Economic Development – More than just high-tech

For the past 6 years, the City’s approach to economic development seemed focussed on the mine.  There was talk of economic diversification, usually about high-tech but little in the way of real and substantive work on diversification was undertaken.  

Similar to the Performing Arts Centre, there was no Plan B.  No strategy, no goals, no timelines for developing our economy and no apparent understanding of the impact this would have on our economy in the decades ahead.

High-tech does and should continue to play a significant role in developing our new economy but even there, it needs the City’s help.  We need a sophisticated and well organized angel investor network that will keep successful innovators here.  We need to train or attract more skilled employees that will allow tech firms to grow their business here.  studentsWe need a university that is adapting and growing their science and technology curriculum to match industry needs. And we need to make sure that Venture Kamloops has programs in place to make these things happen.

We also need to start looking at light manufacturing with the capabilities to build some of the technologies our entrepreneurs are creating. This means more skilled electricians, engineers, designers, fabricators etc. have to be found or trained.

But as the name implies, diversification means looking at opportunities beyond just high-tech.  Agriculture, adventure tourism, financial services, manufacturing, distribution and arts are just a few that would work well with our location.  As a distribution hub, we have a proven network and capacity to export across the province or around the world.

My vision for Kamloops sees more than 100 new small to medium sized business starting or relocating here in the next 10 to 15 years. Each of those businesses hiring anywhere from 5 to 15 people.  Not all of them in high-tech but instead a resilient blend of well established sustainable companies with a mix that allows us to absorb the ups and downs of normal economic cycles.

And there is a role for companies already here as well.  I’d like to see established firms boardroommentoring and coaching staff as well as entrepreneurs.  Helping staff and new startups improves the chances for success and growth, while building the framework that will keep people here and gainfully employed.

Economic development is not a game of quick results but we have to start now and make up for the time already wasted. Had we seriously started this process 10 years ago, many of the economic development concerns we face today would have already been resolved.

Shopping Carts – Homeless Wrongly Targeted

The City of Kamloops appears to be targeting the wrong people when it comes to theft of shopping carts.

Two nights ago (Sept 19) I came across dozens of shopping carts in front of the TRU Residence & Conference Centre.  

The carts come primarily from Superstore and Walmart and appear to be left there after being used by students to bring their groceries back to the Residence. 

 

The number of carts at just this one student location suggests the City has been picking on the wrong people when it comes to the ‘theft’ of shopping carts.  It’s easy to blame the homeless.  They can’t defend themselves and are an easy and visible target for misdirected and over zealous enforcement policies.”

Personally I feel this should be a learning moment for the City and suggest we move from this mistake to a more compassionate and helpful model when it comes to dealing with our homeless population.  

Why don’t we do as some other cities do and simply provide those in need with their own cart?

We could ask grocery stores to provide us with out-of-service carts, then look for volunteer organizations willing to restore these carts.  Make them more maneuverable by adding slightly larger wheels, paint them so everyone knows they haven’t been stolen, add a locking system and maybe add some form of personal ID for the owner.

We blamed the homeless for a problem which it now appears, they played a very minor role in.  Maybe it’s time the City apologized, showed some compassion and gave them legal ownership of their own personal cart.”

Photos by P Filisetti

One Year 0% Tax Increase – Naive or A Needed Conversation

I launched my campaign for Mayor with a proposal to freeze taxes for one year.  And while my opponent spent his time ridiculing the proposal and defending his six years of inaction, many others began thinking and wondering.  

Is it possible?  Could it be done?  Is there anything wrong with trying?  What’s wrong with asking?  And while everyone else joined the conversation, he continued to lament, “But it’s too complex for you the taxpayer to understand.”  

It was a don’t challenge me as I know more than you attitude that only served to reinforce an apparent lack of respect for all of us.  

There was a dismissive and condescending attitude that claimed it was naive to pick a number out of the air.  But leaders do, after much thought, pick targets.  It is called setting goals and putting your name to it.  Without a vision and goal you simply continue to go no where. 

I have been called simplistic and unrealistic for daring to set this one year fair taxation target.  For having the nerve to question past administration’s entitlement approach to to-refinance-or-notyour money.  All this, while my opponent continues to defend his years on Council by claiming no one other than himself can fully understand nor appreciate this supposed, very complicated process.  

He feels we have neither the desire nor qualifications for the kind of understanding that only he possesses.  I say, you deserve better than this patronizing approach to taking your money.

My goal of a one year tax freeze amounts to not adding $2.6 million to the total budget of $162 million.  

My opponent voted to spend more than twice that amount on that bottomless KDN real estate pit on 4th and Seymour proclaiming it was the right thing to do.  Yet he feels saving $2.6 million is impossible, simplistic and totally unrealistic.  Why is needless waste of taxpayer money okay but saving an impossibility?

