Why Vote for Solomon Okhifoh?
Safe, Crime free City
Many municipalities have realized that safety is one of the factors that people consider before relocating to a new city or town. Therefore, safer communities are more likely to benefit from talented and educated individuals looking for a good place to do business and raise their families. In 2016, Grande Prairie ranked no. 1 on the list of the most dangerous cities in Canada by MacLean. The 2020 edition of the same publication had Grande Prairie at number 9,making it the second most dangerous city in Alberta, only one spot behind Wetaskiwin. It is my belief that the improvement is due to the good work of our law enforcement agencies. Though this is a welcome development, it is my belief that we can do better.
It has to be noted though, that the crimes reported in Grande Prairie are not as serious as those reported in some other cities in Canada. But being on the list of the most dangerous cities to live in Canada, continues to be a source of concern to those who care. Being on this list carries with it a risk of further driving away investors that are desperately needed to get Grande Prairie back on its feet. When elected to council, one of my top priorities will be to move Grande Prairie from the list of most dangerous places to one of the safest communities in Canada. I pledge to partner with the administration and law enforcement, to come up with a plan to have this done. We will support law enforcement and give them what they need to be successful at making Grande Prairie one of the safest cities in Canada. A strong and well-educated police force is necessary to keep our city safe.
One component of controlling crime in cities that is often overlooked is Crime Prevention. Crime prevention relates to the development and implementation of strategies and programs aimed at lessening the chance of crimes occurring in the first place. Crime prevention policies have the ability to promote significant return on investment. Cities in the United Kingdom, Australia and other European countries have successfully utilized crime prevention strategies in the reduction of crimes in their communities. A well equipped and effective crime prevention unit works with various groups in the community to come up with ways to make crimes less attractive. They provide education to home and business owners on ways to secure their belongings to make it harder for criminals to see them as soft targets. Crime prevention units also work with potential criminals to help them find alternative ways to satisfy their quest for money or other desires and at the end the city stands to gain from less crimes happening. It is cheaper to prevent crime from happening than enforcing laws.
One other way to make our city safer is to strengthen neighborhood associations. Strengthening neighborhood association has a dual advantage of fostering community connection and checkmating crimes. When communities stay connected, neighbours are able to watch out for each other, can spot suspicious activities and report them to law enforcement. When criminals know that they are being watched from every direction, they are less inclined to continue their activities. There are neighborhoods in Grande Prairie that have proven the efficacy of this method of checkmating crimes and we will encourage more to form and give them the necessary tools they need to succeed.
While I salute the courage and resilience of the citizens of Grande Prairie during the pandemic and all the restrictions that came with it, I believe more needs to be done by council and administration to boost the potential of the city. We should provide tax incentives and other necessities that will encourage existing businesses to continue to do business in Grande Prairie. I strongly oppose the shutting down of small businesses during the pandemic. We need to realize that as we look forward to continued growth, we need these businesses to provide the jobs that will attract people from all over Canada to Grande Prairie.
We need to negotiate more partnerships with neighboring municipalities, such as the county of Grande Prairie and MD of Greenview. Regional cooperation with these neighbours will benefit the City in many ways. As the city continues to grow, we must also ensure that a plan of action is put in place to accommodate the growth expected when the economy turns around.
The mainstay of our economy is oil and gas. I fully support Canadian oil and gas and we must do whatever it takes to help this industry thrive and save it from the oppressive legislation that Ottawa keeps spewing out against it. This is what we have at the moment and we have to fight for it with every strength in us. At the same time, there is a need to start looking at economic diversification. What does it take to start small scale petrochemical industries here in Grande Prairie? The City needs to look at some options that the oil and gas produced here don't need to be shipped elsewhere. We can build industries that can make use of some of these raw materials and open doors for exports, while at the same time stimulating our local economy by providing jobs.
