Morinville businessman running for Council

Lawrence Giffin-webBy Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Coach’s Corner owner Lawrence Giffin is the fifth resident to declare they will run for Council in the fall election. Giffin has lived in Morinville for the past four years and has been an active volunteer during that time, most notably with the Morinville Lions Club and through his work on a number of local fundraisers for breast cancer, autism and the Midstream Support Society’s Santa Store.

Giffin said he is a person who likes to make a difference and fells the only way to do that is to be part of the process. It is that belief, combined with some concerns about how things have been done, that prompted him to take a run at a Council seat.

The candidate has seen some things during his four years in the community that he has not liked, decisions Council made that he felt were wrong. Chief among them is the placement of the Morinville Community Cultural Centre and the money spent on renovating and rebuilding Town Hall and the Morinville Community Library.

“It seems to me that was a questionable decision,” Giffin said of renovating Town Hall, adding he’d heard the Town had a choice of buying the Sturgeon County building for $2.5 million or having a new building built for $3.5 million. “It would have been a new building where you could have sold the old one and get a building that was designed from the ground up.”

But Town Hall is not the only building Giffin has an issue with. He feels placing the Morinville Community Cultural Centre so close to a residential area was a mistake. “I could understand if that was a rec centre close to the high school [where] you could have high school students use it as part of their classes,” he said. “But a cultural centre. I don’t think that’s the right location. Parking – it just doesn’t seem like the right place.”

Not only does Giffin take issue with some of Council’s decisions. He takes issue with their recent decision to defer appointing a mayor until their Aug. 27 meeting. “Town business can’t go on hold just because you can’t make a decision,” he said. “I think that was a mistake. I don’t think [Deputy Mayor] Lisa Holmes should be a candidate [for interim mayor] because she’s running for mayor. It provides her with an unfair advantage. ‘I am the acting mayor.’ I don’t think that’s right.”

Though he would rule Holmes out of the mix for the short-term mayoral appointment, he does not agree with the Chamber of Commerce’s original view that a by-election should have been held. Instead, he believes Council should have appointed one of their own to fill the mayor’s seat.

Municipal priorities

Looking beyond the next two months to the next four years, Giffin said he would like to see something done to address flood control in the community.

“We were just lucky this year that we didn’t get a heavy rain at the worst time,” Giffin said. “South Glens was nearly under water as it was. You get anything like what Calgary had – we are in trouble. We do not have a plan, a serious workable plan for flood.”

Additionally, he would like to see Morinville acquire more land from Sturgeon County on all sides. That would include making Cardiff part of Morinville. “The footprint of the community needs to be increased,” he said. “I believe that Cardiff should be part of Morinville. We would immediately become a city without affecting our small town atmosphere.”

The candidate said he realized such a move would require an investment in Cardiff’s infrastructure, but feels it is not much different than Morinville’s own situation. “If we attracted more industry, how would we supply them with water?” he said. “Our sewage system. If it was any large industry we don’t have the infrastructure to support them. Industry takes a huge amount of water. One industrial site can take as much as a city. Therefore, we are immediately out of the running for a number of employers, and employing people is important. Increasing our tax base is important.”

Giffin said the community would need to lobby the provincial government to pay for the infrastructure that could potentially attract large industry to the community, but said the community could attract other types of industry to Morinville that do not require large infrastructure loads. He suggested warehousing operations as a perfect fit for the community in terms of light infrastructure requirements and benefitting from Morinville’s proximity to highways and a rail line. “We are in a perfect place to attract warehousing to the community,” he said. “Warehousing is a good employer [with] good jobs, secure jobs, and a light industrial infrastructure.”

Giffin said he is puzzled as to why Morinville seems fixated on high-density housing rather than industrial opportunities. “People come to towns [in] rural areas for space,” he said. “High-density housing works well in the city where people can walk to work. Therefore, you don’t need all the parking. Here you do because your jobs aren’t here. Now you have a warehouse for people with a large parking lot around it. That doesn’t seem conducive to the small town feel that we want in this community.”

The candidate said the community doesn’t need to remain a small town to maintain its small town feeling. All that is needed in Giffin’s estimation is to nurture the sense of family. “What’s a family? It’s a small, close-knit group of people that love each other and support each other,” he said. “If you nurture families [and] the family atmosphere, that can go throughout the community.”

He feels that atmosphere and attitude can be spread through the community by building playgrounds and recreation facilities, and by developing things for families to do. “I think recreation is important because it does nurture the family,” he said. “It gets people away from their iPhones and their TVs and their computers, and it gets them outside and interacting with their children and the community.”

Skills to the table

Giffin retired five years ago after 25 years with a large multi-national company, most of that time in a leadership role. During that time he learned to work with budgets and people, both skills he feels are vital to the job of councillor.

“I worked with budgets larger than this community’s,” he said. “I know how to budget. I know how to manage money. I know how to manage people.”

For Giffin, managing people or situations is about listening, something he feels he is good at. “The best idea always wins. It doesn’t matter who it comes from,” he said. “Always take the high road, treat people with respect, and listen to them. You’ll never think of every possibility for every scenario, but by listening to everyone, gathering ideas, gathering opinions, [and] gathering concerns you get the best decision.”

Giffin sees that course of action resulting in decision makers and those the decisions are made for being kept in the loop. He said he see the role or councillor as that of a professional decision maker.

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