"Hadih, good evening, bonjour, ni hao": Annotated remarks from the mayor's first speech
Plus, Lyn Hall is sticking around town — making him the first former mayor to do so in more than a decade
Good morning. Today’s newsletter focuses on the opening remarks of Simon Yu as the new mayor of Prince George but first a look at what else is going on:
Yesterday was Indigenous Veterans Day. At the Prince George Citizen, Hanna Petersen wrote a feature on Dick Patrick, a Sai’kuz WWII veteran who was awarded a medal for bravery but was still denied restaurant service in Vanderhoof because of his race. Having fought for the country, Patrick made a stand and was imprisoned 11 times for demanding equal treatment in Canada. His younger sister was also interviewed on CBC Daybreak North.
School bus service has been fully restored to Bear Lake and Salmon Valley.
The Prince George ice oval hopes to be open by next week.
70 winter shelter spaces have been opened in the city, nearly doubling the space available. However, there are still barriers to keeping people warm.
Yes, it’s still cold.
But perhaps you’ll enjoy this short documentary about what all those different Inuit words for snow actually mean. We all know there are different textures and varieties, and the language developed better ways of describing them quickly.
Lyn Hall is staying in town — making him the first former mayor to do so in more than a decade
At MyPGNow, Brendan Panliw gets the answer to a question I’ve been wondering: Yes, now-former mayor Lyn Hall is going to continue living in Prince George.
“I am not going to disappear. We are not leaving Prince George, I don’t think I will ever leave Prince George. I had an opportunity to see the city from a lot of different aspects. I am not leaving, I am sticking around to do stuff in the community.”
The reason I’ve been curious is because our other living former mayors have not made a habit of hanging around once they are out of office. Colin Kinsley, who served from 1996 until he retired in 2008, has kept a cabin at Cluculz Lake but winters in Arizona. His successor, Dan Rogers left town shortly after he was defeated and now heads the Kelowna chamber of commerce, while Shari Green, who thwarted Rogers’ plans for reelection left after one term as mayor to work as a consultant and Conservative political operative in Surrey. People gotta work but I’ve often thought it’s not a great look that everyone who rises to the highest office in this city quickly heads south after leaving the position, so Hall’s decision to stay is a nice change of pace.
“Hadih, good evening, bonjour, ni hao”: The mayor’s opening remarks, annotated
And now onto our new mayor. Simon Yu was sworn in Monday night, along with the rest of council, all of whom got a chance to speak to those assembled and the people like me watching the stream online. The overall message was one of unity — we’re all in this together-type sentiments — and “diversity is our strength”-style remarks, with folks highlighting the different strengths their colleagues bring to the table. That tone was set by Yu, the first to speak, who took the time to say something personal about each of his councillors and set his priorities for the years ahead. Here is the text of his speech, with footnotes from me for commentary. You can watch the full meeting here, with Yu’s remarks starting about 26 minutes in.
Remarks have been lightly edited for clarity:
Hadih,good evening, bonjour, ni hao.
It is an extreme honour and privilege to be seated here before you tonight.
To my council colleagues, dignitaries, special guests, friends and my dear family here, and those who are watching elsewhere in Canada, England, Hong Kong — I’m deeply humbled by your support, and I’m truly grateful to be surrounded by you.
To begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathering here tonight on the unceded ancestral land of Lheidli T’enneh. To Chief Dolleen Logan and her council, we value your partnership, friendship and collaboration. Truth and reconciliation, with meaningful engagement, will be at the forefront of all city manager. This is my solemn promise to you. Snachaiyla.
To my fellow candidates in 2022’s civic election, I offer my sincere appreciation of your courage in putting your name on the ballot to exercise your democratic rights. In particular, I would like to thank mayoral candidate Terri McConnachie for your eight years of dedicated service to this community as a member of council.
To outgoing mayor Lyn Hall: Your over 20 years of public service, your dedication to our city, has been remarkable. Thank you for your leadership and I wish you health and happiness in your journeys ahead.
I would also like to acknowledge decades of genuine efforts from former councillors Frank Everitt and Murry Krause. Gentlemen, we have witnessed your work tirelessly on behalf of our citizens. You will be missed. Your contributions are much appreciated. Thank you.
To our city staff, led by Walt, we appreciate and recognize the work you all do, day in and day out, to help better our community and support council’s decisions. Thank you.
Nearly 50 years ago, I arrived in Prince George carrying only two suitcases.Prince George took me in, and because of this welcoming community I have been blessed in building a life, a career and a beautiful, big family. I have always believed that I owe this great city everything.
As an immigrant who spoke little English when I arrived in Canada, you can imagine the gratitude I feel right now, sitting here before you as our city’s first — and our province’s very first — first-generation Asian mayor.Yes, history is being made here tonight.
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But this is not my accomplishment. This is the accomplishment of you. The people of Prince George, as it signifies, we as a community that is strong through diversity and supportive of progressive change. I’m truly humbled, proud and confident in our people here.
Growing up here, our family dinner conversation often centred around the great potential of our city to become the global northern capital. After all these years, I continue to believe wholeheartedly our city is destined to be a great city, to be ranked among the very best in the world. But a vision cannot be achieved without collaboration, partnership and hard work.
Please take a moment and look around. You will see many friends, partners, stakeholders and dignitaries from senior levels of government. Thank you all for coming here tonight. These individuals all play such an important role in the success and the development of our community. The work you do is admirable, your efforts are essential to the foundation of Prince George. What you do day in, day out plays a vital role in the city’s current success and help us work toward a better tomorrow. We must listen to you, the subject matter experts, and those with lived experience right here in our own backyard. Together, we will do it. We CAN do it.
Together we will begin to assess many of the key opportunities and challenges facing our community. Together we will collaborate to develop a multi-generational plan for our city. One that guides us today and carefully considers our children, grandchildren, and future generations to come.
Together, an exciting business investment environment will emerge in our community. It is time to roll up the red tape and to roll out the red carpet.
Together, we as a community will begin to build a long-term infrastructural capital plan.A plan that not only respects “is this in taxpayers’ immediate priority?” but also evaluates the long-term growth potential of our city.
But like any journey, we need to face big challenges. Mental health, drug addiction are severely damaging the lives of our brothers and sisters. We need innovative action, and we need it now. Together, through partnership, collaboration, leadership, practical solutions and empathy, we will address the current widespread addiction, mental health and homeless crisis. We know these challenges require strong collaboration with elected representatives and public servants in Victoria and in Ottawa. I pledge that we will be relentless in our advocacy efforts to deliver lasting results to our community.
We have heard loud and clear, trust and transparency need to be restored with our citizens.Everyone in this room and watching at home have heard about the need for greater transparency and accountability. This was very evident throughout the campaign trail, and this starts and ends with city council.
We are committed to enhancing the council code of conductto provide greater assurance to our citizens. The city of Prince George under mayor Yu and the council leadership will be accessible, accountable, and action-oriented. Together, we commit to improve affordabilty and transparency by carefully managing expenditures and taxation and ensuring our citizens are always on top of mind.
However, this all cannot be achieved without the team members around this table here. My family has spent over 30 years as team sport ambassadors for this city, and continue to do so today.Team sport is an integral part in the lives of my children and grandchildren. We all know the value of teamwork, supporting one another and offering up your individual strengths to build on a team’s greater success. Council’s diversity will not only make us a stronger team but also a more resilient and inclusive city.
And what a great team we have here.
Councillor Skakun’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
Councillor Sampson’s vision for vibrant business, art and tourism.
Councillor Frizzell’s dedication to intergovernmental issues and practical climate-action solutions.
Councillor Ramsay: Your compassion for mental health, addiction and affordable housing.
Councillor Polillo: Your passion for equal employment opportunities for all our citizens and your enthusiasm for community sports and recreation.
Councillor Klassen: Your focus and experience on economic development and fiscal responsibilities.
Councillor Bennett: Your devotion to family, youth and children.
And councillor Scott: Your advocacy for our community’s senior population and encouragement for business development.
Together, with the support of so many here, our collective passion will help guide our community. We vow to be your voice and represent you with integrity, respect and empathy. We intend, here, to govern with grace and dignity. We will serve this city with great enthusiasm in the best interests of our citizens.
I have never felt more optimism for this community than I do now. We are at the crossroads, and the vast potential of Prince George lays before. We vow it to our community, we owe it to our community, to those who have gone before us, to our community and to our grandchildren, to seize every opportunity available to help Prince George reach its new heights as global northern capital.
I’m sitting here tonight because the people of Prince George have entrusted me as a positive of change. My goal is simple: Get things done. And together, we will get things done. I will accept nothing less. “Yu can do it.”
In closing, the privilege to serve you as your mayor is an extreme honour. Thank you for instilling your trust in both myself and my council colleagues. We will not let you down. Thank you.
The Dakelh word for “Hello.”
Snachaiyla is a Dakelh phrase expressing extreme gratitude.
McConnachie ran for mayor and placed second to Yu, finishing second with 4,152 votes compared to Yu’s 6,092.
Walt Babicz, city manager.
This is a frequently repeated anecdote of Yu’s. According to longer interviews, he was sent to Prince George from Hong Kong in 1975 by his mother who wanted him to learn English. Prince George was chosen because he had an aunt in Chetwynd. He lived in the dormitories of Prince George College, a Catholic-run high school.
Yu has six children, including a daughter working as a doctor in Prince George and a son playing basketball in Hong Kong.
Much attention has been paid to the election of Ken Sim as mayor of Vancouver — Metro Vancouver’s first mayor of Asian descent. However, both Yu and Sim have pointed out that Sim was born and raised in Canada, while Yu is a first-generation immigrant, born and raised in Hong Kong until age 15. The first mayor of Asian descent in B.C. — and in North America! — was Peter Wing, born in Kamloops in 1914 and elected mayor in 1966. I am unable to verify whether Yu is, indeed, the first first-generation Asian mayor in B.C. but I don’t see any contradictory statements at the moment.
One of Yu’s election promises is to accelerate the issuance of building permits.
Replacing ageing infrastructure has been identified as a key fiscal concern for the city in the years ahead, from water pipes to the downtown ice arena.
Transparency or lack therof has been one of the key issues that dogged former mayor Lyn Hall and the members of his council, many of whom have been re-elected.
Prince George (and many B.C. councils) did not have a code of conduct until recently. Prince George’s was adopted in 2013 and it hasn’t been much of an issue, but elsewhere in the province there has been concern they are being used to quash debate and dissent. Late last term, council voted to review their code of conduct after Coun. Brian Skakun raised issues around whether Coun. Kyle Sampson violated rules in seeking letters of support for a private music festival.
Yu launched his campaign at the Prince George Rolladome, which hosts multiple sports and clubs including indoor soccer.
Brian Skakun was the subject of national attention when he leaked city documents to the CBC, eventually receiving an award for whistleblowing.
Kyle Sampson is organizer and promoter of several music events in the city.
Garth Frizzell is a member and past-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Cori Ramsay has spoken openly about growing up in poverty and advocates for living wage and housing-first policies.
Ron Polillo is a longtime organizer within the Prince George soccer community.
Trudy Klassen is a former business owner and columnist and Conservative activist.
Tim Bennett is a former school board trustee and executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Susan Scott made working with seniors a key part of her campaign.
Yu’s campaign slogan was “Yu can do it,” a pun that has already achieved meme status.