Yes I would be a different kind of Mayor.  A Mayor who sets hard to reach goals.  A Mayor who listens.  A Mayor who respects your opinions.  A Mayor who is not a bureaucrat.  And a Mayor who isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions that need asking.

Where McQuarrie Candidate for Mayor Stands On The Performing Arts Centre

Knowing before the vote, not after

 

 

The spending referendum on the Performing Arts Centre (PAC) was defeated and our Mayor at the time famously noted, “there is no plan B”. But should there have been a ‘plan B’ or at a minimum, an option to rethink the idea at some later date?

Being Mayor is about leadership, vision and trying to build community ownership of a shared concept benefiting Kamloops now and well into the future.  As such, I’d like to start a conversation on PAC and plan B’s and I’ll get the conversation started by describing one vision I have for a future Performing Arts Centre.

I see it located on the North Shore, at the current Henry Grube site and anchoring the eastern end of a revitalized Tranquille.

Fronted by two rivers with a design that incorporates plazas, river walks and access to the beach, it could become the architectural and cultural icon of the City.

It would feature a theatre that will serve Kamloops for decades to come along with an outdoor amphitheatre for productions like X-Fest or maybe summer evening concerts by the Kamloops Symphony.  And for wintertime, an outdoor family skating rink would fit well with the concept.

I also envision a hotel partner to help share costs.  In fact at times, we could even use the theatre as a small convention centre.  

If I was your Mayor, I’d look to the arts community to lead the way, including a major fundraising campaign that would demonstrate commitment to the project.  In return, I’d like to see the City commit to finding that hotel partner along with one, hopefully two major corporate endowment partners.

Those are the foundational blocks and once we had letters of intent and costs well in hand, I’d be prepared to formally ask the citizens of Kamloops if this is a vision they would like to see become a reality.

Can you begin to imagine such a multi use PAC facility located in one of the most incredible locations in the City?  Imagine for a moment how this would launch a new revitalization for Tranquille and the North Shore.

As your Mayor, I would be so willing to champion this kind of community growth project.

Where McQuarrie Stands on Ajax

Knowing before the vote, not after.  

 

I feel the Ajax mine proposal is not suitable nor in the long term, economically beneficial for the future well being of Kamloops.  This position on Ajax has been consistent, in the public eye for years and will remain opposed and unchanged.

For over 6 years and in the vacuum created by lack of political will, citizens of Kamloops felt abandoned as they were pitted against each other over this divisive issue. This could have been avoided if there had been clear municipal leadership, a vision and a plan for Kamloops that had diversified and grown our economy over that time.

Instead those years were wasted and for most of them, many on City Council did nothing but wait and avoid answering the difficult questions. We had indecision, waffling, poor judgment and outright avoidance of the issues surrounding the mine.

Where was everyone when we needed leadership in determining a future beyond the short life cycle of the mine? What decisions and ideas were put forward? Who was taking ownership, responsibility and providing leadership?  Why negotiate a compensation agreement in principle when either party would have the right to walk from the agreement if a certificate was ever issued?

Resigning your position on council just before council’s crucial vote on Ajax was avoidance.  Telling people how you would have voted afterwards was following a trend, not leading the way.

So where do candidates for Mayor really stand on the Ajax mine? Is opposition to the mine simply an election time act of political convenience or a clear and steadfast belief?

For years, my stance has been clear and an unequivocal opposed.  You don’t have to guess or wonder if there are hidden agendas, or fence sitting opportunities with my position on the mine.

I take this stand because voters deserve to know before an election, not afterwards.

Whether you are voting for me as your Mayor or for someone else, you can at least do so honestly informed and aware of my position on Ajax.  And that shows you more respect, honesty and trust than you’ve received from some, over the past number of years.

Kamloops – A Vibrant 21st Century Economy

People talk about diversifying our economy but when pushed for answers, most can only  grin weakly and manage the tired old answer…High-Tech.  But there is so much more than just high-tech and so much we can do to turn the decades ahead into best times of our lives.

There’s integration with light manufacturing.  Skill upgrades to match the changing economy.  Agriculture that includes manufacturing, farm-gate sales and tourism.  Aggressive marketing strategies targeted towards attracting new and existing businesses and people with needed skills. Using science to create new innovative products.  The list goes on and here are just a few ideas to get you thinking about what Kamloops can do to become active, alive, involved and booming in the 21st century.

We can begin a scheduled series of Discover Kamloops weekends where entrepreneurs, existing small businesses and skilled professionals from the Coast are invited up under a hosted program to experience Kamloops first hand. Key to our presentation for moving their business here would be affordability (you can buy a house here for the price of a studio suite condo in Vancouver), we’re family friendly, our amazing outdoors lifestyle, serious IT infrastructure, transportation hub, proximity to major markets and room to grow and expand.

