Hopes & plans for 2012: A closer look at the civic scene in New West

By Mike Klassen

Daniel takes a look at the year ahead in politics for New Westminster

As with last year, the New Westminster News Leader asked my colleague Daniel Fontaine to answer a few questions on the future of Royal City politics in 2011. The column is landing on the doorsteps of New Westminster residents this week and we’ve decided to also share it with you.

Q: Were there any surprises for you regarding politics in New Westminster in 2011?

Probably the biggest surprise was how successful the New Westminster District Labour Council slate of candidates was in the recent civic election. They won a massive majority and now Betty McIntosh is the lone independent candidate on council. We saw the return of former NDP MLA Chuck Puchmyr to the chamber while voters said goodbye to independent councillor Bob Osterman after many years of public service.

Q: What do you think is the most pressing issue in New Westminster politics right now and why?

The key issues of transportation and housing affordability will remain hot topics in the coming year. The future of the Pattullo Bridge could become a major issue if TransLink decides to move forward with its plans for a six-lane expansion. Despite the fact New Westminster remains relatively affordable, housing prices continue to rise making it harder for young families to call the Royal City home. It will be up to the current council to tackle these challenges in the coming years.

Q: What would be the best thing that could happen regarding in New West politics in 2012?

The new Municipal Auditor General decides to examine why residential property taxes are so high in New Westminster compared to other cities. In response, city politicians decide to curb and/or reduce unnecessary expenditures over the next three years.

Q: The worst thing?

With only one independent voice left on council, the needs of average tax payers are placed secondary after those of special interest groups.

Q: What are your hopes for the community in the New Year that have the best chances of actually happening?

• I am hoping that we make significant progress in the construction of a new secondary school to be built on time and within the allocated budget.

• I would also like to see strong community engagement process when it comes to working with TransLink regarding their plans to replace the Pattullo Bridge.

• It would be nice to see the River Market and Quay come back to life with new shops and services in conjunction with the opening of a new Downtown waterfront park.

• I’m also hopeful the cinemas and shops opening up at the New Westminster SkyTrain station will help to transform this location into a vibrant new “place to be”.

Q: Give us your wildest and craziest prediction?

Another 100 millionaires will call New Westminster home. That’s because increasing property values will translate into another 100 homes being bumped into the $1 million-plus assessment bracket.