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Mission City Council candidate: Don Forsythe

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Interviewed by Michael Scoular.

Since many students will be voting for the first time, what would you describe as the role of municipal politics? What can city councillors actually do?

Well, they’re city politics. We try to stick to our particular agendas. We’re trying to keep our taxes down, and trying to revitalize the downtown core. We’re always doing maintenance and repairs to the infrastructure. And that downtown revitalization program we’re working on, we want to make it a business-friendly community to attract other businesses here. We’re a champion to West Stave tourism, which is our interpretive forest and plans to make Mission the Lower Mainland’s premier nature and recreation destination. And we’re continuing to work on our seniors’ center, and also we’re championing volunteerism for the needy.

And we’re trying to keep a debt-free city budget, so we will have additional money once the debt has been paid off. Like, we’ve paid off from $19 million down to $7 million in the last three years. So, there’s only a little bit left to go. And once that is done, then we’ll have the money to help all the needy groups, the homeless and so forth, that are in need. But in the meantime, we can’t keep spending and raising taxes for the homeowners, and for the people that are footing the tax bills, the business people. So, our main campaign is to keep the taxes down, which we’ve done for three years with zero percent increase, and we intend to do it for the next four.

Who do you view as your constituents?

The stake holders, the property owners, and the business owners.

How will you receive the views of the entire population instead of just those most active around City Hall?

Well, we have our own platform on what we are intending on doing and how to accomplish it. So, along with the questions that come up at City Hall, most of the people coming to the meetings are coming for some type of donations, which we try to help. But when we have the debt paid down to zero, and we have a plus factor in our budget account, then we’ll be able to help much more. But right now, we’re trying to look after the basic homeowners, and business and industrial people that are here paying the taxes.

Are you doing anything to address the lack of student interest in local politics?

Well, we’re developing a high-tech center downtown and I think it’s already attracted something like 200 jobs, and there’ll be many more coming in. And we’re also working with the provincial government to establish a university in Mission, and we hope it will get funded. With the help of the university we’ve already bought the property and the building for $1.9 million.* And we’re working on having it funded so that there will be a university for the youth as well. As part of that there is the high-tech center which is already established, and is starting to grow very rapidly. So, we’re trying to build Mission into a high-tech center as well as a university center for the students.

Why did you choose to run on a slate, and what do you think this means for the organization of municipal politics?

Well, basically, I’ve been asked to join. We believe in the team concept, because we have meetings continually on different issues that are important to the city, and we have an established program for those before we go to council. So, we’re all basically on the same side before we go. We don’t have independent councillors trying to say, “Well, if we vote for one thing, we vote for you if you vote for something else.” So, that way, all the independents are continually fighting each other, and as a team we can collate it very well and do what’s best for the city, and the population.

With those meetings before the council meetings, is there then any worry about how the public can have any input on those?

No, the public always has input at the council meetings, which are held every Monday and Wednesday night. So, when these subjects come up the public have the option to add whatever they would like to it, and to raise their opinions.

If elected, how would what you want to do as councillor be different from what council is already doing?

Well, we would work as a team. Basically the people that are not going to be involved this time that were with CRMG before, they were all part of the team making these decisions previously. One of them has decided to try to run as a mayor himself, and there’s another two want to become independent councillors. They think their ideas are better than a team’s concept. Anyways we don’t agree with that.

Do you have a specific project you want to prioritize or bylaw you want to change?

Not until they come up.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

*UFV executive director of campus planning Craig Toews says this is not true. “UFV is aware that the District of Mission has purchased land in downtown Mission and that the district would like to see the land used for post-secondary education, but there are no plans currently underway to make that happen in partnership with UFV. There may be opportunities in the future for UFV to collaborate on this initiative,” he wrote in an email.

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