Skip to content

Lac La Biche County elections: What did the Mayors say?

Issues on the table for Lac La Biche County mayoral hopefuls

LAC LA BICHE - Last Tuesday night the four mayoral candidates for Lac La Biche County took part in the first of three candidate forums hosted by the Lac La Biche POST / LakelandToday and the Lac La Biche and District Chamber of Commerce.

The two hour event, moderated by Garry Gross, the owner of Four Season's Clothing in Lac La Biche and a well-known voice as a rodeo announcer across the region, was more of an information session than a debate. Gross commented on the smooth run of the opening night as the event wrapped up.

"As a rodeo announcer, I was expecting it to be a bit of a rodeo ... It was far from it, " he joked, thanking the candidates for their courteous performance in front of a group of about 40 people at the Bold Center's Community Hall and more viewers watching the forum online.  Gross also congratulated the audience members for keeping the questions and comments in an equally courteous and respectful way. 

Tuesday's event was the first of three that ran through the week. The Wednesday and Thursday night forums featuring candidates in all seven wards of the municipality. The mayors were part of each night's program and were given the opportunity to answer questions on a number of topics.

With the pre-written platform speeches out of the way, the candidates — incumbent Omer Moghrabi, current councillor George L'Heureux, former public school board chairperson Arlene Hrynyk and area businessman Paul Reutov — faced prepared questions from the Chamber of Commerce as well as real-tme questions from the Bold Center audience and those watching online.

Questions over the three nights covered several specific areas. 

Truth and Reconciliation — How will you move forward?

George L'Heureux

"... by working together," he said, explaining the need to engage and understand surrounding Indigenous communities. L'Heureux also indicated that he is a proud Indigenous person.

Omer Moghrabi

"To get to reconciliation we must get to the truth first." He said working with the provincial and federal governments is necessary.

Arlene Hrynyk

"We need to respect and understand, but more importantly, we need to engage," she said, urging a need to move forward in a "united fashion"

Paul Reutov

- wasn't given an opportunity to answer the question, but had said in his earlier statement that he prefers actions to speeches.  "I'm a doer, not a talker," he said.

 

Ongoing COVID-challenges & economic recovery

Arlene Hrynyk

Mental Health of residents needs to be a priority "right now, but in a greater way, tomorrow."

Omer Moghrabi

Continue to engage provincial ministers for assistance. Find "wrap around services" to reduce the human "cost".

George L'Heureux

Need to "invest in people", attract industry that will create jobs

Paul Reutov

Need to prepare for the "rush" after COVID. "People are hungry to go out and do something ... we need to have some foresight and be prepared for what opportunities can come."

 

Lake health - blue-green algae, fecal levels

Paul Reutov

"This is our life-blood ... we need to fix it ... and look at the surrounding rivers and streams"

Omer Moghrabi

Lac La Biche lake is "eutrophic" said the mayor, explaining the high nutrient content and reduced oxygen levels. Lake health is a constant factor in community planning

George L'Heureux

Continue to support programs to reduce nutrient buildup in the lake, as well as new regulations for lakeside subdivision planning.

Arlene Hrynyk

Committed to continuing to create the structure to bring the best solutions.

 

Cultural sensitivity awareness and skill training

George L'Heureux

Bring back the Youth Achievement Program for youth and the Job Corps provincial training centre for adults.

"As mayor, I would absolutely fight to get that program back," suggesting the "street people" could get valuable training and skill sets.

Arlene Hrynyk

Cultural awareness and understanding is essential.

Omer Moghrabi

Municipal staff do have sensitivity training available to them.

"If it's not mandatory right now, it's going to be."

Paul Reutov

More still needs to be done to bring basic infrastructure to remote communities.

"Some of these communities don't even have running water."

Has council "turned away business" — to Moghrabi only

Omer Moghrabi

No. "We don't turn developers away." He went on to say a possible Canadian Tire project was cancelled by developers as "the economy was not there for them," and a variety of vehicle dealers were approached, including Ford Canada, to relocate to the vacant OK Ford building ... but there were no takers.

Working with others, including Gov't leaders who may have drastically different views 

Paul Reutov

"I"m not sure my views will be that much drastic from others, if we are all working together," he said, offering that a sit down around a table to "hammer things out" is the way to go.

Arlene Hrynyk

"You need to be sure that you listen to all the voices".. "we can't let out own partisan stripes lead us"

George L'Heureux

"There are no partisan lines when you are dealing with the residents... I will work with anybody, everybody to bring our views forward."

Omer Moghrabi

Is in constant contact with other levels of government and decision-makers of all political stripes.

"I engage them all, at every opportunity I get."

Development in next four years?

Geroge L'Heureux

Specifically, he said paving Young's Beach subdivision, water and sewer and paving for the White Sands area and finishing the Bold Center sports fields.

Omer Moghrabi

Said L'Heureux's projects were already in motion and approved in the capital budget. 

"We need to continue to replace aging infrastructure."

Arlene Hrynyk

"Investing in tourism" and the "natural" assets of the municipality, continue with capital projects in the queue and water and sewer servicing around the lakeshore areas

Paul Reutov

Better roads and less spending on cosmetic projects.

"We have massive sports fields with no main roads to them — we need to pave 858 completely," he said, explaining that the millions that have gone into the sports fields is wasted if "we have goat trails for roadways to access them."

He would also like to see a main marina in the region.

Rural versus Urban development

Arlene Hrynyk

"As a rural resident, I know that our rural residents are reasonable... they have an expectation for safe and adequate roadways," she said, adding that she does have a rural sustainability plan to implement and discuss.

George L'Heureux

"I don't think we spend enough on our rural roads... most were built in the 50s... and they are just hammered-out all the time."

Water fill stations in more rural communities is also needed, he said.  "Everybody is entitled to water."

Omer Moghrabi

"Urban and rural can balance each other."

Paul Reutov

"We need to bring back security," he said, explaining that people moving to the rural setting for more "elbow room" are concerned by rural crime.

Homeless issues / Homeless camp in Bonvesville subdivision

Omer Moghrabi

Work with federal and provincial governments to provide affordable housing with wrap-around services. 

"I don't agree putting them in the bush... it's a stop-gap

George L'Heureux

"Regional" involvement and planning is needed, including area Indigenous communities working with the provincial and federal governments.

Arlene Hrynyk

A main concern of hers for many years. A focus on mental health and well-being is a top priority.

Paul Reutov

Need to look at the "root cause." Training and programming must come with housing opportunities.

"We have to give them options .. Don't just give them permanent housing and a dead end."

Lac La Biche Main Street plans and construction time

Arlene Hrynyk

Better attention to timeframes in the tendering process are needed. Large costs to "make it pretty" need to be evaluated in challenging economic times. When resources are limited, "I would agree that we need to consider spending those resources elsewhere."

Omer Moghrabi

It has been challenging working with provincial officials since Main Street is still a provincial highway and adheres to specific regulations

Paul Reutov

More parking areas are needed and there can be more cost effective ways to help subsidize building owners to get store-front facelifts.

George L'Heureux

The streetscape plan is too much. "We are not Banff... we don't have thousands and thousands of visitors... My vision is to finish the water and sewer, pave it, do the sidewalks and leave it at that."

For video footage of all three candidate forums that took place over the last week, go to the Lac La Biche POST facebook page.

The Lac La Biche County municipal election takes place on Monday, October 18.  Advance polls are taking place October 9, 13 and 15.