Original Published on Sep 28, 2022 at 08:41
By David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Residents of Calvin Township met at the Community Centre this past last week to hear from the candidates in this fall’s municipal election. A common refrain was that Town Hall needs to become more transparent, and efforts must be made to unify the community for the common good.
Wanetta Sparks and Jed Gorham—both Calvin residents—organized the September 20th event, which provided a forum for the two mayoral candidates and councillors to present their platforms to the community. School board trustee Caren Gagne was there as well, hoping to secure her place at the table, as was Erika Lougheed, who has her sights on joining the board.
After each candidate said their piece, they mingled with the public to answer any questions. There are “a lot of new people in this community,” Gorham noted, and encouraged everyone to get to know each other and the candidates.
Mayor Ian Pennell explained that he “looks forward to serving as mayor of this beautiful township” for another term. He was elected mayor last term and has spent 16 years on council. For two terms he served as deputy mayor. Pennell noted that during this current term, council upgraded the fire hall, purchased a new fire truck, and secured a grant to buy a “much needed” new grader. Updates were also made to the Community Centre to make it more accessible.
Pennell wants to keep the momentum going, but mayoral candidate Richard Gould wants to serve and deal with the “pressing issues” facing the community. There are “more coming,” he said, referring to issues coming down the pipe.
Gould is concerned that “there is a move afoot to standardize municipalities.” Smaller communities will often adapt and revise by-laws from other communities. This saves staff time—and money—as a lot of the legwork is already done. However, a cautious approach must be taken when doing this, Gould emphasized, as “each municipality is different.”
Many bylaws that work well in other towns “would make no sense in Calvin Township,” and he wants to ensure by-laws will reflect the needs and concerns of the community. Let’s “strive for a united front for Calvin,” he told the crowd, one where “secrecy is replaced with transparency.”
“We need to work together,” Gould concluded, a thought shared by many who spoke that night. Candidate Courtney Desjardins wants to have people “more unified and involved in our town,” and promised she will be “always available” to residents.
Notably, Dean Grant and Heather Olmstead are running. Both resigned from council last year after a report from the township’s integrity commissioner, Expertise for Municipalities (E4M), indicated each had contravened the municipal code of conduct.
The report’s conclusions did not sit well with either Grant or Olmstead, and when Olmstead resigned last October, she made a point to mention Grant’s dedication to his work and community. Now both are back, and Grant explained that “communication” between Town Hall and the people is the biggest issue he wants to challenge.
Like Gould—whom Grant endorses for mayor—he worries about the influence E4M has regarding by-laws, “to standardize” them, and he wants laws “specific to Calvin.” His plans also include “fixing the fire department” and focusing on the landfill and improving roads. The “common goal is to serve the rate payer.”
E4M came up a few times. Candidate Debbie Adams mentioned she had concerns with E4M and explained how she wanted to keep Calvin “a happy and healthy place” for residents. Candidate Bill Moreton noted that on the Calvin Convo Facebook group, “a lot of people hate E4M,” and the current council has “a lot of controversy to overcome.”
He noted a high turnover of township employees over the past term, and Moreton mentioned there are “a lot of things they can’t talk about” regarding why they left. “We have no proof that there was a toxic work environment although that seems to be the common opinion of the township,” he said. The crowd cheered Moreton more than any other speaker.
Olmstead, who has six generations of Calvin living behind her, mentioned she wants to make the community “whole again,” and promised to work with neighbouring municipalities to improve internet and phone connections.
“I want transparency” from council, she concluded. Same with candidate Jeremy Rodgers, who yearns for a “council that can work together” without personal agendas “to keep Calvin the place we fell in love with.”
Current councillor Christine Shippam acknowledged change “could be great” and she wants “to ensure it works for everyone, not just the few.” Councillor Sandy Cross also addressed the staffing issues, noting that without great staff, the township is “at a standstill.”
Cross noted each year the township receives “less government funding” and is dedicated to trying to keep taxes down. She also wants to create “a formal plan to promote and market Calvin,” and devise “a realistic strategic plan.”
Councillor Bart Castelyn took the stage and admitted he was nervous, but during his speech, he received the most laughs of any candidate. He also mentioned the staff issue, and “the next council must stabilize that environment,” he said. He also wants to increase residential development to help build the tax base.
Council candidate Robert Latimer sent his regrets to the room as he was unable to attend the evening.
Gorham has posted a video of the candidates’ night on his YouTube channel, Jedediah Gorham.