All Candidates Meeting - Follow-Up Q&A from Candidate for the Office of Mayor, Gaby Wickstrom
Port McNeill, B.C. September 28, 2022 - Not all questions submitted by the public for the All Candidates Meeting were heard at the event! The candidates have the opportunity to reply to the submitted questions in writing, and it's our pleasure to share those replies with you as they become available!
Here are the replies to the suite of questions from Incumbent Mayor, Gaby Wickstrom.
Municipal and SD85 All Candidates Meeting
Summary of Submitted Questions
from the Public
Gaby Wickstrom’s Responses
- What is your stance on the Old School, tear down, re-purpose, tear down and rebuild or other-
I would like to see us repurpose the building. It could provide spaces for seniors, youth
and families, include a utility grade kitchen for a community food hub. Have paying
tenants such as the Vancouver Island Regional Library and a new much needed
o Port McNeill Harbour serves a vast area of this island, the Islands and the mainland.
What is your plan to make our harbour better for all commercial users?
Systematic upgrades by making an action plan based on needs. A portion of the
harbour revenue should go into a reserve fund to ensure maintenance can take
place in the future. Apparently, there is a problem with water. I would talk to
our harbour manager and ask for a report on the timeline of that being repaired.
o Will you lobby to accommodate and attract live aboard boaters? Why, why not?
I would not actively lobby for live abounds, but I would not necessarily discount it
if it was brought forward. If we were to consider liveaboards, I would only support
it if it was done in a manner like Nanaimo. The boat must be surveyed and
insured, slip rental would have to be paid a year in advance and regular pump
outs would need to occur with the harbour manager on site when it happens,
requiring a signature confirming such. Without a rigorous structure, I would not
o Are there plans to extend the harbour? If so, which portion, municipal or small craft, and
how do you see this being managed or financed?
There are no plans to extend the harbour and I am not even sure that we can. The
last major expansion happened around 2010 and required a breakwater
- The Community Forest Reserve has been saved. How do you envision community forest funds
being used now and into the future?
This fund has been kept intact for a major infrastructure project. There were lots of
times we could have picked away at it, but we did not. This is the perfect fund to use for
a multi -use facility such as the Old School. I’ll throw this in since it will likely come up.
Why haven’t we done anything so far? With all the grants we received, we had so much
on the go and public works was working to capacity. In the past few years there was so
much money being given due to COVID, that we tailored many applications to suit those
applications. This has resulted in a savings of approx. 4 million dollars to our taxpayers
as they were still projects that needed to be done. Moving forward I would like to see us
go back to planning projects based on priority.
- What is your experience in understanding and/or managing public finances?
I served six years as a councillor, have been on the board of the Vancouver Island
Regional Library for seven years and Mayor for four.
- New councils often come with new ideas. Demonstrating your knowledge of Town Finance,
how would you go about funding the most significant change you are suggesting?
It depends on the project. In same cases we could budget for it or use reserve funds.
Depending on the scope of the project we could apply for a grant, and if supported by
the majority of the community, we could borrow the money. In the case of redesigning
the Old School, I would suggest a combination of Community Forest funds, grant
money and borrowing.
LAND USE &DEVELOPMENT
- The Town of Port McNeill owns waterfront land at the end of Beach Drive, known locally as
Hoy Bay, what is your vision for this land, what should be done with it?
I believe we should engage with First Nations before we move on any future plans,
especially if the community would like to see it remain as a part. An indigenous
partnership in a park that has deep historical roots could be amazing.
- What are your thoughts about recognizing Indigenous Rights and Title where it overlaps with
vacant municipal land?
If we are going to take reconciliation seriously then we need to work together for
the future of all who call this area home.
- The issue of vacation rentals (Air BnB, for instance) was deferred during the rezoning process,
in favor of maintaining the current Bed and Breakfast bylaw. What is your position on vacation
rentals in Port McNeill?
During this conversation I excused myself as we own a property that would be perfect
for an Air B&B and I felt it was a conflict of interest. When I travel, I prefer Air B&Bs to
hotels myself. Having said that, I would not be in favour of allowing them at this time
until our vacancy rate increases. That’s why B&Bs were allowed if you live in the
property and the business is ancillary to your home. If we open it up at this time, I fear
people from outside our community would buy them as investment properties further
reducing housing availability.
