Part one of our exclusive interview with His Worship Wayne Wright of New Westminster
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Last week, New Westminster’s mayor sat down with the Other Press at his City Hall office to talk about a variety of subjects. In part one of his interview, the mayor discusses how the relationship between Douglas College and the City of New Westminster is a thriving one.
What is the relationship like between the City of New Westminster and Douglas College?
Douglas College is one of the most important institutions in our city. I have three that are top of mind for me; one is Douglas College, another is the Justice Institute. We also have a couple of medical facilities that are crucial.
Education is a key platform of mine for the city because if you have an educational presence, you can bring more people to it and we all want more young people, more students to come.
The proof in the pudding is that one of my first acts as mayor was to sell Douglas College, at a substantially reduced price, one of the best pieces of land in the city, which is the old fire hall on Royal Avenue and Eighth Street.
So Douglas College is, in my mind, in very good standing with the City of New Westminster.
What do you, or members of city council, talk about when you meet with Douglas College administrators?
It’s constantly how we can help them and how they can help us and how do we make the City of New Westminster top of people’s minds in education, development, community, and livability. When you got 20,000 students coming into Douglas College, you can imagine how many people now see what New Westminster is like, possibly bring a business, and if nothing else, they’ll have an awareness of us.
What are your thoughts on how Douglas College has transformed New Westminster from an “old city” into a “college town”?
The most obvious change is what we see on the streets or what we see coming off the SkyTrain and the bus loops—we see young people. And hopefully you have the ability to keep them there, so that they live here, so that they can benefit from our services of our city and also so that these young people pay taxes and also from them creating work and taking care of our amenities, like our malls.
If it weren’t for Douglas College, we probably would not have gotten the [New Westminster] SkyTrain station. It’s an integral part of the city, and I want it to expand.
Douglas College is a transit school, and many students leave for other universities upon completing their first couple of years of post-secondary education. Would you support Douglas College expanding its portfolio of degree programs?
Yes. In fact, I am in contact with [Douglas College President] Scott McAlpine and he’s probably one of the most dynamic people I’ve met in a long time and we’re both on the same page. So we have the same wants in different venues; I’m trying to grow the city, he’s trying to grow Douglas College. It’s probably one of the greatest benefits in this job is to work with people like that.
How does Douglas College benefit the non-student community in New Westminster?
Well, the first thing is that it brings another lifestyle to the city. The exuberance they show and the young people on the street, it makes it a livable, live city. And eventually, when we have the right venues, they’ll be able to support all the things that will go in our downtown. We have a new restaurant, a new office tower coming, a new civic centre. We have probably 300 to 500 jobs and hopefully a lot of them will be filled by people from Douglas College.
In part two of our interview, to be published in next week’s issue of the Other Press, Mayor Wright discusses his future, the recent fire in New Westminster, his advice for young people looking to get into politics, and his thoughts on the scandal surrounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.