With election day fast approaching, voters are narrowing down their decision on who to cast their ballots for.
To help with that decision, Lacombe Chamber of Commerce held its all candidates forum in which all 11 council candidates, including the two mayoral candidates, had a chance to outline their platforms and answer questions from the packed floor of the Lacombe Memorial Centre on Oct. 16.
Growth, particularly in commercial sector, was probably the biggest theme to arise out of Wednesday night’s question period.
Candidates answered queries to share their strategies on attracting new businesses, sharing specific methods to grow commercially and even voice their thoughts on why Lacombe has had so much trouble doing so in the past.
Candidate Reuben Konnik, who has already served one term as councillor, shared his thoughts that City council needs to try a new approach to attracting businesses. He said that efforts so far have not been very successful.
“Maybe we need to sweeten the pot a little bit,” said Konnik.
Mayoral candidate Grant Creasey, who has served as councillor for the last term, said that a large part of Lacombe’s problem is the long-lasting effects of the READY program.
Creasey said it has scared away a lot of development outfits.
“It’s going to take time to rebuild that trust,” said Creasey. “I think it’s perfectly clear why we have this dark cloud for business over Lacombe.”
Candidate Bill McQuesten, who has served on past councils in Lacombe as both mayor and councillor said that work needs to be done regarding Lacombe’s development bylaws.
“One of the things that has to be addressed is to streamline those bylaws to make it easier for developers,” said McQuesten. “That is pivotal.”
Candidate Peter Bouwsema, who has served the last term on council, said that the City needs to work on its marketing and by promoting Lacombe as a whole so more businesses will come here.
“We need to maximize our promotion and marketing of our community,” said Bouwsema.
Mayoral candidate and incumbent Steve Christie said that the City is already working on attracting new businesses to Lacombe and meets with developers almost daily.
“It amazes me that people think that we don’t try to attract business,” said Christie. “If you think we aren’t already doing that, you’re wrong.”
Another theme to emerge from the question period was financial responsibility. Candidates fielded questions regarding what made them good financial stewards and how they would make prudent spending decisions.
Candidate William (Sandy) Douglas said that his own personal experience has taught him a lot about how to manage finances.
“I have had successes in my life financially and I definitely have had financial failures,” said Douglas. “Therefore I certainly have experience and I am very conscious and aware.”
Candidate Chris Ross spoke of how Lacombe needs to shift the burden of its tax base off of residents and said the way to do that is to grow Lacombe’s commercial tax base.
“We’re going to have to spend money before we can make money,” said Ross. “It’s time to spend money on infrastructure to enhance (the notion) that we are ready for business.”
Candidate Wayne Armishaw, who served on council during the Klein years when there were a lot of budget cuts being made, said that taught him a lot about how to make things work when times were tough financially.
“All of the municipalities including Lacombe had to adjust their visions to make up for the shortfall,” said Armishaw.
Candidate Wayne Rempel, who has already served two terms as councillor, said that a lesson his father taught him has never steered him wrong when making business decisions and helped him to understand how the flow of money works.
“My father told me when I was young that the pipe coming in has to be bigger than the pipe going out,” said Rempel.
City administration and its relationship with council is also a topic that received some attention and candidates were asked if they planned to run the City like a business or listen to administration.
Candidate Grant Harder said that the City is a corporation and needs to be run as such, but that doesn’t mean there cannot be any cooperation between council and administration. He added that he said there has been a lot of ‘bashing’ of administration of late that he does not agree with.
“If administration isn’t doing the job, it’s because council isn’t providing them with the proper direction,” said Harder. “You don’t fire the employees because the department head isn’t doing their job.”
Candidate Lisa Joy agreed that council has a responsibility to listen to administration, but added that administration also has a responsibility to provide the right recommendations to council and heed their directions.
“When it comes to administration it’s a two-way street,” said Joy.