Despite COVID-19 still wreaking havoc, Port Hardy mayor Dennis Dugas is ready to move forward in 2021.
Dugas agreed to a phone interview with the North Island Gazette to discuss his two-year anniversary as mayor.
Looking back, how was 2020 overall?
It didn’t start off that great, we had an eight month logging strike, and then COVID-19 hit so that put some more pressure on us and how we do things in our community with regards to social gatherings and events. Recreation activities came to a grounding halt, we didn’t have much for Canada Day, Filomi Days, the pumpkin walk and our annual Christmas parade, so as far as community events that we all enjoy and expect every year, it all disappeared.
Overall though, everyone managed this crazy situation we found ourselves in and we did a lot of work on the arena, parks and rec have done a great job, and considering all the situations that we had to deal with, we’re in a good spot to start off 2021.
Looking forward, what does the district have planned for 2021?
One thing we’re really excited about seeing get off the ground is the North Island Seniors’ Housing Foundation’s proposal to build units up by the North Island Mall.
We’re really excited about that getting approved so the project can move forward. The District of Port Hardy has been a part of the process, we’re supplying some land for them, and we’re very supportive of that project moving ahead.
Another exciting thing for our community is the North Island Crisis Centre, along with the Mount Waddington Health Network, put forth a proposal for a Youth Foundry which will be developing over the next year or so.
Two years into your term, is there anything you wish council had done differently?
I’m really happy with what’s happened in the last two years. You always want to do things bigger and better, but a lot of the projects we do are based on grant funding.
Unfortunately we didn’t get the funding to build a brand new swimming pool, so we had to put in for a grant to update our old swimming pool, which we haven’t heard back about yet.
What are some things you’re proud of accomplishing so far in your term?
We’ve just hired a director of recreation. Tanya Kaul is going to be working here putting together events in our facilities and she’s also going to be looking at outdoor areas in our community, like our parks and whatnot.
I’m also very proud of our staff and our employees that work for the District of Port Hardy. They do their utmost to make sure the community gets the most bang for their buck, and of course our councillors for the dedication they put in by bringing their concerns to the table and doing what’s best for the municipality.
What does being a North Island politician mean to you?
For myself personally, it has a lot to do with living in this community for 50 years.
I’ve always felt that Port Hardy was a great place to live, to raise your family and to visit, and I always wanted to just be a part of the community with regards to how we can make it bigger and better for everybody, now and in the future. It’s fun and I enjoy it. And I really appreciate the fact I’ve been given the opportunity as a councillor and now as a mayor to be in that position.
Let’s talk fish farms. What do you want to see happen for the industry?
The Indigenous nations in our area and our municipality here in the north part of the Regional District of Mount Waddington, we are heavily involved with the fish farm industry and we want to make sure that it continues to be sustainable. I know there’s been a lot of discussion about the industry, but with all of the information that I’ve attained, I truly believe that fish farms can coexist with other industries in the same environment.
There was a decision made recently in the Discovery Islands to have fish farms removed from the area, but unfortunately the discussion didn’t continue and ask why they can’t coexist in the same environment. A lot of the production from those Mowi farms comes to our processing plant in Port Hardy, and if that’s gone… we’re in a scary predicament with regards to what the future holds for our community.
Any thoughts on a new industry potentially coming to town, like a mine?
Obviously that would be exciting, they’ve been doing a lot of drilling in this end of the island for the last 10 years, but it’s all based on the market. Supply and demand.
Then you’ve got the environmental issues, you’ve got the traditional territory issues, so it really takes a long time for a project like that to come together. Economic development in an area, if it’s environmentally sound, is a great thing.
Anything you want to say to the community?
We’re the best place to live in the North Island. I think our town has got a lot of services, and it’s the last stop on the highway.
When people come up here they like what we have to offer, they like the nature, and there’s lots of opportunities for employment.