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Thursday, 18 October 2012 11:53

SC election: good times the best time to face future challenges

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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There are still a few days left for voters in Swift Current to decide who they will be supporting in the civic election on Oct. 24.


With 11 candidates in the running and only six council seats to fill, voters will have to start making some hard choices. So how should you go about making that decision on who is going to receive your mark of approval?
Social scientists and politicians have for a long time been trying to understand how people make those choices.
A 2008 Stanford University research paper tried to show voters are not necessarily rational in their voting decision-making. The researchers carried out an experiment that indicated people are more likely to vote for candidates with facial features similar to their own.
The results from a University of Miami study that was published earlier this year indicated candidates with lower-pitched voices may have an edge with voters.
Hopefully Swift Current voters will put in a bit more effort to learn who the candidates are and what their goals are for the city. The turnout at the all-candidates forum on Oct. 10 at the Living Sky Casino was a perfect opportunity for residents to chat with candidates and hear their views.
With only around 150 people attending it seems there is not that much interest in the election. After listening to the five-minute presentations by the candidates, some people might have felt it would be easier to simply pick a candidate according to the pitch of his or her voice.
All the candidates appeared to be on the same page when it comes to how they view Swift Current’s present situation. Things are going good and the future is looking bright.
Some of the new candidates expressed appreciation for the good work done by the current council and then added they want to be part of the efforts to make Swift Current an even better place to live and work.
This is quite a change from the usually adversarial approach to politics, where a candidate will try to set himself or herself apart from others by presenting an opposing point of view that provides a better alternative.
We should be thankful things are going so well in Swift Current that people actually want to run for council to be part of the happy times. But instead of just focusing on the positive, perhaps the good times are the right time to start talking about the work ahead.
Some of the points raised during the all-candidates forum gave an indication of these issues.
Improved communication with residents has been a focus area for council during the past three years. Joe Collinson and Ron Toles both referred to feedback they have received from residents that indicate a lack of responsiveness from the City.
Growth and development of the city and region has been a common theme, but can it be done in a way that does not put too much of a burden on ratepayers? Jayson Sletten referred to the need for responsible growth and Collinson cautioned about burdening the City with too much debt.
Can the City continue to achieve future goals while still having one of the lowest municipal taxation rates in the province? Pat Friesen mentioned it is essential to attract more residents to expand the tax base.
The last time the city has seen a significant jump in population numbers was in the decade from 1961 to 1971, when population increased from 12,186 to 15,415. Since then the population numbers have hovered just below the 15,000 mark and only last year’s census indicated an increase to 15,503.
Even if the population increases significantly during the next few years, it will add pressure on existing infrastructure and services that might impact on the city’s livability and affordability index.
Affordable housing is already a concern, as highlighted by George Bowditch and Gord Budd at the forum. Aging infrastructure is another and Bowditch referred to the need to plan ahead to be able to replace existing recreation and leisure facilities.
These are some of the challenges the six newly-elected candidates will have to deal with over the next four years. But before then it will be up to voters in Swift Current to decide who they want to ask to take on that task.
You have an opportunity to also make a difference by voting on Oct. 24. Make sure you become part of the discussion about Swift Current’s future.
Matthew Liebenberg is a reporter with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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