The retired school administrator has worked in education for nearly 40 years in three different provinces, and retired permanently to Port aux Basques three years ago. He has been involved in politics for the better part of his lifetime and participated in campaigns on all levels of government. He was a member of local council for the better part of a decade.
“As a lifelong resident of Port aux Basques, I have been extremely fortunate. I have travelled and worked from both ends of this great nation, and I can proudly say there is no place I would rather be than Port aux Basques. It is my home. It is my family’s home. It is ‘our’ home. It is for this reason that I want to see the best for ‘our’ community.”
What are the top three things voters should know about you?
I’m committed. I’m a vocal person. I reach out to people. This is my home and this is where I want to be and I’m committed to working for this town. I’m pretty proud of this place and I’m very much involved in the recreation aspect. I want this community to move forward.
So why run for mayor now?
What happened was our lives took a different turn. In 2004 I had 30 years as an educator and our kids were out west. We just packed up the car, Chris and I, without any winter clothes, landed in Manitoba on an adventure of 10 years. Then when I turned 60 I retired. It was time to come home.
What do you think about open government?
Government has to be transparent. You can’t duck and hide away nowadays. You’ve got to be out there and people have to see what’s going on. You’ve got to be accountable. Without accountability where do we stand? The public has to be involved. You can’t hide behind closed doors. You have to listen to people. Sometimes you can’t get the solution they want, but by listening and going through it with them, at least you’ve given it the effort it needs. Open government is a priority.
What’s changed the most since you were last mayor/councilor?
This community is growing. I was part of the development team and infrastructure in relation to the sports complex. I was chair of recreation at that time. I’m amazed by how many people are actually getting involved. People are using it and I see a lot of people are keen on this facility and keen on using the facilities around town. We have new families here. That’s very uplifting. I’ve heard people say the reason I’m here is because of the school system here. I look around and one of the biggest changes I see is the number of small businesses here.
What do you know about regionalization and how do you think it will impact Port aux Basques?
Regionalization is what government has been working towards. With fiscal responsibilities, you can’t have people duplicating the same services. If the municipalities are all doing the same thing and we can pull together and do it as one, then for me that works well. The health care system with this regionalization model works well. Going to Stephenville or Corner Brook for a specialized service, that saves me from going all the way to St. John’s for it. It reaches a point though that we can’t lose track of who we are here. With the changing demographics, the cost of services, regionalization is the way we’re going. The tax base is not going to get better. It’s going to be stretched, and all three levels of government are stretching that tax base right now. So regionalization will save dollars.
What is the biggest issue that concerns you about Port aux Basques right now?
Infrastructure. The roads. That’s the number one thing people are saying to me. It’s aging. We have to work with government to improve, correct and get this infrastructure in order.
Would you like to see people become more involved in municipal affairs and if so how would you work towards achieving that?
It’s difficult. Get the information out there using media. Facebook. Public forums. Listen to what people are saying on public forums and don’t be afraid to engage them. Put it out there. See how people feel about it. As for getting people physically into those meetings? It’s difficult at best. I’m always out and about. I’m always listening to people.
Do you have a specific moment in politics that you really regret?
There was a little bit of unfinished business and I think I would like to be able to see some of those things go through. I would like to work on those.
What is the most accurate criticism someone has made about you?
I’m not a good listener sometimes. I need to listen more.
Why should residents vote for you?
I’m committed to seeking this position, which I would have liked to have had a long time ago. I’ve been a councillor. I’ve been the deputy mayor. I’ve been actively involved in politics both provincially and federally all my life. They’re going to get somebody who is committed to staying and being around and getting the job done with the responsibility of knowing that I’m accountable.
What do you promise NOT to do if elected?
Go hide away. One of my nominating people said just be myself. Just be John Spencer. And that’s what I’ll do.