All ten candidates vying for one of six seats around the City of Morden council table participated in an all-candidates forum Wednesday evening at the Morden Friendship centre, hosted by the Morden Chamber of Commerce.

A question-and-answer session took place following the opening statements. Questions from the crowd focused on growth and unity, immigration, affordable housing, challenges for small businesses, an indoor swimming pool, and what candidates have done to advocate for Indigenous People and the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Municipal election night in Manitoba is Wednesday, October 26th.

You can find below the opening statements of each candidate, listed in the order they spoke last night.

Florian Lassnig was the first to present an opening statement. 

“My name is Florian Lassnig. I'm a not so recent immigrant. I'm from Austria originally, which is hard to hide in my dialect. In 2003, I moved to Canada and then in 2013, I moved with my family to Morden, and I felt immediately welcome here and accepted the way we were. There was no questions asked. We were integrated with great friends that are still our best friends. 

And so, over time I started to think, OK, how can I give something back to my community? I started volunteering. I volunteered for a year at the CFDC, at the board there. I volunteered at Corn and Apple. Now, I'm volunteering with Many Hands and at the drop-in center on Thursdays, and at the farmer's market. 

But I felt I want to do something more because I want to put more time into volunteering. And so it was, yeah, it was kind of by fluke that I started talking with Brandon Burley last year and he said, ‘well, why don't you just come to City Council and take a look and see if you like that work, which I did not expect to like. 

So, then I it was about September last year or beginning of October actually, around this time, that I went to City Council for the first time and I sat there in the Council chambers and I thought, no, this is odd, because I really like it because it’s decisions about our environment immediately in Morden, and by Christmas I made-up my mind and I thought, ok, I want to try and run for council and contribute. Contribute my voice to maybe give a little bit of a different opinion and a different view of an outsider to our town and help it grow healthily. 

So, I've been at City Council for about a year because I wanted to make sure that I really like that work before I commit to four years of it. And I did. I really liked it. 

I feel I'm fairly well prepared, as much as I can be prepared as a public member, for the challenges and the opportunities that are ahead of us. Wastewater is one of them. 

Obviously, we need to know where all that stuff needs to go before we can attract more businesses and more people to our city. 

Freshwater was another one that was important to me. 

As you can see, I have a water theme because I like water. I love our lake. I go kayaking, I go swimming up there. So, to me it's important that we make sure that our freshwater supplies are secured because the next drought will come, guaranteed. So, we need to look out and see what we can do to ensure that our lake doesn't get that low next time the drought rolls around. So that's a big one for me. 

Recreation is a big one because I'm an active guy, and so is post-secondary education. 

I'm looking forward to working with this team.” 

Incumbent, Nancy Penner, spoke second. 

“Thank you, the community, for the opportunity to have served on Council the past four years. I've gained experience, made some hard decisions and I feel that I've been a strong team player on Council. 

I've been appointed to a number of committees. 

I am a member of the Morden Police Board. I represent Council on the Pembina Valley Water Co-op and on SWAMP, our regional landfill.  

I've also been elected Central District Director for the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. The one role of AMM is to lobby government on issues of importance to the 137 municipalities within the province, allowing us to speak with one voice. I strongly believe it's important to network outside our community. The contacts I've made through AMM have given me a better understanding of the issues at the provincial level that can be brought back to Council for discussion. 

We also need to partner, whether we partner regionally or we partner with our provincial and federal counterparts. This will be important when we source funding for our larger capital infrastructure needs. 

Planning for the future is key. Wastewater treatment is a number one priority for Morden, and it's vital to ensure this city has the capacity to grow. Drought last summer reinforced our need not only to source more water, but to promote water conservation, the low flow fixture program and the promotion of the rain barrel. 

Polls really showed our community support for water conservation. The reduction in meter readings last summer was in direct response to the community. 

To reduce consumption, City staff worked hard to source non-treated water to flood the indoor rinks at the Access Event Center, and that carried over to the outdoor rinks. 

We continue to see strong community growth within the city. 

With the recent purchase of land within the industrial park, existing industry can grow and there's now room for new industry to make an investment in the city. 

Council and city management chose to develop a Park and Urban Forestry master plan to carry the city forward over the next 25 years. 

You know, the list is longer than my time allows tonight, but I will say I promise to lead with honesty. I will listen to your ideas and your concerns, and I will work hard for this city. So, when you go to the polls on the 26th, I ask for your vote by putting an X beside Nancy Penner.” 

Incumbent, Garry Hiebert, followed with his opening statement. 

"I am married to Lori for 41 years and we have two boys, Andrew and Brayden. 

