Updated: Feb 24, 2019
This blog post was originally created as a podcast. The audio version is here.
October 20th was a pretty big day… that’s the day I was elected to Squamish Council.
It proved also to be a big day for Karen Elliott, Doug Race, Jenna Stoner, Armand Hurford, Eric Andersen, Chris Pettingill and Sacha Fabry.
Initially there were 24 declared candidates for the councillor seats in Squamish and five mayoral candidates.
Each of us entered the campaign knowing only one person would emerge as mayor and six would get the councillor seats.
Between the end of September and October 19 we campaigned together. I got to know most of the other candidates well. Some excellent candidates didn’t make the cut – most notably Sacha Fabry. And, since the results were announced there’s no doubt in my mind that the group chosen by the community to lead for the next four years is a team that will do a great job for Squamish.
Campaigning is a strange beast. For three weeks the people I was competing with for councillor seats were attending social events, all-candidate meetings and other engagements. While we were all consciously trying to distinguish ourselves from each other we were, for the most part, completely civil. I can only think of a few instances where heated words were exchanged between candidates.
Now, the mayoral candidates were a different story. That race was feistier with obvious division.
The competition for the office of mayor presented us with four distinctly different candidates.
I predicted a five-vote victory for whoever got the mayor’s chair. That prediction was off by 594 votes. Yes, 599 votes separated Karen Elliott from Jeff Cooke. Susan Chapelle was 49 votes behind Cooke and Lalli was 256 votes behind Chapelle.
Think about this now… 904 votes separated Elliott from Lalli. And, if you add up the votes for Lalli, Chapelle and Cooke that number of is 4,668 votes… Elliott pulled in 2,273 votes. That’s about 33 percent of the votes for Elliott.
I’m in the weeds with these numbers because the numbers fascinate me.
While it’s tempting to get into the councillor numbers, I’ll resist the urge because it would take way too long.
No matter how you look at it, the race for mayor and the councillor results, the community spoke.
This election was an anomaly with five candidates on the ballot for mayor.
Squamish is used to choosing from two people for mayor. Rob Kirkham or Patricia Heintzman in 2015, Rob Kirkham or Auli Parviainen in 2011, Greg Gardner or Terrill Patterson in 2008.
Ian Sutherland was challenged by Terrill Patterson in 2005, Sutherland versus Paul Lalli in 2002 and going even further back Patterson took on Corinne Lonsdale in the late nineties. And, back in the early 1990s Lonsdale lost to Egon Tobus in a three-way race that also featured Chuck Harvey after Phil Turner beat Tobus in 1988 in a two-way race.
That was then and as I write this now I’m into it up to my eyeballs getting set to work with my fellow council members to finalize the 2019 fiscal plan – the budget. This after recently finalizing our strategic plan.
To date, this council has voted on issues like storage in the business park, a bunch of affordable housing project initiatives and future development at Waterfront Landing, some will remember that Interfor once operated a lumber mill. Interfor bought the operation from Weldwood.
Weldwood built the mill in 1962. Yes, a new neighbourhood in the area where one of Squamish’s largest employers produced lumber for decades up until 2004.
We’ve come a long way from 1969 when I was born at Squamish General Hospital. Squamish was an industry town then.
Whistler Mountain had been operating since 1966 and ski runs on Blackcomb Mountain were still about a decade away.
Squamish was a major BC Rail maintenance operations centre in 1969, there was a chemical plant at the tip of Howe Sound, mining activity was still going strong at Britannia Beach and the pulp mill at Woodfibre was a key employer for Squamish while planning was well underway for the construction of a port facility, what we now know as Squamish Terminals.
So much of this industry history is gone and when those big employers shuttered their operations the considerable property tax brought in by the District of Squamish went away with the family-supporting jobs these industrial outlets provided the community.
While those industry declines continued Squamish was transforming into the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. More and more people were discovering through the 1990s that Squamish is an amazing place to live and play in between Vancouver and Whistler. For many Metro Vancouver residents who couldn’t afford to buy a home in the city, Squamish was an attractive affordable alternative. Thus began the slow evolution into a bedroom community hardwired for adventure with a huge percentage of the population commuting north or south somewhere around 7 a.m. every day.
So, here we are, 2019 and there’s nothing unusual about a house selling for a million dollars.
In the election campaign I indicated I’d be pushing for a budget that produces a financial plan that brings a maximum 1.5 per cent tax increase for the average Squamish residential property owner. I knew through the election campaign that this wouldn’t be easy. There’s very little property tax now being collected from industry. That makes it hard to fund things like Brennan Park improvements… dike maintenance, road network improvements, sewer pipe replacements, a new number two fire hall and other big ticket items that need to be funded while the district continues to pay the municipal staff, RCMP members, firefighters and long list of other people on the municipal payroll.
Hard, yes… impossible, no.
So, five rookie councillors are working together with a first-time mayor and a third-term councillor through to the end of 2022.
October 20th of 2018 feels like it was an eternity ago now.
We’re good to go and we’re up to the task.