Town candidates take to stage at public forum
The St. Paul Town council hopefuls were put to the test on Oct. 7, at a public forum put on in anticipation of the upcoming municipal election.
Candidates Nathan Taylor, Don Padlesky, Danny White, Norm Noel, Edna Gervais, and Judy Bogdan took to the stage at the Rec. Centre to introduce themselves, and their own unique goals, and visions for the town. Candidate Ken Kwiatkowski did not participate.
At the beginning of the forum, for the opening remarks, candidates described their professional backgrounds. In the case of Padlesky, Noel, and White, they additionally spoke of their past achievements as town councillors.
Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce themselves, and give the audience a feel for who they are, what they feel is important, and why they’d make a good town councillor.
After the opening remarks, a question period was opened. The audience was permitted to ask questions orally or have them delivered to a speaker in written format to be asked aloud.
The questions from the audience tackled relevant issues that the town faces. The first, and one of the most challenging questions, was asked by Paul E. Boisvert, and was on the issue of transparency.
He remarked that he gave the town council a “failing mark” on communication and asked what they would do to improve communication between the town and town council.
Noel responded that he’d already begun to tackle the issue, referring to an extensive social media campaign he uses to get in touch with the community. He encouraged strong communication between himself and the community through means such as Facebook and Twitter.
White suggested that anyone curious refer to the town’s website, town office publications, read the available minutes from town council meetings, and if possible, that people attend council meetings themselves.
Padlesky mentioned that he goes door to door, trying to keep lines of communication as open as possible between council and the town. “I like the one-on-one,” said Padlesky, describing his door-to-door efforts.
Taylor suggested a way to keep the public informed on what goes on in council would be to live stream the meetings on the internet so that people can watch at the time, or at a later date. He cited its usefulness, referring to Smoky Lake’s use of such a method of transparency when he was a member of the Smoky Lake Town Council.
Another topic of interest was that of the Chamber of Commerce. A written question asked candidates how they would work with, and support the chamber, as councillors.
White explained that he wants to encourage further involvement and support from the town to the chamber, saying that businesses need to be made aware of what’s going on with the chamber, and what benefits membership entails, also mentioning the importance of a viable success plan.
Bogdan plans to attend the chamber meetings, trying to get everyone’s point of view on the matter.
Gervais explained that she, being a member of the chamber, understands the benefits it offers, and that the biggest issue facing the chamber is the lack of communication going on.
Another issue voiced was that of an alternate route for trucks so that heavy traffic wouldn’t have to go through main street. Candidates each considered and discussed the potential costs and benefits of the various approaches to the issue.
Noel’s response was to say that an effort would need to be made in conjunction with the county, and province to handle such an issue.
Taylor warned that diverting the truck route by making another road may affect St. Paul’s status as a service center, saying, “We need to make sure (St. Paul) doesn’t become a drive-around town.”
Other issues discussed at the forum included Medevac, and council’s response to the issue, strategies to attract and keep residents to the town, the town’s views on liquor stores, pawnshops, the budget for the Wellness Centre, the necessity of financial risks, and waste management.
Candidates explained their views, their responses, and strategies they would use to deal with all the associated issues, if elected to council.
At the end of the question period, candidates were each allowed a brief rebuttal to conclude their message to guests, and add anything they thought was important before the conclusion of the meeting.
The guest response to the forum was generally very positive. Dennis Bergheim, one of the guests with a question about an alternate trucking route, said, “It was good, and it was interesting today. The candidates presented themselves well, and it’s nice to see there’s interest in municipal politics.”
“I think it was okay - I came to meet the new candidates and hear them speak their piece. I think there should have been more people here,” said Terry Senecal, another guest at the forum.
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