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Feature - Squamish politics head in New Directions with coalition

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

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Sutherland agreed, saying his style is to disagree in a productive manner, and not close his mind or refuse to listen to new ideas. He said that approach is shared by the group.

After Sutherland ran in the by-election, New Directions was a group of about 50 people who met on a regular basis at least 60 days before the coming election, which gives them the right to be identified as a group on the ballot. Membership is now about 300 residents, and Fenn said the number is growing as the election nears.

"There has been no real recruiting drive as such," he said. "People are approaching us."

"That is a strong movement for change, I’d say," added Lebans.

In a document presented at a public meeting organized by New Directions in July, many of the group’s policies were laid out.

Open and inclusive government includes the requirement for a full and honest appraisal of the facts on each issue, conducting public business with no hidden agenda. Respect for the public will to maintain the integrity and values of the Official Community Plan is also part of the policy, along with "delegate appropriate responsibilities and respect the professional advice of municipal staff."

Establishing an independent economic development office is foremost among the ways New Directions proposes to promote the economy. Others include recognizing and actively supporting major development proposals such as the 2010 Olympic bid and the proposed university, as well as addressing serious job losses in Squamish and the decline in the retail sector downtown.

The highest priority for downtown development is embracing the fundamentals of the Downtown 2000 plan, including high-density residential development and waterfront walkway development.

Tourism development is cited as a "critical component of an expanded and diversified Squamish economy," while a "reinvigorated and progressive local forest industry is a cornerstone of an expanded and prosperous economy."

Development of an integrated, multi-use port and waterfront area is proposed to answer the desires of residents to be able to access the waterfront. "The creation of recreational and residential opportunities along our shorelines, coupled with focused and appropriate industrial activity, will bring considerable added value to our community and local tax base."

The policy document also states council members must tackle tricky land use issues and support the needs of user groups to create a world class outdoor recreation environment to support Squamish’s claim as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. This should be done through elected officials actively fostering the growth of adventure recreation companies, expansion of the needed support services, and encouraging manufacturing enterprises related to outdoor recreation.

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