In his own words — mayoral candidate Darryl Hickie

We asked candidates nine questions about their vision for the city, what makes them the best candidate and where they stand on local issues. An edited version of this feature ran in print on Saturday, Nov. 7. Unedited responses will be posted on our city elections page.

1) Council can be divisive and public reaction to controversial decisions critical. How would you handle dissenting opinions on council or public criticism, and can we count on you to respect all opinions, whether you agree or not?

I’m a firm believer in following procedural protocols and rules of order. I found that as a provincial politician if the need arose to use the rules to maintain decorum that they are very useful. I also believe that if the rules are understood by everyone then it’s much easier for them to police themselves.

Mayor and Councillors will have dissenting opinions, its when they’re disrespectful while they are raising them that I take exception with, and as the Chair will ensure the procedural rules are adhere to so we maintain decorum.

2) The city is facing several major urgent infrastructure needs, such as the new recreation centre, roads in need of repaving, the central avenue replacement and aging water and sewer infrastructure. How would you prioritize what work needs to be done without breaking the bank? What do you think the top infrastructure priorities are?

We have Federal and Provincial dollars on the table for the new $60 Million Dollar aquatic and two rink recreation centre to the tune of $44 Million Dollars, so we need to bring our share of the remaining $16 Million Dollars to the table otherwise the Fed/Prov money will be lost. Where we build the project is not contingent on us receiving the Fed/Prov money.

The next major infrastructure project is the new Waste Water Treatment plant. We need to be honest with our community and let them know there is no Federal/Provincial Infrastructure program today that will help us cost share the massive capital cost for this (estimated towards $80 Million Dollars as reported in the Herald last year).

We can hope for another major capital infrastructure program to help, but without any guarantees we need to work with the city financial officials to plan a contingency plan where we might need to borrow more than anticipated for the project.

Then there’s been some recent references to a venue to hold Rock Concerts and one can only surmise that this would be a new bigger arena to house the Raiders as well. Again there is no Federal/Provincial infrastructure program available today, (and recently an application was denied), or confirmed for the future. We cannot manage an increase to our debt to fund an entire $65-80 Million Dollar project, we need to be aware that we are going to be dangerously close to our maximum debt level WITHOUT a third rink project.

Needs over wants as I’ve said during my campaign.

3) One of the biggest line items in the city’s budget is the police budget. Do you support increasing or decreasing the police budget? If increasing, where will that money come from? If decreasing, where will it go?

I am a firm believer that additional Police Officers are needed for a dedicated Guns and Gangs Unit that will support our Intelligence and Major Crimes Units after years of neglecting the evidence of rising gun and gang violence for the past number of years.

I see the resources to fund these new officers partially coming from the existing Police Administration line of the overall police budget, and with an aggressive efficiency audit conducted to the overall City budget additional resources will be redirected to assist as well.

4) The city is facing rising rates of crime and poverty. While enforcement is part of the picture, so is prevention, including supporting the most vulnerable. Should the city play a bigger role in fighting poverty and homelessness? If so, how?

Crime does not happen in a vacuum. Homelessness and addictions need to be addressed. I would put together a Mayoral Council comprised of the Métis and Prince Albert Grand Council Leadership, Front Line Community Based Organizations, Mental Health and Addictions Professionals as well as Physicians trained in addictions.

Elected officials have a social responsibility to our city and I will ask these experts to the table and work with them myself as partners. I have already been advised by some of the individuals who will make up this working group that we have resources already in place in Prince Albert that need to be pulled together. As such this working partnership group will advise on what we need to do for a made in Prince Albert solution at little or no cost to the City.

5) The city has come under fire recently for poor communication with residents. Do you see this as a problem? How will you address this?

I do see the lack of communication with our citizens being a problem. I also see a lack of overall consultations on major projects and our budgeting process that impact our citizens.

I will push for a more proactive communication policy and allow for affected individuals and groups time to present concerns to Council and Officials.

I will also ensure a minimum of 30 days for the public to have access to and raise questions at the yearly budget process again if elected.

6) What, to you, is the biggest issue facing the city/ward? What do you propose as a solution?

I see the increase in violent crime and debt load that’s just over the horizon as our biggest issue doing forward given that we haven’t planned properly for that.

Without any confirmed Federal/Provincial Infrastructure cost sharing program in the near future we need an aggressive efficiency audit each and every year to find savings, I’m talking about discretionary spending here and not about laying off front line staff. We also need our finance officials to put forth a strategic plan to make the pending debt manageable without incurring massive tax increases.

7) Why should people vote for you?

I have the background in law enforcement to help us address our increase in gangs, guns and violence, but more importantly my background in governance will bring a new direction and decorum to the office of Mayor. We can do so much better. City Council needs to adhere to a respectful chamber even while dissenting opinions are being presented.

If elected I won’t make announcements about companies coming to our City, only
to have them not come to fruition. I will not promise jobs until the principals/owners announce their intentions publicly. I will work hard to promote our City as a destination where people want to be, live or visit in a safe and healthy community.

8) What are your plans to improve parks/Little Red? The city has released a Little Red River Park master plan, but it’s many goals could prove costly. Meanwhile, the city’s playgrounds are also in need of an upgrade. Is improving the city’s recreation facilities a priority?

Outdoor recreation areas such as parks and Little Red need work. I want the city officials to establish a priority list and let’s use their expertise to advise us on how to best work towards improved outdoor facilities for our City and families.

9) COVID-19 might be spiking again, but it won’t be here forever. When this pandemic has passed us by, what role should the city play in helping businesses bounce back.

I would establish a stand alone Economic Development Office with its own Director if I’m able to serve as your Mayor. I would encourage private developers to have a vision and develop their site knowing full well that the new Economic Development Office will work with the private developers who attract new businesses with a set of tax incentives for these new businesses.

This Economic Development Office would consult with local businesses large and small to establish a bench mark and work towards eliminating any and all impediments to business attraction and growth. To ensure our businesses can thrive and not simply survive would be the goal, as we work through the pandemic. Of course the same applies after the pandemic.