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REPORTING · 1st April 2010
Walter McFarlane

On Monday, February 22nd, Maraget Sanou stood before Kitimat City Council to present her idea for promoting Kitimat as a utopia for Senior Citizens.

“When I came to Kitimat 22 years ago, most people left town when they retired. That has changed and now many of us choose to remain in Kitimat after retirement. When I retired three and a half years ago I chose to remain here and have been happy with that decision,” said Sanou.

She expressed people were returning to Kitimat because they were able to do many activities they enjoyed in Kitimat which they would not be able to do in Alberta, such as fishing and boating. She figured other fishermen and boating enthusiasts would also be interested in coming to Kitimat to retire here.

“With the closure of Eurocan and the exodus of former Eurocan employees, we are at risk of losing services and businesses that are important to us. We need to try to bring people in and keep our population as high as possible. Secondly, housing prices have already begun to drop and will continue to do so,” said Sanou. “The number of house sales has only been a quarter of its usual number and on average, houses have dropped $40,000.”

She figured salt water fishing and low price housing will attract retirees to Kitimat, and we have a lot more to offer. She stated she did not want to see Kitimat as just another retirement community. It is so much more. Kitimat should always remain an industrial city. She pointed out the community was being promoted as a port and a tourist destination.

“This makes sense as the Douglas Channel makes Kitimat an ideal place for both. Being located at the end of Douglas Channel also makes sense to go one step further and promote our town as an ideal location for outdoor lovers who are looking for affordable housing and recreation. We can be it all. An industrial town, a port, a tourist destination and a popular retirement location,” Sanou said.

She added that studies determine bringing in retirees also brings economic stability, as they use the services while not being reliant on jobs for their income. In addition, she pointed out people retire in places they have visited, so if we develop the tourism industry, it will also attract retirees.

She asked council to support her proposal and approve a task force for the project composed of people from around the community, creating advertisements, articles and press releases for magazines and other publications. She requested money for her volunteer organization so they could promote Kitimat effectively.

Council spoke very highly of this project. Councillor Randy Halyk suggested promoting the hospital in Kitimat as well. Mayor Joanne Monaghan thanked her for flushing out her proposal.

During the Council Meeting on March 8th, Cathy Hague, an apartment manager in Kitimat, took the stand to support this movement. She said she was happy someone was starting to advertise the community as a retirement community.

She wanted council to know there were others in the community who supported this idea including other landlords. She said the bus to Terrace was one of the major draws, as were the golf course, curling rink, ice rink, walking trails and many other components not typically found in small towns. She said she had talked to Sanou and thought she had an excellent idea.

“It’s a very attractive little community,” said Hague. “There are a lot of positives with this town and there is a lot of worry and negativity going around.”

Sanou stepped up for a minute afterwards to speak about her funding request. She said she had a good group of people together and spoke about how she learned about some of the people who retired in Kitimat from elsewhere.

Under motions, Councillor Richard McLaren made a motion to support the Retire Kitimat Promotion Campaign by releasing $20,000 contributed to the Deferred Revenue Account by West Fraser on the condition they report their expenses. He explained the motion was worded due to Councils concern over unaccountable expenditures.

Councillor Randy Halyk said he saw this group as an asset, and what they needed was a marketing plan to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses. He hoped to move towards a sustainable model to promote Kitimat. He reluctantly supported the campaign.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff saw this as an opportunity for volunteers to come together to make things happen. He suggested increasing the budget. A second motion to appoint a councillor to the committee resulted in McLaren being appointed with Halyk as an Alternate. A final motion, all motions were called and carried.
Bravo Margaret
Comment by Dale & Sandy Flint on 1st April 2010
I had the amazing privilege to work along side Margaret Sanou when she taught at Kildala School. I am so happy to see that in her retirement she continues to effect the world (and her community) in a positive manner. I am not surprised that she has brought forth such a promising and practical idea to bring attention to Kitimat. If council would listen and fund such worthy ideas I dare to believe that things could turn around for Kitimat.
My husband and I will be one of those couples who returns to Kitimat in retirement, it is a beautiful and friendly city with numerous attractions and we only left the city when Methanex shut down. We now reside in Alberta, but take every opportunity to return to enjoy the beauty of the city and visits with friends and family.
Please pay attention to the ideas of individuals like Margaret... they are pearls of wisdom that Kitimat can not do without.