Lemoine joins Ste. Agathe council race

·5 min read

On October 26, Ste. Agathe residents will go to the polls. Long-time resident Joel Lemoine is stepping foot into the political ring to challenge the incumbent, Curtis Claydon.

Lemoine has called Ste. Agathe home for almost half a century and his roots in the community go deep. His grandfather began a transport company here, operated a garage, and farmed a plot of land.

His parents made their mark in the area, too. His father took over the family farm and his mother worked as an early-years educator in the local school for more than 30 years.

“My mom taught me how to learn, but my dad taught me how to think,” Lemoine says, musing about the importance his parents placed on education as well as the critical thinking he developed as a child on the farm.

Lemoine and his wife also chose the community to raise their children, now ages 13 and 15.

He says his decision to run for council has been five or six years in the making. The seed was first planted by former Ritchot council member Jeannot Robert, who encouraged Lemoine to run just as Robert was stepping down. Others from the community have also encouraged him over the years to consider the value he could add to Ritchot’s council.

“It’s a good feeling when you’re just walking the dog on the sidewalk and people approach you and say, ‘You should consider running for council,’” Lemoine says.

The timing is finally right for Lemoine, as he’s about to step away from two terms as school trustee with the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine (DSFM). This past year, the trustee position required his attendance at 83 meetings. Thus he’s confident he can handle whatever time council work will require of him.

Aside from his role as school trustee, Lemoine’s primary career is that of a financial business advisor with CDEM, the Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities. He’s been employed there for the past 20 years.

“My line of work is something that makes for a perfect transition to council work,” Lemoine says. “My primary role with CDEM is to help entrepreneurs buy businesses, start businesses, and expand businesses. I also deal a lot with immigration and newcomers coming in, mostly looking for employment for them which I match up with my list of employers.”

Assisting entrepreneurs with business start-ups and paving the path for business retention is Lemoine’s passion. And with an RM that struggles in some areas to grow and keep its commercial sector alive, he feels he may have the expertise to help turn that around.

“To attract people to our communities requires growing the business aspect of it,” Lemoine says. “I’ve always said that for a community to succeed or to stay afloat, you at least need a little gas bar, a restaurant, maybe a small grocery store, a school, and a bank, ideally. Once you have that infrastructure in place, I think people are encouraged. But as soon as you lose those core industries, you’re in survival mode.”

Lemoine’s work as a business advisor on CDEM has also provided him an opportunity to sit on a number of community development corporations (CDCs) in the southeast as an ex-officio member. That includes many years attending Ritchot CDC meetings and Ste. Agathe’s version of the same, the CDI.

The objectives of the CDC and CDI are to create long-term visions for the community and, from that, establish economic development strategies for growth.

Lemoine recognizes that the many volunteers who make up the CDC and other local organizations are the real heroes of a community. Ste. Agathe seems to have a lot of those, he says. Even so, keeping growth focused on the residential side of things should result in new volunteers moving in to replace others as they age out.

While CDCs are effective, Lemoine adds, they need the support of a council that’s willing to work together with them, to hear out their ideas and then provide the infrastructure to make them work.

Another advantage of working with CDEM over the years, he says, is the witness he’s been to countless community projects around the province that were borne out of a community’s ingenuity and creativity.

“If there’s a project that I’ve seen in senior housing development or community development, tourism, or immigration attraction strategies, I’ll bring that to council and, rather than reinvent the wheel, try to adapt it for here.”

As it is for so many others, a lack of seniors housing in his municipality is a real sore spot for Lemoine. He believes that it’s unacceptable for the very people who have lived out their lives in the community and invested so much in it to be unable to find housing.

“The elderly population is being lost,” he says. “Just because of housing, not because they want to leave. They’ve found ways to develop seniors housing in other communities and that’s the knowledge I hope to bring to council.”

Sometimes, he says, council members need to be long-term visionaries. It’s not always a “build it and they will come” scenario when it comes to needed community projects. He uses the example of the Riel Industrial Park, which was laboriously slow in getting going and took a lot of effort to see through. Today, it’s a major part of Ritchot’s thriving economic success.

“Financially and emotionally, that project hurt before the light of day was seen,” he says.

All in all, Lemoine is a community champion at heart with a desire to find new ways to serve his community.

“At the end of the day, I’d be there working for the municipality, but my heart is in Ste. Agathe. So I have to make sure that my constituents are happy and that I’m available to them.”

On the campaign trail, Lemoine says he’s hoping to get some door-knocking in, although in a growing community like Ste. Agathe he’s trying to be realistic on that front. Residents can likely expect to see a flyer in their mailboxes or on their front steps in the coming weeks.

As well, he hopes to be available to the voters in his region and welcomes anyone to reach out by phone, email, or in person.

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen