By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to The Appalachian
CAPE ST. GEORGE – Municipal elections are scheduled across the province for Tuesday, Sept. 28. These are the candidates vying for a council seat in Cape St. George.
Jasen Benwah has been on town council for the last two terms and hopes to get the chance to continue to help the community and use his voice to represent his heritage. Benwah believes in maintaining the status-quo, and not doing anything to undo the successes already in place.
“It’s all about making the community welcoming to people who may want to come and live here, keep our population up. There are always other things we can do but keeping taxes low and addressing residents’ concerns must be paramount.”
Benwah believes that his years of experience, both on council and in his professional life, will be an asset and wants to use that to better the town and see the community succeed.
“I was a past mayor eons ago, and I have management experience working the last 13 years in Alberta as a manager, having a knowledge of the community and its history, I was born here and raised here.”
Benwah believes in maintaining the momentum and doesn’t want to see any decision be detrimental, but has hopes of what lies in the future.
“We are a bilingual town, and my hope for the future is that I can see us become a trilingual town, adding the Mi’kmaq language in there officially,” said Benwah. “We already have certain areas like the harbour where we have trilingual signage with Mi’kmaq included.”
Benwah says the town has come a long way in a short amount of time.
“The town is in really good shape financially. It is under really good management, and it has come a long way over the years with the streetlights, paved lanes, and being one of the smallest towns with an indoor public swimming pool. I want to continue that momentum.
Stella Cornect has been on town council for the last three years and enjoys getting the chance to watch her community prosper. Cornect believes a new town hall is extremely important, as well as upkeep on the roads and continued work on infrastructure. She believes her accounting background is an asset for keeping finances under control.
“I like doing things. I like to keep active, but I also like seeing the community grow. Being on council, I have a voice. I don’t want to see us lose the grip of our community. I want to see us continue to grow day by day.”
Cornect believes one of the most important things to address is a new town hall since the current one is in a state of disrepair.
“I would really love to see us have a new town hall because we desperately need it. It’s coming, and I hope I stay in long enough to see it and to push it through. We need more work on the roads. We need more lanes done – upkeep mainly – and we need more infrastructure done.”
Cornect has a lot of experience being on committees and thinks that is something that she can use as an asset should she win a seat.
“I was the chair of the veteran’s memorial square that is here. It’s massive, it’s beautiful, and we did it as a town and as a committee. We put in monuments to all of our veteran’s from Port au Port East up.”
Cornect’s background is in accounting, which allows her to view finances with a professional perspective.
“I am always watching to see what we are spending, so we don’t go overboard, always have something there. I’m also always looking for new ways to find money for things.”
Cornect says she is very happy living in Cape St. George.
“The people here are great. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. I have been here now since 1970. I married here, moved here, worked in the schools, worked in the library,” said Cornect. “You get problems every now and then, but you sit down and hash them out and work at it. You have to work at it for something to work well.”
Patrick Costard has been involved with the Town of Cape St. George for a long time and wants to be re-elected to help the future council work towards things the town has been unable to do in the past few years.
“I spent 15 years as a councillor and the last four years as deputy mayor. I served for almost 20 years with the Ambulance Service committee, helping to manage it and keep it running. This is not new for me.”
Costard believes he brings things to the table that would be an asset to council.
“Number one, experience. Number two, I’ve lived here most of my life so I understand how this town functions, I know the mentality of the people, and based on the fact that I kept getting re-elected, they must see something works with my abilities,” said Costard. “I’m hoping that because of that, I can continue my good rapport with the townspeople and continue to help improve infrastructure and more for the town.”
Costard has a few ideas for the next term.
“I would like to continue working to keep taxes to a minimum, because that’s always a struggle. I will continue to support the improvement of lanes and trails, and other infrastructure,” said Costard. “And the thing I want to do most is try to help find funding to rebuild our town hall. Our town hall is old, and it’s in desperate need of a rebuild.”
Costard hopes to see some familiar faces on council. He says having experienced council members will maintain the town’s momentum.
“I figure if we could have a few of the existing councillors on the new council, then there’s a better chance that some of the things that we wanted to do in previous years and couldn’t do financially, we can continue to work towards now.”
Catherine Fenwick may be new to council, but has had years of experience volunteering with other organizations.
“Basically I saw it as an opportunity to contribute as a volunteer on council. I’ve never done it before, it would be a first for me,” said Fenwick. “I have a lot of experience with funding proposals for example, strategic plans, attending meetings and the importance of not only being present, but participating and giving your opinion so we can reach a consensus.”
Fenwick has lived in Cape St. George all of her life.
“I know my community very well. I know a lot of the people here because I grew up here, and I have a love for my community as a lot of people do. You grow up somewhere and you see it as the best place to live. I just want to see good stuff for us in the future.”
Fenwick wants to see a lot of what the council has already implemented continue, but she has a few fresh ideas to bring to the table.
“I want to continue to work towards healthy living, recreation, and activity,” said Fenwick. “I think something we should try to look into is the stray cats that are left. Maybe see if we can develop some type of a catch, fix, and release program because there are a lot of cats dumped, unfortunately, on the mountain between Cape St. George and Mainland. Even see about programs where, if people cant afford to get their animals fixed, that we can help find some kind of funding to help with that.”
Fenwick sees Boutte du Cap park as an opportunity for increased development.
“I want to be able to improve on what is already there. It’s used by a lot of people in our community, and it’s used by tourists who come to visit our community, so it is near and dear to heart.”
