Outlook 2020: My hope for a new decade: more doing, less dithering by leaders

Let’s cut right to the chase: my hope for our province, people and communities is more action, less talking from every level of government, including the one I serve in as mayor of Port Coquitlam.

We all know what British Columbia has to offer: unrivalled natural beauty and outdoors that can be accessed and enjoyed by the public, a diversity of cultures and people from all walks of life and a vibrant small-business sector representing everything from technology to craft beer powered increasingly by brilliant young entrepreneurs, all supported by the traditional resource industries that underpin our province and pay for much of our public services. And most importantly, committed, hard-working people who get up every day, go to work, pay their taxes and sacrifice so their families might know a better future.

The last decade may be remembered for placing B.C.’s challenges in stark view, beginning with a growing and justified frustration by those who do the work toward those who make the decisions. On an almost daily basis, I interact with regular citizens and come away with a clear understanding of the increasing disillusionment with politicians and government’s failure to address, with reasonable timeliness, their issues and concerns. 

Case in point: the denial and dithering with which governments have responded to the detachment of the housing market from local economic conditions, the consequences of becoming one of the world’s dirty money laundering hot spots and a laundry list of other issues, big and small, which we’ve become great at talking about.

In my own city, our council has committed that this term will be one of getting things done. As a small but meaningful example, for as long as we’ve been surveying our residents about their priorities for our community, we’ve been hearing that people want to see improvements in city cleanliness. It’s a simple and modest request – one that makes a lot of sense – but had languished without action until 2019, when, after hearing a city councillor raise the concern yet again, I asked our council simply, “Do we want to talk about it or do we want to do something about it?”

The answer was we wanted action, and after a motion directing city staff to bring forward options to clean up the city, within a few months we had reallocated a vacant staff position to hire a new person to clean up a different part of the city every single day of the week, from within the city’s existing budget.

The results have been extremely positive. PoCo residents are noticing and appreciating the improvement to our city’s cleanliness, which is a foundational building block to how people feel about the city, the businesses we attract and the community we want to build.

This is the type of basic responsibility that a city owes its taxpayers but is too often passed over in search of something more newsworthy or grandiose. I’m not saying that we did anything groundbreaking, but more elected officials would be wise to spend time getting the basics right and getting things done.

We enter a new decade with concerns that our region is a playground for the wealthiest in our world, a resort that pushes its workers and families to the outer reaches and then condemns them for it.

The pressure and angst felt by the quiet majority of people who are working their tails off and treading water is real. Their concern, and mine, about what sort of future will be had by our kids is real. 2020 needs to be the start of getting it done for them, or we’ll end this decade with worse alienation and consequences than we’re starting it.

Brad West is mayor of Port Coquitlam.