- Do you view short-term rentals as a business? To what extent or end can people participate in
commerce out of their own home?
Yes, I do see short term rentals as a business and as the bylaw currently exists, if they
operate a B&B from their home, they can continue to do so.
- What is your perception of the status of the resource sector, and how do you think that relates
to community planning?
The forestry of today is not the forestry of tomorrow. We need to attract a diverse array
of businesses to the community. I would not be looking for the 200-300 employee sized
business, though I wouldn’t say no if it came here. I have always said let’s attract ten
25-50 employee sized businesses. That would give us more stability and diversity. To
do that though we need available property, especially in the downtown core.
- For the incumbents, Re: urban chickens, can you explain the position you took during the
bylaw rezoning process and your position on urban chickens if re-elected? For the others,
what is your position on urban chickens in Port McNeill.
This council didn’t say no to urban chickens. We said not to it being included in the
Zoning bylaw because we saw that some would take advantage of loopholes. I learned
that not everyone reads a bylaw like a rule following person would. We still want
to introduce another process, like a permit process, that would allow us to regulate
urban chickens in a way that the owner and neighbours could all live with.
- Please explain what you think went wrong in the conversation around re-zoning this year?
I don’t think anything went wrong. It was a public process that went exactly as public
processes should with the outcome that was met favourably in the end as it was
amended based on that feedback.
- What are your ideas to increase recreation opportunities in Port McNeill? Specifically, are you
in favor of increasing staff resources dedicated to recreation, like has recently been done in
Port Hardy, and what is your vision for affordable development of recreational infrastructure?
We have a recreation committee that is new and that I am sure will be full of energy. We
have shown these past few years that we value our volunteer committees and take to
heart the recommendations they bring forward. If any project specific groups would
come forward with new ideas, I would encourage them to liaise with that committee first
before coming to council.
- What are your thoughts on having a waterfront park and gathering place geared to children
I supported a waterfront part when I was a councillor and I supported it again when it
came forward a year and a half ago. Both times we gave agreement in principle. When
the group did not get the grant funding, I don’t think they felt fully supported by us to
come back to the council table. We need to look at why that is and fix it moving forward.
HR, ADMINISTRATION, GOVERNANCE
- Do you think the Town of Port McNeill's communication strategy with its residents is
adequate? If not what kind of changes would you like to see occur?
There was a time I would have said so, but as I am talking to people it’s clear we don’t.
We need to find out what the best method of communication is moving forward. For
instance, I don’t think most people know we have to publish an annual report. It lists all
of the past year’s accomplishments, financials and is a great way to see how their tax
dollars were spent.
- Not all ideas and priorities move forward. How well would you work with Council to get 1 or 2
ideas moved forward that aren’t your favourite? How would you personally determine which
idea gets precedence over all the other worthy ideas?
That has not been a problem for me. I have supported projects that may not have been
a high priority for me and likewise had projects rejected that I brought forward. Council
works on consensus. Once it is voted on, we move forward and speak as a whole. How
we determine which one takes precedence will be made at the start of our term where
we will go through a strategic planning process that will be reviewed each year as
The only thing that may shift priorities is a project specific grant opportunity, but that
would still need council’s approval to jump the queue of priorities.
- What does "being the face of Port McNeill" mean to you and how do you see yourself
encouraging positivity and development in our town?
This is a great question. I have always been the type of person who looks at the
positive. If you have seen my posts in the Town Log you will see it is always upbeat. I
like to look at obstacles as opportunities.
- What is your commitment to this council? Will you run for another office during your elected
There was a time when I might have answered yes to this question but at this time, I am
unsure and I don’t think I am ready for a commitment that would take me away from the
community for most of the year, even though the pay would be considerably better. Call
o The Mayor has the important duty of overseeing the day to day operations and working
closely with the Chief Administrative Officer. If elected, how often would you be in the
Town Office, how much time can dedicate to the job?
