Year in review: politicians

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Municipal politicians look to 2018 with infrastructure and keeping pace with growth top of mind.

Provincial and federal representatives gear up for 2019 elections, look to take opponents to task.

Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards

What are your priorities for 2018?

My top priority for 2018 will be to continue to stand up and fight for my constituents and all Canadian taxpayers. The Liberal government has continually picked the pockets of hardworking Canadians. This fall, for example, they tried to do that by changing the way small businesses were going to be taxed, and directly going after the job creators in our communities. I will continue to speak out against any such measures to ensure that Canadians get to keep more of their hard-earned money.

A personal initiative for 2018 will be Motion 110, which I introduced and which comes up for debate early this year. The motion calls for the government to study the impact on parents who have suffered the loss of an infant child. Right now, parents who go through this tragedy get their parental benefits removed by the government immediately, not allowing for proper time to grieve.

The government needs to show more compassion and better understand the situation that these parents are in. I have heard from many affected parents, in our communities and across the country, and they are strongly supportive of the motion. The motion will be debated early in 2018 and I hope to get the support of both the Liberals and NDP to make this change happen.

What are the greatest challenges the Scheer Conservatives are faced with, as the ramp up for the 2019 federal election begins?

As Conservatives, we are working hard to share our positive Conservative vision with hardworking Canadians. As a party, we have demonstrated to Canadians that there is a real alternative to the tax-and-spend Trudeau government.

We have held the Trudeau Liberals accountable for tax hikes, failure to deliver results for middle class Canadians and unethical behaviour. This Liberal government has no ethical compass. Prime Minister Trudeau has been found to have broken multiple ethics rules. They have a finance minister who was found in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act and fined.

Our Conservative Party will continue to hold the Trudeau Liberals accountable for their actions. We will continue to show that there is a Conservative alternative waiting in 2019, a party that puts the interests of Canadians first.

Banff-Canmore NDP MLA Cameron Westhead

What are your priorities for 2018?

My highlight from 2017 was the announcement in April by Minister Mason to construct a new interchange at highways 1A and 22. It will reduce travel time for businesses and locals and support more efficient transport of people and goods in this region and was one of the top issues I heard from constituents in Cochrane.

In November our government broke ground on the much-needed Calgary Cancer Centre, which will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients and their families including those in the Cochrane area.

Another highlight from 2017 was reducing school fees and creating a school nutrition program. Parents want school to be more affordable, and our government responded by reducing mandatory school fees to put more money back into Alberta families’ pockets. We know students learn best on a full stomach, and our government is supporting students by expanding the school nutrition program to schools all across the province.

With the economy continuing to improve through 2018, we’ll be looking carefully to find savings to ensure we reduce the deficit while protecting Albertans’ priorities in health care and education. In 2018 we’ll continue to focus on priorities like jobs, affordability and strengthening the public services families count on.

What are the biggest obstacles posed by the newly-formed UCP (Official Opposition) for the NDP?

Affordable, high-quality childcare is so important for Alberta families. While our government is moving forward to expand our $25/day childcare program, the UCP has called this program a “waste.” Jason Kenney has said childcare is meant to “engineer social outcomes,” and that he “personally believes children need a parent at home.”

The UCP has been spreading misinformation and misleading Albertans just to score cheap political points. They have stood in the way of common-sense legislation to protect consumers, protect the health and well-being of working Albertans, and ensure GSAs remain safe spaces for students. When it was discovered the UCP’s House Leader Jason Nixon fired a woman in 2005 for complaining about sexual harassment, Kenney excused Nixon’s actions, saying that he was young at the time. I welcome the opportunity to move forward with our work to make life better for Albertans in 2018 and present a clear choice in 2019.

Cochrane mayor and council were asked the same two questions:

1) Given the recent development report that indicates 9,505 houses are on the books, with the potential for an additional 2,433 to be added, what do you think is the best approach to manage this growth in the most sustainable way for existing residents?

2) What will be your priorities in the New Year?

Mayor Jeff Genung (first term mayor; former two-term councillor)

1) Council has a huge job ahead managing the pressures of continued growth while catching up on needed infrastructure projects. We need to proceed with caution, focus on commercial zonings to help balance the tax burden and help pay for the infrastructure. While the previous council approved the additional houses it will be our job to manage the continuing increase in population.

