Cliff McNeil-Smith, owner and general manager of Tanner’s Books, intends to run for Mayor of Sidney in the upcoming municipal election.
McNeil Smith has been involved in local governance for some time, and served as a Sidney councillor from 2008-11. He has been on 7 community boards, including the Memorial Park Society, and was a founding President and board chair of the Sidney Business Improvement Society and the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea.
McNeil-Smith ran for Sidney mayor during the last election and came second to current mayor Steve Price. When asked why he wanted to run again, McNeil-Smith said there are new challenges for the Town, particularly surrounding growth. The Town of Sidney has not done a comprehensive review of the Official Community Plan for a decade, and he believes most of the town’s residents accept more density, but they want to balance that with other needs like green space, height and setback limits, and pedestrian-friendliness. McNeil-Smith said he shares their concerns.
“With growth, which is what we’re experiencing, come many challenges,” he said.
McNeil-Smith said the run corresponds with another life decision: after 17 years at Tanner’s, he thinks it’s time for a change, and so whatever the result, he will “gradually transition” away from the business.
“My wife and I have been meaning to spend more time with family and provide more opportunity to team members.”
McNeil-Smith has no plans to consider an ownership change at this time.
To address high housing costs, McNeil-Smith wanted more co-operation with other local governments, the province, and the federal government as well as the CRD.
“You can participate in a region-wide program, but nothing may happen right in your municipality, so you have to be a voice for the community,” said McNeil-Smith.
As an employer, McNeil-Smith said a problem facing him and other business owners is housing for their workers due to high home prices.
“If you’re single or have a young family, do you have an opportunity to live in the community you work in?”
McNeil-Smith said it was demonstrated in other communities that building more units did not necessarily lower home prices, and was optimistic about new provincial initiatives and non-profit housing societies.
“If you build 35 condos selling for $7-800,000 on Beacon Ave., that’s not solving that challenge.”
On the issue of amalgamation, McNeil-Smith wants to gather more information on the pros and cons, and knows it is controversial.
Often, he said, arguments often centre around how much money could potentially be saved, but he said there could be other topics, like municipal planning (traffic flow, neighbourhood development, etc.) that could be affected. However, he did note that the municipalities might “have a stronger” voice on some issues if they were united.
“I look forward to getting out and meeting and listening to the community,” said McNeil-Smith.
The municipal election is on Oct. 20, 2018.
Correction (June 14, 2018): An earlier version of this article erroneously stated McNeil-Smith may sell Tanner’s Books. Though he intends to reduce his day-to-day duties, he is not considering an ownership change at this time. In addition, McNeil-Smith clarified that the Town has done partial reviews and amendsments, just not a comprehensive one.