Norman O’Connell has lived in Lillooet for the past six years. He moved here after retiring from Canada Post where he was senior operations supervisor for one of the largest mail facilities in Canada. This is his second attempt to win a seat on council.
How he became interested in politics:
I had no interest in politics, none whatsoever. My motivation for running again is I see what’s happening with council. I’ve been there for meeting after meeting, looking at the agenda and the operations and I tell you: if I had run my operation like that I would have been fired a long time ago. The fact that we had them trying to push for Bylaw 450.. stating that the public has very little input and turning it into a one-man show, this is unacceptable. I believe in democracy, I believe that people have a right to be heard. From what I see now, that is one part of it.
The finances are a big part of it because that was a big part of my business and I had to make sure my department was running well.
I’ve watched this happening and there’s one councillor saying, “I don’t understand this.” My God, you’re signing documents that account for millions of dollars and you don’t understand why this is important for you to understand? My first couple of months here, I had no interest. My neighbour phones me up and says, “Come to the water meeting.” I sat there and on my fourth question, you know what happened. The fourth question shut it down and Bontron said, “The meeting’s over, the meeting’s over.” The question was on business management and process management and legal ramifications for doing what you’re doing and that was it. I started going to council meetings and more and more I was asking, “Where is this money going?”
On his business experience:
What we need in this town right now is business professionals and I understand there are a couple that are vying for spots. I hope they do get in because they understand business and they can understand when something comes across their desk and you look at that document and you figure out why there’s an increase on this, this, this and that over the next four years that’s going to cost us millions of dollars. I want to know why and when I asked that question at the last budget meeting, did I get an answer from the council? No. When I asked why there’s a 50 per cent increase on these five items, I heard “Projects.” Not from council members, but from the staff. I asked “What projects?” and that was the answer I got. “Projects.” This is the answer we get a lot, so as a community, are the people not entitled to know what’s going on?
We need to revitalize the downtown dramatically. Look at the communities - you drive through Lytton and you have a beautiful little strip and you think, “Hey, this is nice.” Look at Main Street. Look at the businesses. It’s flat. Is there any growth? I understand that’s due to mills closing and forestry and other factors that are beyond the purview of council. However, I understand hundreds of thousands were spent to promote the town and Lillooet never got one iota of business out of it.
We don’t have industry so what is our key draw for the town right now? It’s tourism and how are we really promoting that? The first time I came here I drove in and then I took the train up. Drop the train. We’re never going to see it back. I mean realistically, you look at logistics, economics and studies that were done and you look at the Budd car. My wife’s dad worked for BC Rail 40 years and that’s gone because CN is not going to invest money in that because it’s a losing proposition. They’re not going to do it...
We have to look at other methods of bringing people in and when I see this, I see it as a business professional. Where’s our growth?... Competition means there’s growth happening and when there’s more and more people coming in, you have a large demand, you have trades people coming in and going, “It’s cheap to live here, it’s a beautiful spot, I have work, I have a really good location to live in and a good lifestyle.”
We need to have younger people come in but we’re also having a problem here keeping people that are elderly because they can’t afford it. You know why they can’t afford it? My neighbour left and she’s on a fixed income and she gets special assessments and then her taxes go up and up. Where is all this money going? We have to prioritize our necessities, you have to have wants and needs versus what you can afford.
People should vote for me because…
The bottom line is, along with myself, we need business professionals and we really need them right now. It is a time where our finances are not stable, they’re talking about increasing spending dramatically. Council are putting their name on the bottom line without looking at what is the long term impact? And that is what business professionals look at.