Lloydminster’s eighteen council candidates gathered to talk plans for the city to best to flow through the next four years.
While the October 19th Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce Forum had to go virtual due to COVID-19, presenters still got to share ideas ranging from tax cuts, health care improvements, emergency services to things like expanding the city borders or mandatory masking. Many candidates also expressed that while the next four years would be a lot of hard work, they were ready to undertake it.
Despite several candidates speaking on common ideas like diversifying the economy, fiscal responsibility and enhanced healthcare services, some candidates got to answer certain specific questions from residents and not others. This was due to a 30 second time limit on answers, and a shuffling of answering candidates to allow for more questions to be asked.
Mental Health, COVID-19 and Healthcare focus for candidates
Several questions were brought up to candidates about healthcare, and the unique challenges faced by Lloydminster as a Bi-Provincial community.
Charles Balenga stated that he would be interested in making the system more adequate for all residents. Sandy Barrett says she would like to work to streamline the process from both provinces, making it into one cohesive unit and that more healthcare staff of all stripes were needed.
Lorelee Marin stated that the bi-provincial nature of the City is complex, and while she would work towards having community recommendations in place, residents should also express their concerns to provincial representatives. Aftab Arif called on more funding and resources from both provinces, so that people could receive all services here instead of having to be transferred to Edmonton or Saskatoon.
Mental health was also in the spotlight, with some candidates being asked about how they would seek to enhance programming and break the stigma surrounding mental health and addictions.
Jason Whiting and Johnathan Torresan said that while it is the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s job to provide all health services, they would advocate for more funding and support for Family and Community Support Services. Bill King said he would also work to bolster non-profits, as mental health is in everyone’s view due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s impact on mental health.
The only candidate of the ones asked who called on a City-funded mental health service was Aftab Arif, who reiterated that he would like to bring in a free program, working with Lakeland College.
Candidates were all asked whether they’d bring in a mandatory mask policy within the city. Most said they would not, saying it would difficult to enforce as a city bylaw and would wait for Saskatchewan Health guidelines before installing a policy.
Differing opinions on annexation, infrastructure priorities
Shawn Davidson and Derek Segberg said more assessment needs to be done, and priorities built from there.
Cheryl Ross, Charles Balenga and Sandy Barrett said the Lloydminster Cultural and Science Centre would on top of their priorities if elected, with Sheldon Weinrauch stating he would also look into a long term plan for the facility. Chris Carnell also said he would look into the costs, but he would like a new fire hall, and perhaps an upgraded outdoor pool as new options for the city.
The topic of the ongoing annexation of land from the County of Vermilion River also came up. Sitting councillors Michael Diachuk and John Torresan said they were in favour of continuing the project to allow for city growth, as the city plans to continue growing population-wise one to two per cent annually. Lorelee Marin also agreed, saying it would be better to continue the process now that it is already ten years in motion, and it will attract further investment in the city. Chris Carnell disagreed, saying more development should be made on existing city land before moving into more.
Candidates were also asked if they would support a highway bypass around Lloydminster, with most candidates saying no, with the exception of Bill King and Sandy Barrett. Some candidates, including also spoke about plans to revitalize both driving and walking paths on Highways 16 & 17, saying they’d be in favour of expansion and building more sidewalks in this area.
Candidates answer questions on policing
Throughout the night, candidates were asked if they would be in favour of an Alberta Police Force, something that has been discussed at the Alberta provincial level. They were also speculating on what that could mean for our bi-provincial community. Sitting Councillor Glenn Fagnan said that he would be in favour of looking at it as a possibility for a more direct and “intimate” approach, but says he would not like to lose out on national resources the RCMP can provide.
Most other candidates said while they would look at the possibility, they were happy with the RCMP’s services, and candidates like Rhiannon Greening, Darrell Dunn and Satish Patel said that it needs more funding and support from the community.
Emergency services to the north end of the city were looked at as well, with Whiting and Greening saying different emergency routes to these areas are a possibility.
Reviews of city services, tax cuts and city use of funds discussed
Candidates were asked whether they supported tax cuts in the interest of attracting and keeping businesses in the community. Aftab Arif said he was in favour for both of these reasons. Jason Whiting said he could not promise this, nor could any council coming in, with Michael Diachuk saying residents would need to consider what they would want to give up to make it happen. He adds that the city’s revenue of land sales, which brought in an estimated 4 to 5 million, don’t supplement these lower taxes anymore. Councillor Buckingham agreed, saying also that giving breaks to certain businesses over others is unfair.
There was also a question about cutting the salaries of city workers and staff. Torresan says they have done government audits of all salaries and found them to be in line with other municipalities, candidates Segberg, Davidson and Carnell said they would look to perform yearly audits, and if it is in the best interest of the city, to cut wages. Carnell was the only one to state an exact cut for councillors, ten per cent.
Among other topics dicussed were the pros and cons of public transportation, expansion of community parks like Bud Miller, Jaycee Park and Martin Browne, downtown revitilzation, green possibilities for Lloydminster and different changes to Lloydminster’s administration to streamline projects and plans headed to council. The full debate can be viewed on the Maz Entertainment YouTube Channel.
Who will make up the next six-seat Lloydminster Council will be decided by voters on November 9th. Advanced polling begins on the 24th of October.
2020 Lloydminster City Council Candidates