Splett brings ideas to Richmond Ward campaign
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/08/2022 (225 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If this is the beginning of a serious, thoughtful conversation about the future of our city, then it’s a good start.
Earlier this week, Jason Splett registered to run for election in Brandon City Council Ward 8 (currently known as Richmond Ward). He is a territory manager for Corteva Agriscience, has lived in Brandon for more than two decades and resides in the ward he is running to represent.
In an interview earlier this week, Splett told the Sun that “Business and numbers are what drives me [as well as] serving the people. Every day I’m talking to customers, and I think that goes a long way to talking to residents of the ward and people of the city. I’m open and approachable and able to get their voice heard.
“Different wards have different needs,” he added, “and I think just having a local representative, people will have a better representation in the city.”
He’s right on two points. In order to be an effective city councillor, he or she must be easy to contact, willing to listen, and familiar with the issues facing the city and his or her ward in particular. For that reason, it is always preferable that a city councillor reside in the ward he or she represents.
As a resident of a ward that has seldom had a resident councillor over the past three decades, I know how helpful it is to have a voice at the council table that actually lives in the neighbourhood — and how helpless it feels when your councillor isn’t really familiar with ward issues and seldom returns calls or emails.
Splett says he wants the next council to make sure the contracts being signed and money being spent and borrowed is done at a good value for the city and its residents. All candidates for city council share that desire, but accomplishing that goal is far harder than it appears in this city.
That’s because Brandon’s city councillors are part-time officials who often lack the resources and time to do in-depth research to determine if the city is getting good value for taxpayers. In most cases, councillors rely on information and assurances from city staff that our tax dollars are being spent wisely. They take their word for it, notwithstanding the fact those assurances often come from the same people who are actually spending the money.
In other words, there is no independent mechanism within city hall to determine if our tax dollars are being spent as efficiently as possible. That would require an independent, intensive value-for-money audit to identify potential savings. I can’t recall the last time, if ever, that was done in Brandon.
Splett favours the proposed subdivisions in the southwest corner of the city, but wonders if the expensive wastewater upgrades, and the millions of dollars in borrowing, can be extended over a longer period of time in order to avoid the shock caused by Brandonites’ water bills rising too quickly.
What he should really be asking is why the City of Brandon plans to borrow millions of dollars to pay for expenses that should be paid by the developers who will profit from that borrowing. And he should be asking why ordinary Brandonites in every other area of the city should have their water bills double in order to pay for wastewater infrastructure that will be of zero benefit to them.
Splett says the city should reassess its recreation master plan, and I agree with him. We need a top-notch outdoor water facility that would at least put us on par with Souris. Yet we keep pouring money into the Sportsplex pool, when the far smarter move would have been to build a larger facility that would make our long winters more tolerable. (For example, Google the Big Marble Go Centre in Medicine Hat, and Elevation Place in Canmore, both in Alberta.)
Finally, Splett says the city should pursue attracting another large business on the scale of Maple Leaf Foods to help drive growth. There are a few problems with that idea.
First, there is no local labour force to staff such a large facility. Manitoba’s unemployment rate is at the lowest level in many decades. For years, Maple Leaf has had to recruit workers from all over the world because there aren’t enough workers in Westman to staff its Brandon plant. In other words, there is little point in creating jobs when there is nobody here to fill them.
Beyond that, Brandon already has one of the lowest income levels among comparable Western Canadian cities. Instead of creating even more minimum wage jobs that can only be filled by importing unskilled labour, we should be focused on attracting and encouraging employers that require greater skills and pay higher wages.
Brandon is uniquely privileged to have both a university and a technical college. It’s time we leveraged that advantage into higher paying jobs and a stronger local economy. The best way to stop the out-migration of our best and brightest is to ensure they have viable opportunities to succeed here at home.
I don’t want any of what I have just said to be perceived as critical of Mr. Splett. He has stepped forward with ideas that are worthy of discussion and debate. He is setting a great example for other candidates and, if he can earn the confidence of his Richmond Ward constituents, he appears to have the makings of an effective city councillor.
If any other candidates would like me to amplify and discuss their campaign proposals, my email address is below and my inbox is always open.
» Twitter: @deverynross