As a result of the resignation of Coun. Andrew Smith, a little over two months into his term, citizens of Snow Lake will go to the polls in a byelection on Tuesday, April 16. There are two individuals vying for the seat left open by Smith’s abrupt resignation and they are former Mayor Kim Stephen and a newcomer to local politics, Kyle McLaughlin.
As byelections are invariably low-key affairs, I thought I’d give an overview of the two people looking for a seat on council in the run up to election day. I’ll begin alphabetically.
Thirty-five year old Kyle McLaughlin, his wife Ainslee, and their children Finnegan (22 months) and Ruby (six months), have been residents of the community for several years now. However, McLaughlin spent his youth in Snow Lake and is a descendant of a pioneering family. His grandmother Millie was a resident of Herb Town and she and husband Ernie were two of the original residents of Snow Lake.
The young man is employed with Hudbay in their Lalor Paste Plant operation and prior to that he was employed with the Town of Snow Lake parks and recreation department.
McLaughlin left Snow Lake for a period after the closure of New Britannia Mine required his parents to move north to Thompson for work. A skilled defenseman on the ice meant a regional midget hockey team based out of Thompson was also a draw. McLaughlin notes while playing for that team and in other walks of his life, “I was always quick to declare that my hometown was Snow Lake.”
Subsequent to his move back to Snow Lake, McLaughlin states that it became apparent that many of his friends and acquaintances were on the same trajectory … in laying roots in the community and starting families. “With the upcoming expansion of Hudbay operations in Snow Lake, I am hopeful that this will result in an uptick of young families relocating here as well,” he said.
Of his approach to becoming a member of council, McLaughlin is pragmatic. “I believe that my level-headed, reasonable, and respectful approach would be a huge benefit to the town council, as well as being a voice for the aforementioned demographic, which I believe has been woefully under-represented, historically,” said the candidate. “Further to this, the topics that I’m most looking forward to being involved in are finding ways to get families to permanently move into the community, establishing new programming, and improving existing programming for children in the community, whether it be recreation-based or otherwise. The other high priority item for me is involvement in the ongoing improvements being done with the town’s aging utilities infrastructure.”
While he admits to lacking experience in any level of government, McLaughlin feels the benefit of coming in with a fresh set of eyes will outweigh the downside of any initial learning curve. He says that he looks forward to familiarizing himself with all issues being dealt with by mayor and council, while bringing a candid and professional approach to the decision-making process.
The other candidate is Kim Stephen, who is 57. She and husband Henry Dyck have five children: Jeremey a resident of Swan River, Lindsey who passed in 1998, Kalen who works in Mussel White, Ontario and owns a home in Snow Lake, Shayanne (Grade 10), and Shayleen (Grade 8). The couple has lived in the community since 1983 and Stephen, a Métis entrepreneur, has owned and operated of a business on the community’s Main Street since 2007.
Stephen says that she has decided to let her name stand for election because she believes she has knowledge and experience to bring to the table. “I personally know people at the provincial and federal government level, as well as having contacts within the NDP, Liberal and Conservative parties,” said Stephen. “I also have a very good working relationship with Hudbay.” She pointed out that along with others on council, they got the company to bring forward an extra $200,000 for a capital sewer and water project in the Brentwood subdivision last year. She was also intricately involved in grant-in lieu and capital negotiations, as well as speaking with the company on some social aspects of Snow Lake. “We spoke with Hudbay about getting people into houses to integrate more new families into our community,” she said. “I am glad to hear that this is beginning to happen.”
Stephen also points to work she has done getting the local airport up and running after a closure involving deficiencies. As well, she spoke of working closely with Manitoba Infrastructure in getting three turning lanes on Provincial Road 392 completed this coming summer. And she notes she has a good working relationship with Gerald Strilkiwski from Strilkiwski Contractors. “He has helped me with projects for the airport, beach and with general guidance,” she said.
Stephen says, should she be returned to council, her top five priorities will be: infrastructure - getting water and sewage lines replaced and applying for grants; airport - general maintenance of the runway, lights, as well as getting Hydro hooked up; Manitoba Infrastructure - maintaining and updating roads; development of land for industrial purposes/working with the government on the new developments; and recreation - updating and maintaining our curling rink, beach house and Community Hall.
Both candidates note that they are open to discussing their platforms and hearing citizens’ concerns prior to and after the election. Snow Lakers go to the polls at the Town Office between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on April 16 or in an advance poll between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on April 9 in the same venue.