LISTENING - Dianne Wyntjes and Paul Harris (right) speak with locals Saturday at the Market at Red Deer where they were campaigning for council.

Hearing ‘tickles, ticks and dreams’

Aspiring city councillors converge on the market to meet voters

Red Deer’s 2010 municipal election race has moved into high gear – market style.

As an increasing number of candidates declare their intentions to run for City council many have found the Market at Red Deer on Saturdays the best venue to spread their message and to gather support.

“It is a great day. It is fabulous. There are tons of people,” said community activist Terry Lee Ropchan who is making a second attempt to sit on City council following an unsuccessful bid in 2004. “People are wanting to talk already, about the good things in our City, and some of things they are complaining about.”

Dianne Wyntjes, the regional director for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Alberta, said she has been campaigning at the market for most of the summer and has found it to be an ideal opportunity to engage with citizens.

Last Saturday she was busy polling Red Deerians at the market about their “tickles, ticks and dreams” about the City.

Jim Watters, a Red Deer Public School trustee since 1998, was also at the market finding out what is important for citizens come election day on Oct. 18.

“A lot of them want to know why we are spending like we are spending in the last couple of years, and how we are going to pay for it all. What I hope to do is develop a budget for the taxpayers they can pay, and live within the means of that taxpayer,” said Watters. “We just can’t keep spending and spending and spending. It is like what we have been told many times as a school board trustee, ‘you can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything.”

Downtown businessman Paul Harris said last Saturday it was the fifth weekend this summer he has campaigned at the market with another “six or seven to go.” And while he was there to hear about the issues on the minds of Red Deerians he wanted to also know about their “dreams”, including one that has been on the minds of many citizens over the past decade – a re-energized downtown.

“In terms of development they would love to see the downtown be revitalized, and they also talk about the progress we have made too. It is not like they are not seeing what has been done,” said Harris, adding he has not yet identified one issue of concern that stands above the rest in the current campaign.

However, other candidates said a few are beginning to stand out.

“Today the number one thing is the new recreation passes. People are not happy with what was done, the price levels going up, and not being able to use them flex anymore, being able to go from facility to facility with the one pass,” said Ropchan, adding traffic issues are on many citizens’ minds.

“People are concerned about the speeding and distracted driving. Crosswalk safety is one thing people are concerned about. Speeding is number one.”

Wyntjes said her “tickles, ticks and dreams” campaign polling strategy has identified the City’s parks, recreation amenities, green spaces and bike paths as the top tickle – the things Red Deerians like best about their municipality. She said the top tick, what bothers people the most, was taxation issues while the most important dream was to continue to make Red Deer an affordable place to live, a place where their children will want to either stay or come back to.

Meanwhile, other declared candidates for City council are incumbents Gail Parks, Cindy Jefferies, Buck Buchanan, Frank Wong and Lynne Mulder. Councillor Tara Veer has not yet officially declared her intentions. Long-time councillors Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer and Larry Pimm have announced they will not seek re-election.

Other council candidates include Jeffrey Dawson, Matt Chapin and Christopher Stephan.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling has also announced that he will seek another term in the mayor’s chair.

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