Candidate Survey Results

Candidate running for Councillor


1

 

Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitilization Zone:
What is your position on Revitalization of downtown Lethbridge?

Answer

Lethbridge's downtown continues to face challenges as it remains a city of suburbs. If the saying ‘the right time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today’ is true, revitalizing and preserving the downtown core is today. The BRZ and Heart of the City’s work over the past few years has moved the needle noticeably in the right direction. Lethbridge needs to continue to work towards restoring the downtown, and we need to be proactive by realizing today's younger buildings are tomorrow's historic buildings. Other cities offer property tax incentives in the form of deferrals or outright exemptions for a specified period of time to drive renewal and restoration of their downtowns. I believe this is something Lethbridge City Council should consider as we work to accelerate and build upon the work of the BRZ.


2

 

Greensence/SAGE/KLEW:
Human activities are contributing to global warming and climate change. Please choose from:
Agree
Disagree
It's complicated

Answer

Agree

Comment

The science I’ve reviewed is quite clear and compelling. While there have been natural cycles in the past, current indicators are well outside the normal and expected ranges - often by many orders of magnitude. More extreme weather events are becoming the norm. So far we’ve been pretty lucky but we can’t count on that good luck continuing. We need to plan for extreme weather events and ensure our infrastructure can meet demand.


3

 

Greensence/SAGE/KLEW:
The Environment Lethbridge Council have requested a seed grant of $120,000/year from City Council. Would you support the City providing seed money for the Environment Lethbridge Council? Please choose:
Agree
Disagree
It's complicated

Answer

It's complicated

Comment

The environment is important to me. Is $120,000 a year going to be a sound investment? Will it offer real and measurable results? Would the same expertise be found from adopting best practices from around a connected world? I met some incredibly smart people at an ACTia event in late September. Is there a benefit to a formal Environment Lethbridge Council vs. informal local expertise shared with city council, administration and citizens? I don’t know, but I’d be willing to take another look at it on a trial basis. On a budget the size of the City’s, $120,000 is relatively small. But it’s not inconsequential either. I’d like to hear more from Environment Lethbridge Council before committing to funding their pilot project.


4

 

Greensence/SAGE/KLEW:
Do you support expanding the City's waste management plan to include curbside recycling? Please choose
Agree
Disagree
It's complicated

Answer

Agree

Comment

The move to the three centralized depots doesn't make much sense to me without the other matching part of the equation, namely curbside recycling. Our family recycles as much as we can and have found the change to these centralized depots an inconvenience. Ultimately we should be seeking to reduce landfill usage and costs, especially by reducing the amount of recyclables sent to the landfill. There should be cost saving synergies available by working towards an alternating weekly pickup of waste and recyclables. Almost every other community in Alberta has figured out how to make curbside recycling work, and Lethbridge needs to make this a priority - especially since the report administration presented to Council in 2012 indicated we are already at the maximum participation rate for depots. In other words, we will not see more items recycled until and unless we provide curbside pickup. City Council should definitely investigate the feasibility of making curbside pickup a reality sooner rather than later, keeping a keen eye on costs and in consultation with the three local businesses that provide curbside recycling pickup privately.


5

 

Greensence/SAGE/KLEW:
Some cities, like Medicine Hat offer incentives to utility consumers to improve their homes and reduce utility use. Are you in favour of implementing a similar incentive program in Lethbridge to encourage residents, businesses, and the City itself to reduce their carbon footprint? Please choose:
Yes
No

Answer

No

Comment

While Medicine Hat is geographically our neighbour and also a medium-sized city, their economic fortunes are much different from ours. They’re able to fund progressive programs like this from natural gas royalties without relying on the taxpayer to foot the bill. I don’t see the City of Lethbridge having available funding for a program like this, although the goals are clearly important. In a supply and demand world, residents, businesses and the City itself will actively seek to reduce consumption and shift to environmentally friendly options as the market place offers them at pricing that provides incentives for use. One way of spurring this move to a reduction in consumption would be to look at the administration fees charged by City utility departments and move towards a more purely consumption-based system.


6

 

Greensence/SAGE/KLEW:
In 2012, Lethbridge City Council adopted a non-binding resolution opposing the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in drilling for oil and gas within municipal limits. Would you actively seek to enforce this resolution? Please choose:
Full Ban
Non binding resolution
No position
Support fracking

Answer

Non Binding Resolution

Comment

We should all be concerned about fracking within municipal limits. Our system of government precludes local municipalities from actually doing anything other than adopting non-binding resolutions. The decision lies solely in the hands of the Alberta Energy Regulator. Lethbridge City Council should be lobbying the Government of Alberta to change this, but we’re not the first municipality to face this, nor will we be the last. Having watched both of the Gasland documentaries and talked to individuals employed in the field, this is something that we as Albertans will need to stand up against together if we wish to make an impact. Under the present system, unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of the City to do much more than outline its opposition and try to ensure any adverse effects of drilling within the city can be remediated. Until such time as our energy needs are met with something other than fossil fuels, all of us on this planet are going to face ever-increasing intrusions into our backyard. Rural landowners have faced this issue and this is a classic case of NIMBYism. In the case of cities, we have power in numbers. I’d personally prefer not to have fracking in my backyard, but given my acceptance and use of fossil fuels, I am by extension asking someone else to have fracking in their backyard.


