Stop for a moment and imagine a Vernon that’s everything it can be. Imagine a summer with parks full of activities, playing fields, children’s spray parks and sparkling beaches, all surrounded by pristine mountains, streams, and forests. Imagine a winter with outdoor skating rinks, indoor sports facilities, a new indoor swimming pool, firepits on the beaches and outdoor activities in our parks. Imagine beautiful inviting entrances at both ends of town, and clean, safe, well-lit streets inside our city. Imagine incentives for family doctors to live here, and a city that’s the envy of BC and a shining example of civic excellence. That’s my vision. Does it seem impossible? It’s not impossible. It’s just hard.
It’s hard to bring about the sort of change we can imagine, but as I raised my son and daughters to believe, hard is not the same as impossible.
For the past four years I’ve worked with a powerhouse council looking for leadership. We’ve worked with the provincial government to construct new affordable housing, brought in major new capital projects, constructed new trails, and we’ve achieved much of the strategic plan we envisioned at the beginning of the term. My part in its success have been both small and large, like multicoloured lights along the highway in winter and banning spiked fencing, as well as championing and promoting multimillion-dollar developments that will house our residents and make our city shine. The achievements of council this term have been excellent, but they are still not good enough. We need to raise our expectations, and council needs an ally in the mayor’s chair rather than an obstacle.
What’s missing is leadership and the political will to tackle hard problems that until now have been dismissed as “complex” or “growing pains.” Because most councillors have full time jobs and their work on council is necessarily part time, only the mayor is in a position to proactively search out and pursue ways to create more housing, make our streets safe again, reduce crime, attract more doctors, and generally raise the living standards of all the people who live here. Only the mayor is really in a position to search out new ways to produce housing, enhance public consultation, and expand Vernon’s place in the political dialogue of our province.
What I believe we need to make this happen is a mayor who goes beyond the daily grind, who stands out, and who isn’t afraid to tackle lingering problems. We need a mayor who can rally council instead of throwing roadblocks in front of it. We need a mayor who understands that each council member was elected by a constituency who expects to be heard, and who doesn’t try to marginalize those members he or she doesn’t agree with. A mayor with real leadership ability can proactively use the platform of mayor to partner with other mayors and senior politicians to work with the provincial and federal governments to provide real effective changes to senior government policies.
We may be facing hard economic times soon, what with inflation, a lack of housing, a sputtering economy and rising crime. We need real leadership on council more than ever before, and I believe I’m the right person for the job. I hope you do too, and if so, I ask you to invest your vote with me on October 15th. I offer you more than you’ve been getting.
Born in Canada (Winnipeg), seven years in India (New Delhi), two years in Mexico (Mexico City), returned to Canada. Owned a construction company, Legislative Assistant to an MP (Ottawa), Financial Advisor, and Captain, Canadian Armed Forces. Has worked on the rigs, as a salesperson, and as a university teacher. Currently owns a recycling company and a corporate communications company. As comfortable on a jobsite as in a boardroom or a classroom.
- Two Term City Councillor at City of Vernon – Local Government
- Former Commissioned Officer at Canadian Army
- Chief executive officer at ADR Environmental Ltd (Parent company of Dump Runz)
- Former leader at British Columbia Conservative Party
- Director at Vernon Fish & Game club
- Vice Chair Biosolids Committee (Vernon-Kelowna)
- 1st Class Honours, Political Studies, University of Manitoba
- Graduate Studies, Political studies, University of Manitoba
- Graduate Studies, Political studies, University of British Columbia
- MA Equivalent Public Affairs, Defense Learning Centre
- Currently working on PhD proposal/thesis Political Studies
- (municipal governance)
You’ll notice my signs have “Leadership, Community, and Common Sense” written on them. Collectively these words describe what’s been missing from the mayor’s chair for the past four years. We may be facing hard economic times ahead and we can no longer afford to do the bare minimum in municipal governance. We can no longer react to crises instead of preparing for them. We can no longer allow the problems of addiction and mental illness and crime to grow worse year by year, and we can no longer quietly defer to the provincial government and even our own municipal administration instead of solving the problems with tools that are available to us.
In Vernon we operate under the so-called “weak mayoral system,” in which the mayor has no special power and is for all intents and purposes one of seven votes. Within this context, real leadership begins with the ability to form a team out of people with diverse views. This requires an understanding that each member of council is elected by a group people who expect that councillor to speak for them, and a commitment to allow their voices to be heard. A real leader sets a direction and proactively looks for new ways to achieve them.
