Mayoral candidates square off at forum
The five contenders for the mayor’s job shared part of their vision for Red Deer at a short forum hosted at the Golden Circle on Wednesday.
Mayor hopefuls — William Horn, Cindy Jefferies, Chad Mason, Dennis Trepanier and Tara Veer — followed the crowded field of council candidates answering one question either about the arts, recreation fees, a 50-metre pool, transportation, crime or poverty.
Veer said she has a solid track record with three terms on council and has consistently demonstrated herself as an industrious worker who is passionate about Red Deer.
Veer said there are some steps to take to move forward or to resolve the question of the need for a 50-metre pool in Red Deer. She suggested exploring the existing Michener Centre site, reviewing the aquatic centre vision and proposed a scaled back version of the project.
“As mayor, I would not be willing to fully debt finance the entire project but would work with our community for federal and provincial corporate sponsorship and community fundraising,” said Veer. “We could, of course, take on a municipal portion of the $50 million, but I fully believe we could establish a capital projects reserve.”
Jefferies shared some of her platform including improving transit, working with private sector investors to re-develop Riverlands and Railyards areas, and improving city amenities. She told the roughly 200 people that she is a leader with the courage to move this city forward.
Jefferies drew the question –– should user fees be set so that recreation facilities pay their way? Jefferies said recreation facilities serve a greater good and everyone benefits when people pursue recreation.
“I feel equitable access is critical,” Jefferies. “Access fees are prohibitive for some people at every level. It’s important to have programs that make access to recreation possible for all.”
Trepanier, a project manager, used his opening statements to highlight the “wanton wasteful spending of the last nine years” giving the bike lanes as an example.
In answering his question about the city’s role in supporting the arts, Trepanier said he would demand from anything, including the arts, a proper business analysis.
“No more tax increases,” promised Trepanier. “Trend down. That’s what I stand for. No more debt.”
Answering the same question on supporting the arts, Horn said Red Deer has many directions to go to promote the arts. The taxi driver with a masters in business administration suggested Red Deer take a page out of Edmonton’s book and offer its own fringe festival and a Taste of Red Deer. He said working with the Red Deer Museum to appeal to the younger generation would be a good idea.
Horn also talked about the importance of partnering with businesses that are moving out of the city because of the high taxes.
“Tax increases should match the basket of goods –– the cost of living index,” said Horn. “If it doesn’t we’re reaching right into your take home may and taking it from you. To raise taxes four and a half per cent when people get a two per cent raise ... you can’t be doing that.”
Mason touched on the city’s rising debt saying the only way to pay down debt is “to raise more and spend less.”
He also questioned the role of government.
“We can elect an intrusive government that actively tries to manipulate how people live their lives,” he said. “I don’t think the bike lanes were needed. We’re not a big enough city... I really think we need to have a hands-off government that recognizes that certain investments must be made but leave the people to live their lives the way they see fit.”
The next mayoral candidate forum takes place tonight at the downtown branch of the Red Deer Public Library starting at 7 p.m.