Feature - Squamish politics head in New Directions with coalition 

Lack of action by current council a driving force behind new political organization

A growing number of people in Squamish are hoping for a new direction after the next municipal elections in November.

Squamish New Directions is the name chosen by a growing membership in the new municipal political movement, which now has four people running for the seven available council seats.

New Directions was created earlier this year after Ian Sutherland won a by-election to replace Councillor Shelly Smith, who had resigned. Sutherland was one of the leaders of a group that battled council over a proposed wood chip loading and transfer facility on the Squamish waterfront.

"A group of people wanted to stay involved and stay current on municipal issues following the by-election, and met on a regular basis," said Sutherland, who declared his candidacy for the mayor’s position last week.

He will be running against six-year incumbent Councillor Paul Lalli. Both are vying to replace current Mayor Corinne Lonsdale, who announced in mid-September she is stepping down from the top job but will be seeking a councillor’s seat in November after 15 years on council.

Lalli’s campaign got a boost recently when it was apparently treated to a workshop on election strategies and tactics by West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Ted Nebbeling’s successful campaign team.

Joining Sutherland on the New Directions slate are council candidates David Fenn, Sonja Lebans and Ray Peters. They will be competing for the six council seats with, among possible others, incumbent Raj Kahlon, perennial candidate and former councillor Terrill Patterson, Larry McLennan, Mohammed Asfar, Lonsdale, Gary Hastings, and frequent candidate Gwyer Webber.

Among the policies of New Directions are: open and inclusive government; promoting the economy of Squamish; downtown development; tourism; forestry; waterfront development; and outdoor recreation.

"We are all strong individuals with strong beliefs," said Sutherland. "We all agree on the big picture items, but we don’t expect to agree on every issue all the time. You can call it a slate, but we don’t have a full slate. We want to be open and honest about who we are.

"Besides the four of us, there are other people running who share many of our values and we are getting closer as we see who is running, and there are other people waiting in the wings."

Fenn said in the past, the concept of a "slate" has had negative connotations, but he feels this group is more positive in nature.

"We’re an independent group of people with strong opinions, and one of the major issues with the current council is the lack of debate. On council, to make the best decision possible you need debate, and that’s been missing."

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