Where I live – a tale of two towns

I thought I would clarify my current work/life situation as many people have recently asked. My life is currently a tale of two towns…

I live in Prince George city limits and pay property taxes here. I have owned a home in the beautiful Central Fort George neighbourhood for almost nine years now. I didn’t know it at age 22, but I had made a very wise real estate investment. During the early days of owning a home, I busted my butt in seasonal and casual work. Even during unfortunate periods of unemployment, I never missed a mortgage payment. By age 45, I should be mortgage-free. I am very proud of my city for allowing me the opportunity to make that investment at such a young age.

Fast forward to my first year on Council, I worked part-time at a local non-profit. It was my fifth year working at the agency, and I loved the work that I did there, but I found the split between Council duties and work duties difficult. I felt it was time for a change.

In my second year on Council, I left my paid employment. I ran and was elected to the Board of Integris Credit Union, which offered a small stipend and occupied about five hours a week of my time. Last year was a great year, with a lot of time and freedom to pursue City Council projects of importance to me, and I got a lot accomplished. Finances were tight, and I did a few odd jobs through my consulting business to make ends meet. 2016 was also the year I got married. Legally binding myself to another person means that I no longer make major life-changing decisions alone.

My partner has had a different experience than me in the city. It hasn’t been easy for him, and there’s been a lot of setbacks in his career. Lifestyle-wise, he’s a small-town boy. He prefers peace and quiet. He’s supported me in my position on Council but is completely averse to political life. They say opposites attract, right? When he told me that, sometime in the future, he wanted to leave Prince George, it surprised me. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

I was torn. How could I leave a city that has done so much for me? How could a stay for the long-term knowing it would make my partner unhappy? I had come to Prince George in the first place to study International Studies, with the goal of working all over the world, but when was the right time to go? Have I got it so good here that it would be crazy to leave? I am selling myself short by staying?

The answer, at least for the short-term, sort of fell into our laps. My partner and I both love Wells and Barkerville. We spend a lot of time out there on holidays and even got married there. Kevin often spoke about how much he would like to live there. At the end of 2016, Barkerville Historic Town posted a position for a Diversification Officer (commerce and business development). It was the perfect fit! A job that would use my skills in one of the coolest places on the planet. They even agreed to hire me on part-time so that I could work for them on the weekends and maintain my Prince George commitments for the rest of the week. This meant that a one-year, full-time contract was now stretched into a two-year, half-time contract. My in-laws even agreed to put me up in their guest room in Quesnel on the days I worked in Barkerville. Not long after I started, Island Mountain Arts recruited me to their Board of Directors.

After working about six months in the new job, reality had begun to sink in. I was exhausted living out of a suitcase, driving 400kms on the highways each week, and staying in a guest room each weekend. Work on all fronts was becoming very challenging, and summer 2017 was one of the most difficult times I have ever experienced. Things were literally and metaphorically on fire.

There was virtually no vacancy for rental accommodation in Wells, but the opportunity to purchase a small home came up. When I asked Kevin if we should invest in real estate in Wells, he immediately said yes. On June 1st of this year we took possession of our new Wells house, and on October 1st we took occupancy. On October 6th, Kevin was offered a full-time, well-paying job at Barkerville Gold Mines. At the end of the month, he will have moved out to Wells full-time, and we’ll be together on the weekends when I’m working at Barkerville. We love the new place. It’s tiny, historical, and has a great view. We’re putting in some major elbow grease to make it feel like as much of a home as our home in Prince George.

So, to make a long story short, I spend Monday through Thursday each week serving in my elected duties, mainly as a City Councillor, sometimes as a Credit Union Director. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I work in Barkerville Historic Town and serve as a volunteer Director for Island Mountain Arts. I spend most Friday and Saturday nights in Wells.

This schedule means that I get to do several amazing jobs that I love. It means that I work with awesome/terrifying challenges all the time. It means that I have very little time off. It also means that I miss all of the fun things in Prince George that happen on the weekends. One of the hardest/saddest parts about my new work/life balance is having to decline all the weekend event invitations to some of my favourite activities in Prince George. Sorry Mini-Maker Faire. Sorry music at the Legion. Sorry Elizabeth May’s speech. Sorry virtually every celebration event.

To help offset this sadness, please, invite me to your weekday events and meetings! Maybe you’d just like to meet for coffee? My schedule is wide open during the week to serve you. While weekends are filled with fun, weekdays are filled with business, and being wide-open during the weekday allows me to remain effective in my council duties. I serve on many committees, work with many staff, and still get a lot of things done.

Ultimately, I live a split life, between two towns, but spend the majority of my time and energy living in and serving the people of Prince George. I miss the city when I am away, but the peace and quiet of Wells also helps me focus on the never-ending desk work that comes with my duties. The internet is darned expensive out there, so no more Netflix on the weekends makes for much more productive person.

The next municipal election is a year away, around the same time as the next Credit Union election, and my contract with Barkerville has a little under a year left. With three of my current commitments ending/transitioning all around the same time, it’s important that I decide what life after Fall 2018 looks like. I think more and more about whether to run for another term or not. It doesn’t help that people don’t stop asking about it around this time.

I’d like nothing more than to make being a City Councillor my full-time job, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t pay the bills (nor does come with pension benefits, medical benefits, education stipends, parental leave, etc). Wells and Barkerville are amazing places full of a surprising number of activities and really talented people. It’s an inspiring place, but I truly am a city girl at heart. My conundrum in the short-term has been solved, but long-term I am still torn. I hope that I, my family, my colleagues, my constituents, and both of my home communities can help me make the best decision for my future in the coming year.

Thank you all for your support, feedback, encouragement and empathetic ears. Thank you especially to Kevin.

PS. There is no cell service in Wells, so you can reach me at my home phone in Prince George at 250-561-0562 or my home phone in Wells at 778-763-0641. Ultimately, wifi is available everywhere, and the best way to reach me at any time is via email: jillian.merrick@princegeorge.ca

 

 

FCM Convention in 2017 – a new perspective

Like many sectors, local governments have annual gatherings to learn, network, advocate, and share best practices. The City of Prince George participates in regional, provincial, and annual conventions each year, and I have attended as a delegate at each since I began my term. I always find the conventions to be a bit of a whirlwind; 100’s of hours of policy debate, workshops, keynotes, speeches, and a whole lot of handshakes make the days pass fast and furious. Each convention, I start eager to document and share what I learn, but by the end of the convention, I come home exhausted, and never end up getting pen to paper.

This year, I got smart and recruited a little help from a friend! I brought my good friend Christine Kinnie to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Ottawa last week so that we could see the sites together during my down time. She was thrilled to learn that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be making a speech on the first morning of the convention. She raced from the airport to catch an opportunity to see the Prime Minister in action, but as a companion of a delegate, she only had free access to the convention trade show, but none of the workshops or keynote speeches.

