Debate rivets voters

By Geoff Lee

October 20, 2016 12:00 AM

ISSUES City council hopefull Jonathan Torresan takes his turn to address questions posed at Tuesday evening's all candidates forum. Flanking him, l-r, is Don Schille, Sheldon Servold and John Van Cleemput .

It was meat and potatoes time for the three mayoral contenders and 21 candidates running for council to win over voters at the all candidates forum.
The winners of Tuesday night’s debate, hosted by the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce at the Stockade Convention Centre, will be revealed when ballots are counted at the Oct. 26 municipal election.
A crowd of about 400 people took in the live action,  including Wilma Bodnard, who enjoyed hearing mayoral candidates Gerald Aalbers, Cheryl Ross and Jason Whiting answer 10 questions posted by moderator Glenda Elkow.
“I think they were well informed before they came here tonight and I think they answered the questions from the audience very well,” said Bodnard.
As for who won, Bodnard said, “I am not going to say that—people will know that on voting day.”
Diane Weinkauf also liked what she heard from the three contenders for mayor.
“It makes you think who’s going to run our city,” she said.
Earl Swift said the debate hasn’t changed who he will vote for as our next mayor, but he gave all candidates a passing grade.
“The questions they answered, I thought they did a good job,” he said.
Elkow asked all three candidates to respond to everything from budget cuts, transparency, how to balance a $10.5 million deficit in the draft 2017 city budget, to where they stand on the city’s $4.5 million purchase of the former Synergy Credit Union building for a community hub.
On the hub issue, Aalbers said, “No, I do not support this project at this time—the community hub must be stopped.”
He went to say, “Rest assured, if the new city council supports a notion to withdraw, cancel or void the purchase offer, the hub deal will cease to exist.”
Whiting said he was in favour of the concept of the hub that would house the library for example, and he favours the purchase of it.
“It was the purchase of assets that we will be able to use down the road,” he said, noting the project was also part of the city’s strategy for downtown revitalization.
Ross told the audience she doesn’t recall this being a part of their city’s strategic plan for our community, but is dead set against it and hopes to overturn it knowing the purchase has not been finalized.
“I am not in favour of continuing the proposed purchase and have great interest in discussing with council what other options might be reasonable to relocate the library which would be much more fiscally responsible with your tax dollars,” she said to voters.
With the debate over, Ross stepped off the stage pleased with her showing.
“I think it was fantastic part of the forum and I look forward to listening to the councillor candidates,” she said.
Aalbers also had time for quick post debate comment about his performance.
“I felt very comfortable and I felt really good about the debate—there were some great questions and I feel really comfortable,” he said.
On the forum question of how to trim expenses to balance the budget, Whiting said that’s a job that will involve engaging the entire community and council, and not just himself if he’s elected mayor.
“It doesn’t just consist of budget cuts,” he said.
“It’s going to consist of finding additional revenue sources and a variety of other things, finding efficiencies as well.”
Aalbers said if elected, he would bring more accountability for everything from contracts to expense accounts.
“Your hard-earned tax dollars need to be spent with full accountability,” he said.
“With your support, we might need a forensic audit to find out where it’s gone wrong so we can correct the course and realign the city.”
Ross said all pencils must be sharpened to go over each line in the budget.
“The days of spending unnecessarily have gotten our community to sit up and take note—myself included—I am very disappointed,” she said, adding it’s an easy fix.
“When all legislated expectations are met, then the proposed department budgets can be reviewed and discussed and addressed.”
The 21 candidates running for six seats on council were tasked with answering 14 questions with the debate streamed to an online audience of 2,000 people watching all or part of the debate.
The candidates were asked to pick dangerous goods, a rail overpass, cycling and walk paths or the proposed downtown traffic couplet as their top issue on council in one of many rapid fire questions.
It was overpass for Locky Cummine, and a couplet for Bill King and Sheldon Servold as the question went down the line of candidates.
It was unanimous that all 21 candidates would take a pay cut to reduce expenditures.
As for their top issue priority, rapid fire responses ranged from restructuring city administration for Daryl Wright, to the wastewater facility and city finance in the budget for Glenn Fagnan.
The Chamber’s forum panel, headed by president Kevin Kraft, included John Winter and Wendy Plandowski as question collators and Serena Sjodin as the timer.
The floor walking crews included Wade Blythe, Angela Rooks-Trotzuk, Mark Witzaney and Angela Marsh.

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