Four out of five of the candidates running for a seat on Thompson's city council in today's byelection showed up to the Thompson Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting held at the Burntwood Hotel on Dec. 2.
The candidates had been invited to speak to the chamber and further explain their platforms and goals. Khaled Hassanien, who was not able to stay for the question and answer period, started off by explaining to chamber his experience in teaching on Northern First Nations reserves and his knowledge of aboriginal issues. He also talked about how, in his opinion, his credentials are what make him the best choice for council. Hassanien, who works as an elementary school teacher at Juniper Elementary School, holds three bachelors degrees and three post graduate degrees, and is the president of the Thompson Multicultural Centre.
"Before hiring anyone for a business, you look at the credentials, experience and capacity of that person," Hassanien says. "I want you to find the right person with the right qualities, the right experience and the right qualifications to fulfill your service and serve you well."
Peter Fancy, who has lived in Thompson for a year and holds a bachelor of science and a bachelor of education, says one main aspect of his platform is a three-pronged approach to gangs.
"First would be a mentorship program to find kids at risk and be able to turn them around and bring them onto a path that doesn't lead towards crime," he says. "The second approach would be to increase police oppression on current gang activity and the third would be the forming of an organization that would interview gang members and try to get them out of gangs."
Other points Fancy brought up included connecting with local businesses and empowering them and promoting the City of Thompson on an international scale.
"I'd like to promote our city internationally so that immigrants that are deciding to immigrate to Canada have Thompson as an option," he reasons.
He is also passionate about ensuring that the city has a back up plan if its current waste management systems doesn't work out, with one of the options being gasification, which involves turning waste into usable electricity.
Erin Stewart, who was born and raised in Thompson and holds an honours degree in political science, says growing up in Thompson has given her a unique perspective that she'd like to share with city council.
"I was heavily involved in programs when I was younger, and I saw the opportunities that exist in Thompson. I experienced it and here I am today running for city council because I believe that we have great programs to offer and our youth are our future."
Stewart goes on to say, however, that although she is passionate about youth, she is far from a one-issue candidate.
"I am a political studies graduate and I participated in a 10-month internship at the Manitoba legislature. I may be young, but I do have experience in these processes and I do understand how these things work," she rationalizes.
Some of the key issues Stewart touched on include creating more interaction between council, local businesses, the community and local non-profit organizations who are all working to make Thompson a better place. Her "three C" approach focuses on consultation, collaboration and community within the City of Thompson.
Margaret Allan, who has lived in Thompson for 20 years, says her background in political science, and her work with the provincial government and the local chamber of commerce, as well as her past role as a journalist with the CBC, will be an asset to council should she be elected.
"As your new city councillor I would take it as an affront if you didn't have high expectations of me," she says. "I will commit to do my best to manage your tax dollars. I will also commit to you that I will do my job well, and that includes asking questions and continuing to ask questions until I get the information I need to help make informed decisions and bring a balanced approach to policy making."
Allan says dialogue and meaningful debate should always be present within city council and the community, and is especially passionate about the city working with local and external businesses and getting on board with programs such as BizPaL, a national on-line service that looks to simplify the business permit and licensing process for business owners. She'd also like to see the city have a website that is easier to manage and more user-friendly.
Luke Robinson, who is employed as a mechanical underground worker at Vale Inco and is also a union steward with the Local 6166 in Thompson, was not able to come to the meeting due to a prior work commitment. However, his representative Ted Salamandyk stepped in and read a speech Robinson had prepared for the occasion.
In the speech, Robinson points out his key issues, including the elimination of installation of water meters in homes and businesses and taking a look at how water is being delivered in general within Thompson. He says he'd also like to see more public input at city council meetings and a more aggressive approach to eliminating the problem of homelessness. He says that although he does believe having a new University College of the North campus in Thompson is a good thing, the city has not picked the right spot to build it. Another of Robinson's ideals is ensuring that taxpayers all pay the same amount for the services they receive from the city regardless of where in the community they happen to live.
Election day is set to take place on Dec. 9 with the polls open form 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.