Voters in the Town of Ste Anne will decide tomorrow between two prospective council candidates with prior experience in the role.
A June 23 byelection was triggered by the January resignation of Coun. Ginette Gagnon.
Robert Gosselin and Cornie Klassen both want to fill the seat for the remaining 16 months of the term. In separate interviews this week, both said they’d run again next year for a full four-year term.
Gosselin floats policing expansion
Robert Gosselin is looking to rejoin the council he helmed as mayor from 2002 to 2006. Gosselin was also a councillor from 1989 to 1992 and 1995 to 2002.
Though 15 years have elapsed since his last stint on council, Gosselin said voters still know who he is and what he represents.
"I really have nothing to hide."
He explained his approach to interacting with residents is simple.
"There’s no stress if you only tell people the truth."
He dropped a flyer in mailboxes this week touting his "experienced business-like approach" to the job.
"I’m not a politician. I’m just a middle-class average joe," he said in an interview.
Next month, Gosselin will retire from his longtime job as a draftsman for Northern Blower, a Winnipeg manufacturer of industrial fans.
The bilingual Gosselin grew up in Ste Anne and raised his family there. He also directed the town’s summer recreation program, organized fundraisers, and coached and refereed a variety of sports.
If elected, Gosselin said he would work toward regionalizing the Ste Anne Police Department, hiring more officers and expanding into places like Lorette.
After years of residential growth, Gosselin said Ste Anne is now in need of manufacturing jobs.
"Economic development is where we have to be as a community."
To attract employers, he said he’d consult the Association of Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities and talk to leaders in Ste Agathe, a community Gosselin said has done a good job of developing its local economy.
Gosselin said he is not a fan of council’s recent decision to build a new town office. Construction costs are estimated at just over $1.8 million.
"That scares me," Gosselin said of the price tag. He likened it to a farmer spending money on a house instead of livestock and equipment.
Gosselin said the town also could have helped residents more during the pandemic, by offering a property tax rebate and lowering contributions to reserves.
"Don’t come and get money (from taxpayers) that you don’t need today," he said.
Klassen keen on communication
Cornie Klassen said he wants to rejoin a council that operates "like a well-oiled machine."
Klassen served one term on council from 2010 to 2014. His attempts at re-election in 2014 and 2018 were unsuccessful, but he garnered a significant number of votes in the latter contest.
While on council, Klassen said he worked closely with Ron Lemieux, then-MLA of Dawson Trail, to secure multi-million-dollar additions to the Ste Anne Hospital and Villa Youville. Klassen said his council also set in motion plans to build walking paths, a splash pad, and a skate park, all of which were later completed.
Klassen has served on various local committees and is currently a member of the Ste Anne police board. He said it’s important for the town to have robust protective services to keep residents safe.
Born in South America, Klassen has lived in Ste Anne for more than 30 years.
"I’ve always been treated well in this town," he said.
He recently retired from a 31-year career at Lansard Bros. Roofing, where he worked in sales.
Klassen doesn’t speak French but said that hasn’t been a problem for his supporters, among whom are francophones who prize diversity on town council.
Klassen said he also appreciates diversity and was encouraged to see women and young people run for council in recent elections.
"It is very important to me to see this town develop for all the young people," he said, adding the town mustn’t slip away from older residents either.
He said he wants to preserve Ste Anne’s bilingual status, in part because of the federal support it provides in the form of grants.
Klassen said he likes council’s approach to progress and growth but wants to see the town do more to communicate with residents.
If elected, Klassen said he would reinstate the town’s print newsletter to keep older residents informed.
In a mail-out flyer, Klassen said he wants to "promote a culture of transparency and dialogue" between the town office and community members and create opportunities for youth and seniors.
Voting takes place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 23 at the Ste Anne curling arena at 55 Arena Road. Voters must wear a face mask and bring government-issued photo ID or two other documents proving identity. Mobile voting takes place at Ste Anne Hospital and Villa Youville on June 23. Advance voting took place last week.