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Get To Know Your Mayoral Candidates

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7

Come October 16, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo will have a new Mayor for the first time in over a decade.

Current Mayor Melissa Blake announced in 2016 she wouldn’t be seeking re-election after holding the position since 2004. Allan Grandison, Tony Needham, Don Scott and Allan Vinni are now vying for the top council seat.

In an effort to help you learn more about your Mayoral candidates, politically and personally, we sent them a questionnaire focusing on their ideas and ways to better the RMWB.

The same ten questions were sent to every candidate. Below are the responses posted verbatim and in alphabetical order by last name.

Allan Grandison 

Tell us a bit about yourself?

allan-grandisonI moved to Fort McMurray in 1984 for work coming here from Edmonton. I quickly fell in love with Fort McMurray and the region and this became my home. I love everything about living here except the occasional winter deepfreeze day. I met and married my wife here and we have three boys who all live and work in the City. We enjoy taking advantage of the wonderful summer’s here-exploring the trails, fishing, enjoying ball, and spending time with our friends and family. We have a wonderful fulfilling life here and plan to eventually retire here.

My employment history includes working with Government, Non-Profit and with Business. I currently run my own business as a Real Estate Agent with Re/Max Fort McMurray. In the past seven years, I have learned some of challenges that are faced when the economy changes so quickly, when government interferes with business, and how impactful changing rules can be. Prior to this I worked for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and was fortunate to be able to work with not only the City of Fort McMurray but also got to travel and work in all of the Outlying areas in the Region. My near 10-year tenure provided me with in depth experiences working with various levels of Government including Municipal Council. Gaining first-hand experience working within the Municipal Government Act and so closely with Council has contributed to my desire to truly impact change in our Region. Before I worked for the RMWB, I worked in the non-profit world for many years. I have an incredibly healthy respect for all those people who work tirelessly to improve the lives of all of our citizens. The non-profit world is often tasked with doing impossible work with limited resources.

Why are you running to become Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo?

My motivation to run for mayor is simple: I believe in our community and I believe in my skills as a leader. Our region will be faced with many challenges in the coming years given the current economy and Bill 21 and Bill 8. Council will be tasked with managing our current debt, future operations and a diminishing tax base. I truly believe that strong leadership, creative problem solving and good communication between council, taxpayers and our administration will be required to deliver best services and best value for our region. My previous professional and volunteer experiences have uniquely positioned me to continue to serve this community in an enhanced capacity; as your Mayor. I make one promise and one promise only during this election and that is to continue a servant leadership role. This role that will see me always putting the citizens first, and always ensuring their needs are the highest priority. As Mayor, I will always aspire to lead in a manner that helps others perform as highly as possible so we can all “Build Our Future Together”.

What are your top three priorities?

    • Working collaboratively with Council – so we are working together for all Citizens.
    • Fiscal responsibility through political leadership that is flexible, creative, and collaborative with all partners to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our Citizens.
    • Working with Council to establish an action plan, inclusive of our Industry, local business and non-profits and Provincial partners, to promote the growth and stability of our local economy.

It is difficult to pick only three so I would like to direct you to read more about all the priorities at www.allangrandisonformayor.ca

What aspects of Fort McMurray do you think need to be revitalized, how would do this?

We have an opportunity that arose out of a horrendous event to rebuild those areas that were devastated by fire. We can recreate unique communities in each area, ensuring the green spaces, the parks, the pathway system is reflective of that area. For example, the pathway that surrounds Waterway could include historical points to highlight the extensive history in that section of the City. I also support the Age friendly initiative which would impact both indoor and outdoor facility/areas in the region making our region more accessible and user friendly.

Our downtown core and particularly the expropriated land along Franklin Ave, requires some creative attention. I would work with Council, Administration, Chamber of Commerce, and the citizens to find a creative solution that considers our weather, our needs, and our demographics.

