The people should have a choice.
It’s the primary reason Donald Bissell is running for Big Lakes County council in Enilda – Big Meadow.
“No one should be elected by acclamation,” he says. “I’d rather lose in an election than have someone win by acclamation.”
Bissell, 69, is retired and has lived in Enilda all his life. He is a long-time member of the Enilda Fire Department and the Enilda and District Society for Recreation and Culture.
The county is facing some issues, however. Bissell is disappointed with the way drainage issues have been handled south of Enilda. After the project was completed, it seems no one has checked to see if it’s actually working, which he believes is not.
“You have to follow through and get things done,” says Bissell. “Do we properly do things?”
He sees waste in certain areas.
“We put in a new truck fill in Enilda and tore the old one down. The new one broke down for three months. Why wreck something that was working?”
Bissell would like to see better road maintenance, especially in some spots were grades are not being done to allow water to run off roads.
It is all part of a plan to see better use of taxpayer’s money.
“Spending is OK if there is a reason. We need more efficiencies and better control.”
He agrees with council’s stand when it delays projects during tough economic times such as those recently experienced.
“Projects that don’t need to be done [right away] can be postponed,” he says.
He is also pleased to see progress on the walking trails in the hamlet but shuns council’s decision to sit on so many committees. Some need to be carefully examined, he says.
All in all, Bissell says there are no “raging issues” but he has not spoken to people yet to gauge their thoughts.
“I have the time and I’m retired,” says Bissell. “If elected, I’ll do my best.
“Just get out and vote,” urges Bissell.
Getting his feet wet and getting over the steep learning curve will allow Ron Matula to better serve the residents of Enilda – Big Meadow, if elected.
“It’s a big learning curve,” says Matula, who was elected to council midway through the term. “I do enjoy it and it’s something new to inspire you to do the best for your community.”
The lifelong resident of the area says he wants to provide his ratepayers with good, fair, reasonable government.
He is pleased with the recent efforts in promoting economic development. Recent awards won by the county and the efforts of Lisa Baroldi will pay dividends, he believes, as the county name gets out to outside markets and business interests.
He is pleased with the county’s efforts to help the agriculture sector through its programs [and the agriculture Service Board] while keeping taxes low.
He adds the recent restructuring of the High Prairie and District Regional Recreation Board bears watching.
He will work to keep the lines of communication open with their regional partners, including High Prairie and Swan Hills.
He supports council in its efforts to provide a regional water line to the Prairie Echo region.
Matula promises to listen to residents and bring concerns forward.
“I just want to represent my ward to the best of my abilities. I’ve gotten my feet wet and I feel I could be a better asset now.”
Kinuso candidate Scott Astle is no stranger to politics.
Astle, 49, was mayor of Kinuso for five years and served on council for nine, so he brings considerable experience to the table.
“I would like to see more economic development,” says Astle, who owns the Kinuso Hotel. “You either thrive or you die.
“There is development in other hamlets and I know Kinuso is landlocked, but we can go south and include the highway for future development. I don’t know why that hasn’t been done.”
He also says it is time for a new voice as the current councillor, Ken Killeen, has served quite a while.
Astle has been in Kinuso since 1993 and has served on the village council, and on the Spruce Point Park Association.
He would also like to see more support for the agriculture sector and more support for recreation in his ward. He is working on a recreation plan but says it is too early to disclose.
Astle is aware that council took from reserves so taxes did not rise this year, which was a good move. However, it is not something the council can continually do.
“It’s prudent [the council] review where money is spent,” he says.
He also says it is time for council to tape and broadcast its meetings like the Town of High Prairie does to give residents the luxury of watching at home at their convenience.
“I can’t see any reason [why they don’t],” he adds.
As for roads in the ward, he says they are doing a good job but there is always room for improvement.
“There are challenges to roads here with the old creek and the river bed,” he says. “I think there could be a better review of how things are done.”
He still enjoys the job of being a councillor and serving his community, despite the headaches.
Ken Killeen, 70, is seeking another term at Kinuso.
“I still enjoy what I’m doing and I have the time,” says Killeen, who is retired.
“What would I do with my time other than helping the community?”
He says the county has no pressing issues facing it other than the loss of assessment in the oilfield, which is affecting county coffers.
“There might be some tough budgeting,” he says. “We might have to tighten our belts and make some wise decisions.
“We might have to cut back a bit on everything.”
However, a blessing to council may be in simply delaying a project or two to balance the books. It is what council did a few years ago when they delayed the hamlet paving program one year.
“Our hamlets streets are good,” he says. “It’s not a necessity. We can delay it. It’s not vital.”
The economic situation does bear watching, he adds, but says council has a firm grasp on the matter.
The major issue in the county always seems to be roads, but Killeen is pleased with the service the county is offering.
He is also pleased in the strides the region has made as a whole.
“We’re treated equally,” he says referring to the hamlets. “Even from when I first sat on council, it’s getting good. It’s fair.”
Faust candidate Christopher Brown decided to run for council after talking with residents in the area and hearing the same thing.
“There is currently a disconnect between the county and the taxpayer,” he says.
“When I first began thinking about a council run, I approached residents in the hamlet, and everyone who spoke with me said the same thing. We need a council that will work for the people and not just their friends, and they were tired of the same old politics, so a shot of new blood would shake up council.”
Brown does see three key areas he would like to pursue:
* Working with our regional partners to strengthen regional ties with Swan Hills, and High Prairie, and the Slave Lake Region;
* Working on communicating with residents on what is actually happening at council;
* When any bylaw changes occur, that could impact residents, they are being communicated to all residents, not just those who check the website.
“Another area that I want to tackle, if elected, is working with community groups in Faust to revitalize the downtown core and finish the trail system to ensure safe walking paths for all residents.”
Brown works for the Town of Slave Lake.
Another term on the Big Lakes County council will allow incumbent candidate Robert Nygaard to complete projects started.
First is the Faust Osmose site, which Nygaard wants to see turned into a recreation area.
“Make it into something useful,” he says.
He is also pleased on the progress council is making toward helping hamlets develop, more than in the past.
“I think now the council is helping hamlets more,” says Nygaard, 66. “They’ve been left behind before but now the budgets are bigger.”
He would like to see more recreation in the hamlets, but adds it is a work in progress.
He will also work toward getting rid of the ditches in the hamlet, and installing curbs and gutters. He adds council needs to work on drainage and maintenance and should always strive to do better.
“Now we have a permanent employee in Faust,” says Nygaard, whose duties are to plow snow and cut grass. “It’s made quite a difference.”
Tourism is key to Nygaard’s interest as owner of Bay Shore Resort. The recent hiring of Lisa Baroldi is already paying dividends for the region.”
Taxes are not a concern to Nygaard.
“I’m happy,” he says.
He says the region is moving forward with the Tolko restart and West Fraser expansion, which will create jobs and prosperity. The Northern Lakes College Integrated Campus will also help the region by providing better education, he adds.
Another education issue is reopening a school in Faust. It’s something Nygaard is watching closely and working on.
“Last year, we had 61 students leave to go to Kinuso,” he says, adding he would like to see them stay at home.
The recent downturn in the oilfield has affected the count budget, but that will eventually turn around and is something the county has little control over. The recent completion of the House Mountain Road should open up new economic opportunities, he adds.
Change is needed in Grouard which is why Jesse Lamouche, 36, is running for a seat on Big Lakes County council to represent Grouard.
“I think the biggest reason is change,” says Lamouche. “I want to know what’s going on.”
He cites a big lack of communication in the hamlet and says the local rep needs to have more discussion with residents to be more accountable and responsible. He says utilizing the local FCSS worker more to get the message out can work.
Also, he wants to see Grouard undergo a makeup. He says the hamlet has “a million dollar view” and needs to be spruced up a bit through beautification projects such as flower baskets, Christmas lights, and the lighting of the church.
He sees housing opportunities for local families as a dire need.
“For families first but also for seniors and singles,” he says.
Better graveyard maintenance is needed although the county does not provide that service.
“I’d like to see that from the county,” he says.
He would also like to see more cooperation between the hamlet’s groups.
“We need an open dialogue with the seniors committee to share services,” he cites as an example.
Lamouche is not against the new Integrated College Campus in High Prairie, but wants to ensure programs and services are not cut at the Grouard Campus.
“Most of the opportunities are going to Slave Lake. We’re losing. I’d like to reverse that trend.”
He is pleased the skating rink will be built this fall which will give the children and youth something to do. Other recreation is needed, however, such as a skateboard park.
“We need some after school programs. [Students] need access to computers to improve their education.”
Grouard desperately needs a community hall or centre to hold activities and/or events. It would also allow the hamlet to have programs for youth.
Lamouche is pleased that the Grouard Community Association is doing good work with support from the county. He adds the county needs to continue to support the group.
He would also like to see services in the lower west end but realizes the financial difficulties in seeing the project come to fruition.
