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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Tony Zabinsky is running for his second term as a Fort St. John city councillor on what he considers traditional values—honesty, integrity, and financial accountability. 

These are the values, he says, that he was first elected on. “And I still believe in those,” said Zabinsky.

Though terms like honesty and integrity are hardly used sparingly in democratic politics, Zabinsky defined what that looks like in local government to him.

“Honesty means getting back to our citizens in a timely manner with the correct information and making sure that you stand behind the information when you give it to them,” he said. 

“If we say we’re going to do something, let’s make sure we do it. And if we’re not doing it, why aren’t we doing it again?” he explained.

But valuing these things, he says, does not keep him from advocating for progress. A commitment to financial accountability, though it means keeping a careful budget, does not mean a dearth of public spending.

“I believe that we have to watch what we do as we move forward…I believe that we have to increase capital spending for better roads,” he said. A new pool facility is also on that list of improvements for Zabinsky.

As someone who, he says, is “wired in regards to the dollars and cents” with a background in banking, Zabinsky says he always wants to know why something costs what it costs. 

He considers financial responsibility vital but knows that many different forces impact a city’s capital and operational budget.

One of these is collective bargaining agreements, he says, which bring costs of labour up and with it operating expenses, year by year. Another is grants from other levels of government. 

The Peace River Agreement, he explained, contributes nearly $26 million every year the grant is received, with 90 per cent going into capital projects.

Though there is always the possibility that the annual agreement isn’t renewed, the Peace River agreement has been a reliable income source for several decades. 

There are plenty of capital projects that Zabinsky has seen started and looks to see finished, eventually—whether during his tenure on council or not. They include the new pool facility, the RCMP detachment building, reinvigorated parks, better roads, and upgrades to water and sewer systems and equipment. 

These projects, both glamorous and less so, are funded out of that carefully balanced and multifaceted budget that Zabinsky, who calls himself a “numbers guy,” knows is vital.

Zabinsky originally planned to run for mayor in the upcoming municipal general election. He withdrew that announcement before the nomination period for personal reasons and instead decided to seek to keep his role on council.

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Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.