Paul Harris, would you like to buy a vowel?

Tonight’s entry will be looking at answers from councillor candidate Paul Harris. The fact that his store provided a blue gurgle pot for my wife that she thinks is super awesome had no bearing on my comments. On that note, full disclosure: out of every store in the downtown area, Sunworks has received the most of my business. I’d also like to make it clear that at no time in the store have I met Paul Harris or discussed city politics with him. But his store is awesome. There’s no arguing that.

So, without further delay…


You’ve indicated that you’d like to elevate discussion about what it means to be a citizen and that terms such as “taxpayer”, “client” and “customer” have taken away from the pride of citizenship. Can you propose three options for residents of Red Deer that would engage them as citizens instead of taxpayers, clients or customers?

I believe that citizens have their own answers to that question as there are hundreds of ways to become involved as citizens.  Here’s a few that come to me as in response:

– join the neighbourhood association

– shovel the snow of a neighbour in need

– have a block party

– come to any of the many open houses the city has about issues that affect the community

– write a letter to the paper about something that you’re proud of in your city

– attend a festival that you’ve never attended

– go to a tweet up

– call each of your councillors and say hello

– visit a seniors home for breakfast

– volunteer at the spca to walk dogs

– do some guerrilla gardening in your community.

– share your tomato harvest with someone that can’t garden

– volunteer with the scouts, girl guides, or any other children’s charity

– find out the name of your Canada Post worker and say hello every time you see them.

– ask for help when you need it

– doubt that your opinion is the 100 percent correct, consider other viewpoints

– walk your children to school

– help a lost pet find its home

– sit on your front step and say hello to anyone that walks past

– pick up garbage you see, even though you didn’t litter

– clean up some graffiti, and preserve some art

– plant some flowers for everyone to see

– visit the local market and become a regular to some vendors

– park your car for a month

– discover how to get to work on transit

– reduce your water consumption

– shop local

– vote

– hire young people to do odd jobs around your house

– give away some things you don’t need

– use the library often

– go to the symphony

– cheer on a ball team that you don’t know

– go carolling during the holidays

– learn that the city can’t do for citizens what citizens can do a lot for each other
This is a long, and I think incredibly valid list of ways for residents to become engaged as citizens in ways they can take pride in. Obviously, not everyone would agree that some of these are things that would make someone an engaged citizen, but one person’s understanding of what it means to be a contributing citizen will differ from another’s. I want to highlight some of the ones that I think speak directly to citizen engagement that would have a more direct impact on a large portion of residents. Joining a neighbourhood association is an excellent way to directly participate in events or issues that affect you in a more locally focused area. While some people may see these associations as busybodies, one cannot ignore the fact that these types of associations ensure you interact with others as citizens with goals. Cleaning up graffiti or litter, while a stalwart of community service for people who might have gotten their fingers into the wrong cookie jar, is still a way for an individual or groups of residents to show they care enough about where they live to take direct action in improving the local environment. When I used to work for Strathcona County Parks & Rec, I was always appreciative of people who’d clean up a park, or sports field after an event even though it was my job to do. That’s the kind of citizen care and engagement that builds community. Lastly, Mr. Harris’s statement that people should, “learn that the city can’t do for citizens what citizens can do… for each other,” is one that I think more people should take to heart. I’ll use the litter pick up in a park as an example. Sure, it’s the responsibility of the city to maintain it, but it’s just as easy for a group of neighbours to decide to do it instead of waiting for a city crew to show up at an unknown time. Citizen engagement is not something a city or municipal government can create; it’s not a service that you can go use at your convenience. True citizen engagement and identity comes from exactly the type of things Mr. Harris has listed.


Can you effectively separate civic pride from being accountable to taxpayers?

Governments should always be accountable for the tax resources of the citizens they represent, so in that way there is no separation.  However, we have to remember that because one citizen doesn’t want something that another does, that providing the service or amenity does not make the government irresponsible.  Civic government is established by the people for the people, it exists to serve the whole community, sometimes that’s the majority, sometimes that’s the minority. It’s important to be fair and equitable, and to trust the voices of one another and their elected representatives.

I wish this had expanded a bit more on civic pride, but the fact that Mr. Harris recognizes that it can’t be entirely separated from being held accountable is important. Building and maintaining civic pride will always require the use of resources. Inevitably, these resources cost money, which must face the scrutiny of the public. I think that Mr. Harris’s statement captures an important thought; that accountability to taxpayers is more than just following the money, it’s also being held accountable to listening to alternate points of view.

I think the most important sentence here is “we have to remember that because one citizen doesn’t want something that another does, that providing the service or amenity does not make the government irresponsible.” More people need to realize this, regardless of whether you’re talking about municipal, provincial or federal politics. People disagree on things, it’s a fact of life. People disagree on what constitutes civic pride, and accountability. I think these disagreements are fine, but any constructive discussion through them is rendered useless as soon as anyone assumes another party is being irresponsible. Here’s an easy example: You go to the store to buy bread, and are confronted by another shopper as being irresponsible because you’re not buying gluten free. Instead of trying to discuss anything, they’ve automatically assumed that your decision is entirely, 100% wrong even though it’s the best decision for you personally. You are not irresponsible for making decisions that you believe are in your best interest. Another example would be someone saying that Red Deer shouldn’t build a 50m pool that would be a public pool after the Winter Games because they don’t know how to swim and that money should be used on walking paths because they enjoy jogging. Is the city being irresponsible here? No.


You’ve outlined that leadership comes from listening, dialogue and following through on ideas. What methods will you use to effectively communicate your ideas and proposals to the community, and likewise, hear the concerns and ideas of residents?

Personally I make myself available to any citizen that wishes to meet with me.  I work face to face with people because that is the best way to make a connection with one another and to truly understand.  Too much is lost in writing, and too much time is consumed.  It’s hard for citizens to really convey their passions in writing alone.  And it’s difficult for councillors to ask the questions they need to ask. Social media is excellent to communicate what is going on in the city and what issues are emerging but it can not be a forum for public debate.  People need to see one another’s eyes to really be able to listen.
I think it’s important to note that not everyone feels one way of communication is the best for everyone. Mr. Harris identifies that he communicates best by face-to-face interactions. Personally, I think I communicate better though writing than personal interaction a lot of the time. Yes, I lose the subtlety of gestures and expressions, but I can make up for that with clearly thought out ideas and information. I’m sure everyone knows at least one person who’s not good at interacting in a social environment and really, really sucks at picking up on non-verbal communication cues. Effective verbal and physical communication won’t be as effective with them.

I don’t think it’s hard to convey passion through writing, ask any of my high school teachers or university professors who read a creative writing assignment or analytical diatribe. If conveying passion through writing wasn’t effective, too many books would be used to hold up a table.

I also disagree with the point that social media can’t be used as a forum for public debate. I indicated on the post dealing with Mr. Bevin’s answers that I’ve had many meaningful debates using it. There are regularly online debates on the Globe and Mail website for certain articles that don’t descend into a fray of Youtube commentary. I’ve had serious debates on Facebook posts, and through blog comments. Yes, they’re slower than in-person debates, but has that in any way reduced their impact? I don’t think it has. I think most people would agree that social media can be used to complement a physical debate without issue. However, complementing isn’t the same thing, and I think one of the reasons why so many people see social media as an ineffective forum for debate is our attachment to the physical performance of it. Physical debates are ingrained into political history. Social media debates are infantile in comparison. I think that one thing anyone running for office needs to realize is that communication methods are shifting, and discussion and debate through social media will become a larger aspect of the political game.


What main improvements do you feel must be made to improve communication between the city and the public?

There is a lot of material on the web for the City of Red Deer that is available for all citizens to see.  The website needs to be upgraded and should be more user friendly.  I would encourage people to google search the site for what they need.  I also encourage people to attend council meetings.  They are open to the public.

I also believe that citizens need to take up their roles as citizens and be active in learning about their city and the issues facing us all.

I like that Mr. Harris acknowledges the city website needs improvement. The experience I’ve had with it range from one click wonders to mind-bending frustration. Case in point, trying to find the last survey about the bike lanes that was buried under six or seven menu layers, and even then I still had to use Google to find the exact page it was on. That’s one thing I’m not entirely sold on here, I don’t think you should have to ask citizens to Google or Bing or Lycos if you’re retro (fyi, still up and running) for information that should be easily accessible to residents of the city. It would be of more benefit to improve the search function on the city’s site instead.

I think it’s a good idea to encourage people to attend council meetings, but you have to think about how and where this is done. Telling one person face-to-face that they should come and hope that they tell others is one way, but I don’t think that would be too effective. Newspaper notifications would reach a wider audience, but not everyone reads it. Radio and internet communication would likely reach a younger audience, but you have to present it in a way that makes them care. Improved communication comes from determining the widest audience you can reach in the most ways. Improving the city website is one way, but semi-regular radio ads would reach more people, looking at setting up a voluntary text message service to notify residents of events or meetings would reach others, and hiring a social media expert to run the city Facebook and Twitter accounts would have a huge impact on communication improvement.

Mr. Harris’s last statement is also something more people need to realize. It’s not the exclusive job of a government to educate citizens about how to become engaged with their community. Citizens must take the time to engage themselves. A spoon fed population isn’t what we want to end up with.


Will increased citizen involvement in council decisions come from improved communication or through actively encouraging citizens to become directly involved in city decisions?

Only partly through improved communication.  Communication out doesn’t necessarily lead to citizen involvement.  However, actively developing relationships with councillors and administration will increase involvement and influence decisions.  Those relationships give council a better picture of the whole community’s opinions and desires.

Many candidates have said that they’d like to improve communication to increase citizen involvement, but Mr. Harris is the first I’ve heard explicitly say that relationship building between city officials and the community provides additional input and understanding. I think he’s right, and communication efforts alone won’t do that. Direct engagement between the city and residents does.

Your platform indicates that prosperity comes from careful focus and engaging people, but doesn’t expand on ways to accomplish this. Could you please list three primary goals you have for the local economy and how you would like to see them accomplished?

There are many more than three but here’s a start.  I really want to see Red Deer recognized for its greatness.  We have such an incredible opportunity with the undeveloped land in Riverlands to create a world-class commercial, residential, and cultural district.  We can do it in an environmentally friendly way which would reflect our long history of environmentalism. It could be connected to the park system by bridge to Bower Ponds and to the downtown through Alexander Way.  This district can be a hub of activity, conference space, celebration, and living that truly reflect our distinct character.  It will be something Canada and Alberta will point to as a place of innovation, environmental  sustainability, and financial success.  I see it being a key piece of our identity in the future, much like the Waskasoo Park system has become.

I see it as a place where locally-produce energy gives back to the city and creates new technology and industry.  We will become the model for district energy solutions that will change how cities are built.

I imagine us becoming far more conservative in our approach to roads and transportation — finding much better ways to balance the various ways people move around our city.  I believe that as we do a great job of this we’ll be able to slow urban sprawl, increase quality of life, and reduce poverty.  These things are all very much connected.  As communities become more walkable, with various amenities nearby, the whole city benefits.

I’m very pleased with the advances we’ve made with the Red Deer Regional Airport.  That growing enterprise will have long term and lasting influence in our business community which will support our efforts to diversify our economy and take our place as the most central city in Alberta, serving over 80 percent of the population within a two hour drive.  It will be our gateway to the rest of the world.  I expect to see major improvements to the facility and capacity over the coming months and years.

I think the fact that none of the three examples listed directly references the oil economy is important. Certainly, Red Deer benefits hugely from the oilfield industry, but diversifying the city’s economic interests and pursuits is important. The one major point of contention I can see this having is between those people who’d like to see immediate economic benefits versus those who’d like to invest in longer term options. The desire for locally produced energy is admirable, and if those efforts could be sourced from the immediate area, or through local expertise, the better. Direct investment into local resources that result in cheaper energy costs locally. I think the only people who’d really have an issue there might be energy regulators.

The second item aims more to create an efficient city. The more efficient the city becomes, the better it functions. This is true regardless if you’re looking at capital spending or social planning. The one thing I’d consider here is what are the economic contributions or plans that lead up to this? By identifying those, they can be more easily targeted and planned.

Expansion of the airport is definitely something that will benefit central Alberta, not only in terms of private travel, but goods and services delivery as well. The fact that Air Canada is offering regular flights to Calgary is a game changer. No more driving to Calgary, finding parking, planning hours ahead of time. The caveat there is that when you price it out, it almost makes no difference when you look at gas and parking costs. But, you don’t have to drive to Calgary. Hopefully, more investment and expansion at the airport will attract other operators and reduce costs even further.


Should protection of the natural environment be given priority over establishing business in areas that may require some natural areas to be removed?

