If incumbent Fraser Tolmie intends to keep the mayor’s chair after Moose Jaw’s municipal vote on Monday, he’ll have to fend off pointed critiques from his two challengers, Nancy Nash and John Kot.
It won’t be a walk in Wakamow Valley for Tolmie.
A champion of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Nash wants to help and heal people in the city, part of which means boosting its local manufacturing output.
“We don’t want a Canadian flag that’s made in China or any other country. We want it made hands-on, here,” she said.
Pragmatic John Kot offers a meat-and-potatoes approach that favours easy paths to starting business in Moose Jaw. “We need to cut out the red tape,” he said.
Tolmie aims to keep marketing the city beyond Saskatchewan, hoping to make it a technology hub rooted in agriculture.
The candidates spoke with the Leader-Post to share their visions.
A long-time music-recording artist, Nash was born in North Battelford, but she has Haida roots through her mother.
She has lived and worked in Moose Jaw for the last four years as a cashier, giving her plenty of face time with people.
If elected, she'll cancel pay raises for the mayor and councillors: In July they voted to give themselves wage increases of 21 per cent (mayor) and 28 per cent (councillors), starting in 2021.
Nash said she’ll further reduce those wages by five per cent. “To punish the citizens who can't pay their taxes or buy food and give themselves a raise is despicable.”
To help those struggling with poverty, she wants to install a wheelchair-accessible ramp at Riverside Mission’s entrance.
Nash criticized Tolmie’s pitch to turn the city into an agricultural technology hub, saying it will isolate people and keep them stuck in front of their computer screens.
She’s pledging to give financial incentives to young entrepreneurs and artisans who want to open businesses that make and manufacture products in the city, hoping it will help residents recover if they’ve suffered job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her vision is “simple, smaller. Not get bigger; get better.”
Kot is a lifetime Moose Javian who was born, attended school and still owns a tree-cutting business in what he calls the friendly city.
Similar to Nash, he disagrees with the mayor’s and councillors’ pay raises approved in July.
He’s pledging if elected to donate the mayor’s increase ($17,765) to the city’s charities. “Those are the people who really need it. I don't need it."
He’d urge city councillors to do the same with their wage increases ($7,399).
Kot says he’d push city crews to fix and pave Moose Jaw’s roads more quickly than the current rate. “It just doesn’t seem like it’s a priority for the current administration.”
He thinks Wakamow Valley should remain as is, with no private development, because of its natural beauty and its tendency to flooding.
“We've got a gem right in the middle of Moose Jaw. Go down there any day, any time of night, you won't be bothered; just enjoy nature,” he said.
Kot would push city hall to bring in more manufacturing businesses, saying there’s potential in the solar and wind energy sectors.
“Maybe we can get manufacturing going to make (solar) panels; maybe we can get an electrical company in here to make wind turbines or lithium batteries,” he said.
The incumbent mayor is asking voters for another four-year mandate to continue building on programs he says were just started after he came to office in 2016.
He used Moose Jaw’s cast-iron water main replacement program as an example.
“Change isn't always instant. It sometimes takes time,” he said, referencing Moose Jaw’s infrastructure. “The first couple of years, you're not as good at it, but you have to continually work at it.”
Tolmie is also championing what he calls the “new e-economy,” spurred in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a Chamber of Commerce leaders forum, he referenced a RBC Canada report talking about “an aging Baby Boomers” cliff, particularly in the agriculture sector.
He says it’s a good idea to position Moose Jaw as a technology hub, where residents (whether young or old) can get trained to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) to do agriculture work.
“I can see Moose Jaw not only to be a centre of technology excellence in the ag. industry, but the Fort McMurray of agriculture in western Canada.” He didn’t mention the Alberta city’s long-documented problems with drug addictions or its boom-and-bust economic cycles.
Prior to his term as mayor, Tolmie served as a city councillor for three years.
Moose Jaw voters had already cast 1,355 ballots at advanced polls as of Wednesday morning, more than 100 voters in all of 2016. The last day for advance voting is Thursday.
Voters have requested 328 mail-in ballots so far (compared with just 22 in 2016).
Voter turnout has hovered around 40 per cent of eligible voters in the last four elections. This year, there are approximately 25,900 eligible voters, a decrease of 1,600 people from 2016.
Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post