The Mayor doesn’t oversee the day to day operations. The Mayor has the
important duty of working closely with the CAO who oversees the day to day
operations. I am in the office most days, perhaps not 8 hours a day, but do have
other meetings that take me out of the office. I am extremely responsive to
messages, email and texts. My husband might say too responsive. �� I am always
available for staff, even when I am out of town.
- SD 85
o Seamless Day Kindergarten or Before-And-After school programs offered within the
school district are gaining traction around BC: will School District 85 support a
Seamless Day Kindergarten program, why or why not?
- What is your plan to address the Health Care crisis we are experiencing in Port McNeill?
I think it’s obvious that I am working hard on the health care crisis. I have advocated to
the provincial government, am working with the ‘Namgis on our local situation,
communicate often with Island Health and am always looking for people with solutions
that I can help move forward. I have personally toured potential hires and introduced
them to our community. I have been helping a new physician with the immigration
process so his wife can come to Canada and be together again.
- How aggressively will you compete within the region to get more health infrastructure
specifically in Port McNeill, like a bathing centre?
That’s an interesting question that I will answer in two parts. I don’t want to
aggressively compete with our regional neighbours, I want to work together with them.
Aggressively compete would be to do things like offer monetary compensation which is
a race to the bottom. That type of competition isn’t equitable.
When talking about a bathing facility, I would wholeheartedly support one. I have
mentioned the need for a bathing facility numerous times to Island Health when at the
Regional Hospital District table.
- More seniors are aging in place, and there is very little housing available here
that is suitable for seniors to transition to (i.e. single level, small yards, etc). What will you do
to support seniors housing?
We have the land available to build more seniors housing on the existing site on Furney
place. The grant application we made 4 1/2 years ago was unsuccessful. The newest
homes were a partnership with the Rotary Club, and I would support that because it
would be considerably less to build when a non-profit is leading the project. They would
also have access to different funding pools than we have.
- What do you think about investing into the large bubble demographics of seniors?
I don’t understand this question. If you are talking investing into the seniors
demographic, then I would say lets plan a community that is age friendly and make it
accessible for all ages tp enjoy. That includes building facilities and programs that are
multi-age in nature.
- What do you think the number one actionable solution to Port McNeill’s housing crisis is?
This council has asked that the property above pioneer hill be surveyed, and reported
back to council how many homes it could accommodate with services. Since that is
being done the one actionable item would be to make a development plan and then put
it out to tender. I am not in favour of breaking it into parcels or selling it as a whole
without it being planned beforehand.
- What are your thoughts on our daycare crisis and what steps are you going to take to improve
Councillor Downey and I are working with a non-profit and have connected with
government. Our MLA has put them on notice so that when they are ready to go, the
process can be expedited. In the summer council sponsored a free babysitting course
with 30 youth to help the immediate need at that time. I will continue to work on this till
the daycare crisis is solved.
- What are your thoughts on the current values of tax businesses are paying in our community?
I think the current taxes are fair. Light industry is about 50% less than what we could be
receiving. This is an area where we could make larger incremental steps to be at par
with the provincial level.
- What is the number one thing that Port McNeill can do to attract business?
Tell our story better than we are. There is a lot of support for a new business. If you
have the right business idea, there is not as much competition, taxes are reasonable
and so is rent, compared to the city. Building permit applications don’t take a ton of
time. We also have excellent connectivity.
- September 30 th is Orange Shirt Day. What are a couple steps that Port McNeill has or can take
We have already taken steps. When meeting with Island Health on our area’s issues, we
include the ‘Namgis as they are struggling too, and we are closely connected in our
services. We have joined a North Island Power coalition to look at alternate means
of power due to the numerous outages we see in the winter months. This include the
Namgis, Kwakiutl, Gwasala’nakwa’kx, and Quatsino. The group was successful with an
Island Coast Economic Trust grant and Port McNeill has also contributed finances to it.
On Canada Day we flew not only the Canadian Flag but also the Kwakwaka’wak
Canadian flag and I believe it is still flying there now. Can we do more? Absolutely!
Indigenous relations training for the new council would be a great first step.