The MD of Pincher Creek all-candidates forum was a bag of mixed results, rekindling debates on a few intermittent issues including wind energy and road repair, and giving rise to typical concerns based around Covid policy and community expansion. The Oct. 6 virtual event was hosted by Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce.
Tony Bruder, candidate for Division 1, and Rick Lemire, candidate for Division 2, did not participate as they won their seats at the council table by acclamation.
Taking part in the forum were Division 3 candidates David Cox and Garry Marchuk, Division 4 candidate Jim Welsch, and Division 5 candidates Chuck Lee and John MacGarva. Harold Hollingshead, a candidate for Division 4, was absent.
Chuck Lee, Garry Marchuk and Jim Welsch spoke out against windmill development west of Highway 6. John MacGarva said he needed to learn more about it before speaking on the matter and David Cox said he is satisfied with wind energy production as it is now.
“I think our viewscapes are one of the most important things we have to offer to our travelling public, as one of the major attractions we have,” said Lee, adding that he doesn’t think the area is even suitable for wind energy development because of the wind pattern.
“East of us there’s a more stable, consistent wind pattern, and to the west of Highway 6 we get stronger winds that buffet those wind towers a lot more, so there’s a lot less efficiency,” he said.
Residents living near wind farms along the Southview and Riverview ridges have complained about the flashing red lights on turbines for close to a decade. Previous councils have never been able to solve the issue, but the candidates put forward some interesting ideas.
Welsch happened to be working on the municipal planning committee at the time one of these windmill projects was approved. He said that according to Nav Canada, a special radar system was supposed to be built into the turbines so that the lights would turn off at night and turn on only when a plane was flying overhead, but the company has yet to implement this.
“I would most certainly hold their feet to the fire to uphold their promise to do that,” he added.
Marchuk said it would be worthwhile to head to Calgary to meet with wind companies.
According to Cox and Welsch, road repair is the biggest issue the new council will face.
“When I’m talking to people about issues, roads are generally the first thing that people ask me about,” said Cox.
“We do repetitive passes with the longevity of that pass being one or two days. I think the methodology could be improved, so when you make a pass you actually get some longer-term results out of it.”
Road and bridge repair makes up a large percentage of the MD budget and one question asked how projects like these can be accomplished without raising taxes.
Marchuk and Welsch had opposite opinions on the matter, with Welsch wanting to subcontract out the work and Marchuk wanting to keep work local.
“We should be able to do more in-house,” Marchuk said. “Why are engineering costs so expensive and why can’t we do some of that ourselves?”
MacGarva and Lee agreed that it’s best to keep an eye on operational efficiencies moving forward.
“Where are the deficiencies? What are we lacking? And how do we make our operations more efficient?” asked Lee.
Other communities have implemented a vaccine mandate for council employees. Will MD council follow suit?
Welsch, Cox and Marchuk said they would be fully on board with this.
“We should be following the vaccine mandate. The science proves it works and all of the statistics show that the highest demand on our medical system right now is in unvaccinated people,” said Cox.
MacGarva and Lee are not in favour of mandatory vaccination.
“I think there are some alternatives. I believe in people having choices,” said MacGarva. “We seem to have a high percentage getting vaccinated anyways.”
“Who do we lose because they refuse to get the vaccines and how critical are they to our operations?” asked Lee.
“There are people with medical conditions who can’t get the vaccines that probably should not get the vaccines, and there’s people who have natural immunity because they already caught Covid disease in the past,” he said.
“I don’t necessarily agree with the concept of forced vaccinations on our public.”
The firing of fire chief David Cox from Pincher Creek Emergency Services was subject to much debate in the community. At the forum, Cox was asked about what he learned from his experiences in that role and how it would be relevant to council.
“The fire department is very much like the municipal council,” he said. “It has a board of directors. My role as head of administration was answering to that board. I’m very familiar with the process of governance by elected officials and the processes used.”
Marchuk was questioned about a decision he made in his last council term, when he supposedly went ahead with constructing a pathway system in the hamlet of Beaver Mines without consulting the community.
Marchuk denied this allegation, stating that as president of Beaver Mines Community Association at the time, he had discussed the issue and asked for public feedback at one of its meetings.
“What would I do different? I guess make myself more clear,” he said.
Expansion of Beaver Mines
Marchuk said growth prospects for the community are looking up.
“Beaver Mines has always been unable to further grow because of the lack of sewer and water,” he said. “By implementing the sewer and water program into the community, it will enable us to grow and subdivision would be possible.”
Candidate profiles were published in the Oct. 6 issue of Shootin’ the Breeze and can be viewed online at bit.ly/3BvN4Zj. The forum can be viewed in its entirety at bit.ly/3Drts9g.
Election day is Monday, Oct. 18.
Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze