By Larry Samcoe on October 7, 2021.
Oct. 18 is election day in Medicine Hat for the next mayor and eight councillors for 2021-25. The voters will make their choices by their preferences from this rather lengthy slate: an incumbent, a friend or relative, a recognized name, once a Tiger, a retiree, a churchgoer, political affiliation and well-qualified candidates.
Another way is to approach these candidates and to pose a few issues to them. This information may provide an insight into their views about our city’s future and about their capabilities.
Finances are an integral part of our city. Medicine Hat is a large local corporation with tangible assets of $1.4 billion, with annual revenues of $350 million in 2020 and with 1,100 employees. What knowledge or skills do you have in budgeting, in actual financial management, in collective bargaining and in analyzing financial performance?
The city has undertaken to bring more balance between revenues and expenses as a result of the loss in oil and gas revenues. The council will have to innovate and to create new solutions. What solutions do you support for this challenge? To what degree would you increase property taxes? How would you cut spending and increase other revenues?
Economic growth is essential for the livelihood of our community, for it is this activity which generates revenues, jobs, incomes and taxes. What kind of industries should Medicine Hat endeavour to have located in our city? What incentives should be provided?
In comparison, the Taber-Lethbridge corridor has numerous examples of value-added agriculture – meat-packing, potato products, sugar beets, vegetable canning and packaging, and greenhouses (lettuce for a national fast-food chain). Lethbridge is also a major education centre with a college and university.
Medicine Hat’s public utility, especially power generation, will need decisions for the future. The power generation is natural gas. Fossil fuels today and into the future are under considerable stress, but Medicine Hat has mainly avoided renewables. We still earn a dividend from the sale of electricity. Should the city stay the course, or should it investigate divesting its power generation to avoid the unpredictable future, and then become a consumer from the provincial grid? Which direction would you support?
Urban planning is ongoing. Do you support the plan for the riverfront behind city hall? It includes closing the well-used River Road. Would a different plan still improve the valley?
Recreation facilities are also important. The Family Leisure Centre is the only public indoor swimming pool in current use. Should the Crestwood Pool be opened? How many outdoor pools should the city operate?
The ice surfaces at the Moose and Hockey Hounds are in need of upgrading. Should the city upgrade these facilities, or should a partnership for a new complex be considered next to Co-op Place, or should new facilities be built by the city? Or does the city have enough ice surfaces?
Incumbents may argue that they are experienced. That could be, but it could also mean serving on council without a worthwhile contribution. Others may be looking for something to do. Some are attracted by the compensation. Other motives may be in play. And, a number are legitimately qualified. The challenge is to determine who are the best candidates.
Assume the City of Medicine Hat is your private fiefdom. Which of these candidates would you hire to successfully manage your enterprise? Now, if you wouldn’t hire some of these people personally, why would you vote for them to manage our city?
Larry Samcoe is a Medicine Hatter. Feedback for this column can be sent to email@example.com