Despite first getting elected to city council in 2006, Ted Zurakowski believes he has unfinished business.
The long-time councillor for Ward 8 formally announced his plans to seek re-election in a Facebook post back in August. Zurakowski, who ran unopposed in 2016, said there’s still a lot to accomplish, and the biggest task involves bringing more jobs back to the Prince Albert area.
For Zurakowski, that means finding a business partner to get the old pulp mill back up and running. He argued the plan is feasible, as long as the next city council makes it a priority.
“It’s always about opportunities,” he said during an interview on Aug. 28.
“There are organizations banging down the door to get in there, begging us, (saying), ‘we can do this. We can bring jobs. This is what we can do.’ We need the province to be a partner.”
B.C.-based company Paper Excellence currently holds a non-compete clause for pulp production at the old Prince Albert mill. That agreement is set to expire in Fall 2021, but Zurakowski said the city needs to get involved in any new negotiations.
“Those conversations need to happen now,” he said. “We need the province to be our partner. We need the province to step up and say, ‘no, the current holder of this agreement has done nothing with the wood supply.’”
As of January, Paper Excellence was still assessing a potential restart date, but had no firm plans in place. Regardless, Zurakowski thinks the company and the City need to part ways.
“Paper Excellence, they’re no friends to Prince Albert,” he said. “We need to open up that opportunity for others who are looking to invest.”
Economic recovery is one of Zurakowski’s biggest concerns heading into the fall election. He said the COVID-19 pandemic “really kicked (the City) in the guts” financially, but he’s committed to moving forward on major infrastructure projects in the next year. That includes supporting continued investment in water main and sewer replacement projects, along with roadway recapping and paving proposals.
Zurakowski also said council needs to create stronger partnerships with surrounding communities, rural municipalities and First Nations. City council has already started that process by creating the new Prince Albert Regional Economic Development Alliance (PAREDA), but Zurakowski said it needs to go further. He said it’s crucial to building major infrastructure projects, like the new indoor aquatic and arenas complex.
“We need to make an effort to step away from those conversations that include the ‘me’ and the ‘my’,” he said. “It’s more about ‘ours’ than ‘me’.”
Zurakowski was responsible for a number of initiatives during his last four years on council, the biggest of which was the controversial curfew bylaw. The bylaw bans public access to back alleys and walkways between midnight and 6 a.m., with some exceptions for local residents. Zurakowski first proposed the idea in 2018. It passed earlier this year after several heated debates.
Bylaw opponents said it would lead to carding and racial profiling, without doing anything to reduce crime. At the time, Zurakowski said he wouldn’t be drawn into a hypothetical debate between lawyers, adding that had no problem supporting the bylaw.
“I’m not going to cover my eyes and ignore the problem of property crime,” he said during one debate on April 27. “This proposed bylaw, it isn’t a silver bullet. It’s not. It’s one piece of the puzzle, and I’m completely comfortable moving forward.”
If re-elected, Zurakowski said he’ll continue to try and make the community safer. He didn’t commit to reducing the police budget, as some councillors have proposed, but added he’s not sure more police officers are the answer to Prince Albert’s crime problem.
“It’s about providing the right amount of police officers on the streets so people feel safe, but it’s also putting enough resources at the front end with our partners to prevent crime (and) to get to the root causes,” he said on Friday.
Zurakowski was involved in several heated debates during the past four-year term. The most notable came in March 2020, when both he and Coun. Blake Edwards walked out of a meeting while Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp was still making motions. The move forced Mayor Greg Dionne to end the meeting since not enough city councillors were present to meet quorum.
When asked about city council’s ability to get along in a professional manner, Zurakowski said council debates have always been passionate, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial.
“Disagreement is really important because it often leads to a better idea,” he said. “Having everybody agree around the table is not the best model for government.”
Zurakowski is the fifth Prince Albert city councillor to announce a re-election campaign. He is the only candidate so far in Ward 8.