I moved my young family to Fort McMurray in 1993 for the opportunity of owning and operating a small business, Campbell’s Music. As the community began its rapid growth, I became more involved in community initiatives, serving as the President of the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce for 2 terms, Treasurer of Wood Buffalo Housing. My children have since grown up and are off to University, allowing me more time to give back to the community that has benefitted my family greatly.
Why are you running in Election 2010?
I believe there isn’t a more dynamic region in the world to live than Wood Buffalo – every challenge we face provides even greater opportunity. The past term has been a time of significant personal growth for me and I wish to continue the momentum created and have a positive impact in the community as it continues to grow. Significant work has been achieved in developing a plan for growth in the region and I would like be a part of seeing it become a reality.
What do you want the voters to know going into the 2010 municipal elections?
The municipal government is the level of governance that most closely impacts all residents, yet tends to receive the least amount of attention when selecting its leadership. I encourage all residents to get involved, participate in finding out who the candidates are, what they stand for and exercise your democratic privilege to vote. Thank you for making this initiative possible. This, combined with the Chamber’s “My Community, My Voice”, are valuable vehicles in ensuring we have a well informed electorate.
Questions from the Tribe
On Aug the 25th, I asked the folks who are engaged around the my oil sands blog and twitter feed for their questions – what would they like to ask municipal candidates. Here are five of the questions and Mike’s answers.
Q: What does the municipality need to be ready for another wave of development? via @OilsandsEditor
MA: Securing adequate land in a timely fashion has always been a struggle in the RMWB, largely due to the political nature in which crown and surplus lands are released. Fortunately, the province has released 2 significant parcels of land in Parsons Creek and Saline Creek Plateau plus industrial parcels know as “South Lands”. Recognizing the overwhelming demand and the upcoming projects beginning in the region, we have been working very closely with the province in efforts to fast track the development of these lands. Our role as a municipality is to define how these lands will be developed in a holistic way that will encompass building communities, not just houses. The appropriate mix of residential, commercial, industrial, educational, health, seniors and recreational facilities that will, in consultation with residents, make this a community desirable to live in because of the great quality of life that exists, not just because an opportunity to make a good living exists. We have learned a great many lessons over the past 10 years on how to effectively manage growth and a great deal of work has been accomplished in a short period of time to prepare us for the next phase. I hope to be a part of the team that steers these plans to implementation.
Q: What are the candidates views on the possibility of implementing a state-of-the-art waste management program that includes curb-side pick up of both recycling and compost? via Anonymous
MA: In 2008, council approved the municipality’s Solid Waste Master Plan which included a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) and curbside pick up beginning in 2011. In the fall of 2009, I toured a similar MRF in the City of Calgary and am excited that the RMWB will be home to the newest in technology for single stream recycling. The plan is already in place and I will continue to advocate for its earliest implementation. Further, it is important for everybody to participate in not only obtaining our goal of a 50% diversion from the landfill but also to explore additional means for reducing both our solid waste and recycled product such as packaging.
Q: How will the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) secure enough provincial land at once to manage development sustainably? via @KyleHarrietha
MA: In 2007, I sat as a member of the Premier’s Task Force on Affordable Housing. One of the recommendations we made was for the GOA to develop a singular policy that governed the release of all crown and surplus lands in the province, held by various departments, as each department had different mandates on how these lands would be treated. I believe that once the province completes it’s land use policy, an opportunity exists for a “Land Bank” of developable lands surrounding the Urban Service Area, including the Western Growth Area, North of the Hangingstone and Forest Heights. This Land Bank should be governed by the municipality in a way that it is released, sold and developed on an as-needed basis that will benefit all residents and stakeholders alike. These lands are sufficient to see us grow over the next 25 years.
Q: Is the candidate pro-oil sands, and if so, how would they be proactive in oil sands public relations management? via @TOMCOGroup
MA: I honestly don’t know how one can live in Wood Buffalo and not be pro-oil sands. This industry is not only the primary economic driver of the region and the province but is also the main industry contributing to the country’s recovery from the recession. Additionally, it is likely the most heavily regulated industry globally with significant investment by both government and industry on environmental initiatives that can only benefit other climate change discussions. Until a viable alternative is made available, heavy synthetic crude is still a very reliable option for the world’s energy requirements. It has always astounded me that one can garner attention as a critic without having any basis of fact behind them or without offering alternative solutions. I have been and will continue to advocate for the responsible, sustainable development of the oil sands in a way that benefits all residents, stakeholders and the environment.
Q: Whenever I drive up Franklin and pass the old Brick building, I can’t help but think about the cost to the taxpayer – it’s over $360k per year. What are your thoughts on this issue? via @MyOilSands
MA: The lease for this building was entered into in early 2007 based on a growing need for the municipality’s staffing requirements. While I was not part of the decision at that time, I think the decision to lease this space was made in haste as the demand for office space was reaching a critical point and supply of commercial space was essentially non-existent. While it would not have been my first choice, the lease is in force and we now have to deal with it. Many options have been explored including purchase of the land and building, early payout of lease and sub-leasing the space, all meeting with no success. A plan was presented on several occasions for renovations that would bring the building up to code and make it usable. As a commercial landlord myself, I found the plans to be the most economically viable option given the alternatives of leasing and renovating new office space and supported it to proceed. While the renovations would be expensive, the lease rate is considerably lower than market – the amortized cost per sq’ is still the lowest of all options. Unfortunately, this building has become a political victim where those on council opposed to its use continue to delay any effective means to utilize the space, therefore we are legally obligated to continue making the lease payments. Options to date have been exhausted, so the building is currently being used for storage. It is my opinion that opportunities to sub-lease the building still exist and that is currently being explored.