(Please note, this column was originally proposed as an editorial in the Brandon Sun. Due to current policy surrounding candidate submissions for editorial content, the Sun was unable to publish my response at this time. Although I respect their decision, I still felt it important to share my response to the questions posed by the columnist.)
Thoughts in response to Mr. Kerry Auriat’s call to action
I read with great interest Kerry Auriat’s Kerry Nation column in the August 4 edition of the Brandon Sun. Mr. Auriat challenged candidates in this fall’s civic election to respond on a number of important issues.
I formally announced my candidacy for the University Ward on May 30. I approached that announcement the way I plan to approach the term on council, should I be fortunate enough to be elected. I want to represent the needs of this ward and help move our community forward through thoughtful and engaged leadership, something I have been committed to for many years.
I wanted to take this opportunity to respond to Mr. Auriat’s challenge and share some of my thoughts with you and other Brandon residents.
Taxation– While many Canadians, including Mr. Auriat, believe they are paying some of the highest taxes in the world, in fact, Canada is way down the list. We need to keep the tax burden as low as possible, because taxes, along with many other factors, often challenge residents to make ends meet on a monthly basis. They can also hinder our region in remaining competitive with other regions and provinces.
My approach to taxation is built on being smart about our investments. We should measure taxation decisions through the lens of return on investment in our community — both in dollar amounts and in improvements to our quality of life.
We must achieve a level of taxation that provides a satisfactory return on investment, without threatening to limit the success of our residents.
We need to keep the cost of living in our city within reach of everyone and keep any potential tax increases based on tangible and measurable items that residents of the city can track and see value in.
Infrastructure Spending – I believe this next council will be challenged with infrastructure spending on some fronts (8th Street Bridge, extending Pacific Avenue, 34th Street expansion and the Daly Overpass, to name a few). Regarding the pedestrian bridge specifically, I would withhold judgment on this until the preliminary findings of the RFPs requested by City Council on July 16 are published. Before considering a major infrastructure project such as this, Brandon would, at the very least, need to secure funding partnerships to help share the costs before entertaining proceeding on such a large project.
Crime is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing our community. We have reached a point where we cannot play food chain politics with the opioid crisis or the resulting rise in crime caused by that crisis.
As civic leaders, we must work with professionals in the health and justice communities, and our government partners, to find proactive solutions and opportunities to assist those in need to get on a healthy path.
Much of the crime we face can be traced back to opioid abuse. City council can lead change by supporting opportunities for our youth to avoid the pitfalls of drugs and crime through involvement in the community, including sports, clubs and other recreation-based activities.
Emergency services – I support our emergency services professionals, who do an exemplary job for our city of protecting property and human lives. As with any business, we must remain mindful of costs and proceed with staffing increases through incremental steps and proper vacancy management.
I feel residents are receiving a good return on their investment in protective services and hope to see that continue through the coming years. Entities such as the police board have made sure that any changes or additions to the staffing complements are done with an eye towards front-line services and meeting the areas of most need. All protective services, whether policing or fire/EMS, should be actively engaged with the community on preventive strategies that reduce actual costs through a proactive approach.
Staffing – I support the work city staff do in completing their tasks. We must ensure that staff salaries are held to a level that attracts top talent, while ensuring we exercise restraint and properly manage vacancy assessments when positions become open. This challenge is faced by the private sector on a daily basis. Civic leaders must remain cognizant of maintaining that same balance.
Downtown Vision – During my time as chair of the Downtown Development Group, our board championed the cause of downtown development. Success in the downtown area comes from creating a critical population mass.
If built, a proposed downtown student and seniors housing building would go a long way to achieving the mass that genuinely spurs on secondary levels of downtown development. I acknowledge and applaud the dedicated work of our downtown champions. Downtown growth and development is a challenge for the entire city, affecting residents of every ward.
I thank Mr. Auriat for his challenge. I welcome your feedback on my responses and look forward to continued discussion on the important challenges we face in our community.