Tom Hoffman is a professional forester who works for Tolko Industries. He is chair of Community Futures and vice chair of Northern Development Initiative Trust.
What is the solution to Williams Lake’s current housing and rental shortage?
There are a few ways that the City can address these issues. The City currently does not own any vacant land but there is opportunity within the City boundaries to acquire land from the Province. This will be necessary in order to construct new homes within the City limits.
Secondly, we need to encourage developers to take the lead in recognizing this opportunity. With the current high costs for construction, the City needs to explore ways to raise our profile which would encourage developers to construct new homes to allow for increased growth.
Next, we need to explore ways to acquire support from the province. The recently announced federal/provincial infrastructure grant needs to be applied for, once we have determined our highest level of priority for this type of grant. I believe that assistance from the Province and Federal governments will allow for necessary infrastructure that will also incent construction.
I also believe that we want to keep our senior citizens here in Williams Lake. If we had more affordable housing available for them, they could move into new accommodations and free-up existing real estate that could be attractive for those seeking opportunities to buy/rent in Williams Lake.
What are your thoughts on the proposal to burn rail ties at Atlantic Power?
As I understand it, City Council has supported the review process to proceed with the burning of ties at the Atlantic Power plant. I am not aware of how this review is proceeding, but do understand how important it is to both residents and to Atlantic Power.
I have in my career, dealt with concerns from residents concerned about particulates and air quality from facilities (i.e. Beehive burners). Ultimately, residents want to ensure that no toxins and/or particulates impact their airshed. I think I can bring that experience to the table, if elected to Council.
As the review of Atlantic Power’s proposal is in for review by the province, I must await their direction rather than speculate what the next course of action will be from the City.
What measures by council do you think would help diversify and strengthen the local economy?
The way I see it, the main focus of community leaders is to have a vision to sustain or grow their community. We have always, and will continue to depend on the Forest Industry as a major contributor to the local economy. We know however, that the Annual Allowable Cuts (AAC) are being reduced as a result of the Pine Beetle attacks and fires, so we must find ways to diversify our economy.
Without a vision/plan to diversify our economy, Williams Lake will continue to be challenged with younger people leaving and a loss of potential workforce.
I believe we must market our community and surrounding amenities by:
Getting rid of the stigma about our crime rates, identifying our niche and strengths and promote them to attract people to the city.
People are ‘cashing out’ of Vancouver we need to get them to move here.
Leveraging our advantages, like the hospital modernization.
We need to find ways to revitalize and grow the downtown core. I believe this will bring people into our community both for a visit, and to stay.
Work collaboratively with Indigenous communities to find new business opportunities.
Connectivity – broad band and cell coverage west of Williams Lake.
Grow training opportunities in Williams Lake via Thompson Rivers University.
With the change in climate and increasing threat of wildfires, what strategies would you support to make the community safer and more resilient?
In the immediate term, we need to reduce the fuel hazard close to our community. We are situated in a bowl – surrounded by Fir that is showing signs of Fir Beetle attack. Left unchecked this will result in an additional build-up in fuels for fire that will severely increase the risk and insurance rates to our residents. We need to harvest and remove dead and dying trees and provide this wood to the local forest industry.
We need to work collaboratively with: the province, industry, community forest/UBC, First Nations (i.e. WLIB) and recreation users (i.e. mountian bikers) to develop a fire-proof plan. There are several funding and support agencies that can assist us. The Forest Enhancement Society has helped with the wildfire risk reduction in the Community Forest. More opportunities must be explored with them. The new Community Resilience Investment program offers local governments and First Nations can provide support for education, planning, FireSmart demonstration projects and activities up to $100,000 per year.
Over the longterm, we need to explore a new forest management paradigm so that we avoid the catastrophic fires that we have seen over the last two years. This cannot be accomplished by the City of William Lake alone. It will take our voice along with all of the other forest-dependent communities to develop this with the province.
Considering we always rank in the top 10 for crime severity, do you think Williams Lake is a safe place to live for everyone?
Our crime rates are currently over-exaggerated. The first thing we need to do is correct these statistics and develop key messages to get rid of this stigma. This is definitely a problem for us in marketing our community.
We have seen a significant reduction in crime rates over the last 5 years as a result of Community Policing (and our Community Safety Manager) working in partnership with the police. They depend heavily on the help they get from volunteers, so we need to encourage more people to assist in this to make our community an enjoyable place to live.
Working with other groups in town, we need to look for ways to reduce the potential for criminal activities. By way of example, the Rotary Club has donated lighting for Boitanio Park to discourage criminal activities at night.
I am of the opinion that everyone in the community can take an active role in reducing our crime rates and make Williams Lake a safer place to live.
What would you do to protect and/or enhance the city’s air quality?
Air quality is a concern held by everyone. The City can explore ways to protect the health and safety of residents. Quite commonly, people believe that industrial activity is the only reason for impacts to air quality. In fact, there are many sources that can provide negative impacts to air quality, some as simple as dust from our roads in the spring.
In order to understand where these impacts are coming from we could set up more monitoring stations to see if there are harmful particulate matter and air quality parameters being exceeded. The City can then ensure clear and understandable information is provided to residents regarding any areas of concern and ensure that any people vulnerable to air quality issues are informed promptly.
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?
Since moving to Williams Lake 12 years ago my family and I have visited Scout Island and canoed/kayaked on Williams Lake every year. In fact we will often take guests and relatives there to share this part of Williams Lake with them. It is a tourism gem in our back yards.
I believe that we should look at all of our recreation and beatification opportunities in Williams Lake, not just this one alone. If elected, I would promote the development of a city beatification/recreation task force that could provide Council recommendations on an overarching strategy for all of Williams Lake. I would want to first hear from the residents what they believe is the best way to preserve this area and allow for more recreational opportunities on the Lake.
We need to identify our niche and strengths and promote them to attract people to the city. This is one of those amenities that Williams Lake has and no other community does. We need to be very strategic in how we develop (or not develop) this area.