The Omineca Express sat down with Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen to speak about Premier Horgan’s visit to the region amongst other important issues in the community.
Q: What were some important discussions with Premier Horgan during his recent visit?
Mayor: The Premier came to Vanderhoof and we had two meetings with him. First, we started the day by going to the sturgeon hatchery. A big concern we have been having is that there is a lot of pressure on the Premier and his cabinet to reduce the number of sturgeon we put in the river. Their sense is that we are overdoing our capacity and sturgeon might migrate outside the Nechako River system.
We don’t see that at all. Instead, we see the predators. We see the number of otters that eat the sturgeon, the eagles, osprey. We have to keep the genetic make up there, otherwise all the money we have spent on this hatchery is pointless.
Q: Which group is pressuring the Premier’s office in regard to the Sturgeon? Is it coming from within Vanderhoof?
Mayor: No, it is coming the Lower Fraser River Sturgeon group. They say they have apparently seen some of our sturgeon migrate to Quesnel area, and that shouldn’t be a problem because the only place they come back to spawns in here, within a mile of the Nechako bridge.
We wanted to make sure that we were heard. The leadership of Fresh Water fisheries was here for the tour, so we were able to get our point across that the science is there. We have a small window to make sure we produce enough fish to get back in the river system.
Q: What were other points of discussion with the Premier?
Mayor: Highway 16. That really needs to be worked on. If you look at the number of trucks that go into Nechako Lumber, trucks that go to SA Energy opposite the sawmill, which is a staging site for the pipeline. The activity is there. If that road isn’t four-lane, it needs to be three-lane. There has to be a turn off, turn on lane, so you can get onto there and are not causing an accident. That was another concern we expressed to him.
Another important discussion was around a Regional Health Centre. The Premier announced the new hospital up in Fort St. James, but they don’t have surgery, can’t do birthing.
The only way you can have it, is if you have a regional hub. If you are pregnant in Fraser Lake, Burns Lake and Fort St. James, you come to Vanderhoof to have your baby.
It is really important that our medical system is supported here. So we are talking to Northern Health and the province to see what we can do. I think our hospital is in good shape, and once they build the dementia unit, we will be in better shape there, and we have to get to the bottom of issues at the Manor. But we still need to have a place where doctors, people working in social and mental health, drug addictions can all work together, so it is a smoother process.
Q: A lot of businesses in Vanderhoof have been hit by high property tax assessments, and one local business has seen an eighty-six percent increase from last year. What are your concerns?
Mayor: Businesses have a very tight financial line. To us, our concern is that when we had them (BC Assessment) come to council last week, they described to us what happened with the business taxation and why it changed so dramatically.
It seemed like they have taken one business sale, which had a very good lease, and they used that as their total comparable. I feel it needs to be looked over through the history of Vanderhoof.
We have a number of commercial buildings, and there is a building in downtown Vanderhoof that has been on sale for a significant amount of time. And the store that was leased out by BC Cannabis recently, was on sale for a fairly long time before that.
So you can’t just take one sale and build an entire case on it. You have to look at the whole picture and there has to be some subjectiveness to it.
In my mind, assessments should be looked at in a way if there was a vacant building with no lease, what is the value of the building? If you had a lease and did a bunch of improvements, do some leasehold value, because some people say look I can’t put up that upfront cost, if you do renovations to it then Ill pay for it over the course of the year.
So that is something they should consider. BC Assessment shouldn’t be evaluating leases in my mind.
They need to realize that we are a small community, with a very low business tax base and we have to be very cautious to protect as much as we can.
This is an edited version of the interview with Mayor Gerry Thiessen.