Con­tentious top­ics at civil de­bate

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - FRONT PAGE - LeN GiL­LiS

In what was a civil and non­con­fronta­tional event, Timmins city coun­cil­lor can­di­dates for Wards 2, 3 and 4 spent two hours Wed­nes­day night dis­cussing things such as city fi­nances, the is­sue of build­ing a new multi-use recre­ation cen­tre, the im­por­tance of fix­ing the East End sewage prob­lem and the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing a Stars and Thun­der in 2019.

The event was held at North­ern Col­lege with roughly 100 vot­ers packed into the col­lege pub.

All four can­di­dates run­ning in Ward 2 (Mickey Auger, Jean Fex, Lorne Feld­man and Wal­ter Wawrza­szek), Ward 3 (Joe Camp­bell, Donna Dor­ring­ton and Carter Lucyk) and Ward 4 (Pat Bam­ford, John Cur­ley, David Shale and Jes­sica Trudel) were in at­ten­dance.

The event be­gan with mod­er­a­tor Melanie Ver­reault al­low­ing each can­di­date a cou­ple of min­utes to present their open­ing state­ment. Ver­reault also ex­plained that a set se­ries of ques­tions would be pre­sented to the can­di­dates in ro­ta­tion, al­low­ing the first can­di­date one minute to an­swer, and can­di­dates re­spond­ing af­ter that would each have 30 sec­onds.

Stars & Thun­der

Stars and Thun­der was the first ques­tion from the floor, ask­ing can­di­dates if a third ver­sion of the mu­sic and fire­works fes­ti­val should be held in the sum­mer of 2019.

“In my opin­ion Stars and Thun­der is good for the city but we should do it in three days or four,” said Auger (Ward 2). “I think a week or eight days is too long.”

He added there is no need to try to in­cor­po­rate St-Jean Bap­tiste on June 24 and Na­tional Indige­nous Peo­ples Day on June 21 into the fes­ti­val as both the fran­co­phone and Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties tend to have their own sep­a­rate cel­e­bra­tions.

Cur­ley (Ward 4) agreed that two or three days in­clud­ing Canada Day is all the com­mu­nity needs.

“But that’s as far as we should be go­ing with that,” said Cur­ley.

shale (Ward 4) said he didn’t like the fact the fi­nan­cial loss to the city over the first two years was more than $2 mil­lion.

“should we have an­other one? Un­less some­body else wants to step in here and take it over — no,” shale said.

bam­ford (Ward 4) re­marked that at first he could see the value of stars and thun­der as a com­mu­nity event, but he said he heard plenty from con­stituents from his door knock­ing on the cam­paign trail.

“the one thing that i heard was that we can’t have this again,” said bam­ford.

trudel (Ward 4) said she would not sup­port a 2019 ver­sion of stars and thun­der. she said if a new fes­ti­val was to take place, she would want to see an audit and a busi­ness plan first. she added she would want to see money raised in ad­vance.

camp­bell (Ward 3) said he be­lieved most peo­ple in the au­di­ence were al­ready aware of his feel­ings.

“stars and thun­der should not go ahead un­less there is a busi­ness plan that en­sures the city of timmins will not be on the hook,” said camp­bell.

camp­bell said if he is re-elected, he in­tends to ask for a foren­sic audit of the stars and thun­der spend­ing in 2017 and 2018.

Fex (Ward 2) said he agreed with camp­bell that the city should not be spend­ing any tax dol­lars on the fes­ti­val.

auger jumped back into the dis­cus­sion to add that city coun­cil and the mayor should not be in­volved in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness. auger said there are nu­mer­ous other groups and ser­vice clubs that could take it over.

New Aquatic Cen­tre

an­other is­sue that gen­er­ated a lot of com­ments was the ques­tion of whether the can­di­dates sup­ported the con­struc­tion of a new aquatic cen­tre, now re­ferred to the multi-use recre­ation cen­tre.

Most of the can­di­dates said they were against it.

First to re­spond was can­di­date cur­ley (Ward 2), who said no. he said this was not the right time be­cause the city has to get back to fo­cus­ing on pri­or­i­ties.

“that is not a pri­or­ity for the city,” he said.

shale (Ward 4) also said no and added that the money al­ready spent on stud­ies and de­sign work could have been bet­ter spent on other city pri­or­i­ties.

“the city of timmins has to learn to live within its means,” said shale.

Fex (Ward 2) said he was in favour, but with con­di­tions.

“i don’t think we need a $50-mil­lion com­plex, but we cer­tainly need a new pool,” he said.

Feld­man (Ward 2), who de­scribed him­self as a pool user on a reg­u­lar ba­sis for sev­eral years, said no.

“i cer­tainly don’t see the need for a brand new pool,” he said.

Feld­man said he uses the pool of­ten and said not one of the reg­u­lar swim­ming crowd has spo­ken of the need for a new pool.

camp­bell (Ward 3) also said no to the pool project and added it is a project where there has been no needs study done. Nor is there any in­di­ca­tion of what the op­er­at­ing costs might be for a new fa­cil­ity, he said.

he added that de­spite the pub­lic meet­ings that were held, there was “no groundswell” among the pub­lic for a new fa­cil­ity.

speak­ing in favour was can­di­date dor­ring­ton (Ward 3) who said in her ex­pe­ri­ence of knock­ing on doors and speak­ing to prospec­tive vot­ers, peo­ple do sup­port the pool. she said she would like to see the com­plex in­clude a new arena at the out­set.

