Tina Cresswell and Linda Cuell found common cause as they addressed questions related to the September 22 municipal by-election.
They stressed the importance of improving communication between the Town and rate payers.
“It is a universal rule that if you don’t talk to the people who fund your operations, you fail,” said Cresswell.
“Improving communications both with rate payers and with colleagues at the Council table and in administration is also paramount if Council wants to avoid the recent anger and lack of support.
“This involves reiterating roles and responsibilities of Council and the administrator, getting out to talk to constituents, writing a communications plan that deals with the brass tacks of communications, not a generalized policy statement, and then implementing it.”
Cuell said communication of vital information to citizens was inadequate and needed to be done in an easy-to-understand manner.
“Open communication between Council and businesses should improve. Communication between Council and citizens is lacking. Transparency in decision-making processes at both council and administration levels also need improvement.”
Cuell added that communication and open discussion are vital in building partnerships and efficient teamwork.
The issue of communication surfaced during Monday’s “Meet the Candidates” Forum at the Elk’s Hall.
Cresswell and Cuell, competing for the position on Maple Creek Town Council vacated by Corrine Collura, had been asked: “What are three issues you would advocate for if you were elected? Which issue are you most passionate about and why?”
The pair also picked out taxation as a pressing issue.
Cuell said she had heard businesses and citizens voice concern about tax rises.
“There are concerns about the large increases for commercial properties, as well as residential properties, which resulted from reassessment by SAMA (Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency). Because of the sharp increase many felt they should have been given as much advance notice as possible. There are strong feelings about the taxation tools used and what the impact of those tools are having on their taxes.”
Cresswell said there could not be any economic development expectations if commercial taxes were so out of line with other communities of a similar size.
“This tax increase shows a lack of understanding and disregard of business as the backbone of our community.
“Recently elected councillors were not given enough information or training to make good decisions, and were so new to the job that they trusted their Mayor, more seasoned councillors, and the administrator to provide them with guidance, instead of asking more questions.”
Cuell’s third issue was a “top-heavy” Town administration, while Cresswell picked out the budget process.
There was a mix of submitted and impromptu questions at the Maple Creek Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum, which was moderated by Blaine Filthaut. Twenty-seven people attended.
The format was:
• Two-minute introductions by each candidate;
• Three minutes to speak on three submitted questions (As well as the question on three issues, they were asked: What are your feelings on the increase in commercial taxes? How would you deal with budget shortfalls?”;
•Three minutes to speak on two impromptu questions; and
• Two-minute closing statements.
The first impromptu question was: How would you encourage community engagement?
Cuell said community engagement was going to be vital.
“Communication between Council and the citizens of Maple Creek is going to be paramount. Communication of events, happenings, strategic planning, all of those things should point to community involvement.”
Cresswell said the committee process was a good means of community involvement.
Standing committees can have private members “like you and me”, she said.
“We can’t vote, but we can give our expertise.”
She said Councillors needed to make themselves available, and engage with residents and businesses.
“Talk less, and listen more,” she suggested.
The second impromptu question was: “What is your vision for Maple Creek in 2025?”
Curell said she hoped Maple Creek will continue to be the town she loves, with viable, thriving businesses, and healthy and content citizens, who feel there is trust and openness between themselves and those representing them.
She added that she had seen improvements to the town over the last 10 years, particularly in Jasper Street. Sustainability was not enough, she said, there needed to be economic growth and development.
“I am hoping that with strategic planning Maple Creek will be able to position itself to be vastly improved come 2025.”
Cresswell said six years ago, the community was on the move, fighting above its weight – a community that others looked to for direction and guidance.
“Over the last few months, I have had many conversations with present and past councillors, business people and community leaders. They have all delivered the same message. If things don’t change, the town will fail. I know none of us wants that. I also know that we can break the mould and set a new course in community building. We have the power to change the course of the last five years and get back on track, with competent administration and leadership, and real, active collaboration with ratepayers.”
Cresswell, who described herself as an optimist, said Maple Creek needed to look to the future and the challenges and opportunities it holds.
“My vision of Maple Creek in 2025 is children playing safely under the street lights, while neighbours talk and share a story or two and wave at the world. We have the potential to do that. We just have to draw the line and get on with the job.”
• Voting for the Wednesday, September 22, by-election will take place between 9am and 8pm at the Armouries. Results of the election will be declared at Town Hall on September 23 at 9am.