by Colin Smith
Morinville, along with Alberta’s other municipalities, will be holding an election for Council on October 18, 2021 and nominations for the positions of Mayor and Councillors have already opened. With that in mind Morinville Online has approached present Council members about whether they will be standing for re-election this fall ands their views on what they feel has been accomplished and ongoing and future issues.
The responses to our questions are lead off by Mayor Barry Turner, followed by current Deputy Mayor Sarah Hall, followed by the Councillors in alphabetical order.
Q: What do you feel you have accomplished individually during this term on council?
Mayor Barry Turner: I believe it is important to note that Council achieves everything as a group. Council acts through motions carried by the majority. Individually each contributes towards Council’s success as a whole. Individually I am a strategic thinker and systems-oriented. My focus has been on developing key priorities to drive community forward and working towards developing a common vision for moving forward as a Council. This has resulted in improvements to Council’s strategic planning process, as well as the implementation of Council sponsors for each strategic priority established by Council. As Mayor my role is to work with all of Council to establish and implement the priorities of the whole.
Deputy Mayor Sarah Hall: That is a tough question, as ultimately it is all Council that collectively makes decisions that create change. Even if I brought something forward, once a motion is made, it is Council’s motion, not mine, so I cannot take credit for the end decision. If I am thinking on the work I’ve been involved in, I would say foremost, I am very proud of the time I got to spend as the Morinville representative on the Regional Transit Service Commission (RTSC) working team. This is the group that created the foundation of the RTSC Act, and as we’ve just heard in January, the official standing up of the regional commission. The year-and-a-half I got to spend on this initiative was an eye opener for me on how the region can create great things for residents when we come together. I am also very honored to have worked on the Community Services Advisory Board when we had a hand in helping to give feedback on the Parks, Recreation, Culture and Trails Master Plan and the Community Needs Assessment.
Councillor Rebecca Balanko: I feel I have been a strong voice. I have connected with many residents via online channels and in person, when permitted. I field many inquiries and have moved things through the Town Administration line.
I like to problem solve and often feel it is misinformation or miscommunication that ends up defeating us. I feel that as a Council member I have been prudent with funds and listened to the voices of my community regarding photo radar, mask bylaws and tax Increases.
I have built relationships with neighbouring municipalities, our military community and our community. I am not sure there is one thing I can say I have advocated for and moved, as we are a collective group. Our team has been objective and solution-focused.
Like many of my fellow Council members, I have shown up for the little things, stuck it out through the tough things and don’t miss meetings. I have served many boards and committees, while being a strong voice for Morinville.
I have made motions regarding crosswalks/pedestrian safety and community supports, which I feel improve our Town as a whole. I am not the loudest voice on Council and that’s okay. I bring a lot of passion and heart, I work for my neighbours, for our schools, for the services we provide and to leave our community better than I found it.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein: Each Councillor has different goals and priorities but, at the end of the day, I believe there isn’t anything any one Councillor can accomplish on their own, as Council must work as a team.
We are all given the same opportunity to bring items forward and, after all is said and done, all seven members of Council vote on it and collectively move on.
There are no wins for a Councillor, only wins for the community when Council works together to accomplish things.
Councillor Stephen Dafoe: Recognizing our residential tax rate is high, I’ve worked to minimize spending wherever possible during our budgets. During our strategic planning sessions, I’ve lobbied to include preserving the sense of community that brought many of us here. I fear we are losing that. I’ve worked as much as possible for regional collaboration. I’m tremendously proud of the transformative work we have done at Roseridge, which I’ve been proud to chair for four years. And, of course, carrying resident concerns to the Council table.
Councillor Lawrence Giffin: I feel that I have had an influence on council to look at issues from more of a business viewpoint. No single councilor can say that they have accomplished anything on their own. It is a group effort. Council as a group makes decisions. Council must make decisions with the best information available at the time. In hindsight some decisions could have been better. As they say hindsight is twenty/twenty. However, councilors would be useless if they were so worried about making a mistake that they never made a decision. One mistake that councils make most commonly is listening too closely to special interest groups. Everyone has an opinion. Council must take a big picture view.
Councillor Scott Richardson: As we are still so far away from the election and we still have lots of work to do I haven’t given this much deliberation. Here are two highlights: I put forward a Morinville-first purchasing policy motion to help keep tax dollars in Morinville with our local businesses, who do so much for our community. I have been an advocate for restricting spending in all areas of the budget and for lowering taxes.
There will be more to add once I give this more thought and as things develop over the next eight months.
Q: What do you feel council collectively has accomplished?
