Red Deer’s five mayoral candidates had one more chance to convince voters why they should sit in the mayor’s chair for the next four years.
And it was Dennis Trepanier who received one of the largest reactions of the night.
A chorus of loud “boos” greeted Trepanier when he said his fix to improving traffic situation across the city was to “stop putting up patios” that block all the traffic because it is a waste of money.
Taking it all in stride, Trepanier said, “sometimes you have to be hard when you’re in politics. You have to tell the truth. And some people do not like it.”
Trepanier was also taken to task by Veer who pointed out Trepanier got her voting record wrong on the city’s mobility study when it came to council.
About 450 people turned out to hear the public office hopefuls at an all-candidates forum hosted by the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.
This was the final public forum that put the mayor hopefuls ––– Cindy Jefferies, William Horn, Chad Mason, Trepanier and Veer –– in the hot seat.
The five candidates answered a variety of questions that mostly focused on transportation, safety, parking and the need for a 50-metre pool.
Responding to the question about improving traffic across the city, Veer said the key is to start planning road infrastructure at the outset. Both Veer and Jefferies named better traffic light synchronization, traffic circles and exploring other options as essential.
Jefferies said there’s also a component of driver education and awareness of the rules of the road that needs focus.
Mason agreed there is not a need to have a light at every intersection. He said the city needs to explore other options, including traffic circles.
Horn said the city needs to keep a closer eye on traffic patterns.
“There’s places for traffic circles and there’s places that traffic circles will not work,” said Horn. “And there’s places for stop and yield signs.”
A question about views on alternative ways to move around the city turned into statements about the controversial bike lane pilot.
Jefferies said she does not see a bike lane on every street. She said from the pilot, they see support for to have separated segregated lanes that would provide safety for users aged eight to 80 years old.
Horn suggesting ring road buses instead of having all buses terminating in the downtown. He asked suggested smaller buses in off-peak hours.
Mason said integrating mobility through the existing bike trails are the way to go. Mason said the majority of people drive to work which is part of living in the first world. Mason said the city’s job is to change people’s behaviour.
Veer said no one disputes that safety is an issue for cyclists but she will not diminish the public’s anger over bike lanes. Veer said moving forward the city can integrate the existing trail networks, extend life of existing infrastructure and establish more connectivity in broader trail network.
Turning to the need for a proposed $90 million 50-metre pool, something Veer noted has come up in the last four elections, candidates were asked should the city spend up to $90 million on a new pool.
Veer said she would support a scaled down version of the project up to $50 million but would not support debt financing the entire pool.
Jefferies pointed out the city’s bid for the 2019 Canada Winter Games does not include the city building a 50-metre pool unless the city decides to do this before the bid is submitted. Jefferies said the city is falling behind in some of the recreational facilities in the community. She said the city needs plan and to think about future needs and build them into the plans in a fiscally responsible way.
Horn said the price tag on the proposed pool is hefty but the city could be losing a pool with the closure of Michener Centre. Horn said a 50-metre pool would be a bonus for Red Deer but the city has to look at its affordability with its present tax level.
Mason said the city cannot afford to spend the money over the next four years.
Trepanier said municipalities do not make money on pools. He said the city would have to look at the cost benefits.
Cast your ballot on Monday starting at 10 a.m. Polls close at 8 p.m.