Yes, but they are often ways for both to work together.  Some of the best and most successful project consider the environmental footprint.

I agree with this, it’s not impossible to consider both when planning. The one industry in which I think this needs to be considered more is housing. Find a way to build new houses while maintaining an existing green space. Plan yards around trees or shrubs that are already there. You don’t need to raze a stand of trees to build a house if you plan the layout properly.

Red Deer has been listed as one of Canada’s most dangerous cities. Do you think quality of life in the city is linked to this?

I’d debate whether Red Deer is a most dangerous city.  The article you reference makes a number of assumptions about crime and statistics.  You’ll see our city drop in the listing based on those statistics this year.  However, we do have a problem with highly addictive drugs and drug trafficking that needs to be addressed.   Unfortunately our position as central in the province if both our advantage for the economy and our disadvantage for crime.

Mr. Harris is the first candidate to acknowledge that they know the article that claim comes from, so it shows that he’s aware of what’s written and said about the city. However, there’s no direct response to the issue of quality of life being connected to the claim. There is acknowledgement that there are serious drug problems that should be addressed, but I think more could have been said about how increasing quality of life for certain demographics could contribute to Red Deer being seen as a safer city.
Should Red Deer focus on policing of existing laws to ensure it becomes a safe city, or should more focus be placed on social causes of crime in an attempt to reduce it?

We need to focus on both enforcement and prevention.  Either alone will not work nor serve our community well.

There’s not much to expand on here, though that may be something that could be done in the future. That said, it’s a simple statement that recognizes that policing and prevention should go hand in hand to have the best success.


Red Deer is a short distance from the two largest urban and cultural centers in the province. What do you think can be done to attract culture and art to Red Deer instead of Edmonton or Calgary?

This has been a focus of my community involvement for about 15 years.  People move to great cities because they have great social offerings, are open, and are aesthetically beautiful.  Everything we have done in the past few years is working to improve these things.  Red Deer College’s focus on the arts has helped us greatly.  Students are now completing their studies and staying in Red Deer to create.  In the early 2000s this wasn’t the case.

I was the lead facilitator for the Community Culture Vision, a document what was adopted by the City of Red Deer as one of it’s four major planning tools.  I’d be happy to send you a link to it if you wish.  It’s a ripping yarn of possibility, and you’ll see many things are starting to come to pass.

The example of Red Deer College focusing on arts is a good one, especially considering the recent opening of the downtown campus in the theater. The fact that there’s a large educational institute in Red Deer is a huge boost to the cultural community here, and expanding its focus to arts and culture will do worlds to attract people who don’t want to go to Calgary or Edmonton, either for school or performances.

Outside of the College’s focus on arts and culture, I wish Mr. Harris had expanded a bit on the Community Culture Vision, or summarized some of it, but I’ll likely take up his offer for the link to it. I’ll update my comments here after I’ve read it.

You state that you will actively support community-owned housing to help end homelessness in a way that will not create problems for neighbourhoods or business owners. NIMBYism is a large concern with regard to this type of project or goal. How will you assure citizens and businesses that these housing projects will not impact them negatively? Where do you propose to build these?

Always a debate about where.  In truth however, it’s not where we build housing it’s how we build it.  In the most successful cities housing is built as part of every development.  Two percent of any complex could be designated.  In that way there is no congregation of trouble.  People in need learn from others around them that are doing well.  Grouping people in need together creates a situation where the problem grows, and people continue to suffer — there are few role models no one healthy to learn from.  These types of housing situations bring down the community and the people.  A different model of integrative housing needs to be establish.  Further, the collective housing first models that we are using need to be supervised rigidly and community standards enforced.  Just because people are addicted or hard to house does not give them a right to abuse the neighbourhoods, or the neighbours.

We have a serious problem in Red Deer with poorly thought out housing and services for the homeless and hard to house.  Unintended consequences have resulted which have made things worse for our city and many of our most vulnerable citizens.

True, how social housing is built and integrated into a community is an aspect many people overlook, but where it’s built will remain a concern as long as people bring it up. The job of planners then becomes how to convince people who don’t want it built in a certain location why it’s good that it’s built there. Of course, this topic will likely always be an uphill battle. The fact remains that even if 2% of a complex is designated for social housing, the fact that it’s there will make many people hesitant to live there because they’ve built up assumptions about social housing and its residents in their minds. I think Mr. Harris’s idea that lower-income residents, or those living in social housing, learn from others in better situations is noble, but I think it will be a long time before that’s an openly accepted plan by a majority of people. Of course, this leads to the problem identified about grouping everyone together, leading to the problems that put other citizens off the idea of community housing in the first place.

