In his own words — Ward 3 candidate Evert Botha

Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha speaks to supporters as he launches his re-election campaign on Aug. 31, 2020. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

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?

>>> Over the years I’ve learnt not to take anything too personal. We are elected to represent our residents, and to look after their best interests as we conduct business and debate matters on the agenda. I respect everyone’s opinions – but don’t believe that every opinion expressed should be questioned or criticized by other members just for the sake of airtime. Every resident deserves to be heard and should be respected, afforded the opportunity to speak and present their case. The same goes for every member of City Council, and every member of Administration.

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?

>>> As far as I’m concerned- if it flows, it’s a go. Our ageing water and sewer should be our number one infrastructure priorities. There are several large projects currently underway, and even more on the horizon. Some decisions will need to me made with regards to the Water Utility once the review is completed. We’ve been talking about Central Ave for years now- and hopefully we are able to move forward on the planning of, and the budgeting for the “Big Dig” to ensure that the Community and business can return to the heart of our City.

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?

>>> Crime- fuelled by gangs, addictions, mental health and poverty has been rising steadily over the last 8 years, and there’s no sign of it slowing down. We need to hear more from our members as to their needs and provided them with the opportunity to bring new ideas to the table as it is clear that the current plan is simply not working. I would support increasing the police budget if there’s a viable plan. To me, it is clear that the PAPS should take the lead in funding, and working more closely with Neighbourhood Watch Groups, and programs such as the Str8-Up Community Intervention Model. The PAPS should work with the various City departments on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. We need to invest more in our people, and I would gladly see that we change the current levies (taxes) to reduce the roadways base tax and introduce a Community Safety and Security Enhancement Initiatives levy (tax). What’s the use of new roads and curbs if residents don’t feel safe?

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?

>>> Continued from above. Yes, we cannot continue to say that homelessness, addictions and poverty are Provincial or Federal issues. These are residents of Prince Albert, and we need to commit ourselves to eradicating homelessness in our Community and work towards implementing and supporting harm reduction strategies. We should revisit all our taxpayer-funded Community Clubs to determine whether they could be better utilized for seniors and youth programs. Programs such as HOP Youth who work with youth and children who are typically considered “at-risk” and from disadvantaged family situations or are needing help in developing confidence in social settings.

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’ve been advocating for the live streaming of all meetings held at City Hall so as to afford ALL residents the opportunity to tune into the discussions and debates. These could be streamed on the CoPA website, YouTube and Facebook. We cannot assume that all residents are on social media and as such- we need to ensure that we hand-deliver notices well in advance of any major infrastructure projects. Public Consultation has been talked about a lot. The current agenda process needs to be reviewed as 4 days is simply not enough for members of the public (let alone members of Council) to provide input. I would recommend a minimum of two weeks for public agenda review before any meeting. Reports from administration should also be on the Executive Committee agenda BEFORE advancing to the City Council agenda. Public Consultation means all residents are consulted- and not just residents with access to the internet.

Some pretty major decisions have been made on the responses from 442 residents. Based on this survey- a decision was made to build two new arena sports facilities when the priorities (in fact) were in the following order:

•  Aquatic Facilities

•  Science Centres

•  Senior’s Activity Spaces

•  Fitness/Wellness Facilities

•  Youth Drop-In Centres

•  Indoor Playgrounds

•  Child Care Facilities

•  Indoor Walking/Running Tracks

•  Library Spaces

•  Arena Sports Facilities

Too many decisions are rushed through without any time for Public Consultation, and even then, the priorities are not given any consideration.

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

>>> Crime. We need to put our residents’ safety and security first. We should invest more money in viable programs such as Neighbourhood Watches- perhaps even see whether partnerships can be forged with private security companies to monitor hotspots.

We need to be more vigilant in our response to nuisance and derelict properties. A 21-day period to comply of a Bylaw matter is far too much grace. We need to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to dealing with landlords who are not compliant with applicable Bylaws.

7. 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?

>>> Yes. We should provide safe spaces for residents to enjoy. The Little Red River Park Master Plan is something I would like to see whether we can work with the Province to develop this destination which is one of the best-kept secrets in Saskatchewan. It’s a costly exercise- which will benefit the region as a whole. We have already increased the budget for the improvement of playgrounds and spray parks, and CoPA Administration are working through a list of priorities in coming years. We should be open to more partnerships for the development of recreation facilities and need to ensure that they serve the needs of our Community.

8. 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?

>>> We need to listen to the needs of our locally owned businesses. They are the true drivers of our economy, and builders of our Community. If there’s a need for once-off tax abatement or reduction- we should consider it. We need to evaluate each request based on the impact on the Community. We’re already seeing many of the larger retailers challenge their property assessments and we need to plan for any decision made by the Courts.

9. Why should people vote for you?

>>> I listen to the residents of Ward 3- and have been advocating for them these last 4 years. I’ve been open, transparent and consistent in all the decisions I supported at City Hall. I am immensely proud of everything we’ve accomplished, most importantly- that we have come together as a Community.

I will continue to advocate for the safety and security of each and every resident of our Ward 3 Community, and work towards the continued investment in, and growth of our City.