So, we made a deal. I gave her my delegate badge for the morning so that she could watch the Prime Ministers speech, and in exchange, she would take notes and write a little blog post on her thoughts. Christine is a great writer, and I hope you enjoy her perspective as a non-politician taking in a speech from the Prime Minister and meeting hundreds of local government elected officials from across the country.

“My first trip to the capital city was also my first time seeing the Prime Minister in person, thanks to my good friend Jillian who invited me to accompany her to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Annual Conference and Tradeshow in Ottawa this month. I flew in from BC on the first morning of the conference and took a taxi straight to the Shaw Centre where the event was being held so as not to miss the opportunity. Clark Somerville, FCM President, gave a genuinely warm introduction, explaining that the Federal Government was now involved in supporting municipalities in an unprecedented way. He introduced the Rt Hon Justin Trudeau as colleague and friend, to the standing-room-only crowd.

It’s hard to be unbiased about the Prime Minister. I’m a middle class lone parent, and under his leadership, I have had my monthly child tax credit increased (tax-free; I had to pay back everything the last PM gave us), and I’ve seen more of myself represented in a cabinet that has finally achieved gender parity. Thanks to the greater engagement the current federal government has with the FCM, I was with an equally friendly crowd.

In his speech, Trudeau mentioned that 3,000 municipal infrastructure projects have been approved, and praised Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, for his work. Trudeau also talked about public transport improvements, particularly the $1 billion allocated for the GO Transit Network, connecting the Greater Toronto Area. He acknowledged the serious housing challenge faced in urban centres, and that $11.2 billion would be given to build and repair affordable homes, and an additional $5 billion would be used to create a national housing fund.

The Prime Minister introduced the Smart Cities Challenge, to encourage innovation and the development of ambitious plans to improve communities. The most promising designs submitted would receive funding, with a top prize of $50 million.Trudeau also introduced the Canada Infrastructure Bank. Although 90% of funding for municipalities will be grants, the bank is an optional tool to leverage private capital.

After closing his speech, the Prime Minister stepped down into the crowd, shaking hands as he exited the building. I was unfortunately on the wrong side of the aisle, and unable to get through the crush. No matter who you are or how cynical you are about politics, it is hard to not be a little thrilled when you are in the same room as the Prime Minister, and just a little disappointed that you did not get to shake his hand.”

Jillian and Christine on Parliament Hill

Myth Busting: Going Legit with your (Air) B&B

Black Market Economies

There’s been much ado across the globe about Uber, Airbnb, and the so-called ‘sharing economy’. For someone who has long been involved in actual sharing economies, I have a high degree of scepticism for this ‘new wave’. After all, Cooperatives are the original sharing economy developers. What would a large-scale corporate model offer that cooperatives don’t? As it turns out, not much.

Uber and Airbnb are not built on shared capital. Instead, they are modern digital serfdoms that offer less protection to workers, customers, and communities than traditional corporate and cooperative models. They undermine a wide swath of protections like employment laws, zoning laws, taxation laws, and safety laws, while creating huge profits for the company owners. Hint: the company owners are not the same people who drive Uber cars and rent out Airbnb suites. There’s a whole lot of discussion on the internet about this, so I’ll let you do your own research.

What I would like to do is bust a common myth people use to defend companies like Airbnb: that a legitimate Bed & Breakfast (B&B) business is difficult to start because it is encumbered by unnecessary rules. As someone who advises small business start-ups and writes business plans for a living, this gives me chuckle every time. B&B operations have some of the lowest regulations and barriers to entry of almost any business I know. Seriously. While running a B&B is a lot of hard work and sacrifice, getting one started is a piece of cake. For anyone interested in providing short-term accommodations as a way to boost your income, here’s a quick guide on how to can do so as a legitimate operator.

Guide to Starting a Legitimate Bed & Breakfast in the City of Prince George.

First and foremost, you must understand the legal limitations of a B&B business. Most of this is contained in the Prince George Zoning Bylaw, designed to protect the form and character of neighbourhoods and to encourage the highest and best use of our lands for the environmental, social and economic benefit of all.

The limitations of a B&B operation in the Prince George Zoning Bylaw are:

  • B&B accommodations must be temporary in nature
  • A B&B can only operate out of a single or two-unit house (no apartments, four-plexes, etc)
  • The house must be in a residential zone that permits B&B’s. Most residential zones do permit B&Bs, but there are a few exceptions. Not sure what the zoning of your house is? Use PG Map or call the City’s Planning Department to find out
  • The B&B owner must live in the house as a primary resident
  • There can be no more than two sleeping units in your home (exceptions available for rural residences)
  • The sleeping units must be in the principle dwelling (no outbuildings, etc. Exceptions available for rural residents)
  • Each sleeping unit must accommodate only one family (no hostel-style rooms that place multiple strangers in one unit)
  • You cannot also operate an agritourism business, community care facility, boarding house, or secondary suite on the same property
  • You can employ up to one non-resident employee
  • You must provide one off-street parking space per sleeping unit

There are a few other applicable laws you should know about as well:

  • All accommodation providers in Prince George are required to charge their customers a 2% Hotel Tax on overnight stays. The revenue from this tax goes directly to the Tourism office to promote tourism in Prince George
  • As with all businesses, you must abide all applicable provincial and federal laws (taxation, tenancy act, employment standards, etc)

Not flexible enough? Some rural residential zones offer additional permissions for ‘agri-tourist accommodations’ which allows for up to four sleeping units and can be located in outbuildings, separate from the primary dwelling.

Want to rent an entire house through Airbnb? Want to offer a longer-term accommodation? These are not considered B&B operations. They are tenancy relationships. You do not require a business licence, but you must abide by the BC Tenancy Act.

Still not flexible enough? You can apply for a Development Variance Permit from the City, which goes to Council. This can take 5-6 weeks and cost $500 plus the costs of notification. There are no guarantees that Council will approve the variance permit, but it’s an option if you feel your totally-unique-out-of-the-box business truly adds value to the community.

Now that you understand the rule for operating a B&B in Prince George, here are the steps you should take to get started.

Steps to opening a B&B:

  1. Build a business plan. Every entrepreneur should plan for their goals before they invest their time and money. Free/low-cost coaching and support for business plan development can be had at Community Futures Fraser-Fort George or the Aboriginal Business Development Centre.
  2. Ensure you can operate within all the limitations of the Zoning Bylaw criteria.
  3. Apply for a City of Prince George business licence – cost $87 per year (note: this is surprisingly low – a full $53 less than a standard home-based business licence).
  4. Obtain a health permit, if applicable. Northern Health does not require any permits or inspections for B&B operations with four or less sleeping units which only provide accommodation and/or breakfast. The only exception is If you are not connected to the city’s water system. If you are on well-water, you must provide water testing results to Northern Health.
  5. Update your home insurance to reflect the new B&B operation.
  6. Begin.

