Most Red Deer City Council candidates agree the city has a lot of recreational amenities to help improve the health and wellness of citizens, but they say more has to be done to promote what exists.
Bettylyn Baker said the city has to find another way to encourage users.
“We can do all we want by having these wonderful facilities, but if we’re not promoting them in a stronger way, then we’re not getting the people out,” Baker told the crowd of about 120 people who gathered to hear from municipal candidates at the health forum, Leaders vs Manager, organized by Red Deer Primary Care Network, at the Harvest Centre at Westerner Park on Thursday night.
“There are a lot of people who are vulnerable and don’t have the financial means to do these things so we have to start looking at how we’re going to accommodate those people. Being healthy — it’s expensive.”
Jerry Anderson said the city has funding programs so low-income residents can access recreation facilities, but more must be done to make them aware that help is available.
Garry Didrikson, said the city could reduce recreation costs for residents by using schools and giving tax breaks to those who use city recreation facilities.
Candidates spoke of the need to improve Red Deer’s walkability.
“We can ensure our path system is inter-weaved in between our community instead of just the outskirts. Working towards lighting our path systems will also go a long way to help people feel comfortable walking and running after dark,” Calvin Goulet-Jones said.
Incumbent Frank Wong said residential neighbourhoods need to be made more walkable, and he’d like to see the city’s trail system connected to the Trans Canada Trail. He would also advocate for residential and commercial development near Queens Business Park so people could walk or cycle to work.
“Every journey in the city begins with walking and we’ve got to remember that,” said incumbent Paul Harris, who wanted to improve the walkability of the city through more sidewalks, trails and transit stops.
The city’s hospital also needs a cardiac unit to reduce the number of cardiac deaths, he said.
Many candidates used some of their two minutes at the podium to talk about improving mental health services.
Matt Chapin said he is surprised more candidates have not spoken out against the provincial government’s plan to close Michener Centre which will be a major hit to mental health care in the city.
“In many ways mental health is as important to our physical health as physical health is to our mental health. Because in all honesty, when we’re happy, we’re a lot more physically fit,” Chapin said.
Incumbent Dianne Wyntjes said Red Deer has issues that can impact people’s mental health and safety, like the highest divorce rate in Alberta.
“In council, we must recognize people’s challenges such as the frailty of family relationships and household economic challenges. There is anger, domestic abuse and violence in some Red Deer homes.”
She said Red Deer also needs to have a conversation about the growing trend of crystal meth from a crime, health and family perspective.
Jonathan Wieler said when it comes to poverty reduction, affordable and efficient transit could make a difference to a single mother.
“If we can shave 15 minutes off her daily commute, she will be able to spend hours at home, doing homework with her kids and playing with them at the park,” Wieler said.
Other candidates participating at the forum were incumbents Buck Buchanan and Lynne Mulder, as well as candidates Terry Balgobin, Bob Bevins, Stephen Coop, Serge Gingras, Tanya Handley, Lloyd Johnson, Ken Johnston, Tim Lasiuta, Lawrence Lee, Victor Mobley, Dawna Morey, Ben Ordman, Janella Spearing, Troy Wavrecan, Calvin Yzerman, and Darren Young.
Candidates David Helm, Dan McKenna, Dennis Moffat, did not attend the forum.
Video of the forum can be viewed on www.reddeerpcn.com for the duration of the election campaign.
During the forum, 110 people were streaming live to watch the candidates in action.