By Collin Gallant on September 14, 2017.
Ted Clugston told supporters Wednesday that every election is about change, and he’s prepared, if re-elected as mayor, to put a full-stop on city spending that’s fuelled massive capital building program during his first term.
“We’ve created some of the best recreation and city facilities of any city our size, and now it’s time for city hall and city council to get out of the way,” he said during a 30-minute speech to attendees of his campaign launch party.
“I think we’ve created the environment for private sector to flourish … with low taxes, low utilities and recreation.”
“What you’re not going to see is ribbon cuttings on municipal infrastructure.”
Citing the south-end construction boom, he said that $200 million in commercial construction has been permitted since 2016.
Clugston laid out his platform to about 40 supporters at his mother’s house in the city’s southwest.
He will face announced candidates John Hamill, the former alderman, and Scott Raible on Oct. 16.
Nominations close on Monday.
Clugston is seeking a second mandate from voters. After serving two terms as an alderman, in 2013 he won a four-person race for mayor with just over half the total votes.
Since then, he said, the nine-person city council has worked well together, tackled a drop in resource prices with a program to contain costs and raise taxes to take gas and utility revenue out of the operating budget.
On the municipal side, an Event Centre, expanded Family Leisure Centre, renovated airport terminal, two relocated fire stations and flood berms have taken shape.
A power generation and line expansion has the city poised to service new industry, he said.
With a slowdown in spending, the city should begin rebuilding its cash reserves, he said, adding that overall, the economic landscape is positive again. Unemployment is shrinking. Both Methanex and Canadian Fertilizers have reinvested in plants, though major expansion hasn’t happened.
He said council made tough decisions to trim expenses rather than rely on tax increases to begin eliminating a $23-million annual budget gap.
He thanked administrators, councillors and city workers, most of whom have ratified new contracts with no raises this year, for supporting the Financially Fit Review.
He said it was a hard decision to close the Medicine Hat Arena and Heald Pool this year to realize about $800,000 in annual savings. He presented a hand-written letter from a school girl that pleaded to keep the Riverside outdoor pool open.
“I didn’t get into politics to break the heart of a six-year-old girl,” he said. “But, we did get into this to make a better future for the 16-year-old girl that she’ll become.”
Clugston also said the energy division is underway with plans to add conventional oil drilling as well as helium exploration, needs to be seen through, and will return profitability to the business unit.
As is his habit, he also ran through what he called myths about city operations and said criticism on social media has made politics more difficult.
He said a restructuring of city hall has saved money and brought in strong managers, especially at the natural gas and petroleum division, which is moving away from a reliance on low-priced, low-profit gas production.
“We’re actively searching for oil, and we’re already profitable at these (current) prices,” he said. “A new councillor could loose their nerve … I want to see that through.”