A sedate all-candidates meeting saw 23 council and mayoral candidates for Langley Township answer questions about firefighting Thursday night.
Organized by the Langley Township Fire Department’s union, IAFF local 4550, the meeting drew about 200 spectators and supporters of the various candidates.
Several themes came up repeatedly throughout the meeting.
Multiple candidates mentioned the need for more full-time staffed fire halls. Currently, four of the Township’s seven halls have full-time staffing.
“I think it’s about time that Brookswood had a full time staff,” said Sunny Hundal, one of the first to speak on the topic. Other candidates largely agreed, though Kim Richter suggested it should be in the northeast quadrant of the Township, putting it near the busy and crash-prone 264th Street highway interchange.
Another repeated theme was the impact of growth on the need for more and better emergency responders.
Eric Woodward was in favour of more training for specialized rescue, including high-angle rescue techniques, and said he was surprised when he learned that Township firefighters don’t have emergency medical technician training.
Several candidates recalled fires striking their own homes, including Kerri Ross.
“The longest time in my life was waiting for people to get there,” she said, noting she now lives close to a fire hall by choice. She warned that development will bring empty houses to Brookswood, posing possible fire hazards.
Mayoral candidate Anna Remenik was one of multiple candidates who said there need to be more firefighters to keep up with the Township’s rapidly growing population.
“We simply cannot fall behind,” said Blair Whitmarsh.
“It’s going to have to grow as our population grows,” said Kim Richter.
The technical aspects of firefighting as the Township adds more tall buildings were also discussed.
Steve Ferguson pointed to the number of six-storey buildings and possible high rises in Willoughby as posing future challenges.
Angie Quaale also brought up accidents with rail cars that would require fire response.
A sometime fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors charity, Michael Pratt mentioned the need for help with PTSD among some first responders.
Mayoral candidate and libertarian Alex Joehl brought up policing, promising that if elected he would create a task force to examine replacing the Langley RCMP with a municipal force. Joehl said local policing may provide better service.
Jonathan Houweling mentioned crime, noting that a burning car was left outside his home after a recent shooting.
Overall, the evening saw no direct disagreements between any of the candidates.
In their opening and closing statements, several candidates spoke on non-emergency related issues.
Michelle Connerty said she favours a tree cutting bylaw and wants to widen 208th Street in Willoughby right away.
“It’s the central nervous system of Langley,” she said.
Petrina Arnason also called for action on the busy road. “208th Street needs to be fixed,” she said.
Stacey Wakelin wants to tackle homelessness, she said.
“Ignoring this is not the solution,” she said.
Phyllis Heppner called for the creation of a performing arts centre through a public-private partnership.
Craig Teichrieb extended the discussion of services expanding from fire to parks, schools, and even childcare, which he said need to expand as the community does.
Only three candidates missed the meeting. Mayoral candidate Jack Froese had a previous engagement, and Gary Hee and Terry Sheldon did not attend.