Question And Answer

1Why are you running in the election?
I believe with strong leadership Okotoks can build a future where possibilities are realized for the entire community. For more details see
2What are the foremost challenges that you intend working on, should you be elected?
Key ideas for me can be found here on my website.
3In your opinion, what makes Okotoks great and what could make it even better?
The people in our community are what make us great. An exceptional community is achieved by teamwork. Recognizing the strengths of individuals/groups throughout the community, in the organization and on Council will allow us to empower them to create/find and/or implement solutions to challenges we face as a community.
4How would you describe the importance of arts and culture programs, services and facilities in Okotoks?
This is a key area of focus for me. There is a lot of research that shows an investment in arts and culture returns 3x that investment back into a community. As we move forward though pandemic recovery Arts & Culture initiatives are going to be key to help reconnect us as a community and bring us back together in celebration. There are many initiatives under this banner that I would love to see advanced - film industry policy, outdoor art projects, activating indoor space around art displays. I also feel that an education program on how arts and culture program/services impact our daily lives would be worthwhile. A key initiative for me will be moving a performing arts facility to completion. I would love to see plans and construction begin in this term.
5What do you feel should be done to secure a stable water source for the town?
This initiative is already well on its way. Feel free to tune into my webinar for a detailed discussion on water in Okotoks.
6Do you think the arts contribute to our local economy? If so, how?
Absolutely it does. In a variety of ways depending on what is happening. Plays/events see additional dollars spent in our community for meals, drinks, coffee etc. The creation of any arts also makes an impact as many supplies are purchased locally. When you have a vibrant arts culture it also tends to create more events and spinoffs to support these events/programs or activities. Another area we have seen a benefit is in the decrease of graffiti because of the outdoor art program we have created for the washroom facilities and the electrical boxes.
7What do you think about the town council's and mayor's role in promoting sustainability, renewable energy and conservation?
Municipal Government has a role in promoting all of these items. We have been a leader in terms of water conservation as community and have moved most of our facilities to renewable energy over the past 5 years. We will also be rolling out a program at the start of the New Year which will allow residents to implement renewable energy and sustainability projects at their homes. It is called the Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP). There does need to be a lens on these projects to ensure they are returning the expected value and are cost effective.
8Why has our property tax increased 18.66% over the last 8 years but our wages have only increased by 5.44% and inflation during the same period was only 15.56%? And this doesn't include the education portion, utilities and franchise fees, which has also increased during that same time frame. This is just the increase to property tax. I also believe that I heard you say this evening that there will be an increase of 2%. So it would be 20.66% over 8 years if that is the case.
This question is only looking at 1 element of the budgeting picture. To have a conversation on tax rates we need to look at a complete financial picture - inflation rates, service level changes, new infrastructure, Provincial downloading and growth would just be a few of the areas that need to be part of the analysis. When we look at a complete picture we can then discuss if we are receiving good value for the dollars being spent. For the time period referenced I have tax increases as the following for a total of 16.1%. As you can see we are at or below inflation with the exception of 3 years.

Tax Increase

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
4.3 4.8 1.6 1.7 3 2 0 0

From my perspective taxation is an INVESTMENT by citizens. It should not just be about what we pay. It’s about investment and re-investment in what we own, our desired quality of life and service levels. To compare our tax increases to ONLY wages in my opinion is flawed. We need to be looking at what the inflation rate is at minimum as it is this number that has a direct impact on our expenses. Wages are part of this basket of costs. Inflation rates for this same period are:

Municipal/Consumer Price Index

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
3.8 3.5 1.6 1.7 1.4 2 2 2

In this same time period this is a small sampling of the increased service levels/infrastructure management that has occurred in our community:

2014 South Emergency Services Building Opened, 2014 Regional Field House Opened, 2014 Scott Seaman’s Arena Shared Services Agreement Started, 6 RCMP Officers Added, Electrical Tariff & Insurance rates increased, Annexation of 4900 acres of land, Increased fleet & flood prevention equipment, Increased Community services & programs, vegetation Control, increased turf & urban forest maintenance, maintenance agreement Champion Park, 2015 Pason Arena Expansion opens, expansion of spray park & addition of outdoor washrooms, online streaming of Council Meetings annexation fees to Foothills County, increase in fire code inspection, introduced Water Meter Portal, Foothills Centennial Centre Transitioned to Town Operation, 2019 24/7 fire services opened at Fire Station #2, 2019 added 3 new Joint Use Facilities to scheduling system, 2019 integrated 7 day Snow Clearing on pathways, 2019 implementation of Asset Management Program, 2019 Free Public Wi-Fi in Recreation Facilities, 2019 Economic Development Initiatives, 2018 implemented 24/7/365 Call centre for Transportation & Parks, added online recreation program website, updated, increased Digital forms to improve workflows & processing times, 2019 launched curb-to-curb Okotoks Transit, 2023 Summer Games, subsidized Taxi Program increased, addition of after-school program for 12-16, 3 New Firefighters, Increase in public lands turned over from developers, implemented Long Term Financial Health Framework, 2020 creation of a new Municipal Development Plan, 2021 creation of a new Land Use Bylaw, 2020 move to priority based budgeting, 2021 Addition of 60,000 sq ft for ALC

The education portion of the tax bill is determined by the Provincial Government and is a complete flow through. I am on record as disagreeing that Municipalities should be collecting the education taxes. This should be a Provincial responsibility.

