10 Questions for Doug Blanc
Moose Jaw has a by-election scheduled for October 17th.
The purpose of the by-election is to fill a few vacancies. One of which is a board seat for the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Separate School Division and the other is the one we will be addressing here. To fill the City Council position left behind after long serving Don Mitchell's resignation.
We fielded 10 questions to the candidates that we believed residents of Moose Jaw would want to hear answered. Some of the questions are tough and policy driven, others are lighter and meant to expound on the candidates character, desires and personality. What follows, we hope, is a guideline Moose Javians can go to when deciding which candidate would best represent them.
10 Questions for Doug Blanc
Tell me about yourself. Do you have a family? What do you do for fun and what do you do for a living?
I grew up in Moose Jaw and met and married my wife (Vicki) here in 1976. My wife was also raised in Moose Jaw. We lived here for a couple years in Moose Jaw before moving to our farm southwest of Briercrest. We operated our farm for approximately twelve years before renting our land out. We moved back to Moose Jaw almost fifteen years ago but Moose Jaw was always our main trading centre. I started working for the Provincial Government in 1978. While with the government I got involved with the union (SGEU, Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union). I was elected steward and then chief steward and served on the PS/GE bargaining council. I was elected vice-president of SGEU and served for about 10 years before being elected as President of SGEU for 4 years. I returned to government for a period of time as a supervisor. Then I was hired as a full time staff of SGEU. I serviced approximately fifteen bargaining units ranging in size from 15 to 500 employees. Most of these were community based agencies, with a portion of these in Moose Jaw. After a period of time I was transferred to service the Dept. of Health, Justice, Agriculture and Food along with the Sask Cancer Agency.
I retired a few years ago and have done some private consulting for community service agencies in Moose Jaw. We have three children. Our oldest daughter is a teacher for special needs children in Alberta. Our second child is our son who is an engineer for CN rail in Saskatoon. Our youngest daughter works part time at a financial institute and operates a daycare from her home.
We love camping and spending time with our children and grandchildren. We have numerous close friends that we like to socialize with. I am a member of Lynbrook golf course and try to golf as much as possible; not that I'm any good at it.
Why do you want to be a City Councillor?
I had considered running in the past. However I didn't feel I had the time to do justice to the position. Since I am retired I have the time and qualifications to represent the citizens of Moose Jaw. I believe you need to be devoted and committed to any project or task you take on. As someone once said "Doug has a balanced approach and gives all sides consideration before using his common sense to form an opinion".
I feel it would be an honour to serve on Moose Jaw city council representing the citizens.
What qualifications do you to have that would convince people you are suited to take on such a position?
With my work experience with government and SGEU I have the ability to analyze situations through the gathering of the facts and develop a solution. You need to review all the information and monitor the financial situation to determine the best approach. I have negotiated contracts and done arbitrations and assisted with mediation. My ability to deal with different agencies, boards and individuals is an asset for sitting as a city council member.
What is your vision for Moose Jaw?
A few decades ago Moose Jaw was given the name of the Friendly City, and if you look at the city of Moose Jaw home page it says "Moose Jaw Surprisingly Unexpected". Unfortunately, the past few years Moose Jaw has seen an increase in violence and crime and the friendly city isn't as friendly as it should be. People are posting on social media that they are afraid to walk in the evening or to allow their children to go to the many parks. Vehicles are being vandalized or stolen while parked in front of their owners' homes. We need to take our city back, where people can walk in the evening. Where people are proud that they live in Moose Jaw. We need a city that is vibrant and a great place to raise our children or grandchildren.
There are concerns there is too much secrecy at City Hall and in Council. What, if anything, would you do to make things more transparent?
Some feel that everything should be open for the public to review. The current city council may be operating more behind closed doors then they should. However, there are always issues that require confidentiality. These include business dealings or personal issues. However if possible all issues should be presented to the public as soon as possible. We need to communicate the dealing of city council and city with more openness, while keeping sensitive issues from becoming public.
