What is your vision for Fort St. James in five years? In 20 years?
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 percent 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.
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.
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 (OBEC) 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.
What ideas do you have or issues do you see which should be worked on with other governments?
Regionally and provincially we want to raise the profile of Fort St. James as a forward thinking, professional community, that is a great place to live and do business in. There are some issues that have urgency to them and fiscal challenges and others that can support long range planning. Working and building good relations with the North Central Municipal Association, Bulkley Nechako Regional District, Omineca Beetle Action Coalition, Provincial and Federal ministers and officials will help us call to action issues before they become a crisis.
– Highway 27 and the North Road are urgent
– Revenue Sharing
– Community Health and Sustainability (Housing, Hospital)
– Community Hall
– Small Business
What does this town need to attract more small business? What are the land or tax issues facing small business?
This is a fitting question, given that October is “Small Business” month in British Columbia and Fort St James as a rural town is poised for community and economic renewal.
1. We need to focus on investments and policies that help us compete locally and regionally.
2. Being ready to do business in the 21st century means recognizing the changing global economy and adapting. It also means investing in our community services, infrastructure, human, and community capacity. When opportunity arrives we must be in position to respond quickly.
3. Given that business and industry can locate anywhere, what assets do we have and aspirations does our community have to offer? Fort St. James is a community offering good quality of life, affordable housing, a safe place to raise a family or stay once retired, a well-educated work force, an active group of young professionals, the presence of support services and industries, affordable commercial and industrial lands. How do we bundle our assets to fit the opportunities that small business is looking for? We improve transportation and communication, ensure a high-quality of services, quality-of life facilities and activities. It can all be done by enhancing the relationships and opportunities for collaborative regional governance. These items are investments in our future. Investments are done strategically so that the Municipal Office supports those seeking to establish or enhance their small business.
Re-bundling our assets and strategic planning for new infrastructure will entice people and resultant small business to Fort St. James.
Being business-friendly means helping and championing entrepreneurs. There are many ways to accomplish this. The provincial government has just announced as part of Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan, will provide a $3-million increase to B.C.’s successful Small Business Venture Capital Program tax credit, targeted to direct investments in new businesses. In addition to the small number of grants and contributions, there are many other government financing solutions for which your business may be eligible. These include: loan guarantees, wage subsidies, tax refunds and credits, low interest or no-interest loans. Let’s help our entrepreneurs seek out and apply for these opportunities.
Let’s not try doing this in isolation either. We can magnify our influence by working with commercial interests and the Fort St. James Chamber of Commerce to develop ways to attract small businesses to Fort St. James.
From conversations with community members and business people, I know that the ideas are out there to create a re-bundling plan designed to attract new businesses, new residents and funding sources. Some examples are as follows: Developing community-related events designed to increase business activity within the commercial corridor to encourage community participation in local business establishments; Assisting with the development of a “town center” that would provide residents an opportunity to come together in one place and enjoy a common experience that would benefit economic development; Working with current small businesses on retention and recruitment of other small businesses into Fort St. James by creating a Small Business Mentoring Program; Streamlining the town’s economic development policies and practices to enhance a “business friendly” environment and simplify the economic development process; Coordinating with the Community Futures, Regional District and Province to encourage more economic development investments into Fort St. James; Exploring the beautification of the corridors and gateways to Fort St. James; Marketing to attract new residents to Fort St. James and specifically those who are coming to the area for employment opportunities; Working with the community to integrate the Landscaping Master Plan into our town’s economic develop initiatives.
To re-iterate, there are a multitude of progressive ideas out there for the asking. Good leadership is less about having the right answers but rather asking the right question
How will you make yourself accessible and open to the public regarding issues that affect the community?
Many supportive community members have asked the question, “how will you manage duties of the mayor and work at the same time?” The old phrase comes to mind, “If you need to get something done, ask a busy person.”
The accomplishments of the Fort St. James CNC campus are the success of the community’s involvement and support along with a collaborative team of employees. The campus is now a permanent and sustainable post secondary educational center in our community.
I believe in making time for people. Our citizen’s are our biggest resource. My leadership style can be assertive and tenacious when required as well as consultative and encouraging in supporting initiatives. I believe in empowering people to feel ownership and pride in their involvement.
I am available to represent the community as required to support the initiatives of the community. I have release time worked into my employment schedule. I can always be reached at home, email, or by cell phone.
Our community is entering a new era and as the “new choice” for mayor I share a positive vision for and with our community. We will achieve it through collaborative action and I represent Fort St. James with a professional voice.
It’s not my town, it’s our town. It will not my success, it will be our success.
Do you support or oppose the proposed Enbridge northern Gateway Pipeline? How are you hoping to engage with the community on this issue?
As part of my workload for the college, I have sat on the Enbridge Northern Gateway’s Community Advisory Board for two years. This Board meeting quarterly is made up of Regional District, Municipal, First Nations, public and private interest groups that come together to identify topics of concern or interest from their region in regards to economic, social, environmental and cultural issues. I have encouraged community members to be an active voice to have their questions answered. Although the October 6 deadline has passed to submit any new oral statements or have intervener’s status to the Joint Review Panel, the hearings will be conducted in January – March 2012. With the pipeline running just south of Fort St. James, under the Stuart River and with a pumping station situated just outside the municipal boundary we need to ensure that Fort St. James becomes one of the Community hearing sites.
Anyone still interested in sharing their views with the pipeline can submit a Letter of Comment to their public registry.
Do you have a commitment to reducing the waste in our land fill? What ideas do you have to do this? What action do you believe the distinct government needs to take to make Fort St James a “greener” community, if any?
