Council candidates weigh in on family issues in New West

This is the second of two articles sharing election candidates’ opinions on children and family issues in New Westminster. The first article focused on trustee candidates. Kathleen asked all candidates to answer two questions: what is within the elected officials’ ability to influence and what specific initiatives would the candidates personally implement if elected? Unfortunately, due to time constraints, only three council candidates responded: Betty McIntoshBob Osterman and John Ashdown.

The role of the city is to ensure the livability of the city. In relation to child and family issues, this can include parks, recreation programs and space, identifying child care space and other community services.

More broadly, issues like transportation and safety also impact how liveable a city is for families. Incumbent councillor Betty McIntosh explains “The city develops Policy guidelines and has a Social Planner to assist the development of the Policies that are child focused. City Council works closely with School Board on major Capital Projects such as building of 3 new schools. The newer middle schools had City monies to increase the gym size for community shared use.”

A lot of the city’s work is in advocate to other levels of government for thing traditional in the provincial (and sometimes federal) mandate. As Betty said: “Council meets informally and formally with members of other levels of government frequently at Conventions. A variety of issues on homelessness, affordable housing, traffic and transportation are discussed.”

Child care is the most obvious example; the city can help identifying child care space, but does not run, operate or fund child care facilities. Bob Osterman indicates that council knows, “that the Social Health of a Community is directly related to adequate child care and inclusion of children in all our deliberations.”

Using the same framework as I used in my post on trustee candidates’ ideas on child and family issues, I have organized highlights from council candidates’ responses under the three headings: stop, create and advocate. I did not receive responses to my questions from any of the mayoral candidates.  (You may note that I also included ‘Reduce’ and ‘Improve’ headings in the trustee post. I omitted those headings here because I wanted to just choose the best responses and not have too many quotes from the same person.)

Stop:

John Ashdown: “Procrastinating, weighing out the impact decisions will have on Labour rather than to taxpayers and families. High Taxes are one of the key things working against families. They must be brought into line. The Bottom Line. ”

Betty McIntosh: “Public meters on Sunday need to be free.”

Create:

John Ashdown: “I would look at the existing programs to determine value vs cost. Then, I feel there would be room to introduce new programs and policies.”

Advocate:

Bob Osterman: “We would like provincial, federal Funding for : Social Housing, Enhancement of Royal Columbian Hospital, rebuilding our old infrastructure (Sewers, Water, Roads) We are the level of government closest to the resident Family, we need the funding support to continue to foster, build and enhance a healthy society.”

Betty McIntosh: “Advocate for increased funding to existing programs (Societies) for children & seniors.”

Conclusion

If you were to ask me, my two top issues in New Westminster from a child and family issues perspective are:

  1. Parks and Recreation: There are some great parks in New Westminster that I would like to see maintained. However, in a city where much of the year we experience rain and damp mornings, I would like to see more availability for safe spaces for indoor active play. Strong Start, which is funded by the provincial government I believe, is great. However, often there is a lack of programs and spaces on the weekend to support working parents.
  2. Walk-able City: If we want to encourage parents and their kids to spend time in New West, then we need business districts that better cater to the needs of middle income earners and have a vibrant business community. There seems to be a lot of dollar store/thrift store types business in New West and not a lot of opportunities for our family to spend where we live. So business development in downtown, uptown and Sapperton is important to me.
What child and family issues do you see in New West? What would you like to see our elected officials do about them?

John Ashdown would seek action on taxes, ‘real’ truck routes [council]

The following questionnaire was sent to all New Westminster candidates for mayor and council a little over a week ago. A separate questionnaire was sent to trustees (their responses are also being published this week). Questions were selected based primarily on comments from readers of Tenth to the Fraser collected via Twitter and Facebook, with a few of my own questions added in. Responses are published in the order they were received. Spelling/grammar are not corrected and candidates’ responses are published unedited.

