For the first time since 2014, there is an election for reeve in the Rural Municipality of Hanover.
After 27 years on council, Reeve Stan Toews has decided to step down. Current Councillor Jim Funk is running against challenger Don Bouchard in the October 26th vote.
As we near the end of the election campaign, we asked both Funk and Bouchard a series of questions ranging from taxes and police services to new arenas and fire halls. Here is the list of questions with the response from each candidate:
How important do you think it is that Hanover has strong and positive relationships with neighbouring municipalities, including Steinbach?
Jim: I think it is extremely important that we have a good working together with Steinbach and neighbouring communities. When it comes to working regionally on wastewater or future potable water or recreational projects and more important economic development opportunities that it brings into the industries, having a good relationship with Steinbach I think will also help us with land use and planning and developing along our borders. And I think having a positive relationship with the provincial and federal governments also is very important. It helps with funding requests when it comes to various projects like recreation and utilities also.
Don: I think it's extremely important to create unity and constant dialogue. As a matter of fact, I think it's one of our greatest assets.
Hanover is teaming up with neighbouring municipalities to build a regional wastewater treatment plant. Should this be a priority for Hanover and are there other regional projects that Hanover should consider?
Jim: The regional wastewater project was an initiative that Hanover spearheaded probably quite some time before myself and present council, I think 15 years ago to be exact, somewhere around there. And nearly a dozen other municipalities also. However, due to the fact that the project was too expensive, with such a large group at the table, it was determined then that starting small and maybe slowly growing it was the only way to get this going. Therefore, many regional projects being considered such as a regional potable and water system similar, like the Pembina Valley Water Co-op for example. And perhaps regional and recreational facilities.
Don: I think it's crucial to start this plant if we want to pursue growth. We need to create sustainable infrastructure to help facilitate growth in our communities.
How would you grade the quality of police services in Hanover? Are there any changes you would push for?
Jim: Hanover has been in constant communication with the two local RCMP detachments with Harold (Steinbach RCMP Staff Sergeant) and also with St. Pierre, the D Division, regarding policing in the municipality. We provide our annual priorities list and meet with the RCMP on a quarterly basis and for reporting. It is unfortunate that the province does not allow us the rural municipality to purchase extra officers. At this time, they do for urban communities such as the city of Steinbach. And this last time we met with Harold and the St. Pierre detachment the things that we had was organized crime, visibility of policing within our communities, property crimes, B&Es, vandalism and traffic, that is what we asked them to kind of focus on. It is just unfortunate that we don't get more from the province. And you know what, we can always lobby for more. And we will do that.
Don: It's hard to criticize whatever is being done already. However, there is definitely a huge lack of police presence on a daily basis in our rural areas. What I was really looking at is recreating maybe like we had in the past, privatizing security service to patrol parks and report any suspicious activities that would reduce crime substantially, as it already has in the past. I've talked to some security company that actually had the patrol going on five or six years ago and they had reduced crime substantially. And I guess that was taken off. But I think it's important to have a sense of security and a sense of patrol where it's random, but people know that there's actually something being done about reporting crime in the neighbourhood. And it can't just be left to the constituents. There is neighbourhood watch and stuff like that, which is also good, but I think we need professional security to patrol our parks particularly.
What do you think the arrangement should be for Hanover residents wanting to use the Jake Epp Library in Steinbach?
Jim: Interesting you ask that. I had a call from the Mayor of Steinbach a week ago and this was one of the topics that came up in our conversation. We provide an annual base funding for the library services to Jake Epp Library, which I believe is in the amount of $4,000 and then we have a $30 membership subsidy grant to the library for every Hanover resident who does register at the library. So, I think to date in 2021 we granted Steinbach almost $14,000 to the library itself. So, yes, the mayor had called, and we will discuss this and we will see once what we can do, I'm sure we can do something a little bit better.
Don: I had really considered regionalizing the library pass. But if you look at technology the way things are changing, I really think reading books is very important. A lot of things now are done on computer. I think it's to give youth an opportunity to have hands on research and improve their literacy skills. It's a place also to do research on the Internet. Often my kids they wanted to go to the library for a quiet place where they can actually pull books out or do additional research on the Internet and just in a different environment from home. It's like basically when you want to go to the gym, you can have a gym at home but it's a lot easier when you go with friends and workout.
What is your position on raising taxes? Is it important to maintain a status quo on taxes?
