Working on inclusivity, re-building the economy and housing are among the focuses of Charles Balenga’s City Council run.
Balenga currently runs Lloydminster’s Christian Immigrant Support Services, an organization which helps newcomers to Canada and the Lloydminster area get settled in. He has also been active in bringing representation of Black History Month to the Border City Community.
Before moving to his wife’s hometown of Lloydminster and starting a family, Balenga was President of the Edmonton Africa Centre, doing similar work helping immigrant communities transition to life in Canada. He is also a first-generation immigrant himself, moving to Canada from Congo in 1996.
Balenga says as a councillor would seek to build relationships between immigrants and non-immigrants in the Lloydminster community, and create ways to learn from each others cultures.
“I want to see that everyone here really calls Lloydminster home. Everybody is proud of their community. So I want to see how I can contribute in bringing the immigrant population also to get involved, to love their city, there’s so much to love in this city. So that is, I think, one of the strengths I’m bringing to city council.”
Candidates in this year’s election will be looking at ways to boost the Lloydminster economy, which has faced challenges due to issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and slumping oil prices. Balenga says he understands the vast impacts the oil industry has on the Lloydminster community, and he believes that the next council will have to work collectively on several levels to rebuild.
“The federal government is already doing something to help municipalites, the province is doing something to help municipalites, but the municipality itself of Lloydminster, we need to bring the financial people, [and] those who are in the oil industry, really hear them, and work with them, see what they need from the City Council to be able to help them boost the economy again.”
Balenga also would like to see a rise in housing starts in the community. He explains that when Lloydminster’s economy is up, there will need to be places for people to live when they come to Lloydminster, either to work or settle permanently.
“I still remember about five, six years ago, when it was very hard to find even a place to rent here, because the economy was so booming that every single apartment was taken. So we want to go back to that place, but also building more places so that we have enough accommodation for those looking for it.”
Balenga is one of 18 candidates for the six-seat Lloydminster City Council. Voters will be able to watch the candidates debate online on October 19th and will go to the polls on November 9th.