By Lethbridge Herald on September 27, 2017.
Local residents had an opportunity to learn more about their mayoral candidates Wednesday night as the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs hosted a forum at the Lethbridge Public Library.
Martin Heavy Head spoke on what he called an “open secret” in the city, involving issues of homelessness and drug addiction. He noted the work of local organizations and that more effort was needed to help vulnerable populations.
Bob Janzen spoke about his history as an immigrant whose family fled Russia because they had German roots. He also spoke about his background and agriculture.
Incumbent Chris Spearman thanked Janzen and Heavy Head for running against him in order to provide a choice for local residents, and then listed off his experience and the accomplishments he had been part of as a member of city council.
Heavy Head was asked about a new performing arts centre, and stated he was in support of the idea but he wanted to be careful about potential issues surrounding public/private partnerships.
“If we could get it built without spending too much of the taxpayers funds, then that’s a good thing,” he said.
“Overall, the short answer — yeah, I like it.”
Janzen was asked about tax money being used to fund local organizations involved in sports and cultural events, and whether he felt the money was well spent.
“It is well spent,” Janzen said, noting while there were plenty of those types of opportunities in the city, he felt it was a question better answered by local residents.
Spearman was asked about the use of outside consultants and whether the City should be utilizing their own experts in that regard.
Spearman said council is filled with “generalists” who lack expertise in many areas, and so it is important to find people with expertise to help in the decision-making process.
“We generally hire people to protect ourselves, and make sure we make good decisions,” he said.
On the issue of using tax incentives and regulation to increase the development of green energy projects in the city, Heavy Head said he was for finding ways to make those projects work.
On the issue of whether the City should support downtown revitalization, Janzen said it was worth it for the City to do so, and that the City benefitted from having more people in that area.
On the issue of “carding” by police as a law enforcement tool, Spearman said the issue was complex, and while council is unable to direct police on matters of policing, the Police Commission would be a better forum for that discussion. He noted it was important to address concerns from the community.
The issue of building a monument to the victims of residential schools saw Heavy Head and Spearman divided.
Heavy Head said a monument was not useful if people did not understand what it meant. He also spoke about his own experience with two parents and many relatives who were in residential schools.
“I would like to say I am a monument to residential schools,” he said. “My parents gave me the best life they could.”
Spearman said the question was difficult for him to answer.
“This isn’t my history, it’s really Martin’s history, and his people’s history,” he said.
He said the real issue was that the harm which was caused historically to Indigenous people was not being addressed.
Later, the issue was revisited following a question from the audience. Heavy Head said he did not agree with Spearman’s assessment that it was not his history, calling the issue a “shared history.”
Spearman replied that he was trying to be respectful on the topic, and that he did not want to presume to speak on it.
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