By Rob Vogt
More than 150 people gathered at the Claresholm Social Centre last week to hear what the two candidates for mayor and two of the four candidates for town council had to say.
The Claresholm and District Chamber of Commerce and the Claresholm Local Press held a candidates forum on Wednesday, Sept. 6, as a prelude to the municipal byelection on Sept. 18 where voters will elect a new mayor and fill one vacant position on town council.
Cecilie Fleming, of the Granum area, was the moderator and introduced the candidates
Lon Hall and Brad Schlossberger are vying for the position of mayor, while Chris Dixon, Ryley Jodoin, Shaun MacPherson, and Diana Ross are seeking the open seat on town council.
However, Dixon and Jodoin were unable to attend the forum, but Jodoin did submit a statement to be read.
Candidates then gave their opening statements, with the order determined by random draw.
Hall was first, noting he is from Southern Alberta, his wife is from Japan, where he also lived, and his father was a Second World War veteran. When Hall was younger, his father took him to Europe to re-trace his footsteps from the war.
“A mayor should serve the people,” Hall said.
It is important to develop existing businesses and attract new ones, by reducing red tape.
Affordability is another issue that must be addressed.
“I propose to achieve this by asking questions and listening,” Hall said.
He also said the answers lie with everyone in the community, paraphrasing what former U.S. President John Kennedy said: ask now what Claresholm can do for me but what I can do for Claresholm.
“Call me any time,” he said, then stated his phone number aloud for everyone to hear.
Hall also plans to advocate for the family and give back to the community.
Schlossberger opened by congratulating the whole community on a successful Fair Days during the second weekend in August, commending the volunteers, businesses and everyone else who made it a success.
If elected mayor, Schlossberger said he had several priorities.
Those are infrastructure and pipes in the ground; fire hall expansion; community hall revitalization; and streets and sidewalks.
He then mentioned water specifically.
“This has become a major concern for everyone,” Schlossberger said, adding it is a concern across Southern Alberta.
“Hopefully this changes next year,” he said, adding town staff have been in constant contact with the provincial government regarding the water supply.
Claresholm also needs available land for industrial and commercial development.
“We’ve had to turn away businesses who came here because we had no land,” Schlossberger said. “We need to fix that.”
Another priority is housing, and a needs-driven model.
When businesses came, they asked what is the available housing.
Ross said she has been in town about 15 years, works full time in administration and has a reflexology business, and has been active on many boards and committees, including the library board, family and community support services board, and Citizens On Patrol.
“I’ve enjoyed it very much,” she said.
That has given her the opportunity to take various courses and training as well.
She said she has travelled to Europe and seen how things were done there.
“Claresholm is a beautiful place to live,” Ross said.
She has watched the changes in Claresholm over time and described them as amazing.
“I’m (focused on) listening to the people in the community,” Ross said. “I’m a good listener.
“I like to see things happen.”
MacPherson said he is a small business owner, and has the ability to look at Claresholm in a new light.
He has been a resident more than 40 years and has seen Claresholm grow.
“I will work hard to support and advocate for the people of Claresholm,” MacPherson said.
He will work to attract families by creating more daycare spaces.
MacPherson likes how the town has kept up with infrastructure.
“I want to see those improvements continue,” he said.
MacPherson said he will also work to source doctors, and expand industrial land to grow and attract jobs.
“I will ensure that growth and development continue.”
Fleming then read a statement submitted by Jodoin.
Jodoin said he was born and raised, and spent his whole life in Claresholm.
“Our town is more than a collection of streets and buildings,” he said. “It’s a tapestry woven with the stories, dreams and aspirations of each one of us.”
He is running for council because together he believes they can shape a future that reflects shared values and propels the community towards new horizons.
There is an opportunity to guide the town’s growth, nurture its spirit and ensure it remains a place where families thrive and businesses flourish.
He said he has met many people in the community and understands everyone holds a piece of the puzzle with their ideas, insights and experiences.
“My approach will be rooted in collaboration, transparency, and accountability,” Jodoin said, adding decisions will be based on dialogue, data and the well-being of residents.
He is committed to pursuing initiatives that benefit the entire community. He believes growth in both businesses and the residential sector are the key to Claresholm’s success in the future.
Jodoin also wants everyone’s input because it is an essential ingredient in the recipe for success. A commitment by everyone to listen, engage and work together is required to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.
“Together, we can create a town that we are all proud to be a part of,” Jodoin said.
A question and answer period followed, with questions coming from the floor in person and in writing, and submitted in advance.
What is the biggest challenge and how do you address it?
Hall said many people are leaving for jobs, so he will work to bring permanent jobs to Claresholm. He is not afraid to look for new ideas and at other communities. He cited one community where they created an industrial corridor and went from 70 to 500 jobs.
Schlossberger said a lack of land for commercial and industrial growth. The town needs to purchase land to offer the companies who won’t move here because there is no land.
