Campbell River mayor takes a philosophical approach to change

Walter Jakeway tries a positive approach in speech to Chamber of Commerce

Mayor Walter Jakeway took a different approach to initiating change in the City of Campbell River last Thursday.

“Today is about the future,” Jakeway told a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “It’s about our future here in Campbell River. It’s about our bright future.”

The mayor was in a philosophical mood, expressing a theme of his mayoralty through a quote by Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago and former White House chief of staff, who said, “No city today can function as in the past and as if the past responsibilities are going to hold true today.”

There was none of the city bureaucrat bashing the mayor employed at a Rotary Club speech on May 23 for which he was either roasted or applauded by the public and which led to city counillor  Mary Storry calling for a confidential review of the mayor’s role as spokesperson for the city. The review was held but no report or statement about what went on came out of it.

At the May 23 Rotary meeting, Jakeway said, “City hall is an example of how they’re doing it in the least effective way. City staff say how hard they’re working; do I care how hard they’re working? No, I don’t, if the results aren’t there.

“Wasting hard-earned taxpayers’ money is not acceptable to me,” Jakeway continued. “I didn’t run to leave things how they are, I ran to shake it up.”

The mayor approached last Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce meeting as an exchange of ideas. He delivered a speech in which city staff were not mentioned, although he did say he thought there would have been more people at this meeting after the speech he delivered to the Rotary Club.

Continuing his penchant for quotes, he told the chamber meeting that the former marketing chief at Telus wrote a book entitled Be Different or Be Dead.

“Is Campbell River different – really different?” he asked. “Yes. We know it is different, that is why we live here. Are we willing to tell the world? Turn it around – why would we not?”

Jakeway put to the chamber members in attendance the question: if you had $1 million of “mad money” to spend right now on the future of Campbell River, what would you do?

“To me, politicians are always talking but are seldom listening,” Jakeway said. “Active communication is a two-way street. Sharing of ideas is absolutely vital. Today is your chance to share and think and be creative.

Campbell River is a vibrant and diverse population and although we each have different needs, we all have the same basic desire – to be heard and respected.

“Today can be a positive turning point for Campbell River if we as a city and community have a financially responsible, benevolent, yet common sense approach.

“Our city and area have huge potential and the outcomes are only limited by our lack of creativity and shortage of imagination. Are we collectively willing to take the risk? To be bold? Take the challenge? To unashamedly promote Campbell River and region in non-traditional, radical ways?”

Jakeway said if even just two potentially good ideas come from last Thursday’s meeting, or the fuse has been lit for some basic follow-up ideas, then the session will have been successful.

For Campbell River to survive, it is up to us, Jakeway said. The big economic players have left and the magical recovery has not materialized. Big government has promised some help but it is still a year or two away. We need a mix of short term and long term views and actions, he said.

“As taxpayers and local government, we need to challenge everything,” Jakeway said. “Past assumptions may not still hold true.”

Jakeway’s ideas for change involve focusing on developing skills either through education – and becoming an educational hub – or through new arrivals, bringing in immigrants with skills.

“Manufacturing requires technological skills. It’s great to be creative but it takes technical skill to convert creativity into reality. If the current resident Canadians can’t or won’t supply it, the foreign workers will.”

Campbell River needs to attract manufacturing business, some creative industries ventures and some high tech opportunities, he said. There are some big projects coming online that will provide Campbell River some “breathing room” – the John Hart Dam upgrade and the new hospital – but they won’t fix the problem, Jakeway said. The focus must be on fresh energetic ideas, a future with a clear, positive direction while working within balanced, rational financial goals.

Jakeway said that during the summer he will be hosting two-three sessions at the Enterprise Centre to invite people with ideas burning in their skulls to come and discuss them with people from the community or the chamber.