7

 

Lethbridge & District Labour Council:
What is your position on Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) and the function they serve in the future growth of the City of Lethbridge? Please choose:
Oppose P3s
No opinion
Support P3s

Answer

No Opinion

Comment

I have no philosophical objections to the concept and am supportive of exploring any and all available options to find operating budget efficiencies and reduce capital costs. To dismiss them outright isn’t being responsible to the taxpayer and to embrace them unilaterally is equally irresponsible. They would truly have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.


8

 

Lethbridge & District Labour Council:
Is the contracting out of public services necessary to the operations of the City of Lethbridge? Please choose:
Yes
No
Unsure

Answer

Unsure

Comment

A thorough examination and review of public services to ensure optimum use of capital and operational expenses yields the best possible value to Lethbridge citizens is important. Options to find efficiencies, provide operational flexibility and increased value for the dollar should be considered. As stewards of taxpayer resources, city council members must examine all available options, weigh the comparable benefits and drawbacks, and do what they believe is in the best interests of the city.


9

 

Lethbridge & District Labour Council:
Buy-local or Made-in-Canada purchasing policies should be supported even if they result in higher costs. Please choose:
Strongly disagree
Somewhat disagree
Neither agree nor disagree
Somewhat agree
Strongly agree

Answer

Somewhat agree

Comment

As a past owner of local businesses, I strive to support locally owned business and service providers whenever and wherever possible as I’m all too aware of the impacts of consumers spending elsewhere. Buying Made-in-Canada is also important to me as an individual although our manufacturing here in Canada isn’t as broad or diverse as we’d like. With globally sourced components going into many of the items we purchase, few things are truly and exclusively made in one country alone. It would be nice to see City Council pursue similar goals when possible and practical to ensure money remains within our local economy. The Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (tilma.ca) unfortunately precludes the City from preferentially selecting - or excluding - suppliers based on geography.


10

 

Lethbridge & District Labour Council:
Closure of Federal Government service offices and reductions in Provincial funding to post-secondary education have implications to the community of Lethbridge in terms of service loss and job loss. What is your position on these closures and reductions and, as a municipal leader, what should the City’s role be when the decisions of other levels of government affect citizens of Lethbridge?

Answer

The economic loss to Lethbridge from provincial government budgets cuts is far greater than their dollar value. Closure of federal government service offices has a similar ripple effect. In 2005, Lethbridge family income was $10k lower than the provincial average. Every time an above-average paying job is lost, the local economy suffers. But if we embrace a culture of innovation, economic development can spur new options and make us as a city less reliant on single-employer types. While the current council sent a letter to the province re budget cuts to post-secondary institutions, I’m not sure the true economic consequences of these cuts to our local economy were outlined strongly enough.


11

 

Lethbridge & District Labour Council:
Most of our public services and facilities have a user fee but the City subsidizes the cost of the facility or service. What is your position on the subsidization of public services and facilities? Please choose from:
Users should not pay at all so that everyone can access the service.
Small user fees should be charged but I would consider waiving them for low income people, students, and seniors.
A user fee should be charged to all users.
The City should not be subsidizing someone’s hobbies or recreation.

Answer

A user fee should be charged to all users

Comment

The reality is all public services and facilities are subsidized. The term ‘cost recovery’ is used more frequently, but it’s just another phrase for the same thing. The capital cost of the facility is excluded from these calculations as they look only at operational costs. So not only is the operation of the facility subsidized, the construction of it is as well. Thankfully, this is the role of the City. If the services and facilities offered by the City were truly profitable, private individuals or businesses would already provide them. Cost recovery should be examined to ensure it is congruent with best practices found elsewhere and adjusted as needed. Before undertaking to commit capital investment to provide new facilities or services, a business plan, or operational model, should be in place so that cost recovery (or lack thereof) into the future is understood.


