As of Sept. 14, there were eight candidates declared for the four councillor positions in the Town of Gibsons Oct. 15 local government elections. Profiles for candidates David Croal, Bob Morris, Greig Soohen and Christi Thompson are included in this article (other profiles were included in previous editions).
Incumbent Councillor David Croal told Coast Reporter he had been approached by many residents asking him to run for re-election. He said his primary motivator was that he “didn’t want to loose the momentum that the current council had gained.”
When asked about the key issues for the town, “housing, housing, housing” was his response. He said a lack of affordable housing complicates many issues; having enough staff for local businesses, keeping volunteer fire department rosters at operational levels and the ability to attract and retain community paramedics. After recently touring a new fire hall on the lower mainland where affordable residential units were included on the upper floors, he believes that ideas like that or adding a shared space for BC Ambulance services should be considered when the time comes to replace Gibsons’ aging fire hall.
He said his campaign in 2018 focused on affordability in the community and that once elected “it was a huge eye opener to see how little money the Town has to provide services.
"A lot of people don’t realize that a one per cent tax increase in Gibsons only provides about $32,000 and we [the Town] are trying to replace infrastructure and upgrade things, it’s a real struggle, and requires finding a balance that people can live with."
Croal said that helping with the background for the “Still Standing” television series episode taped in the community in April gave him an opportunity to reflect on what the community is and has been, noting that it has gone from a working to a lifestyle community.
After making his first visit to Gibsons in 1977, Croal moved to the community in 1979. His working career spanned sales, marketing, publishing, construction and positions in the television and hospitality industries.
As the nomination period opened, candidate Bob Morris asked himself “Am I honestly being represented?” In his view, some of the decisions that were being made by the current council did not represent his interests. “And I am not sure if they represented the interests of most of the people in Gibsons,” he said.
He told Coast Reporter in an interview those realizations and a desire to give back to the community spurred him to put his name forward.
In Morris’ view, “all of the issues in Gibsons can be brought down to one word – growth.”
"That growth affects everything else: housing, infrastructure, the aquifer, traffic… We have to realize that we are going to grow and at the same time control that growth so that it is good for everyone.”
He also expressed a need for local governments to take action to address public safety concerns. "I think we have to be really aware of dealing with crime increases," he said.
A resident of the Coast for over 20 years, Morris owns residential properties in both Gibsons and Elphinstone. He works as a broadcast industry consultant and stated he is willing to put that aside to give priority to the role of being a councillor, if elected.
A past president of the Gibsons and Area Chamber of Commerce, Morris has been a director of the Harbour Board and a member of a local Advisory Planning Commission. He spent the bulk of his career, in his words “longer than I care to remember," in radio broadcasting and developed the film training program with Capilano University. In 2005, he was a driving force behind the establishment of radio station CKAY-FM on the Coast.
Greig Soohen, a 35-year resident of Gibsons, stated that a number of concerns lead him the decision to run for a councillor’s seat.
In a written statement to Coast Reporter, he noted that he has recently hosted six guests in his home as temporary help, including trades people, nurses and citizens from Lithuania as a direct result of there being no accommodation available for them, or even reliable transportation on and off the Coast even though they had jobs awaiting them in Gibsons. He stated he has found that these experiences are a growing phenomenon in the community.
“Affordable housing is hard to come by for most all," he wrote. "We must find ways of freeing up and creating added affordable housing via greater contributions both provincially and federally."
In his view, the Town needs to look for solutions to this crisis through funding incentives, employer participation, and by encouraging new construction of affordable housing.
Other focuses for Soohen are encouraging BC Ferries to budget more funds for the growing Sunshine Coast routes and to add reservoir and collection supply for domestic water.
A 24 year member of the Gibsons and District Volunteer Fire Department, he has been with Gibson’s Rotary Club for eight years and spent 12 years as one of the Coast’s BC government wedding commissioners. He said his background will help him bring a creative but also a time-sensitive “get it done” attitude to the council table.
Councillor hopeful Christi Thompson told Coast Reporter via email, “I believe my role is to listen and learn and represent those voices in a practical forward thinking productive manner.
"I believe that fundamentally we all want the same things; an affordable place to live that is safe, healthy and inclusive.”
A resident of the community since 2002, Thompson, who works in entertainment career management, previously owned a clothing store in the Town and states she understands the concerns of business owners.
As a homeowner who has undertaken renovation and construction projects in Gibsons, Thompson said she has experience with the permit processes of the town. She also brings forward the perspectives of being both a long-term rental landlord as well as an AirBnB Super Host in the community.
She said her experience with her parents has provided her with insight into “the invisibility often experienced by seniors."She would like to see local government support “hospice, home care services, Meals on Wheels, as well as safe and enjoyable social engagement for seniors in our community.”
She also said she'd love to see a performing arts theatre in Gibsons, "one that is large enough to host International touring artists and speakers as well as support our local arts community."