My Vision for the City of Maple Ridge

I believe Maple Ridge needs to grow in a way that respects the natural beauty that surrounds us, from Golden Ears Park to the Fraser River; from Whonnock Lake to Kanaka Creek Regional Park. The centre of our city – the downtown core – will re-develop and embrace higher density which in turn encourages retailers and service providers to flourish. A vibrant downtown core should create a buzz with unique shopping and dining options. 224th Street can connect Memorial Peace Park to the Fraser River as a welcoming walkable street. Downtown should attract residents and families with celebrations, relaxation, and laughter. This is my vision and I know I can lead efforts to get us there.

As Mayor, I will encourage an appropriate investment in parks, culture, and the arts. Active aging needs to be a reality, while still offering the under-16 age group some healthy, active, and creative options. Maple Ridge will thrive with well-planned development and a range of appropriate housing types: condominiums, townhomes, single family homes, and larger properties. I will work to ensure that construction respects the environment and existing neighbourhoods, with urban development kept within the urban boundary set out in the Official Community Plan.

Under my leadership, Maple Ridge will provide working adults with good employment opportunities. As a Regional Town Centre, I will convince Translink to improve transit routes and schedules. Local shopping will expand as our population grows, because we are a welcoming community for investment and innovation.

Maple Ridge can, with me as Mayor, return to its reputation as a place people are proud to call home, a model for attracting new residents and business investment alike, all while leaving our natural surroundings for families and visitors to enjoy.

Here is my Ten-Step Plan.

Step One – Building Relationships 

Positive relationships are essential in our personal lives, in our work lives, and in our elected lives. Without positive, respectful relationships, we won’t achieve our goals. I am strong, approachable, reasonable, and considerate. These, I think, are the best qualities a Mayor should have. I know partnership cannot be taken for granted, and I will continue to behave in such a way as to encourage debate and communication while listening to and respecting different opinions, always looking for areas of common ground. This is especially true with day-to-day Council interactions, monthly regional interactions, annual participation at Union of BC Municipalities, and almost hourly communications with staff and residents. My communication and management style is welcoming and encouraging while staying focused and committed to protecting the best interests of Maple Ridge.

I know that, quite frankly, many folks are disillusioned and skeptical of elected officials because of the squabbling and in-fighting they have seen at all levels of government. In Maple Ridge, under my leadership, I know we can rise above that to become a cohesive team of Council and staff, shining a light on people with the skills and attitudes that can allow the City of Maple Ridge to function at its best.

I will lead our community through those difficult conversations, and I have proven I can make tough decisions without alienating or tearing down beneficial relationships and foundations. I did that when I owned and operated my business, I did that on volunteer boards, and I did that when I was Mayor of Maple Ridge. My collaborative style of leadership, whether at our own Council table or when working with other levels of government, will put Maple Ridge first and will achieve the results our residents expect.

Step Two - Public Safety

Many Maple Ridge citizens are concerned about public safety and property crime in our community. I share these concerns, as do many of my friends and family.

I know that in order to find solutions, the RCMP must be willing to work with the City and Council to meet expectations of the community. Whether it is responding to a crime in progress or investigating after the fact, our citizens have an expectation as to what that response ought to be. Traffic speed and poor driving behaviour is another area of frustration for residents. The reality is that a majority of calls for policing service are mental health or addiction-related. This contributes greatly to a shared feeling amongst many people of not feeling safe while walking or shopping in the downtown area.

These are just a few responsibilities of any police force and all are complex issues to deal with. These are not problems unique to Maple Ridge or to the RCMP. There are things we can do fairly quickly to start addressing the feelings and realities around a lack of safety. In the downtown, I will work with the RCMP to establish foot and/or bike patrols to increase the presence of the police. I would also explore evaluating the contract with the private security company to look at effectiveness and perhaps additional service. My focus is on policing and involving the criminal justice system.

Traffic enforcement at high crash locations and areas where speed is a challenge would be a priority of mine. I would ask the RCMP to investigate the potential of using the RCMP Integrated Traffic section to compliment the local traffic section.

Because I believe in all our municipal partners providing a high level of service, the RCMP will need to find ways of increasing response times and satisfaction levels. I suggest a phone call back to victims of crime or to businesses that report crime to provide an update after such traumatic events. It needs to be more than providing a file number, and in my opinion, this can only increase the sense of community and partnership between police and residents.

Regarding the mental health crisis that exists in our community, all stakeholders must to come to the conversation. I would work collaboratively and respectfully with the Provincial Government, the Fraser Health Authority, the Court system, the RCMP, and our own City resources and local experts to find solutions to this crisis. I believe it is not one solution that is needed but many, and there can be many small solutions that make a difference while we work toward a bigger resolution.