Once you are set up as a legitimate operator, you can advertise your B&B anywhere you like, including Airbnb, but be warned: Airbnb’s transactions fees are pretty outrageous. They charge a 3% fee on the host and 6%-12% fee on the guest for every booking. Yes, for every booking, Airbnb is pocketing 9%-15% of the transaction. By comparison, Paypal’s transactions fees are 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

By operating as a legitimate B&B owner, you can advertise in many other accommodation listings and benefit from the promotion by our local Tourism office. More importantly, by operating as a legitimate B&B, you are respecting the rules of the neighbourhood and industry you operate in, and are supporting and giving back to the community. Right now, there are only six active business licences for B&Bs businesses in Prince George. There are 10 B&Bs listed within city limits on Tourism PG’s website. There are 57 rental listings in Prince George operating through Airbnb. If you are reading this, and you are one of them, yes, we know who you are. It’s on the internet.

So, as you can see, going legitimate is really not so hard. Of course, operating any small business comes with lots of challenges. Always create a business plan before you take the plunge. The Prince George Public Library has a great resource called the Business Plans Handbook, which includes an example Bed & Breakfast Business plan. Small Business BC has published this great B&B resource guide, and there are a tonne of books on the subject.

 

2016 in Review

Wow! Here we are at the half-way mark in my term in local government. A four-year term is a long time, especially to a millennial. There’s been much ado about the rise in municipal officials resigning before their term is up. Thankfully, I’m still here and committed to seeing it through the end. Time has flown, and looking back, the start of my term in December 2014 seems a lifetime ago. I’ve certainly learned more these last two years than I can describe.At this point, it has become clear that my goal of posting regular updates on this website is far out of reach. My other social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are quite active, but I struggle to write anything longer than a paragraph on a regular basis. An annual review, however, is important! So tonight is dedicated to getting it done.

As with my 2015 Annual Review, I base my progress on the three core pillars of my 2014 election campaign: Transportation. Representation. Celebration…plus a few extras I’ve picked up along the way. So, let’s review.

Transportation

A direct excerpt from my campaign website:

A good transportation network should bring people together, not split them apart. A good transportation network must avoid deteriorating the natural environment, and aesthetic of the community. A safe, reliable, efficient, equitable, and enjoyable transportation network is one my primary focuses. At the core of my policy is a transportation budget that allocates spending on transportation fairly across all modes of transportation.

Investing equitably in our transportation network means an improvement of our pedestrian, cycling, and transit networks. By focusing investment in these areas, we will be supporting people not only to make better choices for their health and the environment, but also provide more opportunities to people who do not have access to a personal or family vehicle. Investing in our alternative transportation network will also improve recruitment and retention of new residents.

The groundwork for these changes has already been laid. In 2011, city council approved the Active Transportation Plan with an implementation strategy for pedestrian and cycling networks; and in 2014, council approved the Prince George Transit Future Plan with a 25 year strategy for the growth of the transit system. As your City Councillor, I am committed to ensuring the vision developed in these plans is implemented.

So, what I have done to improve transportation in the city?

Transit:

Huzzah! The provincial funding freeze on Transit expansions is over, thanks in part to the strong push back from municipalities. As a result, the City of Prince George moved forward with its first major transit system expansion in over five years. This is my proudest accomplishment of the year.

  • I supported the immediate expansion of statutory holiday service in 2016
  • I supported the expansion of 2,500 hours to the city’s transit service, to roll out in September 2017, with a focus on early morning, evenings, weekends.
  • I sat on the Highway 16 Regional Transit Committee and supported the City of Prince George’s commitment of $50,000 to support a Prince George to Smithers transit service
  • I supported and participated in the Prince George transit public engagement activities in the fall

Pedestrian

While I had some success in my first year boosting the 2015 sidewalk repair budget, we fell back into old under funding habits in 2016, despite my pleading. It was a disappointing year for sidewalk improvements as the poor performance of the sidewalk contractor meant that only a fraction of the already small sidewalk repairs scheduled for 2016 were completed. It felt much like one step forward, two steps back. But there’s hope for 2017! Read on to learn why.

  • I unsuccessfully advocated for a larger sidewalk improvement budget in the 2016 budget
  • I participated in a sidewalk repair prioritization exercise with the City’s Accessibility Committee
  • I met with Edgewood Terrace parents and attended a community meeting to discuss the possibility of sidewalk installations around Edgewood Schools
  • Late in 2016, City staff brought forward a proposal to reallocate $1 million from the road repair budget to the sidewalk repair budget in 2017, with my whole-hearted support and enthusiasm. The final decision on this proposal will be made February 1st, 2017.
  • Early in 2017, I supported a staff proposal to increase the annual new sidewalk installation budget by $400,000, especially to help address the concerns of elementary schools without access sidewalks (Malaspina, Edgewood, Immaculate Conception, Vanway, Blackburn, Hart Highlands)
  • I review all zoning and permits that come before council to make sure they uphold good pedestrian access principles

Cycling

It was a big year for cycling improvements, as the notice of motion I brought forward in 2015 to remove parking from bike lanes was finally approved and implemented. At the same time, improvements to signage and marking of bike lanes were made across the city.

  • 60 new bike racks were custom built and installed in downtown.
  • All the city’s bike lanes were repainted
  • Parking is now prohibited in 68km of arterial road bike lanes
  • Permanent signage has now been erected along 70km of bike lanes
  • I supported a grant application to the Province for pedestrian and cycling boulevard in Westgate (still awaiting word of approval)

Representation

A direct excerpt from my campaign website:

Diversity creates strength, wealth, equity, creativity, and beauty. In order to be stronger, smarter, and more engaging, our governments need to be more diverse.

The United Nations tell us that in order for women’s concerns to be successfully represented in a community, there must be at least 30% women at the decision making table. Employment, child care, housing, recreation, transportation, and many other municipal decisions all have different impacts on women as a whole, than they do for men. Women need to be a part of the decision-making process.

The impact of many decisions at City Council will be felt most prominently by the next generation. Youth need to be involved in shaping the community they will be living in for decades to come. If we want to build a community that young people will consider moving to (and staying in) we need their perspective at the decision making table.

Even more concerning than the lack of diversity in our leaders is the lack of diversity at the polls. Voter turnout in the Prince George municipal elections in 2011 was 29 percent, down from 38 percent in 2008 and 41 percent in 2005. When less than one-third of eligible voters show up to the polls, our democratic system is failing.

Voting only happens once every four years, but the opportunity to practice community participation happens every day. Strong action is needed to re-engage citizens with the local government. The type of leadership needed to bring our community back to healthy civic participation won’t just come from me, leadership is for everyone. I am counting on you to lead your community to better civic involvement.

So, what I have done to improve representation in the city?