MacPherson said housing, and there is a need to get more to bring people to town. In order for the day care to expand, housing is needed first.
Ross said businesses are important to the community, if they struggle the town struggles, and everyone must work together to support them.
What is your statement on a pandemic with mandated vaccines and lockdowns?
Schlossberger said he would follow public health regulations.
Hall said he agreed with Schlossberger but also agrees with freedom of choice and hoped the community can continue with both.
MacPherson also agreed with Schlossberger, while Ross too agreed but also believes in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the freedom to make healthy choices.
If council wants to repeal a bylaw, how will you seek input?
MacPherson said he would look into that, while Ross said she would work with the community on bylaws based on what they want.
Schlossberger said there is a process in place, where bylaw changes go to committees. Those meetings are public and everyone is welcome to attend.
“I work for you,” Hall said. “I hope I can listen to you and hope to do for you what needs to be done.”
Is council willing to work with the new administration (provincial government)?
Hall said he believes the municipal, provincial, and federal government all have their place and position.
Schlossberger said he is committed to working with every level of government to forward Claresholm’s interests.
Ross said people have a voice and government is in place to serve people, not people serving government.
MacPherson said people should have freedom of speech and government should work with the people.
Why not turn Claresholm into a place to retire?
Ross said she likes a community of all ages, all flowing together, because they all have a part to play.
MacPherson said this town has been a retirement town for a long time. He feels bringing in new families will bring new jobs and businesses, adding more young families are needed to keep Claresholm going.
Schlossberger said a diverse population is needed, pointing to the success of Fair Days because all of Claresholm got involved.
Hall said the town has many crops, but there is nothing better than children. The measure of a town is how it treats its children and cares for the needy. He also wants to create doors between seniors and children.
How can you help the RCMP with drug enforcement?
Schlossberger said town council has quarterly meetings with the RCMP to discuss needs, and drug enforcement and traffic top the list.
“We express what we want to see the RCMP do,” he said.
Hall said busy hands are happy hands, so investing in happy children is the key. He added it is the RCMP’s responsibility, but every person’s as well, by assisting the police.
MacPherson said the key is keeping young people busy which will help the RCMP have a better time stopping crime, while Ross said education on drugs and crime is important, as is keeping kids busy.
What resources can you offer youth?
MacPherson said a skatepark is coming, and youth programs.
Ross said the key is to find out what they want.
Schlossberger said the town has an indoor pool, parks and an arena, and is working towards a skatepark.
Hall said nothing can compensate for failure in the home, and there is nothing worse than a broken child, so everyone has to be mindful of the children.
How do you plan to involve residents in decision making?
Schlossberger said since he was elected to town council he has met with businesses, citizens, and has always done that. His door is open, his number is on the town website, and people can meet him any time.
Hall again recited his phone number for everyone then said it is important to reach out because mayor and council work for the community.
Ross also gave her phone number, said she’ll go for coffee, and ask people about the town because she is good at asking questions and listening.
MacPherson said he will get out into the community, attend events, talk to people and find out what they want.
Does council respect private property before entering it to enforce a bylaw?
Ross said she would want notice before anyone stepped on her property, and MacPherson said notice was needed before going on private property.
Schlossberger said the town’s bylaw officer will give notice and ask permission to enter someone’s land.
Hall said everyone has individual rights. The bylaw officer is a great guy and does respect property rights, but it does not hurt to talk things over.
A lot of blame is placed on young people, but do you know the majority of drug crime is not committed by young people?
Schlossberger agreed, noting most crime is committed by people travelling through the community.
Hall said laws need to be implemented and everyone should not be afraid to stand up against crime. He urged everyone to take care of the community and work together.
MacPherson said he would work with the RCMP, while Ross said Claresholm is right on the highway, it is not right to blame the youth, and she would work with the police, the community, and one another to look out for each other.
Would you consider a 15-minute open mike session at town council meetings?
MacPherson said he would consider that as people could tell council what they are thinking.
Ross agreed to giving residents an opportunity to share and have a part in decisions.
Schlossberger also agreed, saying council meetings could start early.
Hall said he works for the people, it is good to listen to them and learn so he can advocate for then.
Mayoral candidates were asked what their vision is to bring in business, promote recreation, and build housing?
Hall said he has already talked to businesses that are closing and to ones about coming to town. The town needs to create an environment to attract business by reducing red tape, and seeing what other communities are doing. New housing developments and sports facilities are needed, and people need more freedom to come, set up and grow business.
Schlossberger said the town has to buy land for industrial and commercial development, because the town is turning companies away now.
What do you mean by growth and development, and do you see there are consequences to it?
Schlossberger said development comes with problems, but Claresholm has a small tax base and government funding has been cut, so a bigger tax base is needed.
Hall said tax eats up a lot of life, and people work more than six months of the year before they are tax free. This can be fixed by following other communities who have fixed this issue.
MacPherson said growth is healthy for the town, more businesses mean more families and the town will grow not die.
Ross agreed, adding there are different types of businesses.
It is great bringing businesses in, but there is not a lack of business, but people, because some are always hiring. Have you approached government for funding?
Hall said he approached other towns and learned as businesses come they build things. The town has to invest now to achieve benefits in the future.
Schlossberger said the town advocates to government for grants, and staff do that on a constant basis, but that funding is drying up.
MacPherson said you when you bring in more businesses the more people you have to donate to the community.
Ross said it is a good idea to see what grants are out there.
What are the town’s strengths and what are you proud of?
Ross said the community working together. She pointed to a fire out of town a few years ago and how everyone helped each other. There is strength in giving and love for one another.
MacPherson said the community gets together, pointing to the recent downtown market and late night shopping as an example.
Schlossberger said the community’s strength is its people, and Fair Days was a perfect example of that.
Another example was a fundraiser for a town employee hurt on the job.
Hall said there is so much knowledge and wisdom in the people, so drawing on that is important.
Mayoral candidates were asked what is your view of the RCMP versus a local police force?
Schlossberger said a provincial police force is costly, and he supports working more closely with the RCMP.
Hall is from Taber which has its own police service and it has worked well. Whatever way is chosen, Hall said people still have to do their part to work with the police. It all depends on what the community needs.
What are your favourite places to go and community events to attend?
Ross said restaurants; Canada Day celebrations; and the Agriplex.
MacPherson said the arena; Willow Creek; Fair Days; the upcoming bingo fundraiser for the day care; and the roller disco party.
Hall said sports; and the Friday market where he and his family sold vegetables.
Schlossberger said Amundsen, Centennial, and Ringrose Parks; the new mural downtown; Fair Days; and Canada Day.
Where is the money coming from to purchase land? There are empty properties on the highway, why not buy them?
Schlossberger said they come at an attractive price but they are contaminated and it is costly to clean them up.
Hall said he would negotiate with the landowners and ask questions.
MacPherson said he would work with the owners of the land the town has annexed.
Ross said she too would work with the landowners.
Where would the money come from to buy the land?
Hall said let the developers put in the money and he would negotiate with them. He pointed to Hiroshima, Japan, which had an atomic bomb dropped on it contaminating everything, and they have been able to overcome the contaminated property.
Schlossberger said the money would have to be borrowed, and there is no other choice.
MacPherson would work with the landowners on solutions, and Ross said there are investors out there who may want to invest.
Why hasn’t the town fought the oil companies to get those properties cleaned up, like other communities have and won?
Ross asked why isn’t the town fighting, and should.
MacPherson said he would like to find a solution and talk to the oil companies.
Schlossberger said the town has talked to the oil companies, and could fight them but it would be a long, costly battle.
Hall said if they did something wrong, they need to fix it, and be held accountable. He said maybe their actions have to be announced to the world.
What is your opinion on solar farms mayoral candidates?
Hall asked if things were going in the right direction. The last solar farm hired no local contractors, but he is negotiating with another company to invest locally.
Schlossberger said he has many rural friends. Lots are not in favour of solar farms, and the provincial government has put a stop to approvals. He added they need to be on the correct land, not prime agricultural land.
What is your collective responsibility and what do you owe to Claresholm?
Ross said to be accountable, responsible, part of the community, a voice for the community, and share in the community.
MacPherson said he owes his support to the community to listen, and try and do his best.
Schlossberger said to be responsible to each other and provide services.
Hall said his responsibility is to his wife and children; God; and the community.
What are your top two priorities?
Schlossberger said infrastructure and commercial/industrial land for development.
Hall said opening doors to attracting opportunities and seeking new ideas; and reducing red tape which can bog down good ideas.
How do you increase day-care spaces?
MacPherson said by expanding the existing day care and working with home child care on subsidies.
Hall said child care works but parents should still have the choice.
Ross said if there is a need, where is the location, building, training, safety, budget and more?
Schlossberger said it is a need, has to be expanded, and he will work on it.
Why not go to the Municipal District of Willow Creek for development?
Hall said he talked to the M.D. because there are businesses willing to come.
Schlossberger said the last town council gave the airport to the M.D. who has attracted businesses to the airport. He said the town needs to keep working with the M.D., but is unsure the M.D. would invest in development in town.
MacPherson said he would work closely with the M.D., while Ross agreed, noting you never know when an opportunity comes up.
Was the water shortage expected and what is your plan for the future?
MacPherson said he would look into it for solutions.
Ross said it needs management, and what is to be done in the future so this does not happen again.
Hall said there are things on the community level and the provincial level. He looked into the issue and said the town needs to negotiate for water.
Schlossberger said it was a crisis but hopefully next year will be better. The town has talked to the Alberta government, and the town has to work with what it has because you can’t demand water or manufacture it.