After rising to local infamy last year after suggesting Prince George change its name, Simon Gibson had the chance to make amends Wednesday.
"I do want to begin with a sincere apology," said the Liberal MLA for Abbotsford-Mission, addressing members of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce. "I know I offended some of you."
Last year, the then-Abbotsford city councillor authored a letter to Prince George council recommending the city look at rebranding itself.
"I had the best interests of Prince George in mind because I think the city is underrated, especially by people in the Lower Mainland," Gibson said. "You might be shocked to know... I don't know what the percentage is, but many people think Prince George is on the coast, which is alarming, really."
Gibson was in Prince George at the invitation of Mayor Shari Green, who took offense to a Vancouver Sun headline seeming to describe the city as "musty" and "lifeless," using words from Gibson's original letter.
"I teased him a bit and said 'why don't you just come up and visit us and have a look and I'll show you what Prince George is about and we'll spend a day,'" Green said. "And I'm quite certain you will never be confused with Prince Rupert by the time I'm done with you at the end of today."
Gibson, who spent 15 years teaching topics such as branding and marketing at the University of the Fraser Valley, gave a light-hearted presentation about ways residents could work to change perceptions and opinions of Prince George.
One of his core messages was that the branding can't simply be an aspiration, but has to be grounded in reality. The city also can't sit back and let others craft the message of Prince George for them, he said.
"When you have a branding exercise, you help make the process happen," said Gibson. "If you do nothing, others will do it for you, but it might be negative."
Finding ways to take advantage of a unique opportunity that no other city in the Commonwealth has in sharing a name with the future heir to the British throne - Prince George of Cambridge - isn't an opportunity the city should pass on, said Green.
"It's a great time to think about what does the name mean to us and how can it paint a picture of our community that we know we can celebrate, but people from other places in the country and the world will come to understand what we're about and why we love living here," she said.
But benefitting from those opportunities is a future goal, and the mayor used her time speaking to the chamber to outline the state of the city's financial situation.
"First and foremost, we are in the core service business. We are about roads and water and sewer," said Green.
The mayor gives a similar presentation at a couple of different points during the year to interested groups so that residents can understand why the city makes some of the financial decisions it does and why she believes the core services review was a success.
Based on council decisions stemming from the review process, a projected $58 million in accumulated financial impact is expected to hit the city's books by 2016.
"This is why $58 million is a success story, because these other factors have put us in this boat where we have to be sustainable in our core infrastructure," said Green. "We do not spend enough looking after the very basic needs in this city while we're trying to be all things to all people."