Policing, taxes, libraries top topics at DBOT all candidates’ meeting

September 24, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

Orangeville residents were afforded their first real opportunity to see local council candidates in action on Tuesday evening, as the Dufferin Board of Trade (DBOT) hosted the first of its regional All Candidate Forums at Orangeville District Secondary School.

The event provided Orangeville’s 12 councillor candidates, two deputy mayor hopefuls and three mayoral contenders the chance to discuss their platforms with hundreds of interested locals. Running from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. it was an evening jam-packed with talk on all of Orangeville’s major issues heading into the Oct. 22 election.

Front and centre on the night was the debate open to mayoral and deputy mayor candidates. The three men vying for the big seat in Orangeville council, incumbent Jeremy Williams, Darrin Davidson and Sandy Brown, were joined by Nick Garisto and Andy Macintosh in answering questions submitted to DBOT ahead of the event.

Moderator Doug Harkness wasted no time in getting to the toughies – first quizzing candidates on whether they would support exploring the idea of getting another OPP costing. Mr. Brown kept it short and sweet, answering only with a

definitive yes, while Mr. Macintosh stated he wanted to see an independent review of both the OPP proposal and OPS budget. He went on to state if that review indicated the community would get the same level of service, while saving the projected $4.3 million a year, he would be a “foolish politician” to turn it down.

Mr. Garisto expressed his belief that the best solution for Orangeville is remaining with OPS, a sentiment shared by Mayor Williams, who said OPP “could not provide a compelling reason” to switch over to the provincial service. Mr. Davidson noted it was a “major issue” and that he wanted to spend the necessary time studying all the facts so that Council can eventually come to a final, evidence-based case.

“I don’t want to see emotion take hold like it did before,” Mr. Davidson said.

Candidates largely sang the same tune when discussing taxes – with all five admitting the community’s residential tax rate, up there among the highest in Ontario, was too high. Nobody really offered a definitive solution, other than Mr. Brown who said tough decisions need to be made on numerous issues, policing being one of them.

He has gone on record in the past to state the best way to reduce costs for local taxpayers is to disband OPS and adopt the OPP.

Questions relating to public transit, attracting new business to the community and what candidates would offer locals at the county level soon followed. The five were later quizzed on how they plan to improve collaboration within town hall, how they would support the local arts community and whether they believe Orangeville needs two libraries.

The library issue particularly caused some groans from those in attendance, particularly when Mr. Brown commented that he had no idea why a second library, located in the Alder Recreation Centre, was opened in the first place. His recommendation would be to close that facility and partner with Westside Secondary School so the community could make use of the extensive library in place there. The four other candidates indicated they would not be in favour of closing the Alder library.

While the latter part of the evening belonged to the mayor and deputy mayor candidates, the earlier portion was dominated by the 12 councillor hopefuls. Each member set up a booth in one of the main corridors at the school, engaging with locals as and when they were approached.

The candidates – Grant Peters, Simran Bhamu, Trevor Castiglione, Lisa Post, James Jackson, Joe Andrews, Don Kidd, Todd Taylor, Vic Thapar, Kelly Zammit, Robert Duthie and Debbie Sherwood – later took their place on the stage, with each afforded three minutes to address the crowd and put forth their platform

The entire event was, for the most part, a fairly cordial affair. There were some minor shots taken by the mayoral candidates during question period, but it was in the closing remarks that things got a little heated.

Speaking first, Mr. Davidson said he would execute a plan that is a “whole different ball game” to the one proposed by his competition, saying Orangeville needs a mayor it can be proud of.

“We need a mayor that knows what leadership is about. We need a mayor that is prepared, who will stand in front of the issues and who likes to share success. We need a mayor that is respected and asked to come to the table, a mayor who always put the community’s wellbeing above all else. We need a mayor that will stand for everyone in Orangeville – someone with character, leadership and vision,” Mr. Davidson stated.

Referencing a comment made earlier in the night by Mayor Williams highlighting Mr. Brown’s and Mr. Davidson’s lack of council experience, Mr. Brown retorted, “I don’t want his (Mayor Williams’) experience”, before going on to paint a concerning picture for Orangeville’s future the municipality continues on the path it has been led down over the past decade.

“In 2000 the council of the day decided to buy a railroad and put the burden of that on your backs… Here we are now, $12 million of red ink later, we have a $500,000 a year millstone hanging around our necks. In CAO Ed Brennan’s report recommending Orangeville accept the OPP costing for police services, he said we would have saved $22 million by 2025. Moving onto our library, in 2007 our council decided, I’m not sure why, that we needed a second library. It has cost us $6 million since then,” Mr. Brown said.

He added, “Those three numbers alone, that’s $40 million. We are at a point now where you, the taxpayer, has to make a decision. Are you going to continue with this type of craziness, or are you going to put people in place who will watch tax dollars for you?”

Mayor Williams pointed to his record over the past four years, first as a councillor and then as mayor, noting Orangeville currently has one of the lowest crime rates the municipality has ever seen, while stating Orangeville is economically stronger now than it has ever been.

“I’m proud of what we have done, but there is more to do. With the support of council, I know we can do things to provide much more efficient ways to provide the services we offer. It’s time to work together.”

The election will take place on Oct. 22.

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