I've been a Morden resident for 36 years. I retired from the active workforce in December of 2016. I do have 25 years of municipal experience with the then town, now City of Morden, in finance, with the last 18 years as a Director of Finance and Administration, and I've spent the last term as a councilor for the City of Morden. 

So why am I running for Council? 

I am very familiar with municipal affairs and the process of how a council operates. 

In my 25 years of municipal experience, as well as the last four years on Council, I gained a great deal of knowledge, and I would like to continue to serve the community that has been a big part of my life. I want to provide good leadership, along with the other elected members of Council, and build a better future for more. 

And some of my priorities, you’ve already heard some of them. 

We've made considerable progress in the last four years, however, there is still work to be done. Rather than talk about those accomplishments, I will focus on some of the priorities that I would see in the next four years. 

Definitely the two major projects, as has already been mentioned, the wastewater solution has to be done. It's mandated by the province if we want development to continue in Morden. And of course, a secure water supply, which we saw by the drought in 2021, we need a severe water supply. 

I really enjoy walking, so pathways that would be connected within the city would really be a priority for me, to encourage active living such as walking, running, and biking. 

Industrial and commercial development is also always a high priority for me. With the recent purchase of property, the City of Morden is able to offer more opportunities in that regard. What commercial and industrial development does, it eases the burden on residential taxes, and that's what probably a lot of us want. 

And of course, work on getting affordable housing is another thing that I would like to see happen. With the many young people and young families in Morden and the current price of housing, it's extremely hard for people, young families or anybody to purchase homes. So, we need more options in that regard.  

And then, I guess building the amenities that we already have. 

We have the Access Event Center, the Minnewasta Golf and Country Club. We have the CFDC, we have our parks and playgrounds and of course, our signature event, the Corn and Apple festival. So I'd like to build on them  

So, what is important to me?  Accountability and transparency were always, and still are, very important to me during my 25 years of employment with the City. 

I also firmly believe that residents that pay taxes should have a say in how their hard-earned money gets spent. So that's why I would encourage community input, as should always be encouraged when we're considering any major decisions in the City of Morden.” 

Ken Friesen was fourth in line to present his opening remarks. 

“I grew up in Reinfeld, graduated high school from Garden Valley Collegiate. I earned a degree from Providence College, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Manitoba. 

After living and working in Winnipeg, I moved and taught English in Korea for four years. I moved back to Winnipeg, met the love of my life, the most ridiculously cute woman in the world. We got married. We then chose to move to Morden, to make this our home, and that's been one of the best decisions I've made in my life. 

One thing that living in Korea taught me is the importance of community. If you want to build people up, you need to build community. If you want to build community, you need to build people up, and that's one of the reasons why I want to run for city council. I want to help build community. I want to help build people up. 

Throughout the pandemic, the people of Morden have shown how caring and committed they are to each other. Morden has been in oasis in the south of Manitoba, and that's the one legacy that I want to help grow and nurture. 

Speaking of growth, my wife and I are expecting our first kid in early March next year, and that's why I'm wearing the mask, because I'm going to do everything possible to keep her safe, keep her protected. I do not want her to get sick in any regard. 

There are many ways that the next Council can help make our city even better, more vibrant. 

It's improving pedestrian corridors to make them safer and easier to navigate. Create interconnected bike paths between our different communities and parks. Create year-round recreational opportunities. Invest in facilities that encourage active and healthy lifestyles. We can develop a better sense of, like a city square on Stephen Street, and to improve the safety and visibility for pedestrians on Stephen Street. 

We can seek out ways to bring post-secondary education opportunities and trade schools into Morden for those who are unable to move or travel to Winnipeg, or who want to advance their career without having to disrupt their entire life, or just to have education for education's sake. 

As everyone has mentioned, and I'm pretty sure we all agree, we want to address the wastewater and lagoon issues because they have routinely affected every last one of us here. 

And the possibilities are endless. 

We need a City Council that looks at the possibilities and tries to find a way to make them a reality. 

My name is Ken Friesen and I'm running for City Council, and I really appreciate your vote."

Fifth to present was Sheldon Friesen. 

Residents, fellow candidates and Mr Moderator, Mr Cantelon. Iant to start by thanking the Chamber for organizing the event and the invitation, and to all of you for your interest in our community and the election that will help shape our community for years to come. 

Great to see a lot of familiar faces. I have to admit there are some that I don't recognize, so for the benefit of everybody, I've prepared three questions and I hope I can give you the answers to the questions that you're looking for as well. 

And the first question is, who am I? 

My name is Sheldon Friesen, and I'm proud to say I've been a member of the community since 1967. In that time there's been a lot of change, but the one thing that hasn't changed is my love and my passion for the community. And I'm here today never having never had to, or want to leave the community. And in this time, I've been blessed with a lot of opportunities and events that have occurred in my life. 