Both the Government of BC and Fraser Health Authority must come to the discussion with solutions and funding, not just solutions. In my view, we must all share the cost of the crisis we find ourselves in. Having an investment by the health authority will reduce the cost of policing and free up police to address other issues. Obviously, all this has budgetary consequences, of which I am aware and prepared to address.

One related concern I have is my belief that the criminal justice system must properly and adequately bring consequences for those individuals who participate in the criminal spectrum, from shoplifters and criminals who break and enter, to those who buy stolen property. All these individuals drain our system and create a disproportionate burden on business owners, police, and consumers.

Step Three - Homelessness

The issue under the most scrutiny right now is Anita Place Tent City on 223rd. It is a complex issue that will require many tactics. As of right now, the current Provincial Government along with BC Housing have installed modular housing on Royal Crescent. Like it or not, that housing now exists. As Mayor, I would obtain and enforce an injunction to clear the camp, and then direct the Parks Department to begin the process of establishing a park there, which the Port Haney residents have been waiting for. As Mayor, I want those individuals who need help to be able to get help, but I also want those residents who have been violated to see results coming from the criminal justice system.

In my view Maple Ridge is not unique in its struggle to manage the issue of homelessness, whatever the cause. Homelessness can occur for many reasons: family problems, unemployment, mental illness and mental health challenges, drug or alcohol addiction, serious illness, and many others.

Our current problem is 30 years in the making and will not be resolved by any election promise. It took many governmental levels and decisions for the problem to flourish as it has in Maple Ridge. I see the problem firsthand and I know firsthand how badly this has affected so many people who choose to live and work here.

There is a critical shortage of rental housing for those with low or moderate income, or appropriate supportive housing for residents who have challenges with mental health or substance abuse. These people need some type of long-term housing with adequate supports in place.

Seniors, families, and singles are also caught occasionally in the web of homelessness and they are all in need of safe, affordable, and well-maintained rental housing. This does not even touch on the multitude of individuals and families living in sub-par or less than ideal situations.

So what do the solutions look like?

First of all, I think that the City of Maple Ridge cannot tackle this issue by itself. A positive collaborative relationship with the Province of BC, Fraser Health, BC Housing, and non-profit housing providers can all be part of the solution. There are examples from other communities both in BC and elsewhere that we can learn from, and I pledge to make those connections and gather best practices that might work in Maple Ridge.

For those who struggle with mental health issues or addictions, supports must be in place to help break the ongoing cycle. I am fully aware of all the arguments for and against different types and levels of supports, but I also know, from living here all my life, that the people of Maple Ridge have heart; they are generous and kind and want to help the less fortunate. I see this everyday when I look at the charitable work being done locally by organizations and volunteers. We are a community that cares. Many people are also frustrated and angry, and I understand that. I know that when we create and implement solutions, we have to understand that there may be varying levels of success, but I promise to work to ensure we are always moving forward and reducing the problem.

I also know that the appropriate housing model with supports in place from Fraser Health Authority, treatment for substance abuse, and mental health support, when all combined, will go a long way toward breaking the cycle. There are many people that require guidelines and a structured living environment to ensure success. The reality is there are people who cannot live on their own. Some people need support after they find housing in order to stay clean and sober. Some people simply cannot make day-to-day decisions to live on their own and so they neglect nutrition and housekeeping and money management. Being housed is only a small piece of equation to break the cycle.

From my experience in providing housing over the past 13 years, I know firsthand that to have a safe, well- maintained, and affordable rental suite does make a difference in people’s lives. They can live independently and become fulfilled and contributing members of their housing community and the community at large.

I also know that anyone running for Mayor who promises a quick fix, or an easy answer that feels good to hear but offers nothing in the way of a resolution is not a Mayor to lead Maple Ridge into a brighter future that reflects the true spirit of Maple Ridge.

Step Four - Transit 

We need frequent, reliable, and affordable transit options now and for the future. These options must provide a viable option to private vehicles. Congestion and commute times have financial and personal costs, affecting families.

There have been service and frequency improvements on the main routes and this has resulted in increased ridership, but we can’t stop there. I can be a persuasive voice at the TransLink table, keeping the needs of Maple Ridge at the forefront. An expanded Community Shuttle program is a key part of transit planning for our work force during rush hour and for secondary and post-secondary students.

West Coast Express is a valued service for communities on the north side of the Fraser. I will negotiate for this service to expand to include longer trains to increase the capacity or to add more trains throughout the day. West Coast Express also has the potential to be a link or connections to the Evergreen line. Price reductions for shorter service need to be explored, along with discussions around an additional station in east Maple Ridge

Step Five - Business Support and Development

Maple Ridge is a growing community and business investment is a key part of that growth. Whatever form this growth takes, I know we need to be ready at City Hall with an attitude of helpfulness and partnership. I believe strongly that the City of Maple Ridge is in the customer service business, and applications and permits need to be completed within a reasonable time frame. I know with my style of leadership I can provide a working environment that allows a new spirit of helpfulness to thrive in City Hall. We have good people doing tremendous work; I intend to support them to do even better.

