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P.C. byelection candidates respond to Breeze queries

Thursday, 13 October 2022. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

P.C. byelection candidates respond to Breeze queries

P.C. byelection candidates respond to Breeze queries
By Sean Oliver
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With Pincher Creek set to host a byelection Oct. 17, the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce and Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative co-hosted a candidate forum in the town hall gym on Oct. 5.

To give candidates a chance to respond more in-depth to some topics raised, the Breeze posed five questions for candidates to elaborate on:

—Do you have any unique ideas you’d like to share that would help Pincher Creek?

—What would you like to accomplish before the end of your term on council?

—What ideas do you have to address the community’s housing issue?

—What should town council do to maintain and improve the relationship with the MD?

—What do you think is an issue at the provincial level that will affect Pincher Creek the most?

The candidates’ responses are below.

Garry Cleland

If elected to council, Cleland wants to focus on improving community services by encouraging more interaction between town government and volunteer interest groups.

“I would also encourage more groups to share in the use of town facilities on a fair and equitable user-pay basis. This would result in reduced costs to users and to taxpayers,” he adds.

“To sum it up, I would like to see changes in the culture of communication between the government of Pincher Creek and its citizens.”

The community’s housing shortage could best be addressed by supporting current working models like Habitat for Humanity, Cleland continues.

“Habitat for Humanity truly supports supplying the housing needs at a lower cost to those who need help,” he says.

“This model also assists the individual with the knowledge needed to maintain their homes. There are also a number of other models that could provide not only homes but more affordable rental units. These models would not put taxpayers in the housing or rental business but would assist, in the short term, with startup cost.”

In terms of the relationship with the MD, open and honest communication is imperative for both municipalities to reach their common goal to serve the citizens of Pincher Creek and district.

“I am very excited to start working with the councillors of both councils — it has been my experience over the past year that most, if not all, appear to be interested and engaged with their counterparts and with their constituents,” says Cleland. “I find this very refreshing and I would be diligent in keeping a great rapport with all of them.”

As for provincial issues, the Alberta government’s ability to understand the economic viability and needs of communities, Cleland says, is paramount.

“It is incumbent upon all three governments to use these factors to insure the growth and prosperity of these communities,” he continues. “It is important for us, the citizens of Alberta, to vote for a government that will maintain their economic viability and maintain the ability to understand the heart beat of the communities in the province.”

Judy Lane

One of the first things Lane identifies is that the town needs a theme to better establish itself as a destination community.

“Why should tourists make this a destination place?” she asks. “Our area is a recreational haven. We need to market the area as such and encourage businesses to promote us as such.”

In regards to housing, Lane’s philosophy is simple: just do it. 

“Our town has spoken about this for years and has spent money on assessments. It’s time to stop talking and do something about housing!” 

As for the town’s relationship with the MD, Lane says the discussions in joint meetings are key to creating unity and working through concerns that involve both councils.

The provincial situation Lane views as most important to Pincher Creek is the issues facing provincial health care, particularly the physician shortage.

“We’re fast approaching a crisis level as our doctor shortage is affecting all of us,” she adds.

Brian McGillivray

Something McGillivray wishes to implement, if elected, is generation of revenue by extracting cost from existing and planned expenditures.

“It is normally assumed the town has only two sources of revenue — taxes and grants from senior government,” he explains. “But, there is another source of revenue, which is cost containment and extraction, which all businesses use to manage financial sustainability. I believe the time has come for our town to adopt the same strategy.”

A monthly financial review, McGillivray continues, is where the town could begin realizing the benefits of cost extraction to reallocate dollars to areas in need.

“During my four-year term on the previous council, administration provided financial reports very irregularly and in-depth only annually during the budget exercise,” he says.

“Other municipalities review their financials monthly. The Municipal Government Act demands council provide financial oversight and I believe our council needs to take a more robust approach.”

As for the housing issue, McGillivray asserts it “is the most critical issue facing our town today.”

“I would propose the housing issue be placed on council agenda as a permanent recurring item until the concern diminishes,” he adds.

