10 Questions: Strathcona County Ward 4 Candidate Carla Howatt

*This is the first in a 10 Question series with local candidates

1.      The number one issue facing Strathcona county:

Rapid growth. We must make sure the decisions we make today regarding growth are ones we can live with for the next ten and 20 years and beyond. We must make strategic decisions regarding the type of community we want for ourselves and our children and our children’s children. This includes traffic control and transit planning. 

We can’t let the pressures of rapid growth lead us, rather we must be the leaders of that growth.

2.     Is there a way to balance infrastructure maintenance and overall county growth without debt?

I believe it is possible to balance infrastructure maintenance and overall County growth without a great deal of debt.

In order to do that, we must be planning for the future now. That includes looking at the needs for maintenance that are going to be pressing in the years to come. We already know that there is much work that will need to be done in the older areas of Sherwood Park and we need to begin planning for that now. 

When I took the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association “Municipal Finance” course, I learned that the Provincial government allows a municipality to acquire a certain amount of debt.  The total debit limit allowed is 1.5 times the revenue of the County and in 2011 we sat at 37.6% of that allowable limit.  This is considered an acceptable level of debt.

In order to maintain our financial health, we must be pro-active in our planning. If there is major maintenance to be done in 10 years, we should be allowing for that now, not suddenly scrambling and having no option but to borrow because the work needs to be done tomorrow.
3.     What is your take on the Sherwood Park hospital issue? 

In the past, many promises have been made about the Sherwood Park Hospital. It is a bone of contention for many residents. County Council has tried demanding a hospital, they have tried arguing and they have tried complaining.

In 2010, we had the promise of a hospital. In 2013, we have the promise of what amounts to an urgent care centre.

The tactics we have used have not only not gotten us anywhere, they seem to have set us back. It reminds me of a saying “the definition of crazy is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It is time for a new approach, a new way of tackling the issues.

I am suggesting a rational approach. I’m suggesting we work with the Province. Health Care is always an issue for the Alberta government. What if we find out what would help them the most?

What if we did some research and found out that a hospital in Sherwood Park specializing in dialysis (as an example) would help relieve pressure off other Capital Region hospitals?

Rather than demand what we feel we deserve, maybe we should try making a logical, collaborative case.

That is why I will advocate for the creations of a Hospital Task Force that will determine the best strategic approach to establish a win/win situation for our municipality as well as the entire Edmonton Capital Region.
4.     Transparency is a buzzword for this election.  How will you contribute to an open government?

To me, transparency means that when possible, the public has access to the same information as Council. Of course there are times when it is not appropriate for information to be made public – during land negotiations, administration or personnel issues etc. - these are regulated by the Municipal Governance Act – but anything else should be easily available to the public.

I intend on sending monthly (at a minimum) e-newsletters to residents that outline what happened at Council meetings, what issues are coming up on the horizon and how it may affect them, how they can become involved and any other things that are of interest (when are residential streets going to be snow plowed for example).

Any Councillor expenses will be published online and I will be available whenever any other information is required.

5.     You are running in a Ward without an incumbent.  What do you offer the citizens of Ward 4 that sets you apart from the other candidates?

I believe I am the best candidate for the position of Ward 4 Councillor for several reasons.
I Am Prepared
I have attended approximately 90% of the council meetings over the last three years and as a result, I have an understanding of the issues and the history behind them.
I have taken, at my own time and expense, a municipal finance course with the Alberta Urban Municipal Association. This is a course designed for council members and covers issues specific to municipal finance such as property taxes, budgets and assessments.
I have taken a course on municipal water & wastewater put on by the Alberta Waste & Wastewater Operators Association as well as attended the Capital Region Board Orientation session.
I Am Experienced
As an owner of more than one business in Strathcona County, I understand the realities involved in budgeting, planning and creating value for every dollar spent. I also understand the challenges facing business owners and the obstacles they encounter.
I have been a professional in the communications field for about 14 years and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge in communicating with diverse audiences in unique ways.
I Am Part of This Community
I have been active in this community for more than 26 years. I have raised three children in Strathcona County and been a hockey, dance and handball Mom.

I am the founder and editor of Strathcona Connect, a volunteer online news magazine that highlights the wonderful people, events and organizations in our County.

I organized the first Cash Mobs in Sherwood Park that helped to support local businesses. I helped organize community events such as the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Event, Sherwood Park Mall carolling ‘mob’ and Sherwood Parks First Gluten Free Fair.

I have volunteered with an inner city homeless ministry through the Sherwood Park Alliance Church as well as helping out at Sherwood Park Appetite.

I sit on the Information and Volunteer Centre board as the vice-chair and on the PLAN Edmonton board. I was a director for Strathcona Minor Hockey and helped establish a non-profit called Parent to Parent.
6.     Who was your first political influence/mentor?

There are a few who immediately come to mind when I think of political influencers or mentors. One of them is former Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor. I worked for Taylor when he was running in the last provincial election and I was impressed with his work ethic and his integrity.

The second is a group of people. The Strathcona County Council from 2010-2013 have had a great deal of influence in shaping my thoughts and opinions around politics. Some have shown me how to serve residents in an honest and hardworking way, while others have stood as an example of the type of politician I do not want to be. We have some truly incredible Councillors who serve with dedication and integrity. Those are the ones I most want to emulate.

7.     Your perfect Sunday:

·         Sleep in
·         Medium sized Timmy’s decaf, two milk, one sweetener while reading the paper and doing the crossword.
·         Church with my family
·         Lunch at a local restaurant
·         Window shopping
·         Dinner with friends
·         To bed with a book

8.     The music in your car stereo:

Unless I am on a long trip, the music is rarely on in my car. I prefer to take the time to enjoy some silence and contemplation. If I am on a road trip, I prefer some classic rock that moves to keep me awake!

9.     What historical figure – living or dead - would you love to have a coffee chat with?

Jesus – I am dying to ask him – when you said we should give everything we have to the poor, did you REALLY mean it??

10. Your vision of Strathcona county in 25 years:

My vision is that in 25 years Strathcona County is a thriving area with innovative and cutting edge developments that encourage community participation and interaction. A place where residents of all ages can live and work together, sharing a strong sense of identity and community.

A County that retains its diverse status as a specialized municipality that includes both urban and rural areas.

A County that respects and protects our agricultural lands.

A County that not only does well, but leads in economic development, quality of life and community development.

Did you know…
- I have taken a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt
- Helped build a health unit in rural Kenya
- Rode a tuk-tuk in Bangkok
- Slept in a Beadoin style tent beside the Red Sea
- Climbed Kilimanjaro
- Ran four 1/2 marathons, including one through the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia
- I'm an Alberta girl through and through - I was born in the Oil Sands of Fort McMurray

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