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CONTRIBUTION · 12th November 2014
Mario Feldhoff
1) Who are you? Tell the public a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Kitimat and married Brenda in 1985. My parents still call Kitimat home. Two of our three daughters have returned to Kitimat since completing their post-secondary education. I earned my BA from Simon Fraser University and Chartered Accountant’s designation while with KPMG in Vancouver. I have worked as an accountant at Rio Tinto Alcan since 1988. Prior employment included working at the BC Auditor General’s office in Victoria and a forestry business in Prince Rupert. First elected to council in 1998. Significant experience on many boards and committees and understand the workings of municipal government. Currently actively participate with both the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group and on the board of the Kitimat General Hospital Foundation. Kitimat is undergoing tremendous change. Along with the growth comes a number of challenges that must be prudently managed. I respectfully ask for your support as we work through these challenges and usher in an exciting future.

2) What do you bring to the Council table?

Experience, a solid understanding of municipal operations and budgeting, prudent debate, middle ground, and creative approaches that seek to accommodate opposing views.

As an example of middle ground, I support the Kitimat Clean refinery proposal advanced by David Black. Such an approach respects the Northern Gateway diluted bitumen export plebiscite, reduces marine risk and substantially increases regional employment and economic benefits. A refinery will not have unanimous support, but is a creative approach that addresses many differences that divide polar views. A marine spill of refined products poses a significantly lower risk than a marine spill of diluted bitumen. A refinery does not eliminate all of the risks associated with the Northern Gateway project, but substantially reduces environmental risk while significantly increasing jobs in our area. The Kitimat Clean refinery is expected to employ thousands during construction, and thousands more in ongoing direct and indirect spin-off jobs. That would be good for our region, BC and Canada. I encourage you to check it out at: Kitimatclean.ca

Another creative example: The Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club requires capital to get back onto a solid financial footing. I promoted an approach that has the District of Kitimat purchase surplus golf course lands, which significantly increases Kitimat's greenbelt. Such an approach allows the club to continue to provide golf and curling opportunities to the community without requiring ongoing taxpayer support and provides the community with a valued asset.

A number of housing development plans have been promoted in recent years, and it is likely that we will see more going forward. With smaller family sizes than in the 1960's, Kitimat needs more housing options for prospective residents. Some proposals have broader support than others. I believe that each project should be evaluated on its unique characteristics. At Kingfisher I attempted to promote a development approach that would see lower building height and fewer buildings built adjacent to existing Margetts street homes. It would appear that fewer homes will now be built, but the height restriction opportunity may now be lost.

Addressing concerns of current trailer park residents will require creativity. I bring a passion for improving the lives of Kitimatians, both young and old.

3) What is your experience with local politics?

Please see response to question 1). I have significant experience with the Advisory Planning Commission, zoning and Offical Community Plan update processes, as well as the economic development file. Planning and Economic Development have a significant impact on Kitimat's future. I have a good understanding and history of a wide spectrum of issues facing council and am presently the council appointee to the Kitimat Museum and Archives board. I am also a Kitimat General Hospital Foundation board member and a founding member of the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group.

My work experience outside of local politics provides me with many valuable skills including the areas of budgeting and financial controls.

4) What personal attribute best qualifies you for office and how will you apply it to your role in office?

Proven experience, responsive to changing community needs, principled, even-handed approach. Respectful of differing viewpoints. Well researched decision making.

5) How would you improve relationships with Kitimat's neighbours?

Kitimat's most important neighbour are our immediate neighbours, the Haisla people. We should continue to work closely on projects of mutual interest such as development of health care, the west side road, marina and former hospital lands.

At times the Regional District members don't all seem to appreciate the importance of marina access to Kitimatians. We must maintain efforts to work constructively with the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine to further projects for the benefit of Kitimatians.

Council has worked closely with an alliance of virtually all northwest local governments in promoting a provincial regional impacts fair share agreement. I believe that good relationships with neighbouring communities demonstrates our willingness to work together on development issues of mutual concern.

6) If you could bring one commercial business to Kitimat, which business would you bring and why?

Major industry anchors an expanded retail and service sector and grows Kitimat's tax base. Growth in major industry diversifies our economy, replaces industrial jobs previously lost and facilitates increasing a host of community services and amenities. I believe that the Kitimat Clean refinery project has real potential and brings with it unparalleled economic benefits.

The $650,000 Ministry of Environment provincially funded Kitimat airshed study concluded that a refinery, in conjunction with LNG and other industries, can safely move forward. I believe that by reaching out to other levels of government, we can increase the likelihood of a Kitimat-Terrace refinery. The job opportunities associated with such a project would support a tremendous number of families.

I am also a supporter of LNG, other value-added projects and port development in Kitimat.

7) If you could do any one thing in your role on Council to make Kitimat more prosperous, what would that be?

When the citizens of Kitimat feel more prosperous, then Kitimat itself will be more prosperous. Some in our community have been suffering in recent years finding affordable, accessible housing. The recently completed Housing Action Plan provides for a good blueprint going forward. Council has accomplished a lot responding to development proposals, but more needs to be done to improve housing options for young and old. Council should support job growth and support infrastructure and facilities that maintain a high quality of life for all residents, while keeping property taxes amongst the lowest in the province.

8) If you could do one thing in your role on Council to make Kitimat a better place, what would that be?

Sustainable development generates needed jobs, underpins community growth and maintains our services. An increased and diversified industrial tax base provides for strengthened municipal services and amenities and will allow for future tax reduction. I support economic development that grows the job base, both directly and indirectly, and provides opportunities for families. A wide range of services and amenities can be strengthened with an expanded tax base. Development must be tempered with the needs of residents; it shouldn't be unbridled. A fine balance is needed, particularly responding to housing proposals; affordability, accessibility and diversity.

A better Kitimat would include strengthened health care, recreational and retail services. I'd really like to see the return of a movie theatre, but am uncertain as to how to best advance this.

9) How would you define your leadership style and how does that style contribute to a more effective Council?

I try to follow a collaborative approach and seek input from diverse sources.

If you consult with my fellow councillors and senior staff, I believe that they will agree that I listen carefully and promote principled, common-sense, practical measures that build consensus where possible. I am respectful of differing viewpoints and believe in healthy debate and a balanced approach.

10) If there was something you could do to make Kitimat more environmentally friendly, what would it be and why?

I support establishment of a recycling depot along Forest Avenue that expands and consolidates present recycling facilities. A blue box program is expensive for a smaller community such as ours and I'm not convinced that is the approach that we should currently be persuing. Providing a one-stop recycling drop-off facility should remove some of the confusion of what can be recycled and where. A consolidated depot should further promote the benefits of recycling and should help extend the life of our municipal landfill.

In the future when city finances improve, I support the development of a small scale clean energy project in partnership with others, be it small hydro, biomass, wind power or heat recovery. This would help Kitimat significantly move towards reaching our provincially mandated goal of carbon neutrality while providing ongoing revenues to the city.

11) In 15 words of less: What is the meaning of life?

Live and let live. Make a positive difference.