Ange Qualizza has announced she intends to seek re-election as Mayor of Fernie at the October 15 municipal elections.
Qualizza has served as Mayor of Fernie since 2018, and has served on city council since 2014 when she was elected as a councillor.
“I’d really like to run again because I think the work that this council started needs to have continuity,” she said in an interview with The Free Press.
“We made a lot of great progress on some enormous files … some of them really unflattering files like financial processes and organizational reviews.
“People don’t realize that not having those processes in good shape really impacted our community in negative ways, and set us up to fail.”
Qualizza said the current leadership team had moved the needle a long way on items like housing – with the establishment of an affordable housing reserve, a new rental zoning, approval of new units near EIDES – and securing grants for the community that would enrich and protect it, such as the $1.28 million for a new skate park, and over $8 million for dike upgrades.
She said that efforts to improve housing might feel like “a teaspoon of water dumping into a fire, but all of those things were instrumental in getting us to the next thing, which is trying to bring affordable housing projects to fruition.
“They might not seem like much, but it is quite a bit of work.”
Qualizza said the next term would be housing, child care, climate change, emergency management and infrastructure.
On infrastructure, she said that with four major projects on the horizon for the city, she was the leader to tackle them.
“Local governments across Canada are in a major infrastructure deficit and Fernie is no different. We’ve got four projects that are staring at us with critical needs.”
Those projects are wastewater treatment, Fairy Creek water source, the C&L right of way (unstable slope project) and the fire hall – all of which Qualizza said would define the next four years of the City of Fernie’s priorities.
‘There’s a lot of tough work that needs to happen at the next term of council to set Fernie up to succeed, and we’ve proven a really great track record here. We need to keep the momentum going.”
Qualizza said that a big part of that work was tapping into grant funding on a provincial and federal level to support those projects, and the current leadership had a proven track record of doing so.
Qualizza said that a focus on those grants might not make sense to locals in the day to day, but it was about making the city ‘grant-ready’ to tap into the right funds when they came along, with near shovel-ready projects, and projects that moved forward in fits and starts like the dike grant funding.
“We need to be very intentional and ready to fix things,” she said. “We have to be ready and well positioned to bring investment to Fernie on a variety of projects, because we have a huge amount of need in our community.”
Asked about a vision for Fernie, Qualizza said she hoped that Fernie would be left in a place where it could survive events like the November 2021 floods with little to no impact, unlike communities elsewhere in B.C., which continue to struggle with recovery.
“That’s the game right now, trying to make sure we drive investment into Fernie – new businesses, new houses – the only way we can do that is telling those investors we’re doing our job, and insulating the community against those risks.
“The next four years are absolutely making sure Fernie is resilient to all of those pressures.”
When asked about her proudest achievement of the last four years, Qualizza said being elected into the executive of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) allowed her a lot of opportunity to advocate for rural B.C., which could be seen in the level of grant funds flowing into tourism-dependent communities across the province.
Fernie received funding for the ‘Journey to Iconic Fernie’ project which will see EV charge stations and revitalised signage and way-finding in town to support tourism.
“Every single time we can convince the government why we need that infrastructure, we’re winning.”
Qualizza was elected onto the UBCM executive in September 2020 as third vice president, and now serves as second vice president.
Qualizza said that she was incredibly proud of what the city had achieved in the last four years, despite all of the challenges of COVID-19 which locked council out of council chambers for much of the last term, and wrecked havoc with city staff.
“We have an incredible council that is dedicated to their jobs, and are professional. I’ve got a fantastic staff team that supports each other. We were so successful pulling in grant funding during the pandemic that even I’m surprised when I look at what we’ve done.
“I’m really glad to be on the other side of COVID, because I think this team is going to be really successful.”
The 2022 municipal elections will take place on October 15, with all local governments holding elections for mayor, and councillors in the province.
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