018</a> <a href="https://t.co/7YEHGpcgYP">pic.twitter.com/7YEHGpcgYP</a>—@DakelhCarrier
Multiple questions were asked about how much senior managers with the city are paid.
The issue has become a hot topic since a freedom of information request from the Prince George Citizen newspaper revealed members of the city's nine-person senior management team were paid up to $235.72 an hour for working overtime during the 2017 wildfire season, when the city took in more than 10,000 evacuees from neighbouring communities.
The paper ran a series of wage comparisons between the management team in Prince George and management teams in Kelowna, Kamloops and Nanaimo, finding Prince George frequently paid the highest or second-highest rates.
Cameron Stolz, who previously sat on council but failed to be re-elected in 2014, said he believed pay brackets need to be reviewed, as do the city's overtime policies.
Stolz was also critical of having city staff run emergency operations in the city.
"In Calgary ... In Kelowna, predominantly what you see there is Canadian Red Cross and volunteers who step forward and manage the vast majority of the work being done," he said.
First-time candidate Christopher Wood said he didn't believe the city should be paying such high rates for management positions.
"We have a pool of qualified candidates in town who can do that job," he said.
Incumbents defend record
Incumbent Murry Krause said it was important to acknowledge the pay policy was set in a 2011 contract and pointed out the technical nature of high-level management jobs in a city with over 800 employees.
"It's not easy task," Krause said, adding that when he was president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities he often heard from communities unable to recruit managers because they couldn't afford them.
Fellow incumbent Frank Everitt echoed those comments and defended the use of city management to run emergency operations.
"We were in a state of emergency," he said. "You need to have qualified people in place and doing the job where they're familiar."
Brian Skakun, running for a sixth term on council, said he wants to see more frequent reviews of managers' pay and performance.
"It is a lot of money," he said.
Downtown, arts and backyard chickens also addressed
Several questions were asked about the city's downtown, which has seen an influx of new development but also challenges with increased homelessness.
Candidates were also asked if they would revisit the decision to ban backyard chickens within city limits, and how they would support the arts community.
Senior management pay:
Downtown priorities and challenges:
Affordable housing and aging infrastructure:
Supporting new immigrants and young entrepreneurs:
Arts and culture: