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Mining, outdoor recreation central to platforms in Crowsnest Pass municipal election

Tuesday, 12 October 2021. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Mining, outdoor recreation central to platforms in Crowsnest Pass municipal election

By Gillian Francis 

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The slate for Crowsnest Pass council looks very similar to that of the previous election.

Mayor Blair Painter will be returning for another term by acclamation and five of six previously elected councillors are running again, with two new contenders added to the mix.

Candidates responded to questions from Shootin’ the Breeze about their experiences with leadership, financial literacy and community involvement.

Central to each platform was the desire to boost economic growth through coal mining, development of the outdoor tourism industry and business support.

BLAIR PAINTER (mayor by acclamation)

Crowsnest Pass mayor, Blair Painter, is a lifelong resident of the municipality. 

“I have really enjoyed my last two terms as mayor and feel that there is still lots to do,” he says. “I believe that we have made our town one of Alberta’s most beautiful, clean and safe communities, and I want to be part of the next phase.”

Painter was a member of the fire department for just over two decades and was captain for 14 years. He also sat on the Pass Powderkeg Ski Hill board for 17 years.

“I believe I gained experience in being a leader while being on the fire department and my years in business,” he says. “As captain there were times critical decisions needed to be made for the safety of people under my command as well as the protection of personal property.”

In the past eight years, Painter has had a role in major financial decisions such as those related to remodelling and renovation at the community pool, the Downtown Coleman Revitalization Program, upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, lift expansion and hill modifications at Pass Powderkeg, and improvements to walking trails. 

Promoting attainable housing has been another main focus along with other soon-to-be-announced projects.

Through this all, he says, fiscal responsibility remained top of mind.

“The most important contribution I feel I bring to council has been being fiscally responsible and operating within our means while still being able to invest in improving our community.”

Painter plans to continue supporting local development, attracting business and industry, and beautification. He wants to focus on promoting affordable housing and growing the tourism industry.

“I believe that our community is positioned to be able to capitalize on our natural beauty and our proximity to Castle Park,” he says.

“I think there are tremendous opportunities for outdoor adventure activities in both ecotourism and geotourism. I think that the Crowsnest Pass can and should be a destination location.”

As for local mining projects, Painter says they have his full support, as long as they reside on Category 4 land, meaning they are areas that have already been disturbed.

“The world needs metallurgical coal for steel production,” he says.

“Not only will this allow our community to prosper, but when the mining is finished then the mined areas will be reclaimed. This will be an opportunity to correct the environmental wrongs that have happened in the past.”

Painter sees his ideal community as vibrant and clean with plenty of opportunities, and he looks forward to connecting with residents.

“I feel that I am easily approachable and level-headed and have the best interest of our community at heart,” he says. “I appreciate hearing from our residents and am available any time to hear their concerns.”

Candidates for council 

DAVE FILIPUZZI (incumbent)

Dave Filipuzzi foresees challenges in the community’s future driven by provincially mandated changes to funding, but says that together we can pull through.

“Important to any community is the volunteer groups, business and people — they help make a council’s job easier. Together we can continue to make our community great,” he says.

He has served two terms on Crowsnest Pass council and has also been involved with the Knights of Columbus and Freemasons.

His areas of focus include finance, bylaw changes, community marketing and promotion, and economic development.

He is “very passionate” about economic development and stresses the importance of “having someone in a position to market our community and continue to grow, also understanding that we have to protect our quality of life.”

Filipuzzi supports mining in the eastern slopes.

“Understanding the pros and cons, l could support mining on Category 4 holdings. I believe our regulations are strong enough to protect the environment,” he says.

“Industry brings much-needed, good-paying jobs to any area and to the province. Jobs are important to the future of our young Albertans and the growth of this province. l also believe we have to respect the environment for the future of Alberta.”

Filipuzzi believes past council experience has given him solid leadership abilities. He describes himself as a good listener with a positive attitude and a common-sense method of thinking.

He says his ideal community is one that is welcoming, safe and affordable, with a good quality of life.

GLEN GIRHINY (incumbent)

Glen Girhiny is all about expanding opportunities for the Crowsnest Pass community.

He wants to provide an environment where businesses and entrepreneurs feel welcome; a place with a responsible local government and a favourable environment for families, that prioritizes employment opportunities and recreational experiences.

