Fernie City Hall, Sparwood municipal flags, Elkford Municipal Hall, RDEK offices. (Composite image of BPM photos)

Writer’s Block: Off to the races with election season in the Elk Valley

The Free Press columnist, Bill Phillips on the passing of labour day, and the start of campaigning

By Bill Phillips

The Free Press Columnist

Labour Day has come and gone and that means election season is in full swing.

With election day on October 15, there isn’t a whole lot of time left for prospective candidates to win over the electorate, so you can expect to be hearing a lot from candidates.

So what are the big issues percolating away?

There’s a couple that I’ve noticed from those running for council … at least the newbies. One is a lack of communication between council and the community. This is a common complaint and comes more from those on the outside than those on the inside. When you’re on council, you often believe you’re getting the message out. When you’re in the community, you often don’t believe the city is communicating well.

The truth is usually in the middle somewhere but more outreach from elected officials is always a good thing.

Another complaint I’ve heard, and this is a common one too, is that public engagement is more after the fact i.e. “here’s what we’re going to do,” rather than “here’s what we’d like to do, what does the community think?”

It’s a tough for municipal bureaucrats because they are tasked with running the day-to-day operations and have to be able to do their jobs. On the other hand, they need to be in tune with local sentiment and that’s where council comes in. Council is the conduit between city administration and the public … and that conduit has flow both ways.

Infrastructure is another issue percolating away. The sewer system upgrade is a tough one as it will take a lot more money than anyone cares to spend. However, it needs to be done. The question for candidates is how high up on the spending tree are they willing to put it and what projects, vanity and otherwise, are they willing to sacrifice in order to get it done? Who will make it the top spending priority for the city?

Good question to ask the candidates.

Another one along the infrastructure road is who will commit to a program to fix the city’s streets? The condition of the roads in Fernie is deplorable and a program to repave streets, not re-patch them, is long past due.

Galloway Lands is an issue that I don’t hear candidates talking about. Given that there isn’t a current proposal to on the books, they probably shouldn’t be discussing it specifically. However, a proposal will be coming back to local government and the new RDEK board will have to make a decision on the new proposal. The city, through its representative on the board, will certainly have input.

So, the future of the area, in general, is certainly worth questioning candidates about. Mayoral candidate Ange Qualizza was pretty adamant that the previous proposal should die. Will she change her mind with a different proposal, should she be re-elected? I’m not sure if mayoral candidate Nic Milligan has voiced an opinion on it. He could have and I missed it, but it would be good to know.

And that brings us to our Electoral A candidates. Outgoing director Mike Sosnowski favoured the development. Candidate Lee Ann Walker was one of the organizers of the Rethink Galloway session in the spring so it’s likely she’s more in tune with Qualizza’s thinking on the proposal. I don’t know candidate Thomas McDonald’s position on the matter.

And, when making a decision on whom to elect, make it on more than just one issue.

And for all the candidates who say better communication is needed, start communicating. And for voters, start listening.

READ MORE: Editor’s note: Calling all local candidates

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