Councillor and reeve candidates speak to the issues at forum
The County of St. Paul all-candidates forum took place on Oct. 9 and offered ratepayers a chance to question candidates up for the position of reeve, and the two divisions being contested in the Oct. 21 election.
Three names have been put forward for the position of reeve, including incumbent Steve Upham, and former PC MLA Ray Danyluk. Also on the ballot is local contractor Ben Dyck.
In Division 4, incumbent Maxine Fodness and Lottie Lake resident Dave Neary have put their names forward, while in Division 5 incumbent Frank Sloan and Owleseye resident Donna Hanson will see their names on the ballot.
The night started with opening statements by each of the candidates.
“I want to see a council that is efficient,” said Neary, as he introduced himself to a Rec. Centre filled with county ratepayers. “If we expect to obtain a different result, we need change,” he added.
Sloan offered his introduction, and the skills that he believes make him capable of doing a good job as councillor, such as teamwork, experience, and leadership.
Fodness briefly went over the responsibilities of municipal governments as she introduced herself.
“Everything we do is determined by the budget,” said Fodness, adding, councillors must spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely.
Hanson told residents that she wants to see a council that is accountable and honest.
The candidates up for reeve then took to the podium.
Danyluk, who is a former PC MLA for the area and has also served as the reeve of the County of St. Paul in the past, clarified at the beginning of his introduction that he will not be letting his name stand as MLA in future provincial elections and is refocusing his efforts.
Dyck said that he believes the county has to “get back to the basics” of road maintenance and get its debt under control.
Upham said that when he was elected in 2010, electors wanted transparency, and he believes the public trust in the county has greatly improved.
The first question to be read to candidates was directed to those up for reeve, and requested clarification on what the responsibilities of a reeve at large are.
Upham was first to speak, explaining that he chairs all meetings, worked closely with the CAO, and drives across the county when required to do so. The reeve is the spokesperson for the county and added that in the past two years his salary has not been more than the previous reeve.
Dyck also took time to respond to the question, and said he supports the reeve at large system because it gives everyone a say in who the elected reeve will be.
Danyluk said that although he served as a reeve elected by council in the past, he believes it’s “absolutely important that the reeve is elected at large.” Having council elect the reeve from amongst themselves can create some political situations that are avoided with the reeve at large system.
The paving of subdivisions in the county was also brought up throughout the forum. Sloan said the paving was done because the quote received by the contractor was “fairly good.”
When asked where the money would come from to fix cracks appearing in the new pavement, Sloan explained that the pavement is under warranty with the contractor and the issues will be looked at.
Dyck responded to the issue also and stated that as a contractor, his knowledge would be helpful on council for these types of situations.
Danyluk said he felt that when it came to road projects, it was important to “take a longer time and do the job right.”
Neary noted that although the paving in the subdivisions is nice to have, the county didn’t really have to do it.
Fodness responded by saying the county was spending $300,000 a year on repairing the same problems in subdivisions, and paving the subdivisions will help free up the county’s workers so they can get other projects done.
“It’s very simple business,” said Upham, adding, he believes in 15 years this will be seen as a very smart decision.
The Wellness Centre was also brought up, and a written question asking why the county only gave $1 million to the project was read.
Upham responded by explaining that it was the previous county council that agreed to the $1 million contribution, and after requesting and being denied a managing partner in the clinic, council decided to stand by the commitment and let the town manage the centre, with no further funding being given.
Upham said he felt the process involved in the construction of the centre “lacked transparency.”
After the candidates up for reeve spoke briefly on the issue, Sloan also made a point to clarify that he did not vote on the issue of the Wellness Centre, since his daughter is a medical physician who might return to the community.
Fodness also spoke and noted that different levels of government have different responsibilities and “medical care belongs with the province.”
A question was also asked regarding whether or not the county would consider hiring a peace officer to enforce bylaws.
Neary spoke first, stating he personally supports the idea of having a peace officer working for the county.
Sloan explained that the issue is something that has been discussed in the past and pegged the idea at costing about $200,000 per year for each peace officer hired. For a county the size of St. Paul, about four officers would be needed.
“I just feel at this time we can’t afford it,” said Sloan.
Hanson recommended that the county should revisit the idea and Fodness also spoke in favour of the idea.
Danyluk cautioned on the cost of having peace officers, saying, “you better be prepared to budget $1 million.”
Dyck said he would prefer to see small communities and subdivisions have community associations instead. And Upham said that as the county’s population increases, it will be inevitable that a peace officer will be needed.
The issue of water in Lottie Lake and Ashmont also arose. Fondness explained to those in attendance of the recent decision for council to request a scope change on the project, which could bring water from St. Paul out to the Ashmont/Lottie Lake areas.
“In this short time, we have water across the county,” said Sloan, regarding work being done with water lines in the county.
Following the question and answer period, candidates offered some closing comments and the event wrapped up.
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