The Lacombe Chamber of Commerce hosted an online municipal election forum Sept. 29 for the candidates of the City of Lacombe.
Wayne Armishaw, Thalia Hibbs, Jonathan Jacobson, Reuben Konnik, Scott Dallas, Chris Ross, Don Gullekson and Cora Hoekstra were in attendance to introduce themselves and answer questions from the community.
The two and half hour forum covered a range of topics including the future of the fire department, how to attract investors and businesses and green initiatives.
One of the main concerns that came up right away was bylaw 468 (Community Standards bylaw).
Candidates were asked if they felt the Community Standards bylaw, which covers light and noise pollution, property maintenance, garage sales, littering, vehicle idling, graffiti and littering, should remain complaint driven or if it should become more of a proactive enforcement bylaw.
“Reviewing it, I felt the bylaw was quite strong and I think the issue is enforcement and not the law itself,” Gullekson said. “I’d like to see our bylaw be more proactive and I think there are more steps that need to be taken for the next summer season, for a part time bylaw officer in Lacombe.”
“Enforcement in some cases is held up by the fact that in some areas of the bylaw it is too vague and not easily enforceable,” said Hibbs, pointing out that council did make some changes to the bylaw earlier in the term. She said although she supports those changes but now that she has seen the bylaw in action, there may be some changes that need to be made.
“I would say we need a hybrid approach. When they call in, it is responded to but we also need to be a bit more proactive. It can’t just be on officers themselves needs to be taken on by all city employees. I would like to see further changes where we can button it up a bit tighter, for residents and bylaw officers so we are all on a level playing field and so that it feels fair,” said Hibbs.
Another question touched on the possibility of council speeding up business development as they have been doing for businesses during COVID for things such as patios.
“We’ve said from the beginning that we are open for business and we must do what we can to increase business,” said Konnik. “So whatever we can do to increase permit approval, for sure but we always have to be cognitive that there are steps we have to follow and that the process works in all aspects. I don’t see why we cant refocus our energies and see the permits are approved in a timely fashion.”
Questions around the provincial health system and COVID also came up, but council pointed out that on a municipal level there isn’t much they can do.
“In previous provincial election a number of doctors were trying to highlight how the hospital there was not serving the area well. The pandemic is putting a magnifying glass on problems that already existed. It’s unfortunate and it has to be dealt with by our provincial leader,” said Hoekstra.
“(With) health care being provincial it makes it a bit difficult for municipal government to have an impact but we can show leadership to our community on this,” said Hibbs adding that council needs to and will continue to advocate for both health centres in the city.
Later in the forum the subject of the BOLT Transit system was addressed.
Konnik said that he was on council when the BOLT system was brought in and he was one of the two council members against it.
“I support public transportation but there is a time and place for it and I felt that at that time the community needs to grow more, to make it financially viable,” he said. “I think it’s something to look at far into the future. Ten, 15 or 20 years down the road.”
“That was one of those nights and evenings you know you’ve affected those in need and you’ve affected those who used the service but you also have to look statistically,” said Ross, mentioning the night council decided to end the BOLT system.
The BOLT system cost about $250,000 a year and Ross says the cost, ridership and length of route just didn’t work.
Candidates were also able to elaborate on council’s plan to continue engaging the community of Lacombe and it’s member using social media and changing council procedures.
“It’s always about engagement. We’ve also changed structure within council, new to this term allowing people to speak at beginning of council. Made ourselves available at farmer’s markets. We honestly do make every effort to be open to information.”
“I find it to be an excellent platform to engage with the community. There has been a big change over the course of the term. Council has had a much stronger online presence are able to meet people where they are, and people are engaging on social media because of the way our COVID world is. I would like to expand that and go even further,” said Hibbs. “That all being said, it is important that we don’t forget the traditional methods because not everyone is on social media. We have to make sure we are still doing the face to face meet and greets.”
The future of fire service in Lacombe was also touched on.
A member of the digital crowd asked candidates what they see as the future of fire service, including dual time members and a potential regional fire service.
“It comes down to a matter of cost and use. There is phenomenal use and I think its important that we review if that service is going to be used this frequent and often,” says Dallas, adding that a multi-municipal department might be a viable solution in the future.
“Being purely operated on volunteer basis we are fortunate that we have been able to maintain these volunteers and we’ve been able to add on some paid staff and in the future we should be looking at full time fire fighters as well,” said Armishaw. “There has got to be a revenue source coming from the fire departments in the future. I’m not aware of anyone who currently does it but I am certainly sure the fire department could have a call out charge to insurance companies when they are helping out the victims of their circumstances.”
As the forum wrapped up, candidates were then asked it they see an opportunity to work together with businesses to systematically improve services and make community more attractive for investment.
“The business community is one of those sector’s that has their nose to the ground. When we can talk to them I think it’s largely important, we need to encourage the downtown association and work closer with Chamber to get a sense of what we can do better as a community and council to make that center strong and viable,” said Konnik. “It’s an important facet and we need to reach out as best we can.
“We need to support initiatives and give small business a chance to expand,” says Dallas. “Businesses don’t want to come here and it stems to a lot of different areas. Business isn’t going to come here just because there is low taxes, there are a lot of things at play.”
The forum was recorded and will be posted online on lacombechamber.ca.
Election day will be Oct.18, 2021 from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.
Before election day, citizens will have the opportunity to cast their ballot early on two advance poll days:
Advance Poll #1
Friday, October 1, 2021
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Lacombe Memorial Centre
Advance Poll #2
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
4 p.m.- 8 p.m. at the Lacombe Memorial Centre – 5214 50 Avenue
Additionally, citizens who may require additional accommodation can cast their ballot during a series of institutional votes, provided at several locations:
Institutional Vote (Royal Oak Residents)
Monday, Oct. 18, 2021
9 a.m.–11 a.m.
Royal Oak Village – 4501 College Ave.
Institutional Vote (Lodge Residents)
Monday, Oct. 18, 2021
1 p.m.–3 p.m.
Lacombe Senior Citizen’s Lodge – 4508 C&E Trail
Institutional Vote (Continuing Care Residents)
5 p.m.–7 p.m.
Lacombe Hospital – 5430 47 Avenue
More updates will be provided. Check lacombeexpress.com.