Chris Thiessen – A Positive Advocate

Candidate Name: Thiessen, Chris

Why did you decide to run for office?

I am running for Council because I love Grande Prairie and the people who make it so livable.  I want our children to raise their children in this beautiful community that will become and in some ways already is, a model for innovation and total sustainable development.  I offer honesty, leadership, a unique perspective, an open ear, accountability, and love what I do.  Finally, I want to help guide and connect our new Council – to shape the new leaders who will speak strongly for our growing community – so that Grande Prairie continues to prosper now and in the future.    

What experience do you have with municipal government, in Grande Prairie or elsewhere?

I am an out-of-the-box thinking, change-making humanitarian who has served on Council the past 4 years, working hard in my role to build a better community for all to thrive in.  From increasing opportunities for housing, creating plans to sustainably manage our watershed, proposing and adopting Alberta’s first Edible Landscaping Policy, to managing our finances wisely, limiting tax increases, exploring new directions to create organizational efficiencies, and actively engaging with the community, I have always served for the people. Over the past 14 years, I have also served the population of Grande Prairie to my fullest in a variety of arts, culture, humanitarian, health, education and environmental endeavors.  I am a believer in many things, but mostly in the human spirit and the connection it shares to its surrounding environment and community.  Currently, I also serve as the vice-chair for the Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance, vice-chair of Destination Imagination Alberta Northwest, and was recently appointed as the northern representative provincially for John Howard Society.

If elected, your term will run until 2021. What do you want Grande Prairie to look like four years from now?

That Grande Prairie and Region is a model for innovation and total sustainable development and we are recognized as a prosperous, growing city of pioneers and social capitalists.  We are a caring, connected, compassionate, and collaborative Region that rises together to face our challenges and help the world, wherever and whenever it needs it.  That we are a diverse, dynamic, and creative place where people come seeking opportunity and stay to raise their family.  That we are conscious and deliberate in our actions to be ever mindful of our environment and the present and future needs of our community, without sacrificing our quality of living for all residents.  And finally, that this is a place where everyone’s voice is nurtured and heard – regardless of age or socio-economic status – and people are afforded the ability to grow, both personally and professionally.

The average property tax bill in Grande Prairie is about $3,500. If we use the percentages from the 2016 Taxpayer Information handout and set aside the portion for schools, that means we use that homeowner’s taxes in this way

 

 

To explain some of the labels

Corporate Services include things such as information technology, facility maintenance, and finance.

City Manager’s Office includes communications, human resources, and legislative services, among others.

Community Living looks after transit, the Eastlink Centre, Coca-Cola Centre, Heritage, Parks, and Recreation

Community Safety and Growth covers fire, RCMP, enforcement services, transportation, engineering, inspection, and planning.

 

How would you like to see that money allocated among those uses?

I believe that currently, we are allocating those monies appropriately, but would offer some perspective to change.  Safety and Growth are always going to take a big piece of the pie chart, but we need to ensure that people feel safe and that we are appropriately staffed in our RCMP unit.  We can minimize our impact here, if we can effectively lobby the Province to change the current model of Police funding.  Right now, it costs us approximately $160,000 per new member of the RCMP.  We pay for most of our costs for policing, whereas the County and MD do not have to pay for any (but they still pay for some).  The RCMP is a Regional Service whose costs for safety in our Region are mostly shouldered by the municipality (GP).  Under a new funding model, we could reduce the costs of our RCMP and INCREASE the number of members currently active in our division.

The other area where I would like to see less allocation, is in our debt servicing.  Although sometimes we need to borrow to build for today and tomorrow with our rapid growth rate, we should not use our financing ability as a crutch to lean on when we are discussing ‘nice-to-have’ items.  As we increase our debt load, we sometimes are sacrificing the opportunity to provide better services through appropriate staffing in different areas.  The more we borrow, the more we give to the banks and a project that is tagged at $5 million will cost more over the lifetime of the debenture.  If we are increasing our debt service, we should be mindful of the use in whatever we are considering and measure it against the benefits it will bring to our community, now and in the future.

 

Many candidates talk about change but what do you think is working well in the city; what would you want to keep the same?

There are many things that are working well in the city.  I would continue to support the further development of our parks and trail systems, community facilities and program supports, improving public engagement, the growth of our Neighbourhood Associations, and the expansion of our Edible Landscaping Policy practices.  Truthfully, Grande Prairie is an amazing City that has always brought me back and remains home in my heart.  Here is what I would never change about us: We are a caring and compassionate City that rises together to face our challenges and help the world, wherever and whenever it needs it.  We are a city of pioneers and innovators that has more patents registered per capita in our region than almost anywhere else in Canada.  We are diverse, dynamic, and creative.  We are the Hub of the North – one of the fastest growing and youngest populations in the country – a place where people come seeking opportunity and stay to raise their family.

We conducted a survey that identified Crime and Public Safety, Taxes, and Economic Growth as the top three issues for residents. What are your thoughts on those issues?

City Council invested a lot of time and capital this past term as a priority to keeping our community safe through Enforcement Services.  We added By-law officers and increased RCMP staffing levels by 12 members in our 4-year budget.  We then added a full complement of municipal RCMP office workers to help offset reporting times and keep boots on the street.  We also created a dedicated drug unit to combat the gang issue and educated ourselves and the community to help address the fentanyl crisis.  Finally, we saw a significant reduction in collisions and driving infractions after implementing the current photo radar system, which also helped to offset the costs of our additional RCMP members and dedicated drug unit.

In alternative strategies to capital, we encouraged connected communities via Neighbourhood Associations (NA), supported the continuance of the Cultural Integration Academy, and through Crime Prevention and NA’s created the “Neighbourhood Eye” program.  We advocated for change and balance in the Province’s Police Funding Framework, as well as advocated for more Crown Prosecutors in the Region, to stop the triaging of criminal prosecutions and help keep the bad guys off the streets.

Moving forward, we need to continue to advocate for a more appropriate number of Crown Prosecutors in our Region and a fairer balance with the Province in regards to police funding.  I believe we still need more police officers on the streets and would thoughtfully entertain increasing our membership at the next four-year budget.  I would also like our By-law Officers to put more of a focus on derelict and unkept properties to help clean-up some of our neighbourhoods and promote self-pride in our communities.

As for Economic Growth, I believe that we have an opportunity through our innovative spirit and a dedicated lobby.  First off, the new Regional Hospital, once finished, will provide for economic growth.  As will our new secondary bypass (Highway 43X), which will drive commercial and industrial development and expansion within our annexation area in the Northwest of our City.  If GPRC is able to attain Polytechnic University degree granting status, we will be able to retain students while attracting and developing professionals, right here in our community, that we might otherwise have lost to larger centres.  Regionally, through an ICF agreement, we can expand our services, reduce the impact of taxes to city residents, and develop where things need to go rather than where they have to go.  Already, we have a diversity of economic growth through oil&gas, forestry, and agriculture, but we should be mindful of the future and explore opportunities and initiatives in the renewable energy industry as well.  If we are able to retrofit city owned street lights, buildings, and homes with LED, solar, wind, or geothermal technologies, thereby lessening the costs of living to residents and service costs of the city, this will help drive Economic Growth by putting money back into the pockets of our people.

When voters ask “Why should I vote for you?”, what’s your answer?

People should vote for me because I represent Caring, Honest, Resourceful, Intelligent, Service.  I listen and believe I have proven to be accountable, thoughtful, hard-working, and helped to give all people of Grande Prairie a voice to be heard.  I am a positive advocate for our community and a natural networker between ideas and people.  I get things done and have always striven to help make our City a better place for all.

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