You can’t say Vic Powell didn’t warn them.
The 66-year-old retired sergeant major from the Canadian military has a habit of being a straight shooter, and he’s got locally elected officials in his sights. Now challenging incumbent Dan Ashton for the mayoralty, Powell’s been given a platform to air his views.
“People who know me know that I shoot from the hip. If they don’t like it, they better get out of the way because they’ll get hurt,” he says with a smile. “That’s the way I got through the military, and it sure as heck didn’t hurt me.”
He’s blunt in his criticism for the current council: he feels decisions like the sale of city land on Eckhardt Avenue to make way for a hockey school dormitory project should have been more transparent, but words it much differently.
“I’ve never seen a council so out of control as I have of this one,” he said. “That is totally ridiculous. They have moved equipment on that site, they have fenced it off, and the meeting hasn’t even taken place where the people can object or agree with what’s going on.”
He doesn’t give a lot of credence to legislation that permits council to make in-camera decisions, providing they pertain to land, legal or personnel issues.
“I think the public should be asked their opinion prior to the selling of that property. It’s the taxpayers’ money, so the taxpayers should have a say,” he explains.
It’s those people who have inspired him to run, Powell said. He wants to represent ordinary, everyday people who pay their taxes and aren’t beholden to other interests.
“I’m not doing any door knocking. I’m not putting any brochures out because they’ll just be blowing around in the wind. … Signs, all they create is an obstruction to drivers at the intersection,” he said, adding that political campaigns are often financed through developer or union contributions.
“I have never asked somebody to pay for me to go get a job. That was the way I look at it.”
Although he wants to provide leadership to the city, he’s concerned about the makeup of council.
“The council has to be a mixture of citizens, not all businessmen as it’s been. There’s businessmen that put us in the position we’re in. If we ran our homes the way these businessmen have run this city, we’d be bankrupt,” he said.
Powell describes his concern for the city debt is much akin to watching some of his young soldiers take on too many payments.
“I had one kid in Winnipeg who drives up to me in a brand new car. ‘How do you like my new car, sir?’ I said to him, ‘I don’t,’” he recalled, adding that the young man blustered at the response. “I knew his financial situation. I said, ‘The payments you have to make, you can’t make them.’ It wasn’t two months later I got a phone call from the car lot, and he hasn’t paid his bill.”
To stave off creditors calling, Powell said he wants to conduct an audit on all of the city’s finances and focus on projects that are needed, like water and sewer upgrades, and charging the costs back to developers who need the upgrades to service their projects.
“The infrastructure was not sufficient to support the additional load. Who pays for it? It comes out of the taxpayers’ pocket,” he said.
In addition to fiscal responsibility, the aspiring politician said City Hall should reach out to the next generation of voters. “I’d like to get the young people more involved,” he said, adding that having good jobs in town is critical.
“You’re going to have better paying jobs if you bring in industry. They’ll go for 12 months, rather than four months of the year at minimum wage.”
Whatever Powell believes, he believes it strongly. He admits to having little volunteer service experience in the community, but points to events during his 33-year military career as political experience: he worked as a liaison on a German base to trouble-shoot and make decisions for the betterment of locals and troops. “I think I’ve done my part. Not in this community, but throughout the world,” he said.
While some might question his attempt to run for office, he just shrugs it off.
“If you don’t put your name forward, then you won’t have your ideas out in the open. My theory is, if you don’t get involved, then you can change nothing,” he said.