Fort St. John's latest financial plan shows a $112.8-million budget for this year, and $113.3 million for 2022.
City council byelection candidates were asked at the All Candidates Forum about what programs and services they’d like the city to spend more or less on, and what their priorities were for 2021 and 2022 as the city pivots to the post-pandemic world.
Here are their responses:
Jon Gosselin: We got a lot of money we can spend. One of the things that I see that we spend a lot on is transportation.
I have ideas on how we can better deal with policing in our community. One of them is creating a regional police force that deals with out-of-town calls and one that deals with in-town calls so that way our units aren’t being stretched thin.
One of the other most and more important things is making sure that we put money into the right stuff: for example social programs, youth centres, things like that that are inclusive and making sure that everybody in Fort St. John gets to benefit from this money.
Sarah MacDougall: We need to spend money on areas that will rebuild our community, whether that's from an economic standpoint or a social standpoint, and things that will have the biggest ripple effect within our community. For example, if we are going to spend money on helping places like Northern Health recruit and retain employees, that is going to have a ripple effect of helping with the healthcare of our community, helping with the mental health crisis.
Things that we can spend less on, we always need to look at the excess in our budget. What areas are we overspending on? For example, are we spending too much on wages, or are we spending too much on events that we could cut back on? There are always things to cut and trim, which I have a lot of experience on with the board at Totem Preschool and working within a tight budget. But ultimately getting the biggest bang for your buck is important.
Trystan Jones: The programs that I think require more support are the programs that are quite dear to me, and these are the social issues. I think that programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence are insufficient in Fort St. John and I would wish to engage and provide as much support as I can. The RCMP report of 2020 made it clear that there are vulnerable women in our community, and more so now that require our support.
I would also seek to engage with various anti-racism programs, whether that’s through Resilience BC’s anti-racism network, or other such programs based around education and awareness. Our community requires healing and I think that providing support to our most vulnerable and uniting around them is what is most important.
Jim Lequiere: Over the years, Fort St. John has spent a lot of money on its infrastructure but we still have areas in town, in my opinion, that have bad cracks, uneven roads and sidewalks that are not safe for seniors to walk on. Also, we could use a good paved parking lot downtown. So if we’re talking about what we’d like them to spend more money on is fix up the infrastructure a little more with pavement and sidewalks.
And also what we can spend less on: parking meters. Do we really need parking meters when we’re really trying to kick start the downtown core back to life? I think not. There must be a better way to recoup the lost revenue from those parking meters if we remove them.
Tom Whitton: As a city we need to start learning how to do more with less. We need to cut red tape on businesses. We need to make sure that they can get the quickest possible answers for setting stuff up, for getting permits, for moving through that ‘yes’ point to getting where they need to be for their organizations.
We also need to empower our not-for-profit programs. Our not-for-profits are struggling to get money right now. We need to empower them to take on projects, whether that’s within the city or around the city. I think that’s a great opportunity for us to shave off some extras of the city and move them over to a not-for-profit organization.
Another one I’d like to see is a better plan on how we remove snow. I know there was two days of snow here and they got out and they took it on. I’d like to see a little bit more reflection on that to save a little bit of money for us.
Watch a replay of the May 3 All Candidate Forum below:
Voting will take place at the Pomeroy Sport Centre May 15, with advance voting opportunities May 5 and May 12.
Special voting opportunities will take place May 13 at Peace Villa from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Peace Lutheran Apartments from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.; and Heritage Manor from 4 to 5 p.m.
A special voting opportunity will take place May 15 at the Fort St. John Hospital from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
The new councillor will take their Oath of Office on May 25.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org