A crowd of over 200 people had the opportunity to start whittling down their choices for city council at an election forum at the Golden Circle on Wednesday night.
Candidate Dennis Moffat said voters in Red Deer have never had it so good.
“You’ve got 30 good candidates to choose from and if you can’t choose eight good ones out of 30, there’s something wrong with you,” Moffat said to laughter from the crowd of mostly seniors at the first candidate forum for the Oct. 21 municipal election.
Some people were turned away from the forum because the seniors centre was packed.
Several members of the audience stood the entire time the 29 candidates who attended took turns at the microphone during the marathon session that lasted an hour and 45 minutes.
Moffat didn’t wait to voice his opinion on Red Deer’s controversial bike lanes and earned a round of applause.
“I think the bicycles should stay on the sidewalks and not the roads. They’re too dangerous,” said Moffat, a former city councillor.
After one minute introductions, each candidate randomly pulled one of eight questions out of a hat. Accommodating the growing number of residents using cycling as transportation was one of the questions a few candidates had to tackle.
Candidate Calvin Yzerman joked that the cyclists needed “prayer.”
He said as traffic has became heavier, he chose to ride his bike on sidewalks to be safe and suggested double-wide sidewalks, expanding the trail system and looking for better solutions when building new subdivisions.
Paul Harris, who was on city council trying to solve the cycling issue, said it was just like magic that he picked that question.
“My very first stance, and it’s still my stance, is that bike lanes should be safe and separated,” said Harris, an incumbent.
He said he has rented bikes to cycle in other cities and has found safe and separate lanes work.
Candidate Lloyd Johnson said the bike lane project should be shelved.
Building a 50-metre pool, if the province closes Michener Centre pool, had support from candidates who chose that question.
Candidate Ken Johnston said with Red Deer’s growing population the city has a “pool deficit” and he was in favour of a new pool as it would draw visitors and events.
“We are the only city in Western Canada with a population of about 45,000 people without access to a 50-metre pool,” Johnston said.
Incumbent Frank Wong said the city must be creative when it comes to funding and could partner with a corporation to construct a 50-metre pool.
Candidates that were asked if Red Deer should have a concert hall were mostly in favour of the project.
“If we are willing to pay for these things by having fundraising I would support it.
“Those things that improve the arts in Red Deer improve the lives of everyone who lives here. The one thing I would object to though is bringing consultants in to tell us what to do,” said Moffat which had the audience clapping loudly.
Candidate Dan McKenna said the city already has facilities for concerts.
“For this size of city, I don’t believe a concert hall is necessary. If it is we should probably look at a private investor to build this thing,” McKenna said.
In response to a question about the city’s role in assisting seniors, Tanya Handley, a member of the Red Deer First slate of candidates, said the city’s debt is unmanageable for the senior population.
“Our taxes continue to go up year after year and those living on fixed incomes are strapped,” Handley said.
To deal with the root causes of crime, candidate Lawrence Lee said engaging youth, finding out their lives, and providing them with support programs would help address such a complex issue.
Other candidates participating at the forum were incumbents Buck Buchanan, Dianne Wyntjes, and Lynne Mulder, as well as candidates Jerry Anderson, Bettylyn Baker, Terry Balgobin, Matt Chapin, Stephen Coop, Gary Didrikson, Serge Gingras, Calvin Goulet-Jones, David Helm, Tim Lasiuta, Victor Mobley, Dawna Morey, Ben Ordman, Janella Spearing, Troy Wavrecan, Jonathan Wieler, and Darren Young.
Candidate Bob Bevins was unable to attend the forum.