Q&A: We asked Revelstoke city council and mayor candidates about economic sectors

This week, we asked Revelstoke city council and mayor candidates about the town's diverse economic sectors.

The sun setting over the Revelstoke Railway Museum, an establishment that caters to the town's transportation history and tourism economy. Photo: Nora Hughes

The Revelstoke Mountaineer’s question and answer series with city council candidates cover a wide variety of issues that are likely to be central to the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 15, 2022. The series features verbatim answers written by the candidates themselves. The questions were created by the Mountaineer’s multimedia community reporter, Nora Hughes. (This round features input from Tourism Revelstoke).

In the third round of the Mountaineer’s question and answer series with the city council and mayor candidates we asked about balancing Revelstoke’s prominent industries. Tourism has become a staple of Revelstoke’s economy but certainly hasn’t rendered other sectors obsolete. The town has since grown into a multi-faceted community with many contributing economic sectors.

We asked candidates to answer the following:

How do you see all of Revelstoke’s economic sectors (forestry, rail, tech, tourism) working in tandem? If elected, what will you do to ensure that vision becomes a reality? 

Here are the responses from the candidates who got back to us prior to our publication deadline:

Lee Devlin (candidate for council)

Lee Devlin is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Lee Devlin

My focus for this campaign has been, and continues to be, tourism. I firmly believe that tourism has not only become the backbone of our city’s economy, but also our biggest industry in terms of potential growth.

With that said, part of our tourism industry and a big part of what makes Revelstoke attractive and unique is our history; it would be foolish to ignore the impact that forestry and rail have had in the building and founding of our city.

Attractions like the Railway Museum and the Forestry Museum tell an amazing story about what our city once was, and those stories can easily be supported and shared in a way that grows and benefits all of us. Ie old lies to see these industries continue to thrive not just for the positivd economic impact they provide, but also for their part in keeping our town’s history.

One idea I’ve had is a secondary tourism-centric public transit system, whether it be a bus route or a shuttle, that would be targeted towards tourists and do a loop of tourism destinations in the town. This could potentially generate addition revenue for the city, for the industries and museums themselves, as well as allow a more robust in-town transit system that doesn’t rely on personal driving so as to take pressure off citizens to purchase as much gasoline at our currently inflated prices.

Obviously that is only one idea in a fledgling stage, but there are certainly many, many ways to net all of our industries into a symbiotic working relationship that benefits us all.

Tim Stapenhurst (candidate for council)

Tim Stapenhurst is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Tim Stapenhurst

Revelstoke’s economy is tied to directly to it location, physical environment and the natural resources in the region. The tourism industry, transportation, forestry,construction and government services all contribute to the economy’s health. When coupled with manufacturing, retail trade, and business services have created a very diverse economic base for Revelstoke. We are poised for change with the technology sector bringing new jobs and opportunities to Revelstoke. If elected Councillor I will work hard to ensure that all industries will have a voice in council chambers.

Tim Palmer (candidate for council)

Tim Palmer is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Tim Palmer

Unlike many BC interior towns that depend on one or two industries, Revelstoke is blessed to have a balance of Transportation, Energy, Forestry, Tourism and Technology.

The transportation sector is comprised of CP rail and the TransCanada Hwy corridor. BC Hydro and the Revelstoke Energy Corporation are the foundation of our Energy sector. The forestry industry, although facing significant transition, is supported by our community forest (Revelstoke Forest Corporation) and the technologically advanced Downie Timber Ltd, a nimble company preparing for industry changes.

Even our tourism is very diverse. Much more that just a ski town, we are renowned in a multitude of adventure sports, a growing arts and culture destination (think summer concerts, Art Alleries and LUNA), and an expanding ecotourism potential.

The surging technology sector that has sprung from tech experts seeking a place they can work and enjoy an active lifestyle.

Council’s needs to continually recognize this abundance of economic factors that make up our community. Generally, these five economic drivers are not silos, there is an interdependence.

