In his own words — Mayoral candidate Greg Dionne

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne provides a COVID-19 response update in a video posted on Wednesday, April 1. -- City of Prince Albert/YouTube

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 don’t expect all members of City Council to unanimously support every issue/report/recommendation that comes before them.  I do expect that there will be honest, frank and healthy discussions on each issue.  When the question is called, all members of City Council vote for and against.  We tally the votes and carry on to the next matter on the agenda.

Since this is a democratic process, I do respect the decision of City Council has made by the majority vote.

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?

The top infrastructure priorities for the City is the roadways paving program, our aging infrastructure, taxation, utility bills and the new Recreation Center. Projects are prioritized according to accountability to our tax payers, provincial and federal funds, gas tax funding and lobbying of other grant funding. We will continue to lobby funding through grants to fund essential projects such as the Raw Water Pump House.

As taxpayers for the City of Prince Albert, your tax dollars are used to fund essential emergency services for the public safety of our City which includes policing and fire services. However, we must remember that your tax dollars are also used to fund the City’s aging infrastructure, promote recreation, cultural and youth programming and services, roadway, pathway and snow clearing services, playgrounds and parks, and various other services. Over the last several years, as Mayor, I have worked hard with our elected officials to provide low taxation to our community. The City’s tax increase for 2020 was kept at a low of 2.9% while other Cities such as Regina and Saskatoon have had significant tax increases over several years. It is my goal to continue working with our Administration and Council to ensure property taxes are not increased significantly while maintaining service levels. Over the last several years, the City has invested into our roadways. The current backlog that exists for the paved roadway network is estimated at $45.5 million dollars. As Mayor, it is my goal to continue with our paving program and not cut the paving program to fund policing or other costs. The paving program has been very well received by the citizens as they can see the direct results for their money on the roads they drive.

Over the past 20 years, the City has resurfaced, reconstructed or constructed 139 km of roadways within the City of Prince Albert. In the last five years, this Council has approved the Roadways Paving Budget at $20.4 to increase the roads and streets in our entire community.

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?

As Mayor and member of the Board of Police Commissioners, I will always support the Police Service Budget and the cost to enhance community safety and policing initiatives in our community. However, we need to be accountable to our taxpayers on the increases that we approve for policing to ensure tax increases are kept low. Partnerships are key to provide funding for policing.

The Prince Albert Police Service is funded with 23 positions from the Provincial Government out of the total of 129 positions in our Province. The Province funds 80% of the cost of a police officer. That current funding framework does not fund the entire cost of a police officer. As Mayor, we will continue to lobby the Provincial Government in a continued commitment and growth in that partnership both in the amount of positions funded and the amount of funding received per officer to meet the true cost of policing. We are so grateful for the partnerships with our Provincial Government and the support we receive for policing in our Community.

My priority is to continue working with all levels of government to work towards continued growth to meet the growing policing demands of our community.

As Mayor for this City, I am committed to continue working towards growth through partnerships that share the expense of policing in achieving a healthier community.

As Mayor, there have been positive changes to support our community safety and enhance policing in our City that we as a Board approved to fund as a priority:
• Our new Police Service Downtown Substation is strategically located in the downtown where we need high visibility. The Substation is home for the HUB Meetings.
• The Substation houses our new Community Policing Unit who patrols the Rotary Trail, the downtown core and works with the schools in our community to educate our youth and children.
• Our new expanded Canine Unit complements policing initiatives and helps to protect and keep safe our residents and members.
• Our Guns and Gangs Unit is working hard to address the violence in our community.
• Our new Community Safety Officers are visible on our streets and assist with front-line policing.

Our Prince Albert Police Service is dedicated and committed to our community to provide public safety to our residents. In this time of violence and crime in our community, our members are working long hours to enforce initiatives to address all crime and violence.  

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?

The City should always work with our partners to assist with homelessness and poverty in our community. As Mayor, I want to continue to work with our partners and community based organizations to address the root causes to crime and poverty. However, it takes more than policing to address crime and violence in a community.  Our Police Service is doing a great job.  Other Police jurisdictions are experiencing the same crimes of violence, addictions and mental health issues.  We are not alone. We further recognize that police play an important role but poverty, addictions and social issues are at the core and a community response with all partners is necessary to achieve in our shared goals.  

As Mayor, I am committed to continue working towards reconciliation and lead towards positive change as seen in the Calls to Justice and the Calls to Action, and the work that has been done with great examples such as the structure of our Police Board.

The YWCA’s new cold weather shelter is now open. It features more comfortable and welcoming environment, extended hours, more staff, and a direct connection with the YWCA’s Homeward Bound program to allow interested people to quickly get into temporary or permanent housing.

We need to ensure we have the youth programming to provide opportunities to engage our youth in cultural and recreation. Keeping our Youth off the streets in an integral component to combat homelessness.

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?

Communication is key to keeping our community informed and engaged and my goal is to always strive to keep our residents informed.

Our commitment to public communication was supported when Council this year approved an additional Communications’ position to enhance the frequency and quality of communication to our residents, focusing on matters that impact our residents. The Communications Department is also making it a priority in 2021 to ensure that communication standards are improved and we will be assessing internal communication processes to enhance our level of service to the community. My goal as Mayor is that our residents are fully informed on projects that may impact their property or wellbeing in a timely manner and have the ability to ask questions and consult with City officials.