Municipal utilities – Okotoks is regionally competitive. We did a full utility analysis in 2019 and our systems are priced to ensure an appropriate asset management program and a return on investment to the residents of Okotoks. This return comes in the form of a direct transfer between 1.5 - 2 Million of revenue to reduce property taxes.

Franchise fees have only increased twice in the past 8 years. In principle, third party utilities should pay for their transit across municipal lands – which we all own.
9Is the Arts and Learning Center on budget or over budget? If it is over budget where will these funds come from?
The Arts and Learning Center is on budget.
10What are your thoughts on adding fluoride back into our water?
I feel that this is actually an AHS issue and should not be up to individual municipalities to determine as they have the actual health data. I am watching what the plebiscite question on Calgary's ballot vote is in relation to fluoride. I am not opposed to looking at it but I do know changes were made at our water treatment plant when it was removed that would require us to make infrastructure changes to add it back in so I would need to understand what that impact is.
11How important is a robust program of public art to the health of a community?
Very important - public art has the ability to connect the community in a variety of ways. It can be used to bring the community together to create something. It also is a fabulous way to showcase skills available in our community in a very visual way.
12Would you support the development of a Public Art Policy in Okotoks?
13Why has the Franchise Fee been added to our utility bills? Why does it continue to increase?
Franchise fees have been part of our utility bills since I was elected to Council in 2013. They exist to ensure utility companies are paying their share on accessing the utility rightways in Okotoks. Franchise fees in another source of revenue for a municipality. We did a review in 2019 which showed we were not within the same range as our peers (see chart below). The Alberta Utilities Commission approves rates we currently are at the top rate of 20% for electrical. We are at 16% for gas. The maximum rate allowed is 35%.

Electricity Franchise Fees
Fortis Customers Percentage
High River, Strathmore, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and 10 Others 20.0%
Airdrie 18.0%
Longview 17.0%
Chestermere 11.5%
Turner Valley, Black Diamond 10.0%

Natural Gas Franchise Fees
ATCO Gas-South Customers Percentage
Airdrie 29.6%
High River 20.0%
Longview, Taber 20.0%
Strathmore 24.0%
Chestermere 17.0%
14How do you envision the arts being integrated into the Arts and Learning Campus in the future? (ARTS includes, but is not limited to visual arts, music, theatre, film, photography, crafts, writing, spoken word, dance, etc.)
I would like to see programming/classes for a wide variety of these things integrated into the ALC. There is also the opportunity to display a variety of different types of items throughout the building to showcase pieces that are for sale and/or that are being created in the community. Would be nice to see a revolving change on what is displayed in the building. The outdoor plaza will be a great space for the events/performances throughout the year. With the addition of phase 2 to the current campus I hope to see more production/learning space available for classes as well.
15What are your thoughts about residential property taxes, keeping the town's expenditure in check to keep within the budget, while being mindful of necessary projects as well as the financial hardship being faced by an unknown number of town residents during these troubling and uncertain times?
I believe we need to start this conversation to explain exactly what is included in a tax bill. This would allow us to have a more thorough conversation about value for money. We are all stretched in terms of taxes so ensuring we are spending on areas with best value and using those dollars most effectively is key. We also need to recognize that delaying projects, maintenance etc. has a long term impact on the community. It is also important to ensure we are clear on what we are doing/trying to accomplish so residents understand the rationale for expenditures.
16What is your view of the Federal government's policy to allow/promote municipalities banning firearms (handguns)?
This should be implemented by the Federal Government if they wish to do this as Municipalities do not have authority on this legislation. By allowing every Municipality to pick and choose if they are implementing it will create confusion across the country and in my opinion result in very little compliance. I am also of the mindset that a bylaw like this only impacts law abiding citizens; it does little to address the criminal concerns.
17Would you support publishing an inventory of the buildings and properties owned by the town and the justification for purchasing/holding those properties from an economic and strategic perspective on
Assets the Town owns are all on public record. Happy to discuss how this is provided going forward.
18Do you believe Elected Officials should maintain transparency and an 'open door' policy? If yes, how will you communicate with the citizens and business owners of Okotoks?
Yes. I have a track record of engagement throughout the past 8 years and this will not change if I am elected Mayor. I will also be looking to create a consistent engagement platform with all of the Council, administration, residents and businesses. I am open to ideas on what that looks like. Some ideas I have are at least 2 Town Halls per year, online webinars to answer questions and continue communication on Council meeting outcomes.
19With regards to the CMRB (Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board) does Okotoks plan on remaining on this Board?
Okotoks involvement with the CMRB is legislated by the Provincial Government. It is expected that the Minister of Municipal Affairs will approve the CMRB growth plan after the municipal election and will provide clear direction that everyone in the region needs to participate. As we are legislated to be a member and if we do not participate it is continued a vote in favor of anything that comes before the Board Okotoks will continue to be at the table.
20Are the taxpayers paying to renovate the old library for Bow Valley College? If so, how much is it costing us? Also are we also on the hook for all furnishings for the Arts & Learning Center, that was to be fundraised by the Library Board?
The improvements being made at the old library are leasehold improvements. The cost of these improvements are factored into the lease rates that the new occupants will be paying for this space. All of the occupants of the space in the Arts & Learning Center are paying for and supplying their own furnishings.
21Do you feel the town should create municipal policies and practices that support affordable, accessible, and inclusive housing?