The Merritt Herald sent a short questionnaire to each of the candidates in the upcoming general election and will be publishing their answers on this website in the days leading up to the general vote on Nov. 15.

What would you do to stimulate Merritt’s economy?

Merritt has many positive aspects. We are strategically located in the centre of several major highways and only a few hours away from some major airports. We have an amazing semi-arid year-round climate and landscape that provides for fantastic outdoor activities throughout all four seasons. For those living here, it is a lifestyle choice. Our citizens also engage in cultural and social events. We are culturally diverse. We are home to some amazing artists, musicians, writers, and other professionals. Merritt has a lot to offer. Our branding needs to reflect that. We are more than just country music! We have the potential to become a strong tourism industry. However, if we are going to attract outside investment, we first need to clean up our negative image and address some major shortfalls in our community services. We need to address the drug and alcohol problem in our city. It is not simply an enforcement problem! Revitalizing the downtown area may help, but I believe we sorely need to address the lack of services and the lack of communication between our service providers. New business ventures and/or retirees are usually looking for two things: good health care and a safe environment. Business will not invest if their workers do not have access to adequate health care. Seniors will not relocate here without having a safe place to walk, shop, and play. The city already has an economic action plan that reviews both short and longer term goals that stretch beyond tourism. This strategic plan, along with some key initiatives, including environmental initiatives, are already in place. Let’s implement and adjust as we go. Let’s utilize local artists, local writers and local professionals to create a new image reflecting our new positioning. Then we can brand appropriately. Once we have reinvented ourselves, then we promote by marketing some targeted initiatives. We cannot forget to support our current business structures while encouraging innovative growth strategies and expanding investments. Our people are our greatest assets.

What changes to health-care service in Merritt would you lobby the provincial government for?

I first want to commend those services we currently have and then address the gaps and duplications. Any change needs to be developed and lobbied as a united front rather than as an individual. In terms of catchment area … Let’s define it more thoroughly by capturing all communities served including those along our surrounding highways. Let’s redefine our need so that our catchment areas determine what services are needed and how we obtain them. As a health-care planner and administrator, I have a number of ideas and suggestions on how to get the community involvement in a plan to increase health services in our catchment area. I would commit to co-ordinating a plan to lobby not only the provincial government, but also to the board of directors of the Interior Health Association (IHA). I see an increased need for emergency services, and increase to the number of inpatient beds. I also anticipate that the IHA could use our operating room (OR) for specialty services, such as an orthopaedic centre or for minor procedures, such as gastroscope, hernia repairs or other day surgical procedures. Utilizing this OR could decrease the waiting list overall within the IHA, provide local employment, and greater access for our catchment area. However, this plan must include input from our current care providers, and in particular, our local doctors. Instead of requesting more, let’s negotiate a place for us that better suits our needs.

What other priorities would you take into public office that you’d like Merritt voters to know about?

One of my priorities if fiscal responsibility. Like our own personal budget, if we don’t have enough, we look for ways to cut back. If our current spending habits leave us without the ability to buy more, we review what we are currently spending on and make adjustments. If we want to buy something new, something has to give. We should not have to go to our parents for help. We address our current and future needs against our ability to pay and adjust accordingly. It is no different with the city’s budget! We can’t keep going to the taxpayer to increase our budget. We need to address the city’s reputation. It will take a partnership of the whole town to achieve this, aligning all community services and organizations. For alignment to happen, there needs to be a common thread to address. Let me suggest that thread be our reputation across B.C. Let’s give up turf wars and power struggles and work towards a united front to save our face! Let’s change the system for a better way of life! Community services need to support the RCMP to rid the streets of drugs and alcohol. Instead of the continuous cycle of lock-up and re-offending, let’s provide a detox centre and community services available for those who want or need it. Wouldn’t it be nice to take back our downtown core! Let’s work with the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) to create red seal training in trades so that our young folk have opportunities for employment in their hometown and that businesses have a pool of apprentices-turned-professionals to draw on. Let’s also work with homeowners to accommodate students. It’s a win-win for students and low income families, it’s a win-win for landlords, and it’s a win-win for the city as increased income. Find ways to keep our youth engaged, drug and alcohol free, and develop a strong desire to stay in Merritt after graduation. We have some talented youth among us. Let’s empower our youth, retain them here, utilize their expertise, keep them employed and contributing to this place they call home. Our youth need employment in jobs that give them a healthy living so that they can enjoy this great lifestyle in this great place they call home. This town has a lot to offer. There is a lot of work to do to make this town the best it can be. I do not presume to be able to do it alone. I expect council to bring our ideas together to discuss, debate, communicate, and priorize so that Merritt thrives. That I am committed to. Feel free to contact me. I am always willing to engage in respectful, open dialogue.