Craig Smith is seeking his second term on city council. He is a local businessman, a shriner and also volunteers his photography skills to the BC SPCA every year as a fundraiser.
What is the solution to Williams Lake’s current housing and rental shortage?
There are a few ways to approach our current shortages. We as a city are fairly landlocked. We need to work with our developers to create new housing in the existing developable lots in the city and make the path to building a little easier for them. I didn’t support a recent application for a developer to create secondary suites and my reasoning was that the majority of the Strata owners were opposed to the change. Strata’s are a little different when it comes to changing things such as zoning as they are a community unto themselves and I didn’t feel that opposing the will of the majority of owners was what I was elected for. We also should be looking to perhaps expand the borders of the city to gain some more property that we can develop in the future.
What are your thoughts on the proposal to burn rail ties at Atlantic Power?
This first came up when I was new on council. I know that is not an excuse but the research that I did at the time showed that decisions such as this were made regardless of what the municipalities wanted. Kamloops a few years earlier was a good example as the City was opposed and the province tried to go ahead anyways. It wasn’t until enough of the citizens petitioned that the project was cancelled. At first I thought, as did the CRD and the Williams Lake Indian Band, that we were supporting an alternative fuel source for the co gen plant that was going to be a last resort to keep the plant viable and that the scientists would show that there would be no effect to the air quality in our city. After living through the last two summers with air quality that exceeded the pollution of Beijing, China I have realized that the scientists cant agree whether this will or will not affect the air quality here. Until they do I am against the use of rail ties. If re-elected I will push for council to lobby the government to come up with plans to make using the fibre left in the bush and burned in piles to become an economical fuel source.
What measures by council do you think would help diversify and strengthen the local economy?
Council has the ability to create measures that will drive the economic development in the city. Over the last four years we have kept taxes, three out of four years, at zero percent without any downgrade in services. We have also put in place tactics that has helped in dropping the crime rate. Development in the last two years is booming and we have added the property at RC Cotton to the cities portfolio. We have spent four years making the City’s finances transparent and have upgraded many bylaws that should have been changed years ago. We have hired a new economic development officer and she has come up with and is working on many projects that will benefit the city. We need to strengthen our relationships with our indigenous neighbour and create more economic partnerships such as our community forest partnership with the Williams Lake Indian Band
With the change in climate and increasing threat of wildfires, what strategies would you support to make the community safer and more resilient?
The city has seen two bad years when it comes to fires and this is one topic that should be at the top of the agenda with the new council. There are many grants and other funds available to be able to carry out what is needed to make our city safer. I would push for information on how to make homes and properties fire safe to be readily available and to maybe have our fire department help citizens to help with that. We will need to work with both the CRD, Wildfire BC and the provincial and federal government to deal with the fuel that would cause any future issues. There have been reports on how to deal with these issues and I would push for the information in those reports to be put to use rather than be shelved to collect dust.
Considering we always rank in the top 10 for crime severity, do you think Williams Lake is a safe place to live for everyone?
I have travelled all over the world and have found Williams Lake to be one of the safest I have ever been in. Although we have dropped from number one to number seven Williams Lake is the victim of bad statistics gathering. The crime from our draw area is attributed to just the population within the City limits for one which makes our numbers four times worse. The second bad stat collecting is how all the Cities are compared to each other. Its all based on a population of 100,000 people. What happens is all our stats are multiplied by roughly 10 and all the stats of say Surrey that has a population of 500,000 are divided by five. Basically that means that if we have ten car thefts we now show 100 statistically and if Surrey has 500 then show as 100 as well. Not a great way of comparing two very different cities but it makes great news. To help fight these stats we have had many discussions with the numbers collects but unfortunately nothing has changed. Council has been very proactive in the last four years when it comes to crime. We have increased the police budget to add more RCMP members including a very successful crime reduction unit. We have entered into an agreement to have GPS bracelets available when the courts decide prolific offenders need the additional monitoring. Council had increased the budget when it come to cameras and additional lighting in the parks and we are in constant communication with our local police chief who makes a report to council on a monthly basis.
What would you do to protect and/or enhance the city’s air quality?
I’ve already stated my position on the rail tie question and would continue to look at protecting our city’s air quality. I am a motorcycle rider in the summer and you can smell and feel everything in the air. I would prefer to ride around town without my eyes burning and would look at ways to make our air shed better.
What ideas do you have for the proposed trail and amenities on the RC Cotton Site that would preserve Scout Island as a nature sanctuary and wildlife viewing area while giving residents more access to the lake?
The trail and amenities at RC Cotton will be created with consultation with all the stakeholders. There needs to be a balance between wildlife and recreation. Years ago I lived in Quesnel and one of my favorite things was taking the riverfront trail. You could leave your vehicle and walk in a big circle coming back to your vehicle. Presently when I walk with my dog I have to walk one way then turn around and walk the same way back. One of my dreams for Williams Lake is to have walking trails that circle and RC Cotton will facilitate that. Another beach and a boat launch would be nice as well but my priority is the walking trails.
I would be honoured if the citizen of Williams Lake gave me the mandate of another term on council.