We can also start packaging the benefits of integrating innovative ideas and technology with light manufacturing. If you’ve invented or improved on a product or technology then why not build it here as well?  Producing your product here takes advantage of our well-established and proven transportation and distribution infrastructure. And we can even offer independent 3rd party testing and product validation right here at TRU.

Or how about we get back to our roots…so to speak…and look at new opportunities in agriculture. Small-scale hop farms built on the model of wine country but with farm-gate microbreweries offering tours, craft beer tasting rooms, restaurants and on site sales. This is product manufacturing 21st century style and a perfect add on for tourism as well.

Go the science route and establish new specialties or niche markets. Become the specialists in developing yeasts for brewing. Develop new techniques for reforestation…get geeky and start a new business

Pick a technology specialty like green energy or communications and establish a centre of excellence that will attract other innovators, create market awareness and build new companies.

Start a new computer science degree program that specializes in gaming and simulation and bring in industry leaders with branch offices here in Kamloops that will hire our new graduates.

Teach new skills that will allow you to telecommute instead of being forced to leave Kamloops.

Add new trade diploma programs in electronics and manufacturing so that we have the people to build what we invent.

This is my kind of Kamloops. A Kamloops that is not bound to the old ways simply because, “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. It’s about looking at the new global realities, recognizing new opportunities and providing the kind of leadership that has been missing and is so badly needed.

As Mayor I would want to insure that in the future we are never again forced to choose between 200+ jobs and the health of 90,000 residents. A robust, diversified economy, with well paying jobs is step one in creating that healthy, safe community of the near future.

Help me return leadership and positive change to City Hall. Vote September 30th for Bill McQuarrie as Mayor of Kamloops.

The Press Release That Launched The Campaign

Bill McQuarrie Announces Mayoral Campaign

September 30th By-Election

Kamloops BC, August 15, 2017 – This morning, Bill McQuarrie, local columnist, experienced entrepreneur, technology company startup specialist and local businessman, announced his intent to run for Mayor of Kamloops in the September 30th by-election.

To mark the launch of his campaign, Mr. McQuarrie announced a bold and comprehensive initiative aimed squarely at helping the citizens and taxpayer of our City.

“This will be the start of a new way of thinking at City Hall,” stated McQuarrie. “In this case, a total change in the attitude that underlies our taxation and budget planning systems.”

Beginning with the new tax year, McQuarrie’s plan includes a commitment to see a 0% increase in property taxes for 2018.

“It is time”, stated McQuarrie, “that we stop asking the taxpayer, both residential and business, to solve the spending problems of the city. Like many taxpayers, I am frustrated with what has become the accepted norm of regular tax increases of 2.5% every year.”

“If elected Mayor, I will immediately abolish the concept of treating tax increases as an entitlement the City expects year after year.”

McQuarrie explained: “There has been a lack of respect and a failure to recognize our citizens as stakeholders and valued contributors to the success of our city. We need to become more efficient with their dollars by maximizing and leveraging the value of every single dollar given us.”

When asked about the impact this would have on City services, Mr. McQuarrie stated: “It is unfair to suggest to the taxpayer, as some have in the past, that a zero percent increase means reductions in service. What it really means is finding ways to put a greater emphasis on effectively managing expenditures. Please keep in mind, we are not the first city to do this and we don’t have to look any further than, Williams Lake or Nanaimo for examples. It’s not rocket science.”

Mr. McQuarrie feels the City should focus their available resources towards delivery of quality services and programs while looking for ways to eliminate items that do not have a direct benefit to City residents.

‘The City needs to take a more proactive and integrated approach that focuses on growing revenues instead of continually turning to the existing tax base for more money.”

Mr. McQuarrie feels we have some of the best department managers any city could have and that they will confidently and successfully rise to the challenge of maximizing returns on the hard earned dollars of taxpayers.

McQuarrie feels the results will be felt almost immediately and include:

  1. Accountability to the taxpayer
  2. An engaged and knowledgeable taxpayer
  3. Fully itemized budgeting with milestone reporting
  4. A more efficient and cost effective City Hall
  5. Better, forward leaning decisions on spending
  6. The ability to strategically target and focus on real opportunities for growth and development in both investment and jobs.

McQuarrie recognizes that no one likes taxes and accepts that they will never go away. But at the very minimum he feels we need to put in the effort to insure taxes are kept to acceptable levels.

“We can’t sustain city expenditures through unending raids on the taxpayer’s wallet. It’s a plan that is not sustainable, is unfair and needs to stop.

When elected Mayor, my first priorities will be to accept responsibility, do the job you have hired me to do and lead Kamloops into the exciting future it has earned.”