Today’s Poll

In profile: Nelson Municipal Election 2022 – Janice Morrison

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
October 5th, 2022

This is the third of a series of inside looks at the candidates for city council — both councillor and mayor — prior to the general municipal election on Oct. 15.

Biography: a closer view

I’m a passionate community advocate, originally elected to Nelson city council in 1999, and again in 2014 and 2018.

I’ve called Nelson home for 32 years, with my family first settling here in the 1920’s. I have recently retired from a rewarding 30-plus year career as a physiotherapist at Kootenay Lake Hospital. Together with my partner, Mike, we own Kastlerock B&B.

My community volunteerism has included being a director of the Nelson Leafs hockey club, chair of the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation, president of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce and chair of the city Advisory Planning Commission.

I have been an active Nelson Rotary Club member for 30 years.

I’ve been fortunate to have had valuable leadership, governance and financial education during my past time as secretary/treasurer and then vice president of the Health Sciences Association of B.C. I’m currently a trustee of the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) and Municipal Pension Plan (MPP).

Intent once elected: It is time for fresh ideas. As mayor, I will work with the newly elected council in the development of a new more responsive approach to civic governance. Communication is key. City council meetings that are more open meetings will lead to increased transparency and with that will come increased accountability.

As mayor, I look forward to the opportunity to engage with our residents and use our collective diversity and intelligence to make Nelson — economically vibrant, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.

The following are a series of questions posed to all candidates:

• With the cost of doing business increasing for everyone, including the City of Nelson, how does the city keep budgets in municipal departments from rising annually by the rate of inflation, or is the situation inevitable?

This new council will be “hitting the ground running” as the 2023 budget deliberation will be one of the first items of work.

Robust and honest conversations will need to take place. We need to be forward looking as we know there are large infrastructure projects that will need attention in the next three to seven years. One of the largest being a significant upgrade (replacement, perhaps) of our sewage treatment plant.

The good news is that there are normally grants from upper levels of government — provincial and federal — that assist with these large capital projects. The city also has capital reserves — we know infrastructure needs upgrading or replacement over time, so the city adds funds yearly to reserves for future use (akin to saving to send your child to college).

We have already seen inflationary pressures in this current budget coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost of everything for everyone is on the rise. Tough decisions may need to be made that put some of our projects on hold. As a corporation we need to be able to ensure the delivery of basic services at reasonable cost that all residents expect: water when you turn on the taps, resource recovery services, snow removal, protective services just to name a few.

Budget managers will have more pressure to justify their budget requests and expenditures. In past years, councils have set a guideline of a modest two per cent inflationary increase when considering increases to the overall city budget. It is the fiduciary responsibility of council to request to look at a variety of budget modelling (zero, two, four per cent, etc., increases) and assess their impact to the overall city operations.

• Compared to its sister cities of Trail and Castlegar, Nelson has double or triple the workforce of those municipalities. Part of the reason for that expanded workforce is that Nelson has its own police force, utility company and public library, to name a few. Should there be a move to change the way those services are delivered, or do we need to support them with more resources?

Yes, Nelson has a sizable work force as we provide many services that cities of comparable size do not offer. We have a fully paid, professional fire department. As a result, home insurance rates are considerably lower than those of our neighbours in the regional district.

We have a contract with a portion of Area E to provide fire services and this helps reduce the costs to Nelson residents. The fire department is also a key player in our FireSmart program and overall emergency planning for the city.

We have Nelson Hydro — the envy of municipalities not only in B.C. but across Canada. Due to the presence of the utility, we are able to have nationally-recognized programs like EcoSave and the e-Bike loan program.

We have made significant progress on our carbon resilience planning because we have a wholly-owned hydro-powered electric utility.

Having the Nelson police department (NPD) versus RCMP allows us more local control. The police board is made up of a group of diverse, local and engaged citizens. It allows for the city to look at resource deployment such as the “beat cop” downtown.

In terms of asking should these unique services we provide have more resources I would answer that all departments in the city are subject to the same budgetary constraints. All need to prove to the satisfaction of the council of the day that their requests are justified.

Council must apply the same lens and scrutiny to all departments and the size of their management teams equally in determining budgetary increases ( or decreases)

• The Nelson Airport occupies a significant piece of real estate in the city. How should the airport be viewed and should it, or shouldn’t it, be kept?

I have always supported the Nelson aerodrome. Given our rural location it is an important piece of our emergency planning. It is used for emergency air ambulance transfers. It is vital base for helicopter and spotter plane support during wildfire season. It supports local business activity, for example Baldface Lodge for the ski season.

Several other businesses, whose owners are pilots use the airport for their business travel as well as pleasure. The Nelson aerodrome is a favorite landing spot for private small plane owners as they enjoy the fact that they can fly in and then walk just a few blocks to our amazing Baker Street, do some shopping and grab a lunch at one of our many restaurants.

For those that have been in Nelson for many years they are also aware that the airport is built on what many might refer to as a “brownfield.” The costs of mitigation and development could potentially be prohibitive when looking at a redevelopment plan for this land.

We have other lands in Nelson (Railtown, the lands east of John’s walk) that should be considered for development before needing to consider redevelopment of the Aerodrome lands

• Climate change is affecting every area of society and how we conduct business, as well as making us aware of how we consume resources. How can the city do its part to reverse its effect, and move the city further (and faster) down the road it is already on to becoming carbon neutral?

Wildfire is our number one risk. Top of the list of to-dos is to continue with the FireSmart program. Every homeowner in Nelson, regardless of where their home is located, should have a FireSmart assessment and an emergency preparedness plan.

We have spent the last few years developing the document: Nelson Next: A Bold and Agile Climate Plan for a Healthier and Safer City. The next council needs to begin the process of implementing the plan.

We have a climate and energy team of five well educated and enthusiastic employees who are going to help guide the council, along with our emergency preparedness team, in decision making around next steps. The city will continue to build on the success of EcoSave and continue to expand this programs to our regional neighbours as we are all in this together.

We need to investigate how to increase opportunities for renter and other Nelson hydro customers to participate in the e-Bike loan program.

• Every community and province has been hard hit by the economic restrictions enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. What (further) city-led initiatives can be reasonably undertaken to stimulate the local economy?

The city still has some COVID-19 Restart funds left from the $2.6 million that was received from the provincial government in 2021. My understanding is there is approximately $150,000 that has been set aside for another round of recovery grants. The expenditure of this money would be a decision of the new council team.

The city needs to continue to work with the chamber of commerce, the NAEDP, NKLT and external agencies like CBT to look for opportunities to strengthen the local economy. There could be additional programs announced by provincial and federal levels of government that the city or local business could leverage. As individuals we need to shop local.

It’s important to note that some sectors have reported their best years ever, while others are still struggling to meet its payroll and keep the doors open.

Categories: General

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