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REPORTING · 22nd November 2010
Walter McFarlane
Margaret Sanou, Head of the Retire In Kitimat Task Force gave her report to Council as a part of the City Council Meeting on November 15th. Council granted the Task Force $20,000 as a part of their budget.

“Madam Mayor and Council members, when I submitted a budget to Council in March to support my request for $20,000 seed money to launch a Retire in Kitimat Campaign, I promised to report back to Council in November. I am happy to present that report to you this evening. We have had a very busy and productive eight and a half months,” said Sanou.

She stated as soon as they began, they found retires who were already living in Kitimat. The Task Force interviewed the retirees which reinforced their belief about Kitimat being a great place to retire. The retirees expressed the reasons for their retirement included the low cost of housing, affordable cost of living, new hospital, availability of family doctors and dentists, the pool, the planned community, boating, fishing, recreation, transportation, nature, low crime rate, fire and ambulance services, friendliness, religion and lifestyle.

Afterwards, she introduced the task force members to Council. Not all of which were present at the meeting. “In all, more than 1600, volunteer hours have been donated to the Retire in Kitimat Campaign,” said Sanou. She thanked Grace Hall and Tina Watchorn for coming up with the tagline, “Playground on the Pacific Inland Coast.”

She said Hall and Diane Hewlett had designed the brochure and it has been distributed to 88 locations in Kitimat, 42 tourist information centers in BC and over 33 locations in Alberta, Saskatoon, Manitoba, Ontario and the United States.

Sanou explained the rational behind spreading the brochures around Kitimat. 1st of all, the people who come to Kitimat to retire are often people who are on vacations. 2nd, people who come to Kitimat for reasons other then vacationing and the locations have the retire Kitimat fliers. 3rd: People in town will read them learning more about why Kitimat is a great place to retire and can serve as ambassadors to the community. Finally, residents of Kitimat can use the brochures to convince other family members to move here.

She spoke about their website and thanked the people who helped put it together. The content is comprehensive. She explained the content of the website. The website received 382 visitors from 43 countries around the world have visited them. They receive 25 hits a day on average.

Sanou talked about advertising and explained where they are placing ads. The ads have reached more then 1,000,000 readers nationwide. There also have been articles written by members of the Retire Kitimat Taskforce in RV Travelers, the Snowbirds, Oh Canada and a third article is being revised before being submitted for publication.

In addition, they are working on a 32 page brochure on retiring in Kitimat, have held community information sessions around the community, trained tour guides and gave tours for guests. Kitimat was featured on North of 49. Sanou offered to show the episode to Council but they did not have the time at this meeting. They will be attending the Zoomer Show later this month courtesy of Rio Tinto Alcan who provided them $5,000 to rent and staff a booth and Hawk Air who has donated a pair of plane tickets for a trip to Kitimat.

“Through our promotional campaign, more then a million Canadians have become aware of Kitimat as an affordable, attractive retirement location. It will be several years before we know how successful our campaign has been in attracting retirees to Kitimat. Relocating in retirement is an important decision that often involves spending several years investigating the possibility and weighing the pros and cons,” said Sanou.

“We expected a good number of people who’s interest has been peaked by our campaign to make Kitimat a vacation destination next year. Our Tour Guides are trained and ready to show them the many benefits of retiring in Kitimat,” she added.

She spoke of the trends which were drawing people to retire to Kitimat, however, there was one negative. The negative attitude which people have expressed to potential buyers.

Sanou had 5 recommendations to Council: “1st: We must retain all the services available at Kitimat General Hospital. Two: We must increase marine space. Three: All residents of Kitimat must adopt a positive attitude towards our community. Four: Council must work cooperatively and present a positive impression. Five: We must receive ongoing funding to continue the momentum.”

She concluded by saying the Task Force will be asking for further funding at budget time and thanked Council for their support.

Councillor Randy Halyk was concerned with the 5 recommendations although he said the committee had done excellent work. “I think that if the committee had handled the Viability Scenario, we would have won. My concern is: I would like to know what you mean when you mean by: Present a more positive impression?”

“You must be aware of what we read in our newspaper about people on Council not getting along and many people who are considering moving to Kitimat do read our newspapers online. There is a general feeling that I encounter in this community that things could run more smoothly then they do and that would be to everybody’s benefit” said Sanou.

“This concerns me. Council doesn’t have to get along to do a good job. I believe, I’ve been on this Council for the last two years and I’m proud to be on this council. This Council has done a lot of good in this community and it may seem, through the media, that we’re not getting along but I think we’ve accomplished a lot,” said Halyk. “I think Council has stuck their neck out and helped the community as much as possible.”

He apologized for venting and reminded her Council has donated $20,000 towards a good cause. He said he wanted make sure the work continues and they put more thought into economic development. He said Council is not fighting in the back rows.

“That is the impression we get in the media and that is what a lot of people mention to me,” said Sanou. “Whether or not this is the reality or not. We don’t know what goes on in other meetings.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff thanked Margaret for the work they have done and for making the $20,000 go a long way. He asked what the best level of funding would be. Sanou recommended a larger amount but they have not looked at next years financing but they are looking at a long term plan. She suggested Council read Steve Connelly’s information on Elliot Lake. Feldhoff also asked how they would change their advertising.

Councillor Rob Goffinet thanked Sanou on 8 months of intense work and commended her on her letter to the editor. He complimented the task force as their variety of skills are noticeable.

There were no further questions. Mayor Joanne Monaghan thanked her for presenting and all the work the Task Force has done.
Council Dysfunction
Comment by Steve Connolly on 23rd November 2010
Margaret Sanou's five requirements necessary to support retirement living attraction to Kitimat are accurate. The teamwork of her group has been exceptional and puts that of the Council to shame.

Any councilor who needs to have clarification as to the requirement for the Council to present a better image has a head in the sand ... and hasn't a hope to ever be elected again.