Town council candidates try to distinguish themselves
Last week’s candidates’ forum in Slave Lake was a fairly tame affair. Candidates for town council and public school board introduced themselves, explained why they are running and answered questions. The 70-odd attendees may (or may not) have left better informed than they were before the event.
There was not a great deal said that would distinguish one of the seven council candidates from the others. They all seem to want the same things: i.e. less crime, economic growth, better health care, and good relations with the M.D.
On one topic, however, there was a clear division of sentiment. That was the so-called ‘photo radar’ program (So-called, because it doesn’t actually use radar). Asked by an audience member if they would support a referendum on its use, most candidates said ‘yes,’ readily and emphatically. Joy McGregor said a referendum was okay with her, but, “I’m in favour of photo radar.”
“Ditto,” said Julie Brandle, who earlier had made a point of noting that upgrades to town parks had been (or were being) paid for out of the traffic enforcement fund.
This was part of Brandle’s answer to a question about what the chances were of Slave Lake getting a park as nice as one the questioner had seen in Whitecourt (no specifics were shared).
Brandle and fellow incumbent Darin Busk spoke about the money that the town has invested lately in park upgrades. If something bigger is going to be developed, it needs a community champion, Busk said.
“There is no magic pot of money,” added Brandle.
There’s also no magic pot of money to solve the sudden $200,000-plus deficit the town finds itself in, thanks to the M.D. of Lesser Slave River deciding to contribute a lot less under its Inter-municipal and Fire Services Agreements with the town. Asked about this, Brandle said simply raising taxes to cover that amount is unacceptable to her and some other solution has to be found.
“It might not be pretty,” she said.
Answering the same question, Busk said he’s “not willing to give up on the M.D.,” but if they aren’t willing to pay, the town would have to re-assess the level of service it provides. One possibility, he said, is that the town could “look after our community,” and let the M.D. fend for itself where fire services are concerned.
Asked if they would be in favour of charging seniors for use of the MRC walking track, all seven candidates said ‘no.’
The issue of homelessness came up. Nobody had any solutions, but Khadim Hussain suggested that looking into Medicine Hat’s reportedly successful program would be a good idea. Rebecca King said she was already trying to do something about it, by becoming a board member of the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre.
Community involvement is a big thing with King, as she reminded the audience in her introductory remarks. The big success of the Riverboat Daze ‘block party’ was partly her doing.
Newcomer to the scene Shawn Gramlich spoke about his efforts “to better the community,” and his desire to do more of that. Joy McGregor, with 17 months of council experience under her belt, spoke about the improvements to communication in that time, and said she has ideas on how to make it even better. Seven-month incumbent Brice Ferguson spoke about his ambitions to help make Slave Lake “a family-friendly community,” and particularly his commitment to a cleaner Devonshire Beach.
Busk, the senior member of the group by council experience, cautioned voters (and perhaps his fellow candidates) that “it’s not as easy to do things as it seems,” on council.