All-candidates meeting focuses on need for transparency, controlled spending

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News

By Barb McKay

 

There was a consistent theme to a lengthy all-candidates meeting held last Monday in Kincardine.

 

 

The candidates assembled to speak and answer questions last Monday night at the Davidson Centre in Kincardine. (Barb McKay photo)

 

The view by many in attendance is that constituents throughout the municipality have a common mistrust of council. The theme played throughout most candidates’ opening remarks and was echoed by residents during the question period.

 

A recent investigation into closed-door meetings regarding the Bruce Telecom sale, questions around the municipality’s agreement with SP Armow Wind and a decision to make payment mandatory for the shoreline water pipeline are reasons some candidates cited for entering the race.

 

“Over the past eight months I have seen a large erosion of trust in our council,” said Richard Court, who is running for a Ward 1 councillor seat. “I want to bring our council back with some glory so you can put your trust in us again.”

 

Councillor-at-large candidate Doug Peebles said he has a vision of a council that is open, friendly and approachable.

 

“If you elect me I will ensure you will always know what we are thinking and doing,” he said.

 

Ward 3 incumbent Randy Roppel brought up the proposed natural gas project and said he doesn’t believe the business case will ease constituents’ discomfort over what he says is a lack of information. Anne Eadie, currently deputy mayor and running for mayor, stressed that the natural gas project is entirely dependent on upper tier government funding and will not be paid for with municipal tax dollars, with the exception of the business case.

 

Other incumbent candidates highlighted the importance of communication.

 

“We need to improve the public relations and morale of the municipality,” said Jacqueline Faubert, who is running for councillor-at-large.

 

The hall at the Davidson Centre where the meeting was held was filled to capacity. All candidates, with the exception of Adam Cherry, were in attendance. The municipality’s financials was another hot topic and one everyone wanted to have a say on. Ward 2 candidate Jutta Splettstoesser said she would fight for responsible spending in the next term. Fellow Ward 2 candidate Linda McKee said the municipality should undergo an internal audit before raising taxes again. Councillor-at-large candidate Gordon Campbell said the municipality should conduct more of its studies in-house, rather than hiring pricey consultants and engineers.

 

Ward 1 candidate Maureen Couture said declining revenues is the biggest challenge the municipality will face this coming term due to reductions in funding from the provincial and federal governments.

 

Candidates were asked what they would eliminate from the budget in order to balance it. Mayoral candidate Marsha Leggett said her choice would be to sell off the Arts Centre building. She said the auditorium at Kincardine and District Secondary School could serve the same purpose for the groups that use the building. Ward 3 candidate Shelagh McFarlane said she would open the municipality’s books and look to see where savings could be had. Councillor-at-large candidate Christina Roppel-Wahi said she would need to know the costs associated with municipal assets and services before she would make a determination of what to eliminate.

 

Economic development came up through a number of questions posed by residents. David Leigh noted that major industries have packed up and left nearby municipalities and asked if it was wise to spend money on the Penetangore Regional Economic Development Corporation (PREDC) to attract new business rather than supporting what’s currently here.

 

“We have farming and Bruce Nuclear and everything else we have is small,” said Marsha Leggett, “and since I’ve been here I don’t remember any of them asking for help. If there are businesses that want to come in why wouldn’t we welcome them? They bring employment opportunities and tax dollars.”

 

“I like the idea of business people talking to business people,” said Eadie. “They have the expertise. We should focus on the business of running the municipality, like maintaining roads.”

 

Councillor-at-large candidate Andrew White said small businesses boost the local economy.

 

“Big businesses are great, but we need to support our local businesses,” he said.

 

Fellow councillor-at-large candidate Alex Eveleigh said the municipality needs to create an environment that will attract small businesses and enable them to thrive.

 

Roppel said the municipality needs a mix for a healthy local economy.

 

“I think there’s room in this municipality for both small businesses and growth and for large businesses,” said Roppel. “We also have to look at retention. We have Bruce Power and we have small businesses and we need to keep them or we won’t survive.”

 

Ward 1 candidate Mike Leggett said the municipality has put all its eggs in one basket for too long. He said he can remember a time when Bruce Power was mothballing units and businesses were closing. He said there are opportunities at the Bruce Energy Centre.

 

In my opinion, this municipality needs more industry,” he said. “It takes an arms-length group to make that happen.”

 

Councillor-at-large candidate Laura Haight said she believes that new businesses, such as the Marriott, would have come with out PREDC’s help. She said the Kincardine’s best bet for economic development in Kincardine is through small businesses.

 

Norm Annetts asked the candidates their positions on the placement of the visitor information centre. Marsha Leggett suggested that the centre could be located at the airport house and other rooms in the house could be offered up to community groups to hold meetings. Eadie said the welcome centre downtown is there on a trial basis. She noted that the former highway location wasn’t ideal, but said the municipality will need to decide in future if a physical information centre is necessary when most travellers use the Internet to make travel arrangements or research destinations. Haight said the municipality needs a significant presence on the highway to capture traffic travelling through Kincardine and said the business park is the preferable location.

 

Faubert acknowledged that the numbers were down at the downtown location this year but said tourism in general was down by about 70 per cent. She and Ward 1 candidate Candy Hewitt both said visitor information centres are needed both on the highway and downtown Kincardine.

 

The environment and recycling were brought up by more than one resident during the evening. One individual called for longer hours at the waste management centre, while another questioned why the recycling program is not more inclusive. Eadie said recycling has been a priority this year, particularly around education. Splettstoesser said Kincardine has work to do when the province has established a goal to recycle 60 per cent of waste and the municipality recycles less than 40 per cent.

 

Splettstoesser was the only candidate Monday to face an attack from a constituent. She was called out on her support for wind energy and her involvement with wind energy boards. Splettstoesser replied that her position on renewable energy has nothing to do with her choice to run for council and added that as a councillor she would not have the power to make any decisions one way or another regarding wind energy projects in any case. She said there are other issues in the municipality that need to be addressed and she is running because she believes it is important to be a responsible citizen and she wants to make a difference.

 

The municipal election will be held Oct. 27. Constituents can vote to elect the mayor, two Ward 1 councillors, one Ward 2 councillor, one Ward 3 councillor and four councillors-at-large. The councillor-at-large candidate with the most votes will become deputy mayor.

 

The candidates are as follows: Anne Eadie and Marsha Leggett are running for mayor; Gordon Campbell, Adam Cherry, Alex Eveleigh, Jacqueline Faubert, Laura Haight, Doug Peebles, Christina Roppel-Wahi and Andrew White are running for councillor-at-large; Richard Court, Maureen Couture, Candy Hewitt and Mike Leggett are running for Ward 1 councillor; Linda McKee and Jutta Splettstoesser are running for Ward 2 councillor; and Shelagh McFarlane and Randy Roppel are running for Ward 3 councillor.

 

For more information on the election and to check to see if you are on the voters’ list, visit the municipal website at www.kincardine.net. This week's print edition of The Kincardine Independent also has a complete profile on each candidate.