Craig Speirs

My Platform for 2014

Development
I welcome residential, commercial, educational and industrial developments to our community as long as they fit our needs, create jobs and reduce sprawl.

I would encourage residential development that brings more density where our service are established, creates more walkable neighborhoods and doesn’t pave forests or farms.

Neighborhood commercial developments need to happen close to where people live so the majority of people that live in a neighborhood can walk to shop. Major shopping needs to be concentrated downtown. I don’t support placing shopping on farmland unless its agriculture focussed, for example Golden Ears Cheesecrafters.

I would love to see more schools being established in Maple Ridge and we should actively pursue the many different types of schools and education available to students.

We have a lot of industrial land available right now in Hammond, Albion and north of Websters Corners. I am looking forward to the debate around the 128th and 232nd lands that are undesignated at the moment. We could do something quite creative if we put our minds to it.

In the past our Economic Advisory Commission has been focused on poaching farmland for what I would consider dodgy reasons. The days of build it and they will come have passed and I think a more targeted approach has a better chance of succeeding. Defining what we want then pursuing those businesses. Now the EAC seems to be headed in this direction and I would encourage them to continue to do so. The Tourism and Agriculture sectors haven’t gotten the attention they deserve I would love to brand Maple Ridge as the place to go for fresh food and adventure. The Golden Ears Way/128th/Abernethy corridor should be expanded on and further Agriculture/Adventure facilities should be encouraged from Laity’s pumpkin patch to Wildplay and beyond. In my view we should look at tax incentives similar to the downtown. This type of approach is very attractive to residents, tourists and large scale employers. The best part is we use what we have to create a more vibrant future without paving what we all love.

I will also encourage the arts and cultural sectors as they help create a community that is attractive to residents, tourists and investment. Industries want to establish in communities that have an ambience that gives their employees a safe and beautiful place to live. By and large we have that type of community; we just need to continue enriching our lifestyle. Heritage needs to be invested in for these same reasons and to that end we need to build a museum and archives. Investing in arts and heritage pays huge dividends and can attract investments in educational facilities.

We live in a beautiful garden that we all love, paving it to create a short term future goes against all reason. We can have it all but we have to be careful and plan a future that celebrates our beauty instead of destroying it. Development must serve the community.

Transparency
After all the to and fro over the edited tape of a council meeting has shown the need for increased transparency over how council does its work. Social media has changed things and its time to reflect that change in how council goes forward. Secrecy has cast a shadow where there shouldn’t be one. The public not only deserves better it is demanding better and council still hasn’t responded in a sufficient manner. I will support increased access to information and meetings while allowing more latitude for social media platforms such as websites, Facebook and Twitter for council members and committees. Social media has become the new kitchen table where we discuss issues both local and international. Council needs a place at that table.

Safe Communities
Maple Ridge is by and large a safe community but there are issues that need to be improved. Homelessness is one of them our police chief said it well “we need health care not handcuffs”. The police need help and it isn’t more police. Our fellow citizens become homeless for reason unique to each one. We know that the majority (80%) come from within Maple Ridge, they aren’t some foreign import, they are us. We can judge and condemn them from the sidelines with many calling for harsh “solutions” that will further victimise them or we can try to work with them to create a path back into society. Many of these citizens are sick; some with mental illness and others struggle with addictions. We need help from senior governments to create housing and services in order to end homelessness. Addictions are a health care issue and you can’t heal anyone with a stick. Mental illness can be treated in Maple Ridge, shipping the “problem” to Riverview isn’t a solution for most. The solution in my mind for the homeless/mentally ill/drug addicted people in our society starts with the first word “home” then a outreach worker that knows their name, then treatment, education and finally a job and reintegration into society. Senior government has to come to the table with a commitment to treatment on demand; transition housing and a continuum of care till these folks become contributing members of society. It is a strategy that is cheaper in the long run and creates a community that is truly safe. We need a plan and then we need to work the plan. It isn’t complicated but it needs all levels of government contributing to make it happen. When a crime is committed then we need consequences that correct the criminal behaviour and address its underlying causes.

Taxes
Death and taxes are the only certainties in life but it’s good to avoid both.

To be fair taxes need to be tied to services and programs that have broad support. Roads, fresh water, sewage, recycling, fire, police, parks and recreation all come to mind but increasingly citizens are calling for action around social issues like homelessness, mental illness and addiction. I believe we can have an effective homelessness/Addiction reduction strategy and do it without raising taxes if we repurpose a portion of our protective services money and give the police what they have asked for, less handcuffs and more healthcare.

To keep taxes under control a robust business planning process is essential. I’m comfortable with the one we presently employ. We have used it for many years and in my view give council, staff and the public enough information to understand the issues and make decisions. I will call on staff to provide the new council with an in-depth review of all financial information. For me it is critical that all info is available to the public in a transparent, easy to access format. All information and reports used to assess tax levels should be easily accessible online.

Our community is a little over half way through its growth phase. What that means to me is much of our public infrastructure and private development is yet to be built. We can’t put off building critical infrastructure forever. To pay for it we will need to be creative and open for partnerships with the private sector and senior governments. To take advantage of these types of opportunities I would continue building our Infrastructure Replacement Fund so we can take advantage of grants when they’re available without borrowing.

We need to get more from the greenfield development process to cover off the long term costs we take on when we acquire the infrastructure developers hand over when they move on. To that end I would call for a review our development fees. Presently we can claim land, funds and fees for community amenities. I would like to see this funding source expanded. We should continue offering incentives for commercial/residential development downtown.

