Four of the five candidates running for Red Deer’s mayor position discussed how they would ensure infrastructure and other dollars from both the provincial and federal governments are channeled into the city during the all-candidates Construction, Development and Real Estate forum on Wednesday evening.
For Cindy Jefferies it’s one of the key reasons she’s running for mayor.
“Advocating on behalf of our city for funds from the provincial and federal government is important work . . . Good working relationships are the starting point for that,” she told the crowd of about 150 gathered at the Red Deer Lodge.
Jefferies noted how she had been elected to the board of directors for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association in 2010 and travelled to Ottawa on an advocacy tour during her term.
“I learned so much about how lobbying for your constituents works,” she said.
“As well, during my time on the school board we advocated for the renovation of Lindsay Thurber and the construction of new schools. It was hard work. We figured out the best way to do it and who we needed to talk to in order to open those doors and make it happen so that experience is there.”
Chad Mason said he’d do his best to lobby the two governments and secure more grants.
The key to locking down government dollars for Tara Veer stems from Red Deer’s image and branding it as not just the third largest city in Alberta but the “city of choice.”
Veer is proposing the establishment of a “contingent of Red Deer ambassadors comprised of representatives from business, industry, social , culture and amateur sports sectors and communities entities such as Red Deer College and the Westener and other not for profits.”
This contingent would “actively engage other orders of government and potential corporate sponsors by presenting compelling reasons as to why Red Deer needs to be prioritized for infrastructure dollars.”
Dennis Trepanier said it’s important to set city priorities first and then seek out grant money.
“Personally, I want to go for anything that will help us with our safety and security. I’ve mentioned before the Alert program is an awesome thing, working with CSIS and the RCMP. If we can get the government to pitch in on those kind of initiatives, then we’ll really do something with crime in the city.”
The candidates also talked about the temporary worker program, delved into future uses for Michener land and debated the value in the city’s land bank program.
Trepanier said he believes the land bank — started in 1962 to allow the city to fund, develop and market new industrial, commercial and residential land — will need to be phased out down the road.
“It has to be fair play for all. There’s been talk about small developers not being able to get in without the land bank but if we can work with private industry, I’m sure we can set some policies and rules that allow them in,” he said. “It has served its purpose and it’s time to move on.”
Jefferies supported the land bank, noting it is self sustaining and an important source of income for Red Deer.
Mason said that as Red Deer grows, more people will need a place to live and the land bank system is valuable when it comes to serving that need.
Meanwhile Veer explained that she while disagreed on principle with the city being in direct competition with the private sector, the land bank is necessary given the current size of Red Deer in order to “secure greater opportunities on lot draws” for home builders. That may change over time, she said, as the city expands and other developers express new interests.
“That being said, I do not support the current policy for the city to be able to bid up to an additional 10 per cent above market value on land purchases as I think this is contrary to market principles, puts the city at an unfair advantage . . . and could have the unintended consequence of inflating both local lot pricing and existing housing stock.”
Candidate William Horn was in attendance for the beginning of the forum but left soon after as he did not receive notice via email of the event and was not prepared.
Candidates will be taking another kick at the can tackling city issues tonight at the Harvest Centre for a health forum hosted by the Red Deer Primary Care Network. The forum runs from 7 to 9 p.m.