  • I maintain one of the best attendance records on council, having missed only one meeting of Council in the last two years (there have been 53 held).
  • I regularly take part in women’s and youth leadership events and panel presentations including the BCEGU women’s leadership conference, CNC and UNBC classes,  and the Library’s Youth Advsiory Board
  • I take part in many meetings and events related to the MMIW enquiry
  • I was named one of Prince George’s Top 40 under 40
  • I founded and helped organise the first ever Ms. Mayor event at City Hall
  • I helped organise an event to celebrate women working for the City as part of IWAU 2016
  • I built a City Council a float for the pride parade for the second year in a row
  • I supported the installation of a rainbow crosswalk in downtown
  • I participated in a Government to Government Forum with leaders from Lheidli T’enneh, Regional District Fraser Fort George and City of Prince George.
  • I take part in regular meetings with local MLAs and MPs to make sure all levels of government are working in partnership
  • I take part in NCLGA, UBCM and FCM to make sure that municipalities across the country are connected and sharing best practices
  • I continue to Chair of the Select Committee on Students Needs and supported them in publishing their White Paper on Student Needs
  • I continue to serve as a liaison to the Advisory Committee on Accessibility and support them their activities.
  • I post regular social media updates to keep the community engaged
  • I regularly arrange in-person and phone call meeting with constituents
  • I publish all my Council activities in a public calendar to improve transparency and understand of what a councillor’s job entails
  • I participated in the Talktober Town Halls that brought City Hall out into the community
  • I actively mentor anyone who expresses an interest in running for municipal office

Celebration

A direct excerpt from my campaign website:

How can we transform politics? All too often, politics make us feel angry, sad, and disappointed. Our political debates are littered with accusations, condemnations, and outright bickering. The political discourse has become so toxic that many of us are shutting politics out completely. We are all political animals, but few of us wish to bring this kind of negativity in our lives.

I believe that re-framing the political discourse and re-engaging our citizens requires a commitment to positive words and actions.

So, what I have done to improve celebration in the city?

  • I attend as many ribbon cutting, flag raising, celebrations and community events as possible to demonstrate the support of council in community initiatives
  • Supported multiple liquor licence applications in downtown’s entertainment district
  • Supported bids for the 2022 BC Summer Games and the 2019 World Paranordic Games
  • Supported expanded grant programming for Celebrate Prince George events
  • Supported the hosting multiple activities to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary, including the SESQUI exhibit

Other Noteworthy Items

  • Support of a multiple new innovative multi-family housing projects, including Riverbend Seniors Community, Elizabeth Fry complex behind Studio 2880, and Aboriginal Housing project on Spruce St
  • In my election campaign, I pledged to get free wifi set up in City Hall: COMPLETE
  • In my election campaign, I pledged to getting backyard chicken allowance in the City: FAILED – the resolution was voted down by the majority of council
  • In my election campaign, I pledged to end breed specific legislation and improve our animal control bylaw: IN PROGRESS. Staff have begun work in this new bylaw, likely to come before council in 2017.
  • I continue to pursue professional development so that I can serve in my role with better knowledge. I 2016 I took three university courses in pursuit of a Certificate in Public Administration and several short course webinars.

Still to do in 2017-2018:

  • Keep on pushing the transportation mandate. With some headway made on the transit and cycling fronts, I’ll be concentrating on pedestrian improvements in 2017.
  • Tree Removal: We still need stronger rules about removing trees on development lands
  • Encourage and mentor new candidates for the 2018 municipal election: we need even more people to run, especially those who are not well represented
  • Decide if I want to run again. I’m starting to get asked this question all the time. The reality is that if you want to run in the 2018 election, you should start planning in 2017. I would love to continue to serve another term, but I would also love to explore new chapters in my life. I’ll have to make up my mind soon enough.

Looking forward, all three of my core pillars are well-represented in the City’s newly adopted 2016-2018 Corporate Plan, so I’m feeling confident moving forward. Maybe you’ve got some ideas and suggestions? Would love to have your feedback on the past two years and your ideas for the next two years!

February Money-Saving Challenge!

Join me in the month of February for the money-saving challenge! 

 

During the month of February, I’ll be gathering a group together to take a hard look at our finances and challenge ourselves to go above and beyond to live on less. Skip to the end to learn how. Read on to find out why…

Before I was elected to City Council, a former municipal politician asked me what I thought about Council remuneration (how much councillors are paid). This was around the end of a municipal government term, when the Council of the day must determine remuneration rates for the next term of Council.  It’s always contentious, with councillors generally feeling underpaid and the public generally despising the idea of paying politicians anything at all. At the time, I was working part-time for a non-profit and earning almost the exactly the same amount as a Council salary – $31,000 a year (before taxes).

I replied to this fellow that it didn’t matter to me if Council raised the remuneration rates or not. If I were elected and left my job to serve on Council, it wouldn’t affect me financially.

He practically choked on the mouthful of coffee he had just drunk. He couldn’t believe that someone could live on so little. I politely reminded him that $31,000 a year was about the living wage, and there are many people living on much less. A full-time salary on minimum wage is $22,000 a year. Maximum withdrawal from Canadian Pension Plan is about $13,000 a year.  A single person living on disability insurance receives about $11,000 year.

In hindsight, I did take a small financial hit when I left my job to serve on Council, as I lost extended medical benefits from my employer. City councillors are not automatically enrolled in the City’s extended health and dental plans; they have to buy in. To receive the same coverage that I had at my previous employer, I would have has to shell out $305 month on the City’s plan! Obviously, I opted out, which means I now had to pay $150 month in MSP premiums and an average of $50 a month in medical expenses out-of-pocket. This meant a hit of about $2,400 a year. I stopped going for regular dental visits and stopped receiving treatment for my back pain issues. On the plus side, being on Council has allowed me more time to pick up more contracts through my small business, so I’ve been able to offset the financial loss.

Through this conversation, it dawned on me that not everyone has learned the skills of living frugally, and so I am always inspired to speak frankly and openly about money. Financial health is a critical part of a person’s overall health, but we so rarely talk about it. It’s come to a point where most people barely interact with their financial institutions. When’s the last time you took the time to talk to an expert about whether you’re getting the best rate on your savings accounts, loans, home insurance, etc? What tools and software exist of there to help track your budget? What are you really spending on coffee an restaurant meals in a month? It’s part of the reason I decided to run for my local credit union board – to build a platform to talk about financial health of people and communities. Some of my favourite volunteer work was with the Junior Achievement program, teaching Grade 11 students how to budget for life after high school and live on their own.

Last year, my financial goal was to pay off all of my debts (except my mortgage) and start putting money away for retirement (yes, it’s 35 years away but it’s going to take that long to save appropriately) and a new roof for the home (to be installed spring 2017). This year, I’ve started a new financial goal – to save up enough money to buy a new car by the end of 2018. I’ve been three-year without a vehicle, but with a new generation of all-electric vehicles hitting the markets, vehicle ownership is starting to sound tempting again.

It’s going to take some penny-pinching to squeeze $150 a month out of an already tight budget, but I’ve done a bit of Pinterest research on tricks and tips. I stumbled across a number of ‘frugal living’ challenges and thought it would be great to do this challenge along with other people on the internet. Then I thought, why not do this together with real people in my community?