In a survey I designed over a decade ago for an in-depth study on resource communities transitioning towards tourism, Revelstoke gave a resounding consensus to maintain this economic diversity and lifestyle.

The growth of each of these economic drivers has put pressures on the City’s resources. However, with the recent completion of several master plans including an overhaul of the Official Community Plan, the new council will be equipped to implement strategies to meet the demands of future growth.

It is essential that the new council work cohesively to establish priorities for the next four years. My recent motion to embark in a strategic planning session immediately upon the swearing in of the new council was adopted by the current council.

Nicole Cherlet (candidate for mayor)

Nicole Cherlet is in the running for mayor of Revelstoke. Photo: Nicole Cherlet

Revelstoke’s diverse economy is one of the factors that appealed to me most when I moved to Revelstoke in 2008. The wide range of industries, businesses and social enterprises builds community resilience in a changing global economy and climate.

Each economic sector is facing the pressure of increasing costs, strained supply lines, and especially the lack of suitable housing for their teams. I was on the team for the Labour Market Survey in 2014, and involved in detailed discussions looking at applying the living wage in Revelstoke. What was then an affordability/wage problem mostly in hospitality and retail (and seen as outside our scope), is now an issue for all industries. Add to that, our responsibility to Net Zero and Reconciliation goals of our country and province.

As we do the collaborative work called for in the Official Community Plan, Mayor and council can connect industry professionals, organizations, business owners and operators and new entrepreneurs in scheduled strategic discussion. Our range of appointments to local boards and committees gives us the access and capacity to bridge gaps in communication and bring residents’ voices to the table. These challenges and opportunities are best met together rather than facing them separately.

Gary Sulz (candidate for mayor)

Gary Sulz is running for Mayor of Revelstoke. Photo: Gary Sulz

These sectors are already connected through our Economic Development Office. Our Economic Development Director, Ingrid Bron connects with these sectors on a regular basis and apprises me on anything that is critical or needs my immediate attention. As Mayor, I have regular meetings and/or conversations with industry leaders in these sectors and I am present at the community Economic Development meetings so that I can keep up to date on what is happening in our community. This vision is already a reality and it gives community leaders a way to engage with each other and with municipal government. I anticipate that these relationships will only strengthen as we move forward.

Aaron Orlando (candidate for council)

Aaron Orlando is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Aaron Orlando

Developing a diverse economy is the goal for any rural community and Revelstoke’s is already quite diverse. To the list provided I’d add other industries including government (such as health care and education), hydro, general transportation, construction, and remote-working residents.

If we ask what may be preventing the various industries from co-existing harmoniously, the main issue is a shortage of housing. Workers can’t find a place to live and the supply/demand imbalance jacks up the cost of housing.

I laid out my housing goals in the Mountaineer’s housing Q&A last week. To summarize, I will work on a two-pronged approach. The first is gathering stakeholders to create a stronger social housing entity to get grants, coordinate development plans, and get building a spectrum of social housing. The second is zoning bylaw reform that will permit the forms of market housing we need, including denser missing-middle homes. There are many policy tools available that will help us toward this goal. The goal is clear, contemporary rules that form a level playing field which creates certainty that attracts investment in the types of housing we want and need.

Certainly, there’s been more local talk about in the past few years about the impacts local industries have on one another, including negative talk. I try to distill issues to their essence and I feel that in order to meet challenges we need constructive and collaborative dialogue that is channeled into concrete action that leads to sustained systems change.

No workers? Let’s come together to find solutions. Housing is unaffordable? Let’s work together to meet that challenge. A new day brings another new challenge? Let’s collaborate to find ways forward.

I am a big proponent of improving city communications and engagement to better welcome everyone to the table to work on Revelstoke solutions.