How will you maintain and improve relationships with Indigenous people living in rural communities in the RMWB?

Each rural community has its own unique strengths, challenges and personality. Working with the leaders of each community separately is vital to respecting these differences and honoring the people who live in them. In my experience, each community wants to be heard and recognized for who they are. I would ensure that we listen to both the formal and informal leaders and Elders in each community. As Mayor, I would embrace the opportunities when Council attends Community engagements and continue developing relationships with community residents, relying on the elected Councils from each of the Rural Wards. Where needed as Mayor I would support our rural communities by advocating with them to other levels of government.

Fort McMurray’s first family-friendly public Pride event was held in August, if elected, how would you support the LGBTQ community?

I am proud of our Region’s openness to celebrate the people who live here and their differences. Whether it be a person’s sexual orientation, their nationality, their culture, or their languages we are diverse and can learn a tremendous amount from each other. I value other views, opinions, and beliefs and would want to understand their issues and challenges. I have many friends who are gay, I have many friends who are of from other countries and of differing cultures. I see people as people and treat them as such.

What makes the RMWB so special to you?

This is my home-where my children were born and grew up. This community has given my family every opportunity to succeed and enjoy the benefits of life. Fort McMurray is full of activities, opportunity for sports and recreation, hunting, fishing; we essentially have everything a family needs. I have lifelong friends here, people who I have socialized with and worked with for over 30 years. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. This is where I became a father, a husband and a professional.

Who has had the greatest impact on your life, why?

Without question, it would be my wife, Sandy. She is the kindest most caring person I know. She puts family and friends first and has helped me develop an even greater understanding of the importance of giving back to our community. With her encouragement, I became a Boy Scout Leader, a Baseball Coach, A Foodbank drive volunteer, a Community clothing distribution volunteer and a volunteer with our local Golden Years Society. She makes me a better man, husband, father and community member.

It’s summer, you have the afternoon free, where do you go, what do you do?

Whenever I have a free afternoon I enjoy spending time with my family. I love to go fishing with my boys and going for walks with my wife. Other than this in the summer I can usually be found at the ball fields watching or umpiring. Of course, if it happens to be raining I would prefer to be home watching a Blue Jays game.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

Favorite book- The Greatest Salesman in The World written by author Og Mandino
Favorite movie- Star Trek- I enjoy all genres of movies but my go to movie choice would be Star Trek.
Favorite song- Me & Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin.

Tony Needham

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Very outgoing extrovert who loves to help people achieve goals and dreams. The best way to help someone is lead by example, so I always work hard to realize my dreams. My trade is Steamfitter/Pipefitter and that trade financed my dream of becoming a Helicopter Pilot.

Why are you running to become Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo?

I’m running for Mayor to represent best the hard working people in this region Having personally worked at site very long cold and hot days operating equipment, pipefitting, and flying I truly know what we want and expect from our Mayor to lead the region.

What are your top three priorities?

  • Opening up more child care spots. Working with youth groups to support the next generation.
  • Seniors.
  • Setting up a campaign for Phoenix Hall.

What aspects of Fort McMurray do you think need to be revitalized, how would do this?

Start a campaign to build Phoenix Hall next to town hall.

How will you maintain and improve relationships with Indigenous people living in rural communities in the RMWB?

Physically go out periodically visit those communities, allow there concerns to be heard and then voice them to council.

Fort McMurray’s first family-friendly public Pride event was held in August, if elected, how would you support the LGBTQ community?

Educational campaign to teach people that we as Canadians have the right to be whomever we choose, and love whoever we want, without let or hinderance.

What makes the RMWB so special to you?

Being welcomed so lovingly by the large Newfoundland community. Whom teach us that the only time we should be looking over to see how much our neighbours have, is to make sure they have enough.

Who has had the greatest impact on your life, why?

My Mum, she is so generous and loving to strangers and friends alike. My Mum inspires me to be a better person by always going outside my comfort zone to learn and grow. She taught me not to be afraid to fail, for that is the only way we can ever learn to win.

