Issues ranging from bolstering the local business tax base to hiking transparency within City council surfaced during a candidates’ forum held Thursday evening at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.
Hosted by the Lacombe & District Chamber of Commerce, the forum included incumbent City Councillor Peter Bouwsema and Grant Creasey who are both running for the mayor’s office, plus council candidates incumbent Wayne Armishaw, Sandy (Pepper) Douglas, Don Gullekson, Thalia Hibbs, Cora Hoekstra, Jonathan Jacobson, incumbent Reuben Konnik, incumbent Bill McQuesten, incumbent Wayne Rempel, Chris Ross and Joyce M. Smith.
Bouwsema said that community service started off with him at a young age, and that he has learned the value of strong leadership and the importance of moving Lacombe forward with good leaders and citizens alike.
“My campaign platform centres on the slogan ‘moving forward together’. This truly is a reflection of what I stand for, and how I wish the best for the City of Lacombe,” he said, adding that council’s work includes the involvement of the community as a whole. He also emphasized the building of Lacombe’s business tax base.
“We have relied far too heavily on our residential tax base for the monies needed to operate our municipality,” he said.
Creasey said he is confident that he has the skills and experience necessary for a long-lasting and positive effect on the City.
“I want to do my part to ensure that Lacombe is a positive experience for future generations as it was for me growing up,” he said, adding he has served on council already and it was a pleasure to serve and interact with citizens.
“My promise is this – as your mayor I will focus my full time efforts on ensuring your City government provides a family-friendly community that is responsive, responsible and financially sustainable.
“Respecting democracy requires the public to participate,” he said, adding that transparency and accountability are at the core of his campaign. Creasey supports a blind voting system in council, where results are shown after all votes on an issue have been cast.
“Council chambers are no place for follow the leader.”
McQuesten pointed out that great communities require great leaders. “We need leaders with vision as well as the dedication to get the job done,” he said, adding that he has been involved in many developments in the City over the years including the ongoing development on the City’s west area.
“I was the first chair of the North Red Deer Water Services Commission,” he said, adding that it’s a contribution to the community that he’s personally very proud of as well. McQuesten also served as the City’s mayor from 2001 to 2004.
“I also believe in supporting our seniors – those who have contributed to our community and have the right to a safe and caring retirement,” he said, adding he’s also served on the Lacombe Foundation board.
Chris Ross said he would exercise positive, future economic development both in the short and long term by creating an aggressive marketing strategy, “To clearly convey that the City of Lacombe is open for business.
“I will work to build and establish relationships with developers, and commercial and residential realtors to promote positive commercial, residential and industrial growth.”
Ross said he’s a big supporter of local non-profits, too. “I will fully support our strong community organizations such as FCSS, Parent Link, Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Youth Unlimited which contribute in so many ways to youth and families in a time of need.”
Hoekstra said she’s been an active volunteer in Lacombe, and has sat on a number of boards through the years and for the past 10 years has helped to organize the Lacombe Community Christmas dinner.
“Young families have shared with me that they are concerned that taxes will affect their family budget. Seniors, who were instrumental in building this community, want more retail opportunities that meet their needs. I’ve heard people say that we need to make it easier to do business in Lacombe. If that means cutting red tape, we should cut it.
“I think we should continue to explore ways to make the downtown more attractive to consumers, in order to keep it healthy we need a plan to support and keep those local businesses,” she said, adding she also believes council should be more visible and available
Jonathan Jacobson said that it’s important to think outside of the box in terms of how to tackle issues, in particular within development. He has said that he would like to deal with local non-performing real estate assets as he has expertise in that area, as he is a real estate developer as well.
He has also served on the police commission with two years as chair.
“We start to build a reputation that thinks outside of the box – that is willing to work with people who want to be here, who want to contribute.” Jacobson said his true passion is for building communities.
“My campaign slogan is a fresh approach.”
Hibbs said some of the pillars of her campaign include empowering residents to receive the information in a way that helps them understand what’s going on as to be part of the local decision-making process.
“I’d also like to see agenda packages be published sooner so that you have more time to ask questions,” she said, adding meetings should be live-streamed and there should be open mics at all meetings as well.
“Dollars and common sense are a huge pillar – our last property tax bills tell us so. Our increase was much higher than almost every other municipality nearby,” she said, adding that the local debt load had become problematic as well.
Don Gullekson said that part of maintaining the local lifestyle is about being safe and secure in your own community.
“I’m a big supporter of our police service, and in the last few weeks I’ve heard many positive testimonials about the great service from our police department,” he said.”I hope to have the opportunity to work with them to even improve their services to our citizens,” he said.
Gullekson added with west side development come ways to promote Lacombe like never before.
He said one untapped market is the growing Gull Lake community, for example. “We need to check with our local businesses before going elsewhere as well.”
Joyce Smith said that she is an advocate for seniors, and pointed out that she feels seniors aren’t paid much attention to in general across several community lines. Housing is a big issue too. Smith does have some political experience as well, having served as mayor of Caroline in the 1980s.
Rempel said he’s excited about the future of Lacombe. “I’m not going to talk about what I’m going to do – I want to talk about what we are going to do. I believe in making decisions based on what we as a community need, not what I think we need.
“How do I find out what our needs are? I listen to you,” he said, adding that Lacombe has much to be proud of including landing some pretty impressive designations over the years.
“My platform is based on wanting to see improvement in what we have, and what we can build and expand on with the great City we already are.
“I’ll respect your thoughts and wishes. We may not always agree on an issue, but I’ll listen to your comments and concerns and always make an informed decision that will be in the best interest of our community.”
Douglas pointed out that he cares very much about all aspects of the community. “There are many matters to consider – each of them important. Today, I need to point out that I believe a designation of property must be made as soon as the newly elected council is established; an officially sanctioned designation to preserve the use of that property for community purposes which would result in economic benefit for Lacombe.
“The most precious property is that of the City’s maintenance shop and compound. In the event that shop is ever relocated, than that property needs to be utilized exclusively for sport facilities,” he explained, adding that he is concerned about growing a number of amenities as well that would tap into other areas as well
Armishaw said that he is prepared for council meetings.
“I connect effectively and consistently with the public and keep an open mind listening to what you say. I believe in the important of working together with council and the administration and the public to achieve plans, sustainable improvements and growth for all aspects of our City.”
Konnik said that face to face talks with prospective businesses is a vital means of attracting new companies to Lacombe.
“If we are going to be sending people across this country, let’s be sending them to the headquarters of Wal-mart in Mississauga, Ontario and tell them why they need to come to Lacombe.” Another example might be Canadian Tire.
“We can tell them why Lacombe is a great place to do business,” he said. “It would show them that we mean business, and that we should be taken seriously.”
Konnik also pointed out that he is fiscally responsible, and questions things that seem unnecessary to him in the community like the BOLT transit system which he said is an overly costly investment when one considers its usage.
Election day is Oct. 16th.