Estevan voters will be going to the polls Oct. 24 for the municipal election and for the first time since 2005, they will have the chance to vote for a mayor.
Roy Ludwig, Lynn Chipley and Jim Halladay are all vying to replace outgoing Mayor Gary St. Onge. To help voters get to know their candidates and what they stand for a little better, Mercury co-editor Chad Saxon is conducting an interview with each person.
This week is Jim Halladay, who is the owner of M&H Taxi in Estevan and also a former member of the Estevan Police Service.
In this interview, Halladay speaks about the city's infrastructure and his vision for the future of Estevan.
Estevan Mercury: I'll start with the same question I asked your fellow candidates, what do you feel is the biggest issue in this election?
Jim Halladay: The biggest thing is the infrastructure and the streets as part of the infrastructure program. I think we have to get the truck route out of town and I also find a problem with the loading area of the CP tracks because those trucks are just pounding our streets.
It's not just a one day program so we have to take the time to step back and take a look at what needs to be fixed and go from there.
EM: I'm curious because you have a different perspective than the other two candidates because you are on the roads a lot every day. How would you rate the state of our roads and what would you do to improve them?
JH: The biggest thing right now is we have terrible ruts in the streets because of the heavy traffic and we have to try and alleviate some of the weights around town so that we don't have that problem because we fix them and two years later we are fixing them again. It's just too much and it's too much for the taxpayers.
EM: Do you think the provincial government should do more to help alleviate (the issue)?
JH: Yes. With the way truck route is, they should be paying more than what they are to improve our streets. But that is something we'll have to sit down and discuss with them and get the answers. We have to make sure that the money is in place to do it before we start fixing.
EM: As you said, there is a lot of work to be done but at the same time obviously you don't want too much of a burden on the taxpayer. How do you balance that?
JH: Taxpayers are number one. We might have to increase taxes, but it's not something where we are going to just jump in and say all the streets are going to be fixed overnight. It's not going to happen, we have one contractor here and if he's busy, and he always is, where do we go? Do you try and bring somebody in from out of province or out of the city? They are all busy too and they don't want to come here because they are away from home. So everything is back to square one.
EM: Do you think the City has to look at some out of the box ideas such as starting their own company?
JH: Cost-wise I don't think it's feasible to do it. We used to have our own water and sewer crews and I think it turned out to be too much for the people involved and created too much problems (sic). And we do have contractors that we can count on in the city, which is a good thing.
There is a problem (with the speed of which the work is being done) but in the same token, I think we have an excellent rapport with the people that are coming in to do the jobs and we get them all fixed up and move on to the next one.
EM: You mentioned there were some other issues aside from infrastructure that you were concerned about. What are some of the areas?
JH: I find a real problem with the traffic control in the downtown core with the crosswalks and proper markings. I think it's been an oversight, just a small one, but it has been an oversight and I think it has to be taken care of before someone loses a life.
EM: Do you feel that speed is also an issue?
JH: I think it is more awareness of the public itself knowing that there is someone walking on the crosswalk and being aware of everything around us. We are all too busy it seems now, we don't have the time to take a look and make sure that everybody is safe.
EM: In your business you are dealing with the public on a regular basis and converse with them a lot; what are you hearing about how the public feels about the state of city and general overall feelings?
JH: Since I've become involved (in the campaign), I've had a few more things brought to my attention that I wasn't really aware of. It's nice to know that there are concerned citizens that are willing to sit down and talk to you.
(People have brought up) some of the postings on locations in the city. There are a couple of street signs that are missing; little things but still things that people appreciate seeing something done about it.
EM: When you first announced your candidacy and we spoke, you mentioned the fact that you have a business background that could benefit the city if you were to become mayor. How do you feel being a businessman in the city could translate to the mayor's job?
JH: Running the city is like running a business and if the books don't balance, we are in trouble. We have to be able to spend but we have to save too and prepare. In times where we might not use all our snow budget one year that should be carried over into another year so that when it does happen we don't go over budget the next year. We should be within budget in each department and I think that is definitely something that has to be looked at. I think my years of experience will help me in preparing everybody for that.
EM: Another big topic in this election has been the growth of Estevan and where this city could go. Do you feel enough is being done to prepare Estevan to enjoy the growth that many feel we should achieve?
JH: No I don't think it is. Yes, I realize they have negotiated a couple of private deals and they haven't worked out. That sometimes is not the fault of the council, it is the individual making the proposal to the city. We have to ensure that we are in a position that when push comes to shove (the projects) go ahead as planned. It's got to be in place.
EM: Touching on housing, is that something a lot of people have brought up with you?
JH: The biggest problem is affordable housing. It might be that houses are available, but affordable housing is a major concern for people. I ran into a situation myself, I had a couple of drivers that were willing to come here but had no place to live so unfortunately they didn't come.
I think we can grow and we've got to be realistic on our developments and make sure that we are prepared for rapid growth. Oil is going to pick and clean coal and everything else in this area is saying "Estevan, here we come."
EM: Do you think the fact you have no municipal government experience would be a negative or a positive were you to become mayor?
JH: I think that the biggest thing is I have done negotiations on both sides of the fence and I know a little bit about it and I try to be fair with an open mind so I think that is going to weigh in my favour. I think given the time to prove myself, I would do a good job.
EM: The final question and one I asked the two other candidates, if you were to become mayor, what do envision Estevan looking like at the end of your four-year term?
JH: Realistically I would like to see Estevan grow to 16,000 to 18,000 people and I think the potential is there. I also believe that we have to improve on our green areas and the previous council has done an excellent job, but there is still work to be done there. Our streets need to be improved; they are working on that and you can only go as the tax dollars go.
I think we have a pretty good situation coming up and with the projected expansion of the city,I think we are in good shape.