Infrastructure and recycling were two of the biggest issues brought up during Wednesday’s all-candidates forum at Peacock Collegiate.
“As a council we need to actually sit down and review the allocations of our own source revenue and where those allocations being made and are they truly focused on the priorities of the citizens of Moose Jaw who pay the bills,” said mayoral candidate Deb Higgins speaking to addressing infrastructure.
“Once we’ve done that and made sure we’re properly allocating the money, we need to work with the provincial and federal governments in ways to look at revenue sharing … but I think we have to look at our own house first.”
Mayoral candidate Fraser Tolmie said that he has been on a learning curve and believes in a more methodical approach.
“When we do have money to pave roads we don’t have enough staff and we have leftover money and we can’t do our drainage and there seems to be a problem within city hall,” said Tolmie. “We’re trying to overhaul a working engine right now and … you’ve got to look at the way the operation runs and I am for looking at that and being able to put the money that we have into the infrastructure.”
Incumbent Coun. Dawn Luhning said she has supported increasing funding while on council.
“There has been an effort on my behalf to increase the road, sidewalk, infrastructure budgets over the years and the beauty of democracy is it’s never been passed,” said Luhning. “I will continue to … vote to increase those budgets.”
However, incumbent Coun. Brian Swanson said infrastructure deficit is actually infrastructure neglect.
“In 2012 we’ll spend less than half of what we spent on pavement repair 20 years ago when a dollar went a lot further,” said Swanson. “The difficult part will be paying for it. My preference will be to reprioritize city hall spending to find more funds for roads, sidewalks and water lines.”
Infrastructure is a top priority for councillor candidate Terry Gabel and he said the city needs to set priorities.
“Skyrocketing utility rates, deteriorating sewer and water, roads and sidewalks are the results of placing special interests … before the essentials,” said Gabel. “It is the foundation upon which a city is built. It must be solid.”
Candidate Brian Sykora said infrastructure needs to be dealt with quickly.
“The money to do the infrastructure to put the roads - which is maybe $3.8 million - it’s a small piece of money to make them real nice,” said Sykora. “I think it’s better to put the money into that.”
In addition to infrastructure, a main concern from citizens was regarding recycling.
“We need to make sure it is the best bang for our dollar. Single-stream would be the best way to encourage all of us to participate,” said councillor candidate Kristian Sjoberg. “I would prefer a public system as the wages would remain in the city as well as the tax dollars from those positions. If the private sector can do it at a greatly reduced cost, then we can’t ignore that.”
According to candidate Stirling Millar, if the city goes to a public recycling program there is a risk of competing with businesses.
“That would be a detriment to economic development,” said Millar. “We want to have one that fosters growth so we show that there’s interest in allowing for investment.”
Councillor candidate Larissa Shasko said that the city needs to have a recycling program for residential and industrial sectors to deal with the landfill that is filling up.
“Industry and the commercial sector produces 80 to 90 per cent of the waste that’s going to our landfill,” said Shasko. “So our residential recycling program - that’s going to make a small impact.”
According to candidate Ira Dales, the landfill is nearing the end of its lifespan and the city needs to minimize waste.
“(We need to) ensure that we leave our city in better condition for our children and our grandchildren in the future,” said Dales. “I think it’s important that everybody take that on. It’s part of our community pride and it’s part of our social responsibility.”
Incumbent Coun. Heather Eby said that the environment needs to be respected by recycling, protecting forests and planning for a landfill expansion.
“I believe that if we each picked up just three pieces of litter every time we were out Moose Jaw would be virtually litter-free and our civic pride would begin to soar,” said Eby. “To get to where you need to go, you need a map also known as a plan.”
For Dustan Hlady, curbside recycling is that plan.
“There’s no reason why a city like Moose Jaw shouldn’t have a city curbside recycling program,” said Hlady. “When you start to think about how much garbage is thrown away that we could actually recycle and reuse it’s staggering.”
Another hot topic was the Valley View Centre (VVC) and its closure set for 2016. Tolmie said he would like to effectively lobby the provincial government for a future for the VVC and to not give up.
“It’s disappointing it’s come to this,” said Tolmie. “Clients have to come first.”
Higgins said the best approach is to work towards what best serves the residents.
“What we need to do is actively seek answers from the department of social services and the provincial government as to the plans,” said Higgins.
Incumbent Coun. Don Mitchell said the VVC is a major issue.
“The Valley View issue is one big one that should’ve had more attention. We should’ve had more sharing of information from the province,” said Mitchell. “We’ve got to pick up on that and fight for those services and jobs in the community.”
Councillor candidate Gordon Anthony said the closure of the VVC will have a big impact on the economy with a loss of $20 million a year.
“I believe there is a definite possibility of a new leaner facility. There needs to be continuing care for people with intellectual disabilities as well as maybe expanding those services,” said Anthony.
Stimulating the local economy by attracting businesses was another big issue.
“What we must do in this city is optimize our investment and economic opportunities,” said candidate Lloyd Hackel, adding there are many expansions taking place in the city. “We must ensure that the Moose Jaw advantage is part of the decision-making process that companies make when they come to this city.”
“I won’t pretend to have all the answers,” added candidate Jeff Nelson who said he intends to work hard to find solutions to attract business. “Moose Jaw is one of the best places to live in the world and I intend to keep it that way.”
Candidate Candis Kirkpatrick said she wants to take the city from good to great by having growth in the business sector as an example.
“With that growth our tax base will grow,” said Kirkpatrick. “Let’s have a full-time dedicated economic development officer whose sole job it is to sell Moose Jaw.”
According to candidate Brenda Colenutt, with the right leadership the city can be proactive instead of reactive.
“(We should) let the government know that they must stop taking jobs from our city,” said Colenutt. “This trend must stop to keep our kids here … New businesses to Moose Jaw means more jobs, more families, more development.”
Candidate Don McKenzie stated the young people are the future of the city and jobs play a big role.
“I’d like to see us open up for business,” said McKenzie. “We have projects all around us. Let’s capitalize. That money we can use.”
Fellow candidate Patrick Boyle agreed that young people need to be kept in the city and new jobs is part of attracting youth to areas such as downtown.
“We can’t be the drive through town with the moose that’s cute,” said Boyle. “Moose Jaw should be the place to be, should be the city people want to come to.”
The only candidate not in attendance at the forum was council candidate Jack Smith, whose mother recently had a heart attack and so he had family obligations.