By Jerry MacDonald
Grande Prairie: the flowers of democracy (campaign signs) are in full bloom in this northern city of just over 50,000. Grande Prairie is in for a relatively interesting civic election this year. There are five (5) candidates for the Mayor’s chair, and 14 candidates for the eight seats on council. The City of Grande Prairie has no wards, so all positions are elected “at large”. For this reason, the position of mayor does not have the unique influence it has in a city with a ward system, where only the mayor’s mandate is city-wide. In Grande Prairie, the mayor is just another vote on city council. On the other hand, the adjacent County of Grande Prairie No. 1 is going to have a very uninteresting election, as six of its nine divisions (including that of the current reeve, Everett McDonald) have been acclaimed.
The issues? Well, of course, Grande Prairie isn’t Edmonton. For one thing, we only have one airport :-); and it’s within city limits. More seriously, foremost among the issues would have to be the cost of living, such as city taxes; quality of life; and relations with the province, including the effectiveness of city lobbying for the province to meet its responsibilities.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of voters, and two kinds of municipal politicians, in this city (and most other smaller cities as well, I expect). There are those whose view of the city’s role is limited to paving the streets and paying for fire fighters, cops, etc. Then there are others who feel that a city must provide services and resources to increase the quality of life for its residents, especially if it is going to attract qualified professionals to teach in the schools and at the college, to work in the health care system, and generally to support the local economy. The first group wants taxes and spending held and even reduced; the second feels that revenue must be generated, and dollars expended, for the city to provide those resources and services. Here in the City of Grande Prairie, one of the complicating factors is that much of the most lucrative tax base is actually from industrial assessments outside its borders, in the County (full disclosure time: this writer has just moved into the County from the city, with the side benefit of lower property taxes than I would pay for the same home in the city), while much of the demand for services is located within city limits.
Dwight Logan (incumbent)
⁃ former teacher; born in Edmonton, raised in GP; educated in GP and at the U of A (BA History & English, 1969; teaching certificate, 1970)
⁃ long-time fixture on Grande Prairie city council, having served three terms as alderman and two previous terms as mayor (1986-1992)
⁃ stood as Liberal candidate in the provincial constituency of Grande Prairie-Wapiti in 1993
⁃ along with family, former owner of soon-to-be demolished York Hotel
Ald. Gladys Blackmore
⁃ born in Beaverlodge (west of GP), where she completed high school
⁃ listed as having attended arts programmes at U of A & Athabasca Univ. (not clear whether she earned a degree)
⁃ current President & Executive Director, United Way of Grande Prairie & Region
⁃ alderman since 2001
Ald. Bill Given
⁃ self-employed marketing & communications consultant
⁃ born & raised in GP, attended Medicine Hat College (visual communications)
⁃ first elected to city council in 2001 (youngest ever in GP history), has served three consecutive terms on council
⁃ stood as federal Independent candidate for riding of Peace River in Jan 2006 (finished 2nd behind Conservative Chris Warkentin, with 20.3% of the vote, and ahead of 3rd-place Susan Thompson of the NDP)
⁃ among some of the planks on his platform are a passenger rail link between GP and Edmonton (actually not a bad idea, but I don’t think it will ever happen) and elevating the status of GP Regional College to a university
⁃ no website, but has a Facebook page (I haven’t joined, so I don’t have much more information on him, such as a bio)
⁃ I cannot find any information on this unknown candidate
If I were allowed to vote in this election, Given would have my vote for Mayor. Logan has just been around too long, and as for Blackmore … well, some months ago, my youngest daughter (then 19) was taking a course at the college, and had to attend a city council meeting for an assignment. She asked me to come along so she’d know what was going on. During the meeting, I was well-placed to see the computer screens of several of the aldermen, including Blackmore’s. She spent the entire evening playing solitaire! Now, maybe she is quite good at mental multi-tasking, and gave the matters being considered by council her full attention, but as a taxpayer, I was offended (my daughter was appalled). I was paying this woman $28,000 a year to play solitaire? I could play it myself for free.
Note: City Council recently passed a motion to rename its members from ‘Alderman’ to ‘Councillor’, to take effect after this year’s elections
IMHO, the most interesting feature of this year’s elections for city council is who is not running: two first-term aldermen have announced that they will not be running again: local businessman Yad Minhas (Minhas Bros. trucking), the first South Asian to be elected to GP city council; and GPRC English Instructor and author (and prominent local NDP activist and sometime candidate) Dr. Elroy Deimert, who has also announced his retirement from GPRC, intending to focus on his writing
⁃ incumbents that are running again are engineer and businessman Dan Wong , retired school superintendent Lorne Radbourne , businessman Alex Gustafson, and perennial alderman (& perpetual smokestack) Helen Rice (BTW, she voted against the motion to change ‘alderman’ to ‘councillor’), who has sat on council since a 1979 by-election; Rice is a former radio talk-show host and mall manager, and is now manager of the Downtown Association and a member of the board of directors of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association
⁃ some of the other candidates include John Croken, who was previously on council but was voted off in 2007; Kevin McLean, a 3rd-time candidate (he ran in ’04 & ’07) who had his in-your-face election signs out six months ago (and thereby lost this citizen’s vote even before I knew I would be moving out of the city); and Justin Munroe , a businessman who owns both Pizza Hut locations in the city
County of Grande Prairie No. 1
Out in the county, one potential issue arose too late to have an influence on this year’s campaign, and that is the decision by county council to terminate its fire service agreement with the city at the end of next year, and create its own composite (mixed volunteer and professional) fire service, effective Jan 2012, for the rural Grande Prairie area. This is of particular import for those residents (myself included) who live very close tho the city limits and within a scant 3-5 minutes from a city fire hall, and wonder about the response times and quality of service from a composite service. But the decision was announced a scant week and a half before Nomination Day, and so had little or no effect on whether potential council candidates stepped forward.
Jerry MacDonald has been a Registered Nurse for 25 years and was educated in Halifax. Moved to Fort Vermilion, Alberta in 1985, and to Grande Prairie in 1988. Former UNA activist and local president at QEII Hospital (2003-2006). NDP candidate in 2004 provincial election (Grande Prairie-Wapiti); also worked on several other campaigns at both provincial and federal levels. Married to Nancy; three adult children. BSc in Nursing, post-RN (U of A 2010).