Stettler County

Stettler County municipal election forum held virtually on Oct. 6

The forum focused on those running in the upcoming County of Stettler municipal election

By Kevin J. Sabo

For the Independent

The Stettler Board of Trade and Stettler Public Library have hosted another successful candidates’ forum.

Held on Oct. 6, and the final forum of the 2021 municipal election cycle, the forum focused on those running in the upcoming County of Stettler Municipal Election.

Twelve of the 14 candidates running in the five wards participated in the opportunity to present their stance on various topics.

The theme of the evening, at least on the part of the new candidates, was lost trust between the County residents and the council.

“There is a trust loss in our County,” said Justin Stevens, a candidate for Ward 6: Erskine-Buffalo Lake,

“Trust is a tricky thing to rebuild once lost. Accountability must be the first step.”

This sentiment was echoed by fellow new candidate, Dustin Wawzkiewicz, a candidate for Ward 2: Big Valley, who believed that the County needed “proper accountability.”

“We need an honest and open council, where decisions are made in public and discussed in public,” said candidate Earl Marshall, running in Ward 4: Erskine South-Warden.

“I find it terrible the amount of time council has spent in-camera (confidential sessions).”

With the accusations of malfeasance, a question was asked of the candidates whether they would support the implementation of a member-at-large committee responsible for investigating code of conduct allegations of council.

Generally, the new candidates were in favour of the initiative while the incumbents were against.

“I would definitely support this type of initiative,” said Diane Baird, candidate for Ward 3: Botha-Gadsby.

“The code of ethics and conduct are important for any council member to uphold.”

Incumbent James Nibourg disagreed.

“You can have a committee for just about everything,” said Nibourg, candidate for Ward 4: Erskine South – Warden.

“Seven councillors sit at the table. We are hired to make decisions. I am not an advocate for costing the County more money. The system does work … no, I don’t think we need more government.”

Candidate Wanda Niehaus, candidate for Ward 5: Stettler, weighed in as well, agreeing with Baird.

“I am in favour of this,” said Niehaus. “Councillors are elected, not hired, and should be held accountable to the ratepayer.”

Niehaus did indicate that to save the County money the committee should consist of volunteers, and not paid members.

Incumbent Larry Clarke agreed with Nibourg that the current system was working as is.

“We have policy and bylaws through the Municipal Government Act,” said Clarke.

“Councillors have to ensure each other is compliant to it. No, I don’t believe we need to bring another layer of government in.”

The incumbents in the forum played down the notion of a “disconnected” relationship between the ratepayers and the council.

“I’ve had the same phone number for 36 years,” said incumbent Dave Grover, candidate for Ward 2: Big Valley.

“If people need to get a hold of me, the know how to.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Clarke.

“I don’t really hear that coming back,” said Clarke.

“I don’t really feel we have lost that (contact) with the residents.”

Marshall argued that it was time for change.

“We need to treat everyone with honour and respect,” said Marshall. “When you stop respecting the people you are serving, everything is lost. We’re elected to help the community grow, and to resolve problems.”

When it came to closing arguments, Sarina Gosse, candidate for Ward 5: Stettler, said that, “Council is more than a retirement job.

“I ask you all to vote for change on Oct. 18,” said Gosse.

If change is what the County of Stettler wants, the residents will have their opportunity.

Advance polls open Oct. 14 and 15, and municipal election day is Oct. 18. A full list of election locations will be available on the Stettler County website that morning. Voter identification will be required.

In addition to the municipal election, residents will also have their say on two referendum questions and federal senate nominations.

For each candidates’ submissions to the Stettler Independent, visit www.stettlerindependent.com/tag/stettler-votes/

For those who missed the forum, it is available for viewing on the Stettler Public Library’s Facebook page.