As a part time councillor, I have introduced several times the number of motions the mayoral incumbent has, with a 98% pass rate, meaning the council has backed my motions virtually across the board. Imagine what Vernon can do with a mayor who works with instead of against council. Instead of passively watching the ongoing multi-term agenda drift by, I will look for, promote, and foster new ideas and better ways of doing things. I have also used my platform as councillor to bring our concerns to the provincial level, as I did with a motion to send a letter that resulted in Minister David Eby visiting Vernon to talk about an important jurisdictional issue. As mayor I’ll make sure we on council do so much more to influence provincial decision making.
Often forgotten by politicians is the fact that they work for the public and not the other way around. The public isn’t interested in 90% of the work council does, because most of the work we do is to make sure the lights stay on and the taps work and the toilets flush. But the 10% the public does care about should involve our residents, and we should be proactive in seeking your input. We can’t have a referendum over every issue, but we can certainly seek public opinion and act on it by using new technologies like geospatial consultation tools so that those most affected by an issue can be heard through the noise.
One of the main issues I’ve been successful at making change in as a part time councillor is involving the community in governance. For example, I led the drive to allow video recordings into council chambers so the public can watch them during or after the meeting. I’ve insisted on getting more information to the public, and actively pushed for public consultation on issues that matter to our residents. As mayor, I’ll do my best to create a culture dedicated to listening, responding, and serving the residents of Vernon.
There are many things that sound perfect in theory but fall flat in the bright light of reality. While council should welcome new ideas, we can’t and shouldn’t chase after every shiny new idea just because it’s new and shiny. We need to first analyze it through the lens of common sense. Will it really work as advertised? Is there previous evidence of it working? What are the external implications – if it works for one group, how does it impact other groups? What do the residents of Vernon think of it? These questions must be asked, and especially when they will impact our citizens. I’ve tried to bring common sense to council decisions for over seven years, and I believe I’ve succeeded. As mayor I’ll be in a position to spend the extra time necessary to analyze and understand issues before they reach the council table.
Although affordable housing (defined by the provincial government as subsidized or supportive housing) is important, one of the main drivers of outrageous home prices is a lack of available housing across the entire socio-economic spectrum. The snail’s pace at which these projects go through municipal bureaucracy is not good for the purchaser, not good for the taxpayer, and certainly not encouraging to the developer, who burns cash every day while the project waits. I intend to work with staff, administration and council to expedite the process. Most of our Council is already on board, but what we’ve been lacking is strong leadership and the will to push change through.
Public safety is a concern for everyone. With the help of the RCMP and council, I intend to disrupt the criminal subculture that has developed around drugs and petty theft in Vernon. Without that criminal subculture, it will be very hard for more serious, organized crime to take root in our city. A couple of years ago I brought forward a motion for private security to aid in observing crime at night, and this has been such a success that administration has continued it without being asked to by Council. I will increase security at night to make it hard for anyone to live a life of crime here, and work with the province to reform the courts and stop the catch and release tendency of the Prosecutor’s office. I will also work with the province to introduce real treatment for addicts and help for mental illness.
As you all know, healthcare is a provincial responsibility, and municipalities can’t do anything to fix the major structural problems within the Interior Health Authority. What we can address is a lack of family doctors. As we baby boomers progress through the system, we’re going to put enormous demand on family doctors…if we can find them. Other cities have taken steps to incentivize family doctors to come here, through everything from municipal tax breaks to help with housing, and I intend to develop a comprehensive package to attract more family doctors, both from elsewhere in Canada and from abroad. I also intend to actively lobby the provincial government to update doctor renumeration, which has remained static for decades, even as the fixed costs they are responsible for rise.
There has always been a tendency in Vernon’s governance toward privacy. In fact, it wasn’t until I made a successful motion early in my first term to install cameras in council chambers that the public was even able to watch the proceedings electronically. Before that, citizens had to rely on secondhand reports filtered through whichever media company decided to attend in person that day…something that was impossible during COVID. Yet we still have no historical archives and far too much is discussed behind closed doors in camera. I intend to open Council to the public electronically, create an electronic archive, and allow fewer subjects to be discussed in camera. I’ll also work toward more and better citizen consultation over controversial subjects.
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