The questions might have been more revealing than the answers at Wednesday’s council candidate election forum at the Red Deer Lodge.
Twenty-eight of the 30 people vying for eight seats on Red Deer city council responded to questions related to construction, development and real estate that had been prepared in advance by members of several industry associations. And those questions alluded to concerns about rising building permit fees, delays in receiving municipal approval for developments, the timely release of bid information for city projects, and non-refundable deposits for city tenders.
Organized by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association — Central Alberta, the Central Alberta Realtors Association, the Red Deer Construction Association and the Urban Development Institute of Alberta, the forum saw each candidate given one of seven questions that they had received earlier.
Incumbent councillor Frank Wong said airing concerns at the forum was a good way to get them to the attention of city staff, including city manager Craig Curtis. “Mr. Curtis is here, and he’ll be hearing all of these complaints and he will bring it back to administration.”
Paul Harris, another incumbent, agreed that the questions highlighted the existence of problems.
“There appears to be a very consistent communication challenge that we have between the construction and development industry, and administration and council.”
Candidate Victor Mobley also remarked on the discontent. “The questions seemed like they were a little bit harsh against the current administration.”
He said collaboration is needed to move forward, a suggestion that several other candidates agreed with. “We need to share information,” said Lawrence Lee. “We need to be at the table and we need to respond to the changing needs of an infrastructure that is rapidly expanding.”
Ken Johnston said there is an opportunity to create a “service culture” between industry and the city. He’d like to see construction and development associations and their members sit down with city officials and “hammer something out that makes sense.”
A number of candidates, including Mobley, Dan McKenna, Dawna Morey and Troy Wavrecan, pledged to raise industry concerns if elected to council.
The council candidates were all asked for their views on Red Deer’s land bank, through which the city develops and sells serviced residential and industrial lots, in competition with private developers.
Almost all of the candidates expressed support for the system. Incumbent Dianne Wyntjes said the land bank gives small developers and builders a better chance to participate in the industry. And it’s a good non-tax source of revenues.
Darren Young said the system allows the city to set the standard for development, and Serge Gingras added that it promotes timely development and is a way for the city to manage growth.
Harris said the land bank is also a way for the city to introduce new types of housing that private developers might not.
Among those who spoke out against the land bank was Terry Balgobin, who doesn’t think the city should compete against private industry.
“The reason that a city exists, and a municipality exists, is to create an infrastructure so free enterprise can thrive.”
Incumbent Buck Buchanan said he understands why some would oppose the city competing against private companies, but pointed out that the city competes in other areas.
Other candidates for council who took part in the forum were Jerry Anderson. Bettylyn Baker, Bob Bevins, Matt Chapin, Stephen Coop, Gary Didrikson, Calvin Goulet-Jones, David Helm, Lloyd Johnson, Tim Lasiuta, incumbent Lynne Mulder, Janella Spearing, Jonathan Wieler and Calvin Yzerman.
Dennis Moffat and Ben Ordman were absent.