The local election is off and running, with the end of the nomination period coming after last week’s paper went to press on October 14.
There are four candidates for the one position of mayor of Fort St. James, and five for the four councillor positions.
For the mayoral spot, current mayor, Sandra Harwood will be running for re-election, along with past mayor Rob McDougal. Councillor Brenda Gouglas is running for the promotion after two terms as a councillor, and newcomer Ann McCormick, also a prominent member of the community and the campus supervisor of the local College of New Caledonia Campus, has thrown her name into the ring.
As for the four councillor spots, only one of the candidates is an incumbent, Dave Birdi, but Russ Gingrich is a past alderman and mayor.
Dave Burgess, Riley Willick and Joan Burdeniuk are all looking for a chance to sit on council as well, and all of them have spent many years in the Fort.
For the duration of the election The Courier will be running questions gathered from the community and the responses from the candidates.
This week, current Mayor Sandra Harwood was not able to respond in time because she is recovering from surgery, but she will be given a chance to respond to the first questions in next week’s paper, along with next week’s questions.
Anyone with additional questions they would like to suggest to ask of the candidates for either mayor or councillor can call The Courier at 250-996-8482 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The All Candidates Forum will take place at the Music Makers Hall on October 27 at 7 p.m..
Questions for mayoral candidates:
1) What is your vision for Fort St. James in five years? In 20?
Fort St. James will be a vibrant and stable community. It will have diversity in industries, healthy small businesses, and educational opportunities leading to jobs that support families. New recreational amenities will serve all our residents.
Five years is in fact a very short period of time. In 2016Milligan Mountain will be in to full production. At that time we will beabsolutely certain of the numbers of new residents who have chosen tomake this their home .Over the next 3 years mayor,council and staff can speculate on best casenumbers, but it will be at that time the absolute needs for infrastructuredevelopment and upgrade becomes clear.
In the interim, residential development, new business, small and large, will find us more and moreattractive. We need to be open for business, willing to work with proponents andcontinue to work on ways and means of making our community aneven more desirable place to live and work. It will be an exciting andchallenging time, with opportunities for our young people,localentrepreneurs and services to thrive. We need only the will to do so.
A positive vision for the future builds a resilient community. This is the North’s decade as we are watching the up trends and positive economic news stories coming out of our region. We have seen a 2.4 per cent economic growth in BC.. and the wealth and employment generation is coming from our area of the province. Fort St James needs to capitalize on this keeping in mind our quality of life, infrastructure, business and environmental goals.
We want to diversify and build capacity so our community can sustain any new global down turns that will come in the future. Providing public information, awareness and information programs will help citizens contribute to, and benefit from upcoming opportunities. Collaborative partnerships within and outside the community are the key to a vibrant, progressive community. The Official Community Plan and Community Profile documents need to be living documents that express the current potential of our community.
A “I believe in Fort” attitude builds pride and promotes awareness of the region.
In five years I can see Fort St James as a bustling community of 2500 people with a strong commercial, industrial, forestry, mining, educational and tourism business sector. As well we will also be developing the infrastructure to meet the needs of our community in the long term. Mining will become a major employer in our region and with the aging population, consideration will have to be given to accommodating the retiring workforce locally.
In 20 years I can see Fort St James continuing to be a very active community although there may be a shift from forestry only to forestry and mining as our major employers. I also think we will be a community catering to the tourism industry at a higher level and we will see our town transition to a more retirement friendly community.
2) What is your vision/plan for working with other communities (regionally, First Nations). How would you build community between Nak’azdli First Nation and Fort St. James?
As mayor I will be working with other communities by having active roles on the boards of the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako and the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition. Through these organizations community leaders create opportunities for the whole region. I will hold community-to-community forums with our Nak’azdli neighbours to discuss solutions to challenges, and opportunities that face us both.
Projecting out to 20 years is really difficult. My perfect scenario would be a stable, sustainable community with employment at a high level, a solid core community of small businesses, light and heavy industry; a community centre which services our arts and culture and recreational needs and serves as a showcase for the community and a drawing card for conferences. In addition the Community Foundation Fund which will be used toward a variety of individuals in Fort St. James.
It is going to be an exciting time. I trust we will manage our potentialwith due diligence and thoughtfulness.
Our neighbouring Stuart Nechako communities of Vandehoof and Fraser Lake are all open for business just like Fort St. James. Working in partnership brings synergy to the process and helps move the region forward. As well, Bulkley Nechako Region District, Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC) are two excellent organizations to engage with to ensure the there is prosperity for Fort St. James and the region.
Strong municipal-Aboriginal relations can assist in meeting a range of objectives, including identifying areas of mutual interest and developing joint initiatives, meeting regulatory requirements for community development, partnering on service delivery and resource management.
Establishing and maintaining respectful relationships between all parties is essential to good municipal-Aboriginal relations and is a basic principle of good municipal governance. By respecting each other’s perspectives and developing relations, we can build trust, address potentially challenging issues and be responsive.
Nak’azdli First Nations and our neighbouring communities of Tl’azt’en, Yekooche and Takla Lake First Nation are a very important part of the region and better engagement across all communities in the region is needed to develop solutions and take advantage of cohesive opportunities.
