Madawaska Valley Public Library (MVPL) hosted an All Candidates Meeting at the Royal Canadian Legion Barry’s Bay Branch 406 on Sept.13. Although the event was threatened by a local power outage that ended just 15 minutes before the 7 pm start, the Legion Hall was filled with more than 150 people. Moderator Sean Conway, no stranger to candidates’ meetings having himself attended 128 such events, kept the speakers and audience on track as he explained the format of the evening. MVPL CEO Karen Filipkowski acted as timekeeper. The proceedings were also recorded for a podcast (scroll down for links). Above: Sean Conway introduces candidates. Photo Gil Glofcheskie.
Conway introduced both candidates for the position of Mayor, Roger Prince and Mark Willmer, and explained that members of the audience would be able to direct one question to one candidate after the candidates’ opening remarks. The second half of the evening followed a similar pattern for the candidates for Councillor positions. Nine of the ten Council candidates were present: Helen Benn, Mary Blank, Carl Bromwich, Hanna Domagala, Andrey Kaminski, Shelley Maika, Joseph Olsheski, David Shulist, and Liz Woosey. Blank and Maika had previously served on Council, and all of the incumbent Councillors attended with the exception of Ernie Peplinski. During the evening, members of the audience requested answers from both mayoral candidates, as well as from Blank, Bromwich, Olsheski and Woosey.
The issue of housing was raised repeatedly — for both young people and the elderly — as were many concerns about economic and business development in the municipality. Candidates fielded questions about what they would do to attract and retain young people in MV, ensure a workforce for small businesses, encourage new businesses, provide the necessary infrastructure for economic development, and improve the local tourism offering. They also discussed recruitment of healthcare and other professionals, and addressed concerns about long term care in the community. There was general agreement about the value of the township’s natural environment, but little specifics when it came to protection of that environment. Similarly some interesting ideas came out of the questions on economic development and housing, but those with experience on Council pointed out that responsibility for many of these issues lay with County of Renfrew, the Province, or even the federal government. That said, most of the candidates suggested that by lobbying, seizing opportunities and connecting with higher levels of government, solutions might be found to the concerns raised by the audience members.
It was clear that residents wanted to hear from the newer faces. Of the eight questions posed to the candidates for Mayor, only three were directed to Willmer. Prince fielded questions about long term care, environment, economic development, tourism promotion, and his experience. Willmer answered about economic development, housing and by-laws. Apart from a question to Bromwich on environment, the remaining four questions for prospective councillors went to Blank (physician recruitment), Olsheski (recreation/tourism infrastructure; attracting young professionals), and Woosey (raising funds for housing).
An audio podcast of the evening is online at the Opeongo Line, split into two easily digestible sections so you can listen at the time of your choosing. Here are the links to follow:
Democracy In Action I: https://btconway.podbean.com/e/democracy-in-action-ii-1663194760/
Democracy in Action II: https://btconway.podbean.com/e/democracy-in-action-ii/
Local people are indeed interested in this election. Not only did more than 150 people attend the meeting in person but at time of publication, each of these podcasts has been downloaded more than 250 times.
If you would like to compare what the incumbent candidates said last Tuesday with what they promised the public prior to their election in 2018, click HERE to visit The Current’s 2018 online Municipal Election Town Hall Forum.
Once there, you can press CNTL+F to search for candidates’ names “Bromwich” “Willmer” etc. or for terms like “economic development” “doctor” “housing” “arts and culture” “recreation” etc. to judge for yourself what progress has been made on their promises in the past four years.