Outside-the-box thinking needed in debt repayment
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Oct 08, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Outside-the-box thinking needed in debt repayment

Stratford Gazette

Chet Greason cgreason@stratfordgazette.com

While Stratford native Larry LaBelle both understands and agrees with the money that was spent by council on infrastructure, he says paying down the debt and keeping expenditures to the most essential of items is the key to future prosperity.

That’s why he’s submitted his name to run for council. The first-time candidate hopes to be a voice of smart fiscal planning.

“The latest number I’ve seen is $86 million of debt; that’s $6,000 per household,” he says. “That sets alarm bells off, especially when I look at other centres.”

He stresses that he fully agrees with how the money was invested.

“But now we have to get back to a strong financial position,” he says. “Once we do, we’ll have more flexibility in our future planning.”

He hopes the city will do this by prioritizing spending, listing items according to “need-to-do” and “would-like-to-do” categories. Need-to-do, he says, includes infrastructure, social programs, transit, subsidized housing, the arena, the fire department, and police services.

Would-like-to-do would be something like the redevelopment of Market Square.

“We simply can’t afford it,” he says.

LaBelle spent 15 years in the manufacturing industry. When his company relocated to North Carolina, he made the jump to real estate, noting neither he nor his wife wished to leave Stratford.

He adds that his business acumen is a skill needed on council to help keep commerce here in the city.

“I was materials manager for a large car manufacturer,” he says. “Negotiations are in my blood.”

He advises staying in constant communication with Stratford’s existing businesses and industries.

“If we can enhance their wants and needs, we should do that,” he says. “That includes the businesses downtown. A strong city centre is vital.”

As well as maintaining the current level of employers in Stratford, LaBelle says outside-the-box thinking is needed to attract new industries to the area. He cites Moncton, New Brunswick as a city that’s done exactly that when the medicinal marijuana field started gaining momentum.

“That industry invested $17 million in Eastern Canada,” resulting in 1,500 jobs in Moncton alone, he says.

“We can’t confine ourselves to traditional auto manufacturing,” he adds. “Every year, there are new changes in the system. We have to be ahead of the curve and get there first.”

More jobs mean more tax money, which means a stronger fiscal foundation. It’s the platform LaBelle hopes will win him a seat on council amidst a financial crunch he calls “scary.”

“We spent that money,” he says in reference to the city’s past infrastructure spending. “Now we have to deal with it.”

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