Council candidates participate in a final debate. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Red Deer Advocate

Various visions for Red Deer’s future revealed at election forum

Ways to improve development, stop business migration, discussed

From a new concert hall and aquatic complex to a drug treatment centre and traffic corridor, city election candidates see Red Deer expanding in different ways

Council candidate Rob Friss feels we should learn from cities, such as Edmonton, as to what attracts people to entertainment districts.

The new Capstone at Riverlands project should perhaps include a hotel and casino and a new concert hall for the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, Friss told about 90 people at Wednesday’s public forum, sponsored by local real estate, construction and builders’ associations.

These would increase property values, “create more local jobs, and draw more small businesses,” added Friss, in response to a question about which building projects he would support if elected.

Incumbent council candidate Dianne Wyntjes would push for a treatment centre for addicted and/or mentally ill clients, as well as more businesses and residential development for Riverlands.

Cory Kingsfield, who recently lost a relative to “the fentanyl issue,” also advocated for drug treatment — as well as the completion of a proposed north-south highway corridor to reduce traffic on existing roads.

Jeremy Moore called for more development in North Red Deer, including a new regulation-sized aquatic complex to host swim events, bringing more economic benefits to the city.

On the question of whether candidates would support provincial changes to the Municipal Government Act that could boost the cost of home ownership by charging greater development levies, incumbent Lynne Mulder gave a tentative ‘No,’ but added if provincial funding was cut, “we would have to look elsewhere to help build our city.”

Calvin Goulet-Jones disagreed with the provincial changes, calling them a hidden tax that would make developers appear to be driving up costs. Ted Johnson was “adamantly opposed” to the change, as well as to the provincial carbon tax and minimum wage increases — while Matt Chapin suggested councillors should get feedback on this from tradespeople.

As for building good relationships between the city and local contractors, council incumbents Ken Johnston, Frank Wong and Tanya Handley spoke about how regular communications are already building trust and ironing out potential problems.

Michael Dawe suggested some municipal red tape could be cut for the sake of better efficiency.

Vesna Higham, Jordy Smith and Jim Kristinson said the city could improve development permitting processes by streamlining to a single point of contact, asking for more regular feedback, and giving city staff better training.

Regarding how to stop the migration of Red Deer businesses to Gasoline Alley, mayoral incumbent Tara Veer said the province needs to be pushed to address “systemic” inequities that create lower taxes and developments costs in counties, versus cities. (Her mayoral challenger, Sean Burke, did not attend the forum).

Ian Miller and Jason Habuza suggested more parking and residential development in the downtown would help keep the city’s core alive, while Valdene Callin suggested council should be communicating better with the public about downtown initiatives. Jonathan Wieler suggested crime prevention.

Affordable housing was discussed by Rick More, who felt an improved economy would help.

Doug Manderville, Matt Slubik and council incumbents Lawrence Lee and Buck Buchanan said they would look into improving rules that now make it difficult for developers to get after-the-fact permit updates.

Sam Bergeron, Kris Maciborsky, Bayo Nshombo Bayongwa and Bobbi McCoy were not at the forum, but are running for city council.

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