MacKenzie challenges Sturdy 

Pemberton voters will have a choice for mayor

The race for mayor in Pemberton has kicked off with incumbent Jordan Sturdy and Councillor David MacKenzie declaring their candidacies for the Nov. 15 election.

Both candidates are completing their first terms on Village of Pemberton council. It’s been a busy three years that has included a massive new music festival, a proposed private school and a series of housing developments.

For Sturdy, one of the biggest issues facing the next council will be managing those developments for the benefit of the community.

“There is significant demand here,” he said in an interview with Pique . “There are proposals, there are lots of ideas, and I think what we need to start doing is thinking a little bit more about who we are as a community and where we want to go.”

Sturdy said the community has changed significantly over the past two decades, going from a population of around 300 to a current population of approximately 3,000 people.

With a change in population comes a need to revisit the community’s identity, Sturdy said.

“I think it’s time that we have this conversation as a community,” he said. “I think it’s important we create a dialogue about what Pemberton is and how we define ourselves and… where we want to go in the future.”

MacKenzie, who serves as president of the Pemberton Regional Airport Authority and chairman of Tourism Pemberton, said one of his biggest focuses as mayor would be increasing the community’s population.

“I think that this area can certainly use a little more population growth that will assist our developing businesses,” he said.

Those projects include Frontier Plaza, a four-storey mixed-use building to be located at the 7400 block of Frontier Street between Birch Street and Camus Street. They also include Arbutus Walk, a mixed-use building complex to be located at 7380 Crabapple Court.

The latter had a development permit approved at a special meeting on July 22, while a development permit was approved for Frontier Plaza at the Aug. 12 council meeting.

The elephant in the room for both candidates is undoubtedly the status of the Pemberton Music Festival.

Both candidates are keen on seeing the festival in town again, though they may face challenges in finding a new site to hold it. B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission approved the site of this year’s festival for one time only.

Also at stake for the next council are issues related to a proposed extension of the VOP’s boundaries. If approved, the expansion will amalgamate 20 new areas into the VOP including the Rutherford Power Plant and settlement areas near Ivey and Mosquito Lakes.

The VOP stands to gain $250,000 in annual taxes if the expansion is approved.

And if it does go through, MacKenzie said the tax money could be very helpful for a community that often has to rely on government grants to carry out important infrastructure projects.

“We’ve been tax poor for a long time,” MacKenzie said. “There’s times when we’ve had to put things on hold and play the waiting game until grants come through.”

Though he’s proud of his time as a councillor, MacKenzie’s tenure hasn’t come without internal tension.

In 2007 he filed a human rights complaint against the Village of Pemberton   and Pemberton Fire Chief Russell Mack.

MacKenzie, a gay man, alleged that he was passed over for a promotion because of his sexual orientation and that Mack subjected him to homophobic jokes while he served as a volunteer firefighter.

MacKenzie told Pique that all parties in the complaint reached a confidential settlement that was “mutual for both parties.”

However that’s not how Mack tells it. He said the process is still ongoing, but he deferred to lawyers for further commentary.

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