Smithers District Chamber of Commerce

Municipal Candidates Answer Daily Questions - Day 1 & Day 2

October 10, 2018

Smithers District Chamber of Commerce is supplying responses to four questions that were sent out to candidates so that you can get a better feel for their vision and platform. See below the answers to questions 1 and 2 which were sent to Chamber members Tuesday and today (Wednesday).  Questions 3 will be posted Thursday and Question 4 will be posted Friday. This is a great opportunity for you to find out how candidates stand on business issues. If you would like to print the reponses to share, a link to the responses is provided here Day One Questions  Day Two Questions 

Question One

  1. Help us understand the type of leader you will be, by describing your two highest priorities for change in our municipality, in the short term. What about in the long term?

SMITHERS MAYORAL CANDIDATE QUESTION RESPONSES

Taylor Bachrach… I’ve proven that I’m a hard-working, accessible and enthusiastic mayor. I’m also an experienced mayor, having done the job for the past seven years. In the coming term, I’m motivated to work on strengthening our downtown, including business incentives, landscape revitalization and a new building for the library/gallery. I also believe it will be important to promote our airport, deliver better landing technology, and recruit additional airlines. Longer term, it is essential for us to fully embrace asset management. We've made solid progress on this, including the recent paved roads study, and we have more work to do to get to a position where we are putting aside enough each year to maintain our infrastructure

Randy BellPriority #1: Focus on fiscal responsibility in all our decisions with some common sense, whether short term or long term. We have some core infrastructure that requires attention. Priority #2 Making an encouraging partnership with business. This economic importance is what allows us to drive all the services, amenities and infrastructure we hold near and dear for now and future generations. I don't bring a particular project agenda, I believe that the council has a responsibility to bring forward ideas from the community that benefit the town as a whole. I am not running to bring my project ideas to sell it.

SMITHERS COUNCILLOR CANDIDATE QUESTION RESPONSES

Gladys Atrill… I support moving the Library/Art Galley project forward now so we can benefit from the 90% grant funding now available for such projects. Ensure our basic infrastructure is maintained and replaced as required. The town has initiated asset management planning, so we will have good documentation of the quantity and quality of our assets including the cost of eventual replacement. That sets the stage for better decision making during budget and a better case for infrastructure grant funding in the future.

Colin Bateman… I believe strongly in sustainable economic development and am always looking at ways to protect, improve and attract small, medium and large businesses. I believe in keeping an open mind on all businesses, regardless of size, and taking the time to work through the process of determining the right development for our community. We also need to find ways to protect our existing businesses, while building development for the future at a sustainable rate. Secondly, I believe in looking into new ways to improve the amount of accommodations available in Smithers. I believe we need to address some of our town policies and zoning bylaws and think outside the box in researching better ways to encourage developers to build a wide variety of homes. That could involve looking at our current Official Community Plan and working towards updating, if and where needed.

Lorne Benson… My primary short and long term priority is to challenge the pressures that compel increasing municipal taxes. Property taxes are the primary source of funding for the municipal budget. The increasing cost for construction and operation of public projects, escalating pressures to expand municipal services beyond core infrastructural operations, and now the trend of increasing finance rates all add to the non-sustainable trend of municipal tax increases. Challenging the pressures that result in increased taxation is, by necessity, the first priority for town council.

Phil Brienesse… I have always been the type of leader who works hard, listens to people, and asks tough questions before making any decision. I think that openness regardless of the issue helps lead to fair, balanced decisions that benefit the whole community. For the next term I will focus on securing the 90% federal/provincial funding grant for the new library/art gallery project, continuing to implement asset management throughout the towns operations and finding creative solutions to increase the amount of housing available in Smithers, such as narrower minimum lot sizes, and continuing to work with BC Housing.

Greg Brown… I will prioritize planning, sequencing and financing the maintenance and renewal of our infrastructure: both the basic services such as of transportation, water and sewage, ect… and I include social/cultural (ex. Library and Art Gallery) and economic infrastructure (ex. airport). For example, the past council did a study of the quality of our asphalt, we secured financing for and initiated the construction of the airport modernization and we completed the concept design and business plan for the Library and Art Gallery building. I supported these projects and will support continued work these projects. A long term priority is to position the Town’s efforts in order to bring the ideas of community development and economic development together. I personally see development as a mix of economic and community.

John Buikema.. Priorities For Change: In the last couple of months, I’ve spoken with many members of the business community. I sense a certain level of frustration with town leadership. For some there is too much red tape. Others feel that business growth and economic development do not receive a high enough priority. If these perceptions are accurate, both a short and long term priority for me would be to work at building bridges and dialoging with the business community. Maintaining (and even enhancing) basic infrastructure without an over dependence on government grants would also be of both short and long term importance.

