Mayoral candidates square off at forum

  • Oct. 9, 2013 2:37 p.m.

About 100 people came out to a recent forum for the mayoral candidates at the Red Deer Public Library.

William Horn, Cindy Jefferies, Chad Mason, Dennis Trepanier and Tara Veer tackled issues such as bike lanes, the City’s debt and snow removal.

One question raised was in regards to City council’s approval of the Native Friendship Centre on Riverside Dr. adjacent to the Red Deer River and whether another location would be found for the proposed development.

“I took the opportunity to go down to the Native Friendship Centre and talk to the CEO there. They would actually like the mandate to sell that piece of land and look for their own property. They are worried about it being on the flood plain and they are worried it is the wrong area for that type of development,” said Horn. “They would like to find their own piece of land and get approval and go ahead with their project. That is what the natives of the City want.”

Bike lanes was also a hot topic at the forum with much discussion taking place on the issue.

“I wonder how this happened in our democracy that we implemented something that the majority doesn’t want,” said Mason. “If council asked 100 people if they wanted the bike lanes, 81 would have said no.”

He added he believes bike lanes work in other municipalities, but not in Red Deer.

“It’s winter most of the year and it just doesn’t work.”

Jefferies said the implementation of the bikes lanes was about creating choice for people.

“I’ll be the first to admit that we went a little bit wrong there – maybe a lot wrong. However I think the overarching reasons for trying bike lanes were good and we were well intentioned,” she said. “It’s about promoting active modes of transportation. We need to change the way we move. If we can encourage a little bit of cycling or pedestrian walking we will certainly have an impact on our health care budget.”

Trepanier added the bike lane project was a “social engineering experiment that failed.”

He asked the audience if they knew who did the cost-benefit analysis on the project.

“Where was the benefit? And who benefited from this? Ok, some bicyclists. But really do we all benefit from it? I don’t think so,” he said. “This is an example of wasting $850,000 of your tax dollars.”

Veer added was never on board with the bike lane project as it was presented to council.

“I voted against the bike lanes pilot map because I thought it was too extensive for a pilot – it was a lot of change overnight. When you looked at the map you could tell our citizens would lose parking in front of their homes or businesses without any general public consultation,” she said. “There would also be loss of driving laneway with one vote of council without any public consultation. The greatest issue I had with our debate was that it would polarize our community to either become pro-bike or anti-bike.”

The next election forum, hosted by the Canadian Home Builders Association, will be held tonight the Red Deer Lodge from 6:30 – 9 p.m. A health forum is scheduled for Oct. 10 at the Harvest Centre from 7 – 9 p.m.

The Red Deer Chamber of Commerce will host the City’s final election forum on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Harvest Centre.