July 21st, 2018

Stage is set for a spirited council race

By Collin Gallant on September 19, 2017.

Medicine Hat News

Seven incumbents, some familiar names and a few surprises are among 19 candidates that filed to contest next month’s municipal election after paperwork was submitted on Monday.

A survey of council hopefuls shows the key issues range from seeing the city’s 10-year budget plan through, to reversing course, or from boasting economic development to progressing social issues throughout the city.

“I’ve never doubted that elections bring out the issues,” said Robert Dumanowski, who is seeking a sixth term after winning the most votes of a councillor in the 2013 election.

About 13 candidates were known prior to Monday’s nomination day — new rules this year require candidates to register before fundraising.

New but well-known names included former non-profit sector head Hugh English and former school board trustee Immanuel Moritz.

Pro-industry candidates Michael Klassen and Leslie Rath join Colette Smithers and Ryan Regnier, who at just 23 is the youngest candidate in the race.

The warehouse worker said he wants to represent younger workers in the city who are faced with “low-end jobs” and prospects.

“Everyone says they want the middle class to do well,” said Regnier. “That makes everybody better off.”

Two candidates, Klassen, 45, a contractor, and Myles Mulholland, 34, an oilfield driller, told the News they would combine their campaigns as much as possible.

The pair have been active in conservative party politics, but are making a first foray into local politics, where they see taxes and business fees as a key issue.

“When people are deciding where to set up a business, we’d like them to choose Medicine Hat,” said Klassen.

Moritz, 62, served a total of 10 years on the municipal planning commission. He said new solutions are required for high-cost programs, and better “efficiency” is needed.

“Council by and large has forgotten who they work for,” he said.

English, 66, said that low utility profits have strained the city budget, but meaningful consultation is important.

“I don’t know if I have all the answers but I’m a quick study and a good listener,” he said.

Charles Turner, no relation to Jim Turner, is an electrician who has said business conditions are a key issue.

In terms of female representation, incumbent Julie Friesen is joined by two local businesswomen, Maureen Roberts and Collette Smithers.

“Council has room for diverse perspectives and rigorous debate,” said Smithers, 56, a former oilfield swamper who now operates a speaking series that aims to foster an empowering environment for women.

Former alderman Darren Hirsch and Phil Turnbull are seeking re-election with campaigns based on getting better results out of existing budgets.

Turnbull was an advocate for departmental audits during the 2010-2013 term, and said, “I don’t think we did enough, then,” he said. “It’s not always about cutting if it doesn’t make sense. The changes to transit didn’t make sense, but they saved a few dollars.”

Friesen said that council has tackled tough issues in a budget review and is always listening to residents.

“I’m pleased with the forward momentum that we’ve seen,” she said. “We need to fulfill our commitment that we can be no longer be dependent on the energy dividend.

Another incumbent, Bill Cocks, 65, a retired lawyer, said he is running on his record.

“We can do a better job, but people need to understand Medicine Hat presents a board spectrum of services for the lowest taxes in the country,” said Cocks. “I hope we can continue but it’s a challenge.”

Les Pearson’s re-election slogan is “inclusion,” and he said council needs to re-assert its first priority is public service.

“We get caught up in our business units,” said the two-term councillor, adding that efforts to end racism, homelessness and accessibility need more resources.

“It might not be popular during a time of tight budgets but I want to make sure we get to the next step.”

Incumbents Jamie McIntosh, Jim Turner and Brian Varga are also seeking re-election.

Moritz said city should consider new ways to deliver programs that are highly subsidized.

Kris Samraj, 37, a librarian, said the outgoing council members are disconnected.

Leslie Rath, 65, a retired machinist and shop owner, said the biggest issue facing the city is low wages and the solution is a better business environment.

“I think they’ve spent way too much money on the Veiner Centre and several things,” he said. “I’d love to build the local economy.”

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