Town council candidate Bruce Townley is among the three residents who have launched their campaigns early for this October's municipal election.
Townley has been observing how town council has been conducting business and has come to believe it's time to bring back common sense and responsible government to the community. He says he will fight to bring back accountability, transparency, and accessibility to council.
He's a retired police officer with 32 years of service with the Durham Regional Police, the last 13-plus years as a senior officer. He and his wife moved here in 2019, and he wants the opportunity to continue to give back to his community.
"I think there's a direct parallel between serving the public as a politician, and serving the public as a police officer. If I'm giving the opportunity, I'll bring those experiences to help the town grow and develop in a more financially efficient way."
"The sense of community here in Cochrane is just exceptional, especially compared to other parts of the country, and was the final factor in deciding to move here. People here are so friendly, so genuine. We have great local businesses, we love the history and Western Heritage here, and it was just a perfect fit for us."
He believes councillors aren't always readily accessible and will make it his priority.
"It's not a knock to anybody in our town, but I find, and I've heard this from many others, that it's sometimes difficult to access our elected officials. I can assure you that's going to be a priority of mine. When people reach out, they're reaching out for a reason. They need some direction, they need some help, they need some answers, and that's one of the things I'll make a priority."
He believes council needs to be more accountable with how it's managing the money of taxpayers, and listen closely to their concerns.
"We're impacting people's lives and spending their money, and we owe them the respect of listening to them to and responding to them in a timely manner, be honest, and treat their hard-earned money the way we treat our own."
He questions the massive capital expenditures of $45 million planned by the town in the middle of the pandemic when a poll conducted by the town indicates people are concerned for their livelihood.
"I think it's time to step back, take a deep breath, and take a look at what's really going on here. I'm very concerned with the direction this town has been taking, especially when we're in the middle of the worldwide pandemic."
He questions why the protective service building has mushroomed into a $23 million project when it was $10.8 million in 2014. He questions why construction is proceeding before a contract is even finalized with the RCMP.
"I think they've put the cart before the horse, and the fact of the matter is if it was my decision to make, I wouldn't start to build until you have an agreement in place. No disrespect to the RCMP or any other police organization for that matter, but now they're in control of the negotiations because the town has already committed to start to build. From my experience, that's not how you negotiate."
Speaking from the experience in overseeing Victim Services, among other units, with the Durham Police, he strongly disagrees with including the victim services unit in the building. Instead, it should be in a nondescript location.
"One of the things we learned from experience is that you don't put the Victim Services Unit within an operational police facility because victims at the best of times are not comfortable walking into a police station. And when they have been victimized by serious crimes, it's that much more difficult."
Townley is deeply concerned with the major gap between the town's commercial and residential tax base.
"I believe we're around 10 per cent commercial compared to 90 residential, and that's on the low end of the scale in looking at other towns and small cities across Alberta, and across the country, for that matter."
He believes the town needs to become much more business-friendly and snip the red tape that discourages many companies from locating here.
"I have now spoken to upwards of 25-30 companies here in town -- big, medium, and small -- and the common message I'm getting is that the taxes, the red tapes, and the hoops they had to jump through were obstacles."
"I spoke to one business owner who said from the time they commenced planning to the time they opened their business was over 11 months."
"That's a common message I'm hearing from the businesses, and I think we have to address that, and we have to make that priority, because, with COVID and its lingering effects, I don't think we've seen the real impact that the pandemic has had on our local businesses. We have to do more to, one, make sure they survive and, two, sustain their growth and their long-term potential within our town."
He has heard several examples of companies and investors who wanted to come to Cochrane but chose to go elsewhere in the Calgary area because of the hoops they had to jump through here.
He shares residents share his concern with rapid residential growth, and wants to see it slow down. He says 80 to 85 of the people he has spoken with have expressed a major concern.
"The folks here are concerned that Cochrane's growing way too fast. Without any real long-term strategic plan to deal with the growth the infrastructure has started to fall behind."
As a resident of the Riveria community, he says he was blindsided by the proposal to develop a wave park on the Bow River. He says it's untrue that their neighbourhood was consulted on the idea, and that Riviera doesn't even have a community association.
Since March, he has been developing the Facebook group, "No Wave Park Cochrane." He says he continues to research the topic, and believes many people object to the project.
"I've spoken to probably 50-60 folks in our neighbourhood alone, and I would say 99.9 per cent are against it, and for good reason. When you start even considering some of those things, it's the impact on the environment, the quality of life, the noise, the litter... all these things.."
"We have better things to spend our money on than a wave park that will cost us millions and millions of dollars."
He says Calgary is considering the same idea, and a wave park, although smaller in magnitude, already exists in Kananaskis.
Townley says above all, residents need to be able to trust their elected officials.
"We need to do what we say, be honest, listen to people, and tell the truth. Sometimes they may not want to hear the truth, but that's just the way of life."
On the flip side, he believes elected officials must also be willing to admit when their wrong, and learn from their mistakes.
Townley became an ambassador for Wounded Warriors when he moved to Cochrane and worked with them while overseeing the mental health support program of the Durham Police.