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Friday, 28 September 2012 09:43

Two candidates bring gender diversity to Swift Current council race

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Two of the 11 candidates running for Swift Current council in the upcoming civic election on Oct. 24 are bringing gender diversity to the race.

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, women make up 52 per cent of the Canadian population, but only 25 per cent of elected municipal representatives are female.
It is a statistic Keleah Ostrander and Pat Friesen will help to change if their bids for council seats are successful. Both candidates support diversity on council.
“I think nothing is more progressive than having a diverse council,” Ostrander said. “That includes gender as well as age, background, experience, and skills. Any time a council can look more like how your community looks, with our citizens being from a variety of backgrounds, the better off we are.”
According to Friesen, the different perspectives from such diversity will result in good decision-making.
“It would depend on the issue,” she said. “Everyone brings their own viewpoints and passion to the table. My passions as a mother and grandmother are the safety and security of our children and quality of education.”
Friesen, who recently retired from her position as executive vice-president of marketing at Innovation Credit Union, said she thought hard about her decision to stand for council.
“I wanted to make sure that if I did run and I was successful, that I would be able to have the time and energy to do a great job,” she mentioned.
She now operates her own consulting business that specializes in marketing and communications. She has been employed with Saskatchewan credit unions for 36 years  and she has been a Swift Current resident since 1974.
“I've had so many good things happening as a result of living here,” she said. “So I want to make sure that same feeling and that same opportunity is there for generations to come. I want to do my part to make sure that the city continues to move forward.”
Friesen is the immediate past chair of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“That assists me because I have a better understanding of what’s happening in our country and in the world and how that may impact us here in Swift Current,” she said.
She has also been involved with the Swift Current and District Chamber of Commerce for many years, including as president in 1993. Over the years she has served on the boards of many community organizations and she is currently the co-chair of the 2014 City of Swift Current Centennial Committee.
“I’ve watched council fairly closely over the years and each council has moved the city forward in one way or another,” she said. “I think it’s just a matter of saying how can we move forward positively and grow our city while maintaining that balance with growth and finances.”
The development of regional partnerships and co-operation is a key focus area for Friesen.
She views the regional community as interdependent for economic as well as social reasons.
“There’s been some great groundwork laid in that area and we just need to continue to always think about can we do something regionally versus just for the city,” she said.
Ostrander said she always had an interest in municipal politics.
While growing up in the small town of Saltcoats, she had many role models whose contributions to community taught her the importance of public service.
“Right now, I felt timing wise in my life it was a good opportunity to represent the female professional crowd, young mothers, young families as well as all citizens whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with through my economic development experience as well as my volunteer and work experience,” she mentioned.
She and husband Dustin have lived in Swift Current for the past eight years and they have a young son. She is currently the director of planning at the Great Plains College. Previously she was the general manager of the Southwest Regional Economic Development Authority, where she played a leading role in the Labour Attraction and Retention Committee that was established in co-operation with the Swift Current and District Chamber of Commerce.
“My work in economic development taught me about the importance of regional strength versus individual community strength,” she said. “We’re only as strong as the region as well as the province that we live in.”
Ostrander is the current board chairperson for the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre, which has helped her to understand the challenges faced by newcomers to the area. She would like to see the City give more attention to attracting people from outside the region to the local workforce.
“We’re going to need more labour and that’s not going to be filled at all times locally,” she said. “I certainly feel I'll be able to play a role in enhancing our promotional efforts of the city outside of the region because I do see labour shortage as something that will become more and more an issue in our community.”
In addition to Ostrander and Friesen, there are three other first-time candidates for council. They are Jayson Sletten, Joe Collinson and Ron Toles.
The six incumbent councillors are all standing for re-election and Jerrod Schafer has been acclaimed for a second mayoral term.

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