Issues ranging from crime to health care to expanding Red Deer’s hospital services were top of mind during a Red Deer City council candidate meet and greet event at the Golden Circle on Friday.
“The feedback that I have gotten is great,” said Executive Director Monica Morrison of the event, which provided for casual, one-one-one conversations rather than a comparatively formal forum structure.
“The candidates love it – it’s an opportunity to have those one-on-one conversations. When you have such a large group of candidates in a two-hour forum format, you are restricted as to how much dialogue you can actually have,” she said.
“I’d say the main themes I’ve heard today are homelessness, and hospital service issues. Some have brought up how they want expansion of the hospital, or even another hospital,” he said, adding that some shared how they also want to be more included and involved in the community in general.
Jordy Smith said fiscal responsibility was the biggest concern he was hearing from those gathered. As several seniors are on fixed incomes, tax increases are even more of an issues for them, he added.
“They don’t get a lot of tax breaks in Red Deer. In lots of other bigger cities, they do focus more on tax breaks and tax rebates for senior citizens, but Red Deer hasn’t done a whole lot in that lately,” he said, adding he really enjoyed the more casual format of the event Friday morning. “You can really get to know people.”
Incumbent Lynne Mulder said that themes she had been hearing at every single table she had sat down at included crime concerns and safety in the downtown, “And the social issues that surround that. So crime is the big thing – and the hospital. (Hospital expansion) is not a municipal issue, but we have big role to play in terms of advocacy with that.”
Michael Dawe said one of the biggest issues he’s been hearing is talk of crime in Red Deer.
“It’s going to take all levels of government and several agencies to deal with everything that’s involved. But the status quo is not working and, if I get on council, it’s an issue that we will have to collectively look at; look at what kinds of things can be done to deal with it because people have a right to feel personally safe and that their property is protected.”
He said the issue of space at the hospital was coming up a lot during the course of his conversations as well.
Robert Friss noted that he heard from some that snow removal was an issue as well. “If we can’t have a mobile city for our seniors, what are they going to do? They want to get around and shop – and also the issue of safety with snow removal, too.
Friss said those he chatted with also had concerns about the City’s business environment as well – especially downtown business development and downtown safety in general.
“I’m bringing a business perspective to my campaign. The reason I got involved is that I want to protect, build and maintain small business downtown and then branch out from there,” he said.
Valdene Callin said some seniors she spoke to are concerned about where they are fitting in the current campaigning conversation.
“At the forums, we haven’t really talked about seniors and senior services,” she said, adding that many are concerned about being able to stay in their own homes, too. She added that some simply feel like they aren’t being heard.
“They aren’t disgruntled, but it’s, ‘Where do I fit into this puzzle? You’re telling me you are going to help the youth, you’re telling how you are going to build a pool, you’re telling me all of this, but what are you doing for me because I’m a voter, too’.
“So it’s a general conversation – how are we supporting our seniors?”
Incumbent Lawrence Lee said that he was hearing about concerns over increasing crime as well.
There are also concerns over safe injection services, treatment centres and City amenities in general. Lee said he enjoyed the morning as he learned from those he discussed things with as well, which taps into his passion for community building in general, he noted. Sessions like this one, which offer such rich opportunities for citizen engagement, are so important, he said.
Other candidates include Tara Veer and Sean Burke for mayor. Others running for council include Sam Bergeron, Bayo Nshombo Bayongwa, Buck Buchanan, Matt Chapin, Calvin Goulet-Jones, Jason Habuza, Tanya Handley, Vesna Higham, Ted Johnson, Ken Johnston, Cory Kingsfield, Jim Kristinson, Kris Maciborsky, Doug Manderville, Bobbi McCoy, Ian Miller, Jeremy Moore, Rick More, Matt Slubik, Brice Unland, Jonathan Wieler, Frank Wong and Dianne Wyntjes.