Part two of our exclusive interview with Mayor Wayne Wright
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
In the second instalment of our interview with New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright, he speaks candidly about the fire that destroyed a historic block in the Royal City, his advice for young people considering a career in politics, and his thoughts on the scandal surrounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
There have been a number of rumours that you will not be seeking re-election in 2014. Can you confirm whether or not you will be running in next year’s municipal elections?
First of all, I’ve been very fortunate because not many people have the opportunity to be a mayor of a city of this size and in this locale in the world. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a 12-year run and that’s pretty special in itself. I have to make my decision probably in six months from now and I’m very open-minded about it because I have to consider my health to make sure I’m capable of working. I probably work more than the average person and that’s because I love it. So I haven’t got an answer for that yet.
I also want to make sure that, if I did leave public life, I would leave the city in a great state to make it capable to move forward. I have a lot more programs, but I wouldn’t have a lifetime big enough to take care of them all.
So that’s a decision to be made later.
What advice would you give to either students or young people who would like to go into politics?
I am one of the biggest supporters of having young people get involved in politics. And there’s nothing more important in politics than the municipal level of politics, because you can’t run away from your obligations. You cannot hide what the results are going to be and say that someone else made you do it. Myself and six other councillors, we make the laws, the rules, and if we make a mistake, for me, you just tell people. Thankfully we haven’t made too many.
What advice do you have for Douglas College students or anyone in terms of exploring the City of New Westminster?
Well, I think we are trying to build and grow the city somewhat with Douglas College students in mind. You don’t have to go very far to get all of the same amenities you can get almost anywhere. Hopefully, we will have some more unique things that take place once we have the downtown buildings completed, like the Trapp Block, and also the fire will provide us with new opportunities, and the Civic Centre. I hope that these opportunities will go to benefit people in our area. And our people are Douglas College people.
How can Douglas College students be more involved in the community in New Westminster?
I think the first thing is that we have a couple of committees where we ask Douglas College students to provide their input into what we’re doing. The other thing that I’m fairly strong on is to get Douglas College students to get involved with our high school, and we’ve only got one. They should be the role models and mentors for these young people coming up. I think the demographic of Douglas College is one that’s a little older and one that’s had a taste of life already; one that made mistakes like we all do. And so they’re able to go in and show young people that you have to work hard and Douglas College is one of the avenues open to these high school students.
What are your thoughts on the recent fire that destroyed a part of downtown New Westminster?
The fire comes with two things: we can’t do anything about it, and nobody was hurt. Our fire department did a magnificent job at containing the fire, because the truth be known, had the winds come up, we could have lost all of downtown. That’s not an exaggeration, especially at that time of year.
Now what happens is that we have to look at it as an opportunity. We have to ask what we are going to put there, and what does the city need that this piece of property, at its terrific location, gives us the opportunity to do. I feel badly that it happened, but we can’t do anything about it.
Do you have any advice for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?
[Laughter] Well, you know, there is something good that’s come out of this, and that is I’ve directed my staff to find out how much it’ll cost for me to get a bobble-head. [Laughter] I’d like to leave a memento to the people, and I think that’s a great one.
In all seriousness, it’s a shame because the responsibilities of a mayor are huge. You have to wonder how he does it—he’s probably got good staff around him and good councillors. I wish him all the best but I think he’s past his due date. He’s still got a lot of people who are supporting him because Rob Ford probably has his finger on the pulse of the people. Saying the right things on taxation, and poverty, and jobs—I haven’t followed the story but I’m assuming that’s why he’s got such strong support.