With less than a week before residents of Ward 2 elect a new councillor, all nine candidates took part in a live tv debate that aired on Shaw TV Tuesday that presented good points on big issues by all of the candidates.
The chamber of commerce sponsored the all-candidates forum with questions from members of the chamber and the board of directors.
Not surprisingly, the main focus of the two hour debate was on the economy.
The candidates include Luke Dufour, John Duke, Jody Curran, Sandra Hollingsworth, , Susan Milne, David Poluck, Andy Martens , Les Weeks and Ron Schinners.
Perhaps the best line of the night came from the youngest of the candidates , Luke Dufour, who stated that if you want to send a clear message that “if the city supports its young entrepreneurs, then it should elect one” – namely himself.
Dufour bluntly answered a question about how competitive the Sault is in property taxes. “We’re not competitive at all stating the Sault is double that of Sudbury”
Martens meanwhile said the key to building the tax base was through diversification , Hollingsworth believes by lowering taxes could stimulate the local economy, it could also choke the community”
Curran believes in a zero increase including the commercial and industrial sectors while Poluck called for a complete tax review.
Schinners wants council to lower taxes and not increase them.
The issue of the downtown and tourism were big issues for all the candidates, they all believe in restoring the downtown and to make it vibrant again.
Les Weeks stated that the traffic patterns in the downtown must change with making Queen Street and Gore Street two way along with free parking. Schinners wants to see more digital signage.
Dufour called for better communication through the Downtown Association and the City, Ron Schinners wants all the trees removed along Queen Street and the removal of parking meters. Hollingsworth wants to see empty storefronts used to promote what the city has as a quick fix to improve the look of the downtown. Milne wants the city to look its best as visitors enter off the International bridge and agreed with Dukes that more events in the downtown are needed.
On the topic of Tourism, Duke believes the city should take a page from Mackinaw Island and Traverse City. Dufour wants the city to focus more on the waterfront and potential the areas has and to make a decision on the Norgoma.
Weeks, Poluck and Martens want to see the city’s tourism arm push the low Canadian dollar in its marketing to attract American visitors.
All the candidates agreed that the City should not implement development charges on Developers and should not increase building permit fees.
Schinners says its just another money grab from the city, others argued that new fees would be more of a burden to developers. Dufour called the move from the city “shortsighted”
Duke said he would support charges on residential homes but not commercial ventures.
All the candidates says the upcoming year will be a very challenging one for the city in light of the situation with Essar Steel Algoma.
The byelection for ward 2 residents is February 1st.