Mayoral candidates answer questions at student-run forum

Candidates discuss housing, street parties, and student accessibility

From right: Skyler McArthur-O'Blenes, Bryan Paterson, Ivan Stoiljkovic, Tina Fraser.
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The mayoral candidates for Kingston’s municipal election were given a chance to share their platform and goals with students on Wednesday.

The AMS and SGPS held a virtual Q&A forum on Microsoft Teams, showcasing candidates running for Mayor, as well as for the Williamsville and Sydenham District seats. The forum aimed to inform the Queen’s community ahead of the election on Oct. 24.

Mayoral Candidates

Tina Fraser, Skyler McArthur-O’Blenes, Ivan Stoiljkovic, and incumbent Mayor Bryan Paterson are this year’s mayoral candidates. The forum gave them a chance to share their platform, goals, and answer questions prepared by the AMS, SGPS, and students.

Fraser, McArthur-O’Blenes, and Stoiljkovic attended the event. Paterson was absent.

Tina Fraser is a born and raised Kingstonian who graduated from St. Lawrence College and has taken multiple courses in business fundamentals and marketing.

“I’m not a special or unique person, but I’ve had special and unique experiences that have helped me put others above my own,” Fraser said at the forum.

Fraser is a strong believer that without a digital-based and proactive platform, the City’s goals will not be achieved. Her goal is to be an “engaging” mayor—one who’s present, but focuses on how the government functions internally to fix external issues.

“We have to be able to talk about the negative things, the taboo things, to be able to solve these problems,” she said. “I’m not a politician, I’m an activist.”

Skyler McArthur-O’Blenes, ArtSci ’20, said he’s familiar with the relations between the City and students after working an internship at the Dean of Arts and Sciences’ office, attending the University, and growing up in Kingston.

Key elements of his platform are retaining talent and students after graduation as well as relationships between students and the community.

“[The City is] here to work for you and make sure that you feel engaged and your voice is heard,” he said. “We’re at a paradigm shift; we can stick with the status quo or move forward.”

McArthur-O’Blenes believes it’s “critical” students get engaged and vote.

After studying at Queen’s, Ian Stoiljkovic said he wants the City of Kingston to set its priorities straight: to fight poverty, homelessness, suffering, and death.

After leaving Queen’s, Stoiljkovic became a resident and got to see the world in Kingston outside the “bubble.”

“Kingston is a beautiful place, but it is also a scary place,” Stoiljkovic said at the forum. “[With] homelessness [and] hard-working people who are falling through the cracks.”

Stoiljkovic’s campaign is centered around leading the way in sustainable practices and eradicating homelessness in Kingston.

The mayoral candidates were asked how their platform caters to the needs of students. Each candidate had one minute to address specific questions in turn.

Student needs

According to Fraser, student needs could be met by using technology to get through the “red tape” within the government and getting services to people more quickly.

She addressed her housing strategy, designed to develop housing for students around campus so they aren’t spending as much or going far out.

McArthur-O’Blenes said he had to fight to stay in Kingston as someone who wanted a job in business and will work to retain the talent the city creates. He addressed modernizing the government so students can vote “more easily.”

Stoiljkovic’s view of students is: they are “people too.” He’s set goals of having municipal-run daycares, being able to house and feed everybody, decriminalizing drugs, and improving public transit—all things he says will benefit students.

“[Students] pay rent, they get hungry, they like to live in peace,” he said.

Queen’s growth

Bringing more international students to Kingston, ensuring housing is affordable and available, and retaining talent were all initiatives McArthur-O’Blenes said would support the University as they continue to grow.

Stoiljkovic asked what Queen’s would do for their students and the community. The relationship needs to be “renegotiated,” he said. According to Stoiljkovic, Queen’s needs to recruit Kingstonians for administrative roles, rather than international employees.

According to Fraser, implementing a “community microloan program” is the way forward. Entrepreneurship in the city requires space to grow, and it’s “great” when students can use their education, she said.

Mediating views on students

The University needs to contribute to the well-being of the City more and work together to involve Kingstonians, Stoiljkovic said.

“Let’s figure out how we can live in harmony and get out of this horrible environmental crisis, and the crisis of affordability,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with conflict or having different opinions.”

Fraser recognized the role of students in Kingston’s economy: contributing to local businesses and restaurants. She said there’s a feeling of separatism between students and residents that can be resolved by encouraging students to engage in community meetings.

According to McArthur-O’Blenes, the “dichotomy” between residents of Kingston and students requires work on both ends. Getting to know one another is what’s important, he said.

Accessibility

Fraser said she has goals of improving infrastructure for those with disabilities, including students.

McArthur-O’Blenes wants to “pop the bubble” and hear the pain points of students regarding what needs to be done.

According to Stoiljkovic, investing in accessibility for people with disabilities means housing, feeding, and improving the Kingston bus service.

“Disabled people are overrepresented among the poor,” Stoiljkovic said.

Housing

McArthur-O’Blenes said he regards housing as a top issue. He wants to work “unilaterally” across municipalities to share best practices and find a unified approach.

Housing issues are what Stoiljkovic is “all about”—they’re why he’s running in the first place. He said money needs to be reallocated from police budgets and infrastructure to affordable housing.

“I’ve been trying to keep my homeless friends alive and I've failed [...] I am committed to eradicating homelessness in Kingston,” Stoiljkovic said.

Fraser is taking an approach to first use what’s available in the City and invest in publicly owned housing rather than housing built by corporations.

“We’ll build smaller and more efficiently and be more effective—it really comes down to policy changes,” she said.

Street parties

According to Fraser, the solution to address street parties is to have parties on campus for events.

“With all the money that you guys spend there, you deserve a proper homecoming [and] it can be monitored,” she said.

McArthur-O’Blenes said he “intimately” knows about partying as a student.

“We need Queen’s to stop burying their head in the ground,” he said.

According to McArthur-O’Blenes, the same thing happens every year, but it should not negatively affect the community. Using the analogy of the Calgary stampede, he said Queen’s should sanction centralized parties with harm reduction in place for students.

According to Stoiljkovic, Queen’s needs to address the issue of street parties.

“[Queen’s] needs to have educational events that will teach students how to behave [...] yes to parties, no to riots.”

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