Mayor Aaron Stone waves during the 30th annual Light Up parade on Nov. 30, 2017. (Mike Gregory Photo).

Mayor’s Year in Review: Ladysmith ‘welcoming, progressive and resilient’

By Mayor Aaron Stone

Happy New Year! As I look back on 2017, I am reminded of twelve extremely busy and eventful months. Through it all, the Town of Ladysmith continued to cement its position as a welcoming, progressive and resilient place where people are valued and the achievements of our community are recognized and celebrated.

In 2017, Canada marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation and Ladysmith joined in the festivities, partnering with the Stz’uminus First Nation on a shared recognition of Canada 150 to commemorate the things that make our communities and our land so special. To me, the most important legacy of this Canada 150 partnership is the Salish Wind, a beautiful red cedar canoe created by Stz’uminus master carvers Manny and Elmer Sampson and island chainsaw carver Dan Richey. The canoe has now been permanently installed at Transfer Beach for all to enjoy.

The canoe, positioned in one of Ladysmith’s most beautiful and prominent areas, isn’t just a symbol of Canada 150 – it’s a testament to the enduring friendship and partnership between the Ladysmith and Stz’uminus communities. A formal event will be held in 2018. I hope that you will all join us in this celebration of our growing relationship. This year, our bond grew stronger than ever through our collaboration on the draft Waterfront Area Plan. Together, in the spirit of further building our relationship, the Town and the Stz’uminus First Nation communities joined forces to create a new and exciting plan for a vibrant, accessible waterfront with amenities for all to enjoy. We will continue our strong focus on implementation in 2018.

A huge part of this strategy has been community consultation, with hundreds of people from Ladysmith and Stz’uminus participating in person and online, offering their thoughts, their concerns, their ideas and their visions for the future of Ladysmith’s waterfront. This really has been an exercise in community building and collaboration and it’s reminded me of just how fortunate I am to live in a place where residents care so deeply about our town.

From my perspective, an enduring and resilient community should be built on a solid foundation of thoughtful and sustainable development policies and practices. Council and I remain committed to these principles; with development in our community steadily increasing, it is important to ensure we have the services and infrastructure – such as the state of the art bio-solids facility expected to be completed in the coming weeks and the new water filtration plant that will be built this year, to open in 2019 – to support our community’s growth.

With an eye on economic development, over the past year we continued to focus on new ways to spur economic growth here. For example, we solidified plans with our Stz’uminus partners and others to create a new formal economic development strategy for the Town. Financial contributors include the Town, Island Coastal Economic Trust, Economic Development Cowichan, Stz’uminus First Nation, the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, Ladysmith Downtown Business Association, and the Nanaimo Airport Authority. The Waterfront Area Plan is expected to feature prominently in the strategy, which will be completed in spring 2018 with implementation to begin immediately.

While it’s difficult for some people to reconcile what the derelict and abandoned boats that litter the Ladysmith Harbour have to do with economic development, it is important to note that in addition to posing unsightly environmental and navigational hazards, they can also hurt the economic health of our community. In 2017, two of these vessels sank in the harbour, leaking fuel and potentially impacting the Stz’uminus First Nation, who rely on a 150,000 pound annual oyster license in the area, as well as other local shellfish producers and processors. While these were extremely upsetting events in this ongoing issue, we also received some encouraging news from the federal government, in the form of Transport Canada’s new, five-year, $6.85 million Abandoned Boats Program and the introduction of Bill C-64, the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, which now makes it illegal to abandon boats, while allowing the government to go after the owners of the hundreds of vessels polluting Canada’s waterways. I still believe the new bill could have gone further to address the issue (especially given that our MP, Sheila Malcolmson, did all the leg work and laid out a very reasonable framework within her private member’s bill). The Town has submitted an application to have an initial removal of ten boats littering our shoreline, and we will continue to pressure both provincial and federal governments for more action on this front.

Another encouraging development for our town in 2017 is related to the future of Ladysmith youth. The Ladysmith Youth Strategy will be driven by youth and shaped by their feedback and is aimed at creating a compelling, innovative and realistic roadmap that helps to engage young people, involve them in community activities, and ensure they play a prominent role in the decisions that affect them. The project is expected to be completed in the spring.

2017 has also been a banner year for diversity in Ladysmith. In the summer, we installed our first ever rainbow crosswalk at the corner of 1st Avenue and Gatacre. The crosswalk is intended as a show of support for the LGBTQ community and a celebration of Ladysmith’s commitment to diversity. Then, in the fall we painted a rainbow bench in the same location in memory of Ladysmith residents Chuck Perrin and Josh Sikora, who both died tragically several years ago. The bench symbolizes love, hope, dreams and the inclusiveness of our community and we are grateful to Chuck’s partner and Josh’s mom, Diana Childs, for graciously allowing us to pay tribute to her loved ones in this profound manner.

We also paid tribute to three other pillars of our community – former Ladysmith councillors Glenda Patterson and Roger Gibson, and Festival of Lights pioneer Bill Fitzpatrick. All of these exceptional people made so many important contributions to the Town over the years and they are sorely missed by all who knew them.

Glenda, Roger and Bill were true champions of Ladysmith and I know they would have been delighted by the news we received in November that our very own 1st Avenue was named Canada’s Great Street during the Great Places in Canada contest. This is an incredible honour for our community and showcases the pivotal role 1st Avenue has played in helping to shape Ladysmith’s identity as a charming, diverse and vibrant west coast community. I’m sure the 30,000 revelers who enjoyed the 30th annual Ladysmith Festival of Lights Light-up later that month would also agree that Ladysmith and 1st Avenue are very, very special places. I’m both proud and humbled that our community has been recognized on a national stage.

As we look ahead to 2018, I envision another busy year where Council and staff will be assisted by a community of volunteers, service clubs, non-profits and community groups and bolstered by our growing relationship with the Stz’uminus First Nation. As with years past, our successes will emerge as a result of these partnerships and our community minded citizens.

To Town Council and staff, thank you for your dedication to making Ladysmith the very best version of itself. To our residents and business community, I wish you all the wonder and warmth of the holidays and a joyful and prosperous 2018. May we all enjoy good health and happiness in the months to come.

With my sincerest gratitude,

Mayor Aaron Stone

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The rainbow crosswalk is unveiled downtown. (Mike Gregory Photo).

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