City Council candidates at Red Deer’s Public Market on Saturday heard loud and clear that voters want penny-pinchers. Nestled at tables, with billboards and pamphlets extolling their platforms, more than half of the City Hall candidates made an appearance.
“People come to the farmer’s market because they want to put a face to the name that they see on the signs and they want a chance to meet you and get to know you personally,” said Chris Stephan, a first-time candidate, who is a lawyer and business man who grew up in Red Deer.
He was at the market on Saturday, with support from his wife and two children. His wife even whipped up a couple of plates of cookies to lure the voters in.
Stephan said many of the people he has spoken to feel that there has been excessive spending at City Hall on projects such as the Civic Yards and he agrees with them. He said he has seen Red Deer’s city debt more than double in the last few years and with a lot of people having young families they don’t want to see their children suffer and have to pay for that in the future.
Jeffrey Dawson, a councillor four times before coming in a close second for the position of mayor in the last municipal election, said people have told him they would like to see the strong fiscally-minded presence that he offered back at City Hall. Dawson said he is particularly concerned with the debt load the city has already taken on and the approvals that have gone through to take on more debt to pay for things like a new City Hall.
Dawson said he knows the City needs more space, but he would like to see the empty and available buildings in the downtown used before having more construction with a hefty price tag.
Candidate for Red Deer City Council Dianne Wyntjes has been going to the Red Deer Public Market since the end of July, but has seen people really take an interest in the election lately. Wyntjes, who has worked for the Canadian Union of Public Employees for 30 years, said from talking to people she has found the issues have been divided into three areas. Firstly, people have been concerned about city finances, the budget and the economy, Wyntjes said. The second area of concern has involved parks and recreation and other personal needs and issues and thirdly she has found people wanting to know about the growth and future of the city.
TerryLee Ropchan, a candidate for city council who is the past president of the Red Deer Neighbourhood Watch, said she likes going to the public market because she likes being able to speak with people one-on-one and gauge what is going on in the community. She said if she gets on council she would like to focus on community-driven initiatives, such as having dedicated bike lanes within the city. But she said it is important the city look at increased taxes and fees and how they affect seniors on a fixed income and she is concerned that there aren’t enough free and low-cost programs for young people in the community who might want to take piano lessons, dance or a cooking course.
Paul Harris, a candidate for city council, has eschewed signs, instead preferring to speak face-to-face with voters at the public market since April and connect with them through things like Facebook.
“I feel strongly that it is not my voice on city council, but the community’s voice,” he said.
“My big thing is to ensure that we are actively engaged with citizens. If we can do that we’re going to get everything else right. If we don’t do that then we’ll get every other thing right or every third thing right.”
Jim Watters isn’t new to the campaign trail after serving the past 12 years as a Red Deer Public School District trustee, but this time around he is campaigning for a seat on Red Deer city council.
At the public market on Saturday, he said people have been particularly concerned about the budget, snow removal and high taxes.
“At city council, I think what needs to be done is to look at the budget as a whole and first of all realize that we can’t do everything for everyone and it’s not a crime to say no we can’t do it,” Watters said.
Calvin Yzerman, a candidate for a councillor, said a lot of people are concerned about the amount of money spent on recent projects — in particular the Dawe Centre. He said himself and others prefer when the city builds facilities that they last for a long time so money isn’t spent needlessly.
Other candidates for Red Deer City Council include incumbents Buck Buchanan, Cindy Jefferies, Lynne Mulder, Gail Parks, Tara Veer and Frank Wong, as well as Matt Chapin, Jason Chilibeck and Clarence Torgerson.