We must not waiver from making sure the people of Cochrane come first. It only makes sense for us to use available planning tools to manage new growth while we continue to work on the other growth-pressured areas, fire, police, social services, in addition to the obvious traffic concerns.

2) I can’t wait for the New Year. This is an exciting time for Cochrane, as many initiatives will begin to come forward in 2018. My focus will remain on people, ensuring I continue to engage with as many residents as possible, listening and providing timely updates on what is happening at town hall.

We have many serious issues to tackle that will take a ton of hard work and determination and my goal is to keep our team of town staff and council on point in a positive, forward-moving manner. I am eager to see the results of our Centre Avenue study so we can get to work on reducing congestion in that area as soon as possible. Continued work on alternatives with the province on Highway 1A will be top of the list and I truly believe a solution is available in the interim prior to twinning – I am thinking roundabouts.

In addition, I will be working diligently with our neighbours to map out regional land uses, servicing and transportation solutions. Transit, smart city initiatives, culture, seniors, secondary access to Sunset Ridge and much more. Exciting times are ahead for the residents of Cochrane!

Coun. Morgan Nagel (second term)

1) I think it’s time for our mayor and council to rethink the high density agenda that previous governments created. From what I hear, people in Cochrane want our town to be a spacious suburban town, and not a high-density city. Most of the estimated 9505 homes that have been approved have only been given land use zoning, and much of the land has not been subdivided to smaller lots yet.

The good news is that we can still change our bylaws to require larger lots, lower density and more parking in zones that haven’t been subdivided yet. When we zone lower-density neighbourhoods, the development industry builds higher-quality housing.

Higher-quality housing increases everyone else’s land values, but unfortunately for the developers, it always sells a little slower. I think nicer homes that also happen to sell a little slower are exactly what Cochrane needs. Scaling back our density targets may require butting heads with the so-called wisdom coming from Calgary and the provincial government, but I am prepared to stand up for Cochrane on this issue. I hope my colleagues agree.

2) My top priorities are managing residential growth and fixing traffic. Our new mayor and council have already identified a few key road projects to advance, but I think there is still a need for additional efforts.

Rather than phasing the new bridge with two lanes now and then four lanes in the future, I think we should buck up now and build the bridge that we need. There are economies of scale in these types of projects, and doubling the size of the bridge will not double the cost. On the flip side, coming back to upgrade it in the future will require restarting the whole process and it will be very expensive. I am also worried that if we don’t build a four-lane bridge now, it will never be upgraded in the future. Furthermore, I think our town should seriously considering borrowing money to advance the Centre Avenue underpass project ahead of schedule. Traffic projects aren’t getting any cheaper, and Cochrane isn’t getting any smaller. We should build now.

Coun. Tara McFadden (fourth term)

1) As Cochrane grows it’s important that we grow on Cochrane’s terms. Council can make some of those decisions directly but the key is to engage with our residents to create the policies that will guide that growth.

In 2018 there are going to be great opportunities to participate, including the update of the Municipal Development Plan, Land Use Bylaw and the Transit Task Force.

As a councillor, I will be advocating that development has the highest planning standards, support economic development, contribute to our traffic solutions, create walkable communities and preserve our green spaces.

2) I’ll continue to advocate for my campaign commitments of managed growth, roads and access, and community engagement. In the 2018 budget, council committed to advancing significant traffic projects that will make it easier to get around and I’ll continue to champion those. Additionally, I’ll be focusing on the planning policies that will guide our growth and champion public engagement as we update those plans. I’m excited to participate in the Transit Task Force as council moves toward a decision on transit. Improving communications and engagement will continue to be a focus and I will advocate for the creation of a citizen panel to provide feedback to council in addition to creating a public committee to guide recreational priority setting.

Coun. Marni Fedeyko (first term)

1) I believe that council will need to spend more quality time as communities continue to grow and new ones look for approval. We need to make sure that we are not rushing decisions and giving the green light to development that brings little or no benefit to either existing residents or addressing some the challenges we already know of when it comes to approving new residential subdivisions. While we can’t stop development we don’t need to repeat past mistakes.

2) I will continue to work on improving communications with community members. Keeping residents in the know and hearing their concerns is important to me and I want to stay true to what I campaigned on. I have my notice of motion coming forward to research amending the trailer bylaw as well as continue investigation on streaming council for added transparency and accountability.

