Brian
Gallant

For Crowsnest Pass Council

Vision About Me Home

Vision

I want to see Crowsnest Pass grow and prosper. There seem to be a lot of the necessary pieces here; it is a matter of connecting those and finding the ones that are still missing. This won't happen by continuing to do things the same way over and over. Our community has been in decline for 30 years and we need to be committed to moving forward, not looking backward or maintaining the status quo.

We live in one of the most beautiful and friendly communities that you could ever hope to find. This is why people like my wife and I moved here. It's a great place to live, work and play. There are a number of initiatives I intend to bring to council if I am reelected.

Attracting Businesses and Investment

Our tax base is largely residential and the commercial component is about 1/2 to 1/3 what it should be. We need to focus on diversifying our economy. We are still largely supported by mining, albeit from the BC side of the border, but this is obviously not enough. In order to help diversify, I will bring forth the concept of a business incubator. This can take many forms but loosely defined it is a set of services that cater to help make startups successful and can also include facilities and equipment necessary to help businesses start out. There are many success stories from around Canada and companies that go through such a program record survival rates of 80% higher in the long term. This should be done in conjunction with the expertise of our internal Economic Development Officer, Community Futures, and the Chamber of Commerce. I will also support the work of the Municipal Economic Development and Tourism Committee, of which I am currently a member.

We also must promote tourism opportunities because these businesses have some of the lowest start-up costs and highest return. Tourism is one of the leading industries in Alberta so there are a number of existing tools we can tap into. To this end, I will move to implement feasible elements of the Visitor Friendly Community Assessment and Action Plan, which was completed in 2010. Visitors spend money. Visitors also become residents and I have spoken with many people in our community who first arrived as tourists before making Crowsnest Pass their home. This will work in conjunction with our Naturally Rewarding brand, which helps promote the benefits of living here. We are on track for a Best Western hotel development, which will round out our accommodation offering, as well as increase our business tax base, and I intend to keep this a top priority.

Crowsnest Pass must also develop industrial capacity. We have a shortage of serviced commercial land and infrastructure to support the resurgence of industry, especially mine related. When the new mines start up, will we be ready to service their needs? Where will these new businesses go? Developing capacity will also include an updated Municipal Development Plan to ensure development occurs in an orderly, sensible fashion.

The best way to expand an economy is through outside investment. Whether that is achieved through people visiting as tourists, or external companies buying goods that we produce, it is important that we create opportunities that reach outside the borders of our town. It is a slow process but actively attracting and encouraging business development will turn our economy around and increase our tax base.

Revitalization

I have championed enhancing our recreation facilities and capacity. I am not just talking about a recreation centre, but a set of services that will help make Crowsnest Pass a travel destination rather than a stop on the way to somewhere else. Long term, this will benefit not only locals, but will also attract visitors and new families. We have the ability to offer an experience that is not possible in other areas of the province. I also believe we have the opportunity to expand our ski hill into a year round recreation facility. Tourism is an industry unto itself and it is one that is known to drive revitalization. Earlier in the year we received a grant to perform a recreation feasibility study, which will help us decide what we need to do in order to meet the needs of our residents. This will be done with a large amount of input from our public and once it is ready, we have serious decisions to make about how we proceed.

I am proud to have worked with the Municipal Historic Resources Board (aka Heritage Board) in furthering a heritage master plan. Through the development of a sound business case, we were able to attain funds to move forward. Currently we are working on an inventory of potential historic sites throughout the community with the next step being to move toward protection and a management strategy. We also advised the Municipality on creating new regulations for development in the commercial areas of Coleman, Blairmore, and Bellevue, which is a guide to preserving our heritage without restricting growth. We should be proud of our heritage and the best way to protect these buildings is to make sure they are occupied. Vibrant historic areas attract visitors and business. I also believe we need legislation in place to protect the Coleman National Historic Site.

The Municipal Development Plan, our guiding document for development in our community, is now 13 years old! This needs to be updated through consultation with the public and business community in order to mesh with our updated Land Use Bylaw and the needs of the next ten years.

Communication

As stated in the Municipal Inspection, communication needs to improve on all levels. This has been an ongoing concern for me. I took steps during the term to improve this, such as prompting the use of social media, an electronic newsletter, a revised website, and increased flexibility in newspaper advertising. I still feel we need to do more. If reelected, I will move to accept the Municipal Affairs report and work to redefine the standards that everyone can expect when communicating with the town office and council. We cannot work together to move the community forward if we are not talking.

Regional Collaboration

The provincial government is removing the operational grants it gives to all municipalities in Alberta and will replace it with Regional Collaboration Grants. Early in the term I worked to promote sharing services with Pincher Creek, which was partly responsible for the creation of a Regional Collaboration Committee. We were funded by the province to locate areas where we can work together to save money. We have the information and it is time to work toward implementation. Our relationship with Pincher Creek, the MD of Pincher Creek, and Cowley is strong and we must work together to ensure the sustainability of our region. We are stronger together.

I believe that we must continue with the annexation of a portion of the MD of Ranchlands in order to help ensure our future sustainability. Our previous council had approached the MD about possible revenue sharing, which was rejected for a variety of reasons. In 2012, prior to any knowledge of potential mine activities as suggested by some, the current council approached the MD again with the idea of revenue sharing and possible amalgamation or annexation in order to increase our tax base. We contacted the MD on several occasions asking to work together on this issue. We did meet and I felt it to be a very amicable discussion, however our proposals were later rejected.

I feel we are in a situation similar to what occurred between Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo before they amalgamated. Fort McMurray was an urban centre with sustainability pressures due to the number of workers using their town as a base for work in Wood Buffalo. Wood Buffalo had enormous tax revenue due to the amount of industry yet low population. It created a "have" and "have not" situation between the neighbours. The situation is similar between Crowsnest and the MD of Ranchlands. We have a population of around 70 times the size but linear assessments of approximately 1/3. Crowsnest Pass is the service area to the southern portion of the MD for tourism, logging, industry, and exploration, yet we receive no direct tax benefit. Now with the confirmation of two potential mines, this strengthens my resolve to continue. I intend to ask council to continue with the annexation in a professional, transparent, and collaborative manner with our counterparts in the MD of Ranchlands. The annexation will help in lowering Crowsnest Pass residential taxes and bolstering our sustainability.

Property Taxes & Fees

During the 2010 election I promised that I would not vote for property tax increases. I followed through on this promise during budget deliberations each year. I worked hard with the rest of council to ensure fiscal restraint while addressing the issues we face as a community. While I did not vote for the triennial budget for various reasons, I played a strong role in ensuring proper management of our resources. I also called for moderation on fee increases and I was instrumental in suspending offsite levies, which I see as a deterrent to growth.

Fundamentally there are only two ways we can reach our financial goals: cut costs and increase revenues. We can make gains through eliminating duplicated services, sharing resources with our neighbours, and simply saying "no" to projects that do not add value. I have proposed and supported initiatives related to each of these concepts. On the revenue side, things are a little more difficult. All municipalities acquire revenue from either taxation, special levies, grants, or fees for services. There is no magic solution for any community to increase revenue; if it were easy, it would have already been done. It will take diligence and hard work.

Although the town's population has decreased over the years, the KMs of roads, the number of facilities to maintain, and the expectation of services have largely stayed the same or even increased. The cost of doing business goes up. So a part of the solution has to be to increase our commercial tax base. Once again, the solution I see is to expand and diversify our tax base.

 

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