District of Kent Q&A: John Van Laerhoven

District of Kent: Van Laerhoven, John - Mayoral candidate

  • Nov. 14, 2014 6:00 p.m.

Q: What do you see as the main issue in Agassiz and how do you propose Council can address it?

A: For the four years ahead, council’s major challenge will be to identify priorities, develop plans and take action that will benefit the community as a whole; to move forward, saying yes to projects and initiatives to make Agassiz a better place to live for people of different ages and walks of life.  Council’s goal; build a vibrant sustainable community.  Success is achievable only through addressing a number of things, all of which are important.  Our vision should include preserving rural, small town character, saying yes to initiatives that enhance the commercial sector, attract new businesses and grow industrial development.  Also, we need to provide attractive choices for housing because at different times of life people have varying needs. Seizing opportunities by adding and improving amenities will enhance healthy well-being, both physical and social.  This vision that includes a healthy farming component, successful small businesses and an industrial sector providing good jobs will create a community that is more desirable to live in.  More who work here, will choose to live here too.  It’s a lofty goal but possible and well worth the effort.   Will we have a productive and effective council team that’s able to make good decisions to address the needs of all residents in our different neighborhoods from Harrison Mills to Rockwell Drive?  Citizens will be engaged and on board if council takes the risks to move forward in a positive way.  I have the leadership skills to help make this happen.

Q: The Municipality needs to collect taxes to provide sufficient services to all of its members. Explain the benefits or pitfalls in providing tax breaks to businesses or farms as you understand it.

A: Communities sometimes create Business Improvement bylaws, giving tax breaks for a period of time, in particular areas.  The objective is to allow new business an opportunity to become established, thereby improving chances for success.  One unfortunate outcome is increased tax burden to other tax classes.  In most cases residential taxpayers bear the brunt.  Also, the competitive playing field gets tilted as existing businesses suffer because they’re not part of the equation.  Such a bylaw, if it covered all business (new and established) would be unbalanced and unfair to the residential taxpayers who already carry the bulk of the tax burden.  Engaging business, in good planning and actions that enable positive community change has the potential to generate better and more sustainable outcomes.  I’m optimistic there are initiatives that will enhance business but won’t negatively affect other taxpayer classes.

Q:  While the community elects the Mayor and Councillors, the District staff does the day-to-day work of running operations. If elected, how do you plan to foster relationships within the workplace to keep the District running smoothly?

A; Staff, act on council resolutions.  As part of that process, they advise council on legislative matters, planning, and legalities.  Then, under direction of the Chief Administrative Officer, they have the job of making things happen.  It’s imperative that there be ongoing communication regarding progress and issues that arise. This is essential because often further council engagement is required.  Positive outcomes are inevitable when councillors and staff understand their respective roles and respect one another for their commitment and skills. Tax dollars are wasted when this working environment is acrimonious and dysfunctional.  I have a clear understanding of council’s governance role and staff’s management responsibilities.  I have a proven track record in modeling and building respectful and productive working relationships.

John Van Laerhoven