Mayoral, deputy candidates address local issues at debate

October 8, 2014   ·   0 Comments

Leadership style, taxes and the local police service were some of the hot button issues discussed by candidates for mayor and deputy mayor at the Orangeville municipal election debate Oct. 1.

With the election coming at the end of the month, the debate was organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, with the support of and in partnership with the Dufferin Federation of Agriculture and the Greater Dufferin Home Builders Assoc.

Mayor Rob Adams and challenger Jeremy Williams, who is a current councillor, and Deputy Mayor candidates incumbent Warren Maycock, Sandy Brown and Kim Reid faced off in front of a packed crowd at the Orangeville District Secondary School.

When asked to describe their leadership style, all the candidates agreed they are collaborative, consensus builders. Mr. Williams took the opportunity to suggest new leadership is needed at town hall.

“We have a great community, fantastic people and I think town hall sometimes gets in the way in terms of bureaucracy,” he said. “We need a new leadership style, someone who is more involved at town hall. You need to get out and be there, listen and work with people – that is my style of leadership… One of the things that has cost us a great deal is management style.”

Mayor Adams defended his leadership.

“Part of leadership is being there, on the ground,” he said, adding that he’s been to over 2,000 events and after the December ice storm met with residents and businesses to ensure the Town was doing everything possible to help.

Listening to constituents is a top priority for Ms. Reid.

“I want to get out there and listen to people – find out what people want, what we don’t have, where should we grow,” she said. “We need to really take a good hard look.”

Candidates also weighed in on taxes in the municipality.

“What concerns me is the ever increasing taxes that we are facing in this town,” said Mr. Brown.

In terms of top priorities, Mr. Brown said he would like to see the Orangeville Police Service replaced with the Ontario Provincial Police in order to save tax dollars.

“We’re looking at millions of dollars per year in savings,” he said.

Ms. Reid did not agree with bringing the OPP to town.

“We need to work with what we have right now,” she said. “We don’t have a cost or an estimated time frame.”

She said reducing spending is one of the priorities at the top of her list. “It’s out of control and we can’t sustain it as a town anymore.”

Mayor Adams said he has been fighting for lower taxes on council and will continue to be an advocate for tax cuts.

“Frankly, we need to live within our means.”

Deputy Mayor Maycock agreed. “Keeping taxes in check, being a strong, united voice at county council is essential,” he said. “You don’t want the Mayor and Deputy Mayor on opposite sides. You’ll lose votes that way.”

Councillor Williams said his priority is openness and accountability at town hall. He also wants to bring in new industry in order to reduce taxes. He added police department is also a real problem in the town.

In terms of fresh ideas to improve the local economy, Mr. Maycock said he would like to focus on tourism. “We have to keep it growing because this community can be the centre of arts and culture for all of Ontario.”

Mr. Brown suggested leveraging some of the town’s assets, such as Orangeville Hydro, to build infrastructure. “I think we should look at that seriously,” he stated.

When asked about what the town can do to minimize lawsuits, every candidate spoke to the issues with the local police department and the millions spent on legal fees to fight internal discipline matters each year.

“I’m not happy about it either but we have to recognize that at the end of the day, if we ignore the problem, it goes on and on and is not resolved,” said Mayor Adams, adding that overall, the members of the police force are good, hardworking individuals.

“None of us wish the incidents had happened but we dealt with it,” added Mr. Maycock.

While Mr. Brown recognized that litigation is prevalent in all corporations such as the Town, he criticized the Mayor and Deputy Mayor for extending the contract of Police Chief Joe Tomie two years ago despite the controversy over multiple Police Act hearings.

“Some of this litigious action may have been prevented,” he asserted.

“There seems to be a breakdown with the Police Services Board and the Police Association,” said Ms. Reid. “We’ve got to figure out how we can work together to build a better police service.”

In terms of the Town’s debt load and whether it is manageable, Mr. Williams said he is a big proponent of building reserves and maintaining them, even though the Mayor may not agree. Mayor Adams responded that the debt had been racked up by previous councils and he has always supported putting funds in reserves.

“Under the [former mayor Drew] Brown administration, the debt ran up $30 million and reserves were depleted,” he said, adding the current council has paid down the debt every year and now has almost $7 million in reserves. “We want to make sure the debt is done.”

“A lot of it happened before this term of council but we’re working diligently to lower it and constantly paying it down,” added Mr. Maycock. “We’re managing it very well.”

In their closing remarks, the candidates all urged everyone to vote on election day, Monday, Oct. 27.

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