Last week, Merritt’s four mayoral hopefuls answered their first Herald weekly question, regarding the state of healthcare in the Nicola Valley. Along with eighteen council candidates, they form one of the largest pools of candidates the municipality has ever seen. With voters facing a wide variety of choices, the Herald looks to engage candidates and showcase their responses to the community’s question.

This week, the four candidates for Mayor answered a question regarding the building and maintaining of relationships with local First Nations. Their responses, in random order:

This week’s question: As Mayor, how would you build and maintain positive relationships with local First Nations?


Mike Goetz, former Merritt City Councillor (2008-2018):

“In my last year of Council (2018) we, as Mayor and Council of the time, had a very historic meeting with the five Chiefs of the Nicola Valley, it was the first time this had ever been done. It was a very amazing meeting where we got to know each other and started to build a relationship and trust. We agreed at the end to meet 4 times per year and trade venues. I, as Mayor, would return to making these meetings happen again and build a strong and productive relationship with the five bands and Merritt City Council. I have also set up meetings with NVIT’s Ken Tourand and John Chenoweth to happen this week. The purpose of these meetings is to start the same working relationship we will have with the five Bands if I am elected to the office of Mayor. As Osyoos Chief Clarence Louie told me when I booked him in as a speaker when we hosted SILGA, neighbours who work together make each other stronger, and I believe it.”


Tony Luck, incumbent Merritt City Councillor (2018-current):

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to initiate open and honest dialogue with the First Nations in our area. I have a lot to learn if I am elected Mayor. I am willing to take the time to learn and bring a better understanding to all parties involved. One of the first things that the council and I will need to do is reach out and familiarize ourselves with their values, culture, and worldview. They are a community with their own ways, beliefs, and philosophies. The best way for us to understand is to show respect and to listen to them. A main part of this understanding will be to continually seek ways to develop, strengthen, and sustain credible relationships with the Indigenous communities in our area. I keep speaking about Merritt moving forward but we can not be successful unless we are all working together, and working with our Indigenous neighbors is key to everyone’s success.”


Mike Bhangu, former Merritt City Councillor (2018-2021):

“I find this question a bit strange, and maybe I don’t understand the dynamics, or perhaps it’s because of the generation I was born to. I don’t view First Nations people differently and I was raised amid all the cultures of Merritt. I don’t see colour, race, etc. I judge each individual based on their interactions with me. I suppose I’ll continue to be myself and maintain an open, inviting, personable, and kind mind to all people.”


Linda Brown, incumbent Mayor (2018-current):

Mayor Linda Brown.

“Building and nurturing positive relationships with local First Nations is not only an ongoing, collaborative effort between the Chiefs and the Mayor, but also between First Nations Council and City of Merritt Council at the political level, and at the staff level.

I now open City Council meetings with a recognition of land acknowledgement. As I have in the past, I will work together with First Nations. The 286 project is an example of the progress we can make with mutual cooperation.

I am pursuing agreements with First Nations which will enable us to take advantage of federal funding to implement those portions of our diking plan which extend beyond the city limits to First Nations areas. I recognize that we live and play in the same community, with the same needs and desires, and will work together for the betterment of all our communities. Separately we can survive but working together we can thrive.

Building trust between us gets stronger every day. I am fortunate to have been raised in Merritt with a father who was a well-respected employer in the Nicola Valley for over 60 years. I went to school with numerous First Nations individuals and will continue to build on those friendships and relationships.”


To view the weekly question asked to council and school trustee candidates, along with all of the Herald’s coverage of this election, view the ‘Civic Elections’ tab on the Herald’s website.

The municipal election will take place on October 15, and will see Merrittonians elect one Mayor and six Councillors to a four year term. For more information on the election, visit