While others may still be considering their possible candidacy, Laura Ross-Giroux has declared her intentions early, of seeking a seat on town council.
“For the past three years, I’ve been chair of the Chinook Arch Regional Library System, and in that capacity, I’ve helped oversee an organization with a $3 million-plus budget, with over 30 employees. We oversee 34 libraries in southwest Alberta, and we were recently named one of the 25 most innovative organizations in the province — a feather in our cap. Since I’ve been chair, I’ve also accepted two ministerial awards, one President’s Award from the American Library Association, and another award out of Washington, D.C. I’m one of seven regional chairs in the province, so I also work at the provincial level, directly with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, to help provide library service throughout the province, and to help develop policy for libraries throughout the province. I was recently elected vice-president of the Alberta Library Trustees Association, so I help to represent 1,600 library trustees, also throughout the province, and develop educational workshops and advocacy tools.”
This isn’t the first time Ross-Giroux has thrown her hat into the ring, having challenged for a seat on council in the 2010 municipal election, in a bid that was ultimately unsuccessful.
Far from prompting her to throw in the towel, Ross-Giroux prefers to throw down the gauntlet in 2013.
“Last election, Susan Stonehill and I were the only two women that decided to run. I have the same motivation as last time — I have a lot to offer this community. I was experienced before — I have a lot more experience now. I have a really good record of community service, and financial and managerial experience. I’ve learned over the years to develop very sound policies, both financially and personnel-wise. I’ve always been community involved.”
Ross-Giroux acquired experience in overseeing community facilities in a number of roles before coming to Taber.
“In the community I lived in before, I was also president of the Carsland and District Community Association and Agricultural Society. I was the first woman president in the history of that organization, and I helped oversee not only all of the community events, but also the community facilities. So I have experience in dealing with community facilities, helping to construct them, and to oversee their maintenance.”
For Ross-Giroux, change in a community needs to be facilitated through deeds and actions, rather than words.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to stay home and just do volunteer work. I also volunteered for Adult Literacy here in town, I was a tutor for five years. I am the secretary of the Taber Players, and I chip in wherever I can. That’s the only way you’re going to make your community any better — you’ve got to do it yourself. I recently met the Minister of Municipal Affairs Doug Griffiths, and he sent me one of his books, ‘Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community,’ and inside, he’s inscribed it ‘be the change you want to see.’ That’s my new motto. Taber’s due for a change. Taber has changed a lot over the past three years, and town council has got to move along with it, and develop different policies.”
Taking aim at the tendering process for the Town of Taber, Ross-Giroux was critical of always accepting the lowest bidder on various public works and other contracts.
“I think we need to look at the way tendering is awarded in this town. I think town council tends to always pick the lowest tender, which isn’t always necessarily the best tender. You’ve got to look at where you’re going to get your money’s worth, and it seems every time we accept one of these tenders, we end up paying extra fees all the time. That’s become a real sore point with me, such as with the wastewater treatment plant — the raw water pipe that needed to be replaced, that was thousands extra. There needs to be greater oversight, and they really need to re-think how they award these tenders.”
One particular item of contention regarding safety in the community needs to be addressed, according to Ross-Giroux.
“Two hot issues that were on the agenda last time were for a spray park in north Taber, and a sidewalk on the service road going to Wal-Mart. Neither of those have occurred. That service road is pretty scary. There’s going to be a death there one of these days with the big trucks that go through there. That’s a huge safety issue for this community.”
Ross-Giroux also contends policy surrounding property tax exemptions for non-profit organizations in the community needs to be more rigidly defined.
“I’m involved with developing policy all of the time. Taber has certainly become more diversified, and we need to become more inclusive of the people coming into our community. I also notice our financial policies tend to be kind of nebulous in some areas, and we really need to pin those down. For example, who gets property tax exemptions? I’ve been doing my homework, going through old minutes, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to which non-profits get property tax exemptions, and which ones don’t. That tells me that there are no clear financial policies in place. I’d really like to see what the liquidity and leverage ratios are for this town, to help us see where we can develop stronger financial policies.”
Characterizing recent town councils as bordering on an old boys club, Ross-Giroux suggested a female voice on town council would be vital to making the group more effective representatives of the desires of the community.
“Town council should be representative of the community that it serves. Considering we have more females in this community than males, we should actually have three women on town council. It’s been about nine years since a woman sat on town council — I think we’re long overdue. I have the strengths, I have the experience, I have the drive, and a different perspective on things. I would love to see our downtown area become more vibrant. I understand that the bulb-outs downtown are one of the actions being taken, but to me that’s a small piece of the equation. Being a woman, I think I can offer different perspectives as to how we can encourage more economic development in town. I’m a big believer in strong family values, and we need to keep providing a healthy community for our citizens.”
Ross-Giroux indicated it might be time for some “entrenched” members of town council to consider stepping down and allowing for fresh ideas and directions for the community.
“I think there should be term limits, because change is always good. You get new ideas, and new ways of doing things, and new methods, and new policy ideas.”