Small town election, big picture issues

Before you decide on who you’re voting for, make sure you know what councillors will be working on

Jasper Housing Corp

Housing may be Jasper’s defining issue, and it has been for some time. There has been much progress made on this file thanks to the the creation of the Jasper Community Housing Corporation but the details of this entity are important. For one, it’s a board on which only two members (currently) of council sit: the mayor and another delegate. The board is rounded out by two members of the public and two non-voting positions: one from Parks Canada and the other from the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce.  The town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Fercho, is the board’s chair.

While it’s good to have a sense of the board’s past accomplishments (the facilitation of MPL Place and the community’s co-operative housing units), what’s critical for freshly elected councillors to understand is the JCHC’s future focus. Currently, the JCHC has taken aim at the shortage of staff housing as well as improving options for retired Jasperites, the thought being that seniors should be able to move into smaller digs and sell their single family units to families or businesses which require more room.

That’s all good in theory; the trick is to create the environment in which a potential developer will invest. On the surface, national parks are not inviting places to do business (red tape, high costs, government-related fickleness), so the JCHC has been working to create a better lay of the land for possible partners.

“We want to take the mystery out for investors,”

Fercho explained.

By presenting opportunities and outlining exactly what the market in Jasper is all about, the JCHC hopes to minimize the risk of investing in development. That way, some of the big ideas for alleviating Jasper’s housing crunch can take hold.

Tourism Municipality Initiative

So you think you can lobby?

Politicians may get special interest groups trying to sell them on shiny new proposals but rookie public servants may not realize they will also be expected to do their own share of soliciting. Particularly when it comes to creating revenue for the municipality, Jasper councillors have been barking up the provincial tree for tourism infrastructure funding. Their pitch: 5,000 residents foot the bill for 25,000 summer visitors per day and it ain’t right! Little headway had been made, it seemed, despite the communities of Banff and Canmore also singing the same tune. More recently, however, Jasper has taken a different approach: showing how much revenue these tourism towns create for Alberta. Unlike most provinces (British Columbia being the most relevant example), Wild Rose Country dumps locally-collected provincial tourism revenue exclusively into promotion. The current council has felt it is important to make it known to Alberta officials this is an imbalanced approach. New members of local government will have to decide if they are going to join that rally cry or not.

Asset Management Plan

Here’s where those spouting clichéd catchphrases like “attention to detail” and “an eye for numbers” will get put to the test. With any large organization holding millions of dollars worth of assets, the key to proper management is finding the sweet spot of maximizing those assets’ service life while determining at what time planned maintenance and renewal is most efficient. Managing assets is of course led by the managers and council is in the governance game, but a keen eye for keeping taxpayer costs down and getting the most out of service delivery will be advantageous for any future politician. There is a plan that the current council has begun but implementation of that plan will be considered by the next council. This plan relates to grants which could fund infrastructure and other large projects, too. In a nutshell: no asset management plan, no grants. For hopeful politicians, the campaign can be boiled down similarly: no work plan, no votes!

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