By Trevor Busch
Local journalist Ian Croft has entered the Town of Taber by-election to advocate on key issues for the community like access to affordable housing and positive growth.
Recently working as a reporter/photographer at The Taber Times in full-time and freelance roles helped instil a passion for politics in Croft.
“I’ve been getting more and more involved in politics for a while now. While I was working at the paper, I was constantly talking to our local MP Martin Shields and just hearing what they’re doing up on the federal level, and then occasionally covering stuff on the provincial level and also covering stuff eventually, on the local level when I did coverage for Vauxhall. I found it very interesting. I thought that this was something I could easily do, I could reach out to people, talk to them, figure out what they want, what they need, and find ways how to implement that.”
Croft grew up in Taber and has been a resident of the community all his life. He says the death of his brother several years ago represented a turning point for him, and since that time he has had an interest in trying to improve the world around him.
“After feeling that loss of losing someone important, it really keyed me into not wanting to have other people feel this. So ever since that point, it really drove me to strive to help others to make the world a better place. And fundamentally, that’s what I would want to do. If I got on to Council, I’m not looking to do my own things or do stuff like that. I want to help people and make Taber a better place. And one of the things that I know of just because of my age is a lot of youth are struggling with finding housing, because wages have been stagnating for a while. And the price of housing just keeps on going up and up.”
The main plank in Croft’s election platform is striving to do more to address this issue in Taber, which has trickle-down implications for the local labour market and other negative impacts on the community.
“Taber is implementing an affordable housing system. And I am all for that. And I would love to back it,” said Croft. “But I feel like we definitely need to do more in that department. Because if we don’t, it’s the case where the youth are just going to leave Taber, they’re going to go off to post-secondary education in Lethbridge, Edmonton, and just stay in those communities and our population is just going to get older and older and then begin dwindling. So I feel like we need to take steps to incentivize youth to move back into our community. And an easy way to do that is to offer housing at an affordable rate that people can actually reasonably buy and reasonably afford.”
Aligning with the viewpoint of Mayor Andrew Prokop, Croft would like to see Taber grow demographically and achieve city status at 10,000 residents.
“I would love to see Taber grow into potentially a city, I feel we are in a great location with all of these smaller farming communities around us and being a central point for them. Because if you live out in the MD it’s much easier to travel into Taber get what you need and head back than travelling all the way up to Lethbridge or all the way down to Medicine Hat. So I feel like we have very much the potential to grow and become one of the central cities in Alberta. And I feel like, of course, that would benefit the rural people but it would also benefit the people here instead of driving to another city and spending your money in another municipality. You’ll be supporting the local businesses, helping other members of the community and helping the community grow and flourish.”
Croft stressed that people need to try to rise above the negativity and toxic politics that pervades much of the current discourse in North America.
“One of the main things that people might get blinded with is just falling into all the doom and gloom that we see around us. Like there’s the case of the war in Ukraine. And then there’s the whole entire situation happening down in the United States with our politics, and it’s a case of there is hope for a better future, you shouldn’t be looking at the inevitability of everything, you should always strive to try and make improvements. And that’s what I would like to bring in, what I would like to offer. And one of the things I’ve noticed is the youth do have hope for the future. A large amount of environmental push comes from the youth and being on the younger side, I want to take that hope for the future and to ensure that our community, our world, everything can remain for another 50 to maybe 100 years is doable. We shouldn’t give into entropy, we should rage into that night and fight for our future.”
Croft is a supporter of the local LGBTQ+ community, and wants to ensure that people in Taber are able to express themselves how they want to express themselves without fear of discrimination or retribution.
“You should be able to do what you want as long as you’re not infringing on other people’s rights or breaking laws. So if you want to show that you’re a bisexual trans man, and you want to express that, you should be able to express that and you shouldn’t feel like you need to conform. You should be able to show who you truly are.”
Accountability and transparency on town council are critical components of a healthy, functioning and and vibrant local democracy, but Croft argues this principle has fallen on deaf ears with the present council.
“It’s more general attitude, I’ve noticed where there is a fair amount of closed Council stuff. And it’s a case where I believe that democracy should be as transparent as possible. It’s a case where you should know what the people you have elected are doing, to know that they are doing what you want them to do. And that is a case where if I get on to council, I will be very much advocating that we should always have as many open meetings and as much open information coming to the community as possible. And I can understand why it’s important to have some closed Council discussions, but I feel like those should be more of a rarity and not more like the status quo.”
Taber has remarkable offerings in terms of the local sports community, but the arts have suffered from public neglect in recent decades according to Croft.
“I feel like Taber has a really great sports community here. We have the ice rink, we have a swimming pool. We have tennis courts, but I feel like we’re lacking in arts. So I would be a big advocate for bringing in more art centres, a theatre, places where people can express their creativity, because I feel like we’ve done great on the physical aspect with sports but I think we can do better on the more mental expressive aspect of arts.”
Croft would also like to see more community gardens incorporated as key parts of local parks and green spaces, both to promote horticulture for those who might not have access to a garden plot, as well as promoting taking ownership over these spaces and caring for them.
“Bring more life into this community besides just grass and trees,” said Croft.
Returning to his platform, Croft reiterated the need for more affordable housing options in Taber while highlighting that this means much more economically for the community than outdated perceptions about “housing the poor”.
“Affordable housing, quite honestly, you build it and they will come. So I feel like if we get affordable housing, we’ll see more people showing up. And with that, we could put more money into our local businesses to help them expand because the workforce is coming in. So they are able to expand, offer more jobs and then lead to more growth.”
The Town of Taber by-election is on Sept. 7.