My plan for working with other communities is to strengthen the relationships already in place by sharing ideas and solutions that are common to us all. This can be accomplished by reviving the Regional Economic Development Initiative meetings that were held on a bi-weekly basis during Mayor Togyi and my terms in office. These meetings involved the mayors of Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Fort St James and their respective Regional District Directors, Community Futures and invited guests. We discussed economic opportunities within our region. I would like to expand the representation at these meetings to include a member from each of our First Nation communities and the focus to include addressing all issues in the region.
Questions for councillor candidates:
1) What is your vision for Fort St. James (FSJ) in five years? in 20?
I vision the future of our community as a place for investment, the place to live, to work and retire. The stable economic confidence drawing further investments and people. I vision the community further diversifying economically with pellet plant, wood-residue power station, and as service centre for the current and other mines developing in the region.
Young families and residents will stay and relocate here for the affordable housing along with the many amenities.
To be a community the inhabitants are proud of. A community that is able to offer a strong work life balance, where opportunities exist for our youth to obtain the education that they require to find fulfilling local employment, in a healthy environment.
A community that is proud of its history, while embracing the future. A community that is able to recognize its strengths and weaknesses and develop both with equal determination.
In five years I would like to see our community hall constructed, a safer trucking route either in the form of a bypass or improvements made to our existing roads.
We need development of a new subdivision to accommodate the new residents we are going to see from the new mine and increased logging activity.
My vision for the next 20 years is to grow our community into a more diverse and self sustaining community both in industry and lifestyle.
The loop walking trail was funded by a forest stumpage pot of money outside of municipal taxes. Let’s pursue that funding again.
We live on a beautiful lake that the provincial government is reluctant to develop for home and cottage use. Why not? Its a billion dollar industry in Ontario supporting many small communities. We have an aging infrastructure that needs replacement.
A long term replacement plan is needed. We could diversify our local industry by encouraging recreation and sports events.
Why do we not have an outdoor skating and hockey rink? There is a lack of industrial and residential lots.
Our hospital is in need of an upgrade if not a total renovation. I feel a Senior’s Care Home is required. There are many seniors in our community that would be able to stay here if we had one locally. A new Seniors Recreation centre would also be an enhancement to our community.
A larger recreation centre including a swimming pool such as the one in Mackenzie would be another facility I would like to see.
I see the potential for a hundred and fifty new homes being built in the district in the near future and the stability of the district that this will provide. Our existing businesses will benefit, as well.
The future holds a lot of excitement for FSJ, along with some major changes.
My vision of FSJ in five years would be a place that has expanded rapidly, but sustainably. As with the influx of the mine traffic, we would have seen a new subdivision and with the people it will bring some new small businesses in town. As this boom would be rapid and then level off once the mine is in operation, I believe that a proactive council can not only keep up with growth, but parlay some of it to further benefit the community.
In 20 years I see FSJ as a community that has a strong economic sector, but also couples it with a high quality of life.
2) How and what needs to be done to achieve that?
Continuing rapport with other levels of government and local policies makes the vision a reality.
We are currently at a very interesting and dynamic time in the history of our community. We have the ability now to set the course of our community for the years to come, however in order to do so effectively we have to do a couple of key activities. First and foremost we need to develop a cohesive vision for FSJ, if we don’t know where we are going our chances of ending up where we want to be are slim to none. Once we agree on what we want to accomplish then we need to develop a strategic plan to achieve this vision. This way we will be ready to react as quickly as possible to changing circumstances; this significantly increases our probability of success. Past councils have done a good job of talking to the community and gathering the required information to develop a community strategic plan. However to date we have not seen the completion nor implementation of this plan. The time for talk is past; it is now time for us to decide whom we want to be, and to take action to achieve our goals.
We can accomplish this by having new partnerships with developers for home and lot construction. I would encourage our mayor and council to pursue a more fair tax sharing agreement.
The fuel tax alone that our local logging trucks have paid over the years should have paid a few times over for safer and better maintained roads both within and leading into our community. We should review the advantages of becoming a township encompassing those areas adjacent to us that are currently within the regional district.
A good 20 year plan needs input from our community. We can only accomplish this by meeting and canvassing our residents and business owners for their visions and support.
First I would like to see the community forest allowable cut be increased substantially to help generate funds. We must be aware and apply for the available grants. Lobby Victoria for additional funding. This community was built largely by volunteers and that would include donations from business. Industry will play a major part.
Due to the increased volume of heavy traffic through town, a safety issue arises, a few controlled crosswalks could reduce a potential hazard.
I encourage Thompson Creek Metals to consider making FSJ their headquarters and home to a large number of their employees.
Working with Thompson Creek would be paramount to the next five years. As the large new investor in town they will be the main engine of growth in this community for the foreseeable future. They have already expressed an interest with working with FSJ in regards to the the new subdivision and its planing. Expanding our relationship with them, seeing what they need to operate successfully in town will give us the chance to grow our community in a manner that will attract other industry or businesses as well as the skilled people to fill some of those jobs.
To achieve our 20 year goals I believe that FSJ would need some investments in its infrastructure. The downtown revitalization did wonders to the pride of the town as well as its livability. The addition of some projects like a Community hall, increased recreational programs and other projects would make Fort not only a great place to work but to live. Towns such as Smithers can be an example.