The District of Fort St. James can’t achieve this independently but must provide the leadership. Our Transfer Station, funded through a partnership with the Regional District, provides several opportunities to sort garbage thus reducing volume going into the landfill. More bins at the site for recycling plastics would definitely reduce volume but we still need to collect and transport it. Larger centres have the advantage of larger volumes so can build facilities specific to different mediums. We have innovators that think and work creatively, many of them on a volunteer basis. The partnership funding with Integris Credit Union and the Regional District to build a facility for bundling materials is a great example. Above all, the District must show leadership by managing and reducing its own impact on the landfill volume and by seeking out partnership arrangements to fund future initiatives.
On a personal level, at our home we sort garbage, recycle what we can, and as a gardener I have composted for years. We have a treatment plant for our household septic and have ordered a composting toilet for the cabin we are building. I admire the dedication and initiatives shown by the members of G.U.F.F. (Greening Up Fort St. James) and, recognizing that “all of us is always smarter than one of us”, as a Council we must give careful consideration to the ideas from others.
How do you think our community can meet it’s carbon emission reduction targets as it has signed on to do?
Leadership is best achieved through example. The Anti-idling and the Solid Fuel Emissions Bylaw are a start for the community. As a district Fort St. James could take the lead to measure, reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings, vehicles fleets and paper use. Trees are not only our livelihood; they are a carbon asset and beautify our community. We should continue to plant them. As the cost of low-emissions technology continues to drop, it may well be a worthwhile investment in the upcoming years. Regular energy audits and alternative energy assessments are also worthwhile pursuits.
The BC Government announcement in August of the New Bio-energy Projects to Provide Clean Energy was exciting. It will produce electricity using debris from sawmills, roadsides, and logging. It will also help make use of the vast quantity of decaying fiber from of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. We must continue to search and support similar bio energy initiatives, as well as seek and apply for provincial “green” funds to offset costs of installing solar panels or wind. Let’s support building with wood through our Building Permits.
Our Community Forest should be managed not only for sustainability but policies need to maximize the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the atmosphere. This is another leadership opportunity to support improved wood quality and faster regeneration.
As our population increases, we need long term plans to retrofit sewage and water systems.
Green initiatives and carbon emission reduction can also create employment opportunities. Imperative Recycling is an innovative small company that supports pick up of bi-weekly recycling and the new bio-energy project will provide employment for years to come.
What plans do you have for building for the future? Is there any infrastructure you would like to see or preparation for the community to handle future growth?
Marketing Fort St. James to the outside world has been part of the Sustainability Plan since 2009. This is a priority for me. We can no longer be “the north’s best kept secret” but rather need to raise the profile of Fort St. James in the region. One of our biggest challenges is complacency. We have many gifts: a stunning environment, we celebrate our diversity well, courageous entrepreneurs, and caring volunteers just to name a few.
The Community Visioning Document of 2007 addressed this very question, although in the last number of years the community and industry have been the ones to move a number of initiatives forward. The Chamber of Commerce with the Down Town Revitalization project, Terrane (now Thompson Creek) with the Mt Milligan Project, and the purchase of Conifex and its upgrades just to name a few. As we grow with new development, we need to review with the community and renew the Visioning document of 2007.
Housing, our hospital, our roads, and diversification of small business and social supports are a priority. There has been a lot of committee work performed and money spent on some valuable projects that need to be moved forward. The Community Hall is a good example.
Any new and existing infrastructure and services should provide safe, affordable supports for the community.
What role would you like to see key industry play within the community?
Industry needs modern, safe, and attractive communities for their employees to live in.
We are enjoying an increase of community benefits from the resource extraction happening in our area. As we continue to be solely dependent on resource extraction, we continue to be susceptible to the instability of the global economy.
A close working relationship with industry and the Bulkley Nechako Regional District can maximize these benefits. An active Resource/Community Sustainability Committee could help us build resilience within the community by looking at ways of using alternative energy sources, putting supports in early for industry needs, producing value added products, inviting manufacturing into the community, but also ensuring cultural and environmental values are recognized.
We want industry to hire and purchase locally, and continue pursue or support projects that will contribute to the long-term social, economic and environmental sustainability of our community.
What role do you see district and council playing in initiatives now being done entirely by nonprofit groups like Fireweed for proving programs for youth and hunger and homelessness?
Fort St. James is fortunate to have such a large number of caring people and non-profit organizations who provide a wide range of services to others. It is one of the things I am most proud of about our community and feel lucky to have had the opportunity to be involved in some of the projects. District and Council need to champion these groups, encourage their efforts, and support their initiatives. Letters of support and assistance seeking grants is one way. Rolling up our sleeves getting personally involved at some level is another. Personally, I volunteer for Meals On Wheels, played a supporting role in the establishment of the Fireweed Kitchen partnership with the College of New Caledonia, have been Volunteer Chairperson of the Subsidized Seniors’ Housing, and was the Volunteer Coordinator building the Assisted Living House for Seniors. As individuals, we should also honour their efforts by treating every individual we encounter with respect no matter what barriers or challenges they may find themselves in.
The municipality can facilitate communication between special delivery agents, the province, and the federal government. We should also continue to support communication between all service providers in the community. The could advocate for a “rural lens” that would have less emphasis on rigid urban program criteria and more on the North.
A Strategic Social Development Plan for the community would help leverage initiatives in the community.
What is the responsibility of municipal government to protect our water ways?
Stewardship lies with the Ministry of Environment but the municipality should take a leadership role in providing support of one of our best assets, “our lake and rivers”. Building effect dialogue, and engagement with the public around due diligence of our water and sewer systems infrastructure, hazardous waste discharge and advocating for incidence reporting will support the protection of the environment.