Ward 6 councillor seeks second term

Another first-term city councillor has announced his intention to run for re-election.

Coun. Blake Edwards was one of four first-time councillors elected back in 2016. He said representing Ward 6 was a great learning experience, and on Wednesday he announced plans to run for a second term.

“I’ve just learned so much over the last three and a half years on council,” he said. “It’s been a great, rewarding opportunity that I’ve had, and I just look forward to another four years.”

Edwards said communication with residents is important to be a successful council, and he’s confident he heard and met the concerns brought forward from residents over the past four years.

“I believe because I’m out in the community, in the arenas, in dance studios, in parks being a regular citizen with my family, it has allowed me to connect with so many residents from all over the city,” he wrote in an email. “It has allowed me to achieve the goals I set for my first term on council.”

Edwards spearheaded a number of initiatives during his first term on council. He urged city administration to look into landfill upgrades that could convert plastics into diesel fuel, led an effort to update Prince Albert’s dangerous weapons bylaw to include bear spray and tasers, and introduced a successful motion last May to raise the city’s minimum tax from $476 to $576.

“Our police and fire services, they cost approximately $1,800 per property, if that was divided equally amongst ratepayers, so addressing the minimum tax was important,” Edwards said on Thursday. “It’s sitting at $576 now, and that’s a start to some fairness.”

He also supported motions to implement a curfew on back alleys and public walkways, and voted in favour banned single-use plastic bags. Edwards voted for every municipal and police budget, and maintained that property tax increases during the past three years were enough to cover city costs without setting residents too far back financially.

Council approved property tax rate increases of 1.53 per cent for the 2018 budget, 3.9 per cent for the 2019 budget, and 2.9 for the 2020 budget.

Edwards said city council needs to continue addressing crime problems in the future, although that won’t necessarily involve spending more on the police budget or creating new bylaws. He said new facilities like the Canadian Tire Jumpstart playground have created more opportunities for Prince Albert families, and he’d like to see more of those developments in the future.

“I’ve supported the police budget through and through, so that’s important, but things like that can be addressed through different areas,” he said. “Our council has increased the parks budget, for example, to help maintain our parks and help get people into the (recreation) areas and outside.”

Prince Albert city council has had some lively and at times tense debates since 2016. One of them came during a special council meeting on the City’s COVID-19 response on March 23. Edwards was one of two city councillors to walk out of the meeting in protest during a series of motions from Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp. That forced Mayor Greg Dionne to end the meeting since not enough councillors were present.

On Thursday, Edwards said there were occasionally some frustrating debates, but added that debate and disagreement were important parts of the decision-making process. He remained confident council worked well together, despite their differences.

“(Disagreement) has been highlighted during the last four years, unfortunately, but I think progress has been made,” he said. “I think, overall, there’s been some good discussions. Just because people disagree and are adamant about different topics, it doesn’t mean that we can’t function properly.”

Edwards is the second Prince Albert city councillor to declare his candidacy. Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick announced his own re-election bid on April 30.

Edwards defeated Bobbi Ehman and Mitch Dunning in the race to represent Ward 6 in 2016. Incumbent Martin Ring did not seek re-election as a city councillor, and instead decided to run for mayor.

The 2020 municipal election is scheduled for Nov. 9.