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Bonnyville Candidates Talk Growing Business

Bonnyville’s nine candidates for town council responded to two questions that they were given advance notice of by the local chamber of commerce at Tuesday’s forum. The first was: “What is your plan to ensure that Bonnyville has a vibrant and growing business community?”

Incumbent Rene Van Brabant was the first to reply and highlighted the current council’s successes. “We have been working very hard to increase the businesses in this town. We have been working at it for many years. We still have lots of lots left for commercial, as well as residential. I think we just have to keep going on the same road we’re going on right now.”

Fellow incumbent Lorna Storoschuk was next. “I believe that business retention and expansion is important development in any community. Most jobs come from existing businesses. Keeping existing businesses strong and growing is key. We need to encourage shopping at and supporting local businesses. We need to ensure that Bonnyville has a development friendly approach to all development. We as a council need to look at removing obstacles to development. No written in stone bylaws that relate to development, as certain circumstances may require flexible terms. We must keep our taxes competitive with surrounding communities. Providing a high quality of life will encourage families to relocate and remain in Bonnyville.”

Next up was incumbent Ray Prevost. “There’s such a thing as a reverse trade fair. A reverse trade fair is when you go out and sell your municipality and try to encourage businesses to come to Bonnyville. It’s a very simple process and we have so much to sell. If you look at Bonnyville, we have one of the best Centennial Centres that’s the envy of any town. We have a golf course that’s the envy of any community. We don’t sell ourselves quite well enough. I believe we should go to some of these reverse trade fairs and sell our community…

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“The other thing we need to make sure to do is keep the tax increase at a reasonable rate. If your taxes are too high, people will move down the road. It’s really that simple. We need to do a better job of that, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s within our reach.”

Prevost was followed by challenger Morris Mickalyk. “The new area structure plan just submitted by the town will give new businesses the option of where to set up shop… We also need to strive to keep taxes and town operational costs in check. We need to make sure has the population for businesses to draw employees from and we need to embrace all cultures of people to be part of our community to keep on growing. Businesses feed off businesess. Bonnyville needs to provide a platform in order for this to happen.”

Brain McEvoy was next. “Competitive taxes are something I really think we have to focus on, but not it’s not just being tax free. There has to be value for the community in their taxes they are paying. It’s not just a number.

“We have to look at and build a smooth and efficient development process. The development process in a municipality should be almost a coaching role to help new businesses and existing businesses start and grow. It’s not there to make sure every I is dotted and T is crossed in a bylaw. It’s to work with people that want to come to our community.

“We need to look at an economic development person, somebody who’s dedicated to that role. To participate in reverse trade shows, to lead us as we go looking to draw people and businesses to this community, and businesses of all aspects. Everything from retail to manufacturing to oilfield support, we need to broaden the businesses that we have.

“And we need to create relationships. The relationships between the chamber, the council and the business community as well the people that live here. The more we can build those relationships, the more we will profit, and the more we’ll develop this community.”

Nestor Kunec agreed with McEvoy on selling the community. “We have a wonderful community. We should be able to make it better.

“One of the things I’d like to ensure is that the price of oil would be a hundred bucks a barrel, but I can’t do that. So what can we do? We have to diversify our economy. There’s absolutely no reason we can’t attract post-secondary education to Bonnyville. That will create some well paying jobs for our community. We should be tapping into the ag business. We should have incentives so farmers don’t have to go St. Paul or Vermillion for tractor parts. We not have it in Bonnyville? If we had it in Bonnyville, parts of Saskatchewan would be coming to Bonnyville for their shopping and agriculture needs.

“Of course have to continue to support the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas is like a pendulum, up and down. I’d like to see some kind of stability in it. I’d work with whoever’s on council to try to establish this.”

Challenger Chad Colbourne followed. “Let’s keep this simple. It’s a situation where we need to have people using businesses that are in town in order to succeed. It starts with bringing people to town. How do we get more people to Bonnyville? When they’re moving to the Lakeland, we need them to chose Bonnyville, not Cold Lake, not Glendon, not St. Paul. We need to improve livability in the town of Bonnyville through recreation and safety. Every time a family has to leave town for entertainment or recreation, we’re losing them to other towns restaurants and shopping centres. Don’t give them a reason to leave, give them a reason to stay.

“Not only will we attract people to town, we’ll retain them. If there’s a recession, people aren’t packing up and leaving.They fall in love with the community and they stay This is the first step to support small business; more people, more shopping local.

“The other side of this is to set up an incentive program for new business. For example a tax break for the first few years for downtown businesses. This was very successful in St. Paul and now there are no vacancies in their downtown core. Another successful program would be to give incentives to businesses that renovate or improve their exterior. We do a decent job at attracting industrial businesses. We need to find incentives to attract retail and commercial businesses. But none of that works unless we find a way to get people here and to stay.”

Incumbent Jim Cheverie stated he wanted to replace the swimming pool and was also in favor of attracting post secondary education. “A hundred graduates every year coming out of our schools and leaving Bonnyville because we have nothing for them here now that Portage College abandoned us about five years ago.

“One of the things we can do to bring families and keep families in Bonnyville is a replacement pool. Every year the pool is closed for two to three months due to mechanical failures and facility aging. We have to commit to a new pool at the C2 with equal [costs] by the town and MD.

“We also have to continue our partnership with commercial and industrial subdivision developers like we have for the past five to ten years. Developments such as Gateway on the west side of town and Eastgate on the east side of town where the McDonalds is.”

Las to speak was challenger Elisa Brosseau. “I’d like to work towards diversifying our local economic portfolio. The economy has changed and will continue to change. But through strategic planning with local lending boards such as the Credit Union and Community Futures, as well with the Chamber of Commerce, we can encourage a more diversified portfolio in industry, agriculture and technology. This can be done through more developmental lending in order to spark innovation.

“By supporting and encouraging local innovation we can assist our entrepreneurs to be more creative and explore new ideas. These opportunities will create a more sustainable economy and job growth in our community. Let’s learn and grow from the recession.”

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