Surinderpal Rathor has lived in Williams Lake for more than 40 years, working many of those as an electrician for Tolko Industries. He has previously served as a city councillor for 21 years and was recently awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers for his many years of service in Williams Lake.
What is the solution to Williams Lake’s current housing and rental shortage?
The city has to do all it can to encourage the development of housing at all levels especially lower cost rental properties for those with low incomes and the homeless. Cutting down the bushes and trees that shelter some of the homeless is no answer to the problem. Council has to plan carefully, because while rezoning to allow extra suites etc in single dwelling neighbourhoods does increase the number of units available, it must be done with the consent of the people in the neighbourhood.
What are your thoughts on the proposal to burn rail ties at Atlantic Power?
Can’t really comment on this as it is before the appeal board. However, I do think some way must be found for Atlantic Power to use more waste wood. Atlantic Power is an employer, and a significant taxpayer in the city. I would expect council to work with the company and the airshed committee to make sure all the needs of the company and the residents are met.
What measures by council do you think would help diversify and strengthen the local economy?
The city needs to reappoint an economic development commission to work with the economic development officer to find ways to grow our economy in a sustainable way. Over the last three councils, the city has had a commission and an economic officer; disbanded the commission and kept the officer, dismissed the officer and appointed another commission, then disbanded that commission and hired another economic development officer. There has been no continuity. I would have council appoint an economic commission to work with the officer, and ask them to look at and possibly up -date earlier studies, including the studies done by the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Coalition so that we aren’t re-inventing the wheel. We need to be looking beyond our traditional resource industries and we need to work with the Cariboo Regional District and our first Nations Communities. We should also be working with TRU to develop courses that support community development. We need all the help we can get.
With the change in climate and increasing threat of wildfires, what strategies would you support to make the community safer and more resilient?
For fire protection, we need a fire guard round the city, waste wood needs to be cleared away to eliminate fuel, and we need to do whatever else is necessary. We need help from the province to do this as well as help from any neighbouring communities who wanted to be involved.
Our council should recognize that the climate is changing, especially after the recent United Nations report,. We need to develop strategies to lesson our environmental footprint. There are well- informed people in the community who could advise council on how to do this. For instance there was a bylaw to curb motor vehicles from idling while they are parked, but enforcement was a problem. Once developed, strategies must be enforced.
Considering we always rank in the top 10 for crime severity, do you think Williams Lake is a safe place to live for everyone?
Williams lake is a safer place to live than the statistic indicate. It would help to verify our crime rate statistics so that everyone knows they include the surrounding areas, not just the city. We need to work with our neighbours , the Cariboo Regional District and First Nations communities and the province to find and develop ways to stop the criminals, to make the Williams Lake area an unsafe place for them.
What would you do to protect and/or enhance the city’s air quality?
At the air quality meeting la st month at Scout Island, Ralph Adams from Environment Protection in Kamloops gave us a warning about the air quality in the city. He explained pollution from gasses was not good but the real problem to our health is fine particulates produced by smoke and any kind of combustion along with dust, vehicle exhaust etc. He strongly recommended that we reinstate the Airshed Quality Committee and he asked for a volunteer to chair but no one volunteered. This is an issue council has to deal with. The first step is to re-instate the air quality committee to advise council. Once there are by-laws in place, they must be rigorously enforced.
This is an issue for all people living in the area so, I would ask for representatives from the Williams Lake Band and the CRD to be on the committee. Once bylaws were developed, enforcement is a must.
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?
It is my understanding that there is a restrictive covenant on the site and that there can be no development that requires disturbing the soil. I believe will take a lot of planning, and working with Nature Trust and the Scout Island Society and other interested people to make sure the property is used in the best way to benefit the city economically, and for recreation and the environment. It’s important to have citizen committees because no council always knows everything it should to make good decisions.
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