Girhiny was born and raised in Crowsnest Pass and he owned and operated his own business in Blairmore for two decades. He says his business experience lends itself well to the role of making financial decisions on behalf of the community.

He has been involved with local boards devoted to economic development and history, and has been a member of Ducks Unlimited for over 30 years.

“I care about the community and its residents and am most passionate about being treated fairly in this crazy environment,” he says.

His civic and volunteer experiences, he says, have given him the ability to hear all sides of an issue equally.

“I believe that everyone has an opinion that is important to them,” he adds. “Playing well with others is very important, but even that is a two-way street.”

He is 100 per cent in favour of local mining projects and wants to see growth and prosperity for the community.

DOREEN GLAVIN (incumbent)

Doreen Glavin says years of civic involvement and volunteer opportunities have made her responsible, respectful, resourceful and knowledgeable.

“I am respectful that everyone is entitled to an opinion and, having spent eight years on council, I do listen to everyone and respect that when a decision is made I stand behind that decision.”

She is a two-time councillor and a board member of Crowsnest Pass Adult Education, and participated as a stakeholder for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

She has also volunteered with organizations like the Bellevue Library, Bellecrest Association, Bellecrest Seniors, Hillcrest Fish and Game, Ducks Unlimited and Ed Gregor Stewardship Day, as well as for minor hockey and minor ball.

Her campaign focuses on business retention, affordable housing, infrastructure, recreation and bringing industry to the area.

Glavin remains fairly neutral in her response to the mining debate, but says she would consider both economic and environmental angles.

“My position on any development or industry would be based on the three Es — economy, environment and engagement,” she explains.

Glavin is experienced with budgeting and balancing budgets, securing grant funding, keeping debt at a level the community can support and maintaining service levels. She says commitment is a trait that has made her an asset as a councillor.

“I am inspired when differences in our community are being noticed and would like to be a part of continuing to make a difference,” she says.

“I am fiscal, accountable, approachable, and have common sense. I am passionate about new business coming to our community and building on what the Crowsnest Pass has to offer.”

“The ideal Crowsnest Pass,” she says, “would have slow and steady growth, every main street would be flourishing, infrastructure updated and current, and the community where families want to be.”

LISA SYGUTEK (incumbent)

Lisa Sygutek feels her background as a mother with kids still in the school system is advantageous when it comes to considering diverse points of view.

“I have a unique perspective, as a woman and as a mother, on the thoughts of a different demographic in our community,” she explains.

Sygutek is seeking a second term because she believes a councillor needs at least two terms to be truly effective.

Prior to serving on council, she was president of the Indoor Playground and of the Pass Piranhas Swim Club, a member-at-large of the recreation board and registrar for Crowsnest Pass Minor Hockey. She is currently a member of the EDC for Foothills MP John Barlow.

Sygutek has also coached the Piranhas and minor soccer, and has been a member-at-large for the Crowsnest Consolidated High School Parent Council.

Being a municipal councillor and business owner has given her experience with budgeting and teamwork.

“In municipal politics you need to be able to work as a team player. We had a wonderful council who worked together for the common good of the community. We were never a divisive council and we had an amazing collaborative team,” she says.

“I’m a team player, but I have my own opinions, which I make sure I bring to the council table or to any volunteer group I am involved with.”

Sygutek would like to see council prioritize the development of Crowsnest Crossing, attainable housing and coal mining.

She fully supports coal mining on the eastern slopes and says the municipality’s economic development strategy has two scenarios — one based on a coal mine and one without that concentrates on tourism and recreation potential.

Her ideal community is thriving and full, with a range of age demographics. 

“We have a community that has a range of jobs that allows us to lower the burden on residential taxes. We should have a strong middle class and not just an upper class and impoverished economic subset,” she says.

Sygutek says her door is always open to the public. “I listen and bring their issues to the council table.” 

“I’m honest and I have integrity and I fight for what I believe,” she says. “That’s just who I am. I learned from my mom to represent everyone, whether they are a prince or a pauper.”

DEAN WARD (incumbent)

Dean Ward says Crowsnest Pass isn’t far away from being an ideal community.

