Russell Thomas – Better Know A Candidate

russell thomas portrait

About Russell

I am a dedicated husband and father and a fierce advocate of Wood Buffalo and the BIG SPIRIT that sets us apart from any other place on earth. For the past 15 years I have been a strong proponent of arts, culture and festivity and the role that celebration and expression play in building quality of life. A graduate of the inaugural class of Leadership Wood Buffalo, I credit lessons learned and relationships built through that program as the seeds that blossomed into the creation of Events Wood Buffalo, an organization that grew out of the Fort McMurray interPLAY Society and is substantially enhancing special events and festivity in our region. A passionate leader at Keyano College, I believe that we can do so much more when we do things together. I love Wood Buffalo. It is our home and our future.

Why are you running in Election 2010?

This is the next step in my community leadership journey. I have a proven track record of working successfully in team environments to achieve great things. I’m eager to listen, inspired to learn and ready to become part of a Regional Council that will be creative, collaborative and most importantly, effective.

What do you want the voters to know going into the 2010 municipal elections?

I think it is critical to gather the right group of people to take us into the next three years. We have the good fortune of having some outstanding leaders putting their names forward in this election. Make sure to ask them questions, visit their websites and pick the ones that you feel will create a team that will be strong and inspire a shared vision for our future.

Questions from the Tribe

On Aug the 25th, I asked the folks who are engaged around the my oil sands blog and twitter feed for their questions – what would they like to ask municipal candidates. Here are five of the questions and Russell’s answers.

Q: What does the municipality need to be ready for another wave of development? via @OilsandsEditor

RT: So many good things have happened with respect to our infrastructure. We need to keep moving in this direction now, while labour and materials are in good supply and at a reasonable price. We have to continually work with the province to ensure timely and appropriate land release. We have to keep looking to the future and doing things today that will make things much more manageable in the future.

Q: What are the candidates views on the possibility of implementing a state-of-the-art waste management program that includes curb-side pick up of both recycling and compost? via Anonymous

RT: There are tremendous plans in place for increased recycling capacity in Wood Buffalo. In a media world that has so vigorously attacked us for the supposed environmental impacts of oil sands development, we need to work toward being a leader in recycling, composting and environmental stewardship. Curbside recycling is just the beginning. Whether it is in the home or in the workplace, environmental stewardship needs to become part of how we live our lives and how we run our businesses. Saying we can’t afford it is just not an option anymore.

Q: How will the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) secure enough provincial land at once to manage development sustainably? via @KyleHarrietha

RT: Predictable and appropriate land release is a constant challenge. If you release too much, the value of our investments goes down. If you release too little, frustration builds and prices climb even higher than they are today. A constant and constructive dialogue between all levels of government is essential to solving this lingering challenge. There isn’t a magic bullet that is going to make the land release issue go away. It will only be through diligent effort that a sustainable and equitable solution will be found.

Q: Is the candidate pro-oil sands, and if so, how would they be proactive in oil sands public relations management? via @TOMCOGroup

RT: I am 100% pro oil sands. I’ve had the good fortune of working closely with visionary and committed oil sands workers and leaders over the past 15 years of living in Wood Buffalo. Unfortunately, the media, and by osmosis, the world, mistakenly views the oil sands through the lens of years rather than decades. Twenty years from now, that big hole in the ground is going to be a young forest. Twenty years from now, the suburbs of Calgary will still be the suburbs of Calgary. The world’s need for a sustainable and secure supply of oil is only going to grow. Wood Buffalo has the good fortune of sitting on the largest supply in the world. We have an obligation to develop this resource with integrity, ingenuity and intelligence.

Q: Whenever I drive up Franklin and pass the old Brick building, I can’t help but think about the cost to the taxpayer – it’s over $360k per year. What are your thoughts on this issue? via @MyOilSands

RT: A solution is out there. I recently met with a group of investors who may look at this site as a potential childcare facility. They didn’t blink an eye about the required upgrades that would be needed to bring the building up to code. Whether that comes to fruition or not, a solution needs to be found, because that is a whole lot of money going down the tubes, or into the coffers of the property owner.






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