I want residents to feel comfortable asking questions, knowing they will be heard, and providing an answer. I would like to continue working on issues such as parking and finding a way to move people about out town. I am excited for all the possibilities this year will provide.

Coun. Susan Flowers (first term)

1. Cochrane is a community of choice where residents would like to live, work and play. As town council, we need to concentrate on important infrastructure and work with developers to make the community what we want it to be. Every decision we make we must consider sustainability looking at the environmental, economic and social impact on Cochrane.

The simplest definition for sustainability I found comes from the World Commission on Environment and Development: “Sustainable development needs to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

My hope is to build out Cochrane in a manner where my grand children will enjoy less traffic congestion, more noise control, easy access to needed services, connectivity to all areas of Cochrane, connections with nature through parks and rooftop gardens, more community meeting places, advanced social, recreation, culture and health programs and well-managed recycling programs, to name a few. To accomplish all this we need community involvement throughout all planning and decisions.

2. It’s going to be a very exciting year ahead for Cochrane. Council will focus on traffic issues as we heard during the elections that the community wants solutions. The bridge will be underway, transit will be analyzed, and a solution chosen.

As a member of the Rocky View Foundation and the Cochrane Public Library, I will be helping to find new space for the Big Hill Lodge and the library. I am expecting to be involved with the update of the town’s Economic Development Plan to learn about the needs of local businesses and how we can encourage new businesses to locate here to support the tax base and employment.

I will assist residents, staff and council in making the best community plan for the old pool site, making Cochrane inclusive and age and mobility-friendly and educating the community on recycling and environmental practices.

I recently joined Ducks Unlimited as a volunteer. There is a fundraiser On March 10, 2018 to support the work they do in rescuing the wetlands and more. I hope Cochrane will show great support to this group that is working hard on sustainability!

Coun. Alex Reed (first term)

1) We have more than sufficient residential growth planned, with respect to our needs for the foreseeable future. The previous town council has lost its way, when it placed residential growth over our citizen’s quality of life and developers’ profits over proper infrastructure. This past approach to residential growth for growth sake alone was simply wrong, short sighted and is no longer acceptable.

I believe this new town council will put the wants and needs of our current citizens ahead of developers’ profits. I believe this new town council will stand up against these developers so we retain the quality of life and values we hold dear as our town. I believe that placing quality of life over residential growth and infrastructure ahead of developer wants is the focus of this new town council. A vision of what our community wants and needs is critical for its future and I believe that focus will be on business growth.

2) My town council priorities for the New Year include traffic and fiscal responsibility. I will work hard to address our traffic issues. Being fiscally responsible requires an appropriate balance of spending and taxes, optimizing economic growth, while maintaining appropriate levels of public investment. Being fiscally responsible is about being prudent in the way we spend your tax dollars, getting full value, and not shouldering future generations with debt. Being fiscally responsible is about attracting new business, supporting existing businesses, and most importantly, living within our means.

I will also focus on community engagement and transparency – looking to find ways to connect, engage, and receive feedback from the majority of citizens by reestablishing citizen working groups, creating task forces, and broadcasting council meetings in order to hear the concerns of our citizens and not just the squeaky wheels, as we look to become more transparent in all our governance processes.

Coun. Patrick Wilson (first term)

1) The development report presented to council earlier in December shows a town on the precipice of becoming a city over the next decade. I think 2018 will be very interesting as our team unpacks and debates how these new subdivisions should be set up and how they will integrate into our community.

I would like to defer residential growth where practical, as I see serious gaps between our spectacular growth rates and our community infrastructure and service levels – most noticeably road overcapacity. We have just begun to tackle some of these issues.

2) My New Year priorities remain advancing our road capacity upgrades and unlocking traffic gridlock. Other election commitments including fiscal conservancy, community lands and park promotion, connecting our sprawling communities and seeking operational budget efficiencies throughout the Town of Cochrane remain close to my heart.

Merry Christmas Cochrane, we have reason to be optimistic in 2018!

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About Author

Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing. She has a knack for getting the scoop on stories and is a strong interviewer. The U of C and MRU English/Journalism graduate is committed to telling every story through a new lens, from a fresh perspective. Currently, her focus is on news and politics reporting, including town hall. She has a passion for providing a platform for underdogs, grassroots movements and those who have the courage to put themselves out there. She bases the strength of her stories on the depth of her connection with her interviewee, which is best done over too much coffee.