INNISFAIL – Election candidates got a first-hand taste last week on how important the Oct. 16 municipal election is for Innisfailians.
Citizens care, deeply care, about how this election's slate of candidates plans to move the community forward from a long recession and a year of turmoil at town hall, especially on issues of economic development, transportation and affordable housing, as well as the new hot button topic of automated garbage collection service.
The first all-candidates forum, held Sept. 26 at the Innisfail Seniors Drop-In Centre, was standing room only. The two declared mayoralty candidates and the 11 seeking six councillor seats heard loud and clear that Innisfailians want to see progress for their community. And they will undoubtedly hear that message again at the next all-candidates forum on Oct. 4, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion.
“It has been in the newspapers for quite some time. Everyone has expressed their opinions on them,” said Innisfailian forum attendee Jim Carroll. “They are hard topics. There is no easy solution to any of them by anybody. It doesn't surprise me those were front and centre.”
The forum, moderated by Stuart Little, began with each candidate given three minutes to introduce themselves and addressing three seniors drop-in prepared questions, including what supports could be made available for seniors to “age in place,” could taxes and utilities be reduced for those with depleting incomes, and how can communications be improved between the town and the community.
“The most important thing about aging in place is ensuring we help people be socially engaged in the community. Academic literature shows us that social engagement is a must,” said councillor candidate Jean Barclay, adding social engagement must be community-wide. “Through collaboration, collaboration collaboration. We have to be willing to listen to what people have to say. If we want to talk about transportation we better be going to the community to find out what we need. It may be more than just one or two handi-buses.”
As for affordable housing, incumbent councillor Gavin Bates, who's running for a second term, told the audience the town has an immediate need for starter home lots and varied senior-friendly housing development.
“I stress varied,” said Bates. “There are seniors and there are seniors. There are 50-year-old seniors; there are 85-year-old seniors. They have entirely different needs.”
On automated garbage collection, council candidate Christa Lamboo, who attended the issue's Sept. 14 open house, said there was emphasis that future pickup would only be in the front of homes, creating concern for seniors who may be forced to pull out bins to the front of their houses.
But Mayor Brian Spiller, who is seeking his second term, countered to the audience the issue is not a “done decision” and the town is now only “fact gathering.”
In the meantime, there were some seniors in the audience who wished there was more discussion on community involvement and engagement on major issues, an issue that was pressed hard against the current council over the past year.
“I am kind of disappointed in what they came up with. I thought they would be more open with what the subjects were. I would have liked to have heard more community involvement in everything they decide that is major,” said senior Myrna Kissick. “For big things the whole community should be involved, not just a few council members deciding.”
Jean Barclay, councillor candidate
"We have to be willing to listen to what people have to say. If we want to talk about transportation we better be going to the community to find out what we need. It may be more than just one or two handi-buses."