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Council hopefuls jostle in forum

At 10 days out, the candidates for Prince George mayor and city council were leaving nothing to chance Wednesday night.

At 10 days out, the candidates for Prince George mayor and city council were leaving nothing to chance Wednesday night.

All 27 people with their name on the 2014 local government election ballot turned out for the all candidates' forum hosted by the Prince George Construction Association and the Canadian Home Builders' Association of Northern BC.

Candidates faced a variety of questions from the sponsor members and audience members that ranges from testing their personal experience with construction and subdivision development to their position on a potential performing arts centre.

Though names were said to be drawn randomly, incumbent councillors were tasked with responding to why the city spent more than $130,000 on a snow operations and fleet review by an outside consultant.

Answered by Garth Frizzell, Albert Koehler, Cameron Stolz and Murry Krause, the majority intimated that there was an issue within the the ranks of staff.

Frizzell called it a "breakdown in governance," while Koehler said it was a management problem.

"[The consultants] borrowed a watch from city hall and told city hall how late it is," Koehler said.

"We could have gone to the shop floor and we didn't," said Krause, who also said the resulting report will guide decision making and planning for years to come.

According to Stolz, he raised the issue with the fleet in his first term and since then there have been two reports presented to council that indicated a problem with how the fleet is purchased and maintained.

Candidates were also asked about their position on work being completed in-house versus getting outsourced.

When it comes to the service industry, those jobs should be kept within city hall, said council candidate Trent Derrick, while capital projects could be looked at for outside hands. "You need to get the best bang for your buck," Derrick said.

Alex Huber said most things are fair game if it makes financial sense to out source a service, as long as there's a level playing field.

Mayoral candidate Don Zurowski said projects such as the Hart sewer installation should be put out to tender. Frank Everitt and Terri McConnachie said there should be a balance between the two.

"It all comes down to what's best for taxpayers," McConnachie said.

When asked how the city can encourage the development of affordable housing, council candidate Coralee Larsen suggested incentives be given to landlords in order to ease the rent on tenants. Jillian Merrick noted the importance of not lumping affordable and social housing developments together in the same area to avoid ghettoization as well as stressed the need for public transit. "Housing is no good if you can't get anywhere," Merrick said.

Harry Ulch said BC Housing needs to be on board and there also needs to be federal funding brought to the table to tackle affordable housing.

Asked to outline their view of core services, incumbent Brian Skakun said the first thing he would do is eliminate trips to China as well as look at the effectiveness of Initiatives Prince George.

"I know they do good work, but it's well over $1 million [the city contributes to IPG's budget]," Skakun said.

Monica Peacock said people's wants can be stronger than their reality, but that it also depends on your perspective as she doesn't consider things such as pools and arenas to be "frills."

Having the city provide identical services, such as having two pools, eliminates the opportunity for a private operator to get into the game, said Ron Gallo.