Times Candidate Questions—we were asked to answer yes, no, or I don’t know and follow each with a 100 word explanation.
1.What neighbourhood do you live in? Laity View/Volker Park area.
2. How many years have you lived in Maple Ridge? 16
3. How many Maple Ridge council meetings have you attended? All of them during my term in office 2008-11 and since I was on the Board of Education prior I had much interaction with council during those 9 years.
4. Should Maple Ridge increase the availability of bike lanes? Yes. Council is incorporating bike lanes as road improvements occur and/or as funding permits. The district works closely with the Bicycle Advisory Committee and will continue to address the priorities and goals that the committee has defined within their business plan. The municipality needs to be open to encouraging other trends that are proven to support bikes as a commuting option, such as bike shares, education for bike safety, route knowledge and other opportunities that are emerging within our region. We are very lucky to have quality bike shops in our community that promote a wide range of cycling opportunities and experience.
5. Should an effort be made to make roads safer for bikes? Yes. We are working closely with the Bicycle Advisory Committee, which is made up of mainly citizens, to advance cycling routes that are safe in support of increasing biking as a commuting option. Huge credit has to be given to the committee and our engineering department for taking every opportunity to increase bike lanes and routes throughout the district. Together, they have been instrumental in advancing the separated bike lane plan for along Lougheed.
6. Should the Albion Flats be developed for shopping? Yes. The plan submitted to the Agriculture Land Commission for comment, which I fully support, has a significant component focused on retail space to meet the demands identified through public feedback and a review of retail capacity for Maple Ridge. The overall plan is inclusive of pedestrian and auto destination business office, retail, light industrial, agri-industrial and recreational facilities, and will meet demands in regards to services that citizens presently leave the community for. The key to the plan as it advances is ensuring it compliments Maple Ridge in design and provides balance to the downtown core and our strategies for its success.
7. Should the Albion Flats be developed for industrial? No. Although there are light industrial and agri-industrial components within the plan, which are intended to provide synergies with the overall concept, the south side of Lougheed is the appropriate industrial area, which is defined in the Regional Growth Strategy. However, both plans will need to be considered in the context of each other to ensure that traffic flows and north south connectivity is conducive to enhanced business, trade, and goods and people movement. The south side plan would proceed after a commercial/industrial review is done, which has been discussed by the present council in the context of the next business planning cycle.
8. Should the Albion Flats be developed for residential? No. Council has made a commitment that no further lands are needed for residential use, as per the OCP, and applications to remove lands from the Agriculture Land Reserve for such would not be considered. However, there are limited townhouse units proposed on the outskirts of the concept plan to encourage vibrancy of the area outside of typical business centre hours, so in this context some may be worth considering. But residential should not be considered as a primary use for the area.
9. Should the Albion Flats be developed for mixed use? Yes, I identified this in my answers above and elaborated the full answer in question 6.
10. Is enough effort being made to preserve farmland? Yes. The main action a council can do in this regard is remove speculation—this council has not allowed residential re-zoning applications to be forwarded to the ALC. The Pelton application was for business creation and had significant components needed to support small lot farming, which is considered to be the future of farming in Maple Ridge. The Albion Flats has long been considered for business development and makes good business sense for our community to advance this plan. This council delivered on the OCP’s commitment to develop an Agriculture Plan and every year a business plan is enacted to support it.
11. Should Maple Ridge have municipal garbage pickup? No. One of the biggest complaints we hear is in the area of property taxes. Presently, homeowners can price shop for the service, or manage their own garbage removal to the dump. This supports and encourages a strong recycling program, which is provided jointly by the district and the recycling society. Our municipality is known for our recycling practices and there is a legitimate concern that municipal garbage pick-up would be both detrimental to our continued success and counterproductive to the Region’s zero waste goals. I believe for both waste reduction and tax containment the present system has the proven track record.
12. Are Maple Ridge’s recycling opportunities adequate? Yes. Our recycling depot is a leader in the industry and the by-products are easily sold, as they are deemed to be of the highest quality within the industry. It is hoped that the physical plant will be expanded in the future and food waste collection added into the stream. However, I believe we have a facility that is envied for its efficient and effective practices and should be applauded for its inclusive hiring practices that provides employment opportunities for people with developmental challenges.
13. Should there be municipal bylaws to fight marijuana? Yes/no. The question is very broad, so in general, I do not think it is the municipality’s role to fight marijuana. However, as long as it remains an illegal substance, which is a whole other topic, I think we need to work with the authorities, such as fire and police, to ensure neighbourhoods are free from illegal grow operations that impact the safety of neighbourhoods.
14. Should mayor and council revisit their pay schedule? Yes. I did not vote in favour of the pay increase and have already made arrangements, if re-elected, to not take any increase over the next term. Council did agree to re-visit the process of how remuneration is defined, which is a step in the right direction, as I believe it is flawed and creates the potential for indefensible, continuous increases. There is time to address this in the first year of the next mandate and if the Province’s proposed Municipal Auditor General Office goes forward, this could be reviewed by that office, as it is an issue across the provincial.
15. Are Maple Ridge property taxes appropriate? No. However, this is not due to excessive spending by our municipality. Obviously we need to increase our business base and continue to look for efficiencies, which much of this past term focused on. However, over 50% of our property tax bill belongs to other levels of government, so it is important to take into consideration the performance of them also. I believe huge efficiencies could be made at the regional level, which is why I support a Municipal Auditor General’s office. I believe greater awareness at the municipal level would influence practices within other levels of government, as expectations would be increased by taxpayer awareness.
16. Should more effort be made to deal with homelessness in Maple Ridge? Yes. Even though all the issues related to homelessness, such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, mental health issues and drug addiction are not the jurisdiction of municipal government; we have taken an active role in advocating for our share of services for our citizens and we have been successful through our Social Planning Advisory Committee and council’s relationships with other levels of government. We have done what we can to assist our provincial and federal partners by being willing to partner for projects on municipally owned land and offer incentives to make projects viable in our community.
17. Are you satisfied with the Golden Ears Bridge? Yes/no. Great access, but the toll is too high. A more equitable system of tolls has to be looked at for the region, especially since the only tolls will be on the bridges serving the eastern communities. However, the predicted increase in investment interest in Maple Ridge is on the rise and I believe that business will continue to grow due to the access that the Golden Ears Bridge has afforded our region. Business flows both ways over the bridge and we need to continue our strategies to increase business attraction and retention for our municipality.
18. Do you support greater densification in Maple Ridge? Yes. Our Official Community Plan clearly defines where our growth is to occur and it is in alignment with the regional plan. Our focus on densification in the Core is paying off; especially with the tax incentives that we put in place to assist with recovery after the down turn in the economy. However, I believe this next term will have to increase our activities in the areas of traffic flow, amenity achievement, and cost containment. Direction has already been given for these areas by the existing council for the next business planning process in December.
19. Should there be more money for community facilities in Maple Ridge? Yes. Amenity requests are diverse and ongoing. It is challenging to balance such demands with the equal expectation of tax containment. For example, within the municipal 4% tax increase, 1% is designated to infrastructure maintenance. This 1% is well below what is actually needed, yet anything higher would never be accepted by the tax payer. New facilities add great service, but would stress this same tax base. The next business planning cycle will include funding discussions outside of the traditional Development Cost Charges and tax base, as council has directed exploration of available alternatives—it is one of council’s greatest challenges.