Preserving areas of Lesser Slave Lake for nature reserves is also a priority before it is lost and/or destroyed.
Lamouche has lived most of his 30+ years in Grouard and is a store clerk. He was local school board chair and volunteers at Grouard Northland School. He wishes all candidates the best of luck across the county.
As a business owner, Michael Courtoreille brings a lot of expertise to the table, but he is tired of the apathy.
“I just don’t see a lot of accountability with the county and hamlet that they are representing the community,” he says.
“I feel that once I’m in I can offer assistance,” he says. “I’ve done project management and I’m a master electrician.”
While other hamlets are progressing, it seems Grouard is lagging behind.
“We have no playground or community hall for the children,” he says. “That’s why the Grouard Community Association got the rink done.
“For us, we’ve got to get something for the kids to do,” he adds.
He says he wants to see more services for Elders and wonders why the county can provide rides to Grande Prairie but not Enilda.
“We need to find a way to get [residents] to medical appointments to Grande Prairie faster,” he says.
One idea he wants to investigate is having an ambulance stationed in Grouard, not only to be closer to his hamlet, but also Salt Prairie, Gift Lake and Atikameg.
“We’ve had deaths that may have been avoided had there been a quicker response.”
Courtoreille says council does the best it can and would like to be part of the team. It can only be done, however, after properly assessing his role on council and assisting administration and other councillors.
He also sees that a change in the image of the hamlet is needed.
Like most, he is not against the Integrated College Campus in High Prairie, but wants to ensure services and programs are not cut at the Grouard Campus.
“People still want to be in Grouard to be closer to home than in High Prairie.”
Courtoreille, 29, owns and operates Lillee Electric and Controls Ltd. He was born in High Prairie and raised in Grouard. He has volunteered for three years as a minor hockey coach, is a two-year vice president of the Grouard Community Association, and a former fire department member.
It’s time to step up and be a voice in the community.
It’s the main reason long-time Joussard resident Angela Paul, 45, is running in Joussard for a seat on the Big Lakes County council.
“Locals want more of a voice for Joussard and its needs,” says Paul.
There are several issues which concern Paul, who had to take a leave of absence from her job with the county to run for council.
First, she wants to work toward having a peace officer patrolling the hamlet once again. She is very concerned about safety in the hamlet, with quads and other vehicles racing down its narrow streets. She would strive to have the police and Joussard Community Association work together to find solutions.
“We have an agreement with the Town of High Prairie but we get limited service,” she says. “I’m hoping to get more policing. We need more order.”
She wants to use social media such as Facebook and community boards to help inform the community about events. She sees community events being attended in poor numbers and would like to change that.
“We have to get out and talk to the people and inform them, be more open,” she says.
The enforcement of existing bylaws also concerns her. She is proud of her beautiful hamlet and wants to see development done properly.
Also, more aesthetic upgrades could be done with strong community participation.
“I’d like to see flower baskets and flower boxes,” says Paul, but adds residents and county staff do a good job of maintaining the hamlet.
Paul has served on numerous organizations and committees including the Joussard School Parent Committee, Joussard Kinder Kids, the Joussard Lunch program, and Joussard Playground Committee, in the roles of president, vice president and treasurer. She believes she thrives in leadership roles and has experience in balancing budgets.
She has also been a member of the JCA, and is a Joussard Volunteer Fire Department member, having been deputy fire chief for three years.
He has retired in Joussard and now wants to help make the community a better place to live.
Richard Simard, 59, has lived in Joussard for two years and worked in insurance for 25. His management skills running multiple offices can be an asset to council, and taught him how to work under pressure, as well as meet deadlines and budgets.
Simard cites “no burning issues” that prompted him to run.
“I had a lot of people approach me two years ago but I said no,” he says.
The reason: the time needed to do the job properly. Now, Simard has that time.
“I enjoy contributing to the community,” he says. “I always said once I retired I’d go back and get involved. You need the time to do it right.”
If elected, he says he will go in with a clean slate, taking to the people to discover the issues and deal with them.
“I will go in and examine the issues. You have to do your research,” he says.
The one thing he has noticed is that council could be more transparent.
“What I find is they don’t share anything,” he says.
He cites the recent water and sewer project as a surprise to some.
“Why no general meeting to inform the people,” he asked.
His other concern is that council needs to address its bylaws in the hamlet.
Simard’s community service includes 10 years with the High Prairie and District Food Bank, and two years with the McLennan Assisted Living Building.
“I just want to go I and do the best I can. Do the job the right way.”