Sandra Jesso has been on council for the last four years and previously served as town clerk for 12 years. Jesso cares about what happens in her community and wants to see continued road improvements, and more programs for community members to get out and be social. Despite her tenure on council, Jesso has never been a part of an election bid before.
“I was on council the last four years, but I was in by acclimation because there was only seven of us that came forward, so there wasn’t an election. I moved back home in 2015 and they had two seats missing on council, so I put in my name and took the position then.”
Jesso wants to help make Cape St. George a better place, starting with recreational and social projects.
“I care what happens in our community and I care about what people want,” said Jesso. ““I want to get more programs back to the community so that people can get out and mingle. It’s important to be social. It’s important for our health.”
Jesso has grown up around community involvement.
“Since I was a kid, my dad was always involved with the town, not as a councilor but he was on the ambulance service. He was fire chief for many years. My sister used to be on the ambulance service and now she operates a business in the town, a store. Our town and our people are very important to me and that’s why I want to be involved,” said Jesso.
Jesso hopes to increase community involvement if she’s elected.
“I’d like to see more involvement with the sports and recreation again like it was in the past. I know with COVID there wasn’t much we could do the last two years, but we do have a seniors club that went a little bit downhill since COVID. I’d like to get that going again, and more sports for everyone in the community, not just the young but older as well, just being able to get people out,” said Jesso.
Jesso is excited at the idea of getting to serve on council with new faces.
“I think it’s great there are more people coming forward, putting in their names, because they bring new ideas to the table.”
Gerry Labelle only recently moved to the area, but has a lot of experience that he believes would make him a good choice for town council.
“I moved here in April. I’ve been involved with organizations and boards, and I’ve run federally and provincially in Ontario, and I’ve also sat on a number of committees for the city as well,” said Labelle. “So my time – I have tons of it – and I’d love to dedicate that time to the community. It’s a volunteer position which is great and I think it’s a place we can make something happen and make something grow.”
Labelle knows that there may be some hesitation from people when it comes to choosing a newcomer for council.
“I’m from away. It makes it a bit more difficult and I understand that, and I understand people’s reluctance, but I think I would probably be a good addition,” said Labelle. “I was in organizational development for a long time. I’m a trained facilitator. I’m also a writer and a problem-solver. A lot of my life has been dedicated to solving problems for people.”
Continued Labelle, “I am a tireless worker and researcher. I love to work. I’ve given a lot of my time to non-profit organizations such as The United Way and the Children’s Mental Health Association.”
Though he hasn’t been living in the area very long, Labelle is already in love with Cape St. George.
“This town is a gem. The properties are well maintained. I like the people here. There’s an amazing view and, of course, it’s a place where I would love for people to move, whether used as a retirement community or if we develop a small industry here. I want people to be able to stay here, not have to go away, remain close to their families.”
Gervais Robia has been on town council for the last 16 years, and believes a lot was accomplished during that time.
“We have a water system that is second-to-none, and we have a recreation center. We have area lighting and we have our bills in order,” said Robia. “If I were to stay on the council, a lot of the things I would like to have would be to keep the status-quo and improve anything we can for the town.”
Robia believes in the importance of having new blood on council. He says having newer, younger voices at the table is important.
“For me, I would like to be there to support the new ideas that new people are bringing to the council, that’s what really helps our community.”
There are a lot of reasons that Robia wants to be re-elected to council but shared a few specifics.
“One of the reasons why we can try to keep our taxes down as low as possible for the residents is that we don’t get paid. The longer we go not being paid, the more we do that,” said Robia. “I want to keep up what we have – all the good things we have for the community like the recreation center, our water going right through the community which we didn’t have at the beginning, and we have some of our side roads paved.”
Robia thinks it would be great if the majority of paving was completed during the next term.
“Maybe over the next four years we can have all of this paving done,” said Robia. “We also have to make sure our water system is maintained. If any of the pumps have to be refurbished it has to be done immediately, and it would be nice if we had the money for that.”
Robia pointed out that everyone on council is a volunteer, and for those running for a seat it shows how important the town truly is to council members.
“We are on the council for the council. We are not there to line our pockets.”
Sarah Rowe is one of the new voices who hopes to get elected to town council. She has ideas on where she wants to see the town go and how to get there.
“As a potential councillor, my goal is to continue to keep Cape St. George a town where we can continue to enhance resources for positive individual and community growth, to develop a realistic plan in order to expand on making our area a safer, greener, and more attractive place to live, all while keeping us on budget,” said Rowe. “The main reason I wanted to run as a councillor is to make our community a better place by involving myself and doing what I can to help my community.”
Rowe has lived in the town for a long time and believes her teaching background gives her a unique perspective to bring to council.
“I’ve learned over the years that things work better when everyone works together so involving community members into decision making processes and listening to what others have to say, to reflect the decisions that council puts into motion,” said Rowe. “I intend on keeping an open mind and always listening to what others have to say regardless of the matter or the time.”
Rowe believes that for successful leadership a combination of experience and fresh eyes is important.
“In order to be instrumental in making our community a sustainable, safe and happy place to live, we need to balance the type of people we have on council, whether it be different personalities, different amounts of experience, or different insights.”
Rowe hopes to get her chance to lend her voice and share her ideas to help the community to prosper.
“I consider myself to be an active community member and I take pride in my community and the things that have happened over the years. I am hoping that I can bring forward new and exciting ideas to enhance our community, whether that be through helping to plan events, looking for funding, or actively participating in volunteer activities.”