It’s summer, you have the afternoon free, where do you go, what do you do?

Love taking my dog for a walk down to the old Abasand Oil Plant on the Horse River. Flying the helicopter I built over our river systems and banking around the bends.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

Book: 1984
Movie:Facing the Giants
Song: All You Need is Love.

Don Scott

Tell us a bit about yourself?

don-scottI was born and raised on the East Coast of Canada, where I also attended law school. I was the first person in my family to attend university, which likely led to my lifelong passion for education. Subsequent to earning my legal degree, I continued my education at the University of Cambridge in England, which led to the opportunity to join the Bloody Sunday inquiry as one of the lawyers on the inquiry team. After leaving England I chose to move to Fort McMurray as I had begun hearing great things about this place in northern Alberta where people were building their future through hard work and determination to succeed. I have been here ever since, serving as a Councillor for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, as MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, as Deputy House Leader in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and as the Minister of Advanced Education and Innovation. In addition, I own and operate Don Scott McMurray Law Office with a talented and enthusiastic team of lawyers and administrative staff, and I volunteer on several boards including the United Way of Fort McMurray and the Fort McMurray Legion.

Why are you running to become Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo?

I strongly believe in public service, whether through volunteerism, community advocacy or as an elected official. I think those who can serve have a responsibility to do so, and I believe my skills and experience provide me with the necessary tools to serve as Mayor and work collaboratively with all stakeholders, including members of council, industry, business owners and residents to ensure the sustainability and viability of this region. I believe strongly in the importance of open, honest and transparent communication, and I look forward to securing the confidence of voters as someone who listens to their concerns and ideas.

What are your top three priorities?

      • Assessing and minimizing the impact of Bill 21/Bill 8 on residents
      • Developing strategies to address Fly In Fly Out employment
      • Attracting new business to the region, including through revitalization of the downtown core

What aspects of Fort McMurray do you think need to be revitalized, how would do this?

Subsequent to the economic downturn and the wildfire in 2016, I think there has been a growing sense of concern regarding the future of the region. With Bill 21/Bill 8 we are facing new challenges, but I have great faith in our ability to meet these new challenges as well as all existing challenges. Revitalization means we need to ensure residents have the core services they need, while we also pay attention to areas like our downtown and our riverfront and find creative ways to use these to both attract and retain business and residents. Snye Park is a great example of something that has worked, as during the summer months it is a beehive of activity with families; how do we keep that going all year round in a way that is cost-efficient, sustainable and showcases our natural beauty and amenities? We need to attract new business ventures, retain our current businesses and ensure those outside the region understand that Fort McMurray remains a great place to live, work and play. We need to find cost-effective ways to ensure residents in this community have every reason to stay in this region and make this their home, and encourage others to do so as well. Revitalizing might be better termed “re-energizing” – we need to regain some of the momentum and energy we have lost over the years, using our current strengths to build new opportunities and achieve our potential. Re-energizing isn’t just about businesses, industry and neighbourhoods; it’s also about re-energizing our citizens through restoring their confidence in their government, in our collective future and in our ability to not only survive the challenges, but thrive as a region.

How will you maintain and improve relationships with Indigenous people living in rural communities in the RMWB?

When I served as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin I had the opportunity to spend time with indigenous people in our region. Most significantly, our First Nations and Metis residents want to be heard, understood and respected for their perspectives, and they want to ensure their viewpoints are considered when making decisions that impact them. I believe as Mayor it will be critical to continue to develop the relationships I have formed as well as explore new relationships. It means travelling to these communities, participating in their events, learning from their elders, speaking to their community leaders, spending time with their youth and most importantly listening to their concerns and ideas for the present and the future.

Fort McMurray’s first family-friendly public Pride event was held in August, if elected, how would you support the LGBTQ community?

