Ron Paull delivered his first speech in Quesnel city council chambers as mayor after being sworn in on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Paull was the first to sign an oath of office and code of conduct followed by returning councillors Scott Elliott, Tony Goulet, Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, Martin Runge and Mitch Vik, and newcomer Debra McKelvie.
He opened his inaugural address with the quote “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter” from Martin Luther King Jr.
“As an incoming council we’re fortunate what is a headstart in knowing one another and where we stand on the myriad of issues and opportunities that await us,” Paull said, thanking everyone in attendance and extending his thanks to candidates who put their name forward in the 2022 municipal election including former mayor Bob Simpson.
According to Paull, inflation, global economic uncertainty, climate change and pressure on Quesnel’s industrial base are making spending and inherent taxation an even more pressing issue.
“Emerging societal issues are competing for the lead today,” he continued. “Taking over the agenda is a conglomeration of complex societal issues rooted to a large part in the illicit drug trade — crime, street disorder, violence, vagrancy, vandalism, addiction, mental health, public safety, homelessness and the associated need for different levels of supportive housing are all interconnected and in need of our immediate care of attention.”
Paull said council and the community must not be afraid to openly discuss and share ideas for outside-the-box solutions that are effective yet compassionate, noting there is much to be shared with and gleaned from other communities.
He added he is optimistic about future potential projects, including the interconnector and Three Rivers Community Forest, and events such as next’s year Coy Cup Championship and Minerals North Conference and Trade Show. The BC Winter Games will also be in Quesnel in 2024.
As for a lawsuit launched against the city by former employees who lost their jobs in relation to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Paull said he had no comment. A mandate by the city issued in November 2021 requires city workers to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and volunteers and contractors entering a city-owned or operated facility to provide proof of vaccination.
“It is before the courts, but I do wish to say that I should be able to have, in fact, I must be able to have access to my mailbox and my mayor’s office, so I’m very anxious to see the mandates and COVID behind us,” Paull said, later confirming to the Observer he refuses to disclose his vaccination status.
Newly sworn councillors also expressed their gratitude for being elected to serve a four-year term with Goulet, who was also re-elected a trustee to the Quesnel School District Board of Education, doing a little jig.
While some of the complex social issues may be outside their purview, Vik said they are compelled to face them nonetheless and that the community is expecting council to deliver solutions as quickly as possible.
“Regarding finances, we need to keep our eye on the ball,” Vik added, noting the city’s pressing infrastructure needs.
Elliott described the voter turnout at 29.6 per cent as disappointing but consistent with previous election results. In 2018 just 25.5 per cent of residents and property holders voted.
“Let’s get to work and keep moving forward,” Elliott said. “We’ve got a great team here, and I think a lot of potential.”
Letters of congratulations were shared by the Tsilhqot’in National Government and Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes.
At the inaugural meeting Lhtako Dene Nation elder Bryant Paul said he prays they can all work in a good way.
Among the council committees and appointments, Roodenburg was selected for Indigenous relations. Terrence Paul with the Nazko First Nation said they look forward to sitting down with her.
“Hopefully, we can carry forward the areas governments have introduced towards the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we can all start trying to establish policies that have never existed before and new realisations in how we establish relationships.”
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