“the re­al­ity is the build­ing is not go­ing to get cheaper as time pro­gresses, the build­ing is go­ing to get more ex­pen­sive,” said dor­ring­ton.

she said in or­der to re­tain the pop­u­la­tion in timmins and to at­tract new fam­i­lies, the city needs newer and mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties such as the rec com­plex. she added the project would be con­tin­gent on pro­vin­cial and fed­eral fund­ing.

auger (Ward 2) said no. he said any new pool or recre­ational fa­cil­ity is only go­ing to drive up taxes.

“Where are the se­niors go­ing to get the money to pay for that?” auger asked.

he said if the ex­ist­ing sport­splex pool needs some up­grad­ing, then spend $1 mil­lion to get it done.

“We don’t need a big pool. We don’t need a com­plex,” said auger.

Wawrza­szek (Ward 2) spoke up to say he was in favour of a new pool com­plex. he said the cur­rent pool is in­ad­e­quate and is closed too of­ten for main­te­nance.

“and the pool will not be built un­less there’s pro­vin­cial and fed­eral funds. that’s what we said from the be­gin­ning,” said Wawrza­szek.

Coun­cil spend­ing

can­di­dates were also asked what pro­ce­dure or process should be used when city coun­cil de­cides to spend money on un­bud­geted projects such as the new Whit­ney fire­hall and in­te­grated emer­gency ser­vices build­ing at North­ern col­lege. the city con­trib­uted $2 mil­lion to that project.

lucyk (Ward 3) said pub­lic in­put should be in­cluded in the process and coun­cil should heed pub­lic con­cerns be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion.

trudel (Ward 4) said it was tough to an­swer be­cause there are so many projects and there is no one-size-fits-all so­lu­tion. she added it would be good to know the on­go­ing op­er­at­ing costs in ad­vance for any projects.

dor­ring­ton (Ward 3) agreed with lucyk on the idea that it would be good to have a ceil­ing on the value of project con­tri­bu­tions, but she said she was not to­tally in agree­ment with bring­ing ev­ery project back for com­mu­nity in­put, be­cause ev­ery­thing could come to a stand­still.

camp­bell (Ward 3) said the fund­ing for North­ern col­lege didn’t need to be spent. he said the com­ple­tion of the new fire­hall and emer­gency cen­tre was not con­tin­gent on city coun­cil’s $2-mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion to the col­lege.

shale (Ward 4) said it was nice to have a new fire­hall, but he was not con­vinced the city had to spend the money.

he said the coun­cil and ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to get back to the idea that if the city doesn’t have the money, then the money should not be spent.

bam­ford (Ward 4) com­mented on the Whit­ney fire­hall project, say­ing he spoke to the trea­surer and was as­sured that the city did not have to go out­side to bor­row the money — that the fund­ing was found within city bud­gets.

camp­bell re­marked that fund­ing for col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the prov­ince, not the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

“by do­ing this, we are dou­ble tax­ing our cit­i­zens,” camp­bell de­clared.

‘Ele­phant in the room’

it was dur­ing clos­ing state­ments that one can­di­date spoke up to clar­ify her po­si­tion in the cam­paign and what she called the “ele­phant in the room”.

“that is the fact that i hap­pen to be mar­ried to steve black,” said dor­ring­ton (Ward 3).

“through­out this cam­paign i have been re­ferred to, by some can­di­dates, as the mayor’s wife, black’s wife, steve’s wife.”

she added that de­spite be­ing mar­ried she has her own in­de­pen­dent thoughts and views. she added she is aware some peo­ple have sug­gested that she is some­how in a con­flict of in­ter­est in run­ning for a coun­cil seat, while her hus­band is a may­oral can­di­date.

“it’s not only in­sult­ing to me, it is in­sult­ing to women ev­ery­where,” said dor­ring­ton.

as a lawyer, she said she could as­sure vot­ers there was no le­gal con­flict.

she added that she was dis­ap­pointed some can­di­dates and some vot­ers seem to think that as a woman she is not ca­pa­ble of form­ing her own opin­ions. she said that as an ed­u­cated busi­ness owner, she is fully ca­pa­ble of dis­agree­ing with her hus­band or any other mem­ber of coun­cil that has a dif­fer­ent view on is­sues.

as a coun­cil mem­ber, she said she would make her opin­ions clear, make her ar­gu­ments pro­fes­sional and re­gard­less of the de­ci­sion by coun­cil, she will re­spect the de­ci­sion of coun­cil as a whole and sup­port it as coun­cil moves for­ward.

LeN GiL­LiS/THE DAILY PRESS

Close to 100 peo­ple packed into the pub at North­ern Col­lege Wed­nes­day night to lis­ten to the plat­forms of city coun­cil can­di­dates for Timmins Wards 2, 3 and 4. The can­di­dates dis­cussed a va­ri­ety of is­sues in­clud­ing the pro­posed cost of the new aquatic com­plex and the pos­si­bil­ity of a third Stars and Thun­der fes­ti­val. The event was hosted by the Timmins Cham­ber of Com­merce.

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