Swift Current’s new mayor is ready to get to work after the swearing-in ceremony of council members and his priority is to take a close look at the budgeting process.
The swearing-in ceremony for the new council took place virtually via video conference, Nov. 23. The oath was administered by Judge Karl Bazin of the Swift Current provincial court. The elected council members took turns to read the oath, then signed it, and held it up to show their signature.
Mayor Al Bridal spoke to local media during an online media conference after the swearing-in ceremony.
“We're looking at the budget and the budgeting process, because the budget is going to set our tone for next year,” he said about the council’s priority at the start of their four-year term. “We all have a few little things we would like to see done in the city and one of the key things for everybody is to make sure our infrastructure maintenance was kept up and our building maintenance and our parks.”
A key budgetary change implemented four years ago by former mayor Denis Perrault was to complete the budgetary process before the start of the new fiscal year, but Bridal indicated this will not be possible for the 2021 budget.
“There was talk about that, but it's not going to happen before the end of the year, guaranteed,” he said. “We're going to have to take a serious look at the budget and we do not have enough time. Administration has been working on this budget for months already and they were working on it assuming they were going forward with a budget similar to what they have in the past.”
He added that both he and several of the other elected councillors emphasized the need to review the City’s current spending priorities during their election campaigns that, and this will require some time.
“Administration is going to work on it and then we're going to work on it as a council and see where we can still provide all the services that the citizens of Swift Current require, but possibly not spend some places that in the past they have spent on,” he said. “So it won't be out before the end of the year. My goal is to have it out by the end of February, and that may be a lofty goal, because it is a just under $63 million budget and there's a lot of places we need to spend money.”
One of his spending priorities on existing City infrastructure will be improvements to the Aquatic Centre, but that will depend on the outcome of the budgetary review.
“I know that we need to do an upgrade on the interior of that and can we do it this year,” he asked. “I certainly hope so, but that will have to be inside the budget process to find that money.”
For Bridal the swearing-in ceremony was an exciting moment, even though it had to take place virtually due to the current COVID-19 situation.
“I've always loved politics and people say politics are so boring, but for me I was excited to be sworn in” he said. “I wasn't jumping up and down on my chair, I was trying to sit here very solemn, but inside I was doing the backflip, I've got to tell you, and I was so proud of all the council members.”
The municipal election resulted in a significant shake-up of Swift Current council. In addition to Bridal as the new mayor, there are four new councillors – Tom Christiansen, Ryan Switzer, Leanne Tuntland-Wiebe, and John Wall. The only re-elected councillors are Pat Friesen and Ryan Plewis.
The seven members of the new council met unofficially a week prior to their swearing-in to get to know each other and to share some ideas about their upcoming term.
“It was good to have that group of people and realize that I will be able to work with them and they will be able to work with me, and just because we may disagree on a few things doesn't mean we don't agree on the idea that we need to move Swift Current forward into the future and continue to build Swift Current,” Bridal said.
They introduced themselves to each other during their informal discussion and spoke about their ideas and vision for the next four years.
“Some ideas came up that others wondered about and so we had some good discussion,” he said. “We spent about two and a half hours and at the end of the night we had a bit of a game plan for some things we're looking forward to this fall already.”
Bridal already had an introductory meeting with Swift Current MLA Everett Hindley and he was also arranging a similar meeting with Cypress Hills-Grasslands MP Jeremy Patzer. One of the discussion points during the meeting with Hindley was the COVID-19 situation.
“I believe all councils have a role in it,” Bridal said. “I don't think we should be making the rules as council, but when the province asks for masking in public places and if they start asking for closures of buildings, we're going to have to do that. And I think as council we need to reassure our citizens we're going to do everything we can to keep all the businesses open we can and to keep it as normal as we can. … The province has asked us to stay home and I know we're going to encourage citizens to stay home and limit their contacts to try to contain this COVID outbreak that we have.”