• Key take-aways from Candidate Forum: Airdrie's present problems and future outlook

    Written by Anna Ferensowicz Wednesday, Oct 06 2021, 7:36 AM

    On Tuesday, October 5th, the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce held a virtual Municipal Election Candidate Forum. The Mayoral and City Council candidates presented their visions for Airdrie's present and future.
    Each candidate had a chance to introduce themselves, as well as field questions that were based on the Vote Prosperity business platform developed by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce. Candidates also answered questions from the public that had been submitted earlier.
    Here are some key takeaways from last night's forum. The key takeaways are direct quotes attributed to the candidates.
    To see the virtual Municipal Election Candidate Forum in its entirety, go to the Airdrie Business Chamber of Commerce Youtube channel for the video. 
    Question: Airdrie has lost business growth and subsequently tax dollars to Rockyview County and other surrounding communities in the recent year. How would you incentivize and entice businesses? 
    Mayoral Candidates: 
    Allan Hunter: 
    • Talk to businesses and find out why they're not coming here and use those answers to implement a strategy that would alleviate those concerns. 


    Lindsey Coyle:
    • Businesses need more empowerment, which will help to attract newcomers to Airdries. 

    • Focusing on what the community seeks in terms of business opportunities and focus on that, rather than casting a wide-net appeal.
    • Reduce red tape in order to entice businesses to come to Airdrie. 

    • Considering Telus has invested a lot of money in Airdrie's technology, this should be put to use in strategic planning.

    Peter Brown (Current Mayor):
    • Developing regional opportunities with Rockview County, including Calgary.

    • Continuing with the no tax credit.

    • Incentivizing opportunities within the new industrial lands that were created last year.


    • Creating a regional economic development team.

    Question: The downtown revitalization has been a topic of discussion for several years, but there has been little visible progress made in the last decade. Are you in favour of this development, and if so what would be your approach to revitalize it? 
    Allan Hunter: 
    • In favour of creating a downtown core with amenities.

    • Underlined there is no agreement yet as to what that might look like in terms of the geographical area.

    • Considering that the costs are large (100 million dollars) the taxpayers and local businesses can't be the only source of revenue.


    • Have all stakeholders present during discussions so as to facilitate innovative ideas for revenue.

    Lindsey Coyle:

    • Downtown revitalization is a hot-button topic for a lot of business owners.

    • There is concern that this could lead to major construction - including road closures.

    • Revitalization has to start with filling in empty lots in the downtown core, which will help bring anchor businesses to the area. 

    • Underlined that businesses who have already been impacted by construction downtown need to recover before more work is to be commenced. 

    Peter Brown (Current Mayor):
    • Doesn't agree with the 100 million dollar figure.
    • "If you don't plan, you know you're going to plan to fail."
    • Underlined that the city budget has not been determined.
    • The catalyst for downtown revitalization is to build a much-needed library, which will, in turn, incentivize some of those lots that haven't been developed. 

    Question: There are multiple major municipal capital projects either underway or in the works. For example, a new library, a second Recreation Center. These projects will take up a significant amount of the next Council time, attention and energy. Do you support these projects? If So what are your goals for them? If not, why not? 



    Allan Hunter: 
    • Support all kinds of different projects that bring more amenities to the citizens of Airdrie at the end of the day, but questions when will those projects be started.

    •  Underlined that a new recreation centre was planned long ago and only now the land has been acquired for it.

    • Would like to see construction start quicker on projects but does not want to burden taxpayers.

    •  "I support it in principle, but the devil is in the details." 

    Lindsey Coyle:

    • Supports amenities for the community. 

    • Is understanding of the fact that there are provincial cuts to the capital grants. 

    • Creativity and ingenuity are going to be key moving forward, including fundraising and engaging the private sector. 


    Peter Brown (Current Mayor):

    • Agreed with Mr Hunter, that the devil is indeed in the details.

    • Underlined that the city's budget, "is going to be the most challenging budget that this city has ever faced and will continue to face."

    • Supports all these projects because there are strategic priorities.

    • Underlined that tough decisions are going to have to be made on behalf of the community because there's only so much money to go.

    Question: Civic pride in our community goes hand in hand with maintaining the beautification of public spaces, landmarks and facilities such as the water tower which is currently in a state of disrepair. If you were elected, what would you prioritize taxpayer dollars to be used towards the beautification of our city? 


    Allan Hunter: 

    • "There's going to be challenges and the priorities need to be what is important to the citizens, not what is not important to the politicians."
    •  The priority would be to listen to the people that know best and to work with them to make sure that they have the resources, within budgetary constraints.

    Lindsey Coyle:

    • "We could look at creating spaces for our businesses to create legacy pieces for themselves and that they use our amazing talent pool of artists to create these." 

    • Stressed that public art is always popular and that there are no tax dollars involved for the most part. 

    • "By engaging the artistic community and have them build legacy pieces that make our city more vibrant and interesting" is a win-win


    Peter Brown (Current Mayor):

    • Pointed to the water tower as an example.