The reserved 2% in new complexes is a good idea I think, and Mr. Harris made it clear how he felt about where they’d be built, but I think knowing proposed locations for these complexes is still something the community would want to know and consider.


Would you support sharing energy derived from waste-to-energy projects with surrounding communities in Central Alberta?

Yes, we need to give back any excess we create to the grid.  There is huge possibility in district energy production and distribution.  This could fit well into economic diversification and new business innovation.

Firstly, I’ll admit I asked this because I wanted to know if there would be any possibility of electricity being used by residents of Sylvan Lake. Yes, that was a bit selfish, but municipal cooperation and resource sharing is something I think the communities of central Alberta need to explore in greater detail. Secondly, I’m glad Mr. Harris approaches this as a way to diversify the local economy, and not just reduce electricity bills. This approach recognizes that investment in these kinds of projects would contribute to more than just lower numbers on your bill.


What will you do to promote increased use of Red Deer’s public transit system?

Yes.  Our transit system needs better frequency and more direct routes.

I can only assume the question was read wrong, since it asked about promotion of transit use, not improvements to the existing system. Granted, those are things that need to be done, but outlining how residents will be shown the benefits of public transport is something that should be done as well.


Infrastructure is a concern to many Red Deer residents, as well as people who live outside of the city but work here. Prime examples are concerns over potholes, traffic loads, and the storm system. There is no mention of infrastructure in your platform. Could you please list three infrastructure priorities you believe that city should work on, and how they should be accomplished.

Our roads are in excellent shape.  We’ve increased funding over the past several years in road repair, snow removal, crown paving, and general maintenance.  The budget this year alone was over 7 million a steep increase from council 9 years ago with funding of approximately 1 million.  Pothole concerns always crop up at the end of the winter and fade away at the end of the summer.  This year we repair over 14,000 potholes and several frost boils.  The budget for potholes this year was nearly $350,000.  Our roads compare extremely well to other cities and our level of funding is now adequate to maintain them.

Infrastructure in recent years has taken the front seat compared to social infrastructure. Our waste water and water systems are in great shape and will serve us for many decades.  We need to create balance between our places for people and would other types of infrastructure, otherwise we’ll have great roads but no where to go.  A focus on roads alone could create beige and boring.

Storm water systems need to be addressed not because they are in disrepair but because climate change and severe weather are overwhelming the intended capacity in some situations.  There are several ways to address storm water and not all involve channelling it into the river, the role of nature needs to be considered.

I’d like to see us address dealing with pharmaceuticals in the water before releasing it back to the Red Deer River.

I’ll address these from the bottom up. Firstly, I think that filtering pharmaceuticals in the water is more a natural resource and environmental focus that infrastructure. Yes, there are new treatment facilities being built, but in my mind, those are still meant to treat environmental resources more than public infrastructure.

Secondly, I’ll fully agree that the storm water system needs to receive attention. Anyone who’s tried to get onto highway 11 off 67 street after a major rainfall knows what a pain in the ass it is when the storm system at the low point by the iHotel is overwhelmed. The same goes for anyone who’s been in the parking lots at Parkland and Bower malls. When I was living in Red Deer, I lived right across the street from Bower Mall, facing the Zellers. I went into the mall after one rainfall only to find that the floor has split open from the amount of water in the system, and an entire section of the mall flooded. So in short, yes, this is something that should be addressed. Channelling it into the river is one option to look at, but I’d also suggest building a reserve area that could be used by local farmers for water for their crops.

Lastly, focus on social infrastructure is something that should be considered, but at the same time, I’m caught between agreeing with that and remembering how annoyed I get at being stuck in traffic on Gaetz trying to get somewhere because the number of vehicles on the road in Red Deer is vastly outpacing an efficient road system. Yes, public infrastructure like parks, amphitheaters and skate parks are beneficial to the city and residents, but ensuring that people can get to them easily also needs to be taken into account. 

