Andrew Wannan joined the race for a seat on the next Elliot Lake city council on the final week of nominations.
A lifelong city resident, he is better known as 'Dr. Wannan' to many, the city veterinarian who conducts his practice at Elliot Lake Animal Hospital at 100 Hillside Dr. S.
ElliotLakeToday asked Wannan about why he decided to enter the council race, which eventually swelled to a 17-candidate competition.
ElliotLakeToday: What prompted your decision to run?
Wannan: I just couldn't sit this one out. My past, my present and my future all revolve around Elliot Lake.
I love my hometown; I feel deeply connected to our community, and I want to see us thrive. I am and have been a strong sponsor and supporter of many organizations here, including minor sports, the concert series, the Red and White, the ski hill, the curling club and the golf course.
I feel very strongly about my civic responsibility and duty, so I am motivated and determined to step up and offer myself as an option for the council.
ElliotLakeToday: Do you have any suggestions for improving our election process? i.e. nomination, registration, voting, campaign reporting, training requirements, etc.?
Wannan: I really think we are off to a great start. Participation is number one, and we have a very good number of candidates vying for spots on the council. Voters have a choice from a variety of talents and experiences, and it's up to the candidates to do their best to present themselves.
I think the best way to improve the process is to encourage voter turnout. We are all presenting ourselves to you for election. Now it's up to the citizens of Elliot Lake to participate and vote on election day. Please go out and vote!
ElliotLakeToday: What qualities, attitudes, experiences, or aspirations should the voters look for when they examine the field of candidates who register to run in next Fall's municipal election?
Wannan: We need leaders who are active in Elliot Lake. It is easier to understand and relate to the topics and interests of voters if you are actually participating in the same events or facing the same challenges.
The skills of leadership should include; the ability to make and maintain relationships, strong communication skills, a good team player, and a good listener that can analyze information and think critically to take action.
Someone who is prepared. Someone who understands business and finance, not just the numbers but inherent and potential value of assets and liabilities, strong ties to the community and someone who can be a consensus builder.
ElliotLakeToday: How do you feel about the current training requirements for newly-elected councillors?
Wannan: It is very important that each candidate prepares themself for the election and a potential spot on the council. It requires a lot of self-study, and the more you prepare, the better you can serve the community.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has a good website for both pre and post-election information. There are archives of past council meetings available for viewing. This is where and how I have started, and I will continue to do my homework.
ElliotLakeToday: Do you feel any changes need to be made to the current Elliot Lake City Council committee system? i.e. selection process, makeup, remuneration, responsibilities?
Wannan: Elliot Lake is a small city, and the committee system should work. I think it should be upward driven, meaning recommendations from city staff and community volunteers should be valued and respected.
It's up to the council to properly consider and debate and then decide upon those recommendations. Perhaps we should review the number of committees and consider combining similar or related ones. It could improve efficiency and may attract more interest from the public.
ElliotLakeToday: We all know about the impacts of inflation. Although the council has not had a wage review since 2017, should council remuneration be looked at again this year?
Wannan: The impact of inflation affects everyone. The council should know the fair remuneration for their services. It doesn't necessarily mean it should be increased. A significant part of the job of the council is to consider not only their own costs but all the costs of almost every function of managing the city.
This is important information for budgeting and planning. If a wage review for the council is required or mandated, then it will need to be addressed.
ElliotLakeToday: What is or are your best hope(s) for change in Elliot Lake in the next four years?
Wannan: Our best hope is for a council that is representative of our community, that can operate transparently and deliver results effectively.
Elliot Lake is such a unique community. Our demographics are varied, from retirees to many young families. We need to use this population base to pursue grants for sports and entertainment venues while continuing to maintain our current infrastructure.
Everyone who lives here has an expectation of services from the city and local small businesses. Today it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide that.
Hopefully, we can accommodate new housing and cottage development, but without these key services, how can we support them?
We need health care professionals. There may be an opportunity for Elliot Lake to become a healthcare destination. We have a great hospital, and we need to find ways to get the support our hospital needs.
Recent changes to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) may also provide more teaching and training opportunities.
I would support a new motel or hotel. Our tourism potential remains relatively untapped, and I feel that we need the extra accommodations to improve on that.
I would also like to explore expanding the use of the airport. More young families, workers and tourists would find Elliot Lake attractive if we could help improve the commute.
ElliotLakeToday: About plans going ahead for the Arts Centre on Elizabeth Walk. Do you agree with the council's decision to proceed right away when our arena is on its last legs and will only last another four years maximum?
Wannan: I do not know all the information our council had to make their decision. I believe that both are important for Elliot Lake, but the arena and the Arts Centre are two separate issues, and I would need to know more about both situations.
These are the types of hard decisions I would like to be involved with as a member of the council. I will endeavour to ensure effective representation and transparency, leading to thoughtful and assertive resolutions that are in the best interest of Elliot Lake.