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Tax watchdog quizzes candidates

Five city council contenders made their case for public office at a meeting of the St. Albert Taxpayers Association Tuesday night.

Five city council contenders made their case for public office at a meeting of the St. Albert Taxpayers Association Tuesday night.

The contenders included council candidates Malcolm Parker, Aisling Pollard-Kientzel, Wes Brodhead Norm Harley and mayoral hopeful Shelley Biermanski.

The taxpayer group has invited every new challenger to a question-and-answer session in front of its membership. The other challengers, Stanley Haroun, Cathy Heron and Cam MacKay have already spoken in front of the group. Frances Badrock was to unable to attend for health reasons. James Van Damme was invited earlier this year, but declined due to a scheduling conflict.

Association president Lynda Flannery said the group wants an opportunity for newcomers to make themselves known and let the members know what they stand for.

“We want the new candidates to have an opportunity to talk to us about who they are, what they think they can do differently and what they would like to achieve.”

Flannery said incumbent councillors seeking another term already have a strong profile in the community.

“We know full well what the incumbents’ positions are because we have seen them in council for three years.”

Flannery said the association is concerned about the low turnout at election time and hopes the sessions will help change that.

“It seems that the low voter turnout is linked to a lack of engagement with the public.”

After making brief introductory remarks the candidates answered questions from the audience of about 40 people, for about two hours.

The association also asked the candidates to address four questions during their introductions: why they are running, what they hope to achieve, how they assess the current council and what they would do differently.

The questions touched on a wide range of civic issues from the proposed changes to the solid waste and recycling system, to the Riel Park redevelopment, attitudes toward city administration and even the idea of amalgamation with Edmonton.

Candidates were asked specifically how they would vote on the proposed Habitat for Humanity development on Arlington Drive. Brodhead and Parker both said they supported the idea, but Parker added he thought the community could have consulted much better.

Pollard-Kientzel said she needed more information about the project, while Biermanski and Harley both said they don’t believe it makes sense.

Harley called the project inadequate.

“It wasn’t housing they were going to build, it was chicken coops.”

Recent plans for downtown redevelopment also came up with Biermanski and Harley both saying they don’t support the plan.

Parker said the new bylaw would be good for the city and he believed it was a sign of the times.

“We are not a small town anymore, we have grown up.”

Brodhead also applauded the vision for a strong central business district.

The candidates also all said that growth is both necessary and good for the city in the long term, but emphasized it has to be managed properly.

“If we don’t manage the growth, the growth will manage us,” Brodhead said.

All five candidates were clear they didn’t favour the idea of amalgamation with Edmonton when the issue came up at the end of the night.

Pollard-Kientzel said a meeting like the one they were all in would never take place if there was an amalgamation because the city would not have this much representation.

The taxpayers are planning a full forum with all of the city council candidates, including incumbents, on Sept. 28 at the community hall.

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