Grande Prairie is also blessed with abundant forest resources. Right here in Grande Prairie, we have a few wood processing companies. It is my belief that we should look for ways to woo furniture making companies to this area to make use of the products from these companies, instead of shipping them out. By doing so, we would be generating jobs and have money circulating in the Peace Country. Biodiversity is one thing that is currently being looked at in some major cities across the world. Grande Prairie needs to be one of the cities that is setting the pace in this regard. We produce a lot of waste that ends up in the dump on a daily basis. Why don’t we look for avenues to convert these wastes and generate employment opportunities in the process?
It is my belief also that we need to establish an Economic Development Corporation. Cities like Edmonton and London (Ontario) have such corporations that are contributing to their development. Both the City and the County have their separate economic development units. It will be more beneficial to have a regional economic development corporation that will be able to come up with ways that we can attract businesses from all over the world. Such an organization will help with strategies that will create jobs, which facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base. An economic development corporation will benefit the region in tremendous ways promoting the economic well-being and quality of life of our citizens. This is one way that value can be delivered to taxpayers of this great City.
Affordable City for All
In the last few years, Grande Prairie has experienced a steady incline in homelessness due to a combination of factors. Being one of the cities with the highest property taxes in Alberta, many citizens find it difficult to cope. Coupled with an economic crisis that has ravished multiple communities in Alberta, individuals and families are no longer able to afford rent or mortgage payments. It is worth noting that affordability goes beyond simply buying or renting a home, it is also dependent on other expenses such as repairs, transportation, utilities and other services. There are cities of similar size as Grande Prairie with less tax base but their property taxes are less than ours. What are these cities doing that we are missing? I have a mission to investigate this and bring sensibility to our ever increasing property taxes. Almost everyone I have spoken with as I meet with citizens of this great City is concerned about this issue and I want it addressed.
The City had a 10 year plan to end homelessness in Grande Prairie. There is a need to take a critical look at that document and make necessary adjustments to facilitate the move towards eradicating homelessness in our city. When I am elected councillor, I will commit to ensuring that council works diligently with administration and other stakeholders to bring solutions to mitigate this homelessness crisis. The federal government, as well as the provincial government have programs and funding that can be leveraged to this effect.
We need to take a critical look at our recreation facilities to see how the costs can be brought down to a level that everyone can afford. The current situation where the City continues to pay for a lot of citizens because they cannot afford the price tag of using these facilities needs to be addressed. Yes! I am a conservative but I have a heart for the community and want to see citizens are comfortable in their own city.
Effective transportation networks are definitely one of the factors people consider before relocating to a new city to live or do business. While this is true, modern cities are coming up with ways to do transit that are innovative, economical and highly effective. Council needs to look into some of these modern transit strategies that have been adopted by other municipalities in Alberta and across Canada. There are strategies to go about this and there will be no threats of job loss. The City currently pays heavily out of pocket to keep buses on the road and oftentimes they are empty. A better transit strategy based on data and the use of technology is highly desired. The other solution I propose would be to have a better redesign transit network that will encourage ridership. An effective and efficient transit system will give incentives for citizens to patronize it. This can help in the march towards CO2 emission reduction as more people use the system and we see less private cars on the road.
Due to immigration in the last 30 years, citizens across the globe, of diverse backgrounds, races, religions, and creeds call Grande Prairie home. Oftentimes, those that have recently immigrated encounter difficulties with assimilating into Canadian culture. As well, those who have been here longer (Canadians and First Nations), sometimes have difficulties in understanding the culture of these new immigrants. This situation sometimes results in unnecessary tensions and acrimonious relationships among neighbours. I am determined to bridge this gap and introduce programs that will allow an exchange of cultures and unify us all. It has often been said that what unites us is more than what divides us. It has also been proven through research that integrated communities are safer communities. Lack of integration can result in many undesired consequences. Modern communities must seek innovative ways to harmonize the various groups and harness the strengths that diversity brings. We need to find ways that we can make Grande Prairie a community that celebrates diversity and inclusion instead of tolerating each other. The issues that modern cities and indeed all of humanity faces can only be solved when all races and creeds sit together at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood and come up with ways to combat them. We must fight together as the human race and not against each other. I look forward to a city that epitomizes the multicultural communities that the Canadian government longs for when she formulated the Canadian Multicultural Policy.