Bernier said projects like the Multiplex and the new arts centre downtown are important to attracting people to the community and making Dawson Creek the best place to live, but he said with the anticipated growth of the city, it will be critical to plan for the future and make sure water and sewer systems, roads and sidewalks are maintained.
“We have a lot of those big-ticket items, but we can’t compromise those small necessities and core infrastructure,” he said. “We have done some of that major investment in large projects, and now we need to spend the next couple of years paying down the debt and working on the core needs.”
He said that will require tough decisions by council to balance the wants and interests of the community with the ability of its citizens to pay for additional services.
“We can’t lose sight of people who are being left behind,” said Bernier. “We don’t to create such a big economic gap between those who can and can’t afford what we are doing in the city, so I think that needs to be at the forefront every time we make a decision about spending.”
He added continuing the city’s direction towards environmental sustainability is also important, but not at the exclusion of economic development.
Bernier said continuing to entice new business with a favourable climate for investment will also be a key priority if re-elected.
“If you look at what we have done for the last couple of years while I have been mayor, we have lowered our industrial tax rate by 60 per cent, and 30 per cent for businesses. That’s always a challenge, and I understand tax rates are different than what people actually pay in taxes, but the point is we’re trying to send out a positive message.”
Perhaps the most controversial decision the mayor will have to defend this fall is council’s decision to implement a new user-pay system this year for water consumption that has resulted in many residents and business owners seeing their utility bills more than double. He said he understands the decision is controversial, but he believes when the rationale is explained to voters they will understand.
“In order run our city, it just did not make sense that we were charging $0.69 a cubic metre when it was costing us $1.20. You can’t operate a utility that way, and it was having to be subsidized and we were dipping into our reserves. If we have to upgrade water lines, sewer lines and maybe build a reservoir to sustain our community, you can’t do that if you don’t have the money coming in.”
Bernier added another key priority if re-elected will be continuing to be open and transparent with the public and engage them in decisions made at City Hall. He added he is honoured to serve as mayor, and if re-elected, is eager to continue being an ambassador for all of the positive things happening in Dawson Creek.
As of Friday, Bernier is running unopposed for the mayor’s office.
Check back with Mile 0 City next week for more profiles of local candidates.