Proportional Representative (PR) candidate of the Sans Souci-Melville constituency in the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) of Wakenaam, Sheikh Ahmad is confident that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) will garner gains in the Essequibo island district at this year’s Local Government Elections (LGE).As the November 12 date draws closer, the PPP/C representative told Guyana Times on Sunday that various candidates and representatives would continue meeting with potential constituents to convince them that their Party was the most suitable for their local representation.He told this newspaper that he expected the Party would secure a return to victory as it had done since the 1994 LGE were held. After the LGE resurfaced in 2016, the PPP/C secured 15 out of 18 seats, having won eight of nine constituencies. The Party opted to withdraw from Constituency Two, Rush Brook/Maria Johanna this time around owing to discrepancies in the list of candidates for the area. Nevertheless, Ahmad, who took over the NDC chairmanship in January, believes that his Party has the platform that will draw residents to cast their votes in its favour.“Our plan is for no new taxes and we want to continue to work with the drainage and irrigation system to enhance farming in terms of coconut, rice, plantain, cattle and to continue to work with community centres and grounds to enhance sport and sporting facilities,” the incumbent Chairman observed.Ahmad, who is also a farmer and businessman, told this newspaper that he would continue working with fellow farmers on the island with a view of having more input from them as they would have first-hand knowledge of the issues that arise in the agricultural sector. To this end, the politician said that he would place special focus on the areas of marketing, production and quality.He highlighted that his island has good drainage networks owing to an excavator that the Council obtained in 2010. The incumbent Chair outlined that every year the NDC was guided by its Work Programme whereby 26,000 rods of trenches and drains were cleaned and maintained, while kokers were also kept in working condition. Ahmad, however, stressed that many of the roads on Wakenaam were in a deplorable state although he was hopeful that Central Government would provide the NDC with a grader to level the roads ahead of overall road works.“There are 10-12 miles of deplorable roads on the island,” he stressed.He committed to working with various levels of Government to ensure that he advocated for the rights of his constituency. This comes even though the ruling party at the central level is the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC). However, at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) level in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), the PPP/C controls the majority, which has been advantageous to Wakenaam.“It wasn’t an easy task to work with Central Government as it was tough at first, but somehow found a working relationship with the Region and with our subventions, we have been able to achieve assistance for works,” he noted, referencing the recent breach of the sea defence and consequent flooding on the island which saw a multi-stakeholder approach being utilised to address the issue.Ahmad said that residents were very optimistic in supporting the Party’s candidates on his belief that they would garner the majority on the Wakenaam NDC.“We have been in the field working and we have shown the concern of caring and providing services for everyone despite your nationality, race or political affiliation. We have been a diverse Party, which has put our support to every person that has asked us for help. We reach out to them and that’s why we should be the persons returning to run the NDC,” the PR candidate stressed.
Councillors Theresa Gladue and Marilyn Belak are both undecided at this point.Gladue said the demands of her work schedule as Aboriginal education coordinator for Northern Lights College is a big factor in deciding whether she will run again. She said she expects to decide by end of September.She said there have been many highlights in her first term as councillor that would weigh on her decision.“There’s so many positives in being a councillor, because you get to learn so many new things,” she said. “It’s a very good learning experience.”Belak said she would like to retire after nine years on council, but wants to see who else puts their name forward to run to ensure the direction of this current council is maintained.“I’m leaving it open to see what the candidate list is,” she said. “It has been a long, hard drive to put the policies and procedures in place that make this a sustainable community, and I’m willing to continue working on that if I feel in any way that’s in danger.”She said if she does step down, she will be most proud of the way sustainability has been incorporated within the city’s operations at every level.Many of the current councillors expressed their desire to see others put forward their names to run for a seat on council. Nomination packages are now available at City Hall. Candidates won’t officially declare until Oct. 4, and the election is slated for Nov. 19. “I really believe in what the city has been doing, what this present council has been doing, and I want to see it through,” said Kenny. “I guess it’s finishing the job of what we started.”She added the city’s sustainability initiatives, the new arts centre, and ensuring the continued success of the Multiplex are examples of the work she would like to carry on with.Dawson Creek’s longest-serving city councillor, Bud Powell, said he will not be seeking re-election after 12 years as a public servant.“I feel that I have done my time and it is time for somebody else to step into that void,” said Powell.He said he is proud that projects that he has championed, namely the Multiplex and the Calvin Kruk Centre for the Arts, are completed or underway. He added he has also been pleased to serve as an advocate for the local tourism industry, and he would like to serve at least one more year on the board of Northern BC Tourism. Advertisement “I’m absolutely running for re-election here in Dawson Creek,” said Shuman. “I’ve had some challenging times, but it has been well worth it and I’ve been very happy to serve the community and I’m looking forward to for another three years.”She said she is not looking to make any specific campaign promises, other than that she will work hard to ensure a healthy, sustainable and liveable community for residents. She added she is prepared to defend the decisions she has made as a councillor, including controversial ones such as the new utility rate structure that was implemented this year.“We don’t make decisions so that we are popular, we make decisions that are right for the community,” said Shuman.McFadyen said he would like to “maintain the course” and to continue work on important policies like the debt management policy and the airport sustainability plan. He added while he doesn’t think the city’s debt is out of control, he would like the next council to focus on debt reduction and investment in core infrastructure like roads and sewers, and avoid any mega-projects.Advertisement “We got everything we need, let’s make sure what we have is working, and get back to debt reduction and infrastructure,” he said.He added he is also prepared to defend the controversial changes to the water rates, saying it was a necessary change to ensure the long-term sustainability of the system.“Sometimes you have to make decisions that are unpopular in the present, but I do know going forward 10 to 15 years down the road that we will have made the right decision.”The retired RCMP officer said he and his wife love Dawson Creek, and he feels he is a point in his life where he has the time and desire to give something back.Kenny said she is running to continue the work she feels is unfinished.Advertisement Mayor Mike Bernier said he will be seeking one more term in that office.“My first term as mayor is something I’ve really enjoyed, and there’s definitely a learning curve going forward, but I’m very happy about the first term and what we’ve accomplished as a council,” he said. “We’ve built an amazing community here, one that I’m very proud to go out and brag about.”He said if elected for another term, one of his goals is to continue promoting the city abroad to the business community, as well as to other communities and other levels of government.- Advertisement -“I want to keep Dawson Creek at the centre of attention, and to make sure we continue enticing businesses to come here,” said Bernier. “We don’t want to be a boom-bust community, so we have to look into the future as best we can and manage what the expected growth is going to be.”He added community engagement and transparency was a big part of his platform when he initially ran for mayor and he believes they have accomplished that aim in many respects, though he said more will be done if re-elected.Councillors Cheryl Shuman, Terry McFayden and Sue Kenny have all indicated they will run for another term this fall.Advertisement