Young residents grill candidates

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The first forum of St. Albert’s municipal election brought out 23 of the race’s 28 candidates to the St. Albert Public Library on Friday.

The forum was organized and hosted by youth, with more than a dozen young adults packed into Forsyth Hall along with the candidates.

Kate Korte, 19, and Aulden Maj-Pfleger, 18, hosted the forum together, firing randomized questions at candidates who had one minute to respond.

Korte, a political science student, said she wanted to hold a youth forum in order to give residents of her demographic a chance to see and hear candidates for themselves.

“I wanted to create that bridge between the city and (candidates),” she said.

Although Korte already knows who she’s voting for, Maj-Pfleger said the forum helped put faces and personalities to election signs.

“It really makes it a lot clearer when you can see everyone in one room and you’re not just staring at signs driving down the trail,” he said.

Addressing her plans for youth-based facilities such as the Collective, Tash Taylor said the city needs more input from youth.

“I think it needs to come from you to tell us what it is you want from us,” she said.

As for engaging youth, Mark Cassidy said consultation is essential.

“(We need to) bring them into the conversation more,” he said.

Barry Zukewich said he supports environmental conservation of ecosystems such as Big Lake.

“It is our responsibility to not leave a mess for younger generations to clean up,” he said.

Natalie Joly said although the city is not currently in the green-energy business, she believes the city should make sure sustainability factors into planning process for new facilities.

“(We need to) make sure it’s in the details for all the plans, for everything we do in the city,” she said.

Gilbert Cantin said zoning is the key for ensuring protection of green spaces within city limits, and making sure all developers are on an even footing.

“If the developer wants to develop land, they have to buy it in an area that’s actually zoned for that,” he said.

Jacy Eberlein said he wants to see denser housing and local business development as a priority for the land St. Albert is annexing from Sturgeon County.

“What I’m planning on doing is making sure those new zones are better able to provide for our generation,” he said.

Mayoral candidate Malcolm Parker said he sits on the St. Albert Housing Society and agrees the city needs to be conscious of younger demographics.

“We’ve not made a lot of progress in terms of getting apartments, multi-family units and condos. That’s a good way to start,” he said.

Mark Kay suggested the city look at encouraging developments geared specifically toward young adults.

“Affordable housing is good, but we also need to look at affordable living,” he added.

Sandyne Beach-McCutcheon said council needs to look into business potential in relation to the Smart City initiative.

“I think there’s potential there for younger people,” she said.

Nestor Petriw said the city needs to maintain its level of amenities and lifestyle in order to support independent business development.

“There’s so much here that St. Albert has to offer, and we need to protect that,” he said.

Charlene Jelinski said while she is not actively engaged in the city’s arts community, she supports it.

Ray Watkins said he believes social programs and recreation centres should be built by municipalities instead of private ventures so they are affordable for everyone.

Asked for his position on the branch library, Hannes Rudolph said it wouldn’t be responsible for him to say yes or no to the project.

“That being said, if the ballot question receives less than 50 per cent plus one in support, I think council will have to come together and look at more creative ways at solving the space issue,” he said.

Wes Brodhead said the issue of library space has been “studied to death.”

“We understand the need. The challenge before council … is how to (meet) that in a way that is affordable for our community,” he said.

On the topic of homelessness, mayoral candidate Cam MacKay said he personally knows some of St. Albert’s homeless people, who numbered 98 in 2016.

“It’s not an easy issue for a municipality to resolve, but there are some models out there that have worked,” he said, pointing to Lethbridge as an example.

Craig Cameron said he wants council to reach out to groups such as the food bank for solutions.

“(There are) some great ideas there for how you can leverage a lot of the resources that are already existing within our city to try and better support the homeless population,” he said.

As for public transit, Bob Russell said while getting good transit service to Edmonton is the most important priority, it’s not the only one.

“We also need a far better inner service to get people from homes to bus depots,” he said.

Jan Butler said the city could help alleviate parking congestion at bus depots by finishing a new parking space for buses.

Some candidates answered personal questions as well. Asked what obstacles he has overcome, Shayne Kawalilak said he and his wife have divorced and remarried and have home-schooled their nine children.

Ufuoma Odebale-Fregene said her experience living in three different countries would help her bring a collaborative approach to council.

Jacquie Hansen, who currently works full-time, said she would leave her job if she was elected.

“It’s part-time pay, but really I think when you’re giving to the community it has to be full-time work,” she said.

When asked what he would like to accomplish in four years if elected, Ken MacKay said he wants to see the city make progress on affordable housing, transit and traffic congestion. He also wants to see the city engage with youth better.

“I want to see somebody else in this room (have their) name on the ballot at the end of four years,” he said.

Mayoral candidate Cathy Heron said her goal at four years would be to do a ribbon-cutting on a multi-use facility which would include ice rinks and gymnastics.

“If we could get some of these recreation facilities built in St. Albert under a new model that’s not the traditional thing of (being) entirely publicly funded and supported, but getting a not-for-profit to do it … that would be a huge accomplishment to me,” she said.

Candidates Al Bohachyk, Sheena Hughes, Steve Stone, Jaye Walter and Leonard Wilkins were not present.

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April Hudson