The key to success, he adds, is to keep growing the tax base so we can keep the burden on individual taxpayers to a minimum and to keep enhancing recreational and service opportunities.

“I always suggest to people to take a ride around our community and look at all the things we have achieved over the last four years with only a 4.8 per cent tax increase,” he says.

Ward notes upgrades to the Sportsplex in Coleman, Pass Powderkeg Ski Hill, gymnastics centre, and walking trails on the recreation front. Infrastructure improvements include development of downtown Coleman, a sewer plant rebuild and new seniors lodge, and a francophone school recently opened at the MDM Community Centre.

“This year there will be more development taking place in the Crowsnest Pass than we have seen in many decades,” he says. “To come is major commercial development at the old hospital site and a new subdivision in Coleman.”

Despite a minimal commercial tax base, the current council managed to keep taxes below the cost of living, he says, even with financial burdens brought by Covid and with the provincial government forcing municipalities to pay for services it once covered.

Ward has spent four terms on council and he’s decided to run again out of passion to see the community thrive and a desire to keep Crowsnest Pass affordable while providing everything possible to residents.

He says one becomes a team player quickly after 14 years in municipal government with different groups of individuals. He loves to listen and to debate and is knowledgeable of municipal processes.

“Sometimes it gets very intense, but we always find a resolve that we can all live with,” he says.

Going forward, he’ll continue to advocate for more residential, commercial and tourism development, enhance recreation opportunities, and strive to keep tax increases below the cost of living.

He says the community would benefit from continued growth in residential and commercial development, tourism and mining. Ward is supportive of mining Category 3 and 4 land but has no desire to see the development of nine mines in the area.

He would like to see the province set coal policy based on environmental, social and economic needs and impacts rather than by surveying small portions of the population on the matter.

“The province needs to be honest — if they don’t want natural resource development, say so, and please don’t argue there would be no economic benefit for the Crowsnest Pass,” he says.

“Teck employs 450 of our residents with a payroll of $60 million a year and spends $20 million on Crowsnest Pass vendors.”

Ward has served as a member on most municipal boards. He is presently chairman of the Pincher Creek Crowsnest Pass Landfill board and a member of the Municipal Planning Commission and the Family and Community Support Services board.

Community volunteerism includes the Junior A Timberwolves hockey team, the Coleman Museum Board and the Crowsnest Pass Health Foundation.

His goal is ensuring a great future for his grandchildren and all of the youth of the community.

TARA-LYNN FLETCHER

Tara-Lynn Fletcher has worked for Teck Resources for just over a decade and she strongly advocates for the benefits the industry brings to the local community.

“I see every day how far mining has come to protect our wildlife and headwaters. I also see how comfortable families are with the income and benefits they receive,” she says.

“I also first-hand see how much it helps its local community. Not only by generously supporting local events, charities, sporting groups and the economy as a whole, but it also will generate many good-income jobs for our locals and bring new families to our community. I believe having big industry is so important for our little community’s economy.”

Fletcher has experience with leadership and volunteerism, and has received three nominations for excellence at work for leading fundraising efforts, hard work and the attention she gives employees.

She plans and organizes many special events for Teck and is proud of the fundraising done through the company, which supports children’s hospitals in Alberta and British Columbia, and a variety of local organizations.

These experiences have given her an awareness of budgets and priorities.

“I believe my passion and enthusiasm has always been a strong attribute to any event or initiative I have been a part of,” she says. 

Fletcher coaches the CCHS junior girls volleyball team and a slow pitch team, and is a board member with the Ravens Lacrosse Association. This fall, she also volunteered for the Amazing Teen Race.

“From the many team sports I have played on to those I work with or sit on boards with, generally speaking, I tend to get along with most people,” she says.

Born and raised in Crowsnest Pass, Fletcher is passionate about her community and wants to be involved with local decision-making.

“I wanted to be a part of positive changes. I want to be able to bring fresh eyes and ideas to the tables responsible for this town I love so much,” she says.

“I am open to listening to others’ concerns, opinions and suggestions without judgment. I will always consider others when helping make decisions on behalf of our people and our community.”

Her primary goals are increasing recreation opportunities, revitalizing downtown businesses and bringing mining back to the area.

“I want to see our downtown flourishing and full of businesses. I want to see more community events and sporting opportunities for all ages,” she says.

