In a wide-ranging speech that included references to multiculturalism and the use of drones in the city, Mayor Marc Lefebvre raised some eyebrows Thursday night at the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce’s monthly dinner meeting.
Lefebvre urged the 80 people in attendance at The Bayside to get involved in the city’s upcoming budget discussions.
“For God’s sake, come and listen to the budget (proceedings), come and participate,” said Lefebvre. “We would like your ideas.’
About 65 per cent of the city’s $13 million budget is earmarked for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, not allowing much “wiggle room” or “money for vision,” said Lefebvre.
He said he will urge council to be “strategic” about spending.
Part of Lefebvre’s strategy seems to be about Parksville leading the way for other municipalities. He spoke of the controversial aquifer storage and recovery proposal currently in front of the city, and a trail system that could eventually reach from Rathrevor Beach through Community Park and all the way to Coombs.
“We can be a template for communities in B.C.,” said Lefebvre, who also spoke of “traffic calming” measures and ways to deal with health-care issues as Parksville continues to be a target community for retirees, something the mayor called “Metamucil migration.”
“We want to be an age-friendly community,” he said. Other highlights from Lefebvre’s speech:
• The mayor said he wants to work more closely with First Nations, including the possibility of an interpretive centre located on city-owned land. “We’re neighbours,” Lefebvre said of the Nanoose and Qualicum First Nations, making reference to the importance of last year’s Chilcotin court decision which better defined First Nations territorial rights in B.C. “They’re not going anywhere and we’re not going anywhere.”
• “We have poverty issues in our community,” said Lefebvre. He said 400 people are using the local food bank regularly. “There are other levels of government that have to step up and do their share.” He urged people to ask candidates in the upcoming federal election what they plan to do about poverty issues in this region.
• There were some confused looks in the crowd when Lefebvre started talking about drones. He said the Oceanside RCMP are using them, and he sees how they could help first responders. He also said manufacturers of drones could be attracted to set up their production facilities here and test them in our region that boasts all sorts of terrain. “I can’t think of a better place for a company that’s in the drone business to come here,” he said.
• Lefebvre told the crowd to expect more immigrants to the region.
“We should start thinking about multiculturalism,” said the mayor. “Believe me, they will come. Multiculturalism should be and will be part of our fabric.”