By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – When the dust of Nomination Day finally settled Tuesday afternoon, six political newcomers remained poised to battle it out for the next four weeks, hoping to convince Morinville voters that they are ready and able to take on the challenges confronting a growing community.
Nicole Boutestein, Lisa Holmes, Kerry Knight, Jackie Luker-Chevalier, Dave Pattison and Lucie Roy join incumbent councillors Paul Krauskopf, Donna Phinney, Ben Van De Walle and Gordon Boddez on the campaign trail, each of the 10 hoping to secure one of the six available seats on council. All six challengers are taking their first run at municipal office.
For Nicole Boutestein, who moved to Morinville when she was eight, there has been an opportunity to observe Morinville over the past three decades.
“You leave for a couple of years and you come back, and you kind of see that things really haven’t changed that much except for houses,” she said, noting that when she and her husband decided to build a home in Morinville two years ago, there was considerable chaos in dealing with their developer. “After that I said, ‘you know what, I guess I’m going to be one of those people who practise what I preach.’ If I’m going to complain about something, and now I have an option to get in there and try and fix it, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Boutestein said she believes it is time that Morinville starts moving towards the potential it has, something she hasn’t seen in more than 30 years.
“I do think the town has good potential and I don’t think we’ve lived up to that,” she said. “I think it has the potential to grow more than just residential. Years ago, if I’m not mistaken, the community was built on water and sewer to house 25,000 people. We haven’t done that.”
Boutestein said she’d like to see Morinville partnering with Sturgeon County and Edmonton Garrison to look at ways to make Morinville a more sustainable community for its residents, including the number of military families moving into town.
“If we add about five or six new businesses over, let’s say, the next five to ten years, how many people will we employ locally? She asked. “I’m not saying it’s going to happen over night, but I’m hoping to be in there to be that one little voice that is maybe an opposition for some stuff that’s happening – push, maybe, council in a different direction. I’m not saying they’re going in the wrong direction, but maybe push them to see a wider scope of things.”
Professional photographer Lisa Holmes said her motivations for running for public office were a combination of her educational background in political sciences and her experiences since moving to Morinville in July of 2009.
“I got involved with local boards, specifically the Library Board,” Holmes said, noting the experiences gave her insight into how things were running in Morinville. “I think it was when they decided to not have the library built into the new Community Cultural Centre. That was a big wake up call. I felt my voice wasn’t being heard. That was kind of when I decided when the election came, I would take time to go to Town Council meetings to really research the role councillors have in the community.”
Now that she has done that, Holmes said she felt confident to put her name in to try and be a strong voice for people her age. The 30-year-old, first time candidate said she doesn’t feel the current council is going in the wrong direction, and applauds the Town’s Municipal Sustainability Plan (MSP).
“I think the focus needs to be on the quality of life in Morinville,” Holmes said, noting that she would like to see the next council revisiting the Town’s recreation plan that was developed in 2005. “Looking at affordable housing; looking at having more people engaged in the community. Just the fact that the average age of a Morinville resident is 33 kind of shows that we’re a young community. And I think that’s a big issue Town Council needs to be representing.”
Holmes said she has been actively knocking on resident’s doors and already heard from many what their thoughts are as to what the issues are this election: photo radar, the smell from the pet food factory and people speeding through school zones and the possibility of a pool.
“I keep getting asked, “Are you pro-pool or anti-pool?’” Holmes said. “But I think all of those things need to be rolled into one by saying that we need to have a Town Council that needs to be representing the views of the people that live here and listening to them, being more engaged in what the citizens need and want.”
Long-time sports volunteer Kerry Knight said she decided to make a run for council to be a part of things in the community and to progress her own level of volunteerism. Knight said she believes her involvement in minor hockey as a volunteer, as well as her other volunteer initiatives, gives her some experience necessary for council.
“My biggest motivation is to just be a part of it – it interests me,” Knight said, noting she feels she represents the average age of Morinville’s residents. “We’re a growing community with young families and I want to give that perspective. But as well, I want a sense of community, community pride, spirit. Why do we want to make things look nice? And how to we draw businesses [to town] and things like that. All of it just interests me and I just want to be a part of the solution.”
But while Knight has her own ideas about what Morinville needs going into the next few years, she said she is committed to being an open-minded member of council, one who will listen to residents and ensure their voices are heard.
The candidate said one of the major issues confronting the next administration is attracting more businesses to Morinville.
“We’ve lost some commercial businesses,” Knight said. “We have very few options. It’s difficult to even buy a birthday present in town. So obviously that’s a huge issue, we need business and we need it to stick around. And I don’t have an answer for how to do that, but it is important to me to be a sustainable community.” For Knight, part of that sustainability has a green side. “I don’t want to have to drive in everywhere to get things. I have my own commitment to the environment and preserving it. And so I see those types of issues. We need to sustain ourselves and be self reliant.”
Skating instructor and parent Jackie Luker-Chevalier was drawn to her quest for public office because of her active involvement in her children’s lives, both as a parent and as a volunteer.
