Mayoral candidates outline stances on student issues

AMS All-Candidates Meeting addresses student concerns and candidate platforms 

Wednesday's AMS all-candidates meeting in Wallace Hall.

On Oct. 3, the AMS hosted an All-Candidates Meeting with municipal and mayoral candidates. 

The meeting offered Queen’s students the opportunity to learn more about each candidate’s platform. 

Mayoral candidates Bryan Paterson, Rob Matheson and Vicki Schmolka sat on a panel to answer pre-determined questions addressing pressing issues for students. Although not listed on the invitation, mayoral candidate Eric Lee was also on the panel. 

What should be done in terms of economic development that will retain student labour after graduation?

Paterson: What we need to do is work together as a community, make sure that all stakeholders are around the same table, so we can then get that information to Queen’s, St. Lawrence, [and] RMC, so we can understand that students are going 

into the right programs so they can come out of that program and right into a great job that’s right here in Kingston. 

Investments are exactly the foundation you need to build up that technology economy that is so appealing to so many different students.

Schmolka: It’s going to be very hard for Kingston to be everything to all students in all sectors. One thing we have to do is focus on certain sections, like green technology or maybe in high tech fibre optics. As a town of 120,000 people, we don’t really have that deep base to satisfy those needs.  A lot of people are working here without being seen to be working here. We have a different type of economy and [I] think we have to exploit that for our students.

Lee: One of the reasons I’m running is economic development. First thing we need to do is repeal that vacancy tax rebate and reduction program. You’re paying the tax for the empty store and office space—where is the economic development? Obviously, you’re not going to have it.

Rob Matheson: We need to inspire our young people to have jobs, to grow our economy. We need to [revise] what it means to be a sustainable economy, a green economy, that treats the environment as important as people. I would like to see more cooperatives made where workers have a stake in their business as well as a say in their business. 

How will you ensure that housing prices don’t continue to rise and how do you balance that with the need for local neighbourhoods, but also having a large number of increasing rental accommodations?

Paterson: What we need, fundamentally, is a greater supply of housing. And that means all types of housing across all parts of the community. One of the things that I’m adamant is we need to build more apartment style housing, for example, on the Williamsville corridor of Princess Street, where there are areas and pockets of properties that need to be redeveloped. 

Schmolka: People are going to move out of the suburbs. The [demographic] change we’re going to see are people who raised their families in the ’80s and ’90s don’t want to live in big houses now, so their houses are going to become available and there is this potential to see students and other people moving away from this area. But they’ll only do that if there’s excellent transit.

Lee: I’ve had Queen’s students come to me for quite some time now about this problem with the Queen’s ‘ghetto’ area, as we refer to it. Many of these landlords buy a can of paint and they slap it on, and they say, “Yeah, I fixed up the building.” They haven’t done a damn thing with the 

building. What this problem is going to turn into is a health and environmental issue. As far as new housing is concerned, we always seem to make the mistake of when we award one contract, so what happens, it’s monopolized. 

Matheson: We’re putting in place a lot of policies that actually exacerbate the problem, including the Landlord Rental Act. I would like to see a home share program developed where seniors who live in big spaces can share their spaces safely with other residents of the city. We need social housing. We need to invest in that ourselves.

So instead of having these conflicts in Williamsville and Sydenham districts with monster homes, there should be more intense development in [other areas].

[Regarding the University Safety Initiative,] What do you think should be done to make sure there are good relations between university students and the greater Kingston community, while also maintaining safety?

Paterson: My message to the student body is that we want you to have fun. We just want you to be safe and respectful. There’s ample opportunity within city bylaws to be able to have a great time. But at the same time, we believe there is a responsibility for all Kingston residents to be respectful of the city bylaws that we have. 

The whole idea behind the Safety Initiative is simply to give a student that has violated a bylaw, the opportunity to stand in a Kingston courtroom, not for additional punishment, but so they can see and hear from someone, representative of the Kingston community, to understand that this is a serious issue. It’s a safety issue. 

This is a pilot project. We sat down with the AMS and said we need your feedback. If we need to make changes we’re open to those changes. 

Schmolka: I have some troubles with some of this Initiative, that assume what’s gone on and pit people against each other in a maybe not so productive way. It’s obviously a problem the city has to address. We need to have respect for each other and we need to have a way of people recognizing that when a party gets out of control it’s disrespectful. I want to hear from other people what you think is appropriate.

Lee: I’ve always been a fan of Queen’s students, but I have to say you’ve worked hard to come to university and the first thing you do is get ripped snorting drunk and cause problems with property damage and you get arrested by the police. There is more to life than going to university and getting drunk. If you’re going to come to school and you’re going to work hard, why ruin it by becoming an alcoholic? I am critical of Queen’s students. We have these parties at the start of every school year, it’s atrocious what happens. Fellas, come on, grow up. 

Matheson: Certainly, we have to consult with the AMS and consult with the student body, consult with Queen’s and consult with our police force. We must include students as part of the resolution to the problem.

One of the ways [to combat binge drinking], proposed by a B.C. psychologist was cannabis. I was disappointed to learn Queen’s is taking a stance where they’re not allowing cannabis on campus. They suggested a good way of mitigating drinking is to allow people to smoke cannabis.

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