By Vivian Collings
The Minden community had the chance to have their questions answered by municipal council candidates to help them vote in the 2022 Municipal and School Board Election on Monday, Oct. 24.
Minden Rotary hosted an all candidates meeting on Monday, Oct. 3 at the Minden Community Centre to allow the public to ask the candidates pressing questions, which included ensuring the variety of needs to draw people here to make a life and a living are met such as housing, employment, connectivity, and also fair wages for town staff positions.
More than 200 residents were in attendance to hear the platforms of each candidate for the councillor-at-large, Ward 1 councillor, and Ward 2 councillor positions.
The meeting was moderated by Jack Brezina, and included the three candidates acclaimed to office, Bob Carter for mayor, Lisa Schell for deputy mayor, and Bob Sisson for Ward 3 councillor, who each had time at the beginning to address their constituents.
“I think tonight is something that promotes transparency and improves communication, which is a vital part of our democracy,” Carter said.
Both Carter and Schell said it will be difficult to address community concerns with a reduction in funding, so in order for Minden Hills to be successful, it requires collaboration among council and community members.
Candidates were then allowed to give an introduction of themselves and their platforms.
Trevor Chaulk and Tammy McKelvey are the candidates for councillor-at-large. Richard Bradley, Mike Grozelle, Shirley Johannessen, and Ivan Ingram are the candidates for Ward 1 councillor. Stephen Hertel and Pam Sayne are the candidates for Ward 2 councillor.
Ten questions were asked in total by attendees of the all candidates meeting and most were directed to all candidates.
One of the most pressing issues to many of the candidates and constituents in Minden Hills is the lack of affordable housing and jobs that pay competitive wages.
One community member said, “Being a part of the younger side of the community, I have been able to find a job everywhere but Minden. I’m just wondering if you have a plan to have more full-time, pensionable jobs here with benefits … What are you are planning on doing to make it more desirable for young people to want to grow their families here? Because, for me, I want to live here, but I can’t, because I have nowhere to live, and I have no job [in Minden Hills].”
Sayne, who has been in office as Ward 2 councillor for the past two terms, said, “It’s not going to happen tomorrow. That’s why we’re working on changing the Planning Act to make it [include] more accessible housing.”
Sayne said broadband internet services need to be brought to the community as well, but in the short-term, what “we need to do is find ways to get along and support each other on every kind of project.”
Hertel also said better internet should be made a priority.
“We do need to work on retention of our staff. We have good people who live here and who are invested in the community. They are leaving for $10 more in the south,” Hertel said.
Chaulk said action needs to be taken immediately on these issues.
“We have a one to three year window to get housing in place, to get skills training to replace the workforce that we currently have that the majority is going to be retiring in the next five to 10 years.”
McKelvey said the main industry in the community that will be creating jobs is healthcare because of the aging population.
“I do feel housing is critical for this whole economy to bounce back,” she said.
Bradley said Minden Hills is not paying competitive wages for township jobs.
Ingram would like to see a development of small houses similar to Hunter Creek Estates just off of Highway 35.
He would also like to see pay equity as a requirement within the township.
Grozelle said, “We need to pay people what they’re worth, and we need to pay them to get them here … I hate to say this, but it goes back on the CAO. She has to do her job. She has to get the right people here to pay the right people to be here in order to get things moving forward again.”
Johannessen passed on answering the question but said she hopes to be able to help solve the problem.
Goals of each candidate
Minden resident Lorrie Blanchard asked all candidates what they hope to have accomplished in a year from now if they are elected.
Johannessen said her main goals are addressing poor road conditions and homelessness and poverty.
Among many things, Sayne would like to change the procurement bylaw to make sure locals are given tender opportunities first. She would also like to continue work on the Provincial Planning Act so housing can be built.
Hertel would like to help promote local businesses and work on the delivery of emergency services to reduce wait times.
Chaulk’s main concern is housing and would like to see bylaw amendments to allow for multi-residential housing in rural areas.
Housing is also a top priority for McKelvey. She hopes to see zoning amendments to allow secondary homes on properties.
Bradley wants to see ground broken on housing projects within a year as well as road improvements.
Ingram hopes to look into why 17 township staff members have resigned within the last three years and wants to ensure a planner is hired.
Grozelle said, “Everybody here is on the same page. We all want to see the same things … It’s a matter now of which one you’re going to corner and really get down to the nitty gritty of how we think and what we want to do in the future.”
Profiles of each candidate can be found at mindentimes.ca. To find out how to vote and to make sure your name is on the voter’s list, visit www.mindenhills.ca/en/local-government/voter_information.aspx.