By Sheldon Germain, Councillor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
First of all, let me start by thanking the team at the Connect for allowing me to share my thoughts with our community. Any opportunity to have dialogue with our richest resource – our neighbours, families and friends – is one I that value tremendously.
This is a tough time for our community and while it’s impossible to predict the future I know one thing: We are Canada’s strongest community in the true sense of what that means and literally every day – whether at the rink, at one of our schools or in my many conversations with residents – I am reminded of that incredible foundation we share.
It’s easy sometimes to focus on what we don’t have or what is not going our way and forget about the incredible blessings we enjoy as a community. We all recognize the challenges we face, but it’s when times are tough is when real leadership and an approach that brings people together is needed more than ever.
Thing is, I see our community as a team – we have different backgrounds, jobs and responsibilities, but at the end of the day, we’re one region. When we forget this, we can get into trouble and lose sight of what matters most.
Have you ever seen the look on someone’s face when they first experience the Syncrude Aquatic Centre at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre next to Shell Place at MacDonald Island?
Now, some of you will look at that last paragraph as a big run-on sentence. I see something else entirely. A great example of what our community is all about: Partnership between industry, Council, the Municipality, the great staff at Mac Island, the social profit sector and most importantly, our residents.
That’s right: it’s yet another example of what we can do when we approach things as a team. When we value what matters. When we stop to breath and have some perspective.
This is a time when our Municipality needs to focus on what we are there to do: deliver key services and what our community needs when we need it most. During our period of explosive growth, that meant building things like the Syncrude Aquatic Centre. Today, it means developing and improving core infrastructure. This sets the stage for the future and stimulates the local economy – when we need it most.
Of course, doing what we need to do includes taking a good look – in collaboration with all taxpayers – at what the Municipality really needs to operate in 2016. I’m proud to say I’ve been part of successive Councils that have held the line on residential property taxes for close to a decade, and I look forward to discussions with industry on tax rates understanding any local government should live within its means. We owe it to our neighbours and especially when the price of oil is hovering just above $40 a barrel.
What’s next? As I said, we can’t predict the future as much as we’d like to be able. Regardless, I firmly believe the only way we’ll win is when we decide to work together as a team. In fact, it’s the only way our great community has ever worked.
Let’s not stop now.
Sheldon Germain is a RMWB Councillor for Ward 1, and has submitted an open letter to the public as part of Connect Weekly’s Connecting Council feature. On behalf of the Mayor and Council, letters will be published on a weekly basis. Councillor Ault can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-743-9058.