Can­di­dates talk pri­or­i­ties

Five of seven seek­ing to be Brant­ford’s next mayor take part in tele­vised event


Brant­ford’s may­oral can­di­dates of­fered their opin­ions on some of the most im­por­tant city is­sues in a tele­vised event on Thurs­day.

In what was less a de­bate than a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion, can­di­dates re­sponded to ques­tions posed by ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers of the Brant­ford-Brant Cham­ber of Com­merce. The event was broad­cast on Rogers TV.

It is the fi­nal de­bate be­fore the Oct. 22 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

In front of a packed gallery in the coun­cil cham­ber at city hall, five of the seven reg­is­tered can­di­dates talked about their pri­or­i­ties and of­fered their opin­ions about some of the city’s most sig­nif­i­cant is­sues.

Chris Friel, who is seek­ing his sixth term as mayor, is be­ing chal­lenged by: Kevin Davis, a lawyer and former city coun­cil­lor; busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive Michael Issa; Dave Wro­bel, a former city coun­cil­lor and past may­oral can­di­date; peren­nial elec­tion can­di­date John Turmel; Bar­bara Ber­ardi, a former re­al­tor on a dis­abil­ity pen­sion; and Wayne Maw, a dis­abil­ity pen­sion re­cip­i­ent and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer. Ber­ardi and Maw didn’t par­tic­i­pate in the de­bate.

As the cam­paign en­ters the home stretch, can­di­dates were asked to iden­tify what they feel are the top three is­sues for the city. Plan­ning for growth, get­ting a han­dle on taxes and spend­ing, and find­ing so­lu­tions to traf­fic is­sues and in­creased crime and drug prob­lems emerged as com­mon con­cerns.

“We’re go­ing to need to get our fi­nances in order,” said Wro­bel, who served as a city coun­cil­lor for three terms rep­re­sent­ing Ward 4. “We’ve got to get the bud­get un­der con­trol.”

One strat­egy, he said, is to fo­cus on bring­ing in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial devel­op­ment to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity that pay high tax rates and lighten the res­i­den­tial tax bur­den.

Davis, who served two terms as a city coun­cil­lor from 1985 to 1991, said that over the last four years, Brant­ford’s res­i­den­tial taxes have in­creased at twice the rate of in­fla­tion, rep­re­sent­ing an ex­tra $10 mil­lion in spend­ing.

He said the city, once it sets its an­nual bud­get, needs to stick with it and not make “one-off de­ci­sions” for ex­tra spend­ing dur­ing the year. David said the roads and sewer sys­tems must meet the needs of all ar­eas of the city. And devel­op­ment of the lands north of Pow­er­line Road re­cently an­nexed from Brant County must be done wisely, with an en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble range of hous­ing op­tions.

Friel said con­tin­ued growth of the city – the pop­u­la­tion has in­creased by 8,000 since 2006 – re­quires a leader with vi­sion.

He said the city must fo­cus on a hous­ing strat­egy that takes res­i­dents through the en­tirety of their lives and pro­vides as­sis­tance to those in need.

Friel also pointed to a sur­vey of the pub­lic in 2017 about bud­get pri­or­i­ties, in which 66 per cent of re­spon­dents said they felt they re­ceived “fairly good or very good” value for their tax dollar.

“It’s not about taxes but the ser­vices we pro­vide.”

Turmel, who says he’s a pro­fes­sional gam­bler, holds the Guin­ness World Records for the most elec­tions con­tested (96) and lost (95). His cam­paign plat­form is largely about us­ing what he calls bus bucks, through which youth would be paid with $2 bus tick­ets to ride buses or pay taxes. He also pro­motes the use of a time bank that would al­low par­ents to care for each other’s chil­dren and pay with IOUs. The same sys­tem would be used to care for the elderly.

“Brant­ford is­sued Brant­ford dollars in 1858 and 1859,” said Turmel. “If we could do this be­fore, we can do it again.”

Michael Issa said his top pri­or­i­ties cen­tre around health-care im­prove­ments, re­vi­tal­iz­ing the lo­cal econ­omy and im­prov­ing the city’s ag­ing in­fras­truc­ture.

Issa is propos­ing what he calls a “free-trade zone” through which in­dus­try world­wide is in­vited to set up in the city, with “no bu­reau­cracy and no red tape.”

“The only caveat is that they buy lo­cal, hire lo­cal, spend lo­cal, but ex­port their prod­ucts.”

Can­di­dates were asked to how they would make im­prove­ments to ag­ing in­fras­truc­ture, in­clud­ing roads, bridges and over­bur­dened sewage pump­ing sta­tions, a pri­or­ity for the next term of coun­cil.

Wro­bel said it’s im­per­a­tive to make im­prove­ments to pump­ing sta­tions on Em­pey Street and Fifth Av­enue, which are at or be­yond ca­pac­ity mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ap­prove devel­op­ment in those ar­eas be­cause the sta­tions can’t han­dle the ex­tra pres­sure.

He said the cost for the im­prove­ments should be shared by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and de­vel­op­ers. He also called for suc­ces­sion plan­ning so that cur­rent city staff is pass­ing on crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion to those who will take their places.

Issa said the ice jam flood in Brant­ford in Fe­bru­ary could have been avoided but “the city was not pre­pared for it.

“We have to de­velop a pro-ac­tive, not a re-ac­tive ap­proach,” he said. “We have to plan, and plan, and plan.”

Friel ar­gued that no one could have been pre­pared for the flood, which he said is a con­se­quence of cli­mate change.

“This is hap­pen­ing in ev­ery com­mu­nity,” said Friel, adding that money needs to be in­vested in im­proved in­fras­truc­ture.

Davis said the city needs to take a look at its cap­i­tal project plan and “move things around” based on pri­or­ity.

He said the city also needs to con­sider sell­ing as­sets and look at how it can ac­cess fund­ing from the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.


Brant­ford may­oral can­di­dates Michael Issa (left), Chris Friel, Dave Wro­bel, John Turmel and Kevin Davis met for a fi­nal de­bate Thurs­day hosted by the Brant­ford-Brant Cham­ber of Com­merce and broad­cast on Rogers TV.

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