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Full slate running for St. Albert seats

This election will focus on taxes. That's the opinion of the majority of the 13 people seeking one of the six seats on St. Albert city council. Of those running, nine put taxes at or near the top of the list of pressing issues.

This election will focus on taxes.

That's the opinion of the majority of the 13 people seeking one of the six seats on St. Albert city council. Of those running, nine put taxes at or near the top of the list of pressing issues.

Running for office are incumbents Gareth Jones, James Burrows, Roger Lemieux and Len Bracko.

The challengers are Aisling Pollard-Kientzel, Cam MacKay, Cathy Heron, James Van Damme, Stanley Haroun, Wes Brodhead, Malcolm Parker, Norm Harley and Robyn Morrison.

Bracko, Jones, Haroun, Parker and Heron were among those who cited taxes as the top issue.

With a crowded ballot, candidates have a challenge trying to differentiate themselves from each other.

"I hope the electorate will look at my record in these last three years and compare it to what my platform was three years ago," said Jones.

"Even higher density within the limits would [make] taxes more reasonable," Heron said. "But I'm not for cutting services because that's what attracts people to St. Albert."

Parker wants to focus on responsible governance, listening and communication.

"I want to make economic development and growth of business a high priority in the community," he said.

Haroun is proposing a cap on the mill rate equal to the annual cost of living for the next three years as a way to retain residents who otherwise couldn't afford to live in St. Albert.

Bracko said he's running on his proven track record and research that supports his vision for the future.

"Tax increases need to be stable, not highs and lows, and we need to work with all levels of government to make that happen," he said.

Harley is offering his 37 years in the banking business as a selling point for his candidacy.

"I plan on using that business experience, not only during the budget debates but also good business decisions on bylaws and zoning and everything," he said.

Counterpoint

MacKay was one of the few candidates who didn't identify finances as the top issue.

"Adequate representation of the average person here in town is an overriding theme that is important to me," he said.

"I'm going to be working very hard to get out and meet people and let them know what I'm about ... by trying to provide honest, straightforward answers," he said.

Burrows cited planning as the most pressing issue.

"I think that I can run on my record that I've always been on council with a fair and balanced approach and I will continue to be that type of councillor," he added.

Lemieux didn't specify one issue.

"There are several issues but they're all important to everybody involved," said the one-term councillor. "I endeavoured to bring some logic and good business decisions to city council and I've achieved that."

Brodhead, who ran unsuccessfully in 2007, thinks people are concerned about the increasing tax burden, want value for their tax dollars and a council with vision.

His main strength, drawn from a 32-year career in municipal service, most recently with Edmonton Transit, is an understanding of city services from the inside, he said.

"I understand that dynamic between the almost insatiable desire for more service and the very limited capacity of the community to pay for it."

Van Damme, who was the first to announce his intention to run about nine months ago, said he's in the best position to hit the ground running as a new councillor since he's spent time speaking to current councillors and city administration.

His other strengths are his entrepreneurial experience and relationship-building skills, he said.

"I can speak to the people and get a 360 degree view on the issues. I go and speak to all sides."

Youth movement

There are two candidates under 30 years old — Morrison, a 24-year-old marketing co-ordinator, and Pollard-Kientzel, 25, a political science graduate.

Both are hoping to use social media to appeal to oft-apathetic young voters.

"I think there are three main issues — taxes, affordable housing and the future of the city," said Pollard-Kientzel, who cites her seven years of university education as one of her main assets.

"I'm sort of the ideal young candidate because I have the experience and qualifications to do the job but I also have a closeness to the youth that I don't think anyone else has," she said.

Morrison identified budgets and proper spending as the top issue. She thinks her ability to reach young voters represents an opportunity.

"In the past years, younger generations haven't felt that they've had much of a say in how the city's run," she said. "I'd like to be that voice."

All the candidates had previously declared their intention to run prior to Monday's deadline. Frances Badrock was the only person who didn't file papers after declaring an intention to run. Badrock stated in a phone interview she had been in a recent car accident and suffered several broken ribs, which had been complicated by a bout of pneumonia.