Tim SharpI would be a leader who seeks input from the people of Smithers including the Town staff in order to make wise decisions. One who would try to work with and alongside everyone that wants to build a better community. My two priorities for change in our municipality would be to remove some of the red tape the business community faces when dealing with the town so the local economy would thrive and so they could invest more effectively in our community. I would also address the social concerns by advocating for resources such as mental health and addictions treatment. In the long term I would like to see better planning when it comes to infrastructure budgeting and better decision making when it comes to what new infrastructure projects the town does. One of the funding models I would look into for new projects such as the library would be 3P funding models (Provincial or Federal government, town, and private investor

Casda Thomas… I believe that it’s important to have healthy debate on Council as well as having the ability to work together to get things done. In the short term let’s: * Address the housing concerns within our community; and * Update our OCP and zoning bylaw to ensure that our regulations are clear and well understood to developers and those in the business community, and that they are in line with our community’s needs and priorities. In the long term let’s: * Increase infrastructure spending and keep on track in the coming years; and * Maintain and enhance our downtown core and highway frontage.

Frank Wray… In the short term if re-elected my immediate priorities would be: To move the library/gallery project forward to the grant application stage (as a 90% grant opportunity is extremely rare) while concurrently examining the cost estimates; and to hold public consultations before council sets its priorities for the next four years. In the long term my highest priority would be to ensure that all Town infrastructure is fully funded for planned maintenance and eventual replacement. As some of this funding is not yet in place it must be phased in carefully.

Ryan Zapisocki… It is a high priority for Smithers to address our ongoing housing shortage, and to find more ways to welcome new business to set up shop in town. I would love to hear ideas from the business community as to what they feel are effective strategies to entice more business in town, as well as if there are any barriers that they have faced that could impact growth and investment. As LNG industry just recently announced an unprecedented investment in the north west, we will need to prepare for the influx of people and business opportunities in the long term.

TELKWA MAYORAL CANDIDATE QUESTION RESPONSES

Question One

  1. Help us understand the type of leader you will be, by describing your two highest priorities for change in our municipality, in the short term. What about in the long term?

 Brad Layton…. The last term saw a lot of change and I feel that a large part of what we need to do this term is to see that change through. Working to make sure the Provincial government comes on board and negotiates a fair settlement for the Regional Benefits Alliance we are part of, so we get a fair share of our resource dollars back to invest in our communities. Aging infrastructure is our greatest potential cost items in the near future and we need to source and deliver funding without raising taxes.

 John McDivitt (NA)

REGIONAL DISTRICT CANDIDATE QUESTION RESPONSES

Question One

  1. Help us understand the type of leader you will be, by describing your two highest priorities for change in our municipality, in the short term. What about in the long term?

 Mark Fisher … Many factors go into decisions - Community Plans, legislation, budgets, input of partners, advisory groups, staff, and the public. My priority is to take all of this into consideration and to come up with creative solutions that keep cost down, service quality high, and are fair and realistic. This may sounds like political drivel but I have demonstrated my win / win approach by knowing the issue and listening to all sides. I would like to continue to apply this to solid waste management, shared services discussions, emergency planning, and support for the agriculture industry in the valley.

 Leah Germain…

  1. Fuel Management , Risk Mitigation and Public Education - Educating rural areas about the dangers and how to prevent and minimize wildfire damage. Advocating for 100% funding from the Community Resilience Initiative Program to help areas become FireSmart and address flood prevention measures WITHOUT affecting taxes.
  2. Regional Benefits Alliance - Lobbying so the Northwest is able to acquire a greater piece of the resource money that’s being generated in the Northwest; ensuring this government fund is coming back to be used here locally. Several areas of the province receive this; the northwest should be eligible as well.

Question Two

2. Do you think our main street/downtown/Frontage Road business community is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that and amplify an ”open for business” and “community appreciation” profile everywhere?

SMITHERS MAYORAL CANDIDATE QUESTION RESPONSES

Taylor Bachrach… I do think our business community is healthy and successful. I’m always impressed by the dedication, ingenuity and community spirit of local entrepreneurs. I believe the key to further success is creating open dialogue about challenges and opportunities, and being willing to shake up the status quo. We’ve demonstrated this with our Small Business Task Force and through changes to off-street parking, off-site works requirements (sidewalks, etc), and the Town’s sign bylaw. There is always more we can do and I remain open to the opportunities.

 Randy Bell… This is one of the reasons I’m running: lots of talk that we are 'open for business', but our town has a habit of bureaucratic roadblocks. Back-to-back in National CFIB paperweight awards recognizing government departments who have made life difficult for business owners by adding or enforcing unnecessary rules and regulations because they are doing a good job. 1. Policies behind these roadblocks need to be fixed or removed; 2 We need ideas from our business leaders and put them into practice to help our business community.

SMITHERS COUNSILLOR CANDIDATES RESPONSES

Gladys Atrill… I do think our business community is generally healthy and successful. The quality of businesses in this community never fails to amaze me. I am a local shopper and it is a rare day when I can’t find what I need here. However, I do realize there may be individual businesses facing challenges at different times. Being open for business means being open to new ideas and at the same time matching business and development opportunity to shared community vision. This is where an updated Official Community Plan can help guide us and I support a review of the OCP.

