DEBATE - About 250 people were in attendance at the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce municipal election forum Wednesday night at Westerner Park. Erin Fawcett/Red Deer Express

DEBATE - About 250 people were in attendance at the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce municipal election forum Wednesday night at Westerner Park. Erin Fawcett/Red Deer Express

Number of hot button issues at Red Deer’s first election forum

Issues discussed were community safety, a supervised drug injection site and maintaining business

Community safety, a supervised drug injection site, a treatment centre and maintaining business in Red Deer were the hot topics of the night at the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce municipal election forum Wednesday evening.

About 250 people attended the event which was held at Westerner Park.

Candidate Jim Kristinson said he would be in favour of more resources for the RCMP to help combat crime in the City.

“I am more in favour of having a municipal police force work with the RCMP. We’re currently giving the RCMP $22 million a year and I don’t think they are giving us our money’s worth.”

Candidate Jeremy Moore said he understands the challenges the RCMP face as his brother is a member in the force.

“He talks about not being able to be on the front lines because he is tied up in the office doing paperwork. It is important to give the RCMP resources that they need so that the uniformed officers can be on the ground.”

Other issues brought up on Wednesday night included whether or not Red Deer should have a drug consumption site as well as a treatment centre.

Candidate Vesna Higham said a supervised drug injection site is a complex issue.

“My instinct regarding the supervised drug injection site is that it is counter-intuitive to trying to combat addiction,” she said. “But given the problem with the needles (in the community), it may be shown that it can address the needles throughout the parks and on the streets in our community.”

Candidate Jonathan Wieler said he would be in favour of such a site.

“Stats show that people who are using fentanyl want to use a supervised site. This is a high security, medical facility – it’s not just a place like a bar where you go and shoot up,” he said. “If City council does it right – we could build this to world class standards with CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles, then you can walk by and not even know it’s there. Ninety per cent of people who use fentanyl and opiates said they would use this kind of site.”

Candidate Ted Johnson said he is not in support of a supervised safe injection site.

“I do not believe in feeding any addiction. Period.”

In terms of developing a drug treatment centre in Red Deer, candidate Ian Miller said he is in favour of the issue.

“I am absolutely in favour – it’s not a place where people go to do drugs. They go to get treated for drug addiction,” he said. “I believe it is a great way to get drug users out of the streets and give them the help they need.”

Another topic that was discussed was attracting and maintaining businesses in Red Deer.

“I’m a small business in Red Deer right now who has had clients who have recently moved out to the (Red Deer) County and Gasoline Alley – I have even considered it myself,” said Mayoral candidate Sean Burke. “I have to be part of the conversation myself to know exactly what is going on – honestly we are corporate beautiful and it looks like all of the money has been spent on corporations and small businesses were left out. If we all come to the table for small businesses – come together and see what we can do.”

Candidate Valdene Callin said this is a complex issue.

“I don’t think there is one correct answer on this. If we’re having our citizens leaving to go out to Gasoline Alley or to other areas because it’s easier to do business or it’s cheaper to do business, then I think council has to look at ways to ensure we aren’t losing those citizens.”

Candidate Lawrence Lee said the City has to make the community more attractive for businesses in terms of development and planning.

Other candidates for council, who were also in attendance at Wednesday night’s forum, include Tara Veer for mayor, Sam Bergeron, Buck Buchanan, Matt Chapin, Michael Dawe, Robert Friss, Calvin Goulet-Jones, Jason Habuza, Tanya Handley, Ken Johnston, Cory Kingsfield, Kris Maciborsky, Doug Manderville, Bobbi McCoy, Rick More, Lynne Mulder, Matt Slubik, Jordy Smith, Brice Unland, Frank Wong and Dianne Wyntjes.

Bayo Nshombo Bayongwa is also running for a seat on council.

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