In his own words: Ward 5 candidate Don Wood

Don Wood is running for city council in Ward 5. Submitted photo.
  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?

One thing I have mentioned from the start is my anticipation of working on a team at this level. This group of people is making decisions for you and I, the citizens of this city. We need a group who can function in a collaborative, respectful way. Are we always going to agree? Of course not. But this is one place where the old adage of “agree to disagree” has to be practiced in its most respectful way. We have seen recently, in another area, that people want to see a council who can work together and be mutually respectful. That is what my team strategy has always been: a group of people coming together with a common goal and working in collaborative, respectful, positive environment to attain that goal. This can be said for any type of group as well, whether it be a work group, a social group or club or just a bunch of friends getting together to complete a project.

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?

This is a very large and impactful question. Infrastructure concerns are definitely not limited to Prince Albert. Working with aging water and sewer systems and deteriorating roadways are costly ventures. These are decisions that fit well with question number 1. This would be a great brainstorming session for the council team to set priorities based on need, issues with existing systems, budgetary factors and public concern (not necessarily in that order). We definitely need to be proactive when finances and circumstances allow but from my vantage point, it appears that a number of these issues are being rectified on a reactionary basis. To be completely honest, the rec centre I believe is a separate question and as to the other issues, I would think there would be several factors that would aid in creating the priority list such as their current state/condition, when was the last time any type of maintenance or upgrade was performed, history of issues, etc. A number of these issues I feel are more based in need and ability to rectify rather than my preference as to where they’d fall on a personal priority list.

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?

In various roles I have been in over the years, we’ve performed something called Root Cause Analysis. For all intents and purposes, this is the process of trying to determine what really happened in a situation. I don’t believe this is a matter of throwing more or less money at a situation (although I believe less funding might be a slippery slope). We need to start trying to determine why we rank such as we do with the crime rate and approach the issue from that level. Band-Aid solutions are a short term solution but we need to work on finding out what the root issue is and then start fashioning long term solutions from there. This is not an easy fix but that is part of the reason why we need to take some time and work on it.

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?

This to too large of an issue to solve in one paragraph. If this was just a Prince Albert issue, we’d have a better shot at fashioning real and workable solutions but unfortunately, it’s not. This is a world-wide issue and one that isn’t going away anytime soon. I am going to be honest and say I don’t know. This is a great topic for the team work scenario I mentioned in question 1. I very much enjoy working in brainstorming sessions where all ideas are thrown into the mix and every idea is thoroughly discussed. That is the only way I think we’re going to come up with some new thinking on this topic. I fully believe that Covid is going to further exacerbate this issue, making it even more difficult to find workable solutions. I truly hope I am wrong on that though…..

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?

Yes and no. One thing that I believe is driving this issue is the radical change in technology in a relatively short period of time. Back in the day (if I may be so bold as to use that saying), we had the newspaper and the 6 o’clock news as our means of finding out what was going on in our community and beyond. This made it quite simple to communicate any information that seemed necessary to get across to the masses. These days, communications knows no bounds. We get our information from a few remaining newspaper steadfasts but now we also have 900 channels of television, Twitter, Facebook, and a mind-boggling list of other venues. To me, it’s not a wonder that information isn’t being effectively communicated as I don’t know where to look anymore! City Hall can absolutely come up with some stronger solutions to communicating better with the residents but I believe transmission of those messages has become increasingly more difficult as well.

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

This is a great question and ironically timed for my wife and I as I left for work this morning only to find that one of our vehicles had been rummaged through, yet again. This is incident number 4 for us. Granted, we most likely forgot to lock the doors on the car but I have to assume that the doors are being checked nightly as we rarely forget to lock our vehicles. Crime is a huge factor for me personally as my wife and I have been the victims of crime with both our vehicles and our home. This is another area where there unfortunately isn’t a quick solution. I believe the rate of crime is a product of several factors including gang involvement, poverty, homelessness, substance abuse and difficult family situations. As one option, I would like to look at more community involved solutions such as rural and urban crime watch organizations. It would be great to have a larger police presence but as we all know, that comes at a price.

7) Why should people vote for you?

I would appreciate people’s support as I believe I can be a positive voice on council. I will work collaboratively with my fellow councilors, respect all opinions and represent the wants and needs of not only my fellow Ward 5 residents but also the residents of Prince Albert. We need a council that can work together in a respectful, functional and effective manner that will benefit our city and its residents.

8) What are your plans to improve parks/Little Red? The city has released a Little Red River Park master plan, but its 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?

We definitely need to make the city more physically attractive, on top of making it financially attractive. We, as a council, would need to look at alternate means of financing projects that beautify our city. A great deal is asked of our citizens already in the way of financing so I don’t think we need to try and dip into that well any further, for matters such as this.

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 don’t think this a wait and see issue at all. The city needs to be involved from the get-go so to speak, and I believe they have been. Small business is struggling as we have already witnessed in P.A. The shop where I have gone for years to get my hair cut has closed their doors. Big business has not suffered (as far as I can see) as much as the smaller operations have. Smaller businesses are often family owned and in many cases, the sole income for some families. We need to work with the local businesses to help them come up with solutions to thrive and grow in this changing environment. Whether that is through suggesting alternate/additional business practice ideas that they possibly haven’t thought about, or through the obvious assistance methods such as tax breaks and operating expenses assistance.