Last night’s mayoral candidates’ debate at Artillery Park, hosted by the McBurney Park Neighbourhood Association and Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour, saw the candidates describe their visions for Kingston’s future.
Mayoral candidates Rick Downes, Scott Foster, Dorothy Hector, Michael J. M. Owen, Bryan Paterson and Brenda Slomka debated local issues ahead of the Oct. 27 municipal election.
One of the issues discussed was last year’s attempt to redraw electoral boundaries and dissolve Sydenham District. This would also have seen students no longer included in official population counts. Hector and Paterson both voted in favour of the motion, which was later struck down by the Ontario Municipal Board; Downes voted against it.
In their opening addresses, candidates described how they imagine Kingston might look in 50 or 100 years.
Downes said that in 2064, Kingston will be “different”, with the city’s investment in arts, culture and heritage making it “the envy of the world”.
He was later asked about housing in Williamsville District in light of enrolment expansion at Queen’s. He said he supports “responsible” development over development that is “invasive” to existing neighbourhoods.
“The developers have to follow the rules and if they do follow the rules, we will see development that fits, that’s suitable, that makes them good neighbours rather than adversaries,” he said.
Foster said in his opening statement that, while he wants to preserve Kingston’s cultural artifacts, in the short term he wants to see a “change in attitude of people towards City Hall”.
In response to a question about affordable home ownership, Foster said he doesn’t support the municipal land transfer tax.
“The land transfer tax adds somewhere in the neighbourhood of about five to six thousand dollars on the average home in Kingston when you sell or buy that house,” he said.
“I don’t see any purpose in it.”
Hector’s vision was “a city that develops and celebrates its advantages”, which “protects and enhances its heritage, culture and natural environment and encourages economic development.”
Owen switched gears by sharing what he doesn’t want to see in Kingston, including homelessness downtown, and said he supports the “fight” to save heritage buildings and green spaces.
He added that he’s not a politician, but a member of the community running mainly to “encourage people to vote.”
Paterson’s vision was to make Kingston Canada’s most sustainable city, based on four pillars: economic, cultural, environmental and social.
A question addressed to Paterson — “Do you think that as mayor you can represent the whole city when you clearly believe that not all of us deserve fair and equal representation?” — sparked discussion and reaction from the crowd.
The same person asked whether Paterson would apologize for “attempting to dilute our votes and treat us as second-class citizens”.
One member of the public shouted out, “You were being anti-downtown!”
During the debate, both Paterson and Hector apologized for being perceived as “anti-downtown”.
Slomka said Queen’s plays an important role in the conversation about housing development.
“I think having a commitment that is clear — I know Queen’s is currently building — but to make sure that there is a good target based on best practices and policy,” she said.
“I think there are strategies that we could employ for looking at finding solutions to face a challenge.”
This story has been changed to reflect the following correction:
Bryan Paterson and Dorothy Hector apologized for being perceived as “anti-downtown”, rather than for voting to dissolve Sydenham District. Incorrect information appeared in the Oct. 9 issue of the Journal. The Journal regrets the error.
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