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Opinion: Examining the winning Squamish candidates’ promises

'The ballots have been cast, and the preliminary Squamish civic election results are in. It’s time to review the ambitious mission statements the members of our newly elected municipal council have submitted for public consumption. '
Squamish muni hall Nov. 2021
Helmut Manzl is a long-time Squamish resident and political commentator.

So that’s that. The ballots have been cast and the preliminary Squamish civic election results are in. It’s time to review the ambitious mission statements the members of our newly elected municipal council have submitted for public consumption.                                                

Our mayor-elect, Armand Hurford, has his feet firmly planted in this town’s past and the future with a keen eye on the present. His family background in the forestry industry is paired with business and personal affiliations related to the rapidly expanding outdoor rec sector. In the run-up to the election, he survived a nasty social media and mail-in flyers smear campaign that also targeted several other members of council. He plans to leverage Squamish’s natural assets to attract business, investment, and jobs, by incentivizing cutting-edge manufacturing operations, environmental industries, and rec services businesses. 

Balancing the need for growth with protecting and preserving our core amenities and values are high on his agenda. Two other priorities are framing municipal policies to increase rental supply and soliciting provincial support for regional transit.                                                           

Eric Andersen is heading into his second term on council. He has an encyclopedic grasp of key documents and information sources essential to the decision-making process at the council table. One of his major goals is to apply a definition of Smart Growth that fits our needs and not those of West Broadway or Chicago. Another priority is the creation of good jobs on our doorstep. In his opinion, increased attention to key sectors, including tourism, transportation, forestry, and wood products manufacturing, are essential to achieving that goal. He understands the municipality has limited authority over housing, but that jurisdictional gap does not preclude District staff from deferring to senior levels of government for assistance.                                                         

John French, who is back in the saddle again at muni hall, has extensive public and private sector experience. Media savvy and articulate, he brings a depth of insight to council’s decision-making agenda. One of his primary objectives is to find ways to bring people together in this polarized community.

He said every vote he casts on council will be focused on that goal. He is ready to push the provincial and federal governments to get serious about establishing a regular transit service in the corridor and is adamant about continuing to create more diverse housing forms. And he said any future development proposal that comes his way in the approval process must either be outside of a flood zone or given careful consideration in flood hazard areas.                                    

Newly minted councillor Lauren Greenlaw, is a career geologist and geochemist who has been raising her family and working intermittently as a science show host and teacher at Quest University. The three main pillars of her platform are affordability, livability, and the environment.

She said as a councillor the environmental impact of any decision council makes will be front and centre on her mind. She is determined to push for improvements to the accessibility and efficiency of the District’s recycling programs. Another key component on her radar is placing a restriction on any new natural gas infrastructure. During her term in office, she is looking forward to becoming a dedicated advocate for people in need in the community.

To that end, she is focused on promoting the development of lower-priced housing units, more rentals to provide accessibility to the housing market, designated housing for essential workers and municipally owned units for the most vulnerable residents. When it comes to our ongoing parking debate, she is convinced that council needs to revisit the policy that allows developers to build without ample residential parking, a strategy she believes is not even close to working.                     

Quest University physics prof and first-term councillor Andrew Hamilton will bring measured, evidence-based reasoning to the council table. He believes the experience of living and working in different places around the world has humbled him and taught him to listen carefully to a range of perspectives. He is in fundamental agreement with increased densification but is ready to take the community consultation route to establish what strategy is best for Squamish.

He refers to himself as being left-leaning and environmentally aware but not necessarily an environmental activist.

As much as he embraces the Community Climate Action Plan, he wonders how Squamish residents can get from point A to point B without the use of their personal vehicles. He is ready to put the community’s interests first and aims to use the re-zoning process to create affordable housing units that offer a variety of design options.                                              

Chris Pettingill is returning to council for a second term. He is employed by a local tech firm and is a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist. He believes the previous iteration of council completed a lot of important work but more needs to be done. As an advocate for “the shift away from the car” mantra, he brings a specific GHG reduction strategy to the table, which is also a cornerstone of the District’s Climate Action Plan. 

He argues that downsizing the number of parking spaces in new developments will not affect residents who already have cars, and building more parking infrastructure will just add to our clogged streets. Council has a parking demand management study pending that, in his opinion, will result in a more regulated parking landscape, including parking permits, and paid parking. Regarding housing, he is resolute about ensuring that everyone, not just residents with deep pockets, can find accommodations in Squamish. To that end, he will push hard to boost our rental housing stock via the re-zoning process.                                        

Jenna Stoner is ready to renew her council tenure after getting the nod from the electorate. The reason she is running for office, she declared, is because she cares deeply about this community. As much as council has made substantial progress over the past four years, she admits more work needs to be done. She believes change entails being strategic, steady and requires collaboration. She promises to bring that operational trifecta to the council table.

She is determined to encourage developers to build affordable housing units that will be legally secured for the Squamish Housing Society. Additionally, she will advocate for diverse housing styles. Part of that agenda involves the creation of more subsidized housing units in Squamish by working with the provincial government and BC Housing. As a mother of a young child, she says greater attention needs to be given to the creation of reliable and affordable childcare facilities.                                                  

All in all, what’s not to like about this smorgasbord of good intentions proposed by our new mayor and his recently elected council colleagues? There’s plenty of food for thought here. But, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

Helmut Manzl is a long-time Squamish resident and political commentator.


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