Ward 6 candidates deliver their message

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Dale Van Dusen discusses his election platform as incumbent Doug Sulman gets a laugh at Wednesday's Ward 6 all-candidates meeting.
Dale Van Dusen discusses his election platform as incumbent Doug Sulman gets a laugh at Wednesday’s Ward 6 all-candidates meeting.

Candidates fielded questions in three waves Wednesday for the TV Cogeco/Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce debate.

The debate, for Ward 6 council hopefuls, took place in council chambers at the Civic Centre and had to be done in three elements due to the large number seeking the six Ward 6 seats, even with three candidates unable to attend.

Mark Holman, Aaron Hurst, and Eric Schrank did not take part.

Candidates introduced themselves and laid out their platforms with opening and closing remarks, and fielded randomly drawn questions in between.

The first wave consisted of Michael Bondy, Ed Broad, Bruce Caldwell, Darrin Canniff, Penelope Duchesne, Maureen Geddes and Case Hems.

Kirk Hooker, Brandon Houston, Brock McGregor, Matthew McReynolds, Bob Myers and Derek Robertson comprised the second group.

Included in the final wave were Lynn O’Brien, Karen Robinet, Chad Sauve, Doug Sulman, Dale Van Dusen and Larry Vellinga.

Here is a highlight of notable comments from the candidates:

Bondy – “We have to understand, as a municipal government, we do not create jobs. We create an atmosphere in which jobs can be created. We collect taxes and provide services. If we can reduce the industrial tax rate, that will encourage business to come there and for others not to leave. If we tax people to death, they’ll go to Elgin County.”

Broad – “Administration needs to be more informative to the public. We need less closed-door meetings. Citizens have to know what’s going on at council. Council has to spend more time digesting the budget. We have to stop spending what we don’t have.”

Caldwell – “Council should take a look at who elects them, the people of Chatham-Kent. Council needs to support what the vast majority want done. There seems to be a large disconnect; no cohesion.”

Canniff – “In order to bring and maintain business here, we really need the skilled workforce. A shortage in skilled trades is coming in the next five-to-10 years. We need to promote the programs to fill those needs and work in partnerships with the colleges. When they (students) come here, they’re more likely to take jobs here.”

Duchesne – “ We have to work with them (administration) and have to tell them what the people can afford. We are out of money. Administration has to follow our budget and listen to councillors’ advice. It is the council that runs the city, not administration.”

Geddes – “ You can prosper here. It takes some creativity. Chatham-Kent has some fixing up to do. Small- and medium-sized businesses are the engine that drives our economy. I want to make Chatham-Kent a very prosperous and very fun place to live.”

Hems – “I feel I can eliminate senseless spending in our community, build on my main platform for a zero tax increase for 2015. I want to work for the people to make a vibrant change in our community.”

Hooker – “I would like to see less closed-door meetings. A lot of us are tired of our own money being spent foolishly. I want to know what’s going on behind those closed doors. I feel they’re playing with our money, your money and everybody’s money.”

Houston – “People have been shouting for change for years now. You’ve heard it online. You’ve seen it in the unemployment line. And you’ve seen it in the youth that have left our community and not returned. This is about building a team and it will take a team that’s working together to help the community survive and thrive.”

McGregor – “Fiscal responsibility starts with strategic planning. We have to come up with a strategic plan and stick to it come budget time. The best way to protect your future dollars is to spend your dollars wisely today. One thing to focus on is infrastructure renewal. Chronically underfunding it is going to get us into problems in the future.”

McReynolds – “I would love to see the same tax rate between commercial and residential taxes, but not at the cost of the citizens and taxpayers. I just don’t think it’s practical right now.”

Myers – “Through our youth retention surveys, one thing that came up very clearly was that they wanted a community that was very, very active, with recreational facilities, as well as culture and art. I believe strongly that is a role in which council plays. We have to continue to provide these activities for our citizens.”

Robertson – “There is significant value in public investment in arts, culture and recreation. It’s somewhat naive to think we can press forwards with the community driven to attract youth to our community and not expect we’ll need to provide the soft infrastructure that ultimately attracts new business and investment.”

O’Brien – “It is a beautiful community. We have the best weather anywhere in Canada. We have taxes that are too high, but we also are an affordable community. We need to get that out there. People come and visit us and can’t believe how beautiful it is in Chatham. We need to tell the world that we’re open for business.”

Robinet – “I believe I can make a difference. People don’t do a job like this for the money. They do it for the people. I feel there is so much more we can be doing. I feel we are overlooking too many people in Chatham-Kent.”

Sauve – “As a physically challenged person in Chatham-Kent, I firmly believe everyone has a voice, and every voice counts. I know we need change. I’d like to bring the budget down to half, and cap the budget. Right now, we’re in too much debt. We’re spending money where we don’t need to.”

Sulman – “My father said to me, ‘You make a living through what you get, but you make a life for what you give.’ That’s how I feel about public service. Each of us as a citizen has an obligation and that is to make the community the best it can be.”

Van Dusen – “What brings me here is change. As it stands, there’s not much for them (our children) here. The way things are going now, what is there for everyone? We educate our young and ship them of to wherever they can be the most they can be. At the rate we’re going, we’re not going to have anything here but us old people who are sitting at the table now.”

Vellinga – “We need to start running the municipality as a business. Council and the mayor must develop a vision with goals. Administration must be assigned the task of developing and installing a business plan to meet the goals of the vision. Everyone working for the municipality must be aligned and focused and working towards the same goal.”

Bruce Caldwell and Darrin Canniff chat before the cameras roll at Wednesday's debate.
Bruce Caldwell and Darrin Canniff chat before the cameras roll at Wednesday’s debate.

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