The Current recently spoke with former mayor David Shulist about his bid to rejoin MV Council – this time as a Councillor. Our first question, of course, was why would he return to the political arena after a break of four years?
Shulist explained how he had enjoyed his time out from council. But when Elser Lee Faith Archer decided to vacate her council position to run for mayor, he saw an opening on council that he could readily fill.
I don’t think there’s going to be much of a learning curve or [anyone would] have to hold my hand. So with that experience why don’t I put my name in? If people vote for me, fine. If not, I’ll respect that.
Why not seek the more familiar role of Mayor? Shulist explained that in the last 20 years when he was heavily involved in community matters, his family lost out in a lot of activities.
Sometimes I had to say Yes to township and No to family. So now I want to spend more time with the family on the weekend.
Shulist provided a summary of his platform to The Current. Top of the list is promotion of the Madawaska Valley at local, national and international levels. He specified “year-round tourism as vital to improving our commercial status and economic viability.” He refused to comment on the performance of the present Council in this respect saying it is a tough job, but he offered an opinion on staffing for tourism promotion:
It’s not the job of councillors or mayor to do that – it’s definitely someone that’s knowledgeable [has] to do it. If you’re going to promote you need to have qualified people to do it.
Another issue dear to Shulist’s heart is economic and social development throughout the Madawaska Valley. He acknowledged that “there’s a friction out there and I don’t know why there’s a friction out there, but there is. I think we have to unite…. I want to try and bring us together and promote us that way.” He referred again to the summary of his platform:
We have got to be promoting ourselves as one yet still have our individuality because each town is still unique in its own way…. What I want to encourage more than anything is that we need to come together and promote ourselves for our uniqueness. And each one of us is unique. Diverse. This is what makes our township truly Canadian.
Shulist talked specifically about the business community in the Valley. He referred to bringing them in as part of the discussion and said that having them under one umbrella would make it easier.
If you’re going to do some promotion, I feel all the businesses should be somewhat involved. So why not a Madawaska Valley Business Association? It only makes sense, working together.
He acknowledged that during his term as mayor there was a lot of discussion on Council about a Code of Conduct. He said Council has to follow the procedural by-law and the Code of Conduct. But he also pointed out that a lot of it is common sense and comes down to dignity in the council chambers. In his view transparency is really about letting the people know what is important to them, so if they don’t attend meetings or read the minutes sometimes it has to be spelled out to ensure the public is aware.
Shulist is particularly proud that during his term, Council brought in an asset management plan for Madawaska Valley Township. He referred especially to the Road Needs Study, which was produced by road construction specialists from an independent engineering firm.
Shulist said this kind of plan addresses any concerns about conflicts of interest.
When you have the Study done, you’re not part of it now. You’re not part of that decision; the engineers did it. So when the time comes to do, let’s say, my road and I happen to be mayor or councillor, it’s nothing to do with the table at all. It’s done [because] it needed to be done.
This, Shulist explained, “takes the politics out of it.”
See the politics, it all depends on what you promised out there…. That document … does mean something. It should be followed. I don’t like that kind of politics. It’s like favouritism. Whenever you do a favour for someone, somebody else is losing. [for example] If it’s not in the schedule.
When it comes to the 2018 election, Shulist made it clear that he did not have all the answers or even knew all the issues. Instead he intends to campaign door-to-door and speak to as many residents as he can to learn firsthand about their concerns. As for the other candidates, Shulist says apart from one candidate he does not know very well,
They are all qualified to do the job and all have council experience. It’ll be up to the people to say who do I want sitting at my table and I’m hoping I’m going to be one of them.