Paying for skiing from the public purse drew strong criticisms and support from those in the spotlight at the Nov. 8th all candidates meeting.
Council hopeful James Cordeiro showed strong opposition to publicly funding My Mountain Co-op’s efforts to buy and operate Shames Mountain.
“It’s not an easy decision for me to make,” said Cordeiro in response.
“I think nobody wants to see the mountain close but ultimately the membership drive…asked taxpayers to support the hill and taxpayers who voluntarily wanted to voluntarily did,” Cordeiro said, adding the membership drive came up short.
Cordeiro added he thinks the non-profit “ran around the taxpayers” by asking the city for $200,000, which is money the city couldn’t afford to give up.
“I think it was inappropriate,” said Cordeiro. “It goes against the people that didn’t purchase the memberships.”
Cordeiro added he supports the mountain privately.
Incumbent councillor Brian Downie has different views, and has voted in support of each request for public money made by the co-op to date.
Downie was asked by the media panel why he voted in favour when there was no avenue through which to tell how the money is spent.
In response, Downie said he thinks one of the mistakes council made after turning down the co-op’s initial two requests was not giving them political or moral support for the project.
“I think that’s something that actually caused some harm to My Mountain Co-op,” he said, adding that when the third proposal came to council, meetings with the non-profit’s directors had happened and council was confident a plan was in place for money which would be used to operate the hill.
Cordeiro disagreed with Downie’s perspective, saying he sat down with the co-op’s director Curtis Billey to go over details of the business plan.
Cordeiro pointed out that with a 10-year average loss of $26,000, and an average of 24,000 yearly visits to the mountain, the co-op could charge a $2 operating fee per visit which would be reflective of those who actually use the hill, and generate almost $50,000 yearly.
But incumbent councillor Bruce Bidgood, who supported all requests for money in council, rebutted Cordeiro’s stance.
“We’ve spent a lot of money investing in things such as the co-op building and TLC lands and things of that nature and my thinking was, why not invest in community assets,” he said. “Nobody ever came to Terrace to see the co-op building.
“Investing in something like My Mountain Co-op…improves the quality of life here for people, makes people want to come here, stay here,” he continued. “I think it’s just a change in the way we look at economic development.”
Council hopeful Tyson Hull agreed with Bidgood.
“Twenty five thousand dollars lost each year at the ski hill is a small mountain compared to the $600,000 a year the library and pool represent,” he said, adding the hill was put together by people with a vision for Terrace and exists now because of community support. “It is losing money, and it does need support.”
Dan LeFrancois was also in favour of supporting the co-op with tax money, saying skiing in the area is important to recreation, health and business.
Council candidate Marilyn Davies said she talked to about 450 people and all were in favour of giving money for the operation, instead of the purchase, to the co-op.
“It is an attraction to Terrace, it’s something that we should have that fits into the lifestyle we have to continue to develop,” she said of opinions she’s heard. “I have to say that I am in favour of operating funds for My Mountain Co-op.”
Mike Ross said he spoke to 150 people about giving tax dollars to the co-op while going door to door in Terrace’s south side.
He said everybody but two “were able to point at the streets in front of their house and say ‘when you guys take care of that, that’s when it’s time to spend money on a business out of town.”’
During the mayoral portion of the debate, Ross asked candidate Bruce Martindale if, to break a tie, he would vote to give My Mountain Co-op money even if the majority of the public was against it.
Martindale responded that a vote for him is a vote for someone who supports skiing at Shames Mountain and the co-op’s efforts to make that happen.
This doesn’t necessarily mean giving them more money, he said, but what it does mean is that he will show support through whatever means he can.
“And if that’s what you want in a mayor, then I’m here,” he said.
Incumbent mayor Dave Pernarowski added he too supports the mountain, and that $15,000 for operations from the city was appropriate for the community.
“That’s way more sustainable I think than just jumping in at a $200,000 amount to first purchase the hill,” he said, noting that he has been active in supporting the mountain and will continue to.