Candidates for both the council seat and mayoral spot in the Smithers byelection gathered at the All Candidates Debate Forum Thursday (Oct 1).

Mayor candidates Gladys Atrill, Joe Bramsleven, and councillor candidates Colin Bateman, Randy Bell, Mika Meyer and Sam Raven all gathered at the Prestige Hotel for the event.

Residents could not attend the event in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic but were able to catch the debate on Zoom and Facebook Live.

One of the major topics that were discussed was the accessibility of affordable housing.

Mayoral Candidate Joe Bramsleven was the first to touch on the topic and said the lack of housing in Smithers is a very big problem.

“Affordable housing is a very big issue it all boils down the tax base, we have a very very small tax base, in order to increase our infrastructure, our sewer, water, roads and everything else it all comes down to where are we going to get the money and how we’re going to get the money and who is going to come from?,” he said.

Councillor candidate Sam Raven said the amount people are paying for rent is far too high.

“I think we should be densifying so, again that is where we would be able to do tax exemption to have suites built-in, do additional laneway housing and we really do need to get more living spaces for this town,” she said.

Bramsleven responded to Raven saying welcoming people into the community is great but we need the housing and jobs to go with the new residents.

Mayoral Candidate Gladys Atrill said with private sector development housing, it will require a good return on investing.

“I do want to address some of the social housing needs that are going require a public sector investment,” she said.

Atrill added Smithers does have jobs but is lacking the people.

The Smithers byelection will be held on October 17.