At the present time the City is involved in a major infrastructure upgrade which caused problems for many High Street West businesses. What would you do to ensure this never happens again?
There have been many comments about what happened on High St. They include: "the contractor didn't hook some of the sewer or water lines up correctly", "that there were issues that came up after the street was opened" and "that the city of Moose Jaw never inspected anything while the work was being completed". No matter who is to blame it was a disaster for the businesses effected and an embarrassment for the citizens of Moose Jaw. In the future I believe we need to ensure that the contract clearly states what is expected and a strict time line. There should also be a city employee or an independent person review the work as it progresses. We also need to communicate to the businesses or people affected and to the citizens of Moose Jaw better. This is just the start of our road and infrastructure repair, so we need to learn from our mistakes. City Council needs to ensure that the proper contractor and contract is selected. We also need to look into the future and make arrangements or plans to deal with them. Our landfill, sanitation dump, water treatment facility including pumping stations along with our buildings (bus barns, library, city yard complex, city hall, Mosaic and Yara Centre etc...) can not be neglected. If we continue maintenance we may only be required to do minor repairs as opposed to waiting and having a huge financial impact on the city. We need to be proactive not reactive.
What, for you, should be the number one priority for the City? And what would you like done to achieve it?
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed. Our infrastructure should be at the top or second on the list. We need to repair our water and sewer lines along with our roads so the citizens can move around without major disruption and detours. We need to work within our budget and develop a plan for today while looking into future for needs that will develop down the road. There also needs to be better communication with the public as to where construction is taking place. Also, if possible, a better plan to reduce the number of major streets that are closed at any one time. Also, as I mentioned in an earlier question, we need to make our city safe from crime and destruction. I feel we need more police presence on the streets. People are posting on social media that they don't trust the police or if they call are being told "we can't come out, just call your insurance company". I am not sure if this is true but the lack of confidence with the city and city police needs to change.
With the referendum against the Cast Iron Local Improvement Program only valid for three years would you be in favour of reintroducing a similar program when that time limit expires?
There was a referendum on this issue at the last civic election. At that time 8,361 wanted the cast iron repairs coming from general revenues. There were 2,186 that were opposed to it coming from general revenues. I do not believe that the citizens of Moose Jaw have changed their mind on this issue. We currently fund numerous items that cone from general revenues. These include the Library, Museum, Police Dept, Fire Dept, Transit System and City Parks just to name a few. I don't believe that our cast iron repairs should be any different. If it becomes an individual cost it will be a financial burden on an individual. Their property taxes could become unmanageable or a family rent could increase that they can't afford to stay. This city was built with community effort and I don't feel any of our infrastructure cost should be born by an individual. We are stronger financially as collective unit.
What are your views on the ward system?
The citizens of Moose Jaw voted on this issue in the previous civic election. At that time the majority did not want the ward system. There were 4,786 against the ward system with 4,135 in favour of it. I appreciate that in a ward system councillors will look after their own area and may have a better understanding of the issues effecting their neighborhood. But at the present we don't have that so every councilor should represent every citizen of Moose Jaw. This may take a bit more time to research the issue, however that is why they were elected. City Council should be researching all issues and be good representatives for every person Moose Jaw. I currently like it the way it is. However, if the majority of the citizens wanted the ward system I would work hard representing my ward, but would also represent all citizens.
What do you think about economic development for the City? What type of industries would you like to encourage here?
With K+S and the Transportation Hub being within an hour of our city the list of businesses could be endless. We need to promote our city and encourage entrepreneurs and businesses from both within Saskatchewan and Canada and other countries. We are a major highway and have a municipal airport, so with proper marketing we could have business relocate to Moose Jaw. We have good tourism traffic and with proper advertising we could generate excellent reviews of our city. With more industry or businesses in the city it only grows our tax base, which benefits everyone. As one of my colleagues stated, we live in the middle of an agricultural area. We need to attract everything from agriculture, transportation and mining industries to small businesses. With technology today there is very limited amount of businesses that could not operate out of Moose Jaw.