by Colin Smith
Maurice St. Denis, Town Council election candidate, is a long-time Morinville resident, his family having moved here in 1986. It has been home ever since.
“Over the past 35 years I have witnessed our community evolve from a small town where everyone seemingly knew everyone into what is now a vibrant community on the cusp of becoming a small city,” he notes.
And it’s here that he and his wife Melissa have raised two boys, Everett and Emerson.
After graduating with education bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alberta, St. Denis has spent the last 15 years as a school counsellor at R.F. Staples Secondary School in Westlock.
Together with the sense of social responsibility instilled in him by his parents, and the inspiration and encouragement of a strong network of friends and mentors, it is this professional orientation that has prompted him to run for council.
“I’ve spent half my life empowering young people to be the change they wish to see in the world,” he told Morinville Online. “I have the utmost respect for our current council but I believe there needs to be an infusion of new ideas and new perspectives. I believe I would bring a unique lens to council with my education and my experience working in education and mental health.
St. Denis is also much involved in community volunteer activities, coaching basketball, football and minor hockey, and currently sits on six boards/committees in Morinville and Westlock.
“I’ve always felt Morinville has had a strong sense of identity–which I believe is a testament to the people that live in our community,” he says. “There were some incredible advantages to the exponential growth our community has experienced over the past 20 years with new infrastructure and amenities.”
However, St. Denis feels there have also been disadvantages to that growth.
“Because our population growth is disproportionate to our economic growth it’s really reinforced our bedroom community mentality–which in some ways has created apathy and diminished civic engagement.”
Reversing that drift will be one of his goals if elected.
“I want to recapture some of the momentum that our community has lost over the past 4 years,” says St. Denis. “I am mindful that some of the economic stagnation our community is mired in is due to the pandemic, but our community needs to have a stronger voice in the Edmonton Metro Region and in the province if we want to take the next step as a municipality.”
Economic development is another key area, along with greater regional collaboration and inspiring civic engagement.
“My sense is that taxation and the need for greater transparency in municipal governance will be the two issues most discussed when the election ramps up,” he adds.
As for the question of whether Morinville should seek city status, St. Denis is keeping an open mind.
“I believe our next council needs to take a closer look at the pros and cons associated with city status, special municipality status and the status quo,” he says.
St. Denis thinks it is imperative the next council work together to create efficiencies, consistency and greater transparency.
He says his approach as a council member would be rooted in pragmatism.
“I will ask the difficult question,” declares St. Denis. “I will represent the residents of Morinville the only way I know how — with honesty, integrity, empathy and compassion.”