The community afforded me the opportunity to attend the first kindergarten class in Morden in 1967, to graduate from Morden Collegiate Institute in 1980, to meet my life partner, my wife, Lynn, of 34 years and to raise two growing children, Kendra and Kieran. 

I was afforded several different career opportunities in the area, each with new learning opportunities and growing responsibilities. 

Sales and management opportunities in the automotive, the recreational vehicle and the medical industries helped prepare me for the ultimate opportunity, which was to be an entrepreneur in Morden. And when Lynn and I purchased Variety Advertising in in 2002, it was a home-based business, and we had never planned that during our ownership, that we would outgrow our premises four different times, purchase 500 Stephen Street, and renovate and grow a business that employed up to nine people. And I think the biggest thing through that time was to help me grow, to develop stronger strategic thinking and problem solving skills. 

My second question, why am I running? 

It starts with the passion for the community, a belief that I can help make a difference. 

I want to provide an opportunity for other children to never have to leave Morden if that's what they choose or desire. 

I want to be part of a team that listens and responds with good governance, strong accountability, and open and honest communication about all things related to our city, both good and bad. 

I want to be the one who asks questions, sometimes the tough questions, to ensure we are not making shortsighted or ill-informed decisions with costly or harmful repercussions. 

I want to be the voice that when told no, and we need a yes, that we find a way to get a yes. 

So, on October 26th, I ask that you vote for me.  

Should you want question #3, I'd be pleased to address it." 

The sixth candidate to speak was incumbent, Gordon Maddock.  

"I was born and raised in Morden and I've lived here all my life. I worked for the City for 28 years and when I retired and decided I wanted to do more for my city, I ran for Council and was lucky enough to be elected. 

One of our major problems, as everybody brought it up, is waste treatment, and this town is growing and we need to get waste treatment done so we can keep growing. 

We also need to look at our water. 

We've always had lots of water, but we're growing so fast we're running out, and we’ve got to learn how to get water and store it and also how to use it. We can't just be running the taps all the time or letting the hose run outside, and we’ve got to learn how to use our water properly. 

I've continued to support the MCDC who just acquired more land, bringing more industry into town, and I think that's very important as it grows our tax base and helps us to do some of the things that we need to do. 

Supporting the hospital expansion, that's very important to me. I think to all of us. That hospital is due to become hub #3 in Manitoba and they're going to start an expansion in the spring, and I think that's very important as well.  

Western School Division, they will have a new school coming shortly, and I'm supporting that. It's not financial at this point, but it is a priority. We need more school rooms for our children. 

I also want to support tourism in Morden and that brings people to town, which means dollars being spent, and it's very important to grow our community and grow our businesses, and everybody benefits from it. 

We’ve got we got the Event Center, we’ve got the golf course, we’ve got parks, we’ve got everything in this town that people could, you know, enjoy. 

And so, you know there's a lot of things. Affordable housing is one that hasn't been mentioned, and I think that has to be mentioned as well. We’ve got people that can't afford homes. We’ve got to work with the government and try and get some affordable housing done in this community as well. 

So with that, I'd like to say, if somebody has my card, I'm still running on the same thing as I did four years ago - Gordon for Moden.” 

Next to present was Chris Abrams. 

“I was born in Winnipeg and moved to Carman at a very young age. My wife and I moved to Morden 28 years ago because we didn't feel that big city with the right place to raise our family. 

While living in Morden, we raised three wonderful kids and ran a business of 20-plus employees. 

I spent the last 13 years working in the waste and recycling business, and it has done a lot to shape my opinion on reduction. It is important to me to reduce the impact our waste has on the environment. 

I've always been interested in politics and, with the encouragement of others, I decided to run for council. I believe my work experience and creative mind would be an asset to serving the community I love so dearly. 

I hope to serve as a voice for the underserved. 

My passion for the community leads me to donate my time and money to organizations that help children or underprivileged families as this is what I experienced firsthand growing up.  

A common point brought up when talking to Mordenites has been the breakdown of communication from the City. I hope to find ways to restore this. And I feel that people have the right to be informed of projects in advance of them happening. 

Due diligence also needs to be done when doing projects, to make sure residents do not experience a negative impact. 

Some of my priorities include traffic control, addressing crumbling infrastructure, more opportunities for youth, and young adult engagement. 

I believe Morden residents need to find out the status of previously discussed projects that are no longer talked about. Results of these projects need to be disclosed so they can be revisited to see if they're still viable. 