Mayor Barry Turner: This Council has achieved a number of huge accomplishments – completion of the Morinville Leisure Centre (MLC) while keeping tax increases low, preparing two new school sites, improvements to procedure bylaws, re-introducing the split mill rate and moving to equity in tax rates for both residential and non-residential property. Strategic planning has improved, several major community plans have been updated, as have ways to implement these plans engaging all of Council. Council has also addressed some long-standing challenges and is nearing completion on meaningful, long-term agreement on recreation cost-sharing with the County of Sturgeon.
This has been one of the most productive Council I have ever served with, and a Council that has tackled some difficult issues and made some tough decisions that needed to be made to ensure long-term sustainability and stability. There are a number of key initiatives still in progress and I know Council is ready for another full agenda to continue work right up until the nomination period ends.
Deputy Mayor Sarah Hall: This is a great question, though I cannot list all Council’s accomplishments as I feel there has been so much accomplished! Our council has been very busy and proactive with the support of Administration. We have completed many long term plans to set our community up for success as we move through these next few years and into the future. Some, but not all, of them are; Community Needs Assessment, Traffic Safety Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Long Range Financial Plan and a Long-Term Tax Strategy, Fire Services Master Plan and Parks, Recreation, Culture and Trails Master Plan.
When it comes to some marked efficiency changes and “red-tape” reduction, we eliminated a cumbersome Municipal Planning Committee, made changes to the Coeur De Morinville ASP to encourage investment, changed our online application processes, made many Land Use Bylaw changes and overall worked with developers closely to stimulate growth and success in that growth.
Council has also taken focus on cleaning up redundant and out of date policies to streamline and update as much as we can. This council came in at a pivotal point and are now working through an unprecedented time with the global pandemic, which put a wrench in many of our carefully thought-out plans. Since we were elected, the MLC construction was completed, two new schools were constructed, our first net zero affordable housing complex was built, our region’s first family violence shelter was built, cannabis was made legal, new development brought in MacDonald’s, Boston Pizza and many others. We have seen so much growth in this short period of time and I am very proud to have served with a Council team that has buckled down and worked hard to mitigate issues, encourage development, create long-term plans and create policy that is responsible, balanced and fair for both residents and businesses.
Councillor Rebecca Balanko: This term has been the exception, not the rule. Our Council hasn’t missed a beat during a world wide pandemic. I am incredibly proud of our tenacious team. We had school openings, restaurants, our 77-acre leisure centre. We have engaged in hard conversations regarding funding, road repairs and staffing costs. We have chopped four budgets and continue to represent our community with an abundance of pride. We have laughed, lost and celebrated what makes Morinville home.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein: We have worked hard as a team this term and I am so proud of our accomplishments.
A few highlights for me would be:
Community safety initiatives, opening of the new MLC (on time and within budget), two new schools, improved community connectivity via new trail extension, new affordable housing complex (apartment/townhouses) being built and opened, strengthened community and regional partnerships, improved business relationships, the storefront improvement program for existing business in town and implementation of a new split mill rate for residential & non- residential. In 2021 a few highlights will also include: replacing the splash park, a new outdoor rink and new playground equipment in some parks.
Councillor Stephen Dafoe: As to Council, I do not feel we have accomplished what we could have. I think processes and procedures, and the repeated discussion and analysis of processes and procedures have slowed us down.
Councillor Lawrence Giffin: Collectively this council has been very productive. One of the first decisions that council had to make was hiring a new CAO. That decision, by itself, influenced every decision, policy and bylaw made during this term. It also had a profound influence on the whole organization. Council and administration, working hand in hand, have improved strategic planning, improved budgeting and developed a long-term financial plan, completed a community needs assessment, developed a transportation master plan, developed a fire and safety master plan, took a hard look at and improved the Coeur de Morinville plan, made the Library and Festival Society more accountable for spending, completed the leisure centre, sold the Ray MacDonald arena, improved the relationship with the Chamber of Commerce and are working to increase economic development. Additionally, this year a number of playgrounds are being replaced, the outdoor arena is being replaced, a new observation pavilion is being built at the new playground and new splash park. Also, curb extensions will be installed on 100 Avenue to improve crosswalk safety and we are doing a crosswalk safety review. We are also implementing an asset management system that should reduce cost by doing the right preventative maintenance at the right time.
Councillor Scott Richardson: I think this council has done a good job at removing redundant bylaws and procedures. I think we have been great advocates for increasing the nonresidential tax base.
Part 3 of this series will run tomorrow and look at what councillors feel the biggest challenges for the next council will be.