Town council candidates in virtual hot seat

·5 min read

The three mayoral candidates and 13 candidates running for council answered the public’s most compelling questions in a virtual forum hosted Sept. 29 by Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce.

Running for mayor are incumbent Don Anderberg, Scott Korbett and Jim Litkowski. Vying for councillor positions are incumbents Mark Barber, Wayne Elliott and Brian McGillivray, along with Tammy Carmichael, Mike Chaput, David Green, Judy Lane, Sahhra Nodge, Blaise O’Rourke, Wayne Oliver, Corinne Payne, Jocelyne Sheen and Brian Wright.

Previous issues of transparency and affordable housing resurfaced, featuring prominently in the evening discussion. While some queries dug deeper into personal viewpoints and past decisions of some candidates, others covered the odds and ends — issues that can get overlooked in platform pitches when more pressing and time-sensitive matters are at hand.

Following are some of the issues addressed.

Deer control

The evening started off with a question relating to the growing population of deer in town and what should be done about it.

Candidates agreed that the issue is complex and that town council may not hold all the answers. Jim Litkowski, Don Anderberg and Wayne Elliott said the issue is primarily overseen by the provincial government, making it difficult for municipal councils to have any say in the matter.

Although council implemented a deer hazing program in the past, Anderberg said it was only semi-effective and that in the future, council would have to look at having more conversations with the province and getting it to take action.

Scott Korbett agreed that previous strategies were not effective and said pursuing the matter further is a waste of town resources.

“I do not find it prudent to spend taxpayer dollars to try to mitigate deer in the town of Pincher Creek,” he said.

Corinne Payne and Tammy Carmichael suggested council work with the Alberta Fish and Game Association or the Ministry of Environment.

Payne also said we should look to other towns for inspiration and used her hometown of Magrath as an example. Each year, she said, a deer hunt would be held outside the town limits, which decreased the deer population by a small amount.

Carmichael said the discussion should not be limited to prevention strategies.

“I think we need to take some responsibility in how we interact with them. Be more cautious,” she said.

Affordable housing

David Green and Sahra Nodge put forth comprehensive proposals to help mitigate the local housing crisis.

Green said he’d like to see old buildings stretching from Main Street to Charlotte Street be repurposed into housing units, particularly the old RCMP detachment building, which is scheduled for demolition. Although this isn’t a long-term solution, he said, it would serve as a quick fix while discussions with the provincial government progress.

Nodge is in favour of developing more houses and multi-unit facilities in rural areas.

“I think we can also look at some of our land-use designation and see if there is appropriate use for suites — having other ways to break different types of market housing up to different standards and developing rental capacity in that way with the private sector,” she said.

Transparency

Wayne Oliver and Brian McGillivray said transparency means simply keeping people informed. McGillivray would advocate for live-streamed council meetings.

Covid-19

Korbett, Litkowski and Anderberg all agreed there isn’t much the town can do to curtail the effects of Covid, other than to follow the restrictions and vaccine policies that already exist.

“It’s really difficult. Everybody’s got their own opinion,” said Anderberg. “We’re in a minefield when it comes to proclaiming anything from a council perspective.”

He added that getting people to take the vaccine has not been as much of an issue as the provincial government, which he called slow to implement Covid policy and disorganized in its action.

“Senior officials [are] not putting in clear guidelines,” he said.

Mike Chaput came under fire for his views on Covid policy. He is against mandatory masking and social distancing.

“We’re discriminating against people who have medical conditions who can’t wear a mask,” he said. “I am against all types of discrimination and medical, there’s no difference.”

Despite contrary opinions, he remains optimistic that his voice will be heard.

“The current council voted to implement the mask mandate, so if you can vote something like that in, you can vote against it,” he said.

Emergency Services Commission

When questioned about the decision to dismiss David Cox from his position as fire chief without due process or a performance review, Korbett stood by his initial judgment.

“I have a vested interest in keeping that organization healthy. Moving it forward, our team is top notch. We are the envy of the province,” he said.

“When you are appointed to that commission, your fiduciary duty is to the commission, and my decision at the commission level was for the community and it was a good decision,” he said. “I believe I have the confidence of the majority of council.”

Conflicts of interest

A few questions were directed to individual candidates about whether their personal lives would interfere with their ability to do their jobs.

Concerns were raised over previous comments from Litkowski, who claimed town council was corrupt, but he said his concerns related only to the imbalance in local power dynamics.

“There’s little cliques,” he said. “If you don’t belong to one clique or the next clique, you don’t get any business consulting. It should be open to all businesses, not just a couple of groups that handle everything. This is why I used the word ‘corrupt.’ ”

Korbett was asked about his job as a realtor and how this might conflict with planning and future development in the town.

“We do have a protocol in place for declaring pecuniary interests and being able to step away from the conversation and let other people run those decisions and be fully transparent,” he answered.

More information

Candidate profiles were published in the Sept. 29 issue of Shootin’ the Breeze and can be viewed online at bit.ly/3BlOk10. The forum can be viewed in its entirety at bit.ly/3lvsR0k.

Election day is Monday, Oct. 18.

Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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