As Mayor, I supported communications as they relate to policing and the Board has also approved a permanent Public Relations and Media Coordinator to provide key messages on policing initiatives and enforcement. The new funded Husky Digital Billboard is another great way to communicate with our residents.

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

As Mayor, I am committed to making sure that our community is safe, protected, healthy and vibrant.  As Mayor, I want to provide community safety and a healthy place to work and play.  I want to build our City and see growth in our people and educate and employ our local residents. I want to continue supporting all Youth Programs as I believe if we keep our Youth busy and give them options to be active and engaged, this will keep our Youth on a positive path and provide opportunities. I want to continue building partnerships and securing funding to enhance our policing initiatives and enforcement.

I want to provide health and wellness to our residents with opportunities such as the new Entertainment Centre, new Aquatic Centre, the new University of Saskatchewan Campus, the opportunities with forestry.

I acknowledge that we are challenged with crime but focusing on creating a healthy community will provide positive gains.  We need to be proactive and preventive with our strategies and policing enforcement and initiatives. 

As Mayor, our residents hold us accountable on water and sewer utility rates. Our residents cannot afford higher utility rates.  As Mayor, I am committed to reviewing the utility rate structure to ensure that rates are not increased significantly as we plan to replace our aging and deteriorating infrastructure. Other services such as recreation facilities, recycling and garbage pick-up continue to be a priority for our residents.  We will continue to lobby the Federal Government for Gas Tax Funding and other funding to fund large infrastructure projects in our community.

It’s important to consider meeting all the interests of the community and I am committed to ensuring your tax dollars are used in a fiscally responsible way to meet the needs of all our residents and to achieve in our desired growth and prosperity of our City.

7) Why should people vote for you?

As Mayor for the City, I am committed to working with our residents and various community groups to enhance opportunities for our residents and better serve the public’s interests.  I am a Community Mayor while other Mayoral candidates are suggesting a leadership model of dictating changes, rather than achieving in partnerships. 

I have proven my leadership and as Mayor I am committed to a recovery from the pandemic and ensuring a healthy, safe and strong recovery. My priority is the putting the public’s interests first.

As Mayor, I am committed to continue working towards reconciliation and lead towards positive change as seen in the Calls to Justice and the Calls to Action, and the work that has been done with great examples such as the structure of our Police Board.

I am a strong supporter of all sports right from hockey, football, baseball to lacrosse. You will notice when you go to Raider, Minto, Titans, Bears, any minor hockey games, that the signs show that Mayor Dionne personally sponsors many of the events. The sponsorship is personal funding and not funding from the City.

Thanks to my grandparents, I have a very special place in my heart for seniors. I work hard to provide the seniors with services that they require in our community and I participate in many of their events.

Additional Questions:

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?

The Little Red River Park Master Plan focuses on priorities over the next 10 years. It is important to phase it over this period of time so that the priorities can be achieved in an affordable manner. In the next few years the City will experience new amenities such as pedestrian bridges, trails, a bike skills park, and a new adventure park for children of all ages. These new amenities will compliment the new operation at the Cosmo Lodge and the Ski Hill. The City is also working with many partners to move the plan forward. The City recognizes the value of our many community partnerships in order to accomplish the priorities set out in the plan. Partnerships with our local Service Clubs and User Groups will remain our focus in order to accomplish the operational and capital improvements to the park. Little Red River Park is a popular destination for residents and visitors to our City so it will remain important to remain focused on the implementation of the Little Red River Park Master Plan.

The City also has over 30 playgrounds and parks throughout the City. In 2017 the City committed to an Annual Playground & Park Improvement Plan for these locations which provides an annual investment of approximately $200,000. Over the past 2 years new neighbourhood playgrounds have been added with more prioritized for the future in our neighbourhoods. An increase to the maintenance budget under the plan will continue to allow each location throughout the City to be maintained to a high standard. Community Partnerships remain an important focus in order to achieve the long term goals set out in the plan. An example includes the partnership with Malcolm Jenkins and the Canadian Tire Jump Start Program to construct the biggest inclusive and accessible playground of this type in Western Canada at the Alfred Jenkins Field House.

Spray Parks are a popular attraction throughout the City. We will continue to work toward replacing our remaining 2 paddling pools, upgrading some our existing spray parks and introducing new spray parks in our neighbourhoods.

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.

The City needs to work hard to attract more businesses and to put people back to work. By creating new jobs in our community, it will automatically flow down to small businesses, filling up our restaurants, and I believe that we are positioned in the right spot to come out of COVID-19.

We are already starting the rebuilding process by the approved new Aquatic and Arenas Recreation Centre and the Signature Development’s Entertainment District will provide job opportunities, growth for our City, economic prosperity and tourism.

The new hospital will create hundreds of new jobs during the construction. The talk from the University about expanding from 350 to 700 students again will create new jobs. I am working hard with the French Society to bring a new French school to our community. Again new construction and permanent teaching jobs once its opened.

The most exciting part is the growth in the Forestry Industry with 750 new jobs. You will notice these jobs I refer to as careers because they will be high end paying jobs that people will be able to buy a house and car and upgrade their lifestyle. This is just a few of the opportunities the position Prince Albert is in to restart after COVID. I will encourage Council to continue with our tax deferral programs to attract new businesses and new housing starts to the City of Prince Albert.