Capital candidates face off in debate

33B. MS. IMG. All candidates Meeting. John Dance

By John Dance

The five candidates for Capital Ward councillor squared off in a sometimes feisty but always respectful debate at the all-candidates meeting held at the brimming-to-capacity Glebe Community Centre on September 27.

Who won? It all depends on what you want in a councillor, but the performances certainly helped  electors gain a better sense of the candidates’ qualities, experience and platforms.

A large range of issues was tackled: taxes, affordable and social housing, development, cycling, transit, traffic, accountability, Lansdowne Park, AirBnBs and even the availability of public toilets.

At times, incumbent David Chernushenko was criticized by challengers Jidé Afolabi, Anthony Carricato, Christine McAllister and Shawn Menard but, for the most part, candidates positively outlined their priorities, highlighted alternative approaches and how they would conduct themselves if elected.

Asked about their assessment of the community impact of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment, the responses were varied. Ms. McAllister, former president of the Glebe Community Association, commented “We had a big missed opportunity but we had to be engaged to monitor the impacts,” noting there remain problems with parking, noise, post-event activity and garbage. Mr. Carricato commented that “On balance it’s been a success. They [OSEG] are very sensitive to neighbours – they want to build a stronger relationship.”

Shawn Menard declared that the city needs to improve the park space and renegotiate the deal with OSEG given it is currently “returning zero to the City.” Mr. Chernushenko noted he was one of just two councillors to vote against the deal with OSEG but spoke of positive steps like having a new boarded rink on the park’s “great lawn” and how he’d like to see more housing in the park. And specific suggestions from Mr. Afolabi were creating green roofs on the buildings and providing an LRT connection to the park.

Property taxes also raised varying views. Mr. Menard attacked the current use of taxes, specifically noting the budget “subsidizes sprawl,” as he cited the $50 million a year that is used for new roads. Mr. Carricato stressed the need to “stand up for property tax fairness” and get spending under control.

New ways of raising tax revenues, including taxing tourism, was proposed by Mr. Afolabi. Ms. McAllister commented that although the current council has limited tax increases to 2 percent a year, many other charges such as water and sewer fees, recreation and transit have increased by more. “We’re not having a conversation about investments and their paybacks in the environment and affordable housing.” And Mr. Chernushenko spoke of the need to look for efficiencies, and suggested that there would be savings over many years from investing in energy initiatives.

Development was another key issue. Councillor Chernushenko spoke of the problems with the Ontario Municipal Board and noted that his work to have it replaced by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) would address problems with development proposals. Mr. Carricato stressed that community design plans need to be respected and they need “green provisions.”

“I find the City’s approach [to development] really distressing – we need concierge services for communities,” said Ms McAllister in criticizing the City’s providing the additional help [“concierge services”’] to developers but not to communities. Mr. Afolabi argued for ensuring the “right” members are appointed to the new LPAT and said “Neighbourhoods should have as much teeth as developers.” Mr. Menard called for “shaking up the planning department” and getting new people as well as ensuring that zoning is respected.

The organizers – including Jaime Girard and Ron Rose from OOECA – did a superb job of running the two-hour long debate before an overflowing room. No candidate talked over others, all spoke within their time allowances and questions from the audience were directly asked by the moderator so that questioner “speechifying” was eliminated. It was a good day for local democracy.

 

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