Paul Trottier may or may not have his work cut out for him in his bid to become mayor of Denare Beach.
On the one hand, he is challenging one of the most enduring political figures in the history of the village in Mayor Carl Lentowicz.
On the other, Trottier and his supporters believe that nearly two decades into Lentowicz’s mayoralty, voters may be ready for a fresh face.
“I respect him,” Trottier says of the mayor. “A lot of people just told me it’s time for a change.”
Trottier, an incumbent village councillor, presents himself as “a little more progressive-minded” alternative to Lentowicz.
Trottier says that given the potential for changes at Hudbay’s operations, his main issue is ensuring Denare Beach maintains its population and services without large tax increases.
“We are in fairly good shape as far as infrastructure and so on, so forth goes, but that has to be maintained, right?” he says. “You can’t just keep jacking up taxes [and] have a smaller group of people paying for it all. You have to do things to try and offset that.”
One of Trottier’s proposals is to develop lakefront residential lots on a nearby peninsula, an idea that has been floating around for years.
He says the village could affordably develop the peninsula section by section, starting with 10 or 15 lots and then progressing as the properties are sold. He says the peninsula has room for up to 140 lots.
“Those can be marketed both to local clientele as well as overseas clientele,” Trottier says.
“I want to encourage more development. Right now the village basically has next to nothing for residential lots.”
Trottier says there was a lot of planning done, so the village has information to draw from.
In the midst of his seventh mayoral campaign, Lentowicz is not promising any major changes. He speaks at length on the quality of the infrastructure in place in the village.
“Generally the village infrastructure has been upgraded, maintained and [is] in very good condition,” says the mayor. “The current economy in Saskatchewan can result in reduction of operating and capital grants [for municipalities]. As a result we should be and are in a good position to continue through such possibilities.”
Lentowicz says Denare Beach’s upgraded water and sewage treatment plants are projected to last another 25 to 35 years.
He says summer and winter recreational programming is available, and streets have been upgraded with new pavement in recent years.
On the issue of residential lots, Lentowicz notes there are still about eight vacant lots remaining at Denare Beach’s Mosher Lake subdivision. He believes that is sufficient for now, noting there are also quite a few houses for sale in the village.
While his opponent is concerned about the possibility of large tax increases, Lentowicz does not foresee a problem.
“There shouldn’t be any additional taxes that I can see currently. We’re in pretty good shape here,” he says.
While acknowledging that property assessments can impact taxes, Lentowicz adds, “Generally it should be okay.”
Economic development occupies a prominent place in the minds of residents across Denare Beach and area. In that regard, Lentowicz has joined discussions with his Creighton and Flin Flon counterparts aimed at fostering more economic activity.
He stresses the preliminary nature of those talks.
Recent years have seen crime – specifically break-ins, theft and vandalism committed by children and teens – emerge as major source of apprehension in Denare Beach.
While Trottier acknowledges “crime is always a concern,” he says Denare Beach’s crime rate is not high compared to other communities of equal size.
Denare Beach has less crime than Flin Flon, he says, and the offences that are reported tend to come in rashes of vandalism and break-ins.
Trottier calls the structure of the legal system unfortunate, mentioning that a child under the age of 12 cannot be charged with a crime – and many of the Denare Beach crimes are being committed by children as young as eight years old.
“These children know that even if they’re 12 to 18, they can be charged, but still they get a slap on the wrist. Nothing happens,” he says.
Trottier encourages neighbourhood watch programs and recommends residents lock their doors and install home-security systems. He agrees with residents who say they shouldn’t have to take such measures, but he adds they are still necessary.
Similarly, Lentowicz says village council has limited capacity to address crime. He says different government agencies have a role to play and “the void” that tends to show up in Denare Beach relates to the availability of social services, which are offered out of Nipawin.
“It seems like they’re listing our region for one day a month or three days a month or something, and it takes them a day to get here and a day to get back, basically,” he says.
Lentowicz says a letter has been sent to the provincial government to seek more social services support.
Name recognition goes a long way in small-town politics – and it’s a strength for both mayoral candidates. Lentowicz, a retired RCMP officer, has lived in Denare Beach for the past 28 years; Trottier, manager of Flin Flon Flooring, for the past 25 years.
Trottier most recently joined village council in a 2015 by-election, having previoulsy served a term from 1997 to 2000.
He also makes the case that the multiple boards of directors on which he has served, addressing topics such as recreation, economic development and education, have functions similar to those of council.
Lentowicz is inviting voters to consider his history in a position he has held since 1997.
“I think I have a track record for applying myself to village business, and have been on many boards,” says the mayor. “I’ll still dedicate my service in a similar fashion, and with the community being first and foremost.”
Denare Beach voters head to the polls on Wednesday, Oct. 26.