By George A. Brown, editor
The month-long municipal election campaign ends Oct. 18 when you go into the booth to elect six and councillors. Those candidates with the time, the political resolve and a good pair of shoes, will have knocked on a couple thousand doors seeking input from residents — and of course, support on election day.
Voters in Ponoka had the chance last week to see what the candidates have to offer. That there will be an election and a candidates’ forum is taken for granted in many communities. Not Ponoka. There was some turnover on council in 2007 but councillors and the mayor were acclaimed to office. Don’t waste this opportunity to vote for the first time since 2004
In the short term it doesn’t matter who you elect to town council — water will still flow from your taps, garbage will continue to be collected and streets will still be plowed of snow — but still not frequently enough. The candidates we elect are pieces of an ever-changing puzzle. It takes all of the councillors and the mayor working together to accomplish their goals for the community; no single candidate can claim to be able to implement a vision for Ponoka if they don’t have the support of at least half of council.
The forum yielded some interesting platform planks from the candidates: Who would have thought that amalgamating The Town of Ponoka and Ponoka County would be on the table. Julian Hudson for one. Loanna Gulka proposes to institute photo radar as a means of slowing down speeders on the primary highways through town. Can you say cash cow?
It’s not a surprise with Dr. Izak van der Westhuizen (physician) and Beva Hamilton (registered nurse) running for council that medical matters would be campaign issues. Council can lobby the government and reflect the community’s indignation but little else.
Dave MacPherson is an interesting story in this campaign, one that we have not chosen to exploit. Mentally challenged, he has put the simple concerns of the community out there for discussion: affordable housing, transportation, respect for one another.
Two of the challengers, van der Westhuizen and Rick Bonnett live on 38th Street and pledge that they won’t be flogging that dead horse. We’ll see. There will be pressure from their neighbours to get to the bottom of the issue. Wherever that is.
Bonnett and Gulka want term limits for councillors. Setting those limits is a provincial responsibility but any candidate can pledge to abide by the concept. It does take longer than you think to make a difference on council but after six years, you might want to stop banging your head with the gavel.
There’s no question Ponoka’s growth has slowed to a crawl. We’re starting to lose more businesses that we gain and there have been few housing starts. Council has to look at ways top attract development and jobs, and consider what barriers exist to achieving balanced growth. What perceptions about Ponoka are keeping new residents and businesses away?
Take a close look at the candidates running for town council and make an informed decision. Don’t feel that you have to vote for a full slate of four council candidates. This isn’t bingo; you don’t need a full card for the community to win. Pick only those candidates whose vision for Ponoka aligns with yours. Vote, because your voting power will influence the election and help to determine the community’s direction.
Top 10 reasons to vote on Oct. 18
1. Your vote will make a difference in who gets elected to council. There are examples of candidates at every level of government who have won and lost by just a few votes. Yes, you can still complain even if you don’t vote but you have more clout on election day.
2. The level of local taxation depends on it. Affordable taxation may seem like an oxymoron but town councils need taxes to fuel their budgets. Loading the cost of all municipal services onto the property tax is unfair; the flip side is increased user fees. Whether services are cut or taxes increased will depend on your vote.
3. The value of your home could depend on your vote. Land designation decisions, such as the location of commercial and industrial properties, and power lines, are made by town council. If you don’t vote, you might not have a say in who your neighbours will be and what effect that might have on your property value.
4. The safety of your community depends on it. The level of police and fire protection is decided by town council. Are you satisfied with the response time of the RCMP and the volunteer fire department when an emergency strikes?
5. The environment depends on it. Recycling, municipal composting programs, diverting refuse from the landfill, and the use of pesticides in parks. How town council deals with these issues could determine your family’s quality of life.
6. Ponoka’s relationship with county council hinges on your vote. These two have been sniping at each other like the Hatfields and McCoys over the back fence. The annexation process was a mess from the get-go and the town’s arrogance has left bad feelings in the county office. It may take a new attitude to fix the hurt.
7. The variety of recreation opportunities in the community depends on your vote. Whether it’s the swimming pool, parks, arena rental rates or outdoor skating rinks, what you do with your leisure time could be affected by who gets elected Oct. 18.
8. Your health could depend on your vote. Are you satisfied with the level of ambulance service? Health care is a provincial responsibility but the town funds Family and Community Support Services. Are you getting the type of social programming that you need? Are more acute care beds needed at the hospital?
9. What your neighbourhood looks like could depend on you. Population density, the mix of housing styles, the location of new businesses, speed bumps, and the planning of neighbourhood parks all hinge on your vote.
10. The future of Ponoka depends on your vote. Do want your kids to be educated in Ponoka, to move out, get a job and buy a house in Ponoka? Whether you vote will have a direct bearing on the availability of jobs and housing in town. The decisions made by town councillors affect every aspect of life in Ponoka. If you want to influence their decisions, vote on election day.