Councillor Shawn Mesheau says the need for collaboration, consultation and citizen engagement will be key themes in his campaign to become Sackville’s mayor in the municipal elections on May 10th.
He’s also stressing issues such as health care, climate change and the need for a business development strategy.
Mesheau issued a news release on Tuesday formally declaring his candidacy.
Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken announced last year that he would run as a mayoralty candidate in the municipal elections scheduled for May 2020 that were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aiken confirmed on Wednesday that he still plans to run. He agreed to an interview with Warktimes next week.
‘Big hill to climb’
During a telephone interview, Mesheau, who has served on and off as a town councillor for more than 12 years, said he considered running for mayor before, but feels that as he nears retirement, now is the right time to make that commitment.
“We’re going to have a big hill to climb in the next few years because we’re dealing with the current pandemic and I want to be a part of climbing that hill, I want to help get us over that hill and into that post-pandemic world.”
When asked what he would do to help Sackville recover from COVID-19, Mesheau said it’s something that everyone in town needs to discuss.
“It’s not just my vision,” he added.
“A big part of what I believe is important is collaboration and there’s a lot of different folks who have different voices and thoughts in our community and I think we need to pull that together to determine what’s next for Sackville.”
Mesheau stressed the need for what he called citizen engagement.
“Folks need to be a part of the decision-making process,” he said, adding that town council needs to listen more to what people are saying.
He also said town staff should be providing councillors and the public with more information.
“We’ve seen vast improvements over the last little bit. We’re actually getting some opportunity now for questions after discussion groups,” he said, referring to a new procedure that allows members of the public to ask questions after special council meetings that are held near the beginning of each month.
Mesheau also noted, however, that the public is still not being given all of the information councillors refer to at those meetings making it harder for people to ask informed questions afterwards.
And, he suggested that council sometimes feels rushed.
“Research is important; understanding the topic that we’re talking about is important and if we have to take our time making a decision, then we should take our time making that decision.”
When asked what he sees as the big issues facing Sackville in the coming years, Mesheau mentioned the need for a business development strategy and a co-ordinated effort to deal with climate change.
For him, those two issues go hand-in-hand.
“It’s interesting to look at this,” he said after mentioning the progress being made by the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change.
“One of the things that is a challenge right now is funding for a [full-time] climate change co-ordinator,” he added.
“I believe that if we work at things like economic development, that will build our tax base and build our population so that we’ll be able to afford…a full-time, climate co-ordinator.”
Mesheau also advocates easing the town’s ban on more coffee drive-thrus near the TransCanada.
“If you have highway commercial zones that are built to attract business off the highway, what are the needs of those travellers?” he asks.
“I think there can be a compromise. I think there can be collaboration in making it work right.”
Keep hospital services
On health care, Mesheau made it clear that he opposes cuts to services at the Sackville hospital such as closing the emergency room overnight and converting acute-care beds into ones for longer-term patients.
But he says the pandemic has shown that health services can also be provided in different ways such as through patient/doctor phone consultations or through nurse practitioners supplementing the work of doctors.
Mesheau says medical staff within the health system need to have a greater say in any changes that are made.
He emphasizes too that while issues such as health care, business development and climate change are important, something else is even more vital for him.
“My main focus is the focus of everyone needing to come together at this point in time to move us forward; it’s the collaboration component, the compromise component, the understanding-each-other component — it’s a challenge, but I’m up for that challenge.”
Mesheau council highlights
December 2018: Mesheau wins seat on town council
February 2019: Mesheau calls for delay in accepting Cougar armoured vehicle
April 2019: Mesheau questions recreation master plan
December 2019: Mesheau votes against approving town budget
April 2020: Mesheau suggests delay in hiring new CAO
August 2020: Mesheau speaks in favour of new town marketing plan
November 2020: Mesheau questions RCMP quarterly reports
December 2020: Mesheau votes to approve rezoning for Crescent St. abattoir