Close to 50 people filled the event centre at Cheyenne Park on October 6 in order to participate in a candidates forum hosted by the Ste. Agathe Community Development Inc. (CDI).
Election candidates for Ritchot’s Ward 3 include incumbent Curtis Claydon and newcomer to municipal politics Joel Lemoine.
Officiating the gathering were CDI board president Claude Lemoine, as well as community resident and French-language teacher Guy Gagnon.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve actually had an election [in Ste. Agathe],” Claude told The Citizen just prior to the meeting. “Not everybody knows the candidates, so we thought it would be great for everyone to meet them and give them an opportunity to present their platform and for the ratepayers to ask questions.”
According to Claude, the CDI relies on its local candidate for active participation on the board.
“We want to make sure that [our next councillor] will work with us and continue to provide the strong partnership that we’ve had [in the past],” he said.
To begin the formal question period, each candidate was given an opportunity for opening remarks.
“My journey in this community started 17 years ago when Lorrie and I moved in,” Claydon told the gathered crowd. “We started a family and… were able to give our children the gift of a second language, something that neither one of us had.”
Claydon presented his election platform for this coming term, which includes three areas of focus that he believes are important to the community: residential growth, infrastructure, and healthy living.
“We know that healthy communities are productive communities,” Claydon said. “I’m a strong believer that when a municipality can empower our community groups to succeed, and provide them with the resources to do that, everybody wins.”
Lemoine took the podium next, introducing himself as a resident of Ste. Agathe for the past 45 years.
“I might not have the background of sitting on council for the past four years,” he said, “but I’d like to be the boots on the ground for [those of] you who have seen this community thrive and develop over the years.”
Lemoine cited his broad range of career and volunteer experience as key to the benefits he could bring to Ritchot’s council.
His election platform consists of a desire to facilitate community development, to assist locals in entrepreneurship, and to help grow the community’s taxbase through continued commercial and industrial development.
As well, he’d like to assure that a higher standard of quality of life is created for the seniors and families in the community.
“We have to thrive to keep families here,” said Lemoine. “Let’s not lose them to the city or surrounding areas.”
A formal question period followed where Gagnon presented a series of pre-selected questions for each candidate. Claydon and Lemoine had three minutes to respond to each question.
Both were asked to expound on projects they’d been involved in over the past four years which directly benefited the community of Ste. Agathe.
They were also quizzed on community safety, environmental concerns, promoting residential and commercial growth, and many other topics.
An hour and a half in, question period turned to the audience.
One crowd member asked how the candidates would improve on the appeal of the community’s main street and how they’d encourage small business growth along this hub.
Another queried about the lack of maintenance along the service road heading north of Ste. Agathe. With better maintenance, it was argued, this road could be better utilized by commuters as a means to access Highway 75 rather than channelling the bulk of traffic through a designated school zone as they are now.
One final resident wanted to know if the candidates had considered the eventual inclusion of an Anglophone school in the community in order to increase opportunities for resident retention and growth.
“In our community, we’re able to give children the gift of a second language,” Claydon responded. “It takes some work if you don’t speak two languages… I think we just need to make sure everyone understands how valuable the DSFM school system is and to promote it.”
Lemoine closed the meeting by citing the lack of space in the community for a new school anytime soon.
“Our 98 percent Francophone community has dwindled down a little bit to maybe 80 percent,” Lemoine said. “[But] we have non-profit organizations where we have volunteers among them who are teaching the French language… It’s an asset.”
Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen