Randy Hawes is ready to put his retirement plans on hold to lead Mission for the next four years.
Hawes is running for the mayor’s seat in the Nov. 15 municipal election.
He represented Mission as mayor and MLA for 21 years before retiring last year when he didn’t run in the provincial election. Before exiting, Hawes publicly criticized the new leadership of the BC Liberals under Premier Christy Clark, and the direction the party was going.
That departure from the Liberals has led some to speculate he will not receive a lot of support from Victoria as mayor.
Hawes disputes any inference that he has been ostracized by the party.
“I have lots of friends who are senior staff (in Victoria) and MLAs,” said Hawes. “I know my way around Victoria.”
The premier is an “astute” woman, said Hawes. “She’s not going to punish any community because she’s mad at a mayor.”
Hawes stands by his record as mayor and MLA and says he has fought hard for the community, even when cuts were made to Mission Memorial Hospital. Since the BC Liberals took office in 2001, MMH has most notably, lost its maternity ward, intensive care unit and specialist doctors.
“I certainly fought against it,” said Hawes. “But an MLA does not have the power to fight against the health authority…
“When they talked about closing the ER, (MLA) Marc Dalton and I worked our tails off against that. We worked at getting funding for it. At one point, they talked about closing the hospital.”
The changes to MMH were made by Fraser Health and “very seldom” does government override the health authority, Hawes explained.
“I still believe we have a good hospital. I know I did everything I could do to keep the hospital open and keep as many services here as possible.”
Hawes says he is passionate about the community and believes Mission needs experienced leadership now.
He felt he was “compelled to run” earlier this year when the majority of councillors approved a lack of confidence motion in the mayor.
“I am very, very disappointed in not only them (mayor and council), but for myself for supporting them.”
Hawes was a part of the original group that formed Mission’s Citizens for Responsible Municipal Government in the last election.
He told The Record earlier this year he stepped away from the group shortly after the 2011 election when the elected officials also formed the CRMG executive.
“A zero per cent tax increase is touted by this group, but protective services was cut by $800,000 in the budget,” said Hawes. “This council is all about gutting services … a zero per cent tax increase does not work in any community in B.C. It is always, always followed by catch-up.”
Hawes said he supported controlled spending when he was a part of CRMG. “I don’t support gutting of core services and publicly attacking staff. It’s so insulting to staff at city hall. I don’t mind attacking someone’s record … but it needs to be factual.”
Staff morale at city hall is at an all-time low and the turnover of staff is “unprecedented,” according to Hawes, who believes district business is being conducted behind closed doors.
“I think the city is moving backwards rapidly.”
Hawes is critical of the district’s current plans to move relocated Highway 7 from First Avenue to N. Railway Avenue.
“The revitalization plan, I believe, is a political method of garnering some votes,” said Hawes. “We’re talking about millions, tens of millions of dollars perhaps … yet nowhere has there been any discussion about the downside of the proposal. I can’t think of any successful operation that plans a project of this size without (looking at) pros and cons. There has been zero discussion of the downside.”
If businesses on First Avenue are being hurt by big trucks, what will it do to business on N. Railway, asked Hawes.
“What the public doesn’t know is every dollar spent downtown cannot be spent on another part of the city. If it’s $6 million for the highway, what’s the offset? Where is the money coming from? There is zero guarantee this will work. What is the loss to the community?”
The district has already spent three years on the downtown plan, shifted the focus of the economic development office, and dedicated staff to the project. As a result, there has been no growth in the industrial sector and there has not been any new commercial projects started, said Hawes, who pointed out that the Smart Centre development anchored by Walmart, and the new shopping plaza at 11 Avenue and Stave Lake Street were approved by previous councils.
Downtown is already vital today, noted Hawes, who says the district needs to address the social problems first.
“There’s a big problem down here and it’s getting bigger,” said Hawes. “There are more people addicted, and more needles. This is not tolerable … we’re not doing anything about it now.”
Hawes believes a strong police presence in the area will help build relationships with vulnerable citizens. He suggested pulling service groups together to help.
“I believe if we work on making downtown both perceived as being safer, and being safer, that’s the first step.”
As mayor, Hawes would like to work with the Mission school district to create community centres at schools.
Schools that go dark after 4 p.m. can be open up to the public, he suggested. “Communities would decide what goes on, but I see seniors and kids activities,” he explained. “I believe an investment in kids today pays big future dividends.”