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First candidates meeting a large affair in Alliston

In Candidates / Election 2014
Sep 10th, 2014

New Tecumseth Free Press Online

Twenty people running for municipal and school board offices took the stage last night at Banting Memorial High School in Alliston for the first all-candidates meeting of the election campaign in New Tecumseth.

Candidates for mayor, deputy mayor, Wards 1-3, and public and Catholic trustee faced off in front of approximately 100 people at the event sponsored by the Alliston and District Chamber of Commerce.

Because of the large number of candidates taking part, the number of questions, but more specifically the answers were not wide ranging topics.

A couple of the more notable positions came from the mayor candidates during opening remarks.

Bob Marrs committed to push for a special levy on the property tax bill that would be targeted to infrastructure upgrades, which he noted required about $14 million to maintain.

“It has to be done,” said Mr. Marrs, who was unsuccessful during the 2014 budget deliberations as Ward 1 councillor, in implementing the extra charge. “Basically what we’ll be looking at from the average taxpayer is about 25 cents a day or a large coffee a week. That is what it’s going to take.”

Kevin Kemp referenced two commitments he was making if elected, including a vow not accept donations from developers or development consultants because “I believe the candidate for mayor ought to come to the table with a clean slate.” Mr. Kemp’s other declaration if elected was not to accept the mayor’s salary (base salary of $34,495), but would instead donate it to five local organizations.

According to a reply from the Town on that matter, Mr. Kemp would have to distribute those funds on his own. “Staff and Council salaries are disbursed to individuals. How an individual chooses to use his or her salary would be between them and their financial institution.”

The handful of questions that were asked, both in person, and as submitted to the Chamber, touched on downtown revitalization, which all the candidates supported, with some cautions, including from Ward 3 candidate Paul Foster who suggested the facade improvement grant program needed to be reviewed because it wasn’t working as intended.

Below are some of the notable quotes on the night:

On Youth issues:

Rick Milne: “But it’s not only sport, we’re forgetting the art part of it too. We have the summer theatre at the Gibson Centre to go and watch the youth perform. We have to start supporting some of these groups that are not baseball, hockey, or soccer. We have to start looking at dancing, and the theatre groups because the arts side are very quiet people, they’re not like the sports people who can be very demanding.”

Gord McInnes Ward 2: “Every generation of council has dealt with this question. The problem seems to be is what is popular today, will be out of fashion within five years in terms of what the youth of our town want to involve themselves in.”

On running for council:

Damon Corbet, Mayor: “We need some change.”

Glen O’Leary, Deputy Mayor: “You go to the council meetings for a few months, and you can see change is needed.”

ABIA Chair Mike Jerry asked candidates whether or not they supported the Cappuccitti/Mattamy 15,000 homes plan that includes a downtown-core like business district:

Jamie Smith, Deputy Mayor: – I voted against this proposal 10 years ago when it first came before council. I resigned as chairman of the hospital board in order to do so, because I had a conflict of interest, and they were offering a free hospital to the town as part of their incentive to do it. I’m absolutely opposed to it at the present time as well.”

Laurie Mortimer, Ward 2: “I’m not for growing a city in the middle of our farm fields. However, I do believe our three towns need to grow towards each other into the middle. I think it’s probably 20 years, if not more down the road, but at this point within four years, I would be opposed to it.”

Michael Beattie, Ward 2: “As the son and grandson of a farmer, and six generations of farmers in this area, a development of that size would mean saying goodbye to a lot of farms, and would mean saying goodbye to a lot of family farms, family businesses. They do some of the hardest work in New Tecumseth. I know these families. I grew up with them, and I would wholeheartedly oppose such a development.”

On Taxation:

Mr. Kemp: “The spending needs to be monitored and reduced where possible. Where can we cut costs because it is not acceptable to continue to spend this money when our debt is now at obscene levels. Some controls need to be implemented.

Mr. O’Leary: There are many ways to save money. Every time I turn around, there’s another half-ton (truck). There are so many mistakes being made.

Wayne Noye, Ward 1:  I believe we should have slight increase every year so it’s not a big increase.

Paul Whiteside, Ward 3: “I can’t guarantee tonight there won’t be a tax increase, and no candidate at this table can guarantee that.”

On Transparency:

Mr. Beattie: “What we’ve seen the past four years, the sweetheart deal at the Hornet’s Nest debacle, and the cheque registry that is blacked out and redacted, it is not only the largest spending, but I would argue, the most secretive council in our history and change is needed. And in order to achieve that change, we need a new cast.”

Mr. McInnes: “Those matters that should have been brought up, were totally ignored by all 10 members of council. I think that is deplorable and we have to change that (regarding the consent agenda).”

Mr. Smith: “I think it’s fair to say that the present council complies with the law to the letter. The real question is whether or not we’re complying with the spirit of the law and I think in some circumstances it should be more open, there should be more discussion of issues before they come to council, rather than having those issues discussed merely by the executive and mayor. Sometimes I’ve been quite surprised by things that have shown up on the agenda without prior discussion.”

Mr. Kemp: “I find it absolutely outrageous that this present administration blacks out details as to what we are spending legal fees on, and then justifies it on some gibberish language asserting a non existent solicitor and client privilege.”

Mr. Corbet: “I don’t think it’s fair that one person sits and makes a decision as to how things are going to happen.”

Mr. Marrs: “I think we’ve been quite transparent. Everybody has a say at that meeting.”

Mr. Milne: “Nothing should be hidden from you.”

The next opportunity for public interaction with the candidates is on Wed., Sept. 24, beginning at 7 pm at the Hornet’s Nest inside the New Tecumseth Recreation Centre. Free Press Online has organized a candidates meeting for mayor and deputy mayor candidates. Additionally Ward council candidates will be on hand prior to the start of the debate, handing out their literature.

Editor’s Note: My apology to candidates as every effort was made to maintain a balance of responses from the various candidates but because of technical issues regarding the sound which made many of the answers hard to hear from the press table and back of the room, and the large number of candidates, it was not possible to capture it all, nor track who was replying at various times.

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