Billboards don’t quite cut it

The election campaign signs went up Sept. 1 on 34 public sites across the cityscape.

Even Mayor Morris Flewwelling, who so far is facing no competition in his third and probably last bid to lead the City, has joined the billboard craze.

There are many new candidates vying to become City councillors, including some excellent ones.

Dianne Wyntjes, Christopher Stephan, Paul Harris, Terry Lee Ropchan and Jim Watters are all credible candidates aiming to either replace any of the six incumbents who have chosen to run again or claim the seats that will be left vacant from Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer and Larry Pimm, who are both retiring.

And the list could still grow longer and more impressive before nomination day officially closes on Sept. 20.

This all shapes up to a potentially wide and healthy range of options for citizens when they cast their votes on Oct. 18.

However, billboards, faces and names themselves do not add up to an election with substance for Red Deerians, who stayed away at the ballot box in 2007 in alarmingly low numbers.

What this campaign needs is serious discussion and debate on issues. Citizens have a right to choose a candidate who has the best plan and ideas for the next three years.

There are less than six weeks left before voting day, and there are a few issues already rising to the surface faster and more pronounced than all the others.

Many Red Deerians are deeply concerned the City over spent before the recession hit in late 2008. They are concerned that restraint measures put in the last civic budget will continue longer and deeper than they were originally led to believe, and if the province continues to show the same belt-tightening, there is worry many social programs and the overall quality of life could suffer, especially for citizens still reeling from the recession.

Added to this is that there is a growing feeling that if the City wants to put forward a plan to stimulate growth in the local economy it will have to do a better job of courting the corporate sector to pay the bills. Red Deerians are in no mood to see their taxes rise again to pay for big pie in the sky capital projects.

The City missed a golden opportunity in 2008 when the first grand plans were put forward for the future of the Riverlands. Leading men of business in the City and region wanted to run with the ball to the corporate end zone but it was stripped away.

Red Deer urgently needs a reason to get exited about its future again. Billboards won’t cut it. Ideas, action and a commitment to make it happen will.