Vesna Higham city council candidate

Municipal election: Red Deer city council candidate Vesna Higham

I’m a retired lawyer, appeal board adjudicator, and high school basketball referee for nearly two decades. I’ve been married to my polar star for the best 27 years of my life. As a mom to five great kids and new grandma to two precious babes, family and faith are my greatest joy, devotion, and ambition. I understand the challenges families face in these uncertain times and would continue to support a strong family focus at the council table.

It’s been my distinct honour to serve our community on council for seven years (current term and earlier from 2001-2004) – and I don’t take that for granted. I study diligently, ask penetrating questions, and work hard to represent our city with honour and dignity. I stand for family values, fiscal restraint, a business-friendly environment, a strong focus on community safety, and a citizen-focused approach.

Given our skyrocketing federal and provincial debt, now more than ever, we need wise leadership to guide prudent spending at City Hall. For much of our marriage, Doug and I raised our children on a single household income, so I understand the challenges of competing interests on a tight budget. My record reflects balanced restraint and a frugal, common-sense approach to spending your hard-earned tax dollars.

To say the pandemic has been hard on business and our economy is an understatement – with rising inflation, these hardships are ongoing and exponential. It’s critical to foster a more streamlined, business-friendly interface at City Hall as we continue to navigate residual COVID impacts to our economy. Regarding economic incentives, development approvals, tax breaks, and other regulatory levers that support business, my record reflects strong leadership on this file.

The single greatest need to mitigate the social disorder impacts in our downtown is to consolidate shelter and related social services into one permanent, integrated shelter program – thereby eliminating the ongoing migration of vulnerable people throughout the downtown. Onsite services need to include: food services, a health clinic, mental health counselling, job/skills training, leisure/recreation, and addiction recovery modalities. It’s essential that the new shelter adopts a “Good Neighbour” operating model with mandatory clientele intake and basic expectations for community service.

While the stats are down from previous years, crime and social disorder are still far too prevalent in our community. We should allocate more resources to our Social Diversion Team – to free up the more expensive police resources to focus on serious crime. I also support transitioning to our own municipal police force for several reasons.

Firstly, the RCMP now have a union which recently negotiated ongoing contract increases to bring them into range with municipal police salaries across the country – with retroactive pay increases going back to 2016. So, the financial rationale for retaining our RCMP contract is effectually gone. Secondly, there are many advantages to local officers who live and work in our community for decades versus 2-5 years at a time. Finally, a non-partisan 2021 federal Parliamentary report recently recommended that the RCMP end all municipal contract policing, so this is a longstanding local issue whose time has come.

In closing, too many politicians focus on appeasing their voting base. I make decisions based on what I believe is in the best interests of our community on any given issue – let the chips fall as they may. An elected official is first and foremost a public servant who must be accessible and accountable to the people. My record reflects that people, transparency, and accountability to the public have been, and will remain, my resolute focus. I bring integrity, experience, and common sense to the council table and would be grateful for your support on Oct. 18.

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