City Hall must be seen as a fair and efficient place to explore business and commercial opportunities. I don’t think that means we throw caution to the wind and lower our community expectations, but I do think we need to look for more ways to make investments or events happen. Whether it is a one-day festival or a high-tech firm relocating to Maple Ridge with its 600 employment opportunities, there needs to be the feeling of being wanted and supported.

Equally important is valuing and retaining Maple Ridge’s existing business community. Support from Council, the Economic Development office, and frontline City Hall staff is key to ensuring we retain the business investment we have.

Step Six – Family Physician Recruitment

We can likely all agree on what makes Maple Ridge a really great place to live and work: safe homes, well- maintained parks, employment that pays well and is close by, adequate road networks, and more. I think we also need more family doctors and faster access to necessary health care services. As our population has grown and continues to grow, and existing family doctors retire, replacing those doctors and retaining existing medical practices has not kept pace, leaving upward of 23,000 residents within Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows without a family doctor to care for them.

I think this critical reality has caused Maple Ridge to be an incomplete community, in that the provision of primary health care for all of its citizens cannot be met. This issue needs to be addressed and I am committed to working with stakeholders to find solutions. The only way we will find these solutions is to work cooperatively and respectfully with doctors as we try to attract them to our community.

Solutions to this challenge can include a program of incentives to attract General Practitioners (GPs) to Maple Ridge, much like the City does to attract development or business investments. Examples of incentives include property tax or permit relief on office space, and promotional and marketing programs reaching out to medical schools and the global community which has and can continue to provide exceptional family doctors.

As your Mayor, I will engage with the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice to attract more family doctors to Maple Ridge. This, to me, is an absolute necessity. The City can provide leadership and a partnership working with the Division to ensure citizens are able to access a family doctor in our community. Recruitment of GPs is highly competitive, and Mayor and Council will need to make attracting family doctors to Maple Ridge a priority through our own incentives. We must also show leadership in advocating for increased provincial and federal commitments to addressing the nationwide issue of doctor shortages.

I have always been able to build strong relationships at both the provincial and federal levels of government during my time as Mayor and on Council, and I can promise you I will give a great deal of attention and skill to this issue. This will include a “Red Carpet” program that is designed to express just how much Maple Ridge values a new doctor who has chosen to practice and, hopefully, live in Maple Ridge. This program is made possible by the City, Mayor, Economic Development Office, the business community, real estate community, the school system: both public and private, and the Ridge Meadows Hospital all joining together to support and welcome the new doctor and their family to Maple Ridge.

By working together, our community’s best foot will be put forward on all fronts and as Mayor I will champion the necessary work to ensure we meet this need and become a complete community.

Step Seven - Planning and Growth

Increasing available housing and planning for adequate affordable housing have been topics in Maple Ridge for as long as I can remember. Our community has always been an attractive community for people looking to buy a home, raise a family, and build a community. Whether it’s a condo in the downtown core, a townhome in an established area of Maple Ridge, a newer home in one of our newer developments, or a single-family home on acreage, we have all these types of homes in Maple Ridge, which means we attract all types of individuals and families to our City.

Construction must respect our natural surroundings and existing neighbourhoods. It is unfair for residents to purchase new builds and now want to stop additional development. We need controlled, careful development to provide adequate housing and to provide an increased tax base so we all pay our fair share. I believe that urban development within the Urban Boundary set out in the Official Community Plan should be encouraged to increase density in our urban areas. Maple Ridge can be known for well-planned development as opposed to sprawling development. And I believe we do have the room and the services to support careful and controlled growth.

Maple Ridge’s downtown is the heart of our community and I want to be sure its redevelopment will continue to attract higher density housing and new services and commercial development. A welcoming development environment will allow and encourage retail and service providers to flourish. There is a vibrant energy beginning around the downtown core with unique shopping and dining options, and I will work to continue this.

Community planning for growth in Maple Ridge needs to be done with Area Plans rather than the whole 262 square km community, in my view. I have seen for myself that each neighbourhood has its own character and unique flavour and I will work to ensure this is valued and is reflected in our Area Planning process. The Hammond area plan and the Downtown core plans are both successful examples of that process. I was part of the Smart Growth on the Ground process from 2003 to 2005 that resulted in our Downtown plan.

