In the lead up to the October 15 municipal elections, The Free Press will be passing along reader-generated questions to the 16 candidates for public office at the City of Fernie.
On Monday this week, we posed this question from a reader:
- How will you support Fernie as a community of locals, rather than a “resort municipality” for tourists?
Candidates were asked to answer the question in 100 words or less as if they were at an all-candidate forum.
Only candidates who responded by deadline (October 6, 12 noon) are included. Here are their responses verbatim, in no particular order:
Correction: Both Ange Qualizza and Kyle Hamilton answered by deadline. Their responses are now included below.
Ange Qualizza (incumbent mayor candidate)
One of the pillars of the RMI program is to insulate local communities from having to shoulder the physical costs associated with tourism, and that has absolutely been our goal this term. People are coming to see the beauty of Fernie, Tourism Fernie is marketing us, and our role is to find funding, so Tourism isn’t a challenge for our local community.
It is why I co-authored an application for a funding stream to support building infrastructure that tourism relies on, unlocking 33 million dollars across the province to build parking lots, bathrooms and for Fernie, an EV charging network.
Kyle Hamilton (incumbent councillor candidate)
As a councilor, my responsibility is to the residents Fernie, ensuring that our water, sewer, and other infrastructure meet the needs of our residents first. We need to start looking at creative ways to ensure that the tourism sector is supporting the basic infrastructure that visitors rely on. Much like the Elk Valley Property Tax Revenue sharing agreement ensures that the mining industry helps fund the general operations and infrastructure costs of the Elk Valley communities, something from the Tourism Industry needs to be considered.
Troy Nixon (incumbent councillor candidate)
When it comes to services I believe both Locals and tourists benefit from maintained infrastructure as well as trails, paved pathways and beautiful parks. It’s a win-win having top-notch restaurants, fun boutique shops and a ski hill with world class terrain. Housing and the impact on our community is another issue addressed in a previous Free Press question. Revising our short term rental bylaw as well as continued advocacy at UBCM and FCM is needed to prevent the commodification of our housing stock.
Kevin McIsaac (incumbent councillor candidate)
Tourism like mining, construction trades, health care, etc., is an important economic driver for Fernie. It contributes to competition for housing and amenities, but the solution is not tourists _or_ Fernie residents. That is a false dichotomy. Council needs to support diversity of housing, working, and visiting options for everyone living in and coming to Fernie. Choosing approaches that alienate tourists will not serve many businesses in Fernie well. I believe pursuing a path leading to more diversity in housing, and rewarding long-term landlords, will make our community one where housing options are available to live and visit.
Jonathan MacGregor (council candidate)
I love the long weekends when all the homes are full and it feels like people live here.
What I don’t like as much is the shoulder seasons when I feel like I live in a community full of empty houses.
We need to protect our core residential housing from being turned into absentee houses and quasi hotels.
Keep this kind of accommodation closer to the ski hill and in higher density areas in which it belongs.
It’s all about policy which encourages one and discourages the other.
Harshan Ramadass (council candidate)
We have to be careful before labeling our community as one or the other. There are municipalities across Canada who would be envious to have what we have. We welcome our guests from across the world to bring the dollars to support our local businesses and employment. My focus would be to improve livability for all our residents, which means good services to locals and improve access to housing to newer people. We are a resources and tourism economy powered by a vibrant local community, I would be hesitant to lose sight of our competitive advantage.
Patrick Burke (council candidate)
We have lived in Fernie for over 30 year and our personal income is derived from Tourism. We have personally supported many of the local non profit societies that make Fernie a special place to be. Fernie has a historical heritage of mining and recently promoted a tourism destination. I believe both can live together, however as Fernie becomes discovered there will be pressures on the communities direction. I think council should strive to support the local groups that support people living in the community not ignoring our income source so people can stay in the community. We need both.
Spencer Gough (council candidate)
By taking a Fernie first approach and working towards affordable physical, social and cultural activities which are available for kids through seniors. Ensuring that city service delivery to residents is done in an efficient manner and local taxes are used with purpose and care. Increasing the ease of communicating with the city to better understand the needs of all locals.
Nic Milligan (mayor candidate)
Fernie needs housing, infrastructure, and community engagement for residents, including those who work in mining, childcare, and in our service economy. People visit here because this is a real town, an authentic community. If we value and protect that authenticity in this spectacular landscape, tourists will continue to come, and our community will welcome them. Putting Fernie first includes making residents’ needs a priority, for those whose families arrived generations ago to those who have just arrived and will be the generations of Fernie to come.
Tracey Audia Kelly (council candidate)
While residents do see some benefit from some of the amenities we may not have without tourism, we need to improve on services to residents such as roads being in good repair, snow removal, transportation, and accessibility. We need to take care of our infrastructure needs. We must find solutions for housing needs. It is not a secret that housing shortage and affordability is a great concern for our city. We need multifamily development; we need more affordable rentals and property options for buyers on every step of the ladder. This is a complex issue that requires council to take action.
Do you have a question you want to hear from all candidates on? Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will endeavor to reach out to all candidates on your behalf.
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