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Moose FM Hay River election Q&A: Andrew Cassidy

Moose FM’s Mike Gibbins talks with Andrew Cassidy, a candidate in Hay River’s 2015 municipal election. 

Other candidates: Find more Moose FM Q&As

MG: Why have you decided to stand for re-election?

AC: The last three years have been very rewarding as mayor. We’ve managed to build a solid team on council. We’ve faced a number of significant challenges but I’ve been impressed with how council rose to the occasion, worked together and there’s still a lot more work to be done. I’d still like to be a part of this team as we work through some significant issues.

What should the Town’s focus be for the next three years?

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There are some big capital infrastructure projects that we’re taking a look at. From our municipal planning side, we need to make sure that we have solid plans on how to move forward with construction of our new arena, how we’re going to address other capital projects like roads, water and sewer. Right now we’re leasing space for our Town Hall so we need to find a more permanent location or if we decide that this is the place we need to continue planning for that. We also have a significant amount of projects underway to improve the quality of life and one of the primary focuses has been cost of living. Obviously there’s been some discussion around the power franchise agreement. That’s something that we continue to work through as we assess and evaluate what the best options are.

Over the last three years, I think we’ve also done a good job as mayor and council of forming partnerships with community groups, the territorial government and the federal government and we’ve seen significant benefits whether we’re matching dollars for projects or helping on the administrative side. We’ve seen some significant enhancements to our recreational programs or recreational amenities in our community. We’ve also seen some economic stimulus from these projects as well. We need to continue building on these relationships.

Your lone challenger wants to re-establish Hay River as the hub of the North by engaging rail and barge partners. How important is that?

That’s obviously something we need to continue to pursue. Dredging has been a big issue and is not simply limited to our port. Other communities up and down the Mackenzie are facing challenges with lower water levels so we need to push for more dredging all along the Mackenzie. There are also some issues with the state of the rail at this point in time. Loads are not at full capacity and they have to go fairly slow at sections because of the quality of the track so there’s a huge opportunity for us to work with CN and improve their operations from the transport side of things. Hay River is a hub and always will be. Things coming from the south will likely go through Hay River no matter what mode of transportation they’re undertaking so we need to be open for that and plan for that.

With dredging being predominantly a federal issue, what role should the Town of Hay River play? 

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The Town needs to work with our MLAs and we have been on this issue. It’s not necessarily the Town of Hay river’s mandate to dredge but the territorial government figures it’s not their mandate and the federal government is saying it’s someone else’s mandate. We need to continue to work with our MLAs regardless of whoever’s mandate it is. This is a big issue and we’re taking it very seriously but we’re also taking it as various levels of government representation are lobbying for this.

Would you support a tiny home movement in Hay River as a way to increase residential options?

Absolutely. We need to make sure that we’re providing options for our residents. While not all residents may be interested in a tiny home movement, we can set aside areas of our community or we can allow our bylaws to permit that type of development. That could open up many new doors for people who can’t invest in a larger home right now. At the same time though we also need to appeal to the other end and people looking for larger detached homes. Our mandate as a municipal government is to provide various opportunities for people to invest in our community and not close doors because of certain bylaws and restrictions. We need to review our development standards and make sure we’re up to date with current trends. The tiny home movement is getting bigger and bigger so what are we doing to promote that or support that as opposed to prohibiting that type of development?

Is the community of Hay River receiving adequate funding from MACA?

Absolutely not, we’ve been working on this file since last council. I was part of council when MACA withdrew a significant amount of funding from us. We met with them a number of times to get a better understanding of their funding formula and we weren’t satisfied. I brought this forward quite early during this term and we met with MACA several times and still weren’t satisfied. We believe we were able to demonstrate to the minister that there were some significant flaws in their existing formula and we weren’t happy with the response.

As a regional community, we’re providing services to some of the surrounding communities that MACA isn’t really accounting for so we said, ‘if you’re not going to respond or respect the fact that we’re providing these regional services, we will quit providing them.’ Shortly after that, MACA agreed to review their funding formula and we were invited to partake in the working group that helped come up with a new model. Through this review, MACA has been outright saying that they have been underfunding communities since 2007. Now it’s in the hands of the Financial Management Board and likely the new legislative assembly.

We receive a little more than $4-million annually from MACA for capital funding and operations and maintenance. Through the new model and some of the preliminary numbers we’ve plugged into it, we’d be receiving an additional $5-million so more than double what we’re receiving now.

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Why was it so important for the Town to take such a firm stance during the six-month labour dispute?

Since the beginning of our term, council was very concerned with the cost of living. Cost of living comes down to every single bill you pay. We tackled that in the areas we could. An example would be with the franchise agreement and trying to lower power rates. We can’t change the food costs and we can’t change the fuel costs so we had to look at other areas where we could save money. So we looked at our expenses and our revenue streams. We came up with new service delivery models that will potentially see new revenues coming into the Town and furthermore, we took a real hard look at our expenses and realized pretty quickly that probably one of our biggest expenses from the operations side is our wages.

Council was concerned that we needed a better handle on our wages. Prior to the labour dispute, we looked at previous increases in collective bargaining agreements, we looked at our current financial situation and we figured that we had to try and control our expenses. That’s why we took a pretty hard stance on wage increases.

You’re also looking to fill some other key positions at Town Hall aren’t you?

That’s correct. We have a significant amount of senior management positions that we’re looking to staff right now. That will probably be a priority for the new council right away. We need to make sure that we have the right individuals filling some of these key positions. Coming off the strike was a very stressful situation for some of the senior management and staff here so we need people that will provide some stability. At the same time though, we don’t just want warm bodies, we need to make sure we get the right people.

In a minute, why Andrew Cassidy for another term as Mayor of Hay River?

I have spent the last three years committed to this position. Mayor is my primary profession and I’ve made it my primary focus. I’ve worked very well with council and have supported their decisions very publicly throughout the duration of our term. I’m very good at developing partnerships and supporting local non-profit groups and other organizations that want to contribute to the community. Right now we need to stick with the same team, we need to move forward and we need to build on what we’ve started over the last three years.

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