There were two defining moments at last week’s Chamber of Commerce sponsored election forum, arguably the most important of this year’s municipal election campaign.
The first was when a young woman, an AISH recipient, asked mayoralty candidates whether lowering monthly public transit user fees for citizens on fixed incomes was something the mayor would endorse. Mayor Morris Flewwelling said it would be considered.
This is not acceptable. Red Deer is better than that. Going the extra mile for Red Deer’s vulnerable should never be just “considered”. It should be automatic. Being compassionate for vulnerable citizens is a cherished Canadian trademark and it should be the City’s as well.
Secondly, there was a hush in the crowd when former City councillor Vesna Higham asked candidate Dianne Wyntjes which provincial and federal political parties she has supported over the past decade. The question was mean-spirited, and had absolutely nothing to do with issues or her ability to hold elected office. The question smacked of being a direct attempt to simply discredit Wyntjes.
However, it backfired. Wyntjes’ response was direct and professional. She handled the situation with poise and grace. As a result she no doubt left the room with more new votes than the rest of the candidates put together.
Wyntjes is one new candidate we would like to see elected to City council, not only for her coolness under fire but for her proven record of having an admirable social conscience. It is a trait council urgently needs to maintain its balance and for the many issues facing Red Deer’s vulnerable, like the young AISH recipient who attended the forum.
We also like council candidate Paul Harris. He is a successful businessman with a long record of dedicated community involvement. He knows the downtown inside out, and his voice will reflect the passion on what is urgently needed for Red Deer’s core, its heart.
The third newcomer that we believe should be elected is Chris Stephan. He is the election’s “homegrown” candidate. Being born and raised in Red Deer is definitely an asset. He also has the City’s spending habits high on his list of priorities. He is well spoken, forward thinking and we believe he will bring a fresh approach to the table.
There are five incumbents we believe have proven themselves and should be re-elected for another term. Councillors Cindy Jefferies, Tara Veer, Lynne Mulder, Buck Buchanan and Gail Parks all deserve another go.
Jefferies, who is the City’s mayor in waiting, makes smart decisions, comes to council prepared and is fiscally responsible while Veer has matured immeasurably in the past three years. Mulder brings a level-headedness for the good of the grassroots citizens while Buchanan, following a poor start, has emerged as a dedicated representative of the community. Parks, meanwhile, is not afraid to ask the tough questions.
And of course we believe Mayor Morris Flewwelling deserves one final term as mayor. But please, for Red Deer’s vulnerable, change “considered” to “absolutely”.