‘It’s not always what you read in the paper’

By Brad Hodge
Published: Dec. 27, 2013

Britannia Beach resident Maurice Freitag is a well-known local stonemason and current director for the Squamish Lillooet Regional District, representing Area D., as well as past director and President of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce and Squamish Lions Club.  Freitag spoke with the Reporter about politics, life, and everything in between.

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Q: Could you give us some background on yourself?

A: I was born and raised in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and [grew up] in a family basically of tradespeople; five brothers and sisters.  Our parents worked a lot and we enjoyed the outdoors.  We had a small farm… didn’t work out that well and so we moved to the city and became city people.  I moved to Squamish when I was 19. 

Q: What is the primary role of an Area Director?

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Maurice Freitag

A: Haven’t quite figured that out yet!  But the primary role is to represent the constituents of your area.  The difference between a regional district and a municipality is that your area may consist of various interest groups as well as various degrees of funding on different initiatives dependent on municipal funding. 

There’s days when you feel like you’re a representative, there’s days you feel like you’re just one of the residents, there’s days you feel like you’re a lobbyist because you’ve got to get buy in from the municipalities, or at least one and sometimes two or three in financial decisions in order to get the needs of your constituents considered or funded. 

Q: What are the best and worst parts of being an area director?

A: The municipalities control the financial end of the organization.  You’ve really got to make the most of every penny.  I really enjoy that challenge.  One of the frustrating things: not all your policies, initiatives and financial needs will align with the municipalities, in which case the chances of actually having them come to fruition are extremely limited.  Another challenge is [the vast] geography.  But when you can make any sort of difference in people’s lives, that’s the most rewarding part.

Q: Can you give an example where the municipalities drag their heels?

A: The Regional Growth Strategy is a prime example of that.  Part of the regional growth strategy speaks towards commercial and industrial development inside Squamish boundaries, and yet I see big gaps in policy, big gaps in the drive and initiative of Squamish fulfilling those commitments.  The Tunnel Dam is a great example.  One of the most identified extreme risk hazards in the corridor.  It impacts the rail infrastructure, the highway infrastructure into Squamish and through to Whistler and Pemberton.  The lack of support we’ve received from Squamish on the initiative is appalling. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the proposed LNG site at Woodfibre?

A: I’ve read, probably, too much about LNG.  There was a great document put out a while ago by a gas cartel out of Norway [that] represents 99 per cent of the world’s gas producers.  [It says] Canada is too far behind to ever make money off LNG, and the main reason is infrastructure. We have no facilities here.  It doesn’t take into consideration the upstream gas extraction, the environmental impacts of it [and] the contracts that the province has set up with those gas producers.  [It is] not a significant enough benefit to this province … that I feel we should be exploiting it to the level we are.  I think Squamish is naïve to believe this facility will provide the same taxes as the former Woodfibre site

Q: What are your thoughts on the Taicheng proposal?

A: The Taicheng proposal is an interesting one.  I’m not opposed to development.  We’ve never had a formal application come forward. It shows the level of respect and understanding that they have for people of the area.  At this stage it’s a bit premature to see an application until … they’ve proven out things like water, infrastructure, how they’re going to pay for it [etc.]. 

Q: What are your thoughts on regional transit?

A: I’m a big fan of regional transit.  I’m more a fan of it being a private venture or public-private partnership.  I think that’s really where local government falls down.  We try to do too much of what we don’t know.  We need to sometimes reach out to the private sector who are often far more advanced in these fields than we are.  [But] you have to have regional transit.

Q: Do you feel that local and regional politicians are paid adequately?

A: Yes I do.  There are times that I wish I was paid more, but … when you run for local office it is clearly identified what the rate of pay is.  So it’s a choice you’re making.  The wages [aren’t] good for the amount of hours you put in.  The job is clean.  [It doesn’t] require a lot of tools. [We’re] well compensated in the expenses area.  You travel to official meetings you’re paid well.  You stay, you’re paid to eat, you’re paid to stay overnight. 

Q: Are tax increases the best way to fund government priorities, or spending cuts, or both?

A: I don’t agree with tax increases or spending cuts in an ideological manner.  What I’ve been saying for a number of years now is external audits aren’t effective enough.  [We] need an internal audit that would ensure every last dollar in your organization spent is spent wisely.  There’s zero theft, zero abuses of funds

Q: Are you planning to stand for re-election.

A: It is very highly unlikely that I’ll run again in SLRD.  Will I run again for local government?  I would say there’s a 50/50 chance.  I haven’t had an in-depth enough conversation with my family about it.  If I was to run … it’ll be in Squamish.

Q: As a councillor?

A: I’m not certain that I’d be willing to give up as much time as I’m giving up now … and give up the same amount of time to be a city councilor.  I’m not opposed to the idea of running federally in the next election.  I think Jordan Sturdy is doing an excellent job so far as our MLA so I have no desire to do that.  Federal politics is a bit of a mess.  I’m 37, my business has taken major hits [with] this job.  So I have two options – jump in headfirst, try to get to the position of Mayor or run federally or something along those lines, or get out and go back to work and take the experience that I’ve learned

Q: Advice for people considering running for local office?

A:  It’s not always what you read in the paper.  It’s far more in depth than one could possibly imagine.  If you think you’re going to go in and make huge changes, it’s not likely to happen.  You’re dealing with a bureaucracy that’s been built up over a long period of time.  It is entrenched.  It is likely not to change that significantly.  For the first two years – you don’t even know who your wife and kids are … who your friends are.  There’s always something to read, there’s always something to read.  You must have flexibility. 

Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    “It’s not always what you read in the paper.” – Certainly not this newspaper.

    • TJay says:

      Kelly, THIS paper is MILES beyond the ‘other’ paper in town, which seems to cater to special interest groups……sigh………I’m glad I don’t have to get on my hands and knees to comment here without being over zealously and self-righteously moderated or censored.
      THANK GOD there is another paper here in Squishland. They don’t rip you off either for money..as it should be.

  2. Jason Bechard says:

    Moe is a smart business man and a smart man in politics. Like he says, if your going into politics to make changes…give it up while your ahead.