Oak River area meets their candidates


By Sheila Runions

      Banner Staff

It has long been said municipal elections should not be held in October because so many candidates and/or voters are busy farming. This statement was proven on Oct. 8 when four of 11 people were not present to campaign and only 30-some people came to listen.

Held in Oak River for their ward candidates and school trustees, the crowd also included a handful of people from RM of Saskatchewan and Town of Rapid City, which are amalgamating with Blanshard effective January 2015. Absent were candidates Gary Stewart and Stephen Carter and trustee Carole Black. Although acclaimed, LUD of Oak River councillors were asked to meet the crowd and say a few words; Ernie McKay and Marilyn Reid each did that but David Bullock was missing. After each council and trustee hopeful said their short speech, questions were fielded and the meeting concluded in less than 60 minutes.

Current Blanshard reeve Brent Fortune reminded the crowd of his years in local politics (28) and his community involvement both personally and as a council representative. He admitted amalgamation will involve “some growing pains but if we work together, RM of Oakview will be something to be proud of. We still want to offer all the services we currently have in each municipality but we may have to change the way these services are done.” Fortune would like to become reeve of Oakview; that seat is being contested by Terry Drebit, a current RM of Saskatchewan councillor.

Drebit wanted people to “start thinking and working as one so we can go forward. We need to work smarter; employees, council and reeve have to be more professional.” He promised to be “approachable, accessible and dedicated to the community. I will take the common sense approach — I don’t have the education to get past some things so I break it down to common sense. I believe in accountability and equality. My commitment to you is to have one session in Oak River and Rapid City each week, maybe two hours each Friday, to talk to your reeve.”

All of Blanshard’s current councillors except Jim Brown, are running for two seats in the new Ward 3, RM of Oakview (current RM of Blanshard). Walter Froese highlighted four points for the next four-year term: roads, ditches, assessment and pavement. He believes all roads and the “pavement on Hwy. 24 and 250 on the correction line to Cardale which has to constantly be addressed” is one of the most important issues in Oakview. He realizes beavers plugging culverts is “an expensive cost in time and resources.” He said, “Accountability is of utmost importance; being elected means being accountable, not entitled.” Froese concluded by expressing his belief “in our communities” and promised to “lead with integrity and excellence.” He is “committed to acting in the best interests of ALL ratepayers.”

Ewan Common wants to continue for a second-term on council because he envisions, “exciting times with all the changes. Blanshard has a good team with diverse opinions on issues; people on council have worked well as a team. It will be extremely important that your new officials are ready to work as a team. I think good leadership will be crucial to forge the new municipality. I would be a very strong voice for Ward 3  first and foremost, but I would also work hard at making the whole RM a better place to live and do business.”

Mark Gill was struck by a comment from a neighbour to “take an idea and take it the next step further.” During his 19 years on council Gill has helped move many ideas further and he mentioned several, as well as some still to proceed; he would “try to revisit natural gas in the area and more mowing like our neighbours, with maybe two passes or even to the fence line. I want to expand on our capital plan of a new Oak River garage to expand the fire department bays; if you’ve been in there, you’ll know they are too small.” He admitted to “serious road problems, like Marney-Glossop and a host of others.” He congratulated Town of Rapid City on their new four-bay fire hall and the project with RM of Odanah to bring in a waterline. He “believes in supporting all communities and colonies in our new Oakview. I enjoy meeting people and working with people.”

Drebit was asked for his stance on “conflict of interest. We have councillors who are contractors, what do you think of that?” He replied that he would “respect the municipal act. They should step away from the table but the rules must be clear, and there are ways to get around it, but we must not be in a position to alienate our contractors.”

Both reeve runners were asked how they planned to lead five towns and “keep them all happy, cemeteries, rinks and all those things that don’t pay their way.”

Fortune said, “As in Blanshard, we supply money to our rinks and pay insurance and we give to our cemeteries through perpetual care. This is something the new council would have to discuss; we may have to do special levies in Ward 3 for example, to keep funding White Bank Lea for example, but the new RM will have to look at how to keep things going or not keep them open.”

Drebit said Oakview will need “planning and policies; bylaws will have to be updated. We’ll need to rely on our CAOs; council sometimes forgets themselves and they get their hands in the kitchen. We shouldn’t have councillors digging out beaver dams, that’s the employee’s job.”

Gill was asked to comment on the new lots in Oak River; the question was if they were “just sitting there.” Gill said the town “needed to have them in case something came up. We’ve lost retiring farmers to other communities because we didn’t have lots like Rivers and Hamiota have; Rapid City had eight lots and I believe all of them are sold.” Part B of the question was the price and promotion of them; he admitted to “try more advertising but I don’t think our lot price is out of line. Rivers’ lots are $37,00 and we’re $27,000.”

Having no more questions for candidates, incumbent school trustee Lawrence McFarlane told people “Manitoba School Boards Association have pushed to get people to submit names for trustees and I’m glad Renay threw her name into the hat; they want new and young faces.” Rolling River Ward 2 (Rivers and Oak River) has three people running for two seats in the second-largest ward in the school division. McFarlane is seeking re-election because there are “a few things coming up I’d like to see though. We’ve made a building purchase in Minnedosa for the office and we’re currently leasing it to the provincial government and we meet in Minnedosa school. Our tech department now has four people — it was one when I started in 1995 — and they’ve taken over our board room.”

Renay Jewar admitted to “never giving much thought to running for trustee until I was asked.” Her family recently moved to a farm north of Oak River so they had the choice of keeping kids in their old school (Parkwest division) or Rolling River. “We chose to support the division we are caught in. We have two kids at Oak River Elementary and one at Rivers Elementary. I am already seeing differences in the way these kids are taught, how they learn, how we are communicated with and programs offered. I want to see all kids thrive to their best potential. With new technologies being added to teaching skills daily, it seems, I just want to make sure they are getting the right information from the right people and programs. I will strive to make the best decisions and to represent you with the best of my ability. I will keep an open mind, be approachable and serve you with integrity and excellence. I am committed to acting in the best interest of all our learning youth.”

To conclude, other Oakview ward candidates were asked if they wanted to campaign; only Ken Hyndman accepted the invitation. He attended to “make himself known to the people of Blanshard.” He realized that if elected for Ward 1 (current Town of Rapid City) “I will serve you too, so it’s good for me to meet you. I think we can make amalgamation work. At first all we heard was doom and gloom but now I like the opportunities we have to work well together.”