Three of the six mayoral candidates stopped by Zoe’s Java House Wednesday night for a final meet-and-greet for all candidates, hosted by council candidate Brad Gagnon, and each had a final message for voters.
Shari Green said it’s quite clear taxpayers in the city are tired of the constant increase in taxes.
“It’s time to sharpen the pencil,” she said. “Regardless of the outcome the community has spoken loud and clear.”
People are willing to pay affordable taxes for good service, they want good roads and snow removal, but they don’t want skyrocketing taxes with little to show for the pay out.
A core review is necessary, she said, adding that the city is on an unsustainable path. In fact, she pointed out that one of recommendations the CFIB made while taking municipalities to task for overspending was the necessity of a core review, which is something Green has called for since declaring she would be running for mayor.
“Municipalities must take stock,” she said. “There must be financial discipline, administrative discipline and municipal discipline.”
She added people are not out-of-the-woods yet when it comes to the economy.
“Until we have real growth we can’t continue to escalate and escalate costs,” she said and added there are savings to be found in city spending, and tasking each department at city hall to find them is important.
Brandon Lewis said the entire process has been quite an experience for him. One of the difficulties he found was the prevalent idea that the race for mayor involves just two candidates when there are six people running, each with a plan for the future of the city.
“It’s not either/or,” he said. “That’s been the toughest part. Go and vote for who you think should be mayor instead of the next best option between two people.”
Another factor, for him, is his age.
“I hope people can get past that. I know the topics and if I don’t I will do research. This is a good opportunity to make a change and people have a lot of choices for mayor and council. They can choose a clean slate or keep voting for the people they had before.”
Fiscal responsibility, he added, seems to be on the top of voter’s minds, as well as good roads and snow removal.
“People want to see results.
“I just hope everyone gets out and votes. If anyone has questions feel free to ask and I will be available right up until the vote.”
Incumbent mayor, Dan Rogers, said one of the things he’s been trying to focus on is the years of experience he has, first as a volunteer then as a councillor and finally as mayor of the city. Through those activities he said he has many relationships at the local, regional and provincial level.
“They will be of great value as we face the challenges before us,” he said.
They will also help the area capitalize on the Canada Winter Games and the many opportunities that will come to Prince George and the north through the event.
He also believes it is important to continue to build relationships with the Metis and the Lheidli T’enneh as well as the university.
“We haven’t spent a lot of time talking about students, youth, seniors, First Nations and Aboriginals who call Prince George home,” he said. “While we watch the bottom line we can’t leave those at risk in the community behind. We need to care for our neighbours and those facing challenges. I’ve really tried to focus on an inclusive style of leadership that really reaches out to people.”
He added there have been successes in the previous years, including bringing the debt down $10 million, reducing per capita spending and finding $2.5 million in permanent savings in the budget.