Jim: Anytime you talk about taxes, we would like to stay status quo, or we would like to reduce our taxes. And I would like to do the same. Having that said, COVID has thrown a little bit of a wrench into our lives and the fuel itself has gone up double. Never mind all the parts that we need for maintenance of our equipment and so forth. So, yes, I would like for the taxes to stay status quo. Will we be able to do that? Till now the growth in our communities has kind of let us stay where we were. So, we're hoping that the growth will continue and maybe we can stay status quo.
Don: This is a big question; how do we reduce taxes and raise taxes. I think with the way the inflation has been going, it's not about that, it's more about responsible spending and asking the taxpayer where they think the money should be allocated. I don't think we're in a position right now where we can reduce taxes. However, there are things people can do to appeal the assessment of their home. And sometimes that could reduce their tax bills by hundreds of dollars if there was a wrong assessment. And it's something people can do on their own. But as far as wanting infrastructure and growth, I think taxes are a part of that. But the most important thing is responsible spending. And I think if I was elected, I would really look at where the money is going, where it's being used, and asking the taxpayer where they think it should be used, that's very important as well.
Do you think that Hanover needs another fire hall? If so, where would you build it?
Jim: Fire hall is something that we have talked about now in the last couple of years. So, council as per our last strategic planning session resolved to work towards the construction of a new station. And it would be in New Bothwell as the current station is unable to properly house the station's apparatus and equipment. So, the Strat Plan also called for the review of the possibility of establishing a satellite station for Mitchell once the Blumenort station and New Bothwell station that has been satisfied.
Don: That's a really tough question. If I look at the number of fires we've had in my work, I deal a lot with the fires. I think we have a nice station that was just built there in Blumenort. And we have one in Kleefeld. My personal opinion would be to just make the one in Kleefeld a little bit bigger. If we needed to expand, I would just expand that one in Kleefeld, rather than build another one and add this burden to the taxpayers.
What is your opinion about constructing a multi-use recreation facility in Hanover?
Jim: Probably a year ago or so, council commissioned a regional rec facility study, and the results came from the ratepayers. Consultation, open houses and surveys actually that the residents of Hanover would be interested in a regional field house type facility in the future. So, regional is probably what we will look at and are actually kind of looking at.
Don: The more we build these structures we have to look at not putting the burden on the tax dollar payer. I've had a lot of people ask for an indoor soccer field. That would be something I would really consider if I was in. And again, you got to ask the community if that's something they want. It can't be used for just one purpose to suit a minority. If I was to open up a soccer field, I would also have game rooms and other things to make it self-sustainable, that it could actually have a user fee. And maybe something that could be used for concerts. I don't think we have anything in Hanover that we can use for indoor concerts.
What are you hearing at the door from residents of Hanover?
Jim: Very little said. It would be nice if there was a little bit more interest within our community. And maybe even express themselves a little bit more to kind of know where they are. We do have some that certainly have. And it is always good to hear because that way you can work towards a common goal that we can serve our people.
Don: One of the biggest reasons I moved to Steinbach area and to the southeast was I love the family values. And I think overall when I look at what the voters are looking for is to preserve what they already had; the great values they've had. And how do we protect as a community our future. And I think that's the biggest concern. So, I think working with those that are already in place and have done an amazing job and adding to that table of things that concern them, I think is very crucial.
What is the message you would like to leave with voters as they head to the polls on October 26th?
Jim: I would just encourage them to go and vote. Do your due diligence and check out the candidates. If you speak to your local councillor, he will know of the candidates running, so absolutely just reach out to them, I'm sure they'd be happy to enlighten them with info.
Don: I really hope that people get excited about voting. It's very important that people vote. I believe people are looking for change that is achievable in the near future. A change they can feel a part of. Things that actually affect their everyday life and future. Yes, I think that's very important that people vote and get excited about it.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Jim: No. That is good and you just have yourselves a good day.
Don: I've often talked in my campaign about reducing crime. And I think one of the greatest ways we can reduce crime is limit the drug addictions on our streets. I think when as a community we have grown the way we have in the past few years, it also comes with drugs coming into our towns at a considerable rate. It's very important for the southeast to have a detox to take care of these problems. And, if we don't have a detox, crime will always be on the increase because a lot of these drugs are supported by petty crimes and thefts, and you will see more and more houses being stripped from copper and a lot more trucks are going to get robbed and a lot of tools will be stolen. So, we really need to tackle this problem in a very responsible way. And if I talk to Teen Challenge or Irene Kroeker (Steinbach Community Outreach), their greatest desire is to see a detox in the southeast, because we can't depend on the detox in Winnipeg because they are already overloaded.
Click here for the full list of candidates for municipalities and school divisions in the southeast, as well as results on election night.