Wellesley res­i­dents got to meet the can­di­dates

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - VERON­ICA REINER

GO­ING HEAD-TO-HEAD MAY BE an over­state­ment, but last week’s all­can­di­dates meet­ing was the first and only time all of the Wellesley elec­tion hope­fuls gath­ered to make their pitches.

Join­ing all other On­tar­i­ans, town­ship res­i­dents will be vot­ing this month in a mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

Some 150 peo­ple made it out to the Wellesley Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on Septem­ber 26, the bet­ter to in­form them­selves about their op­tions ahead of the Oc­to­ber 22 vote.

The meet­ing fea­tures a ques­tion-and-an­swer for­mat rather than a de­bate. Hosted by 570 News’s Jeff Pickel, the event saw each can­di­date given a five-minute in­tro­duc­tion be­fore they were put on the spot with ques­tions pre­de­ter­mined by the Woolwich Ob­server and New Ham­burg In­de­pen­dent.

All of the can­di­dates were able to at­tend: may­oral hope­fuls Joe Nowak (in­cum­bent) and Ber­nia Wheaton; Ward 2 can­di­dates Herb Ne­her (in­cum­bent) and Mark Wit­mer; Ward 3’s Joyce Barker, Grant Kings­bury and Peter van der Maas (in­cum­bent).

Ward 1 coun­cil­lor Shel­ley Wag­ner and Ward 4 Carl Smit will re­turn to their seats by ac­cla­ma­tion.

The first ques­tion was di­rected at the may­oral can­di­dates, in­quir­ing how they in­tended to make Wellesley’s voice heard at re­gional coun­cil.

“I want to be a strong voice,” said Wheaton. “And to me, that means be­ing knowl­edge­able and be­ing pre­pared. It is be­ing ar­tic­u­late, and in­formed. It is be­ing per­sua­sive and con­vinc­ing. It means be­ing able to have a valid po­si­tion and be­ing able to de­fend it. And it’s about build­ing cred­i­bil­ity. I have found in my pro­fes­sional life that build­ing re­la­tion­ships with the peo­ple that you work with around the ta­ble goes a very long way.”

“I worked very hard to con­vince the re­gional staff that we should have that round­about. And we got the $ 1.4 mil­lion in­vest­ment for that project,” said Nowak, re­fer­ring to the round­about at the in­ter­sec­tion of Ament Line and Her­rgott Road. “I’ve built very good re­la­tion­ships with the other coun­cil­lors. The four ru­ral may­ors get to­gether on a quar­terly ba­sis, so when a ru­ral is­sue comes to the ta­ble, we work to­gether.”

The se­cond ques­tion, fired off at the Ward 3 can­di­dates, in­volved how to make Wellesley more than just a bed­room com­mu­nity.

Van der Maas’s re­sponse in­volved fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity that has a vi­tal char­ac­ter.

“Where peo­ple are vol­un­teer­ing, coach­ing teams, shop­ping here, play­ing here, and us­ing the fa­cil­i­ties here,” he said. “So it’s not what I plan to do; it’s what we plan to do to work to­gether to cre­ate a com­mu­nity.”

“We need to in­crease and de­velop the land where we can af­ford jobs,” said Kings­bury. “Where we can have the youth work­ing. We can have more lo­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties for our lo­cal peo­ple to be work­ing in town. To not have to drive to Kitch­ener, to Water­loo, to Cam­bridge, to Strat­ford, for mean­ing­ful em­ploy­ment.”

“What makes our vil­lage spe­cial, that peo­ple are go­ing to con­tinue to come here, is all of you,” said Barker. “It’s a won­der­ful place to live. We do have to look at some com­mer­cial devel­op­ment down the way, pos­si­bly with one of the pieces of land that’s be­ing con­sid­ered for ra­tio­nal­iza­tion.”

Mem­bers of the au­di­ence were pre­sented with slips of pa­per on which they could pose anony­mous ques­tions to the can­di­dates. Among the con­cerns were re­duc­ing the dam­age from truck traf­fic and whether or not to in­crease waste col­lec­tion sched­ules. The sub­mis­sions in­cluded, “What are you look­ing the most for­ward to when the coun­cil be­gins?”

“Some­times we’ve got to make sure we don’t suck and blow at the same time,” said Ne­her. “We talk about ex­pand­ing, we want more houses, we want more busi­ness, but we want to keep our quaint lit­tle com­mu­nity. Some­times you can’t have it both ways. This is where it’s very dif­fi­cult to bal­ance that out. Coun­cil some­times need more di­rec­tion from the com­mu­nity.”

“I have to agree with Herb 100 per cent here,” said Wit­mer. “I hon­estly be­lieve we elect a coun­cil and a mayor to do what we think they’re go­ing to do. When you have a huge de­ci­sion, with the re­lo­ca­tion of bound­aries, maybe that’s some­thing we should put out to the town­ship as a whole and say ‘Do you want this, or don’t you want this?’ and see what the peo­ple want.”

Af­ter au­di­ence ques­tions con­cluded due to time con­straints, a more in­for­mal meet-and-greet took place.

Vot­ers can cast their bal­lot on­line or through tele­phone start­ing Oc­to­ber 9 start­ing at 10 a.m. un­til Oc­to­ber 22 at 8 p.m.

A live record­ing of the full meet­ing is posted on the Wellesley On­tario Com­mu­nity Con­nec­tions Face­book page, and more in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at www.wellesley.ca.

[VERON­ICA REINER / THE OB­SERVER]

The Wellesley Com­mu­nity Cen­tre set the stage for a meet-the-can­di­dates event Sept. 26. Herb Ne­her, Joe Nowak, Ber­nia Wheaton, Joyce Barker, Peter van der Maas and Grant Kings­bury.

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