Tony Jeglum (Candidate for council)

Tony Jeglum is in the running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Tony Jeglum

I see all of Revelstoke’s economic sectors working in tandem on housing. After all, they are already working on housing independently. CP is building staff housing on their compound and they currently rent the entirety of The Cube. The company building the expansion at the resort is renting space in town to house their construction crews. The hostel downtown and Inn On The River are both rented to house staff. Rentals are becoming staff accommodation.

The housing crisis has become a liability to employers in Revelstoke. It has become so difficult to find housing that it is now a factor in recruiting and retaining staff. One of the most important questions in a job interview in Revelstoke has become: “do you have stable housing? In Revelstoke?”

Renting in Revelstoke is not necessarily considered stable. Read that again. Don’t believe me? Ask a renter. Especially a young renter. Or ask an employer. Are they short staffed? Is the housing shortage causing their staffing issue?

Moving forward we have two options. We can, of course, do nothing. If we maintain the current system then housing will continue to be a negative and limiting factor for the foreseeable future. If we do nothing we will continue to gamble the future of Revelstoke on the whims of the rental market and we risk the availability of every kind of employee.

Instead of doing nothing I suggest we intervene. We can learn from other resort towns. Some have a residency requirement – you would have to live here to own property here. This would remove out-of-town speculators. We can ban AirB&B. Instead of houses being used as small hotels they would be homes for people who live here. We just need a majority on council that prioritizes housing for residents. Please vote accordingly.

Matt Cherry (candidate for council)

Matt Cherry is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Matt Cherry

The economic diversity in Revelstoke is what keeps us vibrant, and all sectors will need to work together to help alleviate some of our communities’ growing pains. If we don’t continue to support all our industries than we become just another tourist town like Whistler or Tofino.

It was told to me that the forestry industry affects 1/6 families in our town. Although the industry is transitioning to a new way of operating, they will need our support to continue to add to our economic diversity. Moreover, rail is one of our oldest employers and are currently hiring for up to 120 jobs in town but only building around 40 units of housing. Tourism and Tech are BC’s largest and fastest growing industries and we need to stay growing with them!

First we must identify what these industries need to thrive. If we are lacking workers due to near zero vacancy rates and housing affordability, then lets immediately address these issues. If elected I will push to remove the red tape and what is viewed as restrictive zoning bylaws. Simple text amendments in our bylaws will make it easier for infill development such as adding secondary suites to existing homes. We can look at pocket community housing, gentle density, allowing for smaller lot sizes and smaller dwellings as well.

We need to be exploring and encouraging a multifaceted approach to affordable housing and affordable home ownership such as encouraging and supporting the affordable housing society and making sure our volunteer lead initiatives feel supported. While continuing to lobby our Provincial and Federal governments for useable or developable crown land to be transferred over to the City for affordable housing.

If elected I will work with all sectors to create a harmonized community.

Austin Luciow (candidate for council)

Austin Luciow is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo: Austin Luciow

Revelstoke is a great town that has been built by multiple different industries that have helped develop the diversity we now see in town. These industries offer steady employment that allows people to pursue careers that can establish them in town as permanent residents. They will continue to be main employers in town and can not be removed from our work force.

These industries have to develop in a sustainable way to maintain strong growth that allows for steady and solid employment as well as the ability to enjoy the natural beauty that we live in. This means these employees have to have access to affordable housing, be paid a living wage for town, and have the ability to take time off without fear of retaliation for requesting it. There needs to be partnerships for small businesses to offer incentives attract and retain staff.

The issues we face as a community are felt more by some industries then other. Staff accommodation is a huge draw and incentive for individuals coming into town. The housing market is making it more and more challenging for lower wage workers to move to town. This is felt more by small businesses who can’t afford to own real estate and be landlords on top of being a business owner. This gives larger more established industries an advantage as they can afford to pay more and have space and backing to buy or construct employee housing.

Larger industries have to make strides towards their staff accommodations to free up space in town for small business employees. If we can incentives home owners to rent to long term renters over short-term tourism rentals will help alleviate the worker shortage we are experiencing. Allowing tiny houses on residential properties can also help attract employees to our town.