John Ashdown
John Ashdown

1. First, let’s hear a little about you:

  • What’s your name? – John Ashdown
  • How long have you lived in New Westminster? – 30 Years
  • What do you love most about our city? – Community Spirit, Diversew neighbourhoods.
  • What do you think most needs improvement? – Political imbalance on city Council
  • What is the civic issue that is the most personally meaningful to you? – Taxpayer representation

2. What are the top three initiatives you believe would improve economic development?

  • More support for local business improvement associations
  • Funding marketing campaigns to draw shoppers and tourists to New West
  • Funding a ‘buy local’ campaign
  • 400,000 cars THROUGH New West could be promoted to stop and Shop instead of candemning them as aliens. People outside hate New West for negative traffic initiatives

3. How would you like to see city council improve engagement with younger citizens?
Engage them by involving them.

4. What should New Westminster do to improve access to recreational programming and indoor public spaces in neighbourhoods that lack amenities like rec centres and libraries such as the West End, Connaught Heights and Sapperton?
Open up the Schools is a start.

5. Which approach best describes your philosophy towards City budgeting and spending?
New West should spend within its means. Borrowing money to fund community projects should only occur after a public consultation process to get a mandate from citizens to do so.
Cut costs through departmental and staff accountability

6. Which of the following most closely reflects your views on taxation?
Taxes are too high. The City should freeze or reduce property taxes by any means necessary, even if this requires cutting back on City staffing or services.
City justifies increases each year by claiming citizens want more service. If you take a close look as you trip over sidewalks and dodge pot holes thee are very few services provided. Parks are great but used by so few.

7. Beyond voting, serving on City committees and appearing at council meetings, what do you think citizens can do to become more involved in civic life?
The City has to listen! Not just pretend to listen.

8. What should be done about truck traffic through our city?
A real truck route. Only designated truck routes exist today and are mixed with Cars.

9. What should be done to improve our recreation facilities? Specifically, what would you like to see done with Canada Games Pool, which is in need of repair/upgrades?
We have excellent recreation fields etc; Encourage more use. Nothing wrong with Canada Games Pool. When they shut down for refit all they do is paint over the rusty lockers and a few other cosmetic issues. Replace what is necessary over time.

10. Let’s conclude with some ‘blue sky’ thinking. What is one big-idea project or improvement that you would propose for New Westminster if cost was no object?
Access to Queensborough for all modes. The Province and the City dropped the ball on vehicular access. I would like to see a small passenger ferry (mini paddlewheelers) leaving the Quay with stops at [Port Royal, Queensborough, Casino and back to Quay. This is not for City to administer as current council hasn”t a clue how to make money, only spend. This would be a project for Free Enterprise…

If you’d like to learn more about John Ashdown, you can find him online:

The candidates weigh in: what to do about the Pattullo?

The Pattullo Bridge. Photo: Gord McKenna
The Pattullo Bridge. Photo: Gord McKenna

This is the third in a series of articles sharing highlights from NWEP’s mayor and council candidates questionnaire on environmental issues. The first article in the series shared the mayoral candidates’ takes on “sustainability” in New West, and the second dealt with traffic. The full questionnaire and all candidate responses are on NWEP’s website.

While we shared the candidates’ opinions on traffic issues in our last post in this series, it’s worth taking a little more time to discuss one issue in particular that could have a profound impact on traffic flow in New Westminster: the proposed replacement of the Pattullo Bridge. Unless otherwise indicated, responses are from council candidates.

NWEP asked the candidates: TransLink continues to mull a replacement for the Pattullo Bridge. Would you rather see the bridge repaired, replaced with a 4-lane structure, or replaced with a larger structure? Would you support tolling the bridge to pay for its replacement? If you don’t support replacement, would you support tolling the existing bridge?

Here’s what they said:

Repair the bridge

Susan Wandell
If the bridge is not structurally sound, it should be replaced. If it is safe, it should be changed to a 3 lane bridge operating like the Lions Gate Bridge alternating two lanes direction during rush hours.

Replace the bridge with a 4-lane structure

Vance McFadyen – Mayoral Candidate
Considering the Pattullo Bridge was opened in 1939 (I believe), the considerable amount of money already spent on maintenance/repair and most importantly the many vehicular deaths caused primarily by design and congestion, I would prefer to see it replaced with a well designed 4 lane bridge and tolled.

François Nantel – Mayoral Candidate
They should build a new 4-lane bridge, which would be one way up to McBride, and keep the old one as one way down to King George. All money should come from the Bank of Canada, just printed new money (electronically, like the charter banks do), and build the bridge as an asset of corresponding value, creating no inflation. Same thing should have been done for all capital expenditures. Unfortunately, we have been hoodwinked. In case of an earthquake, may be 1 bridge would do better than the other, keeping a critical link between the shores of the Fraser

Jonathan Cote
If Translink moves ahead with the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, I would only support a 4 lane structure. New Westminster’s road network is operating near capacity and cannot handle increased traffic. The expansion of the Pattullo Bridge would only induce more traffic into our community and local neighbourhoods.

