Voters got more information on council candidates during a local forum on Monday as the municipal election is right around the corner.
The Chamber of Commerce invited all 18 city council candidates to the Lloyd Exh for a virtual forum.
In a change from recent years, the event was a live stream on the Chamber’s website and social media platforms with residents sending in their questions for the candidates.
All candidates had two minutes for opening remark, then answered a wide range of questions sent in, and finally, closed out the forum leading to the election on November 9th.
The candidates were asked a wide array of questions touching on topics such as mandatory masks, Lloyd specific healthcare, tax cuts, emergency services, city expansion and economic development.
The question period shuffled between all candidates speaking on certain topics, residents choosing specific candidates or candidates being chosen at random.
Each candidate was given a 30 second time limit in order to allow for more questions to be asked.
Out of the 18 candidates, the election features four incumbents with two previous council members, Stephanie Munro and Ken Baker, choosing not to run for a second term.
To kick off the question period, a resident inquired on the thoughts behind tax cuts for business owners.
Aftab Arif answered by noting cuts are the biggest incentives you can give to small businesses in Lloyd.
“If these don’t come in to play, a lot of businesses would leave. We would also discourage more businesses from moving into town,” said Arif.
In favour of this decision, Jason Whiting stated the City would have to look at if that was the best game plan for the business community.
“It would never be off the table but it’s something I could never promise nor do I think any council member could ensure that’s something they can pass through easily,” stated Whiting.
Incumbent Michael Diachuk spoke on having no other place to receive funds besides taxation.
“We’re still in the bottom third to middle and if we were to do more cuts to the budget the question would be “what are people prepared to give up?”,” said Diachuk.
Hearing residents speak on wanting tax breaks for specific businesses, Incumbent Aaron Buckingham notes the legal proceedings involved with the process.
“You can set the tax rate within the City but, in my opinion, you can’t give a special break to someone,” said Buckingham. “Because, where do you stop?”
A topic that has echoed around the border markers made it’s way to the forum as candidates brought up their feelings on keeping funds local.
Dean Segberg said local companies must make sure tenders are done properly because the New West Trade Partnership ensures the City can’t push local.
In french, Charles Balenga stated, “charity that is in the best order begins at home.” His focus will be on beautifying Lloyd as opposed to focusing on outside the border.
“I think city dollars should be best spent at home. Share if we have extra but let’s focus on our own people first,” said Balenga.
Incumbent Jonathan Torresan believes there are many things that can be done for economic development including promoting the community and reaching out to find new opportunities for existing businesses.
Moving over to the City’s pockets, Chris Carnell wants to take a look at current expenditures and see what can be cut to reduce taxes for residents.
“People work best when they have money in their pockets,” said Carnell.
He adds wanting to invest in better internet in the community which includes getting fibre optics in every neighbourhood.
When asked about their downtown vision, both Buckingham and Lorelee Marin spoke on not shelving the Downtown Redevelopment Plan released this year.
Buckingham stated a lot of money and effort will be needed, he asked if that’s a priority for the community.
Marin focused on connecting with the community to see what they want to be done.
“We have wonderful downtowns that we can learn from in Vermilion and Wainwright,” expressed Marin.
Having worked in the downtown core, Rhiannon Greening believes investing there is an investment in economic development, entrepreneurs and small businesses.
A growth study conducted estimated the City will grow to around 60,000 people within 35 years.
This has prompted past councils to look at the options for city expansion, which includes annexation of land.
With the process in the works for around 10 years, Diachuk said it creates outside interest showing the City has a plan moving forward.
Carnell wasn’t against annexation in the future but believes the City needs to develop existing land before expanding.
The need for public transportation has been brought up to council in the past, in which the funds were unavailable at the time.
When asked his thoughts on, incumbent Glenn Fagnan said it is needed.
“I think we need a “made in Lloydminster transit” by utilizing used buses, such as small 24 passenger buses. There are different models out there, and we need to discuss utilizing Ubers or other means,” said Fagnan.
Marin said the lack of transit creates a barrier for those seeking health services.
“I think we need to be creative and make sure the policies at City Hall enable and promote innovation in every area,” added Marin.
After commending the RCMP’s work in the community, Fagnan said he would like to explore the Alberta police.
“I think the RCMP are on a national basis and it would be more intimate to have the Alberta Police. We would lose big resources that you have with the RCMP so that would be a costly thing when you have major investigations,” expressed Fagnan.
Sheldon Weinrauch believes the RCMP is a “much-needed chunk of our tax dollars”.
Using the School Resource Officers as an example, Carnell doesn’t want to ruin the engagement between the RCMP and the community.
Satish Patel, who is a liquor store owner, said his experiences had made him realize the importance of more police.
“I think we need to open a small RCMP force on the southside,” said Patel.
