Fontaine provides predictions for the Royal City

river market.jpg
River Market re-opening may revitalize New West waterfront Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Last month, the New Westminster News Leader asked my colleague Daniel Fontaine to answer a few questions on the future of Royal City politics in 2011. The column is landing on the doorsteps of New Westminster residents today and we’ve decided to also share it with you.

Q: Were there any surprises for you in New Westminster politics in 2010?

The biggest surprise was a recent Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey which revealed the City of New Westminster was the least wasteful amongst B.C. municipalities. This is despite the fact the Royal City continues to have one of the highest residential property tax rates in Metro Vancouver.

Q: What do you think is the most pressing issue in New West politics right now and why?

I think transportation is the top-of-mind issue for most New Westminster residents. Plans for a new six-lane Pattullo Bridge as well as the United Boulevard Extension project in Sapperton will continue to be very controversial.

Details regarding the Pattullo Bridge expansion continue to remain under wraps with all but a few politicians, city engineers and TransLink staff privy to what is being proposed. If both transportation infrastructure projects are allowed to proceed, they will most certainly funnel even more traffic onto highly congested Royal City streets in the coming decades.

Q: What would be the best thing that could happen in local politics in 2011?

The New Westminster School Board finally gets it act together when it comes to the controversial secondary school project. Local parents have good reason to be frustrated with the countless delays and lack of progress in getting the school plans finalized. Let’s hope 2011 will be the year we take this capital project out of the board room and onto the construction site.

Q: The worst thing?

The worst thing that could happen is that voters continue to stay at home in record numbers for the upcoming 2011 civic election. Only 25 per cent of eligible voters bothered to cast their ballot in 2008. In fact, Mayor Wayne Wright required a mere 5,000 votes to secure his victory two years ago.

Q: What are your hopes for the community in the new year that have the best chances of actually happening?

I am hoping the former New Westminster Quay Market will be revitalized and become a vibrant commercial node for the Royal City. The new River Market has been refurbished and now has Donald’s Market as its anchor tenant. I’m hopeful that once the renovations are complete, the River Market project will finally breathe life into New Westminster’s waterfront once again.

Q: Give us your wildest and craziest prediction?

The Columbia Street area of Downtown New Westminster becomes the new Yaletown. Developers begin scooping up older buildings and converting them into trendy new condominiums. The area becomes a magnet for young artists and couples looking for a more affordable alternative to Vancouver’s costly condos. As a result of all this economic activity, New Westminster becomes the only city in Metro Vancouver to freeze residential property tax increases.

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