Vladimir Krasnogor
Until we have a complete picture of costs and other details, replacing with 4-lane seems the most practical solution. I am well aware that members of the community prefer a larger structure, and some people prefer no bridge at all.

Betty McIntosh
A new 4 lane with proper widths would give as much capacity as New Westminster could accomodate with continued tolls

Replace the bridge with a larger structure

Gerry Liu
The issues of the Pattullo Bridge is to replace with a larger structure, and with the bridge construction helped with Federal Funding.

Supports tolls

Vance McFadyen – Mayoral Candidate
I would prefer to see it replaced with a well designed 4 lane bridge and tolled. I cannot honestly comment on tolling the existing bridge unless it is to build funds for the new bridge but I fear it may take too long to accomplish that goal.

Jonathan Cote
Although I have some concerns about the un-coordinated road pricing system that exists in Metro Vancouver, I think it is reasonable that Translink pursue this as an option to finance this project.

Jaimie McEvoy
If other bridges are tolled and a new Pattullo was not, that would encourage more vehicles into New Westminster. I would like to see tolling, but with a low toll or none at all for local residents, promoting the idea of a local bridge for local traffic, which is only one-third of the bridge’s actual total now.

As a SkyTrain rider and transit user myself, it occurs to me that I do pay a toll every time I use public transit. SkyTrain and buses are just as much a part of the transit system our taxes paid for as roads, yet there is a specific toll each and every time. This disincentive to use transit should be eliminated. Public transit is just a way of getting around, just like roads and bridges, and should be free and equally paid for through our taxes.

Betty McIntosh
I think the present bridge should be tolled now to gather funds for a replacement bridge of 4 lanes in the future.

Bob Osterman
We MUST have the Patullo tolled,if we do not, we will become the Fraser crossing of choice and we will be inundated with even yet more traffic.

Susan Wandell
Tolls are a fair way of paying for infrastructure. Tolls are used throughout the Maritimes and are accepted. Once the Gateway project is completed and a toll in place on the Port Mann Bridge, the Pattullo Bridge will have to be tolled in order to protect the liveability of our neighbourhoods from the increase in traffic.

Lorrie Williams
If tolls go up on the Port Mann then they have to go up on the Pattullo.

Opposes tolls

John Ashdown
With the gas and associated government taxes and fees now levied against motorists I am against tolls. The gas tax was brought in decades ago specifically to cover expense of roads and bridges and they continue to rise. Use that tax for it’s intended use. TransLink being constantly in our pockets to cover costs is double dipping as are the board of directors with their TransLink and Mayor’s Salaries.

Other answers

James Crosty – Mayoral Candidate
I support the question going to the public as a referendum after ensuring that all options are presented to the people of New Westminster.

Wayne Wright – Mayoral Candidate
The Pattullo bridge must be replaced and consultation will determine the optimum size. Tolling and road pricing is on the agenda with GVRD and the Province.

John Ashdown
About all you can do with Pattullo bridge to maintain it is, Paint and Patch. Increasing lanes? Not likely by design. It is an old bridge and deserves a place in New West’s history. I am in favour of a new Bridge off United in Coquitlam where it can connect via King Edward to Lougheed and the Stormont connector. Why not build a new bridge and retain the Pattullo for pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and “0” emission electric vehicles.

Jaimie McEvoy
Patullo Bridge as it currently exists is fundamentally unsafe. It does not adequately accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. It was closed for a time because part of it is actually made of wood and it caught fire.

And when it was closed, life continued. The traffic disaster that resulted adjusted after a couple of days.

In my view, it never made a lot of sense to connect a 1930s bridge to a residential street system initially designed for the horse and buggy. It makes less sense to add two more lanes of traffic to a small city where people have to drive through those residential areas before connecting with major roadways.
Two-thirds of the bridge’s traffic is not local at all to New Westminster or North Surrey, but is just passing through to somewhere else. A new Pattullo Bridge could route through North Surrey, and connect with Highway 1 and North Road in Coquitlam. It’s an only an idea, but an idea worth considering.

