Town of Athabasca election candidates came face to face with the public last Wednesday in a forum put on by the Athabasca District Chamber of Commerce, which saw incumbents and challengers alike vying to convince locals that they are the ones to vote in.
Approximately 75 people in attendance at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex got the full range of campaign pledges, from greater council unity and communication to promises of continued business growth from mayoral candidates Colleen Powell and Roger Morrill, while other election candidates extolled the virtues of affordable living, fairer utility rates and family values.
“The mayor has to work with, listen to, and sometimes lose to council. We’re all in it together, we are a group,” said Powell.
Morrill counterattacked by calling for a united, strong council voice.
“This town is a business, it should be run like one,” he said as he called for greater investment in infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks.
Councillor candidate Richard Verhaeghe tapped into popular concerns by denouncing rising water rates as a form of taxation.
“I am here to guide you. I will fight for you guys,” he said.
Meanwhile, Joanne Peckham, in an echo of Morrill’s strategy, said she wanted to make sure that Athabasca remained open for new businesses and investment.
The public received a slightly different angle from Richard Verhaeghe’s brother, Tim, who championed a family-friendly town where business deemed appropriate to the local culture would be approved, as he highlighted his environmental credentials by pledging to protect the natural beauty of the Athabasca River valley.
“Athabasca remains the best place to work, live, and raise a family,” said councillor George Hawryluk, laying out a vision of councillors fulfilling their duties to build up the economy, recreation, social welfare and environmental protection. “On October 18, I ask for your vote.”
Incumbent candidate Paula Evans proposed practical measures to help the public cope with water costs, with a program of leak prevention and low-flow toilets to help reward those who conserve water.
“This time I feel somewhat battle-scarred but unbowed,” she told the public as she spoke of council’s overcoming the train station and Riverfront Project delays.
Candidate Christine Nelson made her political pitch with a green flavor, highlighting the Athabasca area as a model within the province for its recycling programs.
“Recycling is very important,” she told the audience.
Twelve-year council member Lionel pledged more conservative council spending, asking his fellow candidates and the audience, “Would I be doing this if it was my own money?”
Cherniwchan finished his speech by saying that he wished to increase the tax base by attracting more businesses.