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Three take run at town council

Stephen Dafoe, Rebecca Balanko and Lawrence Giffen say they'll run for town councillor in Morinville this fall.

Two Morinville businessmen and a Red Cross veteran say they will put their names on the ballot this fall in the race to become town councillor. Coun. Stephen Dafoe, Coach’s Corner owner Lawrence Giffin and former Red Cross disaster services manager Rebecca Balanko have announced their plans to run for Morinville town council in this fall’s election.

The incumbent

The owner of Morinville News, Dafoe, 55, is seeking his second term in office, having first been elected in 2013. “There have been a number of people in town that would really want me to run for mayor,” Dafoe said, and he gave it serious thought. But the mayor should be a full-time job, and he felt he could best serve the community by doing something else outside of council. He also wanted to avoid what happened in 2013, where Morinville had two veteran councillors running for mayor (Lisa Holmes and Sheldon Fingler) and lost one as a result. “With the work ahead, we cannot afford to do that,” he said, especially since so many of the current council aren’t running again. “I think we need some people with four years of experience behind them with the agenda we’ve got to continue with.” An 11-year resident of Morinville, Dafoe pitched himself as someone who was committed to council and listening to residents, noting that he had a perfect council attendance record this term. “I’m not afraid to ask the hard questions,” he said, and he regularly brings concerns residents raise to him to the council table. Dafoe said he was pleased by his efforts to reform the town’s photo radar policy, which included motions to have the majority of the town’s ticket revenue spent on traffic safety, crime prevention, and community good and (as of last week) a hard cap on the amount of time officers can spend at any one site. He also helped establish the town’s community services advisory board and regional rec-centre. “It’s been a struggle from day one, but in the end we now will have more than we could have had,” he said of the latter. Dafoe said that in addition to being the voice of residents, he planned to continue to enhance recreational services in Morinville if re-elected (whether that be through the rec-centre or parks maintenance) and to examine whether or not the town should seek city status. “Dafoe works. It’s as simple as that.”

The challengers

Balanko, 42, has lived in Morinville 15 years and runs a youth counselling business, having recently served six years as a community resource co-ordinator for the Sturgeon Public School Division. From 2004 to 2008, she was the provincial disaster services manager for the Red Cross in Alberta, dispatching some 68 volunteers to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 floods in Calgary. “We were the busiest office in all Canada,” she said. The job required strong leadership and organizational skills, as well as the ability to think on her feet, she said. She also personally used her medical skills to save a woman’s life in 2008, and was recognized by the Red Cross for that act. Balanko is an administrator with the Morinville Marvellous Moms Facebook group – a group of some 2,000 residents that rallies to support families in need. She is a board member with the Champion Foundation (a group sponsored by Champion Petfoods that aims to give micro-grants in support of community initiatives), a past board member with the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation (with which she was co-recipient of the 2013 Morinville Volunteer of the Year Award), and a mother of three. “I really have that strong desire to ensure that all of Morinville enjoys a good quality of life.” Balanko said she would focus on youth empowerment if elected – something for which she received an International Women’s Day Award in 2014. Morinville had both a burgeoning youth and seniors population, and she planned to encourage more initiatives to bring these groups together. Balanko also promised to promote fiscal transparency and to act as an effective liaison between the town and community service groups. “I know this community and I’ve worked really tirelessly to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable here are really looked after.” Giffin, 53, is an eight-year resident of Morinville and father of two who previously ran for council in 2013. “Council does need a business approach to budgeting,” he said, and he could provide that as a business owner and former area manager with TransCanada Pipelines. A self-described small “c” conservative, Giffin said that the town hadn’t gotten its money’s worth when it came to major projects such as the rec-centre, Community Cultural Centre and town hall renovations, and criticized the current council for building an arena and a field-house to the rec-centre without going to the public first. Giffin said he would be more cautious with public funds if elected, and would prioritize improving the town’s tax base and reducing debt. “My only agenda is to represent the citizens of Morinville.”

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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