Port Hardy’s mostly new council — only two were on the board last year — and it’s returning mayor were sworn into office last week.
The night was marked by Mayor Bev Parnham’s speech, a great one that acknowledged the times we’re in, but also looked forward to a brighter, attainable future if we all pitch in and, as the mayor said, think and dream big.
What follows is an edited version of what Parnham said to her new council at the inaugural meeting, Dec. 6.
Tonight is the beginning of our mandate as a municipal council — it’s also the beginning of new opportunity for this community.
As we take the oath of office today, remember this is our time. We are a new council that better represents the diversity of our community. We are more representative of women, First Nations, youth, seniors and business than ever before.
Like most communities, Port Hardy has its challenges and we have our limitations. I believe by working together as a team — by being an action oriented, goal driven government — we will overcome the challenges and surpass all limitations.
Within the areas of growth and development, it’s important we continue to work towards economic diversity by encouraging and setting the stage for new business and supporting our existing businesses.
A new economic development committee has been struck that will work on specific projects that will attract investment and new jobs. I believe we are better positioned now for economic development than we have been in many years.
Under the economic development banner, a Port Hardy revitalization select committee has been formed. Working closely with representatives from the Chamber (of Commerce), Rotary (Club), First Nations and business, we will work to derive some benefit from the vacant, poorly maintained properties in our downtown core to turn them from liabilities into assets.
As an active community we value our trails, our green spaces, estuary and parks and recreation facilities. Our job as a council will be to continue to develop our recreational infrastructure to support healthy families and a healthy community.
By increasing the availability of recreational spaces and providing opportunities for people of all ages to participate in physical activity, we support the creation of a healthier community that attracts families and economic activity. We need to continue our work on housing, health, addictions services and education initiatives.
Some would say these are not areas of interest to a municipal government, we should stick strictly to the bricks and mortar, the sewer pipes and roads.
I say if we don’t look after community interests in these areas, then who will? Long gone are the days of local hospital boards or of having a B.C. housing representative living and working in the area. The centralization of services has left a huge void.
We are now represented by superboards operating out of Vancouver or Victoria and overstretched bureaucrats who only make it up this way once in a while.
So we then, as a council have no choice but to be the voice of our community.
We’ve come a long way in working with our First Nations neighbours in areas of mutual understanding, interest and benefit. It has become very clear to me our fates are intertwined, that our successes and our futures are indelibly linked and that we must continue to work together to empower each other to create rich and successful communities.
When I stood here in 2008, none of us could have imagined the challenges our community would face.
The next three years will bring its own set of challenges: building our economy, ensuring good health care and housing for our residents (and) replacing an aging infrastructure.
While these challenges and difficulties are not unique to Port Hardy, we are a unique community. One that has, despite a natural disaster and fluctuating economy, managed to progress. We are not a community sitting still, we are a community on the rise.
Those of us elected to represent Port Hardy have the responsibility of ensuring continued progress for the next three years and to set the stage for Port Hardy to succeed in the decades to come.
Now it is time for us to lead. To come together in a spirit of cooperation and passion for our home town. To be about the people who put us here and what is best for our community as a whole. I have — and we should all have — an immense sense of optimism about Port Hardy’s future.
We should set our goals high and we should be thinking and dreaming big.