And as a former Morden business owner, I understand the importance to bringing in young families. At the same time, we also need to be able to support our age demographic. 

I feel that there's so much good in Morden. I would like to be part of its future growing up. 

I ask for your vote. 

Thank you.” 

The eighth candidate to speak was incumbent, Doug Frost. 

“Good evening. My name is Doug Frost and I look forward to representing you, the citizens of Morden, if re-elected as one of your next councilors. 

I’ve sat on Council for 12 years now and in that time, have been part of many positive changes and economical developments for our city. I have also been the city rep on the following boards; MSTW conservation, Pembina Valley Water Co-op, airport commission, daycare, chair of Public Works, part of the Executive Committee, Chair of the Menzies Medical Clinic during the one-and-a-half million-dollar renovation and currently, as Deputy Mayor. My involvement with these various boards within our community allowed me to network and associate with hundreds of our city members, each representing differing views of the needs of our city. 

My wife, Veronica, and I have been residents of Morden for 38 years. 

In our 49 years of marriage, we've been blessed with two daughters, Kim and husband James Wall, who live in Winkler, along with grandson Cody and his wife Morgan, who live in Plum Coulee. Our second daughter, Michelle, lives in Vancouver. 

I spent 47 years working for MTS Bell, which is a testament to my commitment. Working for MTS through its transition from government, to private - to Bell - has taught me much about prioritizing and adapting to ongoing change. During my eight years working in northern Manitoba, I also learned how to deal with a very diverse group of people. 

For 21 years, I was president and manager of Morden's senior hockey team. I also spent four years coaching ringette. Through this experience, I observed the social benefit of recreational activities for all ages and got to learn the needs of the young family segment of our community. 

If our community wants positive change, I strongly feel that our elected representatives must listen to what all the people are saying and act accordingly. 

My key objectives as councilor is to provide continuity and follow through on water and wastewater projects, which we have made great strides in in the last four years, and it be a shame to see this go backwards. 

Improving council's accountability, lobbying for more daycare, lobbying for more doctors for our growing population, building success in economic development and immigration. 

If re-elected to Council, I will address these concerns and be open to other issues that people may have. 

If elected, I will be only one voice out of seven. But what I can promise is that I will represent the issues of all the citizens of Morden, not just a select few." 

Thank you, and on October 26, re-elect Doug Frost, a voice for all of Morden’s citizens.” 

Sheldon Smith was the ninth and second-last candidate to make an opening statement. 

"Hi, I'm Sheldon Smith. I'm originally from Arborg, Manitoba. I moved to Morden about five years ago, give or take a couple months. 

I have a background in business through Red River College. I currently run two businesses in town here. 

The reason I'm running, to beat a dead horse here, would be the sewage problem in this town. It's something that needs to be addressed with that, just we can keep expanding and building houses as everybody else has suggested, as long as well as utilizing that chunk of land we just bought in the industrial zone as well. 

That's kind of my big priority, as well as being a voice for the millennials in town. I don't know, there's probably not a whole lot of us in this room, but where we're out there, I promise. 

Another big, big concern of mine as well is finishing up or looking into the walkway bicycle path between Morden and Winkler. That's a big priority for me as well.  

As well as continuing on with things the Council is done in the past. 

Things like the green space on the south side of Minnewasta that they're planning. As well as funding, or helping fund the Boundary Trails Hospital expansion as well. The hospital itself is the bloodline to this town and is our only lifeline between here and Winnipeg basically. 

So, we've got to keep up with the booming population that is definitely increasing rapidly, as Mayor Burley had said earlier.” 

The last to speak at Wednesday’s forum was Madison Wentz. 

“My name is Madison Wentz. I was born and raised in Morden. I've lived here all my life; I am married and I even have a dog. 

Throughout the years of living in Morden, I've always enjoyed volunteering and being part of community events. I had the opportunity to volunteer at our local food bank as well as the 500 Stephen Street Community Center downtown. 

And I've always been interested in learning more about Morden - in the history and the heritage that it has to offer, and Ilike to see some things from a different perspective on that, as well as I hope to offer a different outlook on certain issues and solutions that our city may have an encountered. 

I'd like to see walking and biking paths that allow us to travel around and see what the city has to offer, because there's some pretty great areas around here. 

As well as, obviously, the wastewater that's been said, and I believe snow clearing could also use a use another overhaul. We could start looking at that and possibly do something there. 

I believe our parks could use some renovating and maybe, better maintenance here and there, at some parts anyway. I feel there's some smaller ones that are lacking a bit more. 

And Stephen Street. There's a few things there, possibly parking, and just overall streets. How our infrastructure is, some roads could definitely use a patch and repairing, and let's get those bridges built.”