Note: The candidates for Head of Council were given slightly different questions to answer as one was on council for four years and one is new.
Question: Why did you choose to run for Head of Council?
Answer: I had been asked by several people to run for Head of Council and after careful consideration decided to let my name stand. The biggest reason I felt for running was to bring honesty and openness to the office for the entire community.
Question: What attributes/experience do you have that could benefit this role?
Answer: I grew up here attending school in Deloraine, so I am familiar with the area in times of drought and times of flood. I have worked as a Farm Equipment Technician, a customer service representative for a farm equipment manufacturer, Service Manager for a CaseIH Dealership and currently work as an Instructor for Heavy Duty Equipment and Agricultural Equipment Apprenticeship programs at Assiniboine Community College. I have also over the years owned my own herd of cattle here in the Turtle Mountain and operate a repair shop at our farm. I was on the board for Turtle Mountain Bible Camp and subsequently worked with the building committee on the new facility currently under construction (They are hoping to raise another $300,000 by the end of the year to carry on with construction). In all things I do I maintain a high level of integrity with all parties involved.
Question: What do you think are the five biggest challenges faced by the Municipality of Deloraine-Winchester?
Answer: Population decline in rural areas is a plague facing many areas across the country. As farms and equipment get larger less and fewer families are involved on the farming sector. This leaves a void in the small towns as there are fewer farmers to retire to small towns. The average age of rural towns is often quite high, without opportunities to retain and attract younger population the decline of the towns will be accelerated.
Business decline in numbers and selection in the Town is an ongoing challenge. Many local people lament the loss of the “Bargain Store”, and comment that they miss the selection it offered. Part of the problem here is the difficulty of competing in today’s marketplace with an upwardly mobile population. A trip to a larger centre is not the big deal it used to be with the vehicles of today. Further to this online commerce be it shopping, banking or consulting for business it provides competition with convenience that is hard to compete against. One bank has left town, I hope this will help the others remain viable for the mean time.
Property Taxes – property tax rates and methods of calculating these rates can create a huge disadvantage to attracting and retaining residents in the area. In general people understand they need to pay taxes but they also expect value for that money. This is a huge challenge as many costs are increasing for the Municipality to operate, things like hydro rates, fuel costs, and increased regulations on things like water treatment and safety standards all of which are outside of Municipal Control.
The divide in the Community caused by the way in which the prior Council proceeded with an agenda to build the new Community Complex. This one is a powder keg, one which has truly divided the community. We will have to move forward and make the best of this, what’s done is done so to speak. There are some obvious challenges left and one only needs to drive by and try picturing where 350 people would park if there was an at capacity event held in the new hall. I believe Council did us an incredible disservice by putting on their blinders and rushing this plan through, with consultation and input perhaps the community would have come together with better options to benefit a broader cross section of the population. It would appear that an undisclosed part of the agenda will be to put a parking lot where a current commercial property stands. When Council is proposing to spend that kind of money taxpayers should expect far better planning and communication long before the first dollars flow.
Aging infrastructure both public and private that is becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and or replace. Continuous monitoring and maintenance can help to keep what we have in place in as good of condition as possible while providing opportunity to plan for inevitable required replacements. Having an eye on these items will allow us to plan ahead and potentially receive funding from other levels of government by applying far in advance.
Question: What does the Municipality of Deloraine-Winchester look like in 20 years? What has changed? What has improved?
Answer: Wow, looking into the future we could see tremendous change. The whole Municipality could be being farmed by one or two large outfits using autonomous equipment that works 24/7 when the time is right. The future is hard to imagine with the rate at which change is accelerating. I would not be surprised to see local governments forced to amalgamate further and further. It is hard to picture something that would slow the decline of rural populations, although I have wondered about suggesting to realtors to advertise houses on bulletin boards at curling clubs in congested areas of the country to see if we could attract retirees or even professionals to our Municipality. What would be wrong with a lake house and a new curling rink when your house in Toronto sells for enough to have all that and a nice lump of cash to boot? Regardless it will require lots of forward thinking and making the best use of every dollar to help us move forward.
In closing, win or lose I would strongly encourage council to keep the larger community informed of what is going on around the council table. If I am in expect to see at minimum monthly updates in this paper, and digital platforms such as the Municipal Website and Facebook page. Accountability, inclusiveness and openness will be a top priority.