    •  "I think that if you look at our parks and our pathways and what we've created, I think we have a beautiful space."

    •  However, there are some areas that are in disrepair that need to be addressed.


    City Council Candidates:
    Question: Businesses are the frontline of the economy and what affects them, affects the economic well being of every ordinary citizen. Our Chamber is asking the city to focus on growing business partnerships in the arts community. How would you engage with the business community to encourage open dialogue and determine what their priorities are?
    Al Jones (Current City Councillor):
    • Would be doing what he does now as a councillor: "being active in not only just listening to what their needs are, but also sharing ideas between businesses because some have ideas that help other businesses." 
    Chris Glass: 
    • "I want to listen to the businesses, but I also want to be aggressive, going out and bringing them to our city so that we could all reap the benefits."
    Darrell Belyk (Current City Councillor):
    • Agreed with Councillor Chapman on utilizing The Economic Development Department.


    •  "Partnership means collaboration, so collaborating, either business to business or a business with The Economic Department to share their wisdom, their guidance, and help everyone within the business community. 

    Jaclyn Dorchak:
    • "For me, business owners here I think struggle with communicating with the city because the city doesn't always necessarily reach out to them."
    • There's an opportunity for town halls and regular meetings with business owners. 
    • Cited Okotoks as an example: "They had a moratorium on duplication of business permits, in order to free up space for other businesses to come into the market and in a front-facing space."
    Reggie Lang:
    • The Airdrie Chamber of Commerce is a great conduit as far as connecting with businesses, but there needs to be a round-table discussion where leaders are brought together from both politics and business.


    • Unique opportunities that we have to work together and collaborate. 

    •  Agreed with Mayor Brown on looking towards a regional perspective in order to generate economic opportunities for the businesses within Airdrie.

    Ron Chapman (Current City Councillor):
    • "I look at the economic development and I think we need to give them the resources that they need in order to do their job."
    • "We need to use The Economic Development  Department and the Chamber of Commerce to their full capability and what they're there for."
    Sunday Adeleye:
    • "To succeed, we have to be open. So the more open we are,  it's better for businesses, which is better for the growth of Airdrie. "


    Tanveer Taj (not present at the forum):
    Trevor Cameron:
    • Communication is the key when it comes to working with businesses, and he has observed that business owners who have spoken to him have told him there is a lack of communication. 
    • "It's great to have an idea that we want to communicate with these businesses, but if these businesses feel like the city is unreachable, that the city is an obstacle, then it's not going to work out."


    Question: If elected, would you consider adding a business tax to supplement the current residential and business property tax? Or are there other ways for our city to avoid increasing tax dollars if so, what would they be? 



    Heather Spearman:

    •  "I think when we look at businesses, and what they're looking for is predictability and consistency. They want to be able to plan what their business situation is going to look like for the long-term."

    • Underlined that no one could have predicated COVID-19, but nonetheless, "There are so many other ways to do this.  Some of our co-cities in other areas have found ways to get federal and provincial funding that covers more than 90% of the costs."

    • Stressed that grants should be a viable option over taxation.


    Candice Kolson (Current City Councillor):

    • "A business tax should ever be on the table."
    • Taxes that are currently in place need to be, "stable, sustainable and predictable for our businesses as well as for residents."
    • Underlined that new revenue can come from attracting new businesses.  

    Rachael Mercedes:


    • Doesn't agree with taxes
    • "I believe looking for grants with the government and stabilizing the taxes is the way to go." 

    Mark Steffler:

    • Underlined he wants more details on what a tax increase would look like but is open to the idea.

    • "What would the impact of the tax on businesses and what would the potential benefits be?"

    • "There are other ways that we can increase funding for our businesses through partnerships, talking with our development industry partners, I think there are opportunities out there for partnering with our First Nations communities."

    Lore Perez:
    • Underlined that attracting businesses should be a priority.
    • Agreed with Mr. Steffler on the point that there needs to be a weighing of pros and cons and "if there is a benefit for the businesses, maybe we can potentially talk about it."

    Tina Petrow (Current City Councillor):


    • Stressed that at this moment in time, during COVID-19, a business tax is not the answer.

    • Agreed with Ms. Perez about attracting and retaining business, rather than taxation.
    • "Working with our regional partners will be very, very important on this to make sure that we are setting ourselves up to be the most attractive community in the region to make sure that those businesses want to come here."

    Jay Raymundo:

    • "I think attracting new businesses is going to be the key. Working with the existing businesses and communicating with them."

    • Argued that by creating more affordable office spaces, will develop new businesses, while retaining older ones. 

    • "Depending on what that tax looks like, we might need to take a look at how we can think like a medium-sized city."


    Derrick Greenwood:
    • "I firmly believe that you cannot tax your way into prosperity now that said, I think that a reasonable tax is not going to preclude a business from coming to Airdrie either."

    •  Underlined the need to create is a stable, attractive environment for business. 


    Airdrie's Municipal Election will be held on October 18th, 2021.