My law firm was pleased to serve as the primary sponsor of the YMM Pride event on August 26, and it was an honour to have the opportunity to speak to the many community members gathered at the event to celebrate our diversity. Diversity is a word we often associate with our incredible multicultural community, but true diversity is inclusive of all people, including our vibrant LGBTQ community. I believe the role of government is to encourage and support all aspects of our diverse community, and I look forward to doing so with all the stakeholder groups in the region, including the newly formed YMM Pride organization.

What makes the RMWB so special to you?

Because it’s home! This is the place where I chose to buy my first house, start my first business and have my children. It is the place where I have met so many incredible people and seen the astonishing potential and opportunity that welcomes every new arrival. More than that, it is special because this community is unlike any other I have ever experienced, where people come together in both good times and bad. When I think over the past years of life here, from Food Bank drives, United Way campaigns, fundraisers, and even the fire in 2016, what strikes me the most is that even though most of us arrived here as strangers to each other, this is where we found friends and formed our “Fort McMurray and RMWB family”. Fort McMurray Strong might have been a hashtag that caught on during the wildfire, but the truth is that it has always been the best way to describe this remarkable region and the people that live here. And that strength stretches right through our region, from the furthest point north to the furthest point south and all places and people in between.

Who has had the greatest impact on your life, why?

My father, Keith Scott, has been a remarkable role model in my life. He was never afraid to pursue his passions, which over the years have ranged from bears to basketball, and he taught me the value of determination, courage and pride in achievement. For decades my father and I have annually hiked to a remote lake in Alberta. It’s a difficult hike even in the best of circumstances, but we have hiked it in all kinds of adverse weather and perhaps most remarkably even successfully hiked it last year, despite my father’s advanced age (80). That kind of perseverance and determination is bound to have an influence on your child, and my father has truly inspired me to believe that you can always reach your goals; you just have to put in the hard work it takes to achieve them.

It’s summer, you have the afternoon free, where do you go, what do you do?

It all depends! If the kids are free, we are likely headed to one of the great playgrounds in the community to enjoy some family time. If the kids are tied up with one of their many activities, thanks to the great variety of children’s programming in the community, then I am likely headed to MacDonald Island Park to play some badminton. There are endless opportunities for leisure and recreation in our region, both indoor and outdoor, and we are genuinely blessed to live in a place where boredom isn’t even part of the vocabulary.

What is your favorite book/movie/song?

This might surprise people, but I am a huge Guns N’ Roses fan! But perhaps my true favourite song is “Jump” from Van Halen, which was always one of our warm-up songs before basketball (a sport I played for many years). It’s not just a great warm up song, but I’ve always seen the lyrics as a bit inspiring; thinking about starting a new business, going back to school or throwing your hat in the ring for elected office? Go ahead and jump!
In terms of books, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” has long been a favourite, although there are many books I enjoy. As a movie buff, it would be very hard to pick only one, although I never pass up a chance to watch the classic “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”.

Allan Vinni

Tell us a bit about yourself? councillor-allan-vinni

I have lived in Fort McMurray for 16 years, moving here early in my law career. Prior to working as a lawyer in Fort McMurray, I have lived in Geraldton, ON, then Thunder Bay, Hamilton, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Calgary, going to school (5 university degrees) and working at various types of employment including underground mining, caddying on professional golf tours, wood-charger in a paper mill and long-haul truck driver (45 states and eight provinces, million accident free miles). So, I have been around, done a lot of different things, but have settled in Fort McMurray, love it here, love what this region is about.

Why are you running to become Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo? 

I am running for Mayor because I believe I am uniquely qualified to assist the people of this region in addressing in a positive manner the challenges that we currently face as a region.

What are your top three priorities? 

      • Fixing the land tenure situation so that land values can be trusted;
      • Confronting our economic challenges, including FIFO, head on with effective advocacy and engagement with all involved parties, including industry and the Provincial and Federal governments; and
      • Creating a truly open and transparent municipal government for this region.

What aspects of Fort McMurray do you think need to be revitalized, how would do this?

The answer to this question flows from my above priorities. We need to complete the land tenure plan initiated with the development of the Urban Development Sub-Region, which would involve the transfer of the UDSR lands from the Province to the RMWB for sale to the public at large. This will revitalize our community by having land ownership mirror the reality of land ownership in virtually every other community in this country. It follows that, with a free market in land, we will create the confidence we need homeowners and developers to have in the real estate market in this region. Commercial growth, price stability and prosperity will follow.

We need to combat the fly in – fly out regime that has developed over the past fifteen years by continuing to make our communities favorable places to live, improving transportation options for getting local people to the job sites and ensuring that we all recover from the wildfire. We need the people of this region to be the best option for the continued success of the oilsands industry, and we do that by building community, by educating our children here at home, and by demonstrating to the oilsands industry how our mutual support of each other will lead to the greatest benefit for all people and corporations in this region.

How will you maintain and improve relationships with Indigenous people living in rural communities in the RMWB? 

Generally, as a region, and as a municipal government, we have to fully engage in the process as outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation report. I believe as a municipal government we have taken big strides to make our relationships with indigenous people, both urban and rural, a reality. I would cite the southern rural hamlets’ sewer, water and road project (the largest capital project we have ever undertaken in this region) as an example of the positive steps we have taken as a region. We can and will do more to keep building on this key relationship as a priority at Council and Administration level.

Fort McMurray’s first family-friendly public Pride event was held in August, if elected, how would you support the LGBTQ community? 

I would continue doing what I have been doing to support the LGBTQ+ community. I will continue going to Pride meetings, Pride events and advocating for Pride through our Regional Action Committee on Inclusion, Diversity and Equality, and of course continuing to encourage our Council to be supportive of Pride in all ways that they are able. Council has been very involved and supportive of Pride, and I see no reason why the momentum we have created will not continue.

What makes the RMWB so special to you? 

The opportunity, the diversity, the challenges. We live large here in the RMWB, and all things are possible. We forget sometimes what an incredible job we are all doing in building a world class industry, in raising our children so they achieve their goals and aspirations and in supporting each other, offering a hand up when needed. We are a region unlike any other in the world, the most culturally diverse place on the planet, experiencing all the positive things that flow from that reality. I love this place.

Who has had the greatest impact on your life, why? 

It is my parents that have had the greatest impact on my life. They have been incredible role models, taking on all of life’s challenges with determination and grace. As they celebrate 62 years of marriage this month, they remain my heroes as they continue to deal with my father’s Alzheimer’s, now in its 16th year. They have always supported me and my sisters, and taught us what being a productive member of society looks like.

It’s summer, you have the afternoon free, where do you go, what do you do? 

It’s not often I have a summer afternoon free, but when I do, I go to the golf course. I’m just as likely to practice as to play. I still love golf 50 years after taking it up.

What is your favorite book/movie/song? 

I do read books and listen to music but I am a movie junkie. I go to see about 70 movies a year at movie theatres. My favourites are Blue Velvet, Papillon, The English Patient and The Sting. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman will never be surpassed as movie stars.

Debates

In addition to this questionnaire, on September 25 from 12 -1 p.m., Mix 103.7 in partnership with the Fort McMurray Today is hosting a mayoral debate on a special hour-long edition of Fort McMurray Matters. You can listen to the debate on your radio dial at 103.7, or online at mix1037fm.com. It will also be streamed live on both outlets Facebook pages.

Then on October 10, the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a mayoral forum at Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts in partnership with Mix 103.7 and The Fort McMurray Today. The forum, which will be hosted and moderated by Mix 103.7’s news director Elizabeth Priest and the Today’s managing editor Olivia Condon, will provide an opportunity for the public to meet with the mayoral candidates and ask questions while learning about their campaign platforms.

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