One additional thing I’d like to note, Mr. Harris says that Red Deer roads are in excellent shape. the 2013 Capital Budget presentation includes a poll from Ipsos Reid where roads are identified as the overwhelming infrastructure priority for residents. The poll information then identifies that only 47% of residents agreed that the city roads were in Good or Excellent condition. This ranks roads as the worst infrastructure asset in the eyes of the population. The wording of the poll question means 53% of citizens polled felt that roadways were in declining condition, or in need of a complete overhaul. Given that the survey population was 300, and not the normally accepted 1000 responders to create a truly representative sample, I don’t know if you could apply these percentages to the population of the city as a whole. However, the results do provide some good indications as to what the population feels about current road infrastructure. 

If the construction of a 50 meter pool is not pursued by the city, what other methods would you propose to increase Red Deer’s bid for the 2019 Winter Games?


Our bid is fairly solid as it is.  We’ll be working with community partners and other communities to ensure we are successful.  It’s time for us to host.  If we don’t build the pool we’ll likely still achieve the bid, however if we do build it we’ll be the only city of our size to have all of the amenities needed to host in one city.  It will help us become the sports tourism destination that has longed been talked about.


It’s refreshing to see the confidence about the bid here, and the fact that Red Deer already has the majority of facilities needed will provide a boost to the cooperation with community partners and other communities. That said, both Istanbul and Madrid thought they had a solid bid for the 2020 Olympics.

If you received significant community input that the money spent on a bid for the 2019 Winter Games would be better spent elsewhere, would you continue to support the bid or review the decision to see what local projects could be supported instead?


Yes of course.  We need to consider the project in the context of its economic influence and as its legacy.  There will not be another time in our history that we’ll be able to build and improve our community for sports tourism as inexpensively as we will in the next few years, perhaps 75 cents on the dollar or less.  It’s quite unlikely that anything will come up that is not already known that could have as dramatic and long lasting effect on our community as the 2019 and related facilities.


This issue will bring out divisions in the community, and links back to when Mr. Harris noted that a government is not irresponsible for doing something one person likes and another doesn’t. I’ve heard some people say that spending money on the Games is pointless, and will have limited benefit. I’ve also heard others say that they’ll be an important promotion of Red Deer, its economy and importance in the area. A project like this will always have its detractors and supporters, and getting them to agree would be virtually impossible. This is made all the more difficult when people against them voice their opinion to the city or council, see that the bid is going ahead and raise hell that citizen concerns are being ignored or swept under the rug. Those claims are inevitably pointed at individuals, leading to opponents claiming those people don’t care about listening to taxpayers. That’s much easier than pointing a finger at yourself and trying to remember that a city is made up of different points of view, some of which won’t agree with you.


The planned redesign of the Taylor Drive/Ross Street intersection has been heavily criticized as expensive, and not a solution to heavy traffic in the area. Would you support converting the intersection into a roundabout instead of using traffic lights?


The intersection is not well understood, and does remove many of the lights and improves traffic flow.  I’d be happy to go through the design with you and how it will change the flow of traffic on Taylor and pedestrianism generally.  This intersection is a modified roundabout.  The project has to be looked at in context with Riverlands and the opening of that area for development.  Currently we are sitting on the most valuable piece of property in the city with very limited access.  The business case for the intersection is very strong and will have an excellent return on investment.   Further is eases the demand for a more capacity on Taylor Drive bridge which would come at a significantly higher cost.
It is a solution for high volumes of traffic.  Traffic studies have been done and demonstrate it well.  There have been several public open houses that were well attended and there is support for the project.


I asked during council debates if roundabouts had been consider.  As you may know, I’m an advocate for roundabouts.  I believe I’ve been able to influence discussions enough that roundabouts are being considered for every intersection design in the future.  We have a few in the city now and three major ones in the plans.


I’m assuming that when Mr. Harris says the intersection is not well understood, he means the plans for it and not as it exists. I also think a major sticking point for people is that this project is meant to increase access to a part of the city that hasn’t been developed yet. I think if the Railyards were already developed, you’d see almost the opposite sentiment, where people would be clamouring for better road access.


The plans for the intersection are online, as is the traffic study done for the project. It took some looking to find them, but they’re there. Again, one of those things that could be easier to find on the city’s website. What I think is important here is that Mr. Harris approached this question by outlining the benefits for the intersection, the Taylor bridge and how it will connect newer developments in the city. Compare that to opponents of it who only throw the cost of the project out and that there will be traffic lights somewhere as a result. Of course, most people will hear a shock and awe statement about millions of dollars spent on an intersection more than they will about why it’s being done in the first place. The same goes for explaining plans. Show an average person a land use plan and diagram. Then show them the bill. Which one do you think they’ll pay more attention to?


