A number of Red Deerians will run as a group in this year’s municipal election. They are called Red Deer First.
Individuals associated with Red Deer First are set to begin announcing their candidacy in the coming weeks. Officials with the group said they have a number of candidates that will be supported by Red Deer First, but they hope to get up to eight candidates. Council hopeful Calvin Goulet-Jones is the first of the group to announce his intentions.
“It’s hard for an average citizen to figure out who to vote for so we’re hopefully providing a platform for these people to go and they can see a group of people who are like-minded, who have the same philosophies, same principles for governing a City,” said Ryan Handley, the driving force behind the group, who will not be seeking election. “These candidates who we have gathered together are going to run on a similar platform.
“We have enough candidates ready to go to drastically change the face of council.”
Handley said he feels a need to try and change how the City is governed.
“For years I was quite content with the way our City was being run. The City’s taxes were fair and we had no debt and a rainy-day fund. These last few City councils have very quickly eroded the contentment that I felt,” he said. “I am frustrated with council ‘pet projects’ that appease small special interest groups, paid for by our hard earned tax dollars. When the bike lanes popped up at a price tag of $800,000, enough was enough.”
Handley said Red Deer First is a group of diverse individuals who share the same principles regarding the role of Red Deer’s municipal government and seek to bring needed change to City council.
“The candidates will share resources, share time and campaign for each other,” said Handley. “The benefit for the community is that they can go to one place and see a group that does things the same and see what they believe. Because we don’t have a system in Red Deer that is easy for the voters to find out who is running and find out their platforms, this is a way they can go and find simply and easily what this group believes.
“We want to stress that we are not a party. And the candidates that we will support are individuals.”
Handley added one of the biggest things Red Deer First believes is the importance of having an accountable government.
“An excellent way to do that would in be a ward system. A ward system allows a person to distinguish between a smaller number of candidates,” he said. “Fiscal responsibility is also an important component – the City is in far too much debt. We need to look at the base budget and we think we can find ways to trim the budget.”
Goulet-Jones said he decided to be part of Red Deer First for the support.
“I could not hope to gain 10,000 votes with no one knowing my name and part of it is when I go to a door, I’m not just going to mention my name, I’m going to say these other candidates are great and they will stick with the principles I’m talking about,” he said. “The best way we can tackle this is to go forth as a group and push forward from there.”
Mayor Morris Flewwelling said he’s not sure the approach Red Deer First is taking for the election will be successful.
“Unless they can demonstrate something that is vastly different or vastly superior, I really can’t see that they are advantaging themselves. I think they may be disadvantaging themselves,” he said. “It makes me wonder how many of them have experience as elected people because it kind of sounds like to me that there might be a thought that you get in and you can do whatever you like. Whatever happens when you’re on council – you’re one voice of nine and council only acts as a block.
“And council doesn’t have a huge authority like many people think.”