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Delta’s new mayor George V. Harvie: ‘Putting needs of Delta’s residents first’

Delta’s new mayor George V. Harvie: ‘Putting needs of Delta’s residents first’

What are some of the priority issues in your list that you want to address during your first year as the mayor of City of Delta?

One of my top priorities as mayor and one of the things we heard most about while campaigning is housing. It is critical that we work with senior governments and developers to create a range of affordable housing options for young families, seniors and low income groups. We need to take steps to proactively attract these types of developments. This may include zoning amendments, incentives and seeking out opportunities to work with stakeholders. We will also be looking at the municipal permitting processes and community planning policies to help homeowners expand housing options through innovative housing design, and work with developers to create livable and affordable neighbourhoods that help keep families in Delta and generations together. This will include revisiting the approval process for secondary suites, which provides a much needed housing option, while allowing homeowners the opportunity to generate more income to pay for their homes. I will continue to advocate for a solution to the George Massey Tunnel traffic congestion. Residents and businesses in Delta and south of the Fraser River deserve a safe, reliable and efficient crossing. Since my election as Mayor, I have spoken with both the Transportation Minister and Premier Horgan and, although the originally proposed 10-lane bridge may no longer be on the table, we need to work together to fix the problem as a matter of urgency – whatever the solution, we must not give up any more agricultural land and the crossing must be fully equipped with dedicated HOV lanes, bike lanes, and the capacity for future rapid transit. Another challenge in our community is ensuring that residents across South and North Delta feel like they are being treated fairly and providing equal opportunity to hear from all residents. Largely due to the distance between North and South Delta, there is often a sense of alienation for North Delta residents and businesses. We need to narrow this gap by proactively reaching out to our businesses and more closely connecting North Delta residents to mayor and Council. Whenever citizens living in North Delta need to access City Hall, they have to drive all the way down to Ladner, sometimes in poor weather, to receive city services. As Mayor, I have committed to holding every other Delta Council Meeting in North Delta – so that if you have an issue or a concern, you can bring it to Council in North Delta.

This is a common sense move that I am proud of. It is about fairness and respect for over half of Delta’s population. I am pleased that our first regular meeting of 2018 was held in North Delta and I look forward to keeping my promise to alternate between our two communities for every regular meeting of Council over the next four years. Another priority is community safety. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our Police and Fire departments, Delta is one of the safest places in Canada. One of the ways we will ensure this high standard is maintained is by establishing a Public Safety Committee to work closely with the Delta Fire and Delta Police departments as well as other community representatives to help guide city initiatives and keep Delta’s neighbourhoods safe.

During your election campaign, you promised to address affordable housing issue in the city while protecting Delta’s distinct neighbourhoods. How do you plan to do that?

One of my biggest challenges will be to deliver on my commitment to keep young families and seniors in Delta. We are already moving forward with a complete housing plan that looks after everyone, including our youth, seniors, and the most vulnerable, by working with housing agencies, senior governments and developers to invest in the housing we need in our communities. To support our housing plan, we are taking immediate steps to streamline municipal processes to reduce timelines to get projects completed faster and more affordably, without sacrificing the character of our communities or our agricultural land. We don’t have to choose between protecting our Delta farmland and creating housing options for our young people and our seniors – we can do both and we must do both. We will also work with local builders to identify opportunities for mixed residential/commercial development in town centres and in priority areas such as Scott Road, the Ladner waterfront and Tsawwassen core.

What is your take on cannabis production and retail sale in Delta? Now that it is easily available, young kids are much more vulnerable to coming in contact of abandoned drugs especially near school areas. Does the City have any special plans to protect kids from being victim?

