Besides exploring issues of the day, Penticton’s three mayoral candidates were also asked at Thursday’s public forum to discuss their visions for the city’s far-off future and the preservation of its past.
For two hours, the crowd of about 400 people inside a ballroom at the Penticton Lakeside Resort listened as the men gave one-minute answers to a range of questions, with few rebuttals and no fireworks.
One of the curveballs thrown at the candidates was whether they’d support moving Penticton’s museum onto the SS Sicamous, which would free up space for the library to expand.
Jukka Laurio, a local restaurant owner, called it a “brilliant idea.”
“That would be a workable solution and would also provide the Sicamous with an additional draw,” he said, adding the library could then grow “without the big cost expenditures.”
Two-term city councillor Andrew Jakubeit cautioned, however, that there’s more to the museum than meets the eye.
“The basement underneath is all their archive storage and it takes up a lot of space,” he said.
“Perhaps a better combination might be the museum and the art gallery. We need to create draws for people to see these wonderful cultural entities we have in our community.”
John Vassilaki, who has served three terms on city council, agreed something should be done for both the Sicamous and the museum, but didn’t say what.
“To me, the most important thing any community can have is a heritage site,” he said.
While the Sicamous is currently “sitting in the mud,” Vassilaki continued, “what better place can you put that beautiful ship but on the water? I think it should be refloated, but the cost is prohibitive.”
Candidates were later asked what Penticton would look like in 40 years’ time if they get to put their stamp on it as mayor.
Vassilaki said his ideal city of the future would have a greatly expanded industrial base.
“That’s our No. 1 priority is the industrial area. And how well are we looking after it? Not very well. We should be devoting more time to where we can actually improve this community, and that’s through jobs,” he said.
“We can no longer depend on folks who are on fixed income to pay the taxation for all the money that we spend year after year, and a lot of it is waste. Trust me, I know.”
Laurio said large-scale industry will be a tough go, since the city isn’t located on a major highway, so the focus instead should be on “niche markets.”
“If we were the boating capital of Canada or the water sports capital of Canada, we would have all kinds of miniature industries,” he said.
“We could be making things for sport boats, surf boards for windsurfers. It’s the kind of industry that we could use here, because it (capitalizes on) the type of resources we have.”
Jakubeit said his Penticton of 2054 would be built on a high-tech industry that allows families “to actually have the opportunity to enjoy living here.
“Many of us, young and old, have our nose to the grindstone, we’re working maybe two jobs. We don’t have a chance to really go experience the beaches and peaches, go do our wine tours, go float down the channel,” he said.
“I want to be the mayor that restores Penticton to be the envy of all other communities.”
There are still plenty of all-candidates’ forums still to come before the Nov. 15 election.