What is your vision of Fort St. James in 5 years? In 20?
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.
How and what needs to be done to achieve that?
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 develop a cohesive vision for Fort St James, 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.
What are the key issues facing FSJ today?
1. Safety and security – the primary safety issue that I feel that we need to address is increased truck traffic flow through the community and area. There are other safety and security issues as well, such as affordable housing, increased crime, downtown congestion and potential pollution.
2. Infrastructure – in order to support the economic development of our community we will need to address the current infrastructure. Both the need for the development of new infrastructure; such as a day care or a community centre, and the impact development will have on our existing infrastructure such as water, sewer, roads etc.
3. Sustainable economic development – while it is generally recognized that we are entering a time of increased economic development I believe that it is the job of council to ensure that we plan for all of the stages of development, addressing both positive and negative ramifications of changes over the long term.
4. Community pride – The Chamber of Commerce did an amazing job of freshening up our downtown with the downtown revitalization project. It is now our job to develop a sense of pride and ownership in our community that translates into creating a positive environment that we can all be proud of.
5. Revenue sharing of resource extraction between the province, and/or individual companies and the community. We need to be increasingly vocal about the long term impact that the extraction of natural recourses will have on our community. We need to ensure that it allows us to create positive change that will ensure we are able to sustain ourselves over the long term. We want to minimize the impact of a boom and bust cycle. This will take planning, effort and time to accomplish.
What are your top priorities when tackling these issues?
1. One of the more immediate issues that mayor and council will need to address is the issue of increased traffic moving through our community. While it appears to be very busy already, we know that the number of trucks is expected to increase significantly over the next couple of years. It is important that we explore all available options to ensure community safety. I believe that we will have to tackle this issue simultaneously from a variety of angles in order to achieve such a resolution. Significant work has been done in the past regarding alternate routes, we should review this information while considering solutions, however an alternate route, if viable, would be a long term solution. All the different levels of government will need to work together to find a solution. This issue exists because wood is leaving our area, as such there needs to be compensation payable to the community for the use of our infrastructure. Additionally I believe we also have to be looking at any and all steps that can be taken to safe guard our citizens; such as alternate parking arrangements, creating walking paths to ensure pedestrian safety, and support of organizations that are working to achieve these ends such as the Rotary Stuart River Bridge project.
2. Infrastructure development – as we move forward we anticipate that we will need to be able to support an increasingly complex society. There is clearly a need to develop more infrastructure. I believe that we need to focus on the creation of a day care facility and completion of the community centre project that has been under way for a number of years.
3. Community Pride – I would like to see Fort St James continue to focus on creating a culture of respect and pride in and around our community. We are very lucky to be able to live in an area of exceptional natural beauty, unfortunately at times it can be difficult to see this as the eye is often distracted. We need to ensure that the hard work that went into the downtown revitalization is not wasted. It will take cooperation on a number of levels to be able to achieve this but I believe that we have had a good start and will be able to find positive workable solutions.
What role do you see council playing with regards to youth and hunger and homelessness initiatives and issues? Active, supportive, none?
I strongly believe in a community based approach to solving social & economic problems. Traditionally municipalities have not assumed an active social role however if we planning intelligently, in a way that respects the links between a healthy environment and a good qualify of life we will be better able to tackle these issues . We need to consider everything from traffic flow and economic growth to affordable housing, arts and culture, our natural environment and our evolving social needs.
How would you like to see the local district get involved in meeting their carbon emission reduction targets?
The local carbon emissions targets are aggressive and we will need to explore a number of differently approaches to this issue. I would like to see continued support for local “green” initiative such as Green Up Fort St James (GUF). The elimination of the remaining beehive burners. Strategies to encourage community involvement and ownership in reducing carbon emissions. Explore the possibilities of using carbon credits. Support and development of “green” business initiatives. Additionally I believe we will need to actively look for grants and strategies that are in place to assist with achieving these targets.