The results of tomorrow’s (Nov. 19) civic election will reveal who will serve the citizens of Delta for the next three years and make decisions that affect us all. In recent weeks, the four candidates for mayor and 13 candidates for council have door knocked, debated, distributed campaign literature and used social networking tools to convey their platforms. Election season makes voters re-assess what matters most in the their community and, in the days leading up to the big vote, the South Delta Leader asked some notable Delta residents for their expectations of the next administration. Here’s what they had to say.
A commitment to agriculture
John Savage is no stranger to politics. As a former MLA and Delta municipal councillor, he is familiar with the public process. Savage is also a member of one of Delta’s pioneer farming families, so it’s no surprise that agriculture tops the priorities list he would like to see the next administration address.
“We’re getting a little concerned about land use. There’s a lot of potential for loss of farm land,” he said, noting the BC Rail line and proposed commercial and residential development as possible threats. “We can’t keep losing agricultural land because we won’t have the processing companies staying around to harvest crops,” he said. “They need the volume to sustain themselves.”
Municipal council recently adopted an Agricultural Plan, which was developed to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in the community. Savage hopes the next mayor and council can find a financially viable way to put that plan into action.
“We’ve got to see how they’re going to implement it and what cost,” he said.
Next on Savage’s list of priorities is taxes—a major issue for voters in municipalities across the country.
“Taxes keep going up,” Savage said. “The municipality, in my opinion, has got to start looking at trimming down a bit.”
Remain in confident hands
He is majority owner of the Vancouver Giants and a managing director of Shato Holdings, which owns the White Spot restaurant chain and acres of land in South Delta. Tsawwassen businessman Ron Toigo has seen Delta mayors and councillors come and go and says this most recent administration has been “the most civil” he’s witnessed in many years.
“I think they got a lot done, a lot accomplished without all the petty politics that has gone on in the past,” he said. Toigo hopes the next group will “carry on with the same civility that’s gone on the last three years there.”
As a landowner and real estate developer, taxes are a big issue for Toigo.
“I think everybody would like to see the taxes held to an absolute minimum, but on the other hand, you certainly enjoy the services that come with the taxes too,” he said, noting taxation is a fine balancing act. Overall, he has been satisfied with the speed at which development applications are processed at municipal hall.
“You’d like things done quicker all the time, but it is a process and it’s not that dramatically different from any other municipality that we deal with,” he said.
Over the next three years, Toigo expects the local government will have their hands full. He’s curious to see how well the municipality can work with the Tsawwassen First Nation and their development plans. And he’s eager for the South Fraser Permiter Road to open and relieve heavy highway traffic.
“There’s some great things coming and there’s some question marks coming,” he said. “But overall I think we’re in pretty confident hands and hopefully we stay that way.”
Improving on public process
Tsawwassen resident Dana Maslovat is a founding member of Southlands the Facts, a citizens group opposed to development on the Southlands property. He hopes the next mayor and council will handle the future of the controversial land parcel differently.
“I think what’s happened to date has been quite a poor management of resources, of taxpayers dollars and the community’s time to try and get some sort of public opinion,” he said. “I’d hope that future government, be it the same people or different people, would be willing to listen to the will of the public and not allow the will of developers to supersede that.”
Maslovat attended the Tsawwassen Area Plan public hearings last spring, part of a two-year process he said was “convoluted” for a lot of people who wanted their voice to be heard. He wants to see a more efficient way of gathering public opinion and has suggested, when it comes to development applications, placing the cost burden of public hearings on the developer.
Of course, Southlands isn’t the only potential development on the horizon in South Delta, but Maslovat hopes the next administration will help ensure Tsawwassen remains the type of community its residents moved here for.
“I think they (mayor and council) really need to make sure that they’re promoting smart growth,” he said.
Sustainable economic development
Delta Chamber of Commerce executive director Peter Roaf and chair Ian Tait put their heads together to identify some of the priorities of the local business community.
On the economic front, the chamber hopes the next local government administration continues to reduce debt, keep taxes as low as possible, and join other levels of government in streamlining business applications to reduce “red tape” for businesses that want to set up in town. Roaf and Tait would also like to see mayor and council continue to campaign to save industrial land in the Tilbury industrial park and around Boundary Bay Airport.
When it comes to transportation, the chamber hopes local politicians will advocate higher levels of government for infrastructure—like interchanges on the South Fraser Perimeter Road, rather than traffic lights, to avoid gridlock—as well as an improved crossing to complement or replace the George Massey Tunnel.
The chamber also believes that completion of town centre plans for North Delta, Ladner and Tsawwassen will lead to progresive and sustainable economic development for business and residents.
To make it clear what your priorities are, cast your ballot on Saturday, Nov. 19.