Fred Daniels has been involved in municipal politics in the Fort Smith region for nearly three decades.
He has served as a chief and councillor for the Smith’s Landing First Nation as well as a councillor for the Town of Fort Smith. Now, he’s hoping to become Fort Smith’s next mayor.
If elected, Daniels says he’ll focus on improving streets and streetlights, making sure another landslide doesn’t happen, and ensuring municipal departments are fully funded.
He said he would advocate for a road south through Wood Buffalo National Park and for Aurora College to remain headquartered in Fort Smith.
Cabin Radio also interviewed mayoral candidate Jessica Cox. Polling day is October 18.
This interview was recorded on September 27, 2021. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Sarah Pruys: Can you tell me about yourself and your qualifications for this position?
Qualifications is I’ve been doing this for over 27 years, in politics.
In Fort Smith?
Most of it was with Aboriginal governments in Alberta. My band is Smith’s Landing First Nation. Basically it’s been in Alberta, we have some dealings with the territorial government and stuff.
What positions have you held at the Smith’s Landing First Nation?
Smith’s Landing First Nation as a councillor since 1998. Then after that, in 2000, I was their chief for three years. And then I was chief again in 2007 and 2010.
And are you a councillor right now?
Yes I am.
So if you were elected mayor, would you hold on to that position as well and do both?
Yeah, I could do both. Because when I sat on town council, back in 2003 to 2006, I was also the chief of Smith’s Landing. It’s different jurisdictions. And also, when you’re dealing with Smith’s Landing, I simply call a conflict of interest and the deputy mayor takes over.
And what about career-wise or volunteer-wise? What kinds of thing do you do in the community?
Right now I’m looking after the seniors’ home, I’ve been there since 2013.
And what do you do there?
I’m the caretaker.
I’ve been in business over 29 years in different businesses.
And why did you decide to run for mayor this time around?
Well, I ran for mayor before, back in 2002 I think. And this is my second time around.
What made you decide to run this time?
I grew up in Fort Smith and the town has helped me get by this far, and now it’s just time to pay the residents back and do my town good.
What would you like to do if you are elected mayor?
There’s a lot of things here that have been forgotten over time. You know, you take a look at our street lighting here – it’s been 40 years ,roughly, since they did anything with it. Basically, that’s a public safety [issue].
You know, there’s a landslide there that I know the town is looking at right now, but I didn’t hear them ever talk about this water intake. Now if that water intake goes out, you’ve got four days left in that water reservoir.
You’ve got Northern Lights [Special Care Home] people there, you also have hospital people there. So I mean, that has to be answered. I want to get the tough things answered.
Could you explain the water intake issue?
Well, that’s what’s drawing your water from the river, right? And it goes underground into your water treatment plant and it goes into the reservoir. Now that intake, if there’s a slide and that intake is out in that reservoir, you’ve got four days of water. These trucks, they’re not going to bring in enough water at that point. So I mean that has to be seriously looked at. What is the plan B if that water intake gets taken out? We’ve been operating over these years where you turn on the water tap and the water’s running and everything’s fine – well, you’re really setting yourself up for something.
What else is on your list of things you’d like to accomplish?
There’s these roads here also that need to be fixed. They’ve been pretty-well abandoned for a number of years.
And then your budgets. Those budgets you know at the town, they’ve been carried forward from the previous year for a good 20 years. Well you can’t operate like that.
The way I was taught is that you do a budget, you meet with every department – like the fire, the ambulance, the roads, everything – and make sure that they’ve got adequate dollars to do their job. And right now that’s not happening. And then you’re taking that money from the budget and putting it somewhere else. If something’s not in the budget it’s simply not going to go. But we’ve been stretching out the money way too thin here and that’s why things are getting neglected.
Where would you look to find the extra money you think is needed?
Well this year the budget’s already passed so there’s very little that I could do about it but, you know, for the next time, we’re simply going to have to meet with every department and find those adequate dollars, and take it out of the budget and make sure they have money to operate.
An all-weather road south, so there are two exits from Fort Smith, is also a big thing for some residents. Would you agree with that?
Yes. They talked about it years ago, back when I was chief, and it seemed to be going somewhere. Then all of a sudden that just died out. But yeah, I’d be interested in taking that aboard, because we do need another exit here.
What else have people talked about while you’ve been campaigning?
There was a mention of a new town hall, which I’m against because right now we don’t need a town hall. We need to get our services up to par here, because we have a fiduciary obligation to our citizens. And it’s about time that our citizens came first. In time – maybe in five years or six years, once we’re up to par on our town – then we can take a look at that this new town hall but, right now, we need to get stuff in order here.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Aurora College is talking about pulling out of Smith. That’s been happening for ages and ages and then it’s dwindling down. If Fort Smith loses Aurora College here, we’re gonna be in serious trouble, because it does bring in money to our community. And I aim to fight for it.
And furthermore, there’s our Medicare, right? Like you can’t even get into the doctor’s office, there are no doctors here. And I realize other communities are going through the same thing but we’ve got to come up with some kind of answer here.
And same with our dialysis machine, you know, it was paid for by the two local First Nations here, and the Métis as well as the community residents paid for that. It ended up in Hay River and it’s sitting in a closet, I suppose. I mean, that’s our machine. Now you’re taking seniors out of here for blood transfusions or whatever and that takes a lot out of them. You’re in a cab to Hay River, then you’re back again. You’ve got two days to recoup and then you’re back on the road again. That’s just way too much.
I want our machine back here and to find someone that’s going to run it, because I know there’s a couple of people that actually had to move to Hay River. They had to uproot and and sell their place, move to Hay River. That was Fort Smith’s machine, there, and I brought it up when I was chief of Smith’s Landing, but it kind-of fell on deaf ears in the legislative building.
Any final words?
Vote for someone that’s going to get the job done. Don’t vote for someone who’s going sit in their office and have a fancy tag on their back and have them do nothing. I’m never gonna leave Smith. I’ve got an obligation here. And I believe in Fort Smith and I believe in the people. It’s time that we start putting our town together here.