By Stephen Dafoe
Legal – Two newcomers threw their hat into the ring by Monday’s noon nomination deadline, joining together with Legal’s five incumbent members of council to make the fall election a seven-way race.
Unlike many municipalities, Legal does not hold a separate election for its mayor. Instead, voters elect six candidates and those elected to council hold an organizational meeting to determine who among them will serve the Town as mayor for the next three years.
Legal Mayor Albert St. Jean, Deputy Mayor Ken Baril and councillors Cassandra Ouellette, Phil Hughes and Gena Bennett will be joined on the ballot by political newcomers Trina Jones and Lisa Magera.
Although both women have put their name forward for the first time, neither is new to the community nor new to involvement in the community.
Trina Jones said she moved to Legal when she was in high school and after having her daughters decided to move back to Legal because she felt it was a great place to raise children. Since moving back, Jones has become involved with school council, the Fête Committee and the soccer board. Additionally, Jones is involved with local baseball. Despite her active involvement, Jones said she wants to be able to do more in the community.
For Jones, promoting Legal and what it has to offer residents is an important issue she would like to address as councillor.
“I think promotion of the town is a big one, especially to new people moving in,” Jones said, noting military families are looking for places to live off the base. “Economic development, getting people to shop locally instead of hitting Wal-Mart [is important] because I think we have a lot of services here that a lot of people don’t know about.”
“I’m just interested in making more of an impact in town,” she said, noting that she’s lived in Legal most of her life. “I’ve gone to school here. I’m now a teacher here in town and raising my kids here.”
As the parent of two small children, Magera said she would like to see more opportunities and activities become available for Legal’s youth. “A skateboard park is definitely an interest as well as a spray park,” Magera said.
In addition to expanding Legal’s opportunities for those currently growing up in Legal, Magera said she’d like to see a greater emphasis on the Town’s Francophone heritage. Additionally, the council contender said she’d like to see council taking steps to bring a doctor back to Legal and steps to attract a pharmacy to the community.
“My first term was really great,” she said, noting it was a good learning experience. “I enjoyed getting to know how the Town works better. Getting on council was a real eye-opener as to how this town runs and how things work.”
Ouellette said three years in, she has the feeling that she’s really just getting started and that she’d like to continue on so as to continue to be an influence in the town working with the community groups she was involved with during her first term.
The incumbent said, although she feels the Town of Legal is running and moving along quite smoothly, she wants to continue council’s focus on the Town’s youth, something she hopes will be a strong focus over the next three years.
In addition to Legal’s youngest residents, Ouellette said she believes it is important to look after Legal’s seniors, particularly addressing the struggling finances of the Sturgeon Foundation.
“A lot of decisions are going to have to be made in terms of what happens to the lodges in the rural communities,” she said, noting seniors and youth would be her main focus if re-elected to another term.
“It’s a very busy time,” Bennett said. “There’s still a lot to do, but it’s still such a slow process and accomplishing things that need to be done [takes time].
Bennett said she doesn’t have a large scheme of things that she wants to see done during her second term, but she does want to complete the things she and fellow council members started, including the skateboard park, Legal’s emergency preparedness and a number of infrastructure projects.
In addition to completing projects carried over from the last term, Bennett said she would like to work on making Legal a sustainable community, one in which businesses prosper and seniors are able to maintain their independence.
“If there are no stores and nothing for them to do here, it’s not really a viable community for them,” she said. “Same with the young people coming up; they’re our next generation. They are it. I want to see the town prosper and grow and I want them to want to come back with their families.”
Incumbent Phil Hughes is also seeking his second term on council. Hughes said his motivation for running again was to ensure that Legal has a good economic footing, something the candidate said he has a lot of ideas about, particularly tax base incentive programs.
“It’s a labour of love in a lot of ways,” Hughes said of his re-election bid. “I want to see that certain things are carried out here in that I can participate in the parts of the town that are important to me.”
Chief among those parts are the ones dealing with budgetary concerns, particularly the escalation in the costs of running the town over the past few years. Hughes said the costs of running Legal have gone up approximately $200,000 in the past two years, largely due to wages and other expences.
“That’s something I believe has to be looked at and has to be addressed at some point,” he said. “We have to see why it is and what’s going on there and we have to streamline it. This isn’t an economic time that all of a sudden somehow big government takes over and kind of explodes their own pocket book.”
“When I first ran I wanted to better the community, improve the community, have more activities for the youth, and so this is where I think we’re going in the right direction,” Baril said. “And I want to continue that for the community and continue accessing grants for the skate park.”
Baril said he felt council was able to do a lot for Legal by accessing grant monies instead of hitting the ratepayers to fund various initiatives.
The incumbent said one of his focuses if given a second term would be a continued focus on Legal’s youth and finding things for them to do, particularly the development of a skate park and spray park.
“I’d really like to see a spray park in the community at some point,” Baril said. “More activities for the youth – that’s what I’m really going to focus my attention on in the next three years.”
Baril said he is also proud of Legal’s Francophone heritage and the fact that the town is a bilingual community.
“I’m Francophone myself and very proud of that, and proud of our community for being part of that,” he said “Canada being two official languages, that’s an important part.”
“The reason I’m running again is there’s still some things we haven’t finished,” St. Jean said. “Number one is our infrastructure still needs work and that’s been ongoing since the government started giving us sustainability money.”
St. Jean said in addition to Legal’s streets and sewers, there is still work left to be done on the town’s trail system as well as finding amenities to accommodate Legal’s younger residents.
“We did the project like the gazebo, upgraded all the parks, but we’re still missing a good chunk of the youth for something to do,” St. Jean said. “We need to get going with something with the skate board park, and I want to see that go through.”
Although the incumbent realizes there is still work to do in Legal, he doesn’t see any major issues facing council during the next term, particularly in terms of Town staff.
“I think everybody we have is here to stay,” St. Jean said. “I don’t think we’ll have any issues with staff. Everything is usually pretty good in Legal. We have no crime issues. We don’t really have any issues. The only issues we have is our infrastructure is getting old.”
St. Jean said it is a problem shared with many communities in Alberta. The mayor said his father installed much of Legal’s infrastructure in the 1950s.
“He put every pipeline and everything in the ground here,” St. Jean said. “We’re seeing when we camera everything they’re slowly failing. But I think every town’s facing the same thing.”
St. Jean said compared to other municipalities, Legal is not in too bad a shape with its infrastructure as it has been able to repair and continues to repair portions.
Legal residents will have the opportunity to vote for their choices for Legal council Oct. 18.
Editor’s Note: Municipal politicians have until noon on Tuesday to withdraw their nomination papers.