Colin Bateman… I believe that we need to work on ways to entice business into all areas of Smithers. Our focus should be on Smithers as a whole. A healthy business community would bring in more people and this in turn would make it easier to maintain our retail businesses. I would like to see our town use an Economic officer with a clear mandate to drive and help business. I believe we need to have an assist to liaise the process with Town that has seems to have a perceived hard to work with process. I also believe a healthy relationship with the Smithers Chamber of Commerce would help promote business in Smithers. I would also like to make sure that we don’t become obsessed with just one area but look at all areas with equal value.

Lorne Benson… Our Main Street and Highway 16 frontage are an example of the best that Smithers has to offer. Business owners have stepped up, committing to construction and landscaping that reflect the direction set by our Official Community Plan (OCP). The current OCP was adopted in 2010. These plans should be reviewed every 10 years or so. During this next four year term council can again engage the community, to ensure the OCP still reflects the long term direction needed in our changing market and business environment.

Phil Brienesse… The business climate in Smithers is very healthy. The majority of spaces on main street are full and we have seen substantial development over the last several years. During this last term we held a small business task force which led to the removal of parking requirements in the downtown. This allowed new developments to proceed. The revitalization tax exemption is another example of how we have made it easier for development while at the same time adding vibrancy to the downtown core. Saying you are open for business or business friendly is one thing, this council has shown how we are.

Greg Brown… Our town has zoning areas for business: downtown/main street, highway commercial, light commercial, heavy commercial and airport lands. The current council focused on downtown/main street and we made significant changes (with help from the Small Business Task Force) to make it healthy and successful and as a result our community will be well served for years to come. I’m receptive to hear from interests in the other areas regarding changes the Town could make to ensure that these areas are healthy and successful as well.

John Buikema … Main Street/Downtown/Frontage Road: I believe that Smithers has a fairly healthy and and diverse business community, but through my work at Todd Larson & Associates, I also know the challenges of having a thriving business in a small remote community. Online shopping, out of town shopping, and small customer base are only a few of the challenges that the business community faces. Town leadership needs to do all it can to support local business because a healthy business community is vital to a healthy community. Town leadership must also sharpen its pencil so that costs offloaded onto business are not prohibitive.

Tim Sharp … I believe that some businesses have moved off of main street due to some of regulations that have been enforced. Removing such bylaws and lowering the tax rate would help address this.

Casda Thomas… We are fortunate to have several outstanding businesses who have stood the test of time and are valuable contributors to our community. So, in that sense, yes, we have a successful business community. However, something that I find concerning is the number of commercial vacancies currently present, specifically in our downtown. Encouraging higher density residential in our downtown can be one way to support our local businesses. Additionally, our zoning bylaw should be consistent with our Official Community Plan and provide a clear path for developments that fit our community’s vision. This would remove perceived barriers and leave everyone on a level playing field.

Frank Wray… I believe that we do have a healthy and successful business community, but there is always room for improvement in the “open for business” atmosphere. I would support another Business Task Force that would look at the processes and bylaws of the Town to see if they could be changed in ways that could help both new and existing businesses. The recommendations that were implemented from the last task force resulted in some positive changes but I believe there is more work to do in this area.

Ryan Zapisocki … I do think our local business community is vibrant and healthy. It is one of the big draws of Smithers to have such an active and welcoming main street/downtown. I think continued innovative ideas for maintaining and building upon the vitality of our local business community is important, and I hope to learn more and am in support such movements. Listening to our current business community, and having a healthy dialogue is integral to maintaining and improving upon the health and success. Addressing the business community’s commonly identified concerns will improve what we have, and make our town more welcoming to new businesses

TELKWA MAYORAL CANDIDATE RESPONSES

Question Two

2. Do you think the Telkwa business community is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that and amplify an ”open for business” and “community appreciation” profile everywhere?

 Brad Layton … Is it healthy? – I think the businesses that are in Telkwa and well established are healthy. But is a business culture or “open for business” climate present in Telkwa? I would say depends on what type of business but generally no. Our biggest issue is how to compete with Smithers or how do we get traffic to Telkwa. We need to work at finding a solution but I am not convinced we can for businesses such as store front sales or service businesses. Promote, solicit and nurture new types of business like internet services and sales as an example maybe?. This will be a focus of many future meetings I am sure.

 John McDivitt N/A

REGIONAL DISTRICT AREA A CANDIDATE RESPONSES

Question Two

2. Do you think our rural business community is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that and amplify an ”open for business” and “community appreciation” profile everywhere?

Fisher… People want to live and work here, which shows we are generally in good shape. Entrepreneurship and supportive policy is key in my view, as are more streamlined RDBN industry websites and business linkages (promotion, human resources, access to local inputs). One thing I would do early in the terms is hold a joint rural / municipal Advisory Planning Commission meeting so that each jurisdictions perspective is understood. This could include the business community so that rural land use planning and ‘open for business’ relationship is discussed.

Leah Germain … Regional District Area A business community is very diverse, each with their own strength and challenges. Part of my job if elected is to engage with the business community within Electoral Area A to properly assess how strong and resilient it is. I am interested to hear directly from the business community through open discussions on their concerns and where they feel improvements can be made.

You are able to connect with people so easily here. It’s a progressive little town with a vibrant business community and such open minded, friendly people.

-Julie Hoddinott, Owner, The Designery

Meet more local business owners at LoveSmithers.com