While Fort Nelson has a hot mayoral race, with Bill Streeper fighting to keep his seat against challenger Kim Eglinski, the council race will also be tight.
There are eight contenders for the six open seats on the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality council, and only four of those running are incumbents.
With the whole NRRM bracing for the effects, positive and negative, of a potential boom in the LNG industry, this election will be especially key for the region. Candidates pointed to the possible added strain on the area’s already overtaxed health care system, and the need to bolster the regional economy by diversifying – especially by trying to revive the dormant forestry industry – as two of the key issues facing the NRRM in coming years.
[Editor’s note: One candidate, Danny Soles, declined to submit any material when contacted by the Alaska Highway News.]
Nathan Bauder said that promoting a healthy economy was important to him, and that meant focusing on other industries besides oil and gas, such as forestry, agriculture, tourism and possibly manufacturing.
Bauder also said he thinks Fort Nelson should be preparing for the boom more than it already has.
“I don’t think we are ready and that’s concerning,” he wrote. “We need to have solid policy in place to address housing, social development, health care, land use, infrastructure and workforce needs soon, and not later.”
Asked if he would raise taxes, Bauder wrote that could be avoided through wise spending.
Like many of the candidates, one of Skip Hall’s top priorities was getting maternity services back into town.
“It has only been in more recent years that we have had difficulties attracting and retaining doctors with the breadth of certification that provided a range of service. Consequently, our pregnant mothers have been forced to travel long distances and incur considerable costs to travel and live elsewhere until the delivery of their babies,” he wrote. “This factor does not encourage prospective parents to move to Fort Nelson.”
Hall also said that family support services such as the Child Development Centre, the Women’s Resource Centre and Aboriginal Support were important to him, and he would work hard to make sure that they are maintained.
“Unfortunately, often these centres of support are maintained through grants that are dependent on population, not necessarily on need,” he wrote.
Doug McKee said he wanted to lobby the province to “level the playing field” when it came to local companies competing with outside companies, particularly from Alberta.
“It is completely unfair that all of the ‘red’ license plates we all see working in and around our area are vehicles that have not had to pay PST. Nor do they have to pay carbon tax on the fuel they bring into the province,” he wrote. “It makes a huge difference when our local companies bid on a job.”
McKee also said that regardless of whether LNG does come into the area, council should work hard to bring forestry back to the Northern Rockies.
Todd Osbourne listed education as a priority for the NRRM in the face of high demand for a trained labour force.
“As the demand for skilled labour increases, we have to work collaboratively with our high school, Northern Lights College, provincial government and industry to kick start the training and skills needed to fill the labour shortage in the next few years,” he wrote.
He said that if he absolutely had to cut a program from the municipality’s budget, it would be cardboard recycling; he argued that NEAT is successful in their campaign to provide that service.
“Don’t get me wrong, I do support recycling, but again there is a mixed feeling among residents that some would support paying to ship out cardboard, rather than letting it go to our landfill site, but others won’t support it,” he wrote.
A few of the candidates submitted only candidate statements, and did not answer questions. Short bits of their statements are included below.
Kyle Andrews was born and raised in Fort Nelson, and he and his wife have since raised three children of his own in town. He said he enjoys hunting and fishing, and after attending post-secondary school in Kelowna from 2007 to 2010, opened his own family business in town.
Laurie Dolan has lived in Fort Nelson for over 40 years, and has raised two children in town.
In her response, she explained that she is currently the president of the Fort Nelson Hospital and Healthcare Foundation, as well as a member of several other local organizations.
She wrote that she looks forward to working with council and the community “to ensure that we ‘get it right.’”
Lorraine Gerwing said integrity, commitment and transparency would all influence the decisions she makes on council.
“Accountability to me means that I will take responsibility for decisions made and actions taken. Communication to the community will be on a regular basis. If elected I will be but one voice on council, but I will ensure that this voice reflects the citizens of our communities and not any personal agenda,” she wrote.