Step Eight - Taxes and Spending 

Maple Ridge has an award-winning budgeting and planning process and was recently ranked as one of the lowest spending cities per capita in Metro Vancouver. I understand budgeting and spending. I lived this as a business owner for 23 years, from when I purchased a failing business and turned it into a profitable one. I see that the potential pressures on our spending will be policing, parks and facilities master plan, homelessness and housing, and garbage possibly. I will have conversations on these issues with residents, with our Provincial partners, and with City Council and staff.

I can assure tax payers in Maple Ridge that if I am elected Mayor, I am not looking at moderate or large tax increases; I believe we can move forward prudently. Prior to raising any taxes, I will build a business case for it. More than just consultation, I promise to listen to the views of any affected resident. Before any new money is spent, I will provide for you the information on the service being contemplated AND how we will best be able to pay for its upkeep in the future. I realize there are many in this community who want all-ages sports facilities and I agree we need to build some of these facilities, but I think this should be done in a planned and structured way. We can support a Parks Master Plan, but most of us cannot afford to push it through quickly. I support a multi-year Master Plan that each of us can afford.

I also support operational efficiencies. Currently City Hall operates well but I am not afraid to continue to review operations; this is a strength of mine.

Step Nine - Garbage Collection 

I have always supported the existing garbage and recycling system in Maple Ridge. Maple Ridge has evolved into a system that encourages citizens to manage their household garbage costs and participate in a first-class recycling program. I believe Maple Ridge residents know the real cost of dealing with household waste and have better recycling and disposal practices because of it. I strongly believe that each resident is in the best position to make choices about how they wish to deal with their garbage and how much they wish to pay for it. Maple Ridge residents have choice over the type of service that best suits their household. 

Residents can choose from a number of private haulers to pick up their family’s household trash and organics, or they can share a service with a neighbour to reduce costs, or they can become completely independent of any service and take their own waste to the Transfer Station. The existing system gives families the ability to control the service and the costs associated with waste management. Maple Ridge has an excellent recycling program, providing curb side pick-up and access to the one-stop depot for dropping off recyclable products, which coupled with more and more stewardship programs has reduced the amount of household trash going into landfills.

As our society moves towards a Zero Waste target, we will become better at how we handle our waste, the quantity we produce is going to steadily decline, but the costs associated with dealing with a declining waste stream will not decline at the same rate. By remaining with our present system, we will be in a better position to respond to the effects of that transition.

I think there are two myths that exist about a city-provided garbage pickup system. First people mistakenly believe that when the city provides garbage pick-up, it eliminates roadside dumping. This is simply not true. All of our neighbouring communities that have city organized waste removal, and sadly, still experience a high rate of illegal dumping, especially large pieces of furniture or mattresses because those items aren’t picked up curb side. A second myth is that there will be fewer trucks on the street. This is misleading as there is the same volume of trash to be picked-up and it will take the same truck capacity to do this, whether it is provided by one truck on the road for twice as long, or two trucks completing the work in half the time.

What I do know is that our property taxes will need to meet the cost of city-wide garbage pick-up, which means if you do a good job reducing waste and your neighbour does not, you will both pay the same. Considering the estimated cost of curbside pickup in 2015 was $6.3 to $6.9 million, this equates to conservatively $275.00 per household in added utility costs. I know for sure that a significant number of residents currently have lower costs with the present system, so either they will pay more if we adopt city-wide garbage pick-up, or we will need to find that revenue by potentially cutting other services. Neither of these situations are what I want.

However, I am committed to hearing residents on this issue and will abide by the outcome of the question presented on the October 20th ballot.

Step Ten - Mobility Pricing 

A term brought up frequently when speaking about transit improvements is mobility pricing, or how do we pay for the services we need?

Most people agree that congestion wastes our time, harms our quality of life and hurts our regions competitiveness. Revenue to support large investments and ongoing operating and maintenance costs need to be found.

I will fight for a fair solution for Maple Ridge. From Maple Ridge, it is nearly impossible to get throughout the lower mainland by public transit, other than West Coast Express, so we are often forced to use our cars. That is where mobility pricing fails the people of Maple Ridge. Whether it is Regional Congestion point charges or Multi- zone distance based charges, a daily cost of anywhere from $3.00 to $8.00 is simply not fair to Maple Ridge commuters.

It isn’t just Metro Vancouver which benefits from transit investments; those benefits extend right out into the Fraser Valley. Our neighbours to the east benefit greatly from the West Coast Express service and the express bus service from the Carvolth exchange. Studies show that a large percentage of ridership comes from the Valley and yes, those riders do pay the fares to ride the system. However, except for Mission, our eastern neighbours do not contribute to the costs of building and looking after the transit system. In the spirit of fairness, I will have the conversations that need to take place about the fairness of mobility pricing. I have the skills and aptitude to have these conversations in a way that is more likely to create consensus.