Close to 100 people came out to the Snow Lake Chamber of Commerce-sponsored mayoral forum, held on the evening of Oct. 9 in the Lawrie Marsh Community Hall. There, they heard two of the three people running for the position lay out their platform and answer a series of five questions prepared by the chamber and posed by the event’s moderator, Clarence Fisher.
After the moderator called for attention, Chamber of Commerce treasurer Jill Arpin opened the forum by welcoming attendees and, on behalf of the chamber, she thanked those running and taking part in the panel. She then handed things back to Fisher, who gave a bit of his background, before introducing the outgoing mayor and council, as well as four of the six newly acclaimed councillors and two of the three persons vying for the mayor’s office. No explanation was offered in respect to the absence of mayoral candidate Marian Grajciar or acclaimed councillors Tom Fleming and Andrew Smith.
Fisher then invited the two attending mayoral candidates to the front of the hall. Once Jodie Wilson and Peter Roberts were seated, Fisher explained that each would provide a three-minute opening statement then answer, in turn, five separate questions prepared by the chamber and provided to the candidates previous to the forum.
Peter Roberts delivered his statement first, laying out his background in Snow Lake, following it up with his experience as an employee as well as a decision-maker on local infrastructure projects. He noted his position on several issues currently facing the town, including the immediate need for a chief administrative officer (CAO), constructive relationships with Hudbay and local businesses, and his opinion that the Hudbay camp should be more dormitory-like (meaning, workers would have their rooms until they gave them up, rather than moving out and back in at the end and start of each set of shifts).
Jodie Wilson followed and shared her background on council and experience as acting mayor. She explained why she wanted to be mayor, addressing the items of character and the abilities she felt she would bring to the position. Wilson holds the position that finding and hiring a new CAO is first and foremost on her list of council priorities, as well as that of creating a bylaw officer position.
The moderator then posed five questions to candidates, in turn; each was allotted two minutes for their answer. The first question was in respect to what skills and experiences each would bring to the position. Ms. Wilson answered first, advising that she had a professional background and would call upon her experiences in corporate training, as well as her time as acting mayor to fulfill her mayoral duties. Mr. Roberts followed and expressed the opinion that a mayor must be a people person who is knowledgeable about the town and its citizens, putting forward his experience as the town foreman and town councillor as evidence that he was up to the task.
The second question was in regard to what each candidate would do to ensure a council of first-timers would work together effectively. Roberts was called on first and stated that he would ensure they all felt secure to speak their minds and take the time to get themselves up to speed on town bylaws and policy as well as some of the important issues currently before council. Wilson followed and stated that she would work towards all members developing mutual trust and respect and drawing on each member’s strength to build a team. She noted the many distractions that will face them as council members and how teamwork would allow these to be easily handled.
The third question revolved around the town’s relationship with Hudbay and the expanding mining camp within the community. Ms. Wilson stated that the town needed to rethink their relationship with the community’s biggest employer, getting away from the “us and them” attitude. She feels that ongoing discussions with the company will result in a long-term solution to funding and issues with the camp within the town site. Mr. Roberts’s response noted the shortfall in support from the early 1980s, calling particular attention to the shortfall in capital spending in the town; however, he also said that the current relationship was showing promise and cited specifics. He added that he’d like to see Hudbay develop a hire locally policy and show movement on the camp becoming a dormitory. Roberts also noted that the agreement with Frontier School Division needed another more focused look.
The fourth question was on infrastructure and queried candidates on their opinions and solutions. It saw Roberts answer first. He said that he would like to see all six phases of a sewer and water renewal plan – which he had a major role in developing – move forward (currently finishing up phase two). He vowed to take an active and involved role in bringing it to fruition. Wilson said that she also felt that the infrastructure file was a main priority, but brought the condition of the highway into Snow Lake into the mix, noting that the council has asked for a further study on a bridge leading into the community.
The final question asked for candidates’ thoughts on supporting and growing the business community. Ms. Wilson stated that working closely with the Chamber of Commerce would help grow business, mentioning tax incentives for storefront businesses and sharing experiences with other communities. She also favoured diversifying the economy. Mr. Roberts concurred on working with the chamber and noted developing new properties, both business and residential, must be a focus. He added that Hudbay should be pushed to not only employ but to shop locally.
Oct. 24 is municipal election day across the province.