The only sure way to keep taxes down in the future is to grow into a more efficient community. We need better control over growth. To do so we need to get the sprawl out of our OCP, Zoning by-law and a variety of other planning documents. Council needs to become sprawl busters and if that means opening the OCP for a public review so be it. We should offer new incentives, similar to the ones offered downtown, for developments in emerging neighborhoods that feature shopping, service or tourism. Increased shopping would be welcomed in many of our emerging and existing neighbourhoods.

Donations
I will gladly accept donations for my campaign from any individual who likes my platform and wants to help me get elected.

I have decided to not accept money from developers, corporate sources or unions. I am proud to say that I was a union member my entire working life but since the developer oriented critics point to union involvement as a conflict I will forgo union support. Although I have never seen a union propose a development scheme.

Any donation comes with the caveat that I may have to leave the room if in my mind it creates a conflict. (I had to do so in the last term I was elected). I will release the names of anyone that donates more than $50 to my campaign before E-day.

Garbage Reality
A few folks are calling for municipal garbage collection, I disagree. At the present time we have 4 or 5 commercial garbage haulers who compete for your business. There are also non-profits that offer this service and they employ intellectually impaired people. There is no lack of service if you need it. Many of us manage our own waste stream and reap the reward of decreased costs and a lighter environmental footstep. For me personally it would be the largest tax increase I have ever experienced which is ironic since most of the people calling for municipal garbage collection also want to lower taxes. You can’t have it both ways. At some point, if the issue continues to create conflict, we may need to ask our citizens what they think through referendum.

The threat of an incinerator costing $500,000,000 is for me a critical issue for the next council. The need for one hasn’t been proven especially when the organics are removed in 2015 and the remaining material is easier to separate.

The new producer responsibility program MMPR has yet been proven to be moving us in the right direction and the question of whether or not Maple Ridge should opt out will have to be addressed within the next year. My experience in this field will be very useful over the next mandate.

Shopping
It’s no secret that we are underserved for commercial services. Over the years councils have allowed commercial sprawl on Lougheed Highway instead of concentrating it downtown. We have slowly grown commercial development and by offering incentives we are starting to get somewhere downtown. The last thing any existing business needs is more sprawl commercial like what has been proposed for the Albion Flats. At best it would look and work like a strip mall made from tilt-ups. Albion needs commercial services but it needs to be placed near where people live.

Here is an idea; help the school board and province build a new larger elementary school on 104th then allow commercial development to occur on the vacated school property on 240th close to where people live. Everybody wins.

My Experience and Background
• Born in New Westminster in 1950
• Graduated from New Westminster Secondary 1968-69
Work
• 1970-73 Forming machine operator at Dominion Glass Burnaby
• 1973-2007 Liquor Distribution Branch-retired
• Top level product knowledge course, organized many wine tastings
• Fork and Stem Consulting – Fox’s Reach liquor store - cooking and wine classes

Volunteerism
• BC Children’s Hospital Maple Ridge fundraising team 6 years -Chair
• Compassionate Friends bereavement self help group 13 years-Leader 6 years
• Ridge-Meadows Recycling Society -Board member –6 years
• Fraser Information Society (CEED Center) -Vice Chair -4 years
• Haney Farmers Market -Vice Chair - 2012–present
• Committee member –MR Agricultural Committee (HFM liaison) 2012-present
• MR Heritage Commission -Chair -two terms, 2012 - present

Political
• Volunteer in every Provincial and Federal election for past 30 years
• Mayoral candidate 1996 – unsuccessful
• Council candidate 1999 – elected – 4 consecutive terms
• Federal candidate 2011 - unsuccessful
• Council candidate 2014 – to be determined by you!

During part of the time I was elected to council I was a director with the Lower Mainland Local Government Association as a way to familiarize myself with our neighbors and our common issues. I found that many of the issues crossed the invisible political boundaries we have arbitrarily set. Getting to know many of my peers in local government has given me insight into how we can work together in ways that benefit the entire region. Those connections remain and I look forward to renewing them.

I was also a director for 3 years with the Municipal Insurance Association an organization that gives liability insurance coverage to 170 communities in BC (including us). Self insurance has given our communities low cost insurance, risk assessment and claim management at a time when premiums were escalating wildly. The best lessons I learned through this involved practical risk management tools that minimize liability. With almost $100million in reserves the MIA has a goal of eventually being able to self finance the premiums of its member communities.

The Future
Maple Ridge has a bright future as long as we can get a handle on our growth issues. We have lots of room to grow as long as we do it in the right places with the right mix of residential density, commercial, service and industry. Our downtown is coming together but still needs time to coalesce without the threat of another mall on the outskirts. Simple economics tells you we will get the industry we need to fill our underutilized industrial lands, the price difference for serviced acre is starting to get noticed. Shopping will come with increased population, more simple economics. It’s hard to be patient sometimes but it will come. We don’t live in an area that has 200,000 or 300,000 people for commerce to draw from, we are a little isolated which is a good but it does create some challenges.

This a beautiful place to live because of our history, rural/urban character and quality of life. Let’s keep it that way.

My experience and background makes me the right choice to help lead Maple Ridge into the future.

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Authorized by Craig Speirs 604-250-8067 © 2014 | Email: Craig@CraigSpeirs.com