So I’m inviting you to join me for a money-saving challenge during the month of February! We’ll be taking a hard look at our finances and challenging ourselves to go above and beyond to live on less. We’ll meet up once at the beginning and again at the end of February (hello potluck!), and we’ll share tips and successes throughout the month via email. Our first meetup will be Friday February 3. Send me an email at newjillenium@gmail.com to sign up and I’ll give you further details on meet-up locations and what you’ll need to do to prepare.

A Year In Review

I would like to preface this blog post by admitting that I find writing blog posts extremely difficult. This time last year, I thought I would have an extremely active website, with weekly updates and commentary, maybe even a monthly newsletter. The reality is that, in the past year, I have written only three blog posts for this site.

It’s hard to admit that I’m not as good at something as I used to be. In highschool and university, I was always lauded for my exemplary writing skills. Then I graduated, and the real world hit. Information came fast and furious, and the things I wrote about had real world implications. I pursued my leadership and planning talents over my writing talents, which meant I always had far more responsibilities and made far more decisions than could ever be documented. At the same time, my life became increasingly digital.

In 2007, at the beginning of my post-graduation career, my digital life consisted of a Facebook page, a Youtube channel, and two email accounts. Now I manage six active email accounts, six Facebook pages, three Twitter accounts, one Instagram account, two monthly newsletters, two blogs, two websites, and an online store. When you add it all together, the volume of my written communication is likely far higher than ever before, but it’s all in short bursts and incomplete sentences. I am typically most active on Twitter, which is the easiest platform to use. Posting is limited to 120 characters or less. I’ve posted 3,650 tweets to date.

At the same time, my writing skills have gotten bad. Really bad. It feels as if my vocabulary has shrunk. Is that even possible? I make more spelling mistakes that ever before. My typing is atrocious. Virtually everything I post has a spelling, grammatical or typing error. This is compounded by the fact that I am a speed reader, so my mind automatically glosses over the mistakes that my fingers make. Thank goodness for the enhanced proofreader in WordPress that not only catches typing and spelling errors, but poor syntax as well.

I digress. I didn’t come to give excuses as to why I publish blog posts so infrequently. What I really came here today to do was to provide a perspective of the past year on council. I was sworn into office on December 1st, 2014, and here I sit, the eve before the one year anniversary, getting nostalgic.

It seems logical to go back to the beginning and review my election campaign platform, which had three explicit pillars. Some complain that I pursue my transportation mandate without compromise. Others are quick to defend my mandate given that it was the primary pillar of my platform. My platform was indeed explicit. So explicit. in fact, that it was plastered right on my campaign signs and almost every piece of advertising I put out. My platform consisted largely of three simple words: Transportation. Representation. Celebration.

So, let’s review.

Transportation

A direct excerpt from my campaign website:

A good transportation network should bring people together, not split them apart. A good transportation network must avoid deteriorating the natural environment, and aesthetic of the community. A safe, reliable, efficient, equitable, and enjoyable transportation network is one my primary focuses. At the core of my policy is a transportation budget that allocates spending on transportation fairly across all modes of transportation.

Investing equitably in our transportation network means an improvement of our pedestrian, cycling, and transit networks. By focusing investment in these areas, we will be supporting people not only to make better choices for their health and the environment, but also provide more opportunities to people who do not have access to a personal or family vehicle. Investing in our alternative transportation network will also improve recruitment and retention of new residents.

The groundwork for these changes has already been laid. In 2011, city council approved the Active Transportation Plan with an implementation strategy for pedestrian and cycling networks; and in 2014, council approved the Prince George Transit Future Plan with a 25 year strategy for the growth of the transit system. As your City Councillor, I am committed to ensuring the vision developed in these plans is implemented.

So, what I have done to improve transportation in the city?

Transit:

Overall, the funding freeze on Transit expansions by the Province may have stalled the inertia on this one, but there are some minor accomplishments to date:

  • I met and discussed with BC Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone, to express concerns about the transit funding freeze
  • I supported the restoration of a dedicated position in city staff for transit planning
  • I supported the shift of the transit function from the Engineering Department to the Planning Department
  • I hosted the first-ever transit ride along for City Council and the Accessibility Committee
  • I handed out transit schedules and promoted new route planning at UNBC Green Day
  • I personally raised money and supported a Council contribution to the UNBC Pave the Way Campaign that provided free transit for 18 days during the Canada Winter Games
  • I supported the policy of offering free transit on elections days
  • I supported the the Food for Fare program, which offers riders the option of paying their bus fare with a donated food item for the food bank
  • I provide ongoing suggestions for schedule and timing corrections to transit authorities, based on feedback from the constituency

Pedestrian

  • I successfully advocated for a larger sidewalk improvement budget in the 2015 budget
  • I supported the 2015 Prince George RCMP detachment priority focus on pedestrian safety
  • I supported the new pedestrian crossing traffic signal at 9th & Victoria
  • I review all zoning and permits that come before council to ensure they uphold good pedestrian access prinicples

Cycling

  • I supported the partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement Association for the installation of new bikes racks along George St and 3rd Ave
  • I created the first ever City Council team for Bike to Work Week
  • I supported a successful grant application to the Province for bike lanes upgrades
  • I brought forward a motion to remove parking from bikes lanes across the city
  • I created the first ever Mayoral commuter challenge for Bike to Work Week. With on bike and he in car, we timed our commute to City Hall. He won by six minutes.

Representation

A direct excerpt from my campaign website:

Diversity creates strength, wealth, equity, creativity, and beauty. In order to be stronger, smarter, and more engaging, our governments need to be more diverse.

The United Nations tell us that in order for women’s concerns to be successfully represented in a community, there must be at least 30% women at the decision making table. Employment, child care, housing, recreation, transportation, and many other municipal decisions all have different impacts on women as a whole, than they do for men. Women need to be a part of the decision-making process.

The impact of many decisions at City Council will be felt most prominently by the next generation. Youth need to be involved in shaping the community they will be living in for decades to come. If we want to build a community that young people will consider moving to (and staying in) we need their perspective at the decision making table.

Even more concerning than the lack of diversity in our leaders is the lack of diversity at the polls. Voter turnout in the Prince George municipal elections in 2011 was 29 percent, down from 38 percent in 2008 and 41 percent in 2005. When less than one-third of eligible voters show up to the polls, our democratic system is failing.

Voting only happens once every four years, but the opportunity to practice community participation happens every day. Strong action is needed to re-engage citizens with the local government. The type of leadership needed to bring our community back to healthy civic participation won’t just come from me, leadership is for everyone. I am counting on you to lead your community to better civic involvement.

So, what I have done to improve representation in the city?

