About 120 people attending Saturday’s all-candidates forum in Middle Sackville heard a wide range of views on the role the municipal council should play in shaping the future for the new Town of Tantramar.
“We are setting the foundation for the generations to come. How exciting is that!” declared mayoralty candidate Shawn Mesheau.
“Our population will be 9,100 and our tax base $1 billion.”
Mesheau’s view that the new mayor and council “must create the mechanism that brings our communities together with one vision” seemed to be widely shared among the 15 council candidates who attended the forum along with Greg Martin, who has already been acclaimed in Ward 5 (Point de Bute/Aulac) because no one ran against him.
“I am the first elected council member of Tantramar,” Martin said.
“I’ll tell you, my mother would be very, very proud,” he added as the audience laughed.
He said there will need to be “a team mentality” on the new council.
Mayoralty candidate Bonnie Swift promised to bring more transparency and openness to municipal government.
She also spoke directly to residents of the rural wards.
“You now have a candidate that understands your concerns,” she said.
“You know why? Because I grew up in one and I know a lot of you are struggling and worried about having proper representation. If I am your mayor, you will not have to worry about that. I will be there for you.”
Mayoralty candidate Andrew Black came with written answers to key questions.
When asked about the shortage of affordable housing, for example, he promised to push for “a full housing needs assessment in our new expanded boundaries so we have solid and accurate data to start with.”
Black also pledged that he would create a mayor’s round table on housing to bring groups working on the issue together and said he would take steps to investigate and potentially set up a housing authority in Tantramar.
For a transcript of the mayoralty candidates’ opening statements, click here.
Ward 3 (Sackville)
Council candidates for the populous Ward 3 (Sackville) shared a variety of opinions and ideas.
Allison Butcher, who has been a Sackville councillor since 2016, said she originally ran “to give back to the community that I love so much, and was quite surprised to discover that I actually got a lot of satisfaction and joy from working at the municipal level.”
She added she would like to continue working for the new Town of Tantramar.
To read Butcher’s two-minute opening statement, click here.
Alice Cotton, who has lived in Sackville for nearly 30 years, said she decided to run for office because of the lack of affordable housing.
“We must work with the new housing hub and groups like Acorn to find solutions,” she added.
“A working group from council needs to be tasked with coming up with creative housing solutions, working on zoning bylaws and partnering with local concerned citizens and organizations.”
To read Cotton’s opening statement, click here.
Josh Goguen, who works for Moneris, has lived in Sackville for 16 years and is heavily involved as a leader in the Scouts.
“The reason I’m running is just to give a new perspective on town council,” he said.
“If elected, I’ll definitely work hard on representing everybody not just from Ward 3, but from every single other word, because this is not just a ward issue, it’s a whole Tantramar Council issue.”
To read Goguen’s opening statement, click here.
Virgil Hammock, who served on Sackville Town Council for 13 years as well as four years on the Southeast Regional Health Authority and seven years on the planning commission, said he’s running because he’s angry that the province imposed municipal amalgamation without any mandate from the people affected by it.
“The Town of Sackville and the Village of Dorchester have histories that go back to the mid-18th century and are going to be erased and replaced with Tantramar,” he added.
Hammock also criticized the ward system.
“It’s going to be hard for newly elected Tantramar councillors to get your heads around the idea they need to represent the entire community and not just your wards.”
T0 read Hammock’s opening statement, click here.
Charlie Harvey delivered this short opening statement:
“Good evening, my name is Charlie Harvey. I’m running for council in Ward 3. If elected, I pledge to be receptive to the citizens of Tantramar and bring worthy concerns and suggestions to council for consideration. On council, I will vote as I believe is in the best interests of Tantramar. Thank you.”
Sahitya Pendurthi said she and her husband moved to Sackville last year and while the town is still new for her, “it’s still as dear as it is for all of you.”
She added she wanted to run for town council to give back to the community that has accepted her as its own.
“Everybody is so loving and kind, but is also so troubled in this little paradise of ours,” Pendurthi said.
She urged everyone to vote as a way of preserving Canada’s democracy.
To read her opening statement, click here.
Bruce Phinney, who has served continuously on Sackville Town Council for the last 18 years, said councillors who are elected are going to have to learn from the people in the five Tantramar wards.
“As much as I know Wood Point and Rockport, I know nothing really,” he added.
“I know people, but I need to know what their needs and concerns are.”
Phinney said he’s open to listening to people and hoped voters would re-elect him on November 28th.
“I enjoy this job immensely and I work for you, not for anybody else.”
To read Phinney opening statement, click here.
Michael Tower said his long experience and dedication to his work on Sackville Town Council would be an asset to Tantramar’s new council.
“I understand how council works and I acknowledge that things can be better and must be better,” he added.
“Being an open-minded and approachable person, I listen to what people have to say in meetings and casual conversations,” he added.
“I believe to get the best results, we must work collaboratively.”
Tower ended his opening statement with this advice:
“When you get your ballot, please review the list of candidates and vote from the bottom up.”
To read Tower’s opening statement, click here.
Note: Ward 3 candidate Sana Mohamad was not able to attend the all-candidates forum.
Ward 4 (Upper Sackville, Midgic)
“When I was elected last year, I was clearly running on climate change making this community be more aware of climate change and incorporating climate change into all the decisions that council would make,” she said.
“I soon realized that councillors cannot be a one-issue person.”
She added that councillors have to be active on issues such as health care and housing even though issues such as these are not in municipal jurisdiction.
Dietz said it’s really important for municipal councils to advocate on behalf of health care, for example, with the provincial government.
(Dietz herself served on the Rural Health Action Group, a volunteer committee that worked for the restoration of full services at Sackville Memorial Hospital.)
She warned that Tantramar councillors will also need “to make our stand with the Regional Service Commission, who will impose many more mandates on us than we currently have.”
To read Dietz’s opening statement, click here.
Matt Estabrooks said he was proud to be running as councillor for Ward 4.
“What a wonderful community we live in. We should be so very thankful that we live in a democracy where all people have a voice,” he added.
“This local government reform process has strengthened that for us, giving a voice to all members of Tantramar, giving a voice to some that did not have one before,” he said, referring to the local service districts that did not elect local councils.
Estabrooks said that he alone supported municipal amalgamation.
“I was on an island. I like to think a beautiful island. But nonetheless, I was the lone councillor on that island. On an island choosing positive change, positive change based on a collaborative way forward for our region,” he added.
“The relationships between our communities have been damaged over the last year by some outspoken people, and we now have the task ahead of us to repair them.”
He ended his opening statement by saying he is “ready and willing” to do the job of bringing “all the communities in new Tantramar together through collaboration.”
To read Estabrooks’s opening statement, click here.
Wards 1 and 2
Candidates for Ward 1 (Dorchester & vicinity) and Ward 2 (West Sackville/Rockport) participated in the all-candidates forum.
For a complete report on the candidates in Ward 1 including what they said at the all-candidates forum, click here.
For a report on the candidates in Ward 2 and their contributions at the all-candidates forum, click here.