Any decision on the bridge should not occur before complete environmental and impact assessments on the options, and fair consideration of all of the options.

David Noshad
Issues like this require extensive research and analyzing all the pros and cons. I will base my decision on the best interest of the city, environment and our citizens’ preference.

Gavin Palmer
We need to work with TransLink in dealing with the Pattullo Bridge. It has to be done within the constraints of public funding and whether it is repaired, refurbished or replaced will depend on the overall plan to move traffic through the region. New Westminster is not the dumping ground for the region’s traffic issues and we need to garner better respect from our neighbors. We are the keystone to the region and we deserve better treatment from our regional government not the current lip service our current regime accepts from this body.

Chuck Puchmayr
There is a group called Get Moving BC, which had a report produced by a Voice New Westminster founding director (see Kent Spencer, The Province Published: Monday, September 15, 2008) recommending another 8 lanes of traffic into New Westminster by replacing the Pattullo bridge with an 8 lane structure at the foot of King George. I do not support an 8 lane Pattullo replacement. We can’t keep dumping the regions traffic through our city. When an 8 lane bridge becomes gridlocked, and it will, our neighbourhoods will suffer total gridlock and emergency vehicle response times will become critical.

Lorrie Williams
I don’t know enough about bridges to know if it should be replaced or repaired or expanded.

What to do about traffic? The candidates weigh in

Traffic ranks as one of the top concerns for New West residents. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd.
Traffic ranks as one of the top concerns for New West residents. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd.

This is the second in a series of posts highlighting responses from New Westminster Environmental Partners’ mayor and council candidates’ survey focusing on environmental issues. Our first post brought together the mayoral candidates’ answers to NWEP’s questions on local questions related to sustainability. You can read all candidates’ full responses on NWEP’s website. If you’re looking for more information on mayor, council and trustee candidates we have compiled a list of all New Westminster civic election candidates’ websites, Twitter profiles and Facebook pages on Tenth to the Fraser. 

A constant source of frustration and conflict in New Westminster, traffic is one of the most heated issues in our city right now. An outpouring of public protest scuttled the proposed United Boulevard Exchange, but the city remains challenged by the question of how to handle the competing demands on its roads. Truck traffic and downtown commuter traffic from other suburbs regularly clog our streets and the resulting gridlock inspires rampant “rat-running” through normally quiet residential street. The question of what to do about all this isn’t easily answered, as council considers other factors including social, environmental and economic costs.

I have therefore grouped replies from our council candidates based on the emphasis they gave in their answers to the various competing approaches to transportation planning. There is some overlap, so please do read through the candidates’ answers in full, but my hope is that this will give voters a sense of which candidates prioritize improving the flow of car traffic vs. reducing the volume of car traffic, for example, or those who advocate focusing on mitigating imapacts on residential streets vs. more ambitious plans to radically reroute traffic. Replies are from candidates for council, unless otherwise indicated.

The question NWEP asked candidates was this: The City will be developing a Master Transportation Plan within the next term, what would you like to see included in that plan?

Improve the flow of car traffic

James Crosty – Mayoral Candidate
Comprehensive movement plan to get vehicles in and out efficiently instead of building our road network for two or three hours a day. The people that live work and play in New Westminster should not have to endure movement challenges for the other 21 hours a day. The public must play an important role in any plan to be developed.

John Ashdown
I would like to see a plan which plans to do away with $100,000 plans, which simply gets put on the shelf. We need a bypass! We need to work with adjoining communities for a common solution. Develop Stormont. The UBE is unnecessary now they have the King Edward overpass nearing completion. However Brunette, E. Columbia, Front Street and Stewardson Way will need to be a huge part of the Study. Once the South Perimeter Road is complete, I estimate you will see a considerable reduction in traffic heading through New West to Highway #1. We have a whole crew of transportation bureaucrat’s claiming their high salaries are justified. Now is the time to prove it.

Lorrie Williams
A reasonable truck route plan, exploration of the Storemont interchange.

Reduce car traffic, increase transit/cycling/walking

Vance McFadyen – Mayoral Candidate
Regarding developing a workable Master Transportation Plan you have asked a difficult question. The most obvious challenge to me is the re-routing of commercial trucks/vehicles, improved traffic control, improved inner city transit and to create incentives to encourage more foot and bicycle use. A lot of people find it easy to go downhill but not so easy to go uphill.

