Red Deer City Councillor Ken Johnston is hoping to continue making a difference in the community as he seeks a second term on City council.
Johnston was first elected to council in 2013.
“What I really enjoy is when people pick up the phone, or email me, or meet me in the street and say, ‘Can you look at something? Could you explain something? Can you check something? Can you come out to my neighbourhood and take a look at what things look like?’ That part has been the favourite,” said Johnston. “I like to take those individual concerns and get them resolved.
“When you’re elected and people reach out to you, it’s very gratifying to help resolve a particular issue. I certainly credit great administration in that too, and my fellow councillors as well.”
He added one of the challenges over the last four years was the economic downturn that hit the province in 2015.
“That affected our ability to finance our capital budgets. It affected our ability to raise operational money and so on. There was a direct impact there. Then it has the corresponding impact of less user fees, less use of transit and less use of recreational centres,” said Johnston.
“That challenged council quite a bit. For example, our 10 year capital plans reflect a good fundamental sense of confidence in Red Deer, but with a very cautious approach – we took our debt limits down to 75 per cent of its limit as sort of a check and balance, we promoted a lot more financial leadership as a part of our thinking and certainly our last budget is indicative – when you can bring a one per cent tax increase – I think we did well there considering the rate of inflation alone is higher than that.
“It certainly was a huge challenge in front of us. But we were able to deliver some changes to snow and ice, we were able to expand our policing component, we were able to do some of our capital improvements for the rec centre in the north and get the arena done and so on. There were some things we were able to do even though we had this downturn in front of us.”
Johnston said if he is re-elected in the fall, he will focus on the community safety strategy, policing, as well as the hospital expansion.
“That is a huge, huge issue in our community,” he said.
“It has become the courthouse issue of 2017. Our physicians have spoken, they have sounded the alarm bells. By fate or circumstance or by divine intervention, I have become personally attached to this issue myself now,” he said, adding that economic diversification is another issue he will tackle in the second term if he is re-elected.
“We also, as a council, need to take more of a deliberate approach to the annual policing plan.”
Looking ahead, Johnston said a big item on the agenda in the next four years will be the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“The ability to leverage the Winter Games and position Red Deer as the sports tourism centre as Alberta. That I think is going to be our most wonderful economic and tourism opportunity if we do it right in the next four years.”
Meanwhile, Johnston asked the community when heading to the polls this fall to look at his track record on council.
“Please look at what I’ve done and how I’ve committed myself,” he said. “If people are looking for a councillor who will weigh issues and who will understand the short-term impact and the long-term impact of making the decisions that we need for the next five or 10 or 30 years, and if you’re looking for a councillor who has dedicated himself to being engaged, to being active and pledges to be engaged and active, then please consider me in October.”