Do you believe that businesses outside of the downtown core feel that those inside of it receive preferential treatment from the city? How do you respond to claims that businesses in the downtown area are heavily favoured by Council?

Not at all.  The city’s core generally needs to be supported because it delivers a high proportion of the tax revenue which in turn supports residential and other commercial areas operating costs.  In fact there is a lot of work that still needs to be done to improve the downtown.  When a city’s heart is fully functioning the city as a whole functions.  Many decisions were made in the past that lead to the demise of the downtown.  When I opened my business here it was in a sad state of repair.  It’s only been since a former city council envision the Greater Downtown Action Plan and put resources into that work that investment is returning.
If you were to compare the tax revenue collected to the land throughout the city you’d city that the city centre is a major contributor and has a lot of untapped potential that could help every aspect of our community.
I think part of Mr. Harris’s answer captures why cities like Vancouver and Calgary have vibrant downtown areas. They function as social and economic hubs. People want to go there, they want to spend time there. It breaks down to “there is stuff to do there.” Granted, Red Deer’s downtown is fairly small and outside of the restaurants and stores, there’s not really much else there. I think there’s a lot of work to be done before I’d sit at home and think, “you know, downtown Red Deer is pretty awesome, I’ll go spend the day there.” I still say the same thing about downtown Edmonton. That’s what five years a Skytrain ride away from downtown Vancouver will do to you though…


I’d also agree that businesses outside the downtown core may not feel the ones in it receive preferential treatment. They pay no business tax, so there’s a benefit the downtown businesses don’t have. I’d wager it’s more individuals in the city who feel that downtown businesses are more privileged. It’s odd to hear those people claim that the downtown area should be revitalized, but then hear them claim that businesses downtown are favoured by council. Given that those businesses in the downtown Business Revitalization Zone are the only ones in the city that pay business tax, wouldn’t it be fair to assume a bit more focus would be placed on the area? If you told people who think businesses downtown are favoured that the BRZ tax zone would be removed, but that to make up for lost tax income their property taxes would go up, what do you think their response would be? Yes, that’s a bit of a dirty tactic, but


How will you promote Red Deer as a desirable city for new business? Would you approach this differently for businesses in the downtown core than outside it?
I will promote Red Deer.  It’s my focus on economic development actually that is a strength for council.  Every part of the city will need to be promoted differently as each has different things to offer.


I believe that we must diversify our economy, as we focus on quality of life issues here.  These are inseparably linked.  A thriving healthy community has an abundance of social offerings, is beautiful to live in and be part of — it’s identity oozes from its streets, parks, and gathering spaces, and it’s incredibly open and welcoming, especially its young people and newcomers.


I believe that over the coming years and decades the foundation of Alberta’s economy will shift and places that have strong quality of life will attract new investment and innovation.  Cities with outstanding gathering places for people, and excellent connections to nature, parks and green spaces encourage citizens to stay and invite newcomers.  They also invite new business.


It’s cities where citizens are proud of their place and become involved that will be able diversify their economic base and rise to meet the challenges of a shifting global economy.
I want to live in a city that has an abundance of things to offer it’s citizens, and yet is connected to the world.  Red Deer is on the right track.

It’s important to recognize that Mr. Harris acknowledges that different kinds of business in different areas of the city need to be attracted or promoted in different ways. It’s one thing to spread your arms to business and say “come here!” It’s another to open up to business and say, “manufacturers, here what we have to offer you! Services, here’s what we have for you! Hospitality, come check out this awesome location!” Targeting new business as individuals instead of lumping them all together would, I think, have better results.

That said, I think more focus could have been placed on that in the response. Mr. Harris does identify the benefits of economic diversification and the results of a strong economy, but other than noting different businesses should be approached differently, there’s not much in the ways of how that promotion or approach will take place. Yes, areas with high quality of life will attract economic investment, but you have to start this cycle somewhere by attracting it in the first place.

I’d also like to see more said on the approach to businesses in the downtown area. These will provide a significant tax base, so I think it’s important to understand how a new business could be convinced to locate there and pay taxes, instead of outside the BRZ and pay no business tax.

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