The protection of Delta’s children and youth is an issue we take extremely seriously. The City has already taken a pre-emptive step by prohibiting cannabis production facilities and retail stores in all zones across Delta. Anyone wanting to set-up a cannabis store will have to make a rezoning application and appear before Council. We want to move slowly and carefully before making any decisions. This will absolutely be one of the issues to be considered by the new public safety committee in the New Year. We are also committed to working closely with the renewed school board to ensure that our children and youth are protected and educated early on the dangers of not only drugs, but gangs and violence as well. I have also committed to increasing the amount of funding Delta provides for social programs, including drug and alcohol prevention and awareness programs and treatment facilities.

What are some of the priority recreation projects that you want to take and upgrade?

In our 2019 budget, I expect Council to support funding for new infrastructure projects, including our plan to spearhead and fund a new track facility at North Delta Secondary School. Our Delta athletes deserve quality playing surfaces, and so do members of the public. We are working with our School Board counterparts to make this a reality. We already have a plan in place to expand and enhance pickleball facilities to support this rapidly growing sport. The Delta Pickleball Association has grown to more than 200 members in the last 2 years. We are planning to provide 28 pickleball courts at 11 parks throughout Delta in the next four years. Putting Delta families first means that Delta families get priority when it comes to registration for Delta Parks and Recreation programs. Right now, Delta families have a short three-day window to sign up for recreation programs before families from outside of our community are allowed to register. In our busy daily lives, three days is simply not enough, and many families are expressing frustration that coveted spots in their favorite programs are being filled up before they get a chance to register. I am pursuing a policy that will give families two full weeks to register for programs exclusively before those that live outside of the community are invited to fill those spots. I also believe that Delta families should be paying less for these programs, since they are already heavily subsidized through tax contributions to the City.

Why according to you George Massey tunnel should be replaced? How are things shaping up between you and the NDP government in terms of resolving tunnel congestion issue?

As a regular user of the tunnel, it seems obvious to me why a replacement is urgently needed. Foremost, traffic congestion is costing businesses and commuters valuable time and money every time they have to make the crossing and this is having significant economic, social and environmental impacts. Secondly, at 60 years old, the tunnel will need some significant investment just to keep it operating at its current capacity. The tunnel is also extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and upgrading it to current seismic standards is just not technically or economically feasible. Congestion at the tunnel is having significant impacts on our economy and communities. The costs of a catastrophic tunnel closure for an extended period would be enormous. I have met recently with both Premier Horgan and Minister Trevena and, as I said previously, we need to work together to implement a solution that is consistent with the Regional Transportation Plan, that doesn’t involve any loss of agricultural land and that provides people options to get out of their cars. And we must do this as a matter of priority.

Do you have special plans to promote local businesses?

Local businesses are essential to the economic prosperity and character of our communities. We will continue to implement the many excellent recommendations of the South Delta Business Sustainability Strategy to help support the long‐term viability of the small business communities in Ladner and Tsawwassen. Delta has been working closely with the Ladner Business Association to upgrade streetscapes and sidewalks, to rehabilitate the former Municipal Hall, and transform the look of downtown Ladner. To reach its full potential, we must focus on the revitalization of the Ladner waterfront, including the former Seven Seas building on Chisholm Street. I plan to establish a community-led committee to move this issue forward and create a vision for the area that will transform it into a vibrant, attractive area where people go to eat, shop and enjoy the waterfront beauty. We will continue with our own “Buy Local” campaign and we have recently assisted the Delta Farmers’ Institute with funding for an additional ‘Buy Local in Delta’ campaign and are stepping-up this campaign in advance of the holiday season. I recognize that we need to do more in North Delta. We will be making a special effort to reach out to North Delta businesses and business associations, and to work more closely with them to promote local businesses in the north. Additionally, the planned capital improvement and beautification works in North Delta will provide not only much needed upgrades but an opportunity to reach out to these businesses and residents.

Concluding comments

Delta is already a great place to live, work and play, and we want to keep it that way. That means changing the way we do business, bringing in fresh ideas for housing and social infrastructure, keeping our residents safe and healthy, and keeping generations together. Over the next four years I am committed to keeping taxes low, keeping Delta debt-free and putting the needs of Delta’s residents first.

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