François Nantel
Better strategy to streamline through traffic like.  Study to see if one- way streets would help, and where. More left hand turn signals (dedicated), or interdiction to turn left. May be a gondola from Columbia Station to the Mall uptown that would run above the low rise on 7th street (they have those in Venezuela).

Jonathan Cote
Given that transportation is such a critical issue in New Westminster, the Master Transportation Plan will be one of the most important documents the upcoming council will be working on. I would like to see this plan focus on increasing the sustainable transportation (walking, cycling and public transportation) mode share in our community. I also feel that this plan needs to focus on improving the integration of land use and transportation planning.

Jaimie McEvoy
Look at options to reduce traffic in New Westminster, and move away from our role as the throughway of the Lower Mainland.

City positions and a plan to pursue them on regional transportation issues and inititatives.

Review the routing and the need for Patullo Bridge, be ready to challenge TransLink when necessary, push the province to reform TransLink to be more responsive to communities, and give greater emphasis to public transit and other modes of transportation.

A solid plan, with targets, timelines, and adequate resources, to make all of our streets safe and fully accessible to all.

Enhance and promote support for walking and cycling in the city – and beyond the city, as part of our connection to regional transportation infrastructure.

Call for improvements to Skytrain and the five stations in New Westminster, and expanded hours of service. Skytrain should be safe, be clean, and be well maintained.

Citizen involvement – a very good program of consultation with citizens, stakeholder groups, and neighbourhoods.

Return Front Street and the waterfront to the people, and restore the natural environment on the waterfront and the heritage buildings on Front Street, by finding parking alternatives to the parkade so that it can be at least partially removed.

Undertake initiatives to support electric vehicles and small personal transportation in the city.
Improve bike and pedestrian pathways by removing obstacles.

David Noshad
‘Walk/bike to work’ is [a] subject that needs close attention. If designed properly, programs like this can reduce daily traffic while improving citizens’ quality of life.

Chuck Puchmayr
We are the thoroughfare of Metro Vancouver, and if you think the traffic is bad now, wait until the new 10 lane Port Mann bridge is open. We need to take advantage of our Chartered control of some of our roads and curb the expansion of the vehicle onslaught into our city. At the same time we need to move people and goods efficiently and creatively.

Focus on quieting residential streets

Betty McIntosh
A continuation of respect for all residential neighbourhoods with reduced impact from motor vehicles. In the plan clear direction of where motor vehicles can go not just where they can not go.

Vladimir Krosnogor
Sensible solutions to out frustrating traffic problems. Reduce traffic in residential areas, not increase it

Bob Osterman
We need to know the BC Gov’t final decision on the Patullo Bridge, also we need the Surrey-Delta South Fraser Perimeter Road to be completed to take truck pressure off of our roadways; Front/Brunette/Stewardson. We need to continue neighborhood traffic calming, and making each neighborhood safely walkable.

Balance needs of all users

Wayne Wright – Mayoral Candidate 
Transportation requirements are complex and issues that we need to address include pedestrian safety at crossings, better facilities for cyclists, transit access and service, reduced volume of regional truck and vehicle traffic, vehicular safety as well as air quality, noise and livability issues. We need to find the best routes for all traffic in the City and how to find the funding that will be required.

Gerry Liu
I would like to see the master transportation plan include a choice to move around the city by foot, bike, bus, Skytrain & car. Consideration for semi trucks must be included as well as handicap & disability services, providing facilities – covered benches, & trees for the environment.

Send traffic ‘around, over or under’ New Westminster

Susan Wandell
Through traffic still needs to be directed to the perimeter of the City. I would support a cut and cover on McBride Blvd. from the Pattullo Bridge through to the Stormont Connector.

Gavin Palmer
Our City is in the unique position of being the ‘keystone’ of the lower mainland and needs to determine its own destiny. As the oldest City in Western Canada, preceding Canada itself, we deserve the respect of the other cities in this region and MUST continue to remind them of this fact. We have no land to devote to expanded roadways and have no funds to pay for regional arteries. With that being stated, we need to work with our neighbors to arrive at a regional solutions which work for all. Flow-through traffic needs to go around, over or under our neighborhoods so our citizens can enjoy the quiet enjoyment of their homes including the ability to get in and out of the city unimpeded. This will be a major challenge and needs public consultation with our citizens and our bordering jurisdictions.