Doug Race retired from the practice of law in 2008 and was elected to the Squamish council in the same year. He was re-elected in 2011. Race has been involved with Rotary Club, has served as a founding director of the Squamish Community Foundation, and co-chaired a hospital fundraising and helped organize the Squamish Triathlon.
He spoke to Gagandeep Ghuman about his decision to contest council elections this November, his confidence in the Oceanfront development, and his views on the LNG project
How did you get involved in local politics ?
I actually got drawn into two major disputes with the Qualex proposal for the Oceanfront and the wood chip facility and neither one fit my vision and I opposed both of them. In 2006, when Greg Gardner was running in a by-election he asked me to be his campaign manager and when he got elected, he suggested that I run for council. I was retiring and I had worked in a lot of projects and been involved with a number of community activities.
Don’t you think two terms is good enough for a councillor?
There were three vacancies on council in last election so you do get new blood and six years is only one year longer than what federal and provincial politicians do. The reason I chose to run again is that we have done a lot of good work in infrastructure which isn’t always glamorous. We also have an Oceanfront deal but we have to see it to completion and we have some work to do there. The first couple of years will be very important. We have to make sure the park gets build and we get what we want and the other is the infrastructure and it will be mostly done by the developer. There will be more public amenities, wind sports, sailing centre and an arts council presence.
“The Oceanfront development is a game changer for Squamish and it has the ability to transform the community.”
Coun. Prior suggests the deal is unfair to Squamish. Your comments ?
I’m very happy that I have voted in favour of this deal and I don’t think it’s unfair. The developer getting five per cent fee isn’t uncommon when he is doing all the work. The district is only a regulatory authority and it’s the nature of the limited partnership and frankly, I don’t think Ted Prior understood this. Limited means you are limited in liability, and the condition is that we don’t take part in the management or we lose that limited status.
Q. People have raised concerns about development cost charges going to infrastructure for the Oceanfront?
A. The developer will pay the usual DCCs on development on the Oceanfront land and will not be reimbursed for those. The developer will also have to construct or upgrade offsite infrastructure (the sewer treatment plant expansion is an example) and would be reimbursed from DCC’s from future development in other areas of the District as it occurs.
Those offsite improvements will benefit the whole district or at least other parts of the district. The developer will have to front a lot for offsite services, tens of millions of dollars. When you think about it, this developer is taking a risk for putting enough money in the belief that this will attract other developments in town. The Oceanfront development is a game changer for Squamish and it has the ability to transform the community.
What are some other issues that interest you ?
Garibaldi at Squamish hasn’t gone away and I think the next council would have to deal with it. I think it’s a real concern for the community and I have many concerns. My guess is they would get EA certificate and it would come down to zoning. I’m trying to keep my mind open.
What are some of the things this council has achieved ?
We have continued our work on the flood treatment and we have continued to work on Mamquam Blind Channel and the Marine Strategy. Dealing with the Sea Dike issue allows the Mireau to start developing and sets a pattern for the Blind Channel. I think the branding is a valuable thing. Tourism continues to grow and we support it. We were the first to jump on board with the gondola and we made some headway in transit. We have continued to work on infrastructure, we started inspecting bridges and we committed money to the Eagle Run Bridge. Getting the waterfront property was big and we didn’t pay any money for it.
Increasing taxes is a concern for a lot of people?
In 2013 and 2014, we tried to minimise our taxes and the one significant issue is that the increase in population made RCMP the largest single item in the budget. It added one million dollars to the budget, and that by itself is a six percent increase but we tried to spread it across to keep the tax increase more or less normal. Some costs were inevitable, employment costs, CUPE costs. We inherited a new contract that was four per cent increase so this is much more modest increase. Labour costs are half of the budget and we’ve gone through some significant reductions over past three years and reorganisations to become much more efficient. We have had surplus of one and a half million dollars and that is the result of Squamish Service Initiatives.
There is a limit to cutting back on services. But the other important element is to continue to broaden the commercial and industrial operations in Squamish and I think the Oceanfront will help with that and contribute to tax revenues. We sold that parcel in the business park to Solterra and recognise that they are helping us helping the community.
“(On LNG) I have yet to see anything that is a concern to our community.”
Why did you support the removal of population cap on Cheema land?
I didn’t think it was fair. It was the only piece of land with that provision with the OCP and it just didn’t see fair to me.
What are your views on LNG?
I have learned a lot about it in the past and in talking about this particular proposal, I have yet to see anything that is a concern to our community. There were couple of key concerns, like what the effects of emissions might be but that is behind us now. The other thing is what the effect would be on the process if it will be on the water, but now we know it’s on the land. People have raised concerns about shipping, temporary foreign workers, safety and I don’t think any of those concerns are grounded in reality.
I went to a seminar given by the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia on October 15, 2014 in Vancouver and they showed video of what happens when you try to light this on fire, nothing. LNG carriers in the gulf war were being hit by RPGs and missiles and nothing really happens. Certainly the missiles left a hole in the boat but no explosion and, in one case if I recall correctly, only a small fire that extinguished itself. The vessels basically carried on.
I’ve been boating since I was 11 and I’m not concerned about the carriers in the Howe Sound.
What kind of influence do we have on this process for LNG?
The only thing we can do is comment when the EA process is complete at some point in the early next year. We sent comments on GAS, but that didn’t kill it. We can make a comment that is not supportive and that is the extent of our influence on that process. There is no discretion on the building permit and I heard one candidate mention we could downzone it to park. That would be a deemed expropriation and could expose the district to legal challenge. If we kill that deal, we face legal challenges. If you killed it by zoning, you would have to pay damages. It’s already a zoned land and it’s not a district decision whether it goes ahead or not. They need a development permit, but there is very little discretion and if they follow the guidelines, we have to issue it. And development permit dictates form and character and it’s not a land use issue. The land use is industrial and this site is zoned industrial.