“I just kind of wanted to take it up a notch and go to where I could not only make a difference for my own kids but for the community as a whole,” Luker-Chevalier said, noting she would advocate for stronger programs, activities and facilities for the community’s youth.”
Although her own children are small, the candidate said she is aware of the need for activities and facilities for Morinville’s teenage residents. “We need programs for that age group as well,” she said.
Luker-Chevalier said one of the things she hopes to accomplish, if successful in her bid for a council seat, is to work on Morinville’s sense of community. The candidate said she and her husband spent some time in a community in Northern B.C. where residents were enthusiastic about community involvement.
“It felt like a community,” she said. “The community came out and supported absolutely every event. It was fantastic. It always felt like a community. And I don’t feel that with Morinville. That is one thing I want to try and change somehow. It’s to try and get people more involved in the community, on a social basis, on a volunteer basis, and just participation to support the initiatives, whether it be council or whatever other groups within the town are doing.”
Like several candidates, Luker-Chevalier believes Morinville needs more businesses in town. “I’m certainly one of those people that supports the town’s businesses when I can, but you can’t always, so you go to St. Albert,” she said. “I want to decrease the amount of traffic down the highway, keeping people here in Morinville.”
Going hand-in-hand with the decrease of shoppers travelling to St. Albert for their purchases, Luker-Chevalier said she’d like to see an increase in the number of tourists and shoppers coming to Morinville.
The candidate said perhaps Morinville could develop a theme to create a uniform look for visitors. “It would be nice if our town had some kind of a theme so that people came here to live the Frontier Days,” Luker-Chevalier said. “So the frontage of all your buildings would look like frontier days, or just something like that to draw people into the community.”
Also taking his first run at elected municipal politics is David Pattison, who has served on a number of municipal boards and committees, including serving as chair on the planning commission and as a public representative on the fire department board.
Pattison said his main interest in seeking a council seat was his interest in the community he has lived in for a quarter century, combined with his desire to represent the interests of others in the community.
The council hopeful said he feels it is important that the next council looks at a long-range plan for the community as a key first step. “There are a lot of single issues in the community that somebody could sort of glom onto and say, ‘Okay, this is what I stand for,’” Pattison said. “That’s okay for the first three months or six months or a year, but councils are in for three years. I take the view that you’re looking at sort of a two to three year horizon and beyond.”
Pattison said his background is in land use planning and economic development, two key interests he hopes to bring to the council table if elected.
“I find the closures of business very unpalatable when they happen in the community,” he said. “I look at our tax base and say how long can we sustain a community where we have a large reliance upon the residential portion of our assessment base. We’re one of the highest in the province. That’s an unfortunate situation.”
Pattison said it is important that Morinville develop a strong economic development plan to sort out the Town’s reliance on residential for its tax base. Additionally, he would like to see partnerships developed with Alexander First Nation and the partner municipalities within Sturgeon County as well as the communities within the Capital Region.
But whatever the next council does, Pattison said he’d like to see more involvement from the residents of Morinville in the process.
“I think it’s time we got back to engaging the public,” Pattison said. “When I was involved with the Community Sustainability Plan, we might have had 20 people go through that process – and that was over a year. We’ve got 7,200 residents in the community, and how better to engage the population? That’s something that I think is very important.”
Former Free Press reporter and long-time royal Canadian Legion volunteer Lucie Roy said her motivation for running for a council seat was developed from observing Morinville Town Council in action over the past three years, listening to the decisions and paths discussed by council as well as those not explored.
Roy said there are a number of issues that council needs to address in the next term, issues and agenda items she’s hoping to be a part of.
“For the next three years a priority would include the close review of the Municipal Sustainability Plan and the items covered within it,” Roy said in an e-mail interview with MorinvilleNews.com. “The Wildlife Conservation Learning Centre at the Fish & Game pond, with consideration of a partnership with Ducks Unlimited, Alberta Fish & Game, the Town, the school system, etc. would be an asset for the town, tourists, visitors, our residents and students.”
Additionally, Roy said the appropriate location for a hotel and when Morinville is likely to have one is something that will have to be considered, as well as the possibility of a college or university.
“There are many items on the MSP want list as well as the needs list,” Roy said. “My main priority is the wants versus the needs – and what Morinville residents can afford to pay [for]. We have many residents who are surviving payday to payday, stretching a dollar, those who are laid off. Then we have those who can afford the very best life has to offer. Many using the services of the food bank, the Helping Hand, Community Corner, are more concerned for their family’s well being and basic hierarchy of needs than having a $100,000 silver/wooden/brass statue in the park, for example. The priority is to be able to afford everyone the same consideration and still work together in the vital role of the town’s future development.”
Residents will have the opportunity to select their choice for Morinville Town Council Oct. 18. All candidates have also been invited to attend an all-Candidates Forum at Smith Music Oct. 13 at 8 p.m., sponsored by MorinvilleNews.com, smith Music and the Morinville Volunteer Fire Department.