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Morrow says lessons learned in 2016 will benefit mayoral campaign in 2020

Morrow says lessons learned in 2016 will benefit mayoral campaign in 2020
Mayoral candidate Josh Morrow. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

After a combative election campaign in 2016, Prince Albert mayoral candidate Josh Morrow said he’s eager to focus on the positives in 2020.

Morrow filed his paperwork on Tuesday to become the fourth and final candidate seeking the City’s top job. He called the 2016 campaign—where he declined nearly all interview requests from the Daily Herald—a learning experience. However, he added that he’s eager to focus on issues this year, and plans to put the lessons he learned in the last campaign to good use.

“Life’s about trying something,” Morrow said during an interview on Thursday. “People fail. People succeed. People look back and wish they would have done better. People want to improve on certain things that maybe they weren’t happy with last time.”

“I’ve got feedback from the community in so many different ways in order to improve myself and to improve the message that I need to get across to the people of this city,” he added. “It’s do better, learn from your mistakes, come back stronger, and prove to the people that you want this job.”

Morrow placed third out of four candidates in 2016, finishing behind incumbent Greg Dionne and former city councillor Martin Ring. It was his first foray into municipal politics, and he didn’t want it to be his last.

“Nobody likes a quitter,” Morrow said. “I definitely wanted to make sure that people know how much I care about this city, how much I care about them and their families, and how persistent I will be and how hard I will fight for residents of this community.”

Morrow promised to release more details about his platform in the coming weeks, but said the focus will be on policies that promote and support healthy families and quality of life issues.

Public safety was the biggest concern. He’s worried about reports from the Prince Albert Fire Department that the city lacks adequate fire coverage, which has resulted in delayed response times. Morrow said the City needs to address the issue before it becomes an even bigger problem.

“We don’t need to have a catastrophe in order to make a change,” he explained. “I think that’s something that is absolutely paramount—to make sure those firemen can get to a burning property.”

Policing is also a major priority. Morrow said recent events have thrust the issue front and centre.

“With everything that’s been going on over the last six months to a year, it is continually escalating and getting to a point where it’s really starting to affect a lot of people that probably didn’t think that it ever would,” he said. “Those are things that are going to directly impact the citizens’ lives, and that’s what I’ll be focusing on.”

He revealed few details on Thursday, but said he’s open to supporting the controversial Back Alley Curfew Bylaw when it comes up for review.

Prince Albert city council passed the bylaw after lengthy and at times heated debate over whether it would lead to racial profiling. They even postponed a vote on the bylaw to hold further consultations with the Prince Albert Grand Council.

If the trial period shows the bylaw is working as intended, Morrow said he’ll support it.

“It’s so new, and in my opinion, it needs to run its course to get a clear understanding of how successful it’s been,” he said. “Time is going to be the major factor.”

Regardless, Morrow said Prince Albert residents want a safer city, and he promised to introduce a campaign platform that will address those needs.

Morrow also said the city needs to attract new businesses and visitors to Prince Albert. Past administrations haven’t done enough to promote and showcase the city in a positive way, he said, and the next one needs to do better.

“I believe that this has been neglected over the last four to eight years,” he explained. “We really need to start showcasing the beauty of where we live and bring everybody together as a community to get that done.”

Morrow declined to discuss some issues, emphasizing that he plans to released more details about his campaign at a later date.

The biggest was about the recent decision to purchase a $6.5-million property to build a $60-million aquatics and arenas complex in downtown Prince Albert. Morrow said it’s a polarizing topic, and he wasn’t prepared to wade into the fray just yet.

“I don’t want to speak specifically on this right now,” he said. “I’d like to get a little bit more information and then wade into that a little bit down the road. What I really want to focus on is making differences in the life of each and every resident, and get back to the actual things that truly do matter and impact peoples’ lives.”

Morrow has worked in the Environmental Sciences field for the last 13 years, a job that’s taken him across Western Canada. He also purchased and renovated a number of properties in Prince Albert. The biggest one was a 24-unit apartment building on 27th Street East, less than a block away from the Kinsmen Arena.

Morrow began renovating and refurbishing eight units that were destroyed by flooding, with the goal of turning the building into new housing for immigrant communities. The cost of the project totaled more than $1.2-million, and had the support of a number of residents who lived in the neighbourhood.

He sought a tax abatement for the development in August under the Declining Scale Tax Rollback Program. City council said they appreciated his efforts to revitalize old buildings in established neighbourhoods, but rejected his application on the advice of the City’s planning department. Planning and Development Director Craig Guidinger wrote that the project did not meet the program qualifications because it was not an identified community need and did not support a niche market. The tax abatement request was estimated at around $67,200.

Morrow was also fined more than $11,000 in January 2019 for non-compliance with a City bylaw order after being told to fix up an abandoned home on the 800 Block of 12th Street West. At the time, Morrow’s legal council argued that the home was structurally sound, and that he was trying to renovate the property to turn it into quality housing. He was originally fined more than $17,000, but that was reduced on appeal.

Morrow faces incumbent Greg Dionne, former Saskatchewan Party cabinet minister Darryl Hickie, and current city council Dennis Nowoselsky in the 2020 mayoral election. The vote takes place on Nov. 9. Nominations closed on Wednesday.

Editor’s Note: this article has been updated to include mayoral candidate Josh Morrow’s full quote about policing. It has also been updated to include the correct size of the apartment building on 27th Street East. The Daily Herald apologizes for any confusion.