“For council to simply ask administration to hire a housing manager would be a waste of tax dollars, in my opinion. Rather, I suggest it would be preferable to direct administration to search out current examples of other municipalities who have had success with their housing grants and initiatives.”

Regarding the town’s relationship with the MD, McGillivray says continuing to build on the Intermunicipal Collaborative Framework agreement is the best way to move forward.

“I chaired this committee during the last council term and we were one of very few Alberta municipalities to successfully achieve a signed ICF agreement,” he adds.

Though the agreement has helped the municipalities better appreciate their respective operational responsibilities and made a difference in how costs associated with recreation are shared, McGillivray says the ICF can be expanded to cover administrative and operational services currently being duplicated.

Provincial funding, he concludes, is an issue that will affect Pincher Creek the most, especially since the Alberta government is pushing more responsibilities to municipalities while reducing the amounts it has historically provided in areas such as policing.

“Pushing the cost of the RCMP to our town will eventually increase our cost by a number of around $150,000 per year, which represents about a three per cent tax increase to the average Pincher Creek resident,” McGillivray says.

Other areas such as health care, education and emergency dispatch have likewise been negatively affected, as well as an inefficient implementation of the daycare subsidy. 

“A radical change is necessary and I believe it will need to be driven by the municipalities,” he says.

Blaise O’Rourke

O’Rourke sees tourism as an area of focus he’d like to address if elected.

“Pincher Creek is unique in its own way, and to help it I would use the main draw of tourism and recreation to promote the area,” he says, adding that major improvements in job creation and employment opportunities is something he would want to help accomplish by the end of his elected term.

Moving forward on the housing problem in the community, he continues, could be addressed through collaboration with Pincher Creek’s neighbours, though not necessarily through government organizations.

“I would like to approach a working arrangement with the local Brethren colonies to build or construct fourplex row housing for all families,” O’Rourke says.

The town’s relationship with the MD is in good shape, though O’Rourke says sharing funding for projects in the community was always a pertinent topic. As well, he identifies the issue of funding available through the provincial government as top of mind for Pincher Creek council.

Naomi Smart

One focus Smart wants to bring to the council table is to ensure council’s efforts result in more small business start ups.

“I think Pincher Creek is a hidden gem with lots to offer,” Smart adds. “It is the gateway to Waterton National Park, and I think this needs to be capitalized upon to draw people into the community.”

Co-operation with community groups, she continues, is one way council could find solutions to housing shortages.

“I think the town and various other service groups can come together and be able to fundraise a housing project,” she says. “I think a study is required to determine which demographic is in most need, and develop a targeted and robust plan to alleviate some of the pressures for that group of people.”

Council’s relationship with the MD, Smart continues, would progress best with mutual understanding.

“If the town doesn’t already have it, I think the creation of an official liaison between the two entities is necessary, with a regularly scheduled presentation of updates, ensuring engagement for both town and MD residents,” she says.

“Open communication will allow for both the town and the MD to better understand the needs of one another. Understanding is the first step to progress,” Smart continues. “There are other MDs that are very successful with their inter-district relations, and it would be a great idea to confer with them on how they’ve achieved their successes.”

As for provincial issues of concern to the town, Smart says the opportunity to serve on council would better help her understand the different situations affecting the community.

“I think it would be premature to identify specific past issues at this point. Once (and if) elected, I will be better able to answer this question,” she says. “Without much research, I would have to say that funding and grant allocation is perhaps of great concern to all towns of similar size.”

Voting details

Advanced voting for the byelection is being held today, Oct. 12, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the town hall (962 St. John Ave.).

The general election day vote for the byelection will also be held at town hall on Oct. 17, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voting stations at the Pincher Creek Health Centre, Vista Village, Crestview Lodge and Whispering Winds Village will be available only on Oct. 17.

Residents will be required to show identification establishing their name and current address within the municipal limits of the town of Pincher Creek, such as a driver’s licence, recent utility bill or tax assessment report.

To be eligible, voters must be 18 years or older and a Canadian citizen, having resided in Alberta for the past six months preceding election day.

Residents with questions are encouraged to contact the returning officer Laurie Wilgosh at 403-627-3156.