Gary Eddie Shultz (candidate for council)

Gary E Shultz is a running for Revelstoke city council. Photo: Gary Shultz

Revelstoke’s economic diversity is the key to its proven success and what has set us on this trajectory of growth. I should point out that the question has left out a few other key contributors to our economic landscape – construction, hospitality, small business, Hydro and National Parks should also be recognized. Barely 20 years ago, Hydro and forestry were in a downturn and Revelstoke welcomed tourism into its economic mix. Two years ago, tourism was taking a hit while forestry was prospering. Today, tourism is stronger than ever, while we simultaneously face a worsening housing, energy and environmental crisis. It’s unrealistic and undesirable for all economic sectors to move in unison, but regardless of industry there should be a collaborative approach for tackling shared issues such as housing and labour shortages.

If elected, I would suggest that a new committee be formed bringing together representatives from all large local employers to discuss how to best work with the city to incentivize the creation of more employee housing.  This committee would open dialogue to coordinate better use of a labour influx of contractors and skilled trades in construction, promote a culture of community-contribution (to groups, clubs and social infrastructure), and lastly, help build  appreciation for all contributors to the growth and development of Revelstoke.

John Hordyk (candidate for council)

John Hordyk is running for a seat on Revelstoke city councol. Photo: John Hordyk

In a free market society, industries co-operate and compete with each other as required. As long as they do so in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, governments should not be picking winners and losers.

A city government should have consistent rules, try to eliminate redundancy and promote all sectors. In Revelstoke, industries are competing for workers, which means they are indirectly competing for housing. It is extremely encouraging to see CP’s employee housing being constructed as we speak. We need to use every available tool at the City’s disposal to encourage the ski resort to expedite its staff housing.

A city that works in tandem with all sectors of industry will grow the economy, which will help make efficient use of our resources.

Rushda Rubaia (candidate for council)

Rushda Rubaia is running for a seat on Revelstoke city council. Photo Rushda Rubaia

I beleive, all industries make a town, a town it is today. We need all different industries to ensure the economic as well as the cultural growth of a town. Forestry, rail, tech and tourism -all may be very different industries but they work hand in hand. We use railway to trasport our timber we get from the forests. Tech is used to ensure and increase the efficiency of all industries INCLUDING Forestry, rail and tourism industries. I have worked at RMR and I have noticed how efficient the RFID gates and passes are. Without tech, we would’ve had to wait way too long to validate every single person’s pass. The ease of online booking makes thousands of tourists contribute to our town’s economy through their websites which is our tech industry. Tourism, forestry and rail are the top 3 industries that contribute to our economy and allow us to have a better lifestyle than many other towns around us. We have a world class ski hill that brings a lot of diversity and money in town. That makes us more inclusive and gives us a better lifestyle. I know many locals who are regular skiers. My ski partner Glen Richardson was a former CP employee. I know many people working at the timber mill who ski full-time too. My friend Jordan Walsh is one of the sweetest guys in town. His father Brian is a former CP worker and his sister worked at the Mill. He himself works at the ski hill. And the ski hill wouldn’t have been able to employ him if it wasn’t for tourism. Even though Railway and Logging were the two main industries of this town, with time, tourism and tech have become very vital to this town’s economic growth. We cannot ignore one or the other to ensure the highest quality of life we want to see in the future. I would love to invite all the innovation hubs and co-labs in town to come together and create more involvement and brainstorming when it comes to our tech sector. And I beleive that will contribute to our tourism industry in return.

If you have any questions regarding the Mountaineer’s election Q&A series, please contact Nora Hughes at nora@revelstokemountaineer.com.

Avatar photo
Nora Hughes is a recent graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Interdisciplinary Program, where she combined her passions for Adventure Tourism, Communications and Journalism. With a strong interest in community news, Nora is passionate about giving a voice and face to the people of Revelstoke through storytelling.