Candidates Bruce Martens (L) and Charlie Rensby are hoping to replace former councillor John Illes, who resigned in September. (Flavio Nienow photo)

Burns Lake byelection candidates debate

Bruce Martens and Charlie Rensby compete for councillor seat

The Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce hosted an all candidates forum last Thursday for Burns Lake’s upcoming byelection, which will be held on Jan. 20, 2018.

Candidates Bruce Martens and Charlie Rensby are hoping to replace former councillor John Illes, who resigned in September.

Approximately 10 community members attended the debate held at the Heritage Centre. The event was also streamed live on the chamber’s Facebook page.

WEB POLL: Which candidate do you think performed better at the Burns Lake all cadidates forum?

Chamber president Luke Strimbold was the moderator, guiding the candidates through the almost 20 questions received from the public.

Here are the highlights of the debate:

Help us understand the type of leader you will be by describing your two highest priorities for change in the municipality in the short term and the long term.

Rensby: I’m the type of leader that works with other leaders. I’m not going to be creating a whole bunch of noise or going on some sort of crazy agenda because that’s never going to work. So I have to work with people that are already on council. Something short term that I would like to see done is [in regard to] the post-secondary education system in town. Right now we have two different colleges operating within town limits. I think that’s not right; we should only have one.

Martens: I feel that in the past I’ve been a calm leader – I look at things, I go through all of the aspects of whatever comes up, I read ahead of time all the different things that are needed and what people brought forward on council meetings and I make my own decisions along with whatever I feel the community has reflected to me. I take that and go with it.

In the past, the village hired a mediator to try to help council and mayor get along better with each other. If elected, how do you see yourself making the relationships better with the current council.

Martens: First of all get to know them, one thing that I found in the past is that we are not working for ourselves in this community. We’re working for each and every individual that is in this town. We have to understand that they are the ones that we need to be the heads of. I think that we all need to have the people at the forefront of our discussions.

Rensby: I see myself making everything a little bit better with council because while I am very hard minded and set in my ways, when I talk to the community I take what the community says, and that is how I built my platform. There has been numerous sides to the story revolving around the controversy with council, and while it’s very easy to take sides, and I don’t feel that that’s something for me to do.

What do you believe are the top three priorities that if you get elected you will give attention to, set aside funds for, and give your time and energy to in the first three months.

Martens: First of all, when you get into town council, it takes years to get oriented with the whole thing, and after that it seems that things flow a lot better. However, my top priority is to get this town back on the old track it used to be on, when there was people coming for the [United] States., from Europe, from all over the globe just to come see Burns Lake. We live in a beautiful place – probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. We need to really get people to come in to this community. It will open up a lot of opportunities for us. Education and health are a very big thing in my life.

Rensby: The things that I would like to work on is [post-secondary] education, wildfire preparedness – as everyone is well aware of what happened in the summer. They think it’s going to keep happening and Burns Lake happens to be surrounded by a lot of dry wood, so it would be good to start preparing for the inevitable. It would be really nice if we could possibly take advantage of some grants from the provincial government toward low-income housing for people and also for health services. But ultimately, I would like to work on diversifying the economy between agriculture and tourism.

Are either of you aware about the petition that’s been started in town by concerned local residents? If you’re elected, how will you improve council’s relations with the community and what are your thoughts on the petition?

Rensby: I believe in transparency to the people, because they are who you ultimately have to be accountable to. I’m aware of the petition going around. Like I said, it’s very easy to take sides, I’ve heard from so many different sides that I don’t know what to think to be completely honest. So I’m going to go in this with an optimistic point of view that I can work with these people to get things done. Going about this any other way I think would be unwise, and it would create more tension, which ultimately doesn’t fix anything.

Martens: I agree with him. Transparency is the thing that we need. I didn’t realize there was a petition going around. I don’t like to hear that. I don’t like to see dissension in the ranks. We’re not here as individuals, we’re here to work together as a group. I ran into that problem when I was on council before [in northern Alberta], we straightened that out. It took a lot of nail biting but we did get it straightened out. We went forward and got a lot of really good things accomplished by working together – not for ourselves but for the community.


 

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