Speaking on traffic flow on 50th Avenue, Carnell said it’s annoying but backed up traffic isn’t always a bad thing.
“It means there is a lot of traffic in our City, a lot of attraction to our businesses. I would look at getting some more advanced arrows on some of the side streets just so you’re not sitting there waiting as long,” stated Carnell.
Torresan would continue on the City’s path in budgeting for an advanced lighting system.
“It’s a little more automated than the existing systems. One thing we have to keep in mind that on Highway 17 it has been gazetted that one day there will be a bypass. All the traffic will be going north and south of the City and would day it will need to be twinned,” said Torresan.
Within City Hall
In the last few years, the City had reviewed the positions and salaries of city staff as requested by a government audit that council approved in 2017, according to Torresan.
“It found that they’re in line with the industries that the municipality would serve. It also includes an RCMP contract increase which is the biggest parts of that,” said Torresan.
Carnell noted the difficulty in the question as the City is where it needs to be within with those services.
Understanding what it’s like to take a pay cut, Carnell stated he would like to see the councillors pay reduced by 10 per cent.
In support of a review, Shawn Davidson explained the difficult decision surrounding wage cuts.
“It’s not a popular decision, but it’s never popular to take someone’s wage away. We’re here for the betterment of the City, not for our own pocket,” said Davidson.
Echoing Davidson’s comments, Segberg was in agreeance with the review mentioning it should be done on a yearly basis.
A few candidates were also asked if they would implement a maintenance department review to ensure the efficiency of the crews.
Patel was short and sweet with his answer agreeing on the review, which was a similar sentiment amongst most candidates.
Marin believes particular concerns should be addressed to the maintenance foreman.
“As a city councillor, the maintenance staff don’t answer to us. We would want to make sure we were listening to the community and talking with the City Manager to see if there are any concerns that need to be addressed,” said Marin.
Based on witnessing presentations made during council, Darrell Dunn said it seems maintenance staff are aware of what’s efficient or not.
“Can it be improved? It can always be improved, but we got good people working for the City,” expressed Dunn.
Hearing from residents wondering how the flow within administration works, Fagnan said he has inquired city managers about this many times throughout his last term.
“The flow is very important and I think we have to keep looking at that on a regular basis and I think the administration does. I think some of them feel we’re short on staff on the management side,” said Fagnan.
Bill King believes the review is necessary to reveal all the strengths and weaknesses as well as if it needs to be tweaked.
Lloydminster Health Care
Being a bi-provincial City, residents have noted difficulties in healthcare on both sides of Lloydminster.
A few candidates were asked their views on a “made for Lloydminster” health care plan.
As a health care aide, Sandy Barrett mentioned this is an ongoing conversation among a variety of health care professionals.
“We’re wanting one cohesive unit in Lloydminster. We should have the exception of Lloydminster having its own healthcare,” said Barrett.
Without information on a potential City-specific health care plan, Cheryl Ross believes Lloydminster is doing well with what is available. With partnerships in place, she said they’re looking after the needs of the city’s health care.
Mentioning the complex nature of the bi-provincial agreement, Marin looks towards the community cooperation in advocating for improved health services.
Moving around the table of candidates, most were against mandating masks at the municipal level unless advised by Saskatchewan.
Carnell rallied behind supporting masks if it prevents another economic shutdown. He commends businesses for enforcing their own policies.
“Why should we put employees in a position of enforcing city bylaws?” said Carnell.
With new information coming out about COVID-19 coming out every day, Diachuk said there is a lot of confusion surrounding the importance of masks.
“I wear one, I’m immunocompromised with asthma. I would encourage everyone to wear one and if you don’t want to wear one that’s your personal choice but if you’re against it, the next time you have surgery tell your doctors ‘don’t wear one, it’s okay’,” said Diachuk.
Marin noted the need to follow the public health orders to protect the city’s most vulnerable such as seniors. She advised looking at what other communities are doing such as Lethbridge
Continuing to follow the guidance of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Torresan said thecity’s role is advocacy when it comes to mental health.
“I don’t believe the City should be providing health care services. Residents pay enough personal and corporate tax as it is at different levels of government,” stated Torresan.
Aftab Arif wants to create a program at Lakeland College funded by the city focusing on mental health among the younger generation.
Noting the issue being “near and dear to his heart” he brought up a study conducted by Stats Canada showing the majority of youth struggling with the issue.
King was for backing non-profits to bolster help for individuals affected, especially surrounding COVID-19.
“We’re going to see a lot more problems coming in front of us this year,” said King.
Other questions brought up at the forum include thoughts on improving Bud Miller, Highway 17 sidewalks, Lloyd Charter revision and handling drug trafficking in the Lloydminster.
The full 2020 Municipal Election All Candidates Forum can be viewed on the Chamber’s website.
Advanced polling for the November 9th election begins this Saturday.