12

 

Lethbridge & District Labour Council:
The City of Lethbridge should endorse an expanded Canada Pension Plan strategy and implement a Living Wage policy.Please choose from:
Strongly disagree.
Somewhat disagree
Neither agree nor disagree
Somewhat agree
Strongly agree

Answer

Strongly disagree

Comment

A national Pension Plan is beyond the scope of the City and any endorsement for it would be symbolic. Workers 18+ are eligible and in most cases required to contribute to CPP. For those seeking additional retirement savings, there are several options available including RRSP’s (with deductions at source from the employer as with CPP), Tax Free Savings Accounts, and even pension plans such as the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (available to all residents of Canada). A Living Wage policy is something that sounds like a good idea, but human nature and the financial system would see it end in rampant inflation. Many workers who earn below figures cited as Living Wage are young people whose living costs aren’t fully their own responsibility. They’re often students completing high school or pursuing post secondary educations in anticipation of higher paying jobs in their near future. So if the minimum wage were suddenly doubled overnight (raised by 50%, 75%?) what would happen to those earning a wage that was higher? Would they accept this or demand their own increase?


13

 

Play Local:
Which of these approaches do you favour and explain why you favour this approach in the comment section.Please select:
Building infrastructure and facilities to meet current needs in order to keep taxes low
Investing additional funds to accommodate future growth

Answer

Building infrastructure and facilities to meet current needs in order to keep taxes low

Comment

The further into the future one attempts to plan and project, the more fuzzy the answer becomes. Today’s needs are real and quantifiable. Tomorrow’s can be extrapolated based on history, but the only constant in life is change. Today’s financial reality can rapidly change for better or worse. With more proposed capital projects in recent memory than funds available, there is no ability to guarantee one project over another, nor to ensure that future planned phases of a Leisure Centre will be built within a specific timeline.


14

 

Play Local:
These three projects may come up in the next community improvement plan process:
  • Performing Arts Centre
  • Developing the Exhibition Park
  • Completion of the final phase of the Crossings Ice Complex.
  • If you could only fund one of these projects which would you choose? Please explain your choice in the comment section.

Answer

No answer

Comment

While tempting to select one of these options, to do so is very premature. The next cycle of the Capital Improvement Plan is three years out (pending a possible adjustment to align with the move to a four-year election cycle). To choose any of the three, information far more detailed than just the name of project is required. The only other available option of “no answer” doesn’t accurately capture my choice either, so I can only trust and expect that this comment is included as well. They are projects that the City has supported to varying degrees and ultimately will, with this council, have another opportunity to look at, gaining additional information about funding requirements, community desires and operational concerns.


15

 

Play Local:
During the last phase of the 2013 CIP, only the aquatic portion of the leisure centre was approved. What would be your commitment to having the final phase (the fieldhouse portion of the centre) completed?

Answer

I would be interested in seeing the aquatic portion, along with curling and ice rinks, up and running to have a better understanding of real world usage and operational costs. Being able to gather input from all residents on an extremely large capital project like this would also be vital to a decisionmaking process. It is a project that has many proponents, but also significant concerns. All I can promise to do is weigh this project against the others that will, when combined, far exceed the available capital dollars available. As I would with any capital project, I’d seek to ensure funding from other levels of government is fully leveraged, that creative funding alternatives are sought, and that operating budgets are realistic and fully researched. Capital allocation is only one half of the equation. Ongoing operational costs are forever.


16

 

Play Local:
The Recreation and Culture Master Plan report commissioned by the City of Lethbridge found that Lethbridge has inadequate recreation facilities. Why do you think that this situation developed and what would you do to rectify this?

Answer

The 2007 Recreation and Culture Master Plan is something I spent quite a bit of time reading as I advocated for new skateboard parks. I was troubled by the way data was ignored by both City administration and council. Quite simply, political will doesn’t always follow the data. Decisions are made frequently made when the winds of public opinion blow strong. This produces outcomes that aren’t always desirable in retrospect and upon closer examination of the data. We live in a time of virtually innumerable recreational options, all of which compete for participants, specialized facilities and a limited amount of capital and operational dollars. New capital projects now have life cycle costing built into their operating budgets which will ensure they remain viable and up to date. There are many old facilities in the City that are approaching the end of their useful lives. It’ll be important to rejuvenate these before they expire, but doing so will limit funds for brand new projects.


17

 

Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society:
Many Lethbridge residents with First Nations' Status face considerable difficulty when accessing services in the City of Lethbridge. As Status holders, they are referred to support on reserve. On reserve, they are referred to services in the city as they are residents of Lethbridge. As an elected official, how would you propose to remediate these gaps in service and accessibility issues?

Answer

I fully support the work of the Sik-Ooh-Kotoki and other aboriginal friendship societies working with urban aboriginals to face the challenges of housing, health, employment and education. As a member of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination, I would expect Lethbridge City Council and administration to work closely with aboriginal organizations within the city to bridge the information gap and stop passing the buck. The first of the ten CMARD commitments is probably the most important: increasing vigilance against systemic and individual racism and discrimination, which may well include failure to provide services or to provide them in a less than timely manner. Providing equal opportunities in housing and employment and giving citizens a voice are other givens. Monitoring and taking action against racism and discrimination within the community and the inclusion of Aboriginal communities into Lethbridge’s cultural fabric represent significant challenges and opportunities for council members to show leadership.


