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Affordability and growth hot topics at Diamond Valley election forum

Twelve of the candidates for the first Diamond Valley election spoke at a forum in Black Diamond on Nov. 14.

Residents of the soon-to-be Town of Diamond Valley heard from election candidates during a forum in Black Diamond on Monday. 

Twelve of the 13 candidates who are seeking election introduced themselves to voters and answered questions during the two-hour event on Nov. 14. About 100 people crowded into the drama room at Oilfields High School to listen in-person, while the event was also live-streamed on YouTube. The forum was hosted by the Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce (DVCC). 

Candidates were asked five questions, including about cost savings once the two towns join, and each candidate had an opportunity to answer every question.

Current Turner Valley Coun. Curtis Dixon said that there would be significant cost saving over the long term, but that the first year or two will be difficult. 

“We’re going to have some decisions that are going to have to be made,” he said.

If taxes are going to be lowered, residents need to tell council what services are important and what they are willing to give up, he said.

Cindy Holladay, also on Turner Valley council, called for a balance between taxes and maintaining services with an eye towards protecting property values. 

“Saving a little bit on your property taxes every year might look good, until the long-term,” said Holladay, adding that having infrastructure falling apart would hurt property values. 

Dale Harrison wants to see municipalities lobby the provincial government for a larger share of tax revenue to go towards local infrastructure and added that towns need to look at new ways of generating revenue. 

Mayoral candidate Randy Williamson said it's tough to be faced with higher taxes, and an increase isn't in the cards for him.

“I want to find ways of cutting taxes, not increasing them," he said. "I want to find ways of cutting our spending, not increasing it.” 

Barry Crane, the current Turner Valley mayor and Diamond Valley mayoral candidate, said short term, amalgamation will increase efficiency and standardize service delivery, and he would not seek to cut services. 

“I would not remove one service to reduce taxes, at all," he said. "I would maintain the taxes where they are.” 

Candidates also talked about growth and development, with Jonathan Gordon calling it a challenging subject. 

Gordon, Barry Williamson, and Hazel Martin all called for updated development plans and said growth was necessary to sustain the Town. 

“It’s the balancing act,” Gordon said. “The lowering of the taxes is often through more people living here.”

He added that only 10 per cent of revenue comes from the commercial tax base. 

Black Diamond Mayor Brendan Kelly, running for a Diamond Valley council seat, said current infrastructure can support growth, but he wants to focus on current issues. 

“I think that our focus right now should be on our current infrastructure, our current unpaved roads, the things that our current residents already paid for and have been paying for," he said.

Shay Ford agreed that existing infrastructure should be looked at before getting carried away with new growth, and Crane said future growth needs to be done in a sustainable and well-thought-out way. 

The candidates were also asked about affordable housing, with Heather Thompson and Veronica Kloiber among those who stated they would like to see more diverse housing available in Diamond Valley.  

Kloiber said affordable housing is an issue, not only in Diamond Valley but around the country, and that help from the province is required. 

The other questions asked were about transparency and what candidates think are the area's biggest assets. 

Council candidate Mykayla Bergie was unable to attend the event.

The Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum and a video is available at diamondvalleychamber.ca/chamber-events

Election day is Monday, Nov. 28 and polling stations will be in the gym at Oilfields High School in Black Diamond and at the Flare n’ Derrick in Turner Valley. Voting will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Advance voting will be available on Monday, Nov. 21 and polling stations will be at the municipal building in Turner Valley and at the Griffiths Centre in Black Diamond. Advance voting will be open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. 


Robert Korotyszyn

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