Election 2017: Joanne Labadie, candidate for mayor

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Kate Aley

Our second interview in our candidates series is Joanne Labadie, who is running for mayor.

Born, raised

I am from Quyon; I left as a teenager and came back 12 years ago.

Current employment

Farmer and business owner of a vineyard and a lavender farm with a shop operating since summer 2011.

What do you see as the greatest challenge for this area right now?

When I moved back home with the vision of creating not only the regions’ first winery but a wine industry, many people I spoke to would say, "you can’t do that, it’s not profitable", or “it can’t be done because if it could someone from away would have done it.” I felt there was total lack of vision, no culture of dreaming. People could not see the great potential [here] and that others would come and really value what we have. I think it is slowly changing, but not happening at a level that makes a difference. We need a good quality of life [but] how do we obtain that? Say goodbye to our kids at 17, 18 [who will] never return because here are no opportunities here? How do we create an industry that encourages entrepreneurs, business owners, farmers and artists? There are a lot of activities here but we need a stronger joint effort in improving access to those. We need to work with various levels of government and private partners to create tourism opportunities (recreation, eco-tourism, agri-tourism etc) to attract more people to the community and jobs for young people.

What is your top priority if elected?

We have a lot of very skilled professionals in global high tech. industry living here. I’ve spoken with the MLAs, people from Microsoft, Greg Ferguson who is the parliamentary secretary for science and innovation, [asking] how can we create an industry incubator here. There is a strong interest to explore what is required […] to allow young talent to develop, be mentored and fostered through a high tech. start-up. We are at the doorstep of Silicon North, we have access to amazing universities, colleges and training facilities. The possibilities are here to help young people with great ideas: developing apps, robotics tech., alternate energy, for young people to bring their ideas forward.

Before this, we need to develop a long-term strategic plan for the community; a road map for our future. Communities need to be given a framework, built from ground-up and not imposed from top-down. People should have a say. We need to work on infrastructure in both rural areas and villages and on the road network. We have a desperate need of affordable housing: low-income, seniors and social housing, rental properties.

[We] need infrastructure, particularly in areas such as water and sewer in Quyon. We need to work with government partners to get funding in place to deal with this and then meet the housing needs.

What is something to be proud of in our area?

Rural communities are very good at coming together and working on a common goal. People know each other; it’s easy to build trust but they need the framework to do that effectively […] and that’s the role of a politician to facilitate that. That’s something unique; you can’t be anonymous and invisible in a rural community; people tend to be well-organized. We can build on that, that culture of working as a community, including anyone with an idea, a dream and vision or some experience.

How will you be able to find enough time to be mayor?

It’s a question that is asked of me constantly, but as they say, “if you want a job done, give it to a busy person!” The [vineyard] business is seasonal and I have a partner, my husband. I can easily hire more people to help in July and August; the rest of the year is quite manageable.

I believe my role as school board commissioner is valuable to the community and I wouldn’t be the first mayor who has worked in both areas of politics. The time as a commissioner […] is quite manageable and I can withdraw from committees if need be, but most meet only three or four times per year.

My other role is as a civil representative on the board of directors of the CLD des Collines. If elected mayor, I would still have to sit on this board, so I will be there on one level or another. I have been approached many times over the last eight years to run [for office] and the reason why I have not was because my business was just starting off and my children were young. I am more prepared now, I have a lot more flexibility in my schedule and [...] I have every confidence that I can balance the two.