|Johnson seeking re-election on M.D. council|
|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by Greg Price|
|Wednesday, 25 September 2013 17:51|
A Municipal District of Taber councillor since 1995, Don Johnson still feels invigorated to help his taxpayers in Division 1, in his area encompassing southwest of Taber.
Johnson has made his intentions known he will be seeking re-election for M.D. of Taber council.
“I love community service and I’ve always felt fortunate that I live where I live. It’s an opportunity to give back,” said Johnson.
“Not everyone feels comfortable doing this type of stuff and I am and I have been for years. I think it’s a responsibility and if you feel like you can do it and you are capable of doing it, you have that responsibility to step forward and be part of it.”
Through his 18 years of community service as an M.D. councillor, Johnson has been able to network both provincially and nationally, as the former president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and he has been on the executive of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has aided the M.D.
“You sit at the table and you negotiate with federal ministers and you get to be a strong supporter of rural Canada,” said Johnson.
“Getting that access, you get to show the contributions rural communities make. A lot of people don’t realize over 50 per cent of the export GDP comes from rural Canada. I’m always reminding the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton that nothing happens in those cities without starting in rural Alberta.”
Looking at the last term in particular, Johnson pointed to an additional $2 billion of the $33 billion allotted to rural small communities for sustainability that was achieved through canvassing.
The M.D. has received approximately $9 million of that since 2007, according to Johnson, and the M.D. has been able to complete two regional water plants in the process with very little trickle down to the actual taxpayer.
“Out of that, the cost was pretty close to $30 million dollars. Close to 90 per cent of that came out of the Building Canada Fund federal stimulus dollars and MSI. It did not significantly impact the taxes we had to collect for those sorts of things,” said Johnson.
“We replaced six aging water plants between a number of municipalities like Vauxhall, Bow Island, County of 40 mile and ourselves and replaced them with two brand-new plants that are run under regional commissions and we supply good clean potable water to Enchant, Vauxhall, Hays, Bow Island, Grassy Lake, Burdett and there is the opportunity for farmers if they chose to hook onto all the waterlines.”
If Johnson were to take the Division 1 helm once again on M.D. council come the fall election, he said his continued priorities will be Johnson’s Addition in getting the sewer fixed. Johnson’s Addition does not qualify as a hamlet for funding, but the M.D. did manage to unearth some documents from the mid-1980s, that did declare Johnson’s Addition as a hamlet for street improvement program purposes. But Alberta Transportation seems to not agree for those funding dollars.
“We are sort of in a grey area. But those people have a need to have things done properly in terms of water and waste water. That’s one of my goals, is to continue to work on that,” said Johnson.
“My division has a fairly dense population along Huckleberry Road and it would be great to get water into all that area at a reasonable cost and I think we can tie in with the Town of Taber.”
Johnson believes you always build from within through strong administration, in which he praised the M.D. “You have to support your staff by giving them the necessary tools and they have the opportunity for input to us. We give them responsibilities so they feel like they have ownership,” said Johnson.
“Continuity, I think is important and we have a good working group. We all think of the same mind and I think a lot of good things have happened in the last three years. We took over the Vauxhall airport and made it into an important piece with the building. We have a new fire agreement with the Town of Vauxhall. Our roads are always a critical issue and I think our staff does a great job, but there’s always projects to do in each division and we support each other. That’s important and we are pushing really hard with economic development.”
Johnson pointed to his and his fellow councillors’ track record on a provincial level. Looking at taxes and mill rates, the M.D. is one of the lowest in the province, according to Johnson. “This is a commitment I have made and I know other members of council have made as well — is to have strong, sound financial management so we can be sustainable. We are accountable for the tax dollars that we spend,” said Johnson. “You can’t ever forget who you represent. Sometimes, they are not going to be happy, you can’t help that, but you have to be accessible.”
Johnson is appreciative of the opportunity his ratepayers have given him — to be their representative, in which he added, he tries his best to listen to their needs and to assist.
Johnson will be facing competition in the upcoming election for Division 1 on Oct. 21 with Merrill Harris and Cliff Kenyon also vying for the Division 1 M.D. councillor position.
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