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Ste Anne reeve race begins to shape up

By: Geralyn Wichers

Posted: 08/11/2018 9:00 AM

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A bit of a race has formed to fill the reeve’s chair in the RM of Ste Anne.

RM of Ste Anne reeve Art Bergmann announced this June that he would not run in this October’s election. Bergmann has served as reeve since 2002. Paul Saindon and Shirley Hiebert have risen to challenge for the seat.

"I figured it was time to step up the game," said Saindon. Saindon has sat on council for 12 years. He’s also fire chief in Richer. Saindon said there are several projects that haven’t gotten done, and he would like to see them to completion.

Ste Anne’s lagoon is nearing capacity and council is looking into an expansion, Saindon said. They’re also looking at creating a septic-field-like system for part of Richer, where Saindon said certain developments are using holding tanks. Saindon would also like more roads paved in Richer.

Child care is also on Saindon’s mind. He said daycares in the municipality are "hard pressed," which makes it difficult for young families. He said that with some financial support, entrepreneurs might step up to fill gaps.

"People are very eager and looking for higher-tech internet services," Saindon said. He said it would be nice to be able to supply residents with better internet service.

Saindon added that he’d bring a common-sense approach to development, allowing farming to carry on with "reasonable growth."

"You can’t just throw caution to the wind and let good land get chunked off," he said.

As to his track record, Saindon cited his work with the Cooks Creek Conservation District to build a retention pond east of Richer, which he said solved a flooding issue.

In this last term, Saindon and the public works committee decided to crush their own gravel. Saindon said this made road maintenance more consistent and "feasible".

Saindon said he has also kept the fire department on track, and acknowledges that council has always been on his side when it came to fire control.

Shirley Hiebert has lived in Ward 2 of the municipality off and on since age 15. Her background includes work as a health care administrator, nurse practitioner, researcher and educator. She holds a PhD in community health with the University of Manitoba.

Hiebert previously ran for Ste Anne council in 2006 and for the federal Liberals in 2008.

"I’ve always had a good understanding of the political scene here and specifically this ward, but how that also impacts the rest of the municipality," Hiebert said. "It’s been going this way for years and I guess I don’t see that it’s changing."

From Hiebert’s perspective, council is treating rural residents as "second-class citizens" who take a backseat to agriculture.

Hiebert said the municipality avoided bringing in natural gas so to not make the municipality appealing for rural residents. Hiebert also cited tight restrictions on basements in her area of Ward 2 as causing residents "a lot of grief" by dropping home values and forcing residents to pay for backfill around their homes.

When she advocated for a woman to at least be allowed a crawl-space, Hiebert said she was told that the woman had a "big mouth" and shouldn’t expect favours.

Hiebert said council give themselves unwarranted authority as experts and have no scientific backing for their basement restrictions.

"Put your energies and your efforts elsewhere," she said. Hiebert said council spends far too much time fiddling with building permits, causing long waits for residents.

"You have to follow the legislation and work with people, work with the agriculture, work with rural residents," Hiebert said. "Get them together and look at other options."

Hiebert acknowledged that council has done a lot of good, and does not blame the councillors for what she sees as shortfalls. "It’s the reeve that sets the tone."

Hiebert would like to set a tone of efficiency, accountability, and accessibility to the residents so they can feel they are listened to.

"I’m fair. I wouldn’t have favourites," she said. "I know agriculture needs to be protected and promoted. Definitely. I’m not naive. But that doesn’t say that others can’t get a fair shake."

Hiebert would like to see better cellular and internet service and better roads and ditches. She said she would like to see more cooperation between Steinbach and the RMs of Ste Anne and La Broquerie as they put together the next development plan. She wants to streamline the permit application process and strike down undue restrictions on basements.

She acknowledged that council must work within certain parameters, but "within that we can do a lot more if you have the will and the imagination."

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