Two candidates for mayoral race
Election 2017: Carrie Fischer running against Bill Robertson for Okotoks mayor
Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017 06:00 am
Future development, water, fiscal responsibility, and accountability to residents are setting the stage for the fight for the mayor’s chair in Okotoks.
Mayor Bill Robertson is seeking re-election on Oct. 16, running against current Okotoks Coun. Carrie Fischer in the mayoral race.
Robertson said he’s got unfinished business that he’d like to see through. His priorities, if re-elected, include planning future development for Okotoks, establishing transit for the region and the town, and building relationships with other municipalities. Robertson also wants to see the Town explore options for a 300 to 500-seat performing arts centre.
“Everything comes down to being fiscally responsible, so whatever we do we have to be fiscally responsible,” said Robertson.
It’s also important to prepare for growth in the community by establishing infrastructure and amenities like recreation facilities, he said.
“If growth takes off we’re going to have to try to be ready for it and proactively have planned out the recreation facilities we’ll need,” said Robertson. “We’ll need another swimming complex at some time here – we already have waitlists for the swimming clubs and lessons. If kids need that recreation, we need to do our best to provide it in a cost-effective manner.”
There are other issues surrounding growth, he said. The intermunicipal development plan with the MD of Foothills will have to be rewritten after the Town’s annexation plan was approved in July.
In addition, he said a transportation master plan for the region will be necessary in the near future to determine transit needs outside and inside Okotoks.
“Our community is big enough to seriously start looking at doing our own transit, but once again we have to be fiscally responsible,” said Robertson.
Another major issue is economic development, both for the region and for Okotoks itself, he said. It’s important to make the entire Foothills area, and the town, attractive to prospective businesses to grow the tax base, he said.
“When businesses locate anywhere in the Calgary region, the spinoffs for the entire region are important,” said Robertson. “We need to be advocating for everybody’s success in this region.”
He said water isn’t quite as high a priority because water licences recently approved by Alberta Environment will provide an interim supply until a water pipeline is built.
Carrie Fischer disagrees.
She said water is the Town’s top priority regardless of how many water licences it may hold.
She said the mayor should be calling provincial cabinet ministers regularly to demand meetings to lobby for a water pipeline from Calgary .
This is something she said she’s prepared to do it elected mayor
“We can’t rest where we are for another four years on the water issue,” said Fischer. “In the next four years, we have to have pipe, if not in the ground, then well on its way to getting in the ground. That’s a non-negotiable. It has to happen.”
Aside from the water issue, she said the biggest issue in Okotoks in the next term will be strategically planning for growth and development in the newly-annexed areas of town.
“What is our community going to look like as we grow, what do our residents value in that and want to see in that growth?” said Fischer. “What do they want these neighbourhoods to look like and feel like, and how do we do it in ways that incorporate a diversity in housing and varying price points and styles for people?”
She said it will be important as the Town moves forward with new neighbourhoods to ensure there is affordable housing options available for young people getting out on their own, small working families, empty-nesters and seniors, who all often have a difficult time finding a home in Okotoks that suits their income levels.
The Town needs to work with developers and community members alike to discuss housing needs and bring a range of housing to Okotoks, she said.
“We need to make sure we’re having the conversations with our residents, with our partners in the development industry, because at the end of the day we can’t do this without a good relationship with both,” said Fischer.
She said planning for the future will require connecting with the community to understand what residents want Okotoks to look like as it expands.
“We can’t let is happen haphazardly, it has to be a strategic and detailed plan,” said Fischer.
It will be important for council and the mayor to engage more with the community on many levels, she said. It won’t always be pretty, but council needs to be open to public opinion for better or worse, she said.
There may be tension between council and residents from time to time, but that’s part of the process, she said.
“The mayor, to me, needs to be standing at the front of the room and having that conversation with members of the community, hearing the good and the bad, then working toward finding a solution that compromises and finds the best solution for everybody,” said Fischer.