18

 

Group:
On council, would you actively support the following?
Ward system for electing councillors? Please choose:
Yes
No
Unsure

Answer

Yes


19

 

Group:
On council, would you actively support the following?
Councillor become a full-time position? Please choose:
Yes
No
Unsure

Answer

Yes


20

 

Group:
The City of Lethbridge is a signatory to the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination. In addition to this, do you support the allocation of additional financial resources to create local initiatives that foster the city's commitment to inclusion? In the comment box please elaborate on your answer. Please choose:
Yes
No
Unsure

Answer

Unsure

Comment

A fully inclusive city is important to me and I would hope also to the majority of Lethbridge residents. I would fully support investigating options but this is not an issue that can be resolved exclusively with financial resources. Aside from a “feel good” expenditure, how would one quantify this laudable goal? Leaders (and certainly not just municipal, but also religious leaders, employers, teachers and other influential members of our community) must often set the example and have the will to see a goal become a reality. In a city of this size, the culture, such as it is, is often deeply ingrained. With time and leadership it hopefully will improve, but sadly, a quick fix isn’t probable in my opinion. I can’t say it better than Councillor Coffman did in his blog post on building city: ‘When we can all contribute our unique talents, diversity, insights and learned wisdom, and do so in an inclusive and open manner, we begin to feel like we belong. That’s a truly inclusive community. That could be our community.’


21

 

Group:
Do you support a bylaw that ensures all buildings serving the public (existing, renovated and new) are physically accessible? Please elaborate on your answer in the comment section. Please choose:
Yes
No
Unsure

Answer

It's complicated

Comment

I’m fully supportive of new construction being physically accessible for all residents as specified by the Alberta Building Code. The costs to retrofit or renovate existing buildings can be incredibly high given pre-existing issues such as grade, available space, and structural considerations. These are issues given consideration before renovations are undertaken that may require bringing accessibility up to current building code standards. A system wherein existing buildings were compelled to renovate by policy is not one I could support. The financial implications would be severe and these in turn would be passed onto customers, who in turn would seek lower priced options, which would cause those businesses to relocate to other locations, and finally, these older buildings would be vacant.


22

 

Group:
The following are some of the issues you may be asked to address on City Council. Please choose no more than your top 5 priorities.
  • Affordable and plentiful family recreational and leisure opportunities
  • Bikeable city
  • Frequent and accessible public transportation
  • Vibrant downtown
  • Available low-income housing
  • Community gardens
  • Residential waste reduction
  • Reduced administration costs at City Hall
  • Promotion of Lethbridge as a “City of Choice” for skilled workers
  • Low residential taxes
  • Reduced business licensing costs
  • No Herbicide city policy
  • Municipal Food policy
  • City operated curbside recycling
  • A third bridge to the West
  • Airport enhancement
  • Other (please explain in comment box below)

Answer

Low residential taxes, Reduced administration costs at City Hall, Affordable and plentiful family recreational and leisure opportunities, Vibrant downtown, City operated curbside recycling

Comment

There are many important issues on this list and over the course of four years, it’s quite realistic to expect that most or all of them will come before council. It’s also imperative to understand that these rankings are my personal priorities on issues. I’d prefer the term “lower” rather than “low” when it comes to residential taxes, and just taxes in general, but I didn’t get to write the survey this election. Low taxes would suit some people just fine, but we’re cognizant of the relationship between taxes and what the City provides for them. Lower taxes for all property owners is something important to me. They’ve risen far faster than growth and inflation over the past decade and efficiencies must be sought to reverse the trend. This flows into the second priority, and again, I’d change the wording to “reduced costs within the City.” One of my five guiding principles is about playing defence or finding efficiencies.



Candidate Details

I have been a resident of Lethbridge since 2006, moving here to purchase two local businesses and bringing an existing e-commerce business with me. I added a fourth business in 2007, bought a downtown building in 2011 and divested of all business holdings by 2012. I am married to Sarah and together we have two children, ages 11 and 16. Growing up politics was a part of my life as my father was a long serving Reeve and ran federally for the Progressive Conservatives in 1993.
I was a vocal advocate, fundraiser and also served as treasurer for the Lethbridge Skateboard Association. Years of effort have recently seen ground broken on the new SLP Skate Park. I’m also the organizer of an annual fundraising festival for the Canadian Avalanche Foundation. My efforts were recognized this spring with the awarding of 2013 Service Award.