De­bate draws packed house

Ward 1 and 5 coun­cil­lor can­di­dates out­line their pri­or­i­ties and an­swer vot­ers’ ques­tions

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

Tim­mins city coun­cil can­di­dates for Ward 1 and Ward 5 put their plat­forms out to the pub­lic at a twohour de­bate held at Col­lège Boréal Thurs­day night to let vot­ers know what they stand for.

Only one can­di­date – Ken Pye in Ward 1 – didn’t show up.

This was the third de­bate hosted by the Tim­mins Cham­ber of Com­merce to pro­vide the pub­lic with a chance to meet the coun­cil can­di­dates for the Oct. 22 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion. At pre­vi­ous de­bates, the five may­oralty can­di­dates have been pre­sented, as have the coun­cil­lor can­di­dates for Wards 2, 3 and 4.

On Thurs­day night the vot­ers were pre­sented with can­di­dates for Ward 1: Veron­ica Farrell and Rock Whissell.

Also on hand to meet the vot­ers were the 12 can­di­dates for Ward 5: Michelle Boileau, Mike Doody, Ka­rina Miki Dou­glas-Takayesu, Rick Dubeau, John Ivanovs, An­drew Marks, Kris­ten Mur­ray, Noella Ri­naldo, Cory Robin, Jean Roy, Ja­son Sereda and Alex Szczebon­ski.

each can­di­date was given two min­utes to out­line who they are, along with what they plan and pro­pose to do if they get elected to city coun­cil. it was the usual stuff of out­lin­ing achieve­ments, qualifications and well-in­ten­tioned plans.

the only sur­prise came from new­bie can­di­date Ja­son Sereda (Ward 5) who said the vot­ers must con­sider which can­di­dates are best qual­i­fied. af­ter listing sev­eral things vot­ers should be ask­ing them­selves about can­di­dates, Sereda, who sports a pony­tail, put some comic re­lief into the mix when he said: “Fi­nally, most im­por­tant of all, who has the best hair?”

it had the de­sired ef­fect with a round of laugh­ter through­out the au­di­ence.

One of the first to of­fer an open­ing state­ment was Mike doody, the most se­nior of the Ward 5 can­di­dates. he said af­ter 35 years at the city coun­cil ta­ble he felt he could con­tinue to con­tribute to the bet­ter­ment of the city.

doody said he would be work­ing with or­ga­ni­za­tions and other com­mu­ni­ties in the North in the hope that when tim­mins lob­bies other lev­els of govern­ment, it is done with a united voice.

af­ter open­ing state­ments, mod­er­a­tor Melanie Ver­reault put ques­tions to the can­di­dates on a va­ri­ety of is­sues that have been dis­cussed in the weeks and months lead­ing up to the elec­tion.

in the first round of com­ments, can­di­dates were asked their opin­ions on the new aquatic cen­tre for tim­mins that is be­ing pro­posed by the city.

Mur­ray (Ward 5) said re­search told her that de­vel­op­ing an eight­lane pool would make the project open to more fund­ing from higher lev­els of govern­ment.

“So in my mind i thought OK, if we’re go­ing to get more fund­ing for this op­por­tu­nity then ob­vi­ously that’s a good thing,” said Mur­ray.

She added she is aware of the fund­ing chal­lenges are in the mil­lions of dollars.

“are we worth that? i think so,” said Mur­ray, who added that se­ri­ous fundrais­ing would be re­quired but she was confident the city could do it.

She said she would sup­port the project only if more fund­ing comes through.

“if i sit on city coun­cil i will move to­ward get­ting that,” she said.

Sereda (Ward 5) spoke against the pool idea.

“un­for­tu­nately, i think with the liv­ing cost, we need to be re­al­is­tic about what we plan,” he said, adding that tim­mins coun­cil has to dis­tin­guish be­tween what peo­ple want from things that peo­ple re­ally need.

“to me when there’s al­most a thou­sand peo­ple who are home­less in the com­mu­nity, our money could be bet­ter spent else­where,” he said.

Farrell (Ward 1) said she sup­ported the pool project be­cause many tim­mins fam­i­lies are trav­el­ling reg­u­larly to cochrane to take ad­van­tage of the newer pool fa­cil­ity there. Farrell also said she would not vote to sup­port the pool con­struc­tion if there is no fund­ing com­mit­ment from higher lev­els of govern­ment.

Other can­di­dates did not re­spond to that spe­cific ques­tion, but in a dis­cus­sion about pro­mot­ing bet­ter life­styles in the city, ri­naldo said yes, she is a sup­porter of the pool.

She said the city needs to pro­mote healthy life­styles and the pool is an in­vest­ment in the com­mu­nity.

the next ques­tion from the mod­er­a­tor asked the can­di­dates if they sup­ported hav­ing an­other Stars and thun­der fes­ti­val in 2019.

Sereda (Ward 5) said he is a mu­sic lover, but said he was told that the con­cerns of lo­cal mu­si­cians were ig­nored in the plan­ning of the event. Sereda asked what’s the point of hav­ing a big mu­sic fes­ti­val if lo­cal mu­si­cians can­not be show­cased and pro­moted.

dou­glas-takayesu (Ward 5) voiced her sup­port for hav­ing a fes­ti­val but only as a three-day event, fea­tur­ing more lo­cal artists and she would push to have a fi­nan­cial au­dit done.

also speaking in sup­port of con­tin­u­ing the fes­ti­val was Farrell (Ward 1).

in a com­ment made ear­lier in the evening, can­di­date dubeau (Ward 5) said he re­mem­bered the orig­i­nal con­cept pre­sented to city coun­cil in 2016 for Stars and thun­der as part of a unique canada day cel­e­bra­tion for canada 150.

dubeau said he voted with all coun­cil mem­bers to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing a three­day fes­ti­val. in­stead, he said the mayor came back with a pro­posal for an eight-day fes­ti­val.

dubeau said a de­fer­ral on the full eight-day fes­ti­val was re­quested at that time by coun. Joe camp­bell and sup­ported by him­self. the rest of coun­cil op­posed the de­fer­ral and rushed through the ap­proval for the fes­ti­val.

“to make it clear, i was not against the fes­ti­val. i was against the lack of trans­parency,” said dubeau.

the trans­parency con­cern was also spo­ken to by can­di­date Szczebon­ski (Ward 5).

he said he be­lieves a fu­ture city coun­cil should re­turn to the com­mit­tee sys­tem, so than any new projects are prop­erly planned and vet­ted at the coun­cil ta­ble. Szczebon­ski said this would bring trans­parency to the tax­pay­ers.

later in the meet­ing, re­spond­ing to a ques­tion from the mod­er­a­tor about trans­parency, Szczebon­ski said too many ad­min­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments pass through coun­cil’s hands with­out coun­cil mem­bers know­ing what goes on.

“un­less you have a com­mit­tee sys­tem and the coun­cil chair of that com­mit­tee ac­tu­ally sees the doc­u­men­ta­tion that staff is work­ing with, you would have no idea and they (coun­cil) would have no idea,” he said.

Marks (Ward 5) also com­mented on the trans­parency is­sue when he spoke about the bud­get process, which he said is a key func­tion of coun­cil.

Marks said it is im­por­tant for coun­cil to hear from or­di­nary tax­pay­ers when it comes to dis­cre­tionary spend­ing, things that coun­cil can de­cide for or against, such as new side­walks, street re­pairs, snow plow­ing or play­grounds.

“but if we’re not hear­ing be­cause peo­ple aren’t com­ing out, or they don’t care, or their voice isn’t heard, then it’s up to us to do it and we’ll do it. but then where is that trans­parency that is re­quired?” Marks asked.

ivanovs (Ward 5) also spoke on trans­parency and re­minded the group that he ap­proached city coun­cil as a cit­i­zen at one meet­ing in 2017 to re­quest the right of cit­i­zens to make presentations on a spe­cific is­sue at the same meet­ing where that is­sue would be dis­cussed by coun­cil.

ivanovs said coun­cil would only al­low that if there was a vote taken with a re­quired two-thirds ma­jor­ity that night, oth­er­wise he would have to sub­mit a re­quest two weeks ahead of time to speak on the sub­ject.

“i pleaded with coun­cil that they have a pro­vi­sion to al­low the pub­lic to ad­dress coun­cil on only those mat­ters with coun­cil per­mis­sion,” ivanovs said.

he said the re­quest to ad­dress coun­cil that evening was not ap­proved.

can­di­dates were also asked where the city might con­sider spend­ing more money if ad­di­tional money was al­lo­cated. the ques­tion was put to roy (Ward 5).

“We def­i­nitely need to do more for the home­less. in fact a lot more,” said roy.

he said the so­cial sys­tem does a lot for home­less peo­ple, but said the sys­tem is still lack­ing.

roy said if there was ex­tra money, the city could also look into con­struct­ing a home­less shel­ter. he added that the city would have to keep an eye on the bud­get for any spend­ing.

boileau (Ward 5) said her pri­or­ity would be to di­rect ad­di­tional money to­ward pro­vid­ing affordable so­cial hous­ing.

She said it is dif­fi­cult in tim­mins to find any affordable hous­ing, but said the city could in­vest in so­cial hous­ing.

Mur­ray (Ward 5) said if there was ad­di­tional money to be al­lo­cated, she too has a con­cern for the home­less but added she also fer­vently be­lieves in the need to in­vest in arts and cul­ture.

ri­naldo (Ward 5) said any ad­di­tional money would be nice but the im­por­tant thing would be to in­vest in part­ner­ships with other groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions to im­prove the city. that way, she said, the city could dou­ble or triple any fund­ing that is avail­able.

“Make that money grow,” she said.

dubeau (Ward 5) also com­mented on ad­di­tional spend­ing and said if funds were avail­able his choice would to be spend the money on in­fras­truc­ture, for things such as sewer and wa­ter. he said if the in­fras­truc­ture is­sue is not ad­dressed as soon as pos­si­ble, it would only get worse.

also on the is­sue of money, can­di­dates were asked if they had to cut a ser­vice pro­vided by the city, what would they cut. the ques­tion was put to can­di­date robin (Ward 5).

robin said it was not the best idea to have cuts for sake of sav­ing a hand­ful of dollars for each tax­payer. he said the city would be los­ing out on se­ri­ous ser­vices.

“What are we go­ing to lose? We’re go­ing to lose roads,” robin said, as he equated a 10% tax sav­ing to the amount of money he would save on take­out food in one year. he said it might even force dis­cus­sions into shut­ting down the Golden Manor long-term care home.

robin said all city ser­vices cost money. he said the city can­not just start slash­ing costs with­out there be­ing con­se­quences.

he said at this time, un­less there is a ma­jor push by tax­pay­ers to cut some spe­cific spend­ing, robin said he would cut noth­ing. the com­ment elicited energetic ap­plause.


City coun­cil elec­tion can­di­dates ap­peared be­fore a full house Thurs­day night at the Col­lËge BorÈal au­di­to­rium where the Tim­mins Cham­ber of Com­merce hosted a de­bate for coun­cil can­di­dates from Wards 1 and 5. In all, 14 can­di­dates ar­gued their rea­sons for seek­ing seats on city coun­cil in the Oct. 22 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion. Can­di­dates spoke about such things as who has the most ef­fec­tive eco­nomic so­lu­tions to who has the best hair.

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