Debate heats up

Mayoral candidates discuss local issues at Grant Hall debate

Last Thursday, the AMS hosted an on-campus mayoral debate for the upcoming municipal election. Of the six candidates, Barrie Chalmers, Kevin Lavalley, John Last, Mark Gerretsen and Rob Matheson attended. Candidate Nathan Wilson was unavailable.

The debate was put together by the Municipal Affairs Commission (MAC) of the AMS. Each candidate introduced himself and his campaign and then the floor was opened for a question and answer period.

There were approximately 120 people present at the debate and most were local citizens. Principal Daniel Woolf, most members of the AMS Council and various other student leaders were also present.

The candidates focused on issues relevant to Queen’s students such as student housing and transportation.

Last is one of three young candidates forming the Run This Town campaign.

“I think being young gives me a different perspective about what the issues in Kingston are. I think being a young person, makes me more future-minded,” he said during the debate.

Because of his age, Last said he’s especially in touch with student issues.

“There are too many students and not enough student housing right now. The reality is that students will have to move downtown,” he said, adding that this will mean students will have to make a slightly longer commute to campus.

“We’ll need good bike and bus routes,” Last said. “Most of these ideas do exist and the plans to implement these are set to occur in 10 to 15 years. I don’t think we need to wait this long, I think some other things that have been budgeted could be postponed.”

Matheson, who is currently the city councillor for the Loyalist-Cataraqui district, said improving transit and integrating it within the student village are key functions of Kingston Public Transportation.

“We must work to improve infrastructure … we need more bike paths,” he said during the debate.

In addition to making the City more accessible for students, Matheson said he wants to improve living conditions in student housing by opening up discussions to students and permanent residents alike.

He said he plans to reduce Kingston’s reliance on outside consultants and increase its use of resident input with mechanisms like round table discussions with the University.

“We need to find solutions with Queen’s as a full partner,” he said.

Chalmers, who has owned and operated a local automotive sales business in Kingston for over 20 years, said at the debate that many student problems are rooted in the City’s poor image of Queen’s students and the costs they present to the City.

Nonetheless, he said this can be changed.

“It’s not too late for things to be straightened out. Queen’s needs the City of Kingston and Kingston needs Queen’s,” he said, adding that a good place to start is with student housing.

He said housing is a large issue not only for Queen’s students, but for the greater Kingston community.

“We are limited on what we can do with student housing. Amenities are needed to support housing,” Chalmers said at the debate. “We need to have some student housing outside of the Queen’s area, but we’ll need transportation so students can get to campus.”

Gerrestsen, the current city councilor for the Portsmouth district, owns several student housing properties. He agreed that the transit system needs a few tweaks to better serve students.

“Currently the transit system is based on need, not on want, we need to change this,” he said, adding that in the past transit decisions had been made in a top-down fashion, but this should change.

“We need to engage the Queen’s community, and use students to deliver the message to help come up with solutions,” he said.

One of the ways he hopes to do this is through technology.

“I would establish a Facebook and a Twitter account if elected. Live streaming council and city meetings would be another way to engage students, most of whom don’t have cable,” he said during the debate.

Lavalley, another Run This Town candidate said he also hopes to engage youth.

He said that as a young person and a Queen’s student he is able to relate to students and the problems they face in the City. He said he’s spoken to friends and classmates to get a sense of what they think is important.

“My friends choose housing based on the location to amenities. We need to ensure that there are more amenities close by for students,” he said during the debate.

Lavelley said students access information in a different way than the older generation.

“[The Kingston Municipal website] is like a maze, but not a fun maze. It’s more like an archive,” he said at Grant Hall.

-With files from Katherine Fernandez-Blance and Jessica Fishbein

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