“I miss the Thunder in the Valley weekend. This brought thousands and thousands of dollars to our community and it got people out and involved with each other. People from all over would come to our town and enjoy this event.”

Fletcher describes herself as a hard-working, passionate and enthusiastic woman with common sense. She has an interest in youth and children and would like to give them as many opportunities as possible to succeed.

With the closure of the Albert Stella Arena, Fletcher would like to explore options to bring back some sort of indoor recreation facility.

“I believe we live in the most beautiful place you could,” she says. “Our backyard is such a beautiful sight. I have nothing but love, passion and good intentions for our community and its people.”

VICKI KUBIK 

Vicki Kubik is running to shed light on issues that she says have gone unchallenged, and believes there are opportunities to improve quality of life for residents.

“I’m hoping to bring more transparency and accountability to council decisions. I’m really concerned that there was such a force of residents behind keeping the Bellevue green space and the decision was made to sell municipal land at less than market value,” she says.

“I question why the town buys land at a premium and yet sells at less than market value to a multimillion-dollar development firm.”

“I’m also concerned that the town is very top-heavy with management,” she says. “I understand that there’s a ratio of one manager for every five to 10 employees. We know the lack of commercial and industrial tax-based income is creating budgetary concerns.” 

“Tough decisions need to be made to create a balanced budget,” she adds.

“Residents have voiced a need for a second grocery store and a dog park. Residents are concerned about losing the Hillcrest fire hall. I look forward to working with concerned citizens and organizations to address all of these issues.”

She says careful consideration is critical when it comes to use of public funds.

“It is incumbent for each municipal councillor to independently delve into details of the budget to ensure that council, as a whole, is not being manipulated to spend money unnecessarily.”

“Being a team player is a fundamental skill to serving in public office,” says Kubik. “That being said, it is just as important to be a voice for those who are underserved or don’t have a platform for their voice to be heard. It’s important to know when to speak up as much as it is important to know when to sit and listen.” 

Kubik is a lifelong resident of Crowsnest Pass. She is a registered nurse who worked as a public health nurse and is now a palliative-care nurse consultant.

She is an active member of the Crowsnest Pass Taxpayers Association and recently served as chairwoman for the Family and Community Support Services board, where she reviewed and approved funding requests.

Her ideal community is one that prioritizes health, including access to adequate food and decent housing, equal and rapid access to health care including mental health, affordable housing, literacy, income, and senior and youth programming. It is also one where council places a high value on community engagement.

“A healthy community places a value on both indoor and outdoor spaces where families can come together to socialize and play,” she says.

“I was sad to see the decommissioning of the Albert Stella Arena and have hoped that council would have put into place another option for youth to have a unique gathering place for all the activities that took place there.” 

She is particularly interested in how residents define their quality of life, not only in terms of personal and community wealth, but by how they enjoy the space they live in.

“Crowsnest Pass has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor enrichment. We need to capitalize on that,” she says.

“For example, much of what is offered is based on what independent interested citizens have successfully organized, like United Riders of Crowsnest and Uplift Adventures. I would like to see more innovation and support coming from council.

“How can we work together to capitalize on the numbers of random camping that occurs during peak season? The Crowsnest Pass should not be seen as a doormat where out-of-town camping enthusiasts wipe their feet.”

If elected, Kubik would advocate for business owners who are experiencing problems with licensing and would seek to broaden business initiatives. She has her own ideas for economic development, including a commercial greenhouse, is interested to hear the ideas of others, and wants to find actionable solutions that will bring value to the municipality as a whole.

Kubik is not opposed to mining development as long as it meets current environmental standards, but advocates for the expansion of other commercial and industrial projects as a backup source of revenue.

“Mining development holds the potential to create significant economic growth for Crowsnest Pass and the surrounding area. However, I think we don’t do ourselves any justice by placing all our economic eggs in a basket that may never be delivered,” she says.

“In the time it will take for the judicial system to deliver its final word in the matter, we need to be looking at a variety of ways to expand our economic base.”

“If elected, this will be my first opportunity to hold an elected office,” Kubik says. “I am passionate, hard-working and not afraid to address the hard issues currently facing our town. I have a strong foundation in paid public service work and can use those skills to be a strong voice for the people.”