...moving forward together!

School trustee running for council endorsed by Councillor

Jordan Thompson - FT. Mcmurray Today

With family and friends looking on in support, Catholic School Board trustee Keith McGrath took to the podium at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre Thursday afternoon to officially throw his name in the hat for the Wood Buffalo municipal by-election.

But before McGrath addressed everyone in attendance, current city councillor Sheldon Germain endorsed and introduced him.

"The strength of a council is diversity," Germain said. "And it's really important that you have people from other industries and other backgrounds around that table to make the best possible decisions for the community. One of the things that Keith brings to the table is experience in industry, experience as a trustee with the Catholic School Division, and he's worked with other levels of government."

A long-time resident of Fort McMurray, McGrath spoke of a number of improvements he hopes to bring to life for the city, including introducing a tax for the region's "shadow population."

"I believe that those who live in camps and hotels should contribute to our municipal tax base, as they draw upon our services each day without paying any taxes," McGrath said. "As your elected representative, I will propose that we devise a reasonable tax levy for commuters who access our regional services. That revenue can sustain and improve our infrastructure, health services, child care, and recreation facilities, and the demands that accompany this continuous growth.

"Right now today we have over 30,000 camp rooms that are in the oilsands, and obviously the businesses are taxed like the rest of us, but what I think about are the people who are making thousands and thousands of dollars, that come to Fort McMurray, take their cheque back to any place in the world, not give us a nickel and use our services ... is five bucks a day too much to ask for a tax levy that can be spent back into the community, I don't think so. And it's never been done."

McGrath also shed light on issues that the city faces as its population continues to increase, showing no signs of slowing down.

"Our community struggles with the demands of the ever-increasing population," McGrath said. "After a long weekend, or a Sunday evening, the grocery stores sometimes show shelves that are bare. Traffic delays continue to wreak havoc on employees travelling to and from work, as well as families trying to attend after-school functions and socials.

"As your councillor, I will propose an arterial route around our city; one that allows the oversized and dangerous goods vehicles to use an alternate route, bypassing our city, taking them to the existing oil sands and future plants."

McGrath said that the road will greatly reduce the amount of traffic in the city, and lessen the burden on the roads as well, causing less damage.

Adding that the region needs more and better access to health care, McGrath also said that he would like to see more on-site clinics so workers don't clog up the city's services.