  • I regularly take part in women’s and youth leadership events and panel presentations
  • I tried to initiate the Head Start for Young Women program in Prince George, but lost traction early in the process.
  • I supported the installation of Punjabi language street signs in the city
  • I not only supported the endorsement of Pride Week in the city, but also built City Council first ever float in the pride parade
  • I supported the renaming of the Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park and the permanent raising of the Lheidli T’enneh flag in front of City Hall
  • I participate in regular meetings with local MLAs and MPs to ensure all levels of government are working in partnership
  • I participate in UBCM and FCM to ensure that municipalities across the country are connected and sharing best practices
  • I am the Chair of the new Select Committee on Students Needs
  • I continue to maintain my volunteer commitments to Big Brothers Big Sisters and Junior Achievement in Prince George, working at the grassroots level with youth in the community,
  • I accept as many invitations to community events as humanly possible to put myself out there in the community
  • I post daily Facebook and Twitter updates to keep the community engaged
  • I publish personal stories on my blog
  • I participated in the Talktober Town Halls that brought City Hall out the community
  • I actively promoted and encourage the use of Citizen Budget for citizens to influence the outcome of budget discussions
  • I actively mentor anyone who expresses an interest in running for municipal office

Celebration

A direct excerpt from my campaign website:

How can we transform politics? All too often, politics make us feel angry, sad, and disappointed. Our political debates are littered with accusations, condemnations, and outright bickering. The political discourse has become so toxic that many of us are shutting politics out completely. We are all political animals, but few of us wish to bring this kind of negativity in our lives.

I believe that re-framing the political discourse and re-engaging our citizens requires a commitment to positive words and actions.

So, what I have done to improve celebration in the city?

  • I participated both as a ground-level volunteer as a dignitary at the Canada Winter Games
  • I assisted the Crescents Neighbourhood Association in hosting an outdoor skating party in honour of the City’s Centennial Anniversary
  • I created a yarn-bombing art installation in honour of the City’s Centennial Anniversary
  • I organized a PechaKucha storytelling night in honour of the City’s Centennial Anniversary
  • I supported the creation of the new Community Celebrations Grant Program
  • I try to uphold a generally positive and respectful attitude towards all to foster good will and goof faith in community governance

Still to do:

  • Keep on pushing the transportation mandate. I especially want to see major changes to our transit system and more consistent funding for sidewalks.
  • Step up efforts to combat racism and discrimination: I was had no idea how alive and well racism in the community was until I stepped into public office and started having private conversations with a wider range of people.
  • Re-initiate the Head Start for Young Women Program
  • Backyard Chickens: expect this one in 2016
  • Tree Removal: this is a new one that has become a clear need from my experience on council thus far. We need stronger rules about removing trees on development lands
  • Dangerous dogs: its been tough to get traction on this one internally. It’s  bit a political hot potato. Nonetheless, our whole animal control bylaw is pretty inadequate and I’ll keep pushing for reform. Expect this one to come up in 2017
  • Agriculture and food security: I would like to see the some attention paid to agriculture as an economic development strategy and some progressive policies to improve food security in the community. Unfortunately, without an active grassroots movement on this front, it could be tough to lead from a top down approach. Still, I’ll continue to brainstorm.
  • More blog posts: In general, life behind the political curtain seems to be of great interest to many people. I think the difference between how politics is perceived and what it is actually like is so great, that despite my embarrassing decline in writing quality over the years, I’m am committed to pulling back that curtain as often as I can. Here’s to doubling the number of blog posts in 2016!

Looking forward, all three of my core pillars are well-represented in the City’s newly adopted 2016-2018 Corporate Plan, so I’m feeling confident moving forward, but I’d like to hear from you at this important juncture. What am I missing? What more should I add to my to-do list? What would you like to see more of?

 

Time Tracking

“So how much time do you actually spend being a City Councillor?”

It’s one of the most common questions I’m asked. When I first had to come up with an answer, I offered my gut feeling: 20-30 hours a week.

I had always felt comfortable with this estimate. I work  22.5 hours a week in a part-time office job outside of council, and it feels roughly equal. Coincidentally, the pay is similar too. If you’d like to know what I earn in a year, you can easily do the math. Council remuneration is public record: $31,394 a year.

Despite the similarities between my day job and my Council duties, there are some major differences. In my day job, I spend most of my time on research, correspondence and project management. There’s no administrative assistant to book my appointments or take care of my photocopying, so I spend a great deal of time on minor administrative duties. I have a boss. I have to report to that boss on a regular basis, and if I stop showing up for work, I stop getting paid. I have an office. Meetings happen every so often, but I solve most of my daily challenges with a quick phone call or email. When meetings do happen, they rarely involve more than four people. The work I do is important to me, and I think about when I’m not on the clock, but it doesn’t keep my awake at night.

In my council duties, I spend only a little time on administrative duties. Meetings are arranged on my behalf. Documents are prepared and sent to my mailbox without even having to ask. There is always paper in the photocopier. I have no single boss that I report to. No quarterly reports to file, not even at timesheet. The work is obviously important to me. I lie awake thinking about it on many long nights. Anyone in a similar position who says they sleep soundly every night is either fibbing or not paying attention. If I didn’t care passionately about the work, there’d be no incentive to do it.  As long as a Councillor attends the biweekly Council meetings, they will continue to collect a paycheque. All the work we do is totally self-directed. I even have to make my own office.

Surprisingly, I don’t spend as much time reading and researching policy as I thought I would. Maybe I’m a fast reader. Maybe I’m a natural researcher. Our staff certainly spend a lot of time on policy development, and they take care of the lion’s share of the work. Maybe I’m just so busy that the quiet studious time I need to research and develop policy is in short supply. I took me three hours just to clean my office enough to sit and write this blog post (which also took me three hours to write).

Where I do spend an inordinate amount of time in my council duties is in meetings, so very many meetings. It seems the more complex an issue, the more meetings you have, and the more people at the table in each meeting. When you spend dozens of hours each week in these types of meetings, you either become very impatient or learn to become a very good listener.

Because I am one of the few Council members without a full-time day job, my schedule is generally more flexible and I end up in more meetings than most. Being our only full-time elected representative, the Mayor is expected to go to virtually all meetings, and he does. I hope I’ve impressed upon you that this is no small feat.

Outside of meetings, I spend a large volume of time on correspondence: daily Facebook, Twitter and Instagram postings to update followers on major news and events. A dozen or so emails arrive each day from staff and council members, a dozen or so more from constituents, plus a half dozen from different provincial and national agencies and advocates thrown in for good measure. Most evenings I return home to find a voicemail or two waiting for me on my home line. This obviously varies wildly depending on the issues in the community and on the council table. Strangely enough, some of the issues and policies that require very little money or staff resources take up some of the most time and emotional energy in dealing with correspondence.

When I began as a City Councillor, I made a commitment to myself to respond to every single piece of correspondence I got. I managed to keep pace for full six months until June of this year, when Council approved posting of Punjabi language street signs and renaming Fort George Park to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park. Endorsement of Pride Week came shortly after. This led to an eruption of community correspondence in my inbox. I tried to keep up with correspondence at first, despite the overwhelming volume. Then things got ugly. Some of the correspondence got so ugly that I couldn’t dignify it with a response. This time in June fundamentally changed my understanding of my community and Canadian society. I lost the will to correspond with every single constituent who took the time to correspond with me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever regain it. I hope I do. In August, when the bike lane parking issue landed on the table, I also received a massive volume of correspondence from the community, except this time, it was overwhelmingly positive, respectful and supportive. That wave of correspondence really help to re-establish my faith in the community. Thank you.

So how much time does all of this add up to? As it turns out, it’s not that hard to determine. I use Google calendar religiously to book all meetings, appointments, receptions and generally anything that requires I be in a specific place, at a specific time, with specific people. In fact, I make most of this calendar public. All I had to do was add up all these appointments in my calendar.

I went through tonight and counted all of these bookings, eliminating day job, volunteer, medical, hockey games and any other bookings unrelated to my council duties. The three conferences I attended on behalf of council were limited to 8 hours of time per day, even though they make up much more. I did not account for any of my travel, even though it is a significant factor when you don’t have a car – getting to a meeting often takes me longer than the meeting itself.

Unfortunately, I don’t track my “desk work” in my calendar – the time I spend reading, writing, researching and dealing with correspondence. I would estimate that I spend more time doing desk work than I do in scheduled appointments, but let’s be conservative and say that for every hour booked in Google calendar, I spent another hour doing desk work duties.

Council duties booked into my Google Calendar:

  • December 2014 – 46 hours
  • January 2015 – 74 hours
  • February 2015 – 35 hours
  • March 2015 – 37 hours
  • April 2015 – 40 hours
  • May 2015 – 59 hours
  • June 2015 – 59 hours
  • July 2015 – 48 hours
  • August 2015 – 34 hours
  • September 2015 – 80 hours
  • October2015 – 47 hours

Grand Total: 559 hours in 11 months

If we double that figure to account for desk work time, the total becomes 1118 hours in 11 months, or roughly 25 hours a week.

It’s right on par with my original gut estimate. After crunching the numbers, I’m feeling fairly certain that this is a low estimate. Nonetheless, it’s a number. Interestingly, if you compare it to my remuneration, it works out about to $28/hour, which is my minimum wage expectation if I were to go out job hunting at this juncture in my life.

Seems copacetic to me.

 

UPDATE: Wow. Only two hours after this post was shared on Facebook, it has garnered 3,000+ views. It seems to have hit home for many elected officials who face the same questions. I appreciate the input from other elected officials so far, who keep building upon the story with their own experiences:

“After talking with my wife and looking at my calendar I think it is safe to say we put in an average of 20-25 hours per week which includes prep work, emails and talking with the families we serve throughout the 52,000 square kilometers that is SD57. During the school year it is usually more but have a bit more downtime in the summer. As a Trustee I make $15,500 (as vice chair). That works out to approx $14/hour (based on the 20 hour per week average).” – Tim Bennett, School District 57 Trustee

“You’re a better time manager than I, but I’m still doing the 37hr/week “real” job. My answer to the question of how time I spend on Council is often, “all of it. It expands to fill the time available.” – Patrick Johnstone, New Westminister City Councillor

Lessons in Perceptions of Controversy

On July 30, 2015 the Province of BC announced it would be partnering with the City of Prince George to provide $250,000 for upgrades to 36km of our existing bike lane network. When matched with the City’s contribution, this represents a $500,000 investment in cycling infrastructure, above and beyond the other cycling investments the City has made this year, including bike racks and new bike lanes on North Nechako.

During this announcement, I took the opportunity to make public my intentions to put a motion before council to prohibit parking in our City’s bike lanes. This has been asked for by cyclists in the city for as long as I lived here and was approved in principle in 2009 through City Council’s adoption of the Active Transportation Plan, but has never actually been implemented. There was lots of media coverage at the time, which can be found here, here, here and here

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It was a sunny day, but it was raining funding for active transportation

The resulting bike lane debate has a lot of interesting learnings for me as a public representative, most notably, the perception of controversy. It baffled me as to why the City hadn’t moved forward on this issue. Without getting into the numerous benefits of supporting cycling in a community, there was already a community and Council approved plan in place that supported the removal of parking in bike lanes, the actual change would cost virtually nothing, and removing parked vehicles from bike lanes would vastly improve public safety for both drivers and cyclists. The inconvenience to drivers is quite minor with the exception of a few particular sites that will need special attention. It may even save a life or two. Ultimately, it became apparent that the perception of controversy seemed to be the only thing holding us back.

Staff, media and Council alike all warned me of the potential deluge of angry citizens I might be unleashing by opening this issue. As it turns out, there are angry citizens, but not as many as your might expect.

Fast forward three weeks. Many people have mentioned the controversy surrounding my bike lane motion, but I still don’t believe it’s all that controversial. The very first piece of public feedback I received on the issue really set the tone. It was from a self-described “soccer grandpa” who doesn’t cycle but has long been worried about the hazards posed by the vehicles parked on Ospika Blvd by the soccer fields. He was supportive, kind, and focused on the challenge of keeping all families safe. He didn’t need to ride a bike to understand it.

Parking that occurs in the Ospika Blvd bike lanes. Photo from CKPG News.

Parking that occurs in the Ospika Blvd bike lanes. Photo from CKPG News.

Plenty of correspondence has come in since then. There’s no question that, given my past involvement with the cycling network in Prince George, I was likely to receive plenty of supportive emails, which in fact, was all that I was receiving in my inbox. I asked some of our staff and my Council colleagues if they had received any correspondence on the issue. Most had received none, but of the few messages that did come in, the vast majority were supportive.

This of course, didn’t match the discussion happening in the comments section of the online news media in town. They were vicious, accusatory, inflammatory and sometimes downright awful. I tried to insert myself in the conversation a few times, using my real name of course, but to no avail. The attacks shifted from the policy at hand, to me personally. Oh well. I tried. Maybe I’ll try again soon.

After all of this, I took the time to count up all the pieces of direct correspondence I’ve received on the proposed motion to remove parking from bike lanes. These came via email, the telephone, Facebook and Twitter – any format where the person offering their opinion contacted me and stood behind their opinion with their real name. The results:

  • Correspondence in support: 75+
  • Correspondence in opposition: 3

I also did a quick count of the anonymous users on 250News who made clear statements on their position, just for the heck of it. Lots of users made critical comments but were not clear on where they stood on the actual motion. The results:

  • Opposed: 10
  • In support: 10

Clearly, the correspondence I receive is not the sole factor I use in making a decision, but it did shed light on how the perception of a public debate can be skewed by only a handful of individuals. For me, it reinforces the importance of writing directly to your elected representatives when you have strong feeling on an issue.

Hot tip: when writing to your elected representatives always use respectful language and avoid making assumptions of your reader’s intentions.  Always stand behind your convictions with your real identity. As the old saying goes, opinions are like *belly buttons* – everyone has one. The only thing that makes an opinion stand out is the evidence it is based upon and the name standing behind it.

A special thank you Teria who took the time to arrange for GoPro filming of local cyclists navigating the city.

On another interesting note, this debate also creating a significant number of “mansplaining” pieces of correspondence. Several people [men] wrote to me to tell me that they supported my proposed motion, but then proceeded to chastise me for my public conduct and instructed me on how to be a “good politician”. Addressing this kind of sexism is tough, because the authors are well intentioned and may not even be aware their actions represent a form of patriarchy. I was expending a lot of energy on the bike lane issue, so I let this one lie.

The debate is not over yet. Council finally gets a chance to discuss this issue at the Council table this coming Monday, August 30th. As with every Council meeting, the public is invited to join, either in person, or online via webcast. This type of legislation does not trigger a public hearing, so there won’t be an opportunity for the public to speak at the meeting on the issue. You can, however, write in ahead of time, and show up to the meeting wearing signs or symbols of your support or opposition, as many community members do on a variety of issues. The local cycling club is organizing a helmet brigade to attend the meeting.

Even after Council makes a decision, the issue is not over. If approved, the motion directs staff to prepare a report on options for removing parking from bike lanes, particularly in some of the more complicated sites (Ospika, Simon Fraser, Carney, and 10th at Alward). Moving forward without major setbacks, we aren’t likely to see cars out of bike lanes until the next cycling season. Luckily, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, we’ve just received a whole whack of money from the Province to upgrade signage on our bike lanes, which may coincide nicely with the implementation of new bike lane rules.

Ultimately, I may not always have all the answers, or take the right approach. I would challenge the assumption that there even is a “right approach”. I am always trying new things, exploring new approaches, and am keen to share what I’ve learned. People who’ve known me for a long time can tell you that I like to both push buttons and share stories. There’s lots to learn about politics that is vastly different than the picture painted for us. A lot of is is self-defined. Politics is what you make it. There are a few fundamental rules you must abide by, and the rest is up to you. I’ve never had a position that allowed for so much freedom, even when I was my own boss through some of my self-employment experiences. Maybe it might even inspire you to give the job a try?

Election Results

On Saturday, Nov. 15, voters across British Columbia went to the polls in the 2014 civic elections. Polls were open in Prince George, B.C., from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Mayor

Candidate Votes
Lyn Hall Elected 10463
Don Zurowski 8850

Councillors

Candidate Votes
Brian Skakun Elected 12674
Murry Krause Elected 10304
Garth Frizzell Elected 8773
Albert Koehler Elected 8022
Jillian Merrick Elected 6829
Frank Everitt Elected 7788
Terri McConnachie Elected 6580
Susan Scott Elected 6218
Debora Munoz 6122
Dave Wilbur 5773
Bryan Mix 4974
Cameron Stolz 4916
Trent Derrick 3893
Jason Luke 3678
Monica Peacock 3529
Alex Huber 3227
Ron Gallo 3130
Roy Spooner 3029
Ravi Saxena 2846
Harry Ulch 2809
Gregg Kauk 2485
Foxy De-Rossi 1956
Coralee Larsen 1531
Don Roberts 771
Jeffrey Cunin 746

Community Opinion Referendum Question

The City of Prince George currently fluoridates its water supply. Are you in favour of the City of Prince George fluoridating its water supply?

Yes 8764
No 10171

How to Contact the Other Candidates

With so many candidates in the running, it’s no easy task to find out who deserves your vote. I’ve included several links in the About section of this website to various media and online information sources that have assembled data about the candidates, but there’s one piece of critical information missing: a list of candidates and their contact info that can be easily copied and pasted into an email.

As a candidate, we receive many emails that ask us to state our position on various issues. It’s a great way to get your questions answered, so just copy and paste the emails below to ask your pressing questions directly.

Disclaimer: I do not guarantee accuracy of the information below in any way.

Mayor

Lyn Hall lynhall4mayor@gmail.com 250-612-1539
Don Zurowski don@zurowski.bc.ca 250-964-3311

Council

Jeffrey Cunin jcunin@gmail.com 250-617-5063
Foxy De-Rossi travishaw84@gmail.com 250-962-1596
Trent Derrick trentderrick@gmail.com N/A
Frank Everitt feverittpg@gmail.com 250-561-2627
Garth Frizzell garthfrizzell@gmail.com 250-562-8824
Ron Gallo rgallo1964@gmail.com 250-617-9768
Alex Huber alexhube@telus.net 250-964-3514
Gregg Kauk greggkauk@gmail.com 250-964-3305
Albert Koehler akoehler@telus.net 250-560-5500
Murry Krause murry.krause@cinhs.org 250-561-2772
Coralee Larsen coraleelarsen@gmail.com 250-613-2830
Jason Luke jasonluke@shaw.ca 250-301-9960
Terri McConnachie terri_mcconna@yahoo.ca 250-564-5249
Jillian Merrick newjillenium@gmail.com 250-561-0562
Bryan Mix bbmix@telus.net 250-981-8598
Debora Munoz deboramunoz@shaw.ca 250-964-2787
Monica Peacock monicaloupeacock@gmail.com 250-552-4114
Don Roberts N/A 778-549-8496
Ravi Saxena rvsaxena7@gmail.com 250-981-3107
Susan Scott SJScott10@shaw.ca 250-562-5961
Brian Skakun bskakun@telus.net 250-964-2489
Roy Spooner amroy1967@gmail.com 250-441-0099
Cameron Stolz cameron@cameronstolz.ca 250-640-5299
Harry Ulch N/A 250-962-6926
Dave Wilbur councillordavewilbur@shaw.ca 250-564-1444

School District Trustee

Dori Alger dorialger@gmail.com 250-640-3879
Betty Bekkering twobekks@shaw.ca 250-562-5036
Trish Bella trusteebella@gmail.com 250-617-6548
Tim Bennett timps.bennett@gmail.com 250-649-8316
Andrew Burton andrew@streetspirits.com 250-564-4349
Tony Cable tonycable.tc@gmail.com 250-962-9349
Kate Cooke trusteecooke@gmail.com 778-349-9119
Valentine Crawford vs_crawford@hotmail.com 250-614-3957
Eric Depenau Depenaue1@outlook.com 250-255-2853
Dennis Fudge DennisFudge@shaw.ca 250-564-1555
Sheldon Harris sheldonhh@gmail.com 250-613-7875
Bob Harris bob_harris50@hotmail.com 250-962-7712
Brenda Hooker blhooker@shaw.ca 250-961-3659
Denise MacDoanld oldmacdonalds@xplornet.com 250-966-2435
Don Sabo don_sabo@shaw.ca 250-563-6903
Chris Stern cstern@telus.net 250-963-7855
Sharel Warrington sharelwarrington@hotmail.com 250-960-4580
Bruce Wiebe bjwiebe@yahoo.com 250-964-2472