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Eastlink Centre

When I started door knocking in April, snow removal and the Eastlink Centre were mentioned in almost every conversation. By late June, no one was mentioning either. In the last week, I've started hearing about them again. Winter must be coming!

I’m upset about the Eastlink Centre. My kids are even more upset. And most people I talk to about it are upset. It needs to get fixed. Unfortunately, most of the Eastlink Centre problems have been staffing and culture issues. And those are not a quick fix. But I want to make sure we are addressing them as quick as possible. More importantly, I want to make sure our corporate culture and practices have changed so that we don’t run into this again.

Most of my policy positions include detailed background information and concrete ideas. Talking about the Eastlink Centre is different. Council's role is to set and monitor policy and strategy, not to wade into operations. The Eastlink Centre problems have largely been operational.

Council's role is to make sure it gets fixed, not to do the fixing themselves. Council needs to be keeping a close eye on it, learning about the public's experiences, asking pointed questions, and giving clear direction about their vision for the facility. Council needs to hold administration to account. But at the same time, administration needs to be doing the actual fixing. Problems won't get solved by Council overstepping its governance role.

As a member of the public, I am not privy to all that has contributed to the Eastlink Centre's many challenges. But it seems to me that it largely came down to having people in the wrong jobs. Many were smart, dedicated, good people who just did not have the experience necessary. The Eastlink Centre is one of our most public-facing departments, so this problem was most evident in it. But I have heard of the same issue in other departments.

There have been changes made. In June, the City undertook some major Corporate restructuring. We also have a new General Manager at the Eastlink Centre. Hopefully this has put us on the right track. For good or ill, we should start seeing effects soon. Our new Council will need to do a great job of monitoring the facility and engaging with public experiences to make sure these changes are working out.

If elected, I already have a fairly long list of questions I plan to dig into about our hiring/promoting policies, procedures, and history. I want to make sure that we are using best practices. I believe that the foundational key to organisational success is getting the right people in the right positions. I want to be assured that administration is doing this.

I also think this points to a larger issue in the Grande Prairie economy. I know one of the City's challenges has been attracting outside talent to move here and fill key roles. This is a big challenge for business too. We need to be working on our public perception outside of the community. And we need to continue our efforts to make this a more attractive place to live. I'm fully immersed in our community, but I also only got here in 2011. I vividly remember being offered a job here and showing up with a moving truck and no connections. I look forward to applying my perspective to make Grande Prairie a more attractive place to move, visit, and invest in.

Last thought: I'd like to have seen Council talking about the Eastlink Centre more. I have no idea what kind of effort and thought they have put into its problems. And that is concerning.  I first heard rumblings of our latest problems back in August 2016. I was in a Community Living Committee meeting November 15th when a citizen delegation came forward to express deep concern over the pool. The whole operation very publicly blew up in January. Yet it took us until April to hear anything from Council about it. Then all we heard was a single blog post from Councillor Tarant. I think Council reassuring and giving information to the public could’ve mitigated some of the damage done. Council needs to do a better job about being open and transparent with City problems.

The public has lost trust in the Eastlink Centre. It is an underutilized facility that is costing us a lot of taxpayer money to run. Council needs to be making sure administration is righting the ship. Then Council needs to work hard with administration to restore trust. The Eastlink Centre is a great facility. I want to contribute to it being better utilized while requiring less taxpayer subsidies.