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Red Deer byelection candidates face off in forum

The 10 candidates in Red Deer’s upcoming byelection are seated while moderator Reg Warkentin speaks during a forum at the Golden Circle on Monday. About 300 people attended the event. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Supporting businesses and making the community safer were two of the topics council candidates discussed during the first and only public forum for the upcoming byelection.

All 10 candidates vying for a vacant seat on Red Deer city council took part in the forum at the Golden Circle on Monday. About 300 people attended the event, which was co-hosted by the Golden Circle, Red Deer Construction Association, BILD, and the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.

Hans Huizing said he believes small businesses are the backbone of any strong economy.

“We need to start looking and focusing on ways to get those mom-and-pop stores back up and running,” Huizing said.

“We need to improve the infrastructure for the online world, so single-person businesses can connect with not just the people of Red Deer, but the entire world.”

Mark Collings suggested Red Deer’s economy would benefit from increased tourism.

“That will create a huge increase in income for the city and businesses of the city. I don’t think it’s rocket science, but it does take a strong community to get behind it. … Engaging the community is the strongest step forward in making that change,” said Collings.

Linda Cullen-Saik said people will be inspired to come to Red Deer to start small businesses as long as taxes and rent costs are kept reasonable.

Chad Krahn said he wants to see more houses being built in Red Deer.

“If elected, within 90 days I’ll be bringing forward a notice of motion for the city to review all of the ways we interact with businesses and builders … to get more houses built,” he said.

Jaelene Tweedle said that good social policy in the city will support the economy.

“When we’re looking to attract new businesses here, big companies, they need to know they’re bringing their workers somewhere with a high value of life and where there’s housing. We have a shortage of housing right now. Everything has to be done together in order to spur the economy,” said Tweedle.

Buck Buchanan said he recently spoke with retired business people about getting a local business incubator going. He added that tackling safety issues is important to attract businesses to the city.

Jason Chilibeck remarked it’s important to create strong communities within the city so Red Deerians can feel safe.

“Being visible, knowing your neighbours and taking ownership of the area you live in are all positive attributes of a strong community,” Chilibeck said.

Ashley McDonald suggested getting a properly funded and staffed shelter with wraparound services and 24/7 city outreach service will make Red Deer a safer place to live.

“If we can meet people where they’re at, we can give help where it’s needed and move people off the street. This will in turn help our citizens feel safer and make potential newcomers see Red Deer, not as a stop between Calgary and Edmonton, but the right place to put down roots, raise a family and start a business,” said MacDonald.

Liam Mulaney said the city needs to offer affordable housing and facilitated housing opportunities to get people off the streets.

Calvin Yzerman suggested increased RCMP visibility is key to making Red Deer safe.

“We also have to recognize that some of the crime has underlying factors that need to be addressed, such as mental health, trauma and so on,” he said.

This byelection is being held to fill the seat left empty following the death of Coun. Michael Dawe in late 2023.

Advance polls are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 18-20. The official byelection day is set for April 22, with polls being open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

There will be three voting stations: Parkland Mall, Baymont by Wyndham Red Deer and Westerner Park’s Prairie Pavilion.

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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