Mayor hope­fuls skip event

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - RON­ALD ZAJAC

Many who showed up to Brockville’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion meet-and-greet were ready for a show­down be­tween may­oral hope­fuls, but it was not to be.

Two of the can­di­dates for city coun­cil’s top seat, Cec Drake and Mark Oliver, de­clined to at­tend Wed­nes­day evening’s gath­er­ing at the Brockville Me­mo­rial Cen­tre com­mu­nity hall, ex­press­ing vary­ing de­grees of dis­com­fort about an event or­ga­nized by one of their ri­vals, cur­rent Coun. Ja­son Baker.

That left Baker and fel­low may­oral hope­ful Kelly Cole, prompt­ing Baker to call off any for­mal por­tion of the meet­ing ded­i­cated to speeches from, or de­bates among, the four can­di­dates for mayor.

While the size of the crowd di­min­ished vis­i­bly af­ter Baker’s an­nounce­ment, there were still many peo­ple left to con­tinue chat­ting up the can­di­dates present, in­clud­ing 19 of the 20 peo­ple seek­ing the ti­tle of coun­cil­lor.

Vot­ers will choose Brockville’s next mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil Oct. 22.

Baker’s cam­paign rented out the Me­mo­rial Cen­tre hall, invit­ing can­di­dates to present their ma­te­rial and speak to vot­ers in a meet-and­greet for­mat Baker found more use­ful than that of the tra­di­tional all-can­di­dates meet­ing.

He had hoped to de­vote one of the three hours to some form of de­bate or dis­cus­sion among may­oralty can­di­dates, with the for­mat to be worked out by the four cam­paigns.

But in a mes­sage to The Recorder and Times, Oliver’s cam­paign said it felt un­easy about the cir­cum­stances.

“As Mark val­ues any op­por­tu­nity to meet and en­gage with vot­ers, we dis­cussed the event with the Baker cam­paign when it was pre­sented. Ul­ti­mately, we didn’t feel com­fort­able par­tic­i­pat­ing in an event en­tirely hosted, funded, and or­ga­nized by an op­pos­ing cam­paign,” the state­ment reads.

“That said, Mark looks for­ward to par­tic­i­pat­ing in next week’s all­can­di­dates event hosted by the Labour Coun­cil (on Wed­nes­day), as well as the Cham­ber de­bate (Sept. 27), and hopes to meet vot­ers at our cam­paign of­fice open­ing this Fri­day.”

Drake, mean­while, said in an in­ter­view Tues­day he had eth­i­cal con­cerns about the event.

“It doesn’t seem to sit right with me that a can­di­date for mayor can ba­si­cally give a con­tri­bu­tion to can­di­dates for coun­cil,” said Drake.

He be­lieves the act of rent­ing the hall for other can­di­dates amounted to a vi­o­la­tion of third­party ex­pense rules.

How­ever, city clerk San­dra Mac­Don­ald said those re­stric­tions, found in the prov­ince’s Mu­nic­i­pal Elec­tions Act, deal with con­tri­bu­tions to can­di­dates from po­lit­i­cal par­ties or in­di­vid­u­als in se­nior lev­els of gov­ern­ment, pro­vin­cial or fed­eral. “I can’t see how any­body would think there’s an eth­i­cal is­sue,” Baker said Wed­nes­day night as the event wound down.

But Baker did not want to en­gage in “neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing ” over the mat­ter.

“This is ex­actly what I wanted from this event, hav­ing some­thing voter-cen­tric,” Baker added.

While she did not get to de­bate her ri­vals, Cole was thank­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with vot­ers.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to see who’s go­ing to work for them,” she said.

“Lots of peo­ple are want­ing to vote, which is in­spir­ing.”

RON­ALD ZAJAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES Brockville Coun­cil­lor and can­di­date for mayor Ja­son Baker speaks to